Jan 24, 2010

the Gandhi of global warming

What turns a climatologist into an activist?
Here's where the story takes a turn you don't expect from one of America's most senior government scientists. He says the citizenry have to rise up, and if necessary, break the law. He has started to study the writings of Gandhi and reckons if any situation justifies civil disobedience, it's this one, this time. The forces of environmentalism need to prove themselves more determined than the forces of environmental destruction. In Britain, there has been a mass movement of activists who are physically blocking coal trains and new airport runways to stop them from being built. It has succeeded: Politicians felt the heat, and the biggest new runway and all new coal power stations have been canceled. Hansen testified in the defense of these activists and got them acquitted by a jury, which ruled that they were justified because their actions would ultimately save lives.

Hansen has brought this message home. He was arrested at a direct action protest at Coal River Mountain in West Virginia, ostensibly for "stopping the traffic," and in theory could face a year in prison. The fact that the scientist who knows most about global warming is prepared to take these steps to jolt us awake should tell us something.
As a fan of NFL Lincoln-Douglas value debate, it saddens me that science gets very little play in the event. Environmental ethics are marginalized, employed mostly by debaters seeking an out-of-the-box approach, or in the every-now-and-then resolution about valuing the planet over development, or vice versa. Yet the nature of our obligations to nature is a fascinating, complex, and highly debatable topic. How about a "Environmental concerns justify civil disobedience" resolution, eh, NFL?

No comments: