Transcript: Thom Hartmann asks Kumi Naidoo, is time for peaceful civil disobedience on climate change? 09 Dec '09

Thom Hartmann: Kumi Naidoo is with us, he is the executive director of Greenpeace International and the chair of the tck tck tck campaign, of course the website. Kumi, welcome to our program, it is a great honor to have you on with us.

Kumi Naidoo: Thank you very much for having me Thom.

Thom Hartmann: You, I understand, have come out recently and said either it is time for us to seriously consider or it is close for us, time for us, to seriously consider things, actually direct action of some sort or at the very least civil disobedience. Am I correctly quoting you on that?

Kumi Naidoo: Yes you are.

Thom Hartmann: What do you mean by that?

Kumi Naidoo: Well, if you look at the history of struggles against injustice in the United States during the civil rights movement, the global struggle against apartheid, even if we go farther back and look at the struggles to end slavery, it’s only when decent men and women, having faced a big or long term injustice, say enough is enough and no more and are willing to take peaceful action where they are prepared to put their lives on the line, prepared to go to prison as Martin Luther King was prepared to do. Then only, I believe, in this current context we can get our leaders to act with the urgency the situation calls for. The bottom line is we have in the past 10 years the warmest on record in terms of global temperature. We have a situation where the entire planet is at risk and our children and grandchildren’s futures are at risk and our political leaders are not acting with urgency and that is why I’m calling for increasing civil disobedience as part of our strategy.

Thom Hartmann: Right. I think that the metaphor that I find really useful is that you know, the normal human body temperature is what, around 36 degrees Celsius, 98.6 Fahrenheit. And if it went up 5 degrees Celsius, a human being would die. And the planet is a living organism itself. And if we’re talking about raising its temperature by five degrees there are many scientists who are talking about a large chunk of it is gonna die and a large chunk of it already is dying just from the more or less one degree increase that we’ve seen so far. And so, you know, we’re talking about survival stuff here. So again, back to civil disobedience. And I understand that you were very active in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa back in the day. What are your suggestions as to, and we’re talking with Kumi Naidoo, the executive director of Greenpeace International. What are your suggestions, sir, about what that should look like? In other words, what should people, what is it that you’re suggesting people should consider doing?

Kumi Naidoo: Well, in the United States when many decent men and women in the United States supported our struggle against apartheid there used to be rolling demonstrations outside the South African embassy with deliberately courting arrests, I don't know whether your listeners and you remember. I’m sure some of your listeners will. That provided great solidarity and the impetus to get the Reagan government to, you know, move in the direction of being a friend of the oppressed in South Africa rather than to be allianced to the apartheid states. So I think, you know, yeah, for example, there are some young people engaged in a fast and hunger strike.

We have coal-fired power plants with I think young people and others need to look at, you know, sending a message that this is what is actually contributing. I should maybe quickly tell you an anecdote that last year I put it to Al Gore in a meeting in Aspen, Colorado, saying, you know, when he was on the verge of tears about how serious the situation was, time was running out, I put it to him, you know, isn’t it a time for somebody like you to actually begin to lead some of those things and, you know, I can get arrested repeatedly but I’m not the profile and stature that Al Gore does and his response then was in principle he would be happy to do that and he would just have to check it out with Tipper. And I saw recently he has also come out in support of civil disobedience as being the strategy because basically time is running out. Every year 200, excuse me 300,000 people are dying now, mainly in the developing world, from climate-related impacts. We have a situation in Bangladesh where already the water supply in coastal regions have been contaminated by sea water contaminating water tables.

In Africa we are looking at thousands and thousands of climate refugees now, so it’s not as if you correctly pointed out, it’s not as if, you know, the impacts of climate change are going to happen tomorrow, it’s just that at the moment it’s happening to people who are poor, and people who are vulnerable. And it’s and also the impacts are also happening in rich countries, and of course there are examples in the United States as well. So it’s time for action and if leaders cannot act as fast as we need them to, then we need to actually prevail on their decency and put pressure on them and that’s what seems to be the only thing right now that can get the urgency into the debate that is needed.

Thom Hartmann: We’re talking with Kumi Naidoo, the executive director of Greenpeace International. of course their website. And during the Bush administration legislation was passed, the Patriot Act, and other supporting legislation that declared that the interruption of economic activity in the United States was considered terrorism. And therefore a person could be, you know, basically subject to all the horrors that the Bush administration put the 9/11 suspects, or whatever you want to call it, through. We have a little less than a minute left, Kumi Naidoo, I’m not so concerned that the Obama administration is necessarily gonna do this but we might be looking at a Republican administration three years from now and that I’m sure would do it in a heart beat. This is, this could, we’re talking about people really seriously potentially screwing up their lives. I’m with you on this and are there movements. I mean where do people go, what’s the next step? People can’t just independently say, or its gonna be very difficult for them to just independently say, you know, I think I’m gonna sit down in front of this power plant and stop the oil from being delivered.

Kumi Naidoo: Well, firstly I should say that the Patriot Act was one of the most unpatriotic pieces of American legislation which actually undermines the very foundation and values of the American democracy but that’s another conversation. And I think that Greenpeace works on non violent direct action and is committed to peace. I think joining up with organizations like Greenpeace, ?? groups and so on…

Thom Hartmann: There you go. It’s movement politics that’ll make it happen. Kumi Naidoo, Join it, now. Thank you sir.

Transcribed by Suzanne Roberts, Portland Psychology Clinic.

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