The fossil fuel industry is getting uneasy.
The climate movement is growing by leaps and bounds, as more and more people (80 percent of Americans) connect the dots and begin to understand the nature of the threat. A massive fossil fuel divestment campaign has reached cities, churches, and over 200 colleges and universities in just a few months. The Keystone XL pipeline and other tar sands proposals are drawing increasing opposition, and will be the target of a historic rally this February. The pressure is building as America looks for meaningful climate action.
We're starting to sense more defensiveness as the fossil fuel industry and its allies try to write off the growing movement. They alternate from calling us naïve and misinformed hippies to crafty political insiders and special interest lobbyists.
I was at the rally in Portland, Maine last Saturday, where some 1,500 people gathered to protest a proposal to pipe tar sands oil through New England. John Quinn, Executive Director of the New England Petroleum Council, which represents the oil industry, had this to say about the protesters:
''They intend to demonize oil sands because it's a direct threat to wind power.''
Not quite, Mr. Quinn. We intend to expose oil sands because it's a direct threat to humanity.
Having followed the fossil fuel industry's well-funded manipulation of America for some time, I'm willing to bet that this quote represents yet another attempt to mislead the public into acting against their own best interest for the sake of some of the richest people in history. But maybe, just maybe, they are genuinely that misinformed and out of touch with reality.
Let's clear something up right now:
Those people filling the streets? We're not lobbyists. Most of us aren't even activists. We are citizens, landowners, business owners, doctors, lawyers, teachers, students, religious leaders, congregation members, elected officials, scientists, mothers, fathers, and youth. We are not an activist movement -- we are people who have been forced into action to protect our future.
And make no mistake, that is exactly what's on the line, with climate change, and with the precedent set by these pipelines. As NASA scientist James Hansen famously declared, exploiting the tar sands would be "game over for the climate."
The truth is, the fossil fuel industry has become America's greatest threat. The richest industry in the history of money (ExxonMobil just surpassed Apple as the most profitable company in the world, and the Koch brothers are worth more than the GDP of 48 countries) it spends hundreds of millions of dollars per year to manipulate our democracy and mislead the public. It's corporate welfare in the form of subsidies costs taxpayers billions of dollars every year.
While once vital to our country's growth, the industry now works against our national interests, evicting homeowners, endangering Americans, and dragging our nation backwards by stifling smart growth, while countries like China, South Korea, and Germany take the lead in innovation, production, and the race to the green economy. The fossil fuel industry is a fossil itself, a relic of a bygone era, and one that is now fundamentally un-American.
At last, a powerful movement is rising up to stop them. We're not a movement of radicals. To me, the radicals are the ones who are fundamentally changing the chemical structure of our atmosphere and endangering humanity. We're not a movement of lobbyists. We are none of these things they try to label us.
We're people who want a decent future for our children and future generations. Nothing more, nothing less. That future depends on mobilizing like never before, and we're rising to the challenge, using a diversity of tactics from divestment to non-violent civil disobedience.
The climate movement is the civil rights movement of the planet, and it's about to explode. Wise politicians will read the writing on the wall and start distancing themselves as fast as possible from this industry gone rogue. Leaders will become champions of climate action, or lose their positions to those who will lead.
I'll end this with a message to the John Quinns, the fossil fuel executives, even the Koch brothers. Please understand this:
It's nothing personal. Truly, it's not. It's just that your industry is destroying our chance at a livable future, and we're not going to let that happen.
History will judge us on how we respond to this moment, the greatest challenge in the history of humanity. America should lead. Our legacy depends on it.
Our commitment to this runs deeper than you can understand. Our dedication goes beyond presidential speeches, beyond legislation, beyond greenwashing, half-measures, and false solutions. We are in this for the long haul. We won't be bullied or drowned out, no matter how much money you spend to try to stop us. We're doing this for our future, for our children and yours. We have no other choice. This is a moral and a survival imperative, and we will not stop.
Even if you don't thank us, your children surely will.