Beyond Fossil Fuels: A Planetary Demonstration

Sep 23rd, 2011 | By | Category: Top Story

By Dylan Walsh, a graduate of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, and Justin Haaheim, lead organizer, 350CT.org

Apollo 14 burned 203,000 gallons of highly refined rocket fuel in 150 seconds as it launched from Kennedy Space Center in 1971. Five days later, Edgar Mitchell was on the moon. For 30 hours he watched Earth from that vantage, a distant blue and white marble spinning in emptiness.

“You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it,” Mitchell later said. “From out there on the Moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, ‘Look at that, you son of a bitch.’”

Forty years later, Mitchell’s words resonate behind the imminent, global, and inflexible menace of climate change.

The international fossil fuel infrastructure is a threat to our future: it pollutes our water, our land, our air, and our communities. Explosive and continuing growth of fossil fuel use since the Industrial Revolution, with its concomitant emission of greenhouse gases, is pushing our climate system towards unknown instabilities and tipping points.

Moreover, the economic dominance of the fossil industry has for decades immobilized our politics with hundreds of millions in U.S. campaign contributions and over $600 billion in global subsidies since 2000.

It’s time to get moving.

In nearly 190 countries this Saturday people across cultures, classes, genders, and races will take part in Moving Planet, “a day to move beyond fossil fuels.” The event is organized by 350.org, an environmental activism organization named after the parts per million that many scientists claim is the safe upper limit of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere.

We’re currently drawing near 400 parts per million.

Moving Planet is an action of particular urgency given the unfolding narrative of Keystone XL, a proposed pipeline to connect the Alberta tar sands with oil refineries 1,700 miles away in Texas. James Hansen of NASA’s Goddard Institute has called the green light for Keystone XL “essentially game over” for our climate.

With typical persistence, the fossil industry is lobbying for construction of the Keystone XL on the grounds that oil from Canada is both more ethical and more secure than oil imports from the Middle East or South America. But this ignores the antecedent fact that reliance on fossil fuels — whether from Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, or Canada — is itself inherently unethical and insecure. The subsequent emission of greenhouse gases from mining and burning tar sands will destabilize climates and political regimes, it will threaten the livelihoods of unborn generations, and it will trod further upon the threadbare human rights of the most vulnerable populations halfway around the planet.

More fossil fuels, from Canada or elsewhere, present a solution to nothing.

Perhaps apocryphally, Gandhi is quoted as having stated that, “there is more to life than increasing its speed.” If we can send a rocket to the moon at 17,500 miles per hour, it seems reasonable to hope that we can also wean ourselves from an entrenched reliance on fossil fuels.

This Saturday, we walk and bike and stand together because we want to move not just faster, but with intent, with focused conscience. We stand together this Saturday because we want to move not just faster, but better.

See this story for more information on today’s 350.org Moving Planet/Moving Connecticut activities.

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