Charges Were Just Dropped Against These Climate Activists in the Most Stunning Way

“Action from principle, the perception and the performance of right, changes things and relations; it is essentially revolutionary…” —Henry David Thoreau, “Civil Disobedience”

Henry’s jaw would’ve dropped. This morning, for a moment, at least, a higher law—the law of conscience—held sway in Massachusetts.

OK, I know that sounds a bit much. But something truly remarkable, a kind of blessed unrest, took place today at the Bristol County courthouse in Fall River, Massachusetts, where climate activists Ken Ward and Jay O’Hara (Nation readers will remember them from this piece last year) were going to trial for blockading a coal freighter at Brayton Point Power Station in Somerset—using an old wooden lobster boat christened theHenry David T.—for the sole reason of addressing the climate crisis. In what looked to be an unprecedented case in the United States, they were set to be the first to use a “necessity defense” in a direct-action civil disobedience case centered on climate change, arguing that what they did was justified for the sake of public health and safety. James Hansen, one of the world’s top climate scientists, and 350.org’s Bill McKibben, among others, were lined up as expert witnesses.

And what happened, the truly remarkable thing, was this: the prosecutor, Bristol County District Attorney Sam Sutter, not only dropped the charges (which could have resulted in months, or even years, of jail time); he then proceeded out to the courthouse plaza where he made a statement to the media and to the hundred or more people gathered in support of Ken and Jay. Here’s what he said:

The decision that Assistant District Attorney Robert Kidd and I reached today was a decision that certainly took into consideration the cost to the taxpayers in Somerset, but was also made with our concerns for their children, and the children of Bristol County and beyond in mind.

Climate change is one of the gravest crises our planet has ever faced. In my humble opinion, the political leadership on this issue has been gravely lacking. I am heartened that we were able to forge an agreement that both parties were pleased with and that appeared to satisfy the police and those here in sympathy with the individuals who were charged.

I am also extremely pleased that we were able to reach an agreement that symbolizes our commitment at the Bristol County District Attorney’s Office to take a leadership role on this issue.

The crowd (myself included) went wild.

Then, if possible, it got better. When the cheering settled down, someone asked. “Will you be a model for across the country?”

“Well,” Sutter said, “I certainly will be in New York in two weeks,” referring to the much-anticipated People’s Climate March on September 21, just ahead of the UN climate summit convened by Ban Ki-Moon. “How’s that?”

The crowd thought that was pretty swell, too.

He added: “I’ve been carrying around Bill McKibben’s article in Rolling Stone“—and brandished the magazine (Jack White and all).

OK, maybe this guy’s running for office.

Still, I didn’t think it could get any better, but it did. A reporter then asked if he was sending a message condoning this kind of action violating the law. He said no, that’s not the message. “I’m sending a message that this was an act of civil disobedience, that we had to reach an agreement. I’m not at all disputing that the individuals were charged, but this was the right disposition, it was reduced to a civil infraction.” (To be precise, there were four charges: conspiracy, disturbing the peace, failure to act to avoid a collision, and negligent operation of a motor vessel. Sutter dropped the conspiracy charges and reduced the other charges to civil infractions. Ken and Jay will also pay $2,000 each in restitution, not fines, to the Town of Somerset).

“Just to be clear,” the reporter asked, “what would you say if people say in fact you’re encouraging other people to blockade tankers?”

“This is one case, one incident, at a time,” Sutter responded. “I think I’ve made my position very clear. This is one of the gravest crises the planet has ever faced. The evidence is overwhelming and it keeps getting worse. So we took a stand here today.”

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And so, sometimes we win. It’s a small victory, in the scale of the climate. But it’s something.

Meanwhile, as Ken and Jay are quick to point out, the Brayton Point plant burns on. The announced 2017 closure (which came a few months after their action and a wave of protests they inspired) doesn’t come nearly soon enough—for the climate, or for the plant’s neighbors suffering its pollution.

What’s more, as Ken noted to me in an e-mail, according to data from the US Energy Information Administration, the Brayton Point plant essentially doubled its coal consumption last year, and reduced its use of natural gas, making it the first or second largest source of carbon emissions in New England, New York and New Jersey. And Ken says observed shipments of coal to the plant in recent months were increased over the previous year.

So here’s my message to DA Sutter, should he ever want to run for office as true climate champion: some people may think coal is dying a “natural” (market-driven) death in the Northeast, and therefore not much needs to be done. But if we really want to put an end to coal, we’re going to have to drive a stake through its heart, otherwise it will keep on rising from the grave.

