Why I’m going to Ottawa on September 26

by Keith Stewart - August 25, 2011 at 15:14

I’ve spent the last twelve years of my life talking to people about the risks posed by climate change, writing reports on solutions, and politely asking government leaders and corporate executives to take action. I think it’s important and valuable work – but it’s not enough.

When I look at my daughter, who is just learning to talk, I imagine what I’m going to say when she asks me "what did you do to stop global warming,"  And I'm just not convinced that saying I wrote another report is a good enough answer (although I will no doubt write yet another report too).

So it is out of a desire to have a better answer for her that I will be heading to Ottawa on September 26 for a sit-in to say “No” to the tar sands and “Yes” to a green energy revolution.

This isn’t simply an attempt to make some kind of a statement about how the federal government has transformed itself into the advocacy arm of the oil industry, and what that means for my kids’ future.

This decision is based on a fairly simple calculation (those years spent getting a PhD in political science are occasionally useful).

The equation goes something like this. Those who are pushing to deepen our addiction to fossil fuels have money (lots of it) and the power it provides on their side. In normal situations, that kind of money and power win – and make no mistake, they have been winning in their battle to destabilize the climate in the interest of the next quarterly return.

Historically, the successes of the labour, civil rights and women’s movements teach us that the best way to overcome this kind of an entrenched status quo has been to cultivate a different kind of power: the kind that comes from large numbers of people not only advancing a different vision of how the world can and should be, but be willing to go to jail for those beliefs.

Engaging in peaceful civil disobedience –like what is happening right now in Washington where hundreds have already been arrested to say No to a new pipeline to the tar sands and hundreds more are lining up to be next – is not the only thing we need to do. But if all those years of losing the carbon battle have taught me anything, it is that this kind of dignified defiance is a necessary thing.

So on September 26th, I hope to see you at the largest act of peaceful civil disobedience on climate change in Canadian history. I’ll show you a picture of my daughter, who will have just turned two, and her big brother who manages to hug trees in a completely irony-free manner.

And I hope you'll tell me why you are there.

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