Today I am printing an urgent open letter from Wendell Berry and Bill McKibben, two of the nation’s most respected environmental writers and thinkers. I initially decided to join them in civil disobedience in Washington D.C. to address global warming, and my husband told me he’d support me. Then I realized that March 2 is in the middle of Oregon’s legislative session, where my work in transportation options will be keeping me squarely in the state Capitol, working to fight global warming from that angle.
So: if you will join Bill McKibben and Wendell Berry in civil disobedience against a new coal plant, I will give you support and publicity in this blog.
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There are moments in a nation’s—and a planet’s—history when it may be necessary for some to break the law in order to bear witness to an evil, bring it to wider attention, and push for its correction. Please consider joining us on Monday March 2 to take part in a civil act of civil disobedience outside a coal-fired power plant near Capitol Hill in Washington D.C.
Coal-fired power is driving climate change. Our foremost climatologist, NASA’s James Hansen, has demonstrated that our only hope of getting our atmosphere back to a safe level—below 350 parts per million co2—lies in stopping the use of coal to generate electricity.
Coal is filthy at its source. Much coal is obtained by removing entire mountaintops in West Virginia and Kentucky, exemplifying an out-of-control relationship between humans and the rest of creation.
“Clean coal” is a lie, but a lie told with tens of millions of dollars, which we do not have. We have our bodies, and we are willing to use them to make our point. We don’t come to such a step lightly. We have written and testified and organized politically to make this point for many years, but the daily business of providing half our electricity from coal continues unabated. It’s time to make clear that we can’t safely run this planet on coal at all.
We hear President Barack Obama’s call for a movement for change that continues past election day, and we hear Nobel Laureate Al Gore’s call for creative non-violence outside coal plants. As part of the international negotiations now underway on global warming, our nation will be asking China, India, and others to limit their use of coal in the future to help save the planet’s atmosphere. This is a hard thing to ask, because it’s their cheapest fuel. Our witness in March states that we’re willing to make some sacrifices ourselves, even if it’s only a trip to the jail.
To participate with us, you need to go through a short course of non-violence training. This will be, to the extent it depends on us, an entirely peaceful demonstration, carried out in a spirit of hope and not rancor. We will be there in our dress clothes, and ask the same of you.
We will cross the legal boundary of the power plant, and we expect to be arrested. Our goal is not to shut the plant down for the day—it is but one of many, and anyway its operation for a day is not the point. The worldwide daily reliance on coal is the danger; this is one small step to raise awareness of that ruinous habit and hence help to break it. To join us or get more information, go to
Wendell Berry, Bill McKibben
photo courtesy of Little_Ricky