Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Bill McKibben Asking People to Join Civil Disobedience Action at Washington, DC Coal Plant

Al Gore said last fall that "If you're a young person looking at the future of this planet and looking at what is being done right now, and not done, I believe we have reached the stage where it is time for civil disobedience to prevent the construction of new coal plants that do not have carbon capture and sequestration," and now author and climate activist Bill McKibben has issued a statement asking for volunteers to join a massive civil disobedience action at the Capitol Power Plant in the District of Columbia on Monday, March 2. According to Wikipedia this coal-burning plant supplies steam and cooled water to the Capitol Building and its surrounding complex. The last time is supplied electricity to the Capitol Building was in 1952. In 2006 the plant put out 60,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions. Although the plant is only about 1/100 the size a typical coal-fired power plant it has the reputation of putting out a large amount of nasty particulate matter, the size of which is especially harmful to humans. The civil disobedience action is being timed to coincide with a large meeting in DC of the youth climate movement PowerShift ’09. In an e-mail McKibben writes the following:
There are moments in a nation's--and a planet's--history when it may be necessary for some to break the law in order to bear witness to an evil, bring it to wider attention, and push for its correction. We think such a time has arrived, and we are writing to say that we hope some of you will join us in Washington D.C. on Monday March 2 in order to take part in a civil act of civil disobedience outside a coal-fired power plant near Capitol Hill.
Coal-fired power is driving climate change. Our foremost climatologist, NASA's James Hansen, has demonstrated that our only hope of getting our atmosphere back to a safe level--below 350 parts per million CO2--lies in stopping the use of coal to generate electricity.
The industry claim that there is something called "clean coal" is, put simply, a lie. But it's a lie told with tens of millions of dollars, which we do not have. We have our bodies, and we are willing to use them to make our point. We don't come to such a step lightly. We have written and testified and organized politically to make this point for many years, and while in recent months there has been real progress against new coal-fired power plants, the daily business of providing half our electricity from coal continues unabated. It's time to make clear that we can't safely run this planet on coal at all. So we feel the time has come to do more--we hear President Barack Obama's call for a movement for change that continues past election day, and we hear Nobel Laureate Al Gore's call for creative non-violence outside coal plants.
Our goal is not to shut the plant down for the day--it is but one of many, and anyway its operation for a day is not the point. The worldwide daily reliance on coal is the danger; this is one small step to raise awareness of that ruinous habit and hence help to break it.
With about half of the electricity in the US coming from burning coal and projections that electricity demand will be soaring breaking the coal habit is going to be difficult.

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