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Tar Sands Action

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In what is being billed as the biggest act of climate change civil disobedience in history, a group of 70 environmental activists, including Bill McKibben and Dan Choi, are sitting-in near the White House and being arrested to protest the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

When the largest action is 70 people, it certainly suggests a lack of direct action on the issue. We’ve discussed at this blog and it has been discussed at other blogs what the purpose of protests are? Do they accomplish anything? In terms of directly changing policy, the answer is pretty rarely. To raise awareness about an issue though, it can be an effective tactic. Will this small group of activists do much to make Americans care about climate change? Probably not.

But really, why not raise the stakes a bit? It is shocking, amazing, and incredibly depressing that Americans are doing nothing about climate change, even though it is no longer “impending,” and is actually happening–the evidence we have seen in this country in 2011 through the unusual, but increasingly common, number of extreme weather events–tornadoes destroying 2 major cities, some of the largest snowstorms in the history of the Northeast, one of the 2 worst droughts in Texas history. Yet, Americans reactions range from denial to resignation. Polls consistently show that climate change ranks at the very bottom of issues of concern for 2012 presidential voters. In a poll on Megyn Kelly’s FoxNews show, 19% said we should research how to fight against an alien invasion while 3% said that climate change was worth researching.

In this atmosphere, is there any reason not to engage in increasingly radical actions to stop climate change?

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  • John

    Should we really use specific weather events as evidence of global warming? Doesn’t that open the way for denialist “but it’s cold today! How can there be global warming?” nonsense?

    • You cannot link a single weather event to climate change. You can link the preponderance of bizarre weather events to climate change. The massive tornadoes, the record rains in New York City last weekend, the huge snowstorms, the brutal drought, the record fire numbers–combined with the clear evidence of warming temperatures both over the decades and by comparing record highs to record lows throughout the nation over the months and years, is absolutely unassailable evidence for climate change.

      • c u n d gulag

        That’s why I agree with whoever it was that said it should have been called “Global Weirding.”

        I’m not sure, but I think it was the ‘Great Mustache of Understanding,” Tom Friedman, who said that.
        Let me google…

        http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/17/opinion/17friedman.html

        Yup, that seems to confirm it.
        Of course, knowing that MFer, he probably heisted it off someone else.

      • UserGoogol

        Eh, the plural of anecdote is not data. You need to take a formal survey of the overall climate to make rigorous judgments, (which, of course, has been done) just saying “hey look at all the weird weather” is still pretty unscientific. The human mind is quite good at picking out weirdness even under normal conditions, so we need formal statistics to be able to safely say that things really are weird.

        • dangermouse

          We’re not talking about formally proving that global warming is happening, since as you say, that’s, uh, been done.

          We’re talking about convincing people that it’s happening and getting them to act on it.

          The human mind is quite good at picking out weirdness even under normal conditions

          Well in the case of this condition, overall human behavior has determinedly refused to pick out the weirdness.

          So we should probably, you know, do something about that. :/

        • rea

          “the plural of anecdote is not data”

          I’ve often heard that said.

          I’ve never understood it.

          What is data but a collection of anecdotes?

      • Richard

        Nonsense Eric. I firmly believe there is strong evidence of human caused global warming but the evidence of fires, draught , snowstorms cannot, as yet, be linked to global warming. It hasn’t happened over a sufficient period of time for any scientific conclusions to be drawn.

    • dangermouse

      Doesn’t that open the way for denialist “but it’s cold today! How can there be global warming?” nonsense?

      Because global warming denialism needed a way opened for it? There’s some greater amount of opening for denialism’s way to be?

  • c u n d gulag

    “In a poll on Megyn Kelly’s FoxNews show, 19% said we should research how to fight against an alien invasion while 3% said that climate change was worth researching.”

    OY!

    The day may be coming soon when we’re going to have to hope that aliens DO show up, in the hopes that they can do something to lower the planets thermostat before it hits “Broil!”

    What a remarkably fucking stupid and ignorant country we live in.

