by Will Potter
Green is the New Red
One month ago, environmental activist Tim DeChristopher was sentenced to two years in prison for non-violent disobedience. The sentence was harsher than those handed down to people who burned churches and threatened black leaders. It was a sentence intended — like so many disproportionate sentences against activists — to send a message. But what message?
Environmental activists could have responded to this case in the way that corporations and politicians (who called DeChristopher an “eco-terrorist”) had intended. They could have scaled back their organizing to only milquetoast tactics that are 100% “safe”; they could have responded with fear.
Instead, we’re seeing something quite different as attention has shifted to the creation of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would draw oil from that tar sands of Canada to East Texas (this NPR story has a good overview). Already, more than 800 people been arrested for non-violent civil disobedience in Washington, D.C. Some of the arrests that have made headlines have included a top NASA climate scientist, Jim Hansen.
What has been even more inspirational is the response of young people who have been radicalized by both the sentencing of Tim DeChristopher and the Obama administration’s deference to corporate interests. A letter from student groups and youth leaders at the Tar Sands Action said in part:
Big corporations are using their financial influence to corrupt our democracy and deepen their pockets at the expense of Americans. And it’s not just related to energy and the environment; they are threatening the very foundations of our democracy, working to disenfranchise voters, attack workers’ rights and the middle class…The Keystone XL decision is a significant test of President Obama’s commitment to our generation, but it’s not the only one.
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