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Educator-Workshop on Climate Science & the ACS Toolkit Door County Wisconsin

September 27, 2014, Crossroads at Big Creek, Sturgeon Bay
8:30 am – 3:15 pm
Coffee and pastries at sign-in (8:30-9:00) ** Lunch ** Afternoon coffee & fruit Included

Sponsored by
Door County Climate Change Coalition & Lakeshore Natural Resource Partnership
Sturgeon Bay Utilities Crossroads at Big Creek
American Chemical Society Climate Science Outreach Team (Illinois Heartland)
American Meteorological Association Atmospheric Education Program
($12 registration includes lunch & snacks)
The workshop will introduce teachers, naturalists and environmentalists to the basics of climate science and provide classroom-ready materials, as well as many interesting demonstrations that can be used in the classroom, as a laboratory experience or as outreach activities in nature centers, state fairs, etc. Free, downloadable pedagogical resources including the ACS Climate Science Toolkit and authoritative booklets from the US National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for Advancement of Science, The National Climate Assessment and the American Meteorological Society, designed for students and interested citizens, will be provided in pdf format and can be freely distributed to or downloaded by students and the public.
These materials provide factual information including the nature of greenhouse gases, the mechanism of global warming, history of earth’s past temperature swings, and the multiple lines of evidence that support the seriousness of climate change. Three expert speakers will present overviews of specific aspects of Climate Science and the implications for the future: Mr. Bruce Smith, Atmospheric Education Resource Agent and former chemistry teacher; and Dr. Alison Donnelly, botanist and phenologist, Department of Geography, UW-Milwaukee. Dr. Frank Shaw, Professor Emeritus of chemistry at UW-Milwaukee and Illinois State University, will present chemical aspects of climate change and demonstrations of climate change chemistry.
Demonstration instructions will be hands-on in the laboratory, and a resource-laden DVD/CD with lesson plans, PowerPointTM presentations, and reference materials will be given to each participant. A generous Grant from Sturgeon Bay Utilities will provide supplies and equipment for each teacher to take back to their classes. Participants are encouraged to bring existing lesson plans or demonstrations to share. Teacher’s districts will be contacted about approval of the workshop for their portfolios.
When your students pose questions about global climate change, do you have the basic scientific facts to answer authoritatively? Do you know, for instance, that carbon dioxide is not the gas responsible for the largest fraction of earth’s atmospheric greenhouse warming effect? The ACS Climate Science Toolkit and other resources obtained through the workshop will provide a basic foundation for scientifically sound classroom instructions. Bring your questions and concerns and take part in this workshop dedicated to communicating climate change facts, consequences and responsibilities.

Contact Information: Frank Shaw (cfshaw@ilstu.edu) and Bruce Smith (bsmith733@gmail.com)

Registration (ends 22 Sept): Sherrill Anderson (LNRP) at sherrill@lnrp.org or 920-412-1920

Walk-ins Welcome, please contact Frank or Bruce after Sept 22nd

Click the link below for a printable flyer:

Flyer-2014CliSci-DoorCounty-rev

Understanding Potential Impacts of Global Climate Change on Monarch Butterflies

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CLIMATE CHANGE COALITION OF DOOR COUNTY
INVITES YOU TO ATTEND OUR SEPTEMBER PROGRAM

Understanding Potential Impacts of Global Climate Change on Monarch Butterflies

Presented by Karen S. Oberhauser, Professor in the Dept. of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology at the University of Minnesota

Karen will describe the amazing biology of migratory monarch populations, and the work of citizens and scientists in documenting monarch numbers at all stages of their migratory cycle. She will also summarize the potential impacts of a changing climate on monarchs during all stages of their annual cycle of breeding, migrating, and overwintering.

Wednesday, September 3, 7 pm at the UU Fellowship, 10341 Hwy 42 in north Ephraim

For further information call (920) 854-7559.

Mark your Calendars for this Amazing Event ! ! !

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Click here for the entire list of events and a registration form: ClimateAwarenessProgram_2014

Welcome

Welcome to the NEW Climate Change Coalition of Door County Wisconsin website!

The Climate Change Coalition of Door County is a powerful voice that educates and inspires action to meet the urgent challenges of global climate change.

Stay tuned for updates, events, and meetings.

Young People’s Day in Court

14 April 2014
James Hansen

May 2 could be an historic day, as young people have their day in court, at 9:30 AM in the
United States Court of Appeals in Washington, DC1. This concerns the legal case that young
people have filed against the United States federal government, the case for which the paper
“Assessing ‘Dangerous Climate Change’: Required Reductions of Carbon Emissions to Protect
Young People, Future Generations and Nature” provides the scientific basis.

