The Sierra Club, long considered an establishment friendly environmental organization, has apparently been radicalized by the ongoing failure of the environmental movement to make any significant difference in Climate Change. Environmentalists all over the world have had limited success in dealing with Climate Change, but none have so substantially and comprehensively miscarried as those in America.
This is not due entirely to lack of passion or effort. Primarily the failure is due to the structural obstacles placed in front of the environmental movement in America. The chief obstacle is the campaign finance system of allowing private interests to bribe donate money to public officials means environmentalists and those generally concerned with the environment will always been considerably outspent by the fossil fuel industry and related interests like finance, insurance, and real estate (FIRE). Other obstacles would be lifestyles that rely on high waste and energy use along with ideological beliefs in infinite growth on a limited planet.
To its credit the Sierra Club seems to have recognized that the status quo is not working and has decided to escalate its activism. According to Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune the group will being a campaign of civil disobedience to fight climate change.
If you could do it nonstop, it would take you six days to walk from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden Pond to President Barack Obama’s White House. For the Sierra Club, that journey has taken much longer. For 120 years, we have remained committed to using every “lawful means” to achieve our objectives. Now, for the first time in our history, we are prepared to go further.
Next month, the Sierra Club will officially participate in an act of peaceful civil resistance. We’ll be following in the hallowed footsteps of Thoreau, who first articulated the principles of civil disobedience 44 years before John Muir founded the Sierra Club.
This is a considerable divergence from the group’s typical tactics. The Sierra Club have on some level come to epitomize the work within the system environmental lobby. This change may signify a recognition within the environmental movement that working within the system has proved futile in dealing with Climate Change.
We’ve worked hard and brought all of our traditional tactics of lobbying, electoral work, litigation, grassroots organizing, and public education to bear on this crisis. And we have had great success — stopping more than 170 coal plants from being built, securing the retirement of another 129 existing plants, and helping grow a clean energy economy. But time is running out, and there is so much more to do. The stakes are enormous. At this point, we can’t afford to lose a single major battle. That’s why the Sierra Club’s Board of Directors has for the first time endorsed an act of peaceful civil disobedience.
In doing so, we’re issuing a challenge to President Obama, who spoke stirringly in his inaugural address about how America must lead the world on the transition to clean energy. Welcome as those words were, we need the president to match them with strong action and use the first 100 days of his second term to begin building a bold and lasting legacy of clean energyand climate stability.
The Sierra Club’s demands include shutting down the Keystone Pipeline and making major public investments in clean energy to transition off fossil fuel. We’ll see how it goes. The stakes could not be higher.