Polluters vs. the people

Vintage shot of underground coal minersGuest column by climatologist Dr. James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

We hold this truth to be self evident – all people are created equal.

That truth is the basis for equal protection of the laws – a right guaranteed by our Constitution.

“All people” includes young people, mountain people, poor people.

Our government was instituted to protect the rights of all people.

We are gathered here today to draw attention to the failure of our government to protect the rights of the people, and failure to provide equal protection of the laws.

People have suffered a long train of abuses, invariably with the same objective – to enrich the few at the expense of the many.

First, the government is failing to protect the future of young people, knowingly allowing and even subsidizing actions that benefit the few at the expense of the public and at the expense of all life sharing this Earth.

Second, the legislative and executive branches of government knowingly propose actions that demonstrably and utterly fail to preserve our climate, and the environment for life.

Third, our government allows and contributes to a great hoax, perpetrated on the public by moneyed interests, aimed at confusing the public about the reality of climate change.

We are in danger of becoming the land for the rich and the home of the bribe.

More than 200 years after the founding of our nation, we face a great moral crisis. Human-made climate change pits the rich and powerful against the young and unborn, against the defenseless, and against nature. The moral issue is comparable to slavery and civil rights.

Solution for civil rights was provided by the combination of people in the streets and the courts, which provided equal protection of the laws and ordered desegregation.

Brave people have been standing up in West Virginia, in Kentucky, in Tennessee, in Utah, in Australia, in the United Kingdom, around the world.

But now is the time to go on the offensive. We should not be begging courts to forgive the brave people who protest. We must ask the courts to order the government to present plans to phase down fossil fuel emissions at a pace dictated by science, a pace stabilizing climate, preserving nature and a future for young people, providing young people equal protection of the laws.

We can bring that case. But we can win only if the public understands the situation, sees through the lies of the moneyed interests, sees what is needed to solve the problem.

As long as fossil fuels are the cheapest energy, we will not solve the addiction. There will be more mountaintop removal, longwall mining, tar sands, deep ocean drilling, shale gas, seeking the last drop in the most pristine places.

We must put a fee on carbon, collected from fossil fuel companies, with all proceeds distributed to the public. One hundred percent or fight!

Most people will get more in the monthly green check than they pay in increased energy prices. Our economy and innovations will be stimulated. We will move to clean energies.

A coalition is building for a carbon fee with 100 percent distributed to the public in a monthly check. In October this coalition will launch a campaign, Million Letter March, gathering letters showing that the people insist on an honest equitable solution. Please join the March.

Let us resolve to have a rebirth – a rebirth of our nation, a rebirth of equality of opportunity, true equality — with a government of the people, by the people and for the people – all of the people.

James Hansen made these remarks at Freedom Plaza before the Appalachia Rising march to the White House on September 27, 2010. Reprinted with permission of the author.

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