I gain a shred of hope for the future when I read about the heroic efforts of Kumi Naidoo, Executive Director of Greenpeace International, to draw attention to the criminal exploitation of the Arctic by fossil fuel prospectors.
Last week Naidoo braved hosing with cold water in the frigid temperatures of the North to take a stand on a huge Russian oil platform.
It was a publicity stunt, yes. But how else are we going to attract the attention of the multitudes who need to know what is being done under the radar in the new Arctic Oil Rush?
As the pack ice melts at a historic pace, the fossil fuel industry is moving in. Never mind the fact that oil spills in these waters will be almost impossible to stop. Never mind the fact that this is the last refuge for so many endangered species, from polar bears and seals to whales and seabirds. Never mind that the more oil we pump out of the bowels of the earth, the faster we’ll wreck our fragile climate.
I am doing a lot of pondering lately about tactics.
The Occupy movement here in the States seems to have largely fizzled. Oh yes, a couple of busloads of protestors did go down from NYC to Tampa to protest at the RNC—and it’s true that the hurricane warnings put a damper on people’s enthusiasm to venture forth.
But if Kumi Naidoo and his team can brave the Arctic to climb the side of an oil rig, it seems to me that we ought to be able to mount a better protest at our Stateside behemoth, the Republican National Convention.
But no. The mainstream media is reporting on the Convention in level terms, as though it weren’t a circus aimed at gutting what is left of the social contract that, at least since FDR’s time, Americans have come to consider a birthright. It reminds me of how reporters went along with the “WMD mushroom cloud” nonsense in the build-up to the invasion of Baghdad, or how they all but waved American flags in our faces when publishing the photos of the American soldiers killed in Iraq.
Hardly anyone has bothered to remark on the fact that we just passed our two-thousandth dead American soldier in Afghanistan this summer.
These deaths just creep upon us, the same way that oil rigs spring up like weeds in previously pristine waters, along with aquaculture farms, chemical runoff, GMO seeds and fracking wells.
It all happens so quietly and so deftly, while we are busy trying to pay our bills, or getting in a little vacation, or saying farewell to another loved one who has succumbed to cancer.
The Kumi Naidoos and the Tim DeChristophers and the Rachel Corries of the world jerk us back to reality and remind us that while we weren’t paying attention, the thieves got in and began “minding the store.” In their own fashion.
Their tactics are always the same. Catch people unawares; get them to sign documents ceding their rights; then systematically go about the business of resource extraction as quickly as possible, with as high a profit margin as possible. Get it done before the sleeping populace awakes, before the regulators notice anything amiss, before people and animals begin to sicken and the lawsuits begin. After all, the legal process can be held up in appeals for generations, and meanwhile how many fortunes can be made?
What should our countering tactics be?
Visibility is important: hence the merit of the Greenpeace approach.
Building a movement is important—not just among those willing to camp out in city parks, but among senior citizens and the middle class, unemployed white collar workers and soccer moms, as well as the marching band kids.
People need to realize that this is deadly serious. No one is crying wolf here.
If we don’t act now to break our fossil fuel addiction, our time on this planet is almost over.
Maybe if we’re lucky, we can come back as bacteria or cockroaches. But humans? We’re just about done.