In Bill McKibbon’s <a href=”http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/07/opinion/sunday/embarrassing-photos-of-me-thanks-to-my-right-wing-stalkers.html?smid=tw-share”>Op-Ed</a> this week he details a deceptive and unsettling harassment campaign he and other pro-environment leaders face from fossil fuel funded groups. In the piece he describes how a right wing group called America Rising Squared has been following him with cameras and looking to catch him using fossil fuels in pretty much anyway, along with a fairly open harrassment whenever he is in public.
These campaigns believe that it is hypocrisy for an individual fighting any of the many forms of fossil fuel pollution to ever benefit from fossil fuels. It is an argument that is commonly used by the pro-fossil fuel side, including PES representatives against Green Justice Philly volunteers. It’s very annoying to encounter because it is a simplistic slogan-ready slur that can has that truthiness feel and needs a calm but longer explanation to beat back.
For that reason I justify further countering the attack rather then just giving it a slide-step it probably deserves. It’s an ignorant and adolescent idea that mere uniformity is a path to moral validity. Their thought is the the burning of fossil fuels is valid because those who oppose it use it as well, no matter the reasons or how much is used. In truth my actions don’t invalidate any argument I may have, nor does the necessity of an action make it a moral action. If I were to drive a gasoline car to a meeting where I argued that Philadelphia should not be making any new investment in fossil fuels it is not hypocritical at all. It is far more important that people show up to make the right arguments then it would be to avoid making the essentially infinitesimal additional pollution of driving a few miles in a car. If 97% of people believed the science like the scientists who are studying climate change then the meeting wouldn’t even be needed at all. Really the additional pollution is the fault of those who continue to resist the end of the age of fossil fuels despite the overwhelming evidence against them.
So perhaps that works as a counter slogan? “If you don’t build the pipeline, then I don’t need to drive here”.
I think McKibbon’s solution is the best however. He details how the movement needs tens of thousands of leaders instead of just a few who can be targeted.
[The movement is] stronger that way, because different voices bring different arguments to the fore. But another good reason for that distributed model, one that I’ve thought of often this summer, is that even a successful attack on one person does little damage to the whole movement, in the same way that you can smash the solar panels on my roof and not black out the Eastern Seaboard.
Couldn’t agree more.