A U.S. District Court earlier ruled against young people, in essence saying that the young people
had not shown a Constitutional basis by which the Court could require the U.S. government to
deliver a plan defining how it would reduce emissions consistent with what science shows is
necessary to stabilize climate. Young people had filed their case based on the “trust” concept,
the argument that the present generation has a fiducial responsibility to deliver a safe atmosphere
and climate to the next generation. The “trust” concept is well established in law and American
history, as Thomas Jefferson, a farmer, argued that his generation must not deplete the soil, but
rather must leave it in equally fertile condition for the next generation. However,our current
Administration argued against the young people, saying that it had established the Environmental
Protection Agency, and thus had sufficiently carried out its duties. Industrial polluters joined the federal government in court, arguing against the case filed by the young people.

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Harvard President Drew Faust Announces Initial Steps Towards Carbon Divestment

Posted by Brad Johnson

In a letter to the Harvard University community, president Drew Faust has announced the globally influential institution’s endowment will commit to sustainable investment practices. Harvard University has become the first educational institution to become a signatory to the United Nations’ Principles for Responsible Investment, and to the Carbon Disclosure Project’s climate program.

After increasing pressure from students, faculty, and alumni in support of the climate divestment movement, Faust reversed her previous stance opposing action, recognizing that the “special obligation and accountability to the future” held by Harvard requires action not just in research and policy but also “as a long-term investor.”

Harvard’s actions should not be interpreted as explicit acceptance of the principle that sustainable investment requires divestment from the fossil-fuel industry. However, looking at the “systemic risks presented by or created by companies” is part of the Principles of Responsible of Investment. Faust has now applied that assessment to the fossil-fuel industry, saying that the Harvard community “must devote ourselves to enabling and accelerating that transition” — “to chart the path from societies and economies fundamentally dependent on fossil fuels to a system of sustainable and renewable energy.”

The full text of the announcement letter is below:

 

Dear Members of the Harvard Community,Worldwide scientific consensus has clearly established that climate change poses a serious threat to our future—and increasingly to our present. Universities like ours have produced much of the research supporting that consensus, as well as many of the emerging ideas helping us to begin confronting that challenge. Yet we have far more work ahead to chart the path from societies and economies fundamentally dependent on fossil fuels to a system of sustainable and renewable energy. We must devote ourselves to enabling and accelerating that transition—by developing the technologies, policies and practices that would make it possible—if we are to mitigate the damage that rising greenhouse gas levels are inflicting on the planet.

Harvard has a vital leadership role to play in this work. As a university, it has a special obligation and accountability to the future, to the long view needed to anticipate and alter the trajectory and impact of climate change. Harvard also possesses the wide range of capacities across fields and disciplines that must be mobilized and conjoined in order to create effective solutions. Ideas, innovation, discovery and rigorous independent thought will serve as indispensable elements in combating the climate threat; these are the special province of universities.

Already we support research at the vanguard of energy and climate science—from new technologies for energy storage, to solar ovens to reduce pollution in the developing world, to an “artificial leaf” that mimics photosynthesis to produce renewable fuel, to give just three examples. Our faculty are deeply engaged as well in informing the development of law and policy to advance sustainability and to address the hazards of climate change worldwide, from advancing climate agreements, to fashioning legal frameworks for regulating shale extraction, to designing models for sustainable businesses. The Harvard University Center for the Environment engages more than 200 faculty sharing their insights and their commitment to these urgent issues. And our educational programs, with some 250 courses across the University focusing on aspects of environmental sustainability, will prepare leaders with the insight and foresight to safeguard our environment in the years and decades to come.

Harvard has the opportunity and the responsibility to help create the path to a sustainable future. We can and must galvanize the deep commitment of students, faculty, staff and alumni to work together to move us closer to a world founded on renewable energy. Today I would like to highlight three areas in which we are focusing special attention as part of our obligation to our planet and our collective future.

First, and at the heart of our mission as a university, is research. Our research across Harvard—in climate science, engineering, law, public health, policy, design and business—has an unparalleled capacity to accelerate the progression from nonrenewable to renewable sources of energy. The Harvard Campaign has identified energy and environment as a priority, and we have already raised $120 million to support activities in this area. As part of this broader campaign focus, I intend to catalyze the aspects of that research specifically focused on shaping and accelerating the transition to a sustainable energy system.