    Oh, and slightly OT – ‘Krispy Kreme’ Christie is now being called a RINO because he acknowledged that global warming may be caused by man.

    How DARE he be reasonable!
    Why, the very word “reason” is right there!

  • Malaclypse

    “In a poll on Megyn Kelly’s FoxNews show, 19% said we should research how to fight against an alien invasion while 3% said that climate change was worth researching.”
    “Ladies and gentlemen, uh, we’ve just lost the picture, but what we’ve seen speaks for itself. The Corvair spacecraft has apparently been taken over — ‘conquered’ if you will — by a master race of giant space ants. It’s difficult to tell from this vantage point whether they will consume the captive earth men or merely enslave them. One thing is for certain: there is no stopping them; the ants will soon be here. And I for one welcome our new insect overlords. I’d like to remind them that as a trusted TV personality, I can be helpful in rounding up others to toil in their underground sugar caves.”

    • Matt

      Heh – reminds me of one of my favorite old Outer Limits episodes:

      The Architects of Fear

    • Njorl

      I wonder what aliens capable of crossing the galaxy would want with Earth? All I can come up with is entertainment. Some alien David Attenborough would be beaming our lives back to the homeworld. There wouldn’t be much point to conquering us then. Maybe all of the anal probing is like putting bands on bird’s legs, or radio transmitters on wolves.

      I suppose, they could view all of the species on the planet as belonging to the peoples of the galaxy. Then they might invade to stop us from exterminating them.

      • Hogan

        One reviewer of the War of the Worlds remake said it made perfect sense to him that aliens would travel across trillions of miles of empty space in order to kill Tom Cruise.

  • idlemind

    In a poll on Megyn Kelly’s FoxNews show . . .

    Some forms of “data” are worse than anecdotes. (Nonetheless, your point is well-taken.)

  • Brautigan

    Lots of us were so concerned that we organized and campaigned and donated money to a presidential candidate who promised to fight for funding for alternative energy. Where’d that get us?

    • bph

      That got us increased funding for renewable energy.

      The ARRA had like 17 billion and the yearly budget is 2+billion, 8 times higher than the DoE spends on fossil fuel programs.

      • Bill Murray

        of course research funding in well used areas should be much less than for emerging technology

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  • Jeff

    70 today. This action lasts until September 3rd. There are a few dozen more lined up for tomorrow, and the day after that, etc. Over 2000 signed up total.

  • Wouldn’t we be better off reducing oil dependancy than reducing oil demand? If there is demand, people will find a way to buy. That is the lesson of the war on drugs.

    Concentrate on ways of stopping people from burning it, and it will never leave the ground in the first place.

    • UserGoogol

      I’m not sure what you mean. Stopping people from burning oil IS reducing demand for oil. Demand for oil means how much oil people want to buy at whatever price. (Lowering the demand curve, as it were.) Oil dependency and oil demand are slightly different concepts (needs versus wants) but they’re not contradictory concepts, it just means focusing on reducing oil demand in areas which are more essential.

      • Njorl

        I think the point is that protesting against things that promote demand is more effective than protesting things that promote supply. Once people are sold on the idea that they need the things which fossil fuels power, they will demand the necessary fossil fuels. The need for those fuels politically empowers the industries which provide them.

        • Njorl

          I just re-read “Wouldn’t we be better off reducing oil dependancy than reducing oil demand? “. I processed the word “demand” as “supply”. It makes more sense that way.

        • pseudosilence

          Not disagreeing about the importance of lowering demand (which is why alternatives are so important.) But this protest is in part about preventing a particularly stupid and dangerous source of supply. Oil from the tar sands is a simply terrible environmentally destructive idea no matter which way you slice it, and piping it through American wilderness just makes it that much worse. Here’s hoping the protest has some impact!

  • bill

    FTA: In this atmosphere, is there any reason not to engage in increasingly radical actions to stop climate change? But really, why not raise the stakes a bit?
    What exactly are you suggesting with these statement you make from behind your desk? In fact, if you got out from behind your desk more often you’d find that the climate and the weather are fine outside. Who wants to protest summer?

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