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Dissent and Escalation

Robert Friedman

Posted March 3, 2014

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“There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.” - Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter From A Birmingham Jail

Across the climate justice movement, dynamics are changing. As I’ve written before, our communities, our families and our futures are under assault from an industry out of control. 2014 is already shaping up to be a tremendously powerful year for the movement. This past weekend alone saw a palpable escalation in the fight for climate justice.

On Saturday in California our friends at the March for Climate Action began their 8-month long cross-country journey demanding action on climate. The March began in Wilmington, California and will highlight various local fights across the country. Wilmington is the proposed site of new rail and refining capacity for crude oil. Having the March begin there will hopefully shine a light on this community, and emphasize that further burning of fossil fuels will only result in further climate disruption. As NRDC President Frances Beinecke said in her endorsement of the march, “To stop climate change we need to end our dependence on all fossil fuels and replace them with 100 percent clean energy as soon as possible. We are encouraged by the dedication of people willing to march three thousand miles to advance this goal.” Learn more and follow their journey here.

On Sunday in DC, over one thousand people rallied for XL Dissent in front of the White House also demanding climate action and that President Obama reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. The rally was followed by a powerful act of peaceful civil disobedience by 398 brave young people who travelled from across the country to courageously stand up for our collective future. They were joined this morning by even more young people rallying at the State Department office in San Francisco to demonstrate that Keystone is not in our national interest. You can join their call for the President to reject Keystone here.



My fellow young people locking themselves to the White House fence and marching across the country for the climate remind me that in this country, peaceful dissent is an important tool within our democracy, as well as a privilege that does not exist everywhere. I’m thinking of brothers and sisters in Venezuela and the Ukraine that do not have such rights in their fights for social justice, though their dissent is still shining through. Our elected leaders here have a real opportunity to demonstrate leadership in meeting this rising climate dissent with understanding and action.

It’s unclear if our “cup of endurance” has yet run over, but we’re approaching the brink. What is all too clear is that fossil fuel extraction and climate change is touching people in ways that require speaking up and taking action in defense of our communities and the planet. People across the country are feeling impatient, and rightfully so. It’s time to escalate accountability around climate change and demand action to ensure a more just, more stable future.

See you out there.

Image: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit

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