This past weekend was inspiring, with protests and direct actions across the country standing up to the entrenched power of the fossil fuel industry. The climate math is grim, but this weekend was a bright spot.
Here in New England, climate organizers in Burlington staged a moving protest at the New England Governors’ Conference to shine a light on the dangers of tar sands development and related issues. Inside the conference was business as usual, as our region’s political leaders met with industry representatives behind closed doors. Ordinary citizens were not invited, and representatives from First Nation communities were even turned away. But outside those closed doors, protestors sang songs of solidarity and lay down in the street to form a human oil spill. Though the region’s plans for tar sands expansion were left off the official agenda, over half of the subsequent press questions pertained to this one subject. Thanks to the protestors, the concerns of citizens were heard.
Social movements for broad change are historically messy, bringing together many voices, messages, and methods. The blockade of buses that resulted in a much-publicized altercation between police and several dozen protesters occurred about an hour after the tar sands protests. While we chose different methods to get our message across, we support the passion and commitment of those protestors, and also believe that the Burlington Police Department overreacted. Clearly we must find more sensible and civil ways of reacting to the protests that inevitably will come as this movement advances.
Because there is more to come. People across the country are rising up, from Montana to Texas. “This is what democracy looks like,” as the popular protest chant goes. Until we change our political and economic system to better represent the people and begin to address the urgent challenges we’re faced with, actions like these must and will be ever more common. Join Tar Sands Free Northeast for updates on the fight to keep tar sands out of New England.
Actions like this weekend’s are now a necessary and meaningful part of our democratic process. The health of our citizens, our communities, and our planet demands no less.