Celebrating New Growth and New Partnerships at CDC

It has been two years since we launched the Climate Disobedience Center, and those have been two seriously big years. We are in a dramatically different political situation, and our movement is also in a significantly different position. As activists and movement leaders, we strive to constantly reassess the context of our struggle and identify opportunities to be more effective at our work. And in the context of this moment we have been doing some serious reevaluation. We began with several prongs to our work housed under one umbrella because those tasks were all underrepresented in the climate movement. The emergence of new organizations over the past year allows us to spin off some of those tasks so that all of them can be approached with greater focus and clarity. We are excited to announce some big shifts that will allow us to refocus our efforts and allow our skills and vision to build a culture and community of disciplined nonviolence needed in these challenging times, and will be following up in the coming weeks with more detail about what that work looks like.

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Climate Necessity Defense Approved By Minnesota Judge In Tar Sands "Valve Turners" Case

October 17, 2017


Marla Marcum, Climate Disobedience Center, marla@climatedisobedience.org, 781-475-0996
Jay O’Hara, Climate Disobedience Center, jay@climatedisobedience.org, 774-313-0881

One year after Emily Johnston and Annette Klapstein entered a valve site to manually shut down the flow of oil in two Enbridge tar sands pipelines near Leonard, Minnesota, District Court judge Robert Tiffany granted a motion brought by the “Valve Turners” and two supporters to present a necessity defense at trial.

The case is the result of coordinated “Shut It Down” actions to halt the flow of all tar sands pipelines in the country on October 11, 2106.  Johnston and Klapstein shutting off the flow of Enbridge Corporation’s pipelines 4 and 67 near Leonard, Minnesota, while fellow activists manually engaged the emergency valves on pipelines in Washington, North Dakota, and Montana. Documentary filmmaker Steve Liptay and support person Ben Joldersma were also arrested in the Minnesota action, and they join Valve Turners Johnston and Klapstein in this landmark effort to present a climate necessity defense.

A climate necessity defense offers a jury a novel scenario: the defendants freely admit to taking the actions for which they have been charged. Instead of seeking to plant doubt in the minds of jurors, the defense provides context for the action, calling expert witnesses to offer testimony about the urgency of the climate crisis, the imminent danger posed by tar sands pipelines, and the historic role of civil disobedience in transforming unjust systems.

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#ClimateTrial starts MONDAY in North Dakota

Michael Foster knew what he had to do last October when he turned the valve that shut off the Keystone pipeline in North Dakota: "Stop the poison." 

Monday October 2nd, Michael heads to trial in Cavalier, North Dakota to make exactly that point: that he had no reasonable alternative to address the magnitude of the climate crisis, and as a conscientious citizen he was duty-bound to take the most appropriate action. Sam Jessup, who was Michael's support person in North Dakota, is headed to trial as well.

This is a unique climate trial. We have never before seen a high-profile action go to trial in the center of the country. The jury pool won't look like the one that would have sat for the Lobster Boat Trial, nor will it look like the juries in Washington State for the Delta 5 and Ken Ward's valve turner trials. We will be paying close attention to how these farmers and ranchers, who had this pipeline run through their back yards in 2010.

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Michael Foster, Valve Turner and Climate Dissident

The valve turners are producing a series of videos on each of the activists who turned the valves and shut down 15% of the US oil supply on October 11, 2016. Each of them are ordinary individuals with a compelling vision of action in these times of crisis. Michael Foster goes to trial October 2nd in North Dakota.

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Leonard Higgins, Valve Turner and Climate Dissident

The valve turners are producting a series of videos on each of the activists who turned the valves and shut down 15% of the US oil supply on October 11, 2016. Each of them are ordinary individuals with a compelling vision of action in these times of crisis. We are happy to help share their story.

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Highlights from the First Day of Ken Ward's Re-Trial

Thanks to Climate Disobedience Center Fellow, Nicky Bradford, for this great overview of Day 1 of Ken Ward's re-trial in Skagit County, Washington.

You'll find the post and links to social media updates here (on the front page of ShutItDown.Today).


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Book Review: Against Doom

Against-Doom-615x974.jpgJeremy Brecher, noted labor historian, is out with a new book growing out of his earlier work, Climate Insurgency: A Strategy for Survival. I got to review the book in Waging Nonviolence, where I write:

"To the outward eye, the climate movement looks to be back on its heels, reeling from the ascendancy of a fossil fuel regime, the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline, the zombie Keystone XL and the threatened departure of the United States from the Paris Climate Accord. And there’s not much I can offer, as a climate organizer, to dissuade one from that opinion. The one major effort thus far was a massive march on Washington, D.C. that was planned when most expected Hillary Clinton to be in the White House. So we’re left wondering: What the hell are we supposed to do now?

Into this breach steps Jeremy Brecher’s slim new volume Against Doom: A Climate Insurgency Manual. Neither glitzy, eloquent nor subtle, Brecher methodically lays out an interlocking vision of direct action within a constitutional legal framework to build the powerful nonviolent climate insurgency necessary to turn the ship around. “Against Doom” smartly connects disparate threads of the existing climate movement and pulls them together with strategic vision."

Read the full review over at Waging Nonviolence.

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MAY 10, 2017

Kelsey Skaggs
Climate Defence Project

Jay O’Hara
Climate Disobedience Center

Mount Vernon, WA — A Washington state judge has ruled that Ken Ward, a climate activist who who helped to temporarily block the flow of tar sands oil from Canada to the United States in an October protest, cannot present the climate necessity defense at his trial scheduled to begin on May 22. The decision — which limits Mr. Ward’s constitutional right to defend himself in court — bars Mr. Ward from from arguing to a jury that his actions were necessary, and prohibits him from calling expert witnesses to testify about the ongoing harms of climate change and the need for grassroots civil disobedience to impel policy change.

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Love in a Time of Cataclysm

On March 19th I delivered the sermon at Northshore United Church of Christ in Woodinville, Washington. Here's the text, and you can click on more to find the video.

Good morning everyone, and thank you for inviting me here to speak with you. I haven’t given a sermon in over a decade so I did some research, because I want to do a good job for you all today: I googled “bad sermons.”

Fascinating, what’s being preached out there. I highly recommend “The Top 20 Worst Christian Sermons.” My favorite is Pastor Larry Brown. I won’t even try to do a South Carolina accent, but here’s Paster Brown ...

“People come to me and they say Brother Brown! The television; it’s bringing an unGodly worldly atmosphere into our home, but there’s nothing I can do about it!” And TV preacher Pastor Brown says, “Yes there is!” and he hauls out a fire ax and proceeds to smash a big screen television on stage.

There’s something both delightful and surreal in watching a TV preacher smash a TV on TV.

I don’t have a lot of agreement with Paster Brown’s theology, but I surely relate to Pastor Brown’s dilemma. How do you challenge the system of predominate values while living within the system that needs to be changed? 

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Press Release 30Jan2017 Ken Ward #ClimateTrial

Historic Climate Trials Begin Today in Skagit County

Activists who “shook the North American energy industry”, not cowed In new political era

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