fight for it. The time for hoping someone else is going to save the
world for us is quite long past.
Leonard: The truth is that there are more jobs per dollar for
investments in alternative energy than fossil fuels. If we could just
remove the obstacles and let people go and do the work to make
this shift, we’d be on our way.
Michael: Most of the people that I’ve met who are taking a consistent courageous part in the movement can talk to you about
the moment when they lost hope, when they reached despair, and
then they woke up the next day and said, “Okay, now what?” I
think that despair is a critical ingredient for facing the existential
emergency we inhabit. This tragedy overwhelms the mind’s capacity to comprehend. Taking action is the only antidote, the only reason to hope.
Kathleen: So doing something tangible helps people hold an
outcome in their minds and feeds their imaginations. That might
be what Joanna Macy means by “active hope.” But hope is hard to
hold on to, because it depends on a vision of outcomes — you hope
to change the world, which is something over which you have very
Ken: What we did was direct action, not a protest. We actually
shut down a piece of the American petrochemical structure. But
there’s no real way to know what the outcomes are, because this
will propagate in a variety of ways, spiritual as well as political.
Emily: To be honest, I’m not sure what I hope for, except that
humans can be as loving and sane and brave as possible in the
coming decades—to each other, to the world. And I look a few
thousand years into the future, sometimes, to think about how
life, with or without us, might start to reestablish something like
the abundance and magic that’s here now. Some of Earth’s creatures will have another chance; we’ll be among them only if we act
with a really fierce resolve right now.
Kathleen: Afrin Sopariwala, a member of Climate Direct Action,
said in a Democracy Now! interview that “people have taken this
risk—and these are ordinary people. These are parents and
grandmothers, concerned citizens, who, after years and years of
all kinds of di=erent legal actions . . . came to a point where they
felt morally compelled to [act].” In what ways was your decision to
act a moral decision, as opposed to a merely pragmatic one?
Ken: We are methodically, with full awareness and in the presence of acceptable alternatives, destroying the conditions that
allow the wild riot of diverse life on this planet and that have made
civilization possible, for reasons of greed, fear, and lassitude. Our
only hope is to step outside polite conversation and put our bodies
and ourselves in the way.
Annette: Even if you are not in a position to risk arrest, there is
a role for everybody in this kind of direct, dramatic action. Every-
body has something to contribute: food, travel support, organizing
tours, public outreach, coordinating with churches, organizing,
nurturing and healing, networking. We could not have done what
we did without a lot of support behind the scenes.
Kathleen: I think that’s an important point. The consequences
of a felony jail term are serious, as the history of direct action move-
ments tells us. When I was teaching, I didn’t advise my students to
take these risks. But I did tell them that there are many, many ways
to be involved in direct action, and they are all important.
Annette: I would say, though, that if you are an older white person, this is your job. Those of us in privileged positions are not
likely to be beaten or killed by the police, but young activists and
people of color don’t have the safety that we have. We no longer
have jobs to worry about. We no longer have children at home. If
risks have to be taken, we have to take them.
Michael: I take to heart the words of Chief Arvol Looking Horse.
“Did you think the Creator would create unnecessary people in a
time of such terrible danger? Know that you yourself are essential to this world. Understand both the blessing and the burden of
that. You yourself are desperately needed to save the soul of this
world. Did you think you were put here for something less?” A
Love does boast
(or, Elegy for a Child)
but Ephesians says be completely humble.
I’d like to say I’ve seen a humble spark
not fizzle out or fuel a fire. Just
maintain within the limits of its burn.
I’d like to say I’ve seen a humble spark
turn into wood itself—deciduous.
Maintain within the limits of its burn
and never turn to ash. And maybe not
turn into wood itself. Deciduous
milk teeth of children shed after a time
and never, turn to ash and maybe not.
This time, don’t brush the fire off your shoulder.
Milk teeth of children shed after a time
of death. The gums drained of their blood. Feel it
this time. Don’t brush the fire off your shoulder.
Feel the burn of a baby’s bite on toughened nipples.
— Erica Dawson