Ted Glick, policy director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network was just sentenced for his demonstration on September 8.
I am on one year’s probation, I need to pay an $1100 fine, I need to do 40 hours of community service in D.C. and if I’m arrested over the next year I automatically go to jail for 30 days on each of the two misdemeanor counts I was convicted of.
What was Ted’s heinous crime? He hung two banners saying “Green Jobs Now” and “Get to Work” in the Hart Senate Office Building. Visit DemocracyNow! for more on that action and his case. His sentence could have been much worse (the prosecution asked for 3 years in prison), but why does a person simply exercising their right of free speech and non-violent protest even face the threat of such a harsh sentence?
Why is this man even under arrest when, after the worst ecological disaster in our history, no one has arrested a single BP executive in relation to the spill in the Gulf? Or Massey Energy after the explosion at their Upper Big Branch mine which killed 11 after over 460 documented safety violations? Apparently, if you are a corporation, you can do whatever you want – including destroying the lives of thousands of people and causing the deaths of untold numbers of wildlife.
Yet if you are an individual, you can’t even exercise your first amendment rights.
Here is the statement Ted read in the courtroom before he was sentenced:
Your honor, I’d like to focus my statement on the “why” of the September 8th action, about which I was not able to testify at my trial. I’ll begin with a quote from a March 4th, 2010 press release from the U.S. National Science Foundation. It concerns the emission of methane, a greenhouse gas 70 times as strong as carbon dioxide over the first 20 years after it is released into the atmosphere. This release begins:
“A section of the Arctic Ocean seafloor that holds vast stores of frozen methane is showing signs of instability and widespread venting of the powerful greenhouse gas, according to the findings of an international research team. . .
“The research results show that the permafrost under the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, long thought to be an impermeable barrier sealing in methane, is perforated and is starting to leak large amounts of methane into the atmosphere. Release of even a fraction of the methane stored in the shelf could trigger abrupt climate warming.”
This melting of frozen methane on the sea floor is one of several climate tipping points that scientists have long identified as of great concern. The others are: the release of methane frozen in the permafrost in the earth’s northern latitudes, the accelerated melting of the Greenland and West Antarctica ice sheets such that sea level rise would be much more rapid than currently expected, and the drying out of the Amazon rainforest because of drought and the release of much of the estimated 120 billion tons of carbon sequestered there.
What is a climate tipping point? It’s a point at which there has been so much heating up of the atmosphere that we experience drastic and runaway heating with truly catastrophic implications for the whole world, especially for the poor people of the world who are most vulnerable to respiratory diseases, heat stress, droughts, floods, major storms, water scarcity and disruption of agriculture.
We may well be on the verge of one of these tipping points. I hope we haven’t passed one already.
We are literally running out of time to make the dramatic changes, to shift rapidly from fossil fuels to clean energy, that will give us a chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change.
I hope that in the thinking you have been doing about my sentence, this dire situation in which we find ourselves has been taken into account. Faced with such a planetary emergency, we must speak up and take action. And as citizens of a democracy, we must nonviolently urge, in the best ways we know how, our elected representatives, our Congresspersons and Senators, to do the right thing. That is what I did on September 8th of last year.
As the country responsible for the highest percentage of greenhouse gases that are up in the atmosphere, the United States must begin to give leadership on this issue. We haven’t done so yet. And time is running out.
Time is running out. All of us, in our own ways and for the sake of those being affected by climate change right now, for our children and grandchildren, must speak out and take action now.
By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas