This past week, I joined American actresses Jane Fonda and Sally Field in Washington, D.C. For the 10th straight week, Fonda has been leading Fire Drill Fridays to push American political leadership to address climate change. Oscar and Emmy award-winning actress Fields was arrested.
"I am a mother, I am a grandmother," Field said. "The time is now. We cannot sit back in our comfort zones, on our couches, and wonder, 'What can we do?'"
Indeed, as climate change begins to transform our world, billions feel the devastation of drought, floods, hurricanes and forest fires. The world is on fire.
“Act like your world is on fire, because it is,” Greta Thunberg tells us, as millions of students walk out of school and challenge the establishment at the international climate meetings in Spain. “We are unstoppable, another world is possible,” is what the youth delegation said as they stormed the stage at the world conference on climate change.
People don’t take this arrest stuff lightly. Most of us actually don’t want to get arrested. It's not on the To Do list. America was born from this, however. The country’s long history of civil disobedience includes the Boston Tea Party, the Women’s Suffragette Movement, the Civil Rights Movement, the Anti War Movement, and now the Water Protector Movement and environmental movement. Civil disobedience has made this country a much better place. Without it, most of us wouldn’t have the right to vote.
That’s part of what this is about. We all live in the same world, and most Americans do not want to see our Mother Earth destroyed. We have to move away from fossil fuels, reforest, plant and go organic, move to renewable energy, and get more local. That’s not a “carbon tax,” or some other regulatory magic; that’s in the physical world. That’s the world we all live and breathe in.
Shamefully, lack of action on climate change by the government is forcing people like Fields, Jane Fonda, Ted Danson and a host of others to get arrested. More will come. And, really, that’s a lot of people in jail who are just trying to make the government do the right thing. Don’t let multinational corporations run the country. That’s not a democracy.
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"The Last Polar Bear" is the name of a book written by Tim Foresman. I met Foresman just before his arrest in Washington last week. Foresman was the senior climate scientist for the United Nations Intergovernmental Report on Climate Change. That’s where the United Nations told us that we had less than a decade to cut our carbon emissions.
Foresman stood prominently at the gathering where Fields, myself, Fonda, young people, and union representatives—including bus drivers and teachers—came to demand action from elected officials on climate change. Foresman kept his eye on me. When I walked off the platform, he came with his book, "The Last Polar Bear." That’s exactly what it’s about. We’ve got all sorts of touching children’s books about furry animal friends. Well, these ones are dying. The polar bears are committing cannibalism, killing each other and starving to death. It's all because of changing sea ice, a die-off of their food, and, of course, the PCBs and other fossil fuel byproducts we’ve sent directly to them through wind currents.
It just makes my heart so sad. And it should. It’s a death, a mass death. Some of that blood is on my hands, and I want to wash it off.
That’s why we get arrested. Historian and Black Panther leader Angela Davis once said, “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things, I cannot accept.”
We would like a democratic system which works, not one which is controlled by big corporations. We want laws which protect people and our collective future, not the rights of corporations. And, more and more of us are willing to stand for it, facing arrest. But really, why should we have to?
Wikipedia talks about Martin Luther King Jr.'s peaceful protests during the civil rights movement in the US. Although civil disobedience is considered to be an expression of contempt for law, King regarded civil disobedience to be a display and practice of reverence for law: "Any man who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust and willingly accepts the penalty by staying in jail to arouse the conscience of the community on the injustice of the law is at that moment expressing the very highest respect for the law."
I believe in just laws. And most of all, I believe in the laws of Mother Earth. I’m going to uphold those laws. I consider myself very patriotic. I’m a patriot to this land.