July 11, 2009

Greenpeace at Mt. Rushmore

From Democracy Now
In South Dakota activists with the environmental group Greenpeace scaled the Mount Rushmore National Monument Wednesday and hung a banner urging President Obama [to] take the action on global warming. The banner was hung next to the carved mountain face of Abraham Lincoln. It reads quote “America honors leaders, not politicians: Stop Global Warming.” The action came as Obama was in Italy for talks with other world leaders of the G8 summit. The group of 11 Greenpeace activists were arrested and charged with trespassing. They each face up to six months in prison.

It's hard to believe that environmental activism in South Dakota made news around the world. I can't say that I support everything that Greenpeace does or stands for, but I like this action. They felt that they needed to engage in civil disobedience to make a point. Their actions in South Dakota combined with their other advocacy efforts, combined with the movement to care for the environment have led to significant policy changes and new legislation aimed at reducing pollution, expanding sustainability, and assisting those most hurt by climate change.

I think the decision to engage is civil disobedience in never one people should take lightly; people must consider safety and ethics, and wisely discern the best course of action. If this does not occur, civil disobedience can be counterproductive or even immoral.

Last year six Greenpeace activists painted a smokestack in the United Kingdom as part of an effort to stop the expansion of coal plants. They were also arrested and charged, but they were found not guilty.

They were accused of causing £30,000 (US$53,000) of criminal damage to the Kingsnorth smokestack from painting. The defence was that they had a 'lawful excuse' - because they were acting to protect property around the world "in immediate need of protection" from the impacts of climate change, caused in part by burning coal.

Nick Broomfield directed this fascinating documentary of their story. Do you think the actions of either group of activists was justified?


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  2. I think part of what makes me think here is what if in their climbing they damaged Mt. Rushmore? Maybe its just the movies that make me think its possible, but I know that Stone Mountain has had some close calls with parts falling off. Would it have been worth it, if they had to sacrifice part of Abe's nose for the process?

    I think it made a big point, and that is clear. Maybe I just look too much at the risk, but I'm not sure if the benefit/risk analysis on the Mt. Rushmore piece is worth it.

    I do wonder something from you Mr. Kroger. I've enjoyed reading your blog and always been inspired by your passion. How do you pick which issues to tackle. I don't mean in a big general way--but you seem passionate about so many different things--how do you personally select which issues to act on and not act on? I mean, I see it as impossible to act on everything--what is it that makes an issue in your life one for which you are ready to act?

  3. Thanks for the comments and questions Emily.

    You make a good point on the cost/benefit/rick analysis of this action. Physically things turned out "well" for Greenpeace and I presume they assumed they would. But Mt. Rushmore's a big deal. I would risk certain things, but not this.

    I think what I say and do is the result of at least three things:
    1)Discerning God's will (which isn't always clear, & is sometimes pretty broad)
    2)Following my passions as they naturally arise from my experiences; there's much in the world that stirs me up and moves me, especially the cause of the underdog
    3)Connecting the first two to where I see not only needs, but also gaps.

    Speaking broadly, for me that's meant trying to bring and live the best values & theologies of conservative and liberal Christians. Emily there's a fire in me and it just gets bigger--hopefully wiser too. I know I can't do everything; thank God for the different parts of the Body of Christ. Yet, I do struggle with the tensions of family and friends, with the never ending physical, spiritual, and emotional needs of so many people.

    What about you?

  4. Its a question I've been asking myself more and more. Each time I read your blog or hear about the big things you do, I ask myself again. Honestly, its a question that I've wanted to ask you for a while.

    I don't know how I pick what I move forward with. I take what my natural fires are and I pray and hope that God's leading me in the right directions. I take a lot of time having discussions with individuals--youth, adults, people in line at the grocery store. I guess I figure if I inspire one person a day, a week, a month, a year then I've done something good.

    I admire your fire and your willingness to jump in and help, and wonder if my own sense of waiting and watching, my sense of planning and checking the costs/benefits too often amounts to inaction.

    But then I remember that God made us each differently. God made me to plan and move more slowly--to weigh the options and use my internal magical formula of risk/benefit/good/potential trouble. God made you to move and do. God made me to look at micro-level change--inspire others to make change one on one. God made you to go storm Washington and Atlanta and Northern Ireland, calling attention in loud and long ways. Not saying that either of us have to choose one or the other. Not saying that either of us do one and don't think of the other--just saying that each default isn't necessarily bad.

    I love reading your blog and admire what you do--even if I'm not always sure I agree with every sentence. I'm so proud that God's made so many different ways to serve and love and live out what it means to be Christian. Never let the fire go out!!!

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