August 12th, 2013 was the first time I risked arrest — it was to protest the Keystone XL Pipeline. I left at four in the morning and drove about six hours to Maryland, just outside of D.C., and pulled into a total stranger’s driveway. I sat on the trunk of my car, waiting for him to get home from church, hoping the neighbors wouldn’t get alarmed and call the police in the meantime. Although the idea of lodging with people who I had never met in person was initially a little nerve racking, the kind couple that took me in turned out to be two of the most amazing people I had ever met. My hosts were just one of many incredible parts of that unforgettable weekend.
Although my parents handled my initial announcement about partaking in an act of civil disobedience notoriously better than most parents would, my mom did ask why I couldn’t just leave this event to other people. After all, I already write an environmental blog to educate others, I’ve adopted a more sustainable lifestyle, and I’ve attended legal rallies to oppose hydraulic fracturing. Haven’t I done enough? Why do I need to get arrested?
I told her that if I leave the dirty work up to other people, what’s to stop other people from doing the same? If everyone says “someone else will take care of it” the mess will simply never get cleaned up. And, oh man, have we made a big mess of things.
It may seem unfair that our generation is being left to not only try and reverse the negative effects of our own unsustainability, but also those of the generations before us. And, in a way, it is. But the hard truth is that we don’t have enough time left to spend on complaining and self-pity. Actually, we’ve already missed the optimal time to start working on reversing our bad impacts. Now is the time to stop pointing fingers and to start putting our heads together and ask: “How can we do this?”
One of the first big steps is making it clear to governments and leaders — the power-wielders in our society — that we mean business and we need change now. That’s why I risked arrest at a sit-in at the State Department last summer, that’s why I signed up to walk in the Great March for Climate Action, and that’s why I’m returning to D.C. this Sunday to risk arrest again in front of the White House. When we partake in these events, not only are we showing leaders that there is support behind the environmental movement, but we are also showing them that we are willing to disrupt our daily lives, to sacrifice our time and energy and yes, even our hard-earned money, to stop this severely damaging project. In an age where repetitive daily schedules are the expected norm, that makes a hard-to-ignore statement. One chant in particular from last summer’s disobedience event comes to mind:
“One, we are the people! Two, you can’t ignore us! Three, we will not let you build this Pipeline!”
It says it right in the first amendment of the Bill of Rights — we have the right to free speech, free press, to petition, and to peaceably assemble so that we the people can’t be ignored. I don’t know how I can make it any clearer that I don’t want this pipeline to be built than shouting it at the White House and risking arrest while I do it. And considering over 77,000 people have signed the KXL Pledge of Resistance, I know for a fact I’m not alone. Including all the people who haven’t signed the pledge but are still opposed to the pipeline, our numbers are large. If Obama and his administration choose to approve this pipeline, not only will they be ignoring science, but they’ll be directly defying the wishes of American citizens.
Climate change is the defining issue for our generation, and it is easily the greatest crisis humanity has ever faced. Effectively solving this unprecedented problem will require everyone’s participation — the human race will have to work together like we never have before. Me — how do I participate? I shop with my reusable bags, turn off the lights, sign petitions and educate myself. I’m about to risk arrest for a second time to protest an environmentally-devastating pipeline (and it likely won’t be my last time), and I’ve committed to walking 2,000 miles in the Great March for Climate Action to raise awareness for our endangered planet, our one and only home.
What about you? How are you participating? Have you asked yourself whether or not you’re doing enough? I know I’m not. It’s hard to accept, but this is something that will take a lifetime of commitment.
Most importantly: will you be able to tell your grandkids that you played your part, that you helped rescue the planet so they could live happy, healthy lives? At the very least, will you be able to honestly tell them that you did all that you could?
Will your story inspire them to leave their own mark on the world?
These are all really hard questions, but we have no time left to ignore them.
To read a personal account of my experience risking arrest last summer, go here: http://viridorari.blogspot.com/2013/09/free-write-washington-dc-sit-in-vs.html
To see a totally inspiring video about our participation in this event, go here: http://nokxl.org/200-people-went-to-the-state-department-to-say-nokxl-heres-what-happened/
For an article that mentions my participation, go here: http://www.nationaljournal.com/daily/keystone-protesters-hold-peaceful-sit-in-at-state-department-20130812
To learn more about the coast-to-coast Climate March, go here: www.climatemarch.org
To read an article about my participation in the march, go here: http://www.fltimes.com/news/article_b9857408-81ec-11e3-9657-0019bb2963f4.html