Future Hope column, Jan. 26, 2008
by Ted Glick
Early in the morning of October 22nd last fall several hundred people quietly arrived on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Many of us were organized into affinity groups. There was the anti-capitalist bike block. There were Iraq Veterans Against the War. There was the group of people dressed in polar bear costumes agitating through a portable sound system. There were the young people from Students for a Democratic Society in their yellow Campus Climate Challenge t-shirts. There was the Separate Oil and State group. And there were Code Pinkers, some wearing giant bobble-heads of Cheney, Bush and Rice.
We were united behind the short but clear slogan: No War, No Warming!
*End the war for oil in Iraq and all future wars for oil and natural gas.
*End the addiction to oil–and coal and natural gas–that are driving the heating of the earth, the climate disruption which will inevitably lead to more and more wars as our ecosystem and economies are devastated.
*Shift government resources–our tax money–from support of fossil fuels to support of a deep- and wide-ranging, jobs-creating, clean energy revolution and the rebuilding of communities like New Orleans damaged by racism and corporate greed.
*Centralize environmental justice and support alternative economic models to address poverty and create millions of green jobs in a clean energy economy.
Some of us blocked entrances to Congressional office buildings. Some of us sat down at busy street intersections. Some rode their bikes in such a way as to slow and stop traffic, and then moved on to another location.
By the middle of the morning, after an hour and a half of tying up rush hour traffic and disrupting business as usual, 68 of us had been arrested. The media, both corporate and independent, was there in force to record the actions and the arrests, and the word got out nationally that something new was developing.
It is new that a growing number of peace, justice and climate organizations are clearly getting the obvious connections between oil and resource wars, our fossil fuel addiction and global climate disruption. More importantly, it is new that we are acting to dramatize these connections and doing so using nonviolent direct action. We are acting to underline the urgent need for a drastic change, for a great turning, for a revolutionary transformation to a very different way of interaction with the earth and with one another.
Three months later, No War, No Warming (www.nowarnowarming.org) is planning round two of what must be a sustained, growing, developing campaign to end the Iraq war and save our deeply wounded ecosystem. Working with a broader range of organizations, we’ll be taking action again on March 19th, again in Washington, D.C., as well as in other parts of the country. This time the major D.C. actions will be at locations like the American Petroelum Institute and the Department of Energy.
Other groups will be engaging in nonviolent civil disobedience at other places. Many of those groups will be primarily peace groups. March 19th is the 5th anniversary of the ground invasion of Iraq, the beginning of the 6th year of this war that, if our rulers have their way, may go on for decades.
There should be many thousands of people taking part in these March 19th actions. March 19th, 2008 should be a date which will be looked back on in the future as the day that the people’s movement for peace, justice and clean energy emerged strong and clear and forthright, the day that the country realized that a powerful grassroots movement had emerged to stand up to the pro-war, imperialistic corporate interests that dominate government decision-making in Washington, D.C.
There are some within the progressive movement who believe that in a Presidential election year we need to cool it with the strong demands and strong actions, that our role is solely to get involved with election campaigns and support the best candidates. Some even argue that we should just support whoever are the Democratic Party candidates regardless of their stands on issues or connection to people in struggle. In their view any rocking of the political boat is too risky, could jeopardize the prospects for the Democrats to win office.
There is an aspect of this argument that needs to be taken into account. It is important *how* we engage in our direct actions. It’s important, in particular, that our actions be nonviolent. An individual doesn’t need to be a pacifist–which I am not–to appreciate that within the USA, at this moment in history, creative and militant but nonviolent direct action is the best way for us to up the ante, to step it up, and do so in a way that prevents us from being marginalized and rendered politically ineffective.
I believe deeply that now, right now, this year and next, is a time when nonviolent civil disobedience and direct action *has to be* a central tactic used by our movements, not the only tactic but a central one. Such actions, done well, motivate others to speak up, get involved or take action. They let the powers-that-be know that we’re a factor, that we have to be taken into account. They build a fighting spirit into our movements that has positive impacts in a wide variety of ways, counters the “settling” mentality that infects too many of us too often.
Right now, with the beginnings of an economic downturn/recession/depression, is a perfect time for dramatic action which links peace, justice and clean energy. Our action and the messaging for it must make central the needed shift to a demilitarizing, green, clean energy economy. This is the way that, short-term and longer-term, we can turn around the economy. We can stimulate job creation, put money into people’s pockets and advance locally-based economic development as we shift from war and fossil fuels to peace and clean energy.
It’s time to send a loud-and-clear message: No War, No Warming! No business as usual! Let the will of the people be felt!
For more information on the March 19th and related actions, go to http://www.nowarnowarming.org and http://www.5yearstoomany.org.
Ted Glick is the coordinator of the U.S. Climate Emergency Council (www.climateemergency.org) and has been active with No War, No Warming since its formation a year ago.