Five courageous climate dissidents are preparing to go to trial in Washington State on January 11. In September 2014 Abby Brockway, Mike Lapointe, Patrick Mazza, Jackie Minchew, and Liz Spoerri blockaded a train used to transport bakken shale oil at the Delta rail yard in Everett. They are preparing to use a necessity defense, arguing in court that their actions were necessary in the face of impending climate catastrophe. We are honored to be working with them. You can find more of their story on their website. Here is Liz Spoerri's story of her motivation for action. -Jay
I first was fully opened to the magnitude of climate crisis in 2011 when Bill McKibben and others encircled the White House, to say that tapping into the tar sands oil and building the Keystone XL pipeline makes no sense.
I joined people in Seattle, working to stop our addiction to fossil fuels, and demanding climate justice. I attended meetings and rallies, built signs, phone banked for demonstrations. We raised the dangers of coal trains, oil trains and drilling in the Arctic. I attended hearings and submitted comment letters to oppose the expansion of refineries in WA. I also joined citizens advocating for legislative approaches, trying to pass a national carbon tax. I was writing letters to newsletters and public officials, meeting with my legislative representatives.
At the same time I was learning: I took a course on climate. I became aware that climate science has really progressed since I was in school, and learned we can't burn 3/4 of known fossil fuel reserves and we only have 15 years to make the biggest changes.
And at the same time President Obama was declaring in his state of the Union his preference for an “all of the above” energy strategy. While Typhoon Haiyan killed thousands in the Philippines, in Washington State the Army Corps of engineers was saying they wouldn’t consider climate change in their permitting process, opening the prospect of vastly increasing fossil fuel exports.
It was clear that the political reality is not keeping up with the physical reality, and that citizens need to lead.
Choosing to act to block an oil train in Everett for me was conservative, logical, hopeful. Conservative because I want to protect the earth and its inhabitants. It's a responsibility. Logical, because we have a narrow window of opportunity to prevent extreme climate chaos. We have solutions but we are not acting fast enough. We don't have to build terminals and then turn a blind eye to the consequences. Hopeful because we can do so much better. If we reorient ourselves to prevent climate chaos we can address so many other problems at the same time. Investing in alternative energy, public transportation, producing agriculture and technology locally could create sustainable jobs and be a genuine source of pride.
Yes, the potential consequences of this action were a little scary. But at what point is all my self concern too much? I've made it to middle age, had it pretty easy for the last 10 years. I feel like I can afford a little disruption. Ultimately, the condition of the earth, the problems we leave behind seem more important than whether or not I have an easy time.
My goal for this action was to oppose WA state becoming a fan for the fires of climate chaos. I hope that others will be inspired to block carbon exports and prevent climate chaos in any way they can. I hope we develop the collective will to create a WA state that is a low carbon, just, sustainable place to be.