MLK Jr. & Climate Justice: The Urgency of Now

New Energy Economy, Tewa Women United, Earth Care, and others are drawing on MLK Jr and some inspirational words from his Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence speech to organize an urgent Climate March event. This post is devoted to this effort. The situation is urgent, the time is now. Read on and please share broadly.

MLK, Jr. With a Message to Save Our Planet: The Urgency of Now

Martin Luther King, Jr. As every week we seem ready to steam toward wars on different ends of the planet, it is hard not to be drawn into the seductive fear of what could happen. But how much of this is a well-planned distraction to divert our attention from the most imminent threat to our existence: climate change and the morally bankrupt leadership of this country that turns its back on science to embrace obscene short-term profits for a small segment of our population. Don’t these people have grandchildren? Are they willing to fuel their private jets and cavort across the planet sipping champagne and caviar while they essentially doom the planet and their grandchildren to futures we can only glimpse at in horrific films of the dissolution of society? It appears so, and in that context it is imperative we find ways to raise our voices and oppose this looming tragedy. In today’s post, we again turn to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for moral guidance. In Saturday’s blog, I will present options for action while also asking for reader input. With the GOP and climate deniers in firm control of Washington, it is hard to see a path, but a path must be found. And below you will find evidence that a path may exist by convincing the GOP that they can make more money on renewable energy than from fossil fuels. As with yesterday’s post, today we address climate justice through the eyes and words of MLK Jr. As with yesterday’s post, simply replace “Vietnam” with “climate change.”

What States Can Do. Before diving into MLK, Jr., here is evidence that there are ways that states can advance renewable energy options even while Trump is eliminating controls on the fossil fuel industry. The state of Kentucky has announced plans to create a huge solar farm to harvest and distribute renewable energy on a large scale. Yes, Kentucky. Mitch McConnell land. Click here for the story.  But Kentucky is now a leader in industrial hemp production and now is taking a lead in solar production.  Why? It makes economic sense. We may not be able to convince deniers of the wisdom of investing in solar to protect the environment, but we may be able to do so to thicken their wallet. So if you despair about how powerless we now feel in the face of Trump and his manipulations and lies, take hope that the economics of energy are changing.

We may need to shift the argument from climate change to economics and energy choice, but it is incumbent upon us to identify strategies and opportunities and we can’t wait until 2020 to do so. So the City Different is staging the Climate March Different. Rather than marching in Santa Fe, we are convening to strategize. Identifying new opportunities and developing innovative strategies is the focal point of the Climate March Symposium to be held on Saturday, April 29, 3:30-6pm. Sponsored by New Energy Economy, Tewa Women United, Earth Care, Retake Our Democracy and other organizations, it will be a forum for discussion. If Kentucky can harvest the sun, so can New Mexico. Click here for more information on the Climate March Symposium.

How to Speak with Conservative Friends About Renewables. Finally, before reading the threaded commentary on excerpts from MLK’s speech below, click here to read a short article and watch a remarkable video.It presents some very good advice on how to talk to conservatives about renewable energy. Produced by a Tea Party Environmental Activist (I didn’t make that up, she exists), Debbie Dooley presents a very interesting way to use Lakoff’s concept of reframing an issue, to penetrate those who won’t listen to you if you mention climate change. This could be among the most valuable resources we have for convincing the GOP to invest in renewable energy and a way to circumvent the closed ears of climate change deniers when we start speaking about climate change. This is a must read.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The Urgency of Now

Dr. King: “When the issues at hand seem as perplexing as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict, we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must move on.” Clearly the issue is perplexing, but the solution is not a scientific puzzle and is not a capacity issue; it is a political issue that urgently needs a political solution.

Dr. King: “If we do not stop our war against the people of Vietnam immediately, the world will be left with no other alternative than to see this as some horrible, clumsy, and deadly game we have decided to play. The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure.”  Here is the crux of the problem. While the Paris Accords were insufficient, they were at least a step in the right direction. But today, America and maturity do not belong in the same sentence. And so I pose to readers: what are our options to create the kind of grassroots political will that can force our leadership to act in defense of our planet? What are our political options? Is our only strategy to build a movement that can take action after 2018 or 2020? If so, please consider the final quote from Dr. King, Jr. below.

Dr. King: “These are the times for real choices and not false ones. We are at the moment when our lives must be placed on the line if our nation is to survive its own folly. Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest.”  Duly noted. Ideas?

Dr. King: “When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered…. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say, “This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just.” Oh my, what would Dr. King Jr. have said about climate change. Undoubtedly with the replacement of a very few words, precisely what he stated about Vietnam in this passage. 

Dr. King: “This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all mankind. This oft misunderstood, this oft misinterpreted concept, so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force, has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man.”

Dr. King: “We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with a lost opportunity. The tide in the affairs of men does not remain at flood — it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is adamant to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words, “Too late.” There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. Omar Khayyam is right: ‘The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on.'” Those who follow climate change closely fear that too late has arrived, and I can’t recall a scientific report that didn’t say that climate change has been advancing more rapidly than predicted. And so, I fear it is our task to find a more radical form of protest, something that will require wisdom first, to identify the path, and then sacrifice, perhaps the kind of sacrifice that has not been seen before, as the opposition is willfully ignorant, obscenely greedy, and firmly entrenched. I ask for ideas. When do we start?

Dr. King: “Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Or will there be another message — of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise, we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.”

Dr. King, Jr. has framed our challenge clearly. It is time for us to find an action plan. On Saturday, April 29, from 3:30-6pm, Santa Fe’s Climate March action will not be a march, but a kind of Town Hall, a convening of activists and environmentalists. It will be but the first of many steps. We must ramp up our resistance or we will be left to tell our grandchildren, “We signed so many petitions. Sorry.” Dr. King can inspire us, but if we are just motivated and do not act, to quote Hamlet, “the rest is silence.”

Please comment, please share. Tomorrow is today.

In solidarity,

Paul & Roxanne

Click here for a script of Dr. King’s complete remarks. To listen to the speech in its entirety, see below.

Categories: Climate Justice, Economic justice

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4 replies

  1. Awesome!

    Bianca Sopoci-Belknap Executive Director, Earth Care 6600 Valentine Way Building A Santa Fe, NM 87507 (505) 983-6896 (office) (505) 699-1025 (cell)

    *”I can UNDERSTAND pessimism, but I don’t BELIEVE in it. It’s not simply a matter of faith, but of historical EVIDENCE. Not overwhelming evidence, just enough to give HOPE, because for hope we don’t need certainty, only POSSIBILITY.” -* Howard Zinn

    On Thu, Apr 20, 2017 at 9:14 AM, Retake Our Democracy wrote:

    > paulgibson51 posted: “New Energy Economy, Tewa Women United, Earth Care, > and others are drawing on MLK Jr and some inspirational words from his > Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence speech to organize an urgent > Climate March event. This post is devoted to this effort. The si” >

  2. Paul, Thank you for this superb post Re Climate Change.

    Using Dr. King’s writings on Vietnam and applying “the fierce urgency of now” is brilliant. Great piece, which I will share with others. Glenn

    Sent from my iPhone


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