Submitted by Andrea Perrault
In my last two contributions to this blog, I expressed my deep concerns about the disastrous state of current events. This month, although Ebola continues to spread, ISIS still terrorizes, and President Obama’s inept security details alarm me, I do see some examples of good news.
First, climate change is getting more press and capturing the attention of more people. The People’s Climate Mobilization in New York City on September 21st drew over 300,000 people (some reports suggest the figure is closer to 400,000). Marches occurred in cities worldwide, including London, Rio, Jakarta, Brisbane, and many others. These marchers were aware of the facts. After four years of study, the recently released report, Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change, by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change made a clear case that worry and action are warranted. Between now and the summit in Paris in 2015, more information will be known, shared and discussed; we must all work to support a new international agreement of fossil fuel reduction measures across the globe. At the 350.org website, the message is so appropriate for our group: Divesting from fossil fuels is ethical.
Another important action happened locally, too. Bristol County District Attorney C. Samuel Sutter in September dropped the charges against environmental activists Jay O’Hara and Ken Ward who in May had blocked a ship’s access to the Brayton Point Power Plant to unload fuel. The activists were facing a court date and possible jail time. However, Sutter had been studying up on climate change. He determined that this issue is so serious that their action should not be prosecuted; rather, he would drop the charges, and issue a statement supporting the cause.
Secondly, as with their 50,000 person involvement in the march for climate change, young people are taking action on issues that involve them. College students are mobilizing on campuses to protest administrative inaction and repressive university guidelines that affect how violence, especially sexual violence, is addressed. Recently, students protested when a coach sent an injured student back into a football game; students and parents are aware that concussion damage can be debilitating. In another case, student action happened in Boston when at Madison Park High School students staged a walk-out because after one week of school, they still had no class schedules and were assigned to no classes. Sitting in homeroom with no guidance felt like an injustice to them, and they were right! Their action mobilized central office administrators to investigate and address the issue.
As students witness media coverage of the outrageous controversies in the National Football League and in police departments such as in Ferguson MO, they see that leaders of organizations may often hide unpleasantness or criminal activity rather than address it appropriately. In the age of instant media and camera-ready cellphones, such strategies likely will not work anymore. Students and the public will use these tools to expose injustice when they see it. And if they choose civil disobedience to foster change, I, for one, celebrate it.