Monday, January 18, 2016

Martin Luther King and the Call to Direct Action on Climate Change - by Joe Romm and Van Jones

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“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” wrote Martin Luther King Jr. from a Birmingham jail on April 16, 1963.  “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”

The Atlanta-based King was explaining why he was in prison for nonviolent demonstrations so far from home, responding to a critical public statement by eight Southern white religious leaders.  His words are timeless and universal in part because King was a master of language but primarily because he viewed civil rights through a moral lens.

The greater the moral crisis, the more his words apply.  The greatest moral crisis of our time is the threat posed to billions —  and generations yet unborn — from unrestricted carbon pollution.  The Pope made that clear last spring in his 195-page climate encyclical.  Now more than ever, we are “tied in a single garment of destiny,” cloaked as a species in a protective climate that we are in the process of unraveling.

Many have criticized the demonstrations against the Keystone XL pipeline, which would open a major spigot to the Canadian tar sands, as unwarranted and untimely — unwarranted given our broad dependence on fossil fuels and untimely because of our struggling economy.  We disagree.

We think there has been far too little direct action, given the staggering scale of the threat.  As the International Energy Agency has explained, we must leave the vast majority of fossil fuels in the ground if we are to preserve a livable climate and avoid levels of warming that “even school children know” will be catastrophic for us all.

King explained in his letter, “In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action.”

Has there ever been a problem where more facts from more unimpeachable sources have been collected and ignored than climate change?  Every major scientific body and international group has taken to begging and pleading for action.

The World Bank — no bastion of eco-consciousness — issued a report in 2012 aimed to “shock us into action.”  It warned that “we’re on track for a 4-degree Celsius warmer world marked by extreme heat-waves, declining global food stocks, loss of ecosystems and biodiversity, and life-threatening sea level rise.”

If we don’t act now, then, within decades, a large fraction of the world’s 9 billion people will find themselves living in places whose once stable climate simply now can’t sustain them — either because it is too hot or arid, the land is no longer arable, their glacially fed rivers are drying up, or the seas are rising too fast.

The overwhelming majority of those suffering the most — in this country and especially abroad — will be people who contributed little or nothing whatsoever to the problem.

This would be the greatest injustice in human history, “irreversible” on a time scale of centuries.

Read more at Martin Luther King and the Call to Direct Action on Climate Change0

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