Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Climate Activists Love Life More Than You Do

A case against a climate change activist has just been resolved, sentencing the man to two years in prison. He hadn't been tree-sitting to prevent loggers. He hadn't been trespassing to climb a coal chimney and hang a banner. He bid on land to keep it from being exploited of fossil fuel reserves. Here's a rundown of the case.

It doesn't bother me per se that he's going to jail, although, of course I'd prefer he'd not. Non-violent civil disobedience has always been under the premise that you might do time for your actions, and you will accept to do so gladly, as a signal that you are a happy enough member of society to accept its rules, while also trying to change them. Two years does seem a bit much though, to be honest. He's caused no bodily harm to anyone, he hasn't vandalised a building. But he has tried to shake the foundation of the way we do business in the world, ie. exploit the land people live on, ruining it for them and future generations.

Just this week, a Danish politician compared a non-violent act of civil disobedience with a misanthropic act of terrorism. I fear that society has been too good for us the last two or three generations. We haven't had enough to fight for, having been lulled into a false sense of security - everything's fine, move along, nothing to see here, please go on shopping. When a comparison like that is made, it is a symptom that we have gone too far as a society, building our governments and laws to be that much bigger than the sum of all their parts. Why do we do it? To protect us. Ourselves. When people then disobey laws to protect ourselves, because the laws have become too self-effacing to do so themselves, it is seen as a crime. But it is not criminal. It is a right, as juxtaposed as that may be. It can also be seen as a duty, for those who want to change their society.

Climate is big. It is the biggest existential problem of our time since the Cold War. Yes there are many problems out there that need addressing, but this one is the underlying foundation for all of them. The way we do almost everything is making our habitat inhabitable, not only for us, but for all life. If we choose to adhere to the business as usual model, which is cunningly disguised as an enjoyable and sustainable affair, we agree to our own active euthanasia. It would appear, when we get to the bottom of things, that we do not really enjoy life, and are hell bent on not letting future generations have the choice to experience it at all.

When you read about a climate activist, committing an act of civil disobedience, curb your disdain. Your first instinct might be to write that person off as a criminal, or misguided hippie. But climate activism, in all its peaceful and non-violent forms, is really an act of life activism. Climate activists love life, possibly more than you do, and are willing to put themselves in jail to show it.


  1. Hells yeah! Civil disobedience may be illegal but if it does not cause anyone harm, then it must be treated differently from, say, mass murder.

    Still, if politicians want to punish it more strictly, it must be doing something right. There is nothing more scary to a government than peaceful direct action.

  2. Absolutely right. We need more of it, because it is pushing some serious buttons!

  3. The big challenge in my eyes is to recognize the existentiel (psychological) aspects of the climate crisis and continue to act polically.

  4. Well, those two aspects together are a dangerous cocktail, if you mean by getting the psychological aspects recognized politically. If you mean by "just" acting politically, I agree. But for putting my money where my mouth is IS political, imho. The thing is, I don't think even half the politicians in this country, let alone the world, have any idea how close to the brink we are, in all manner of ways. So political will = yes. But it must be propelled from the bottom up.