As you may have noticed, American climate activist movements tend to be a touch less radical than those in the UK. Although groups like Rising Tide North America and its chapters have been holding down the direct action fort, ultimately, the face of the American climate movement has been defined by the perfectly branded logos and carefully crafted messaging of massive hierarchical national organisations asking for signatures on petitions and letters to politicians via email.
But as of late, the American climate movement may be starting to change its stripes. After two failed International climate conferences (Copenhagen and Cancún), mounting frustrations with President Obama’s inaction on promised climate change polices, and the gut-wrenching defeat of the 2010 Climate Bill, American climate activists are fed up. What’s more, with the blogosphere ablaze with the backlash from Climate Shift - American University professor Mathew Nesbit’s critique of the American climate movement – the whole movement has started to seriously reconsider its modus operandi. Calls for civil disobedience are moving more and more into the mainstream climate movement.
US UNCUT (a little familar huh?) is taking cues from the Yes Men, airing GE’s dirty tax dodging laundry with fake press releases and organizing direct actions across the US by the 100s. James Hansen, NASA scientist and prominent American climate expert was arrested along with 100 other protesting mountain top removal. Famous direct activist Tim DeChristopher’s Power Shift 2011 keynote called for attendees to stop making statements and start taking stands. And 29 of those Power Shift attendees took it one step further.
The day before the conference ( which boasted 10,000 people) 8 people disrupted the US House of Representatives singing a mock version of the national anthem with calls for ending fossil foolishness. A week later, 21 more were arrested while occupying the US Department of the Interior, calling for the abolition of offshore oil drilling, coal mining and tar sands extraction.
Just yesterday, The Department of the Interior dropped the charges against the 21 arrested, but the 8 congressional anthem singers are still facing legal action. Peaceful Uprising, Tim DeChristopher’s Utah based direct action group, is raising money to contribute to their legal fund. With a goal of raising $10,000 in 1 week, they have $6,000 to go. Take advantage of the pounds to dollars exchange rate and pitch in a few quid here.
Whether this new radical kick will stick is still unclear. I mean consider the context, right? We’re talking about a nation whose identity is rooted in capitalism, whose leaders refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol and whose boldest national climate policy option was a Cap and Trade Bill which failed in a liberal congress. But not to worry, I’ll keep you posted.