FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Courting Each Other

This week I was certified in a Spokane, Washington courtroom as an expert witness, able to offer a professional opinion as to the conduct of a man who sat down on a railroad line to block a coal train. My role was to let the court know whether, in my opinion, this elderly gentleman was acting in the American tradition of nonviolent civil resistance that is, at times, permissible by law.

George Taylor wore his clerical collar to court that day, looking the part that he plays in Spokane life, which is that of a Christian minister. This has historically lent itself to the perception of possible moral authority and, under the circumstances, Reverend Taylor certainly held it.

The Rev had done this nonviolent confrontation last August in the company of other sincere souls, all six of whom were arrested and charged with relatively minor crimes; the maximum sentences they faced were three months in jail. All indicated willingness to serve that if convicted, since coal is the largest contributor to greenhouse gasses that are driving up the temperatures of the oceans and atmosphere around the world.

Then the railroad threatened to seek unknown scores of thousands of dollars in restitution for costs they claim were incurred by the delay of all their trains by the blockades. The other five defendants were legitimately concerned–all were senior citizens and more vulnerable to the seizure of their limited funds than to serving three months of their retirement years in a jail cell.

All undertook the blockade as an act of pure altruism; none are likely to be affected by the most terrible results of global warming. They were acting in defense of their grandchildren and future generations.

The other expert witness, I confess, intimidated me at first when I read his curriculum vitae–which included sharing the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his scientific work to document, explain, and predict the effects of climate change.

Dr. Steven Running has studied and measured aspects of our atmosphere, including carbon dioxide and other greenhouse-effect gasses, since the 1980s. He has personally published more than 300 peer-reviewed scientific papers and his expertise will be validated by any court.

He’s also an affable, humorous, genuine fellow, who, like me, appeared because we intend to help, and not for any fee or any compensation other than the sense of duty to help battle the descent to what Dr. Running described as human chaos.

If, as a society, we pull together hard, starting now, says Running, the children of the future won’t lose too much to the climate change that is underway, with an unavoidable temperature rise of perhaps two degrees Celsius this century. But, he says, if we continue business as usual, temperatures will rise upwards of 12-14 degrees Celsius and, he cites the collective judgment of his fellow scientists, human life may not go totally extinct in the next few decades, but a human society will not continue anywhere. All human systems will break. Fires, floods, hurricanes, crop death, drought, massive dislocation as virtually all port cities are lost to the seas, and killer heat.

Civil resistance, my area of expertise, is expressly to interrupt business as usual, and to do so in ways that invite others to approve, if not join in–completely nonviolent, accountable (no running), and transparent (no masks). I explained all this to the judge, was lightly challenged by the prosecutor, but it was apparent that Dr. Running’s pure fact-based analysis, derived entirely from millions of data from reliable instruments gathered for decades by dedicated and very smart scientists, impacted everyone.

Dr. Running is profoundly worried about the Trump regime, which is doing everything possible to simply ruin life, to strip the protections that might give children a chance.

So, I suppose, I may well be back in that court, or another one, but not always as an expert witness, rather as a defendant. I’d invite anyone to consider that. Business as usual cannot continue if we want to preserve hope for the young, for the unborn.

More articles by:

Tom H. Hastings is core faculty in the Conflict Resolution Department at Portland State University and founding director of PeaceVoice

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

April 22, 2019
Melvin Goodman
The NYTs Tries to Rehabilitate Bloody Gina Haspel
Robert Fisk
After ISIS, a Divided Iraq, Wounded and Grief-Stricken
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange as Neuroses
John Laforge
Chernobyl’s Deadly Effects Estimates Vary
Kenneth Surin
Mueller Time? Not for Now
Cesar Chelala
Yemen: The Triumph of Barbarism
Kerron Ó Luain
What the “White Irish Slaves” Meme Tells Us About Identity Politics
Andy Piascik
Grocery Store Workers Take on Billion Dollar Multinational
Seiji Yamada – Gregory G. Maskarinec
Health as a Human Right: No Migrants Need Apply
Howard Lisnoff
Loose Bullets and Loose Cannons
Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada
Dreaming in Miami
Graham Peebles
Consuming Stuff: The Polluting World of Fashion
Robert Dodge
Earth Day: Our Planet in Peril
Weekend Edition
April 19, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
What Will It Take For Trump to Get His Due?
Roy Eidelson
Is the American Psychological Association Addicted to Militarism and War?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Time is Blind, Man is Stupid
Joshua Frank
Top 20 Mueller Report “Findings”
Rob Urie
Why Russiagate Will Never Go Away
Paul Street
Stephen Moore Gets Something Right: It’s Capitalism vs. Democracy
Russell Mokhiber
Why Boeing and Its Executives Should be Prosecuted for Manslaughter
T.J. Coles
The Battle for Latin America: How the U.S. Helped Destroy the “Pink Tide”
Ron Jacobs
Ho Chi Minh City: Nguyen Thai Binh Street
Dean Baker
Fun Fictions in Economics
David Rosen
Trump’s One-Dimensional Gender Identity
Kenn Orphan
Notre Dame: We Have Always Belonged to Her
Robert Hunziker
The Blue Ocean Event and Collapsing Ecosystems
Theodore C. Van Alst, Jr.
Paddy Wagon
Brett Wilkins
Jimmy Carter: US ‘Most Warlike Nation in History of the World’
John W. Whitehead
From Jesus Christ to Julian Assange: When Dissidents Become Enemies of the State
Nick Pemberton
To Never Forget or Never Remember
Stephen Cooper
My Unforgettable College Stabbings
Louis Proyect
A Leftist Rejoinder to the “Capitalist Miracle”
Louisa Willcox
Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic and the Need for a New Approach to Managing Wildlife
Brian Cloughley
Britain Shakes a Futile Fist and Germany Behaves Sensibly
Jessicah Pierre
A Revolutionary Idea to Close the Racial Wealth Divide
George Burchett
Revolutionary Journalism
Dan Bacher
U.S. Senate Confirms Oil Lobbyist David Bernhardt as Interior Secretary
Nicky Reid
The Strange Success of Russiagate
Chris Gilbert
Defending Venezuela: Two Approaches
Todd Larsen
The Planetary Cost of Amazon’s Convenience
Kelly Martin
How the White House is Spinning Earth Day
Nino Pagliccia
Cuba and Venezuela: Killing Two Birds With a Stone
Matthew Stevenson
Pacific Odyssey: Guadalcanal and Bloody Ridge, Solomon Islands
David Kattenburg
Trudeau’s Long Winter
Gary Olson
A Few Comments on the recent PBS Series: Reconstruction: America After the Civil War
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail