Our country is currently being shaken to its core with ongoing social rights issues, like racial profiling and police brutality, unequal treatment of women, gay marriage and immigration. Can you imagine what would happen if our representatives sat down to vote on whether homosexuals are born with their sexuality or if they choose it? Or what if there was a vote deciding that, despite hard numbers clearly demonstrating women are paid less than men for the same work, this was not actually the case?
The idea is absurd. Votes are supposed to be taken when deciding on a course of action, not on accepting or denying reality… right?
Wrong. Just yesterday, Jan. 21, the U.S. senate voted climate change is indeed real (98-1), but with the caveat that it is not caused by humans. The scientific community is largely in agreement that while our planet does have natural cycles, the current trend of warming is happening much faster than in the past, and that quickening of pace is caused by our nasty habit of releasing exorbitant amounts of heat trapping gases into our atmosphere. However, our government officials now apparently have the power to dismiss that with a vote based on political beliefs.
“Well, I’m not a scientist…”, a famous line from climate skeptics and deniers used to dodge factual evidence, makes this whole situation even more ridiculous. These same folks who claim not to be experts on the evidence can apparently get together and vote to discredit that same evidence.
I’m excited to see what other pressing issues of our time will be resolved with a simple vote!
What can we learn from this circus show in the senate? We can’t rely on the people who have been designated as the decision-makers of our country. If the citizenry wants change, we citizens will have to pull our pants up and do it ourselves.
While I’m glad Ithaca College student protests regarding social injustices are being noticed by the larger community — as they should — criticisms of the use lawbreaking as a vessel for needed change have arisen, such as when the streets of Ithaca were blocked.
Our current system of governance allows for senators to vote on accepting or denying fact; for police officers who violate the law even to the point of murder to escape punishment; and for companies like Transcanada and Crestwood Midstream to put human life and environmental health at stake in the name of profit.
Trying to create change under the guidelines of a system that works to prevent it is a difficult task indeed.
In this past election cycle I voted for Howie Hawkins, who had a strong platform for addressing environmental and social injustices.
In addition, before the civil disobedience movement to save Seneca Lake from dangerous gas storage began, concerned citizens like myself attempted to address their concerns using legal avenues. We voted, we educated ourselves and others, we communicated with our elected officials, we made ourselves heard in the papers and we challenged the proposed project in court and continue to do so.
But at the end of the day, none of that could stop the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission from continuing its precedence of rubber-stamping everything and from receiving a majority of its funding from permit approvals. Depsite massive public outcry and citizen action, the FERC approved Crestwood’s proposed methane expansion in unstable salt caverns.
What then is a good law-abiding citizen to do? Just as it would be ridiculous to throw up our hands and say, “Hey, we don’t have to change our ways because the senate voted that we’re not doing any damage,” it would also be ridiculous to expect the citizens of the Finger Lakes to step down and accept the FERC’s decision.
We Are Seneca Lake has made the statement many times: civil disobedience is a last recourse when all other methods have failed. I’m not willing to wait around until our planet is unsafe to live on to figure out if my vote made a difference in the United States’ energy and climate policy. I’m not willing to wait and see if more people of color will be gunned down or strangled to death. The issues our country is now facing are bigger than a vote.
Last night I made a second appearance at the Reading Court to receive my sentencing for blockading Crestwood’s main gates with my body. The judge again asked me to pay a fine, and I repeated to him that I would not pay the fine, now or ever. In the statement I gave on Dec. 17 at my first appearance, I said I would not contribute money to a broken system that punishes concerned citizens for standing up to a corporation putting them in danger. The alternative punishment is going to jail or receiving a judgment — a way of forcing someone to pay a fine. I suggested to Judge Berry that I could serve my sentence on weekends when I don’t have classes. He postponed my sentencing for a second time into February so he could consider this option.
In regards to the climate change vote, The Guardian quoted Republican James Inhofe of Oklahoma defending the position that climate change is not caused by man.
“Climate is changing and climate has always changed and always will,” Inhofe said. “The hoax is that there are some people who are so arrogant to think they are so powerful they can change climate. Man can’t change climate.”
I think the real arrogance can be found in the attitude that we can continue to lead wasteful and consumptive lifestyles without bothering ourselves to consider the damage it causes for all life on Earth in the present and the future.