It was gratifying, I have to admit, to get a fairly long phone message from Nancy Pelosi’s Policy Director at the end of last week, the latest in a series of back-and-forth calls since I visited Pelosi’s office on the 17th day of my climate emergency fast over three weeks ago. On that day I visited 15 offices of key people in the House and Senate who are dealing with the global warming issue, making efforts, their staffers indicated, to come up with legislation to address this deepening crisis.
I wasn’t able to speak to any policy people in Pelosi’s office but I was given a name and number to follow up, and I did so. The call last week was the most recent in a game of telephone tag.
Pelosi’s person, Lara, commented on the Speaker’s concern about my health and about her very strong commitment to taking action on global warming. She then proceeded to tell me that Pelosi’s plan is to come up with something “that George Bush can sign,” a direct quote. What she talked about was aspects of two different versions of an energy bill passed by the House and Senate this summer that will strengthen laws and regulations to make the U.S. economy more energy efficient. Period. Full stop.
So in the face of the greatest civilizational challenge humankind has ever faced, to paraphrase Bill McKibben, the best the Democratic leadership can do is to capitulate to George Bush?
Honestly, I’m not surprised, given what they’ve done and not done on the war and the snail-like pace of their efforts on global warming since they took office over nine months ago.
Their strong-statements-backed-up-by-weak-action only deepen my commitment to continue this climate fast and work hard in this last week to make the Monday, Oct. 22nd, No War No Warming nonviolent disruption of business as usual on Capitol Hill in D.C. as large and effective as possible.
I’m really looking forward to risking arrest as part of that stepping-it-up action, and I’m glad that there are at least hundreds of others doing the same. I hope many more will make their plans in this last week to join us.
“Action is the best antidote to despair.” I believe Joan Baez said that. It’s absolutely true. And it’s not just “action,” in general. It’s “action” appropriate to how you feel, to your past experiences in the world of activism and to the situation. For a lot of us, disrupting business as usual on Capitol Hill on a day, a Monday, that Congress is in session and doing their work sure seems very timely, very necessary.
I think back to other major mass movements in U.S. history over the past century. All the successful ones had an edge to them, people willing to occupy factories, in the case of the labor movement of the 30’s, people sitting in or directly confronting racist practices, in the case of the civil rights movement of the 50’s and 60’s, people burning their draft cards or going into draft boards to destroy Selective Service records, in the case of the anti-Vietnam War movement of the 60’s and 70’s, or the massive civil disobedience actions at planned and existing nuclear power sites in the ‘70’s and 80’s.
And this century, beginning with actions in D.C. in April, 2000 that themselves were a follow-up to the successful late November, 1999 actions in Seattle, the global justice movement put the IMF/World Bank/WTO very much on the defensive and concretely impacted their ability to advance their corporate globalization agenda.
I think of the famous statement of Mario Savio, leader of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement in the mid-1960’s:
“There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part, you can’t even passively take part, and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop! And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!”
It’s time for us to emulate those past movements as we build the 21st century movement to Fight Climate Change; No Wars for Oil!