I challenge our talented and dedicated faculty and students to identify how their efforts can propel societies and individuals along this path. And I challenge our alumni and friends to assist me in raising $20 million for a fund that will seed and spur innovative approaches to confronting climate change, as an element of our broader campaign efforts in energy and environment. To launch this new Climate Change Solutions Fund, I will immediately make available $1 million in grants to be allocated at the outset of the coming academic year. (Please see here for further information on this fund and the application process.)

Second, Harvard must model an institutional pathway toward a more sustainable future. We have the opportunity to serve as a living laboratory for strategies and initiatives that reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the ways we live and work. In 2008, the University set an ambitious goal of achieving a 30 percent reduction in our GHG emissions from our 2006 baseline by 2016, including growth. Thanks to the leadership of our GHG reduction executive committee and our Office for Sustainability, and the dedicated efforts of individuals across Harvard, we have so far achieved a reduction of 21 percent, when we include the effects of growth and renovation in our physical plant, and 31 percent, when we do not. (For details on how we have joined as One Harvard to accomplish this, please see here.)

As we recognize our remarkable progress, we must also recommit to the work ahead. I have accepted the recommendations of the task force empaneled to review Harvard’sprogress toward its GHG reduction goal. Co-chaired by Jeremy Bloxham, Dean of Science in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences; Robert S. Kaplan, Professor of Management Practice at Harvard Business School; and Katie Lapp, Executive Vice President, the task force has proposed, and I have agreed, to the following:

  • We will continue to explore and exhaust all on-campus efficiency and reduction projects to the maximum extent possible.
  • We recognize, as we did when we set our goal in 2008, that even after our aggressive on-campus efficiency efforts, a gap will likely remain to achieve our goal of 30 percent reduction (including growth) by 2016, requiring us to explore complementary mechanisms, including offsets. We will establish an advisory group of faculty, students and staff to evaluate and recommend complementary off-campus emissions reduction options that are additive and real.
  • We will create a sustainability committee led by senior faculty to shape the next generation of sustainability solutions and strategy on our campus.

Third, in addition to our academic work and our greenhouse gas reduction efforts, Harvard has a role to play as a long-term investor. Last fall, I wrote on behalf of the Corporation to affirm our judgment that divestment from the fossil fuel industry would not be wise or effective as a means for the University to advance progress towards addressing climate change. I also noted that, with the arrival of a first-ever vice president for sustainable investing at Harvard Management Company, we would strengthen our approach to how we consider material environmental, social and governance factors as we seek robust investment returns to support our academic mission.

Today I am pleased to report that we have decided to become a signatory to two organizations internationally recognized as leaders in developing best-practice guidelines for investors and in driving corporate disclosure to inform and promote sustainable investment.

Specifically, Harvard’s endowment will become a signatory to the United Nations-supported Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI). The PRI joins together a network of international investors working to implement a set of voluntary principles that provide a framework for integrating environmental, social and governance factors into investment analysis and ownership practices aligned with investors’ fiduciary duties. Harvard Management Company will manage Harvard’s endowment consistent with these principles.

In addition, we will become a signatory to the Carbon Disclosure Project’s (CDP) climate change program. The CDP is an international nonprofit organization that works with investors to request that portfolio companies account for and disclose information on greenhouse gas emissions, energy use and carbon risks associated with their business activities in order to increase transparency and encourage action.

Both these significant steps underscore our growing efforts to consider environmental, social and governance issues among the many factors that inform our investment decision-making, with a paramount concern for how the endowment can best support the academic aspirations and educational opportunities that define our distinctive purposes as a university.

As we take these steps forward—supporting innovative research focused on climate change solutions, reducing our own carbon footprint, advancing our commitments as a long-term investor—we should also step back and see the bigger picture. In the broad domain of energy and environment, as in many other fields, people at Harvard make extraordinary contributions, in myriad ways, to generating the knowledge, ideas and tools that in time can help society’s most complex and intractable problems seem amenable to effective solutions. Ultimately, Harvard will contribute to confronting climate change not through presidential pronouncements, and not through a sudden burst of eureka moments, but through the steadfast, unrelenting commitment of faculty, students, staff and alumni who train their minds on hard questions, combine their imagination with rigorous analysis and convert their insights into effective action. Whatever your own particular academic interests, I hope you will take the time to learn more about our collective efforts in energy and environment, highlighted here and elsewhere. More than that, whatever part of Harvard you inhabit, I hope you will count yourself among the thousands of people across the University who increasingly embrace a concern for environmental sustainability as an integral part of our academic work, our institutional practices and our daily lives.

Sincerely,

Drew Faust

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