Nearly three dozen South Whidbey folks joined 1,000 others at the Break Free from Fossil Fuel demonstration at Tesoro and Shell refineries in Anacortes to send a message: climate change is real and we need to make a clean energy transition now. Here are some of our lessons:
1. You can’t judge a demonstration by the media. The media might not come at all. If they do they will tell but a sliver of the story – and pick one that will discredit the action. For example, a rumor spread, dominating some reporting, that we left litter on the tracks and along the march route. In fact, when 52 people were arrested for blocking the train tracks, they were hustled away, with no time to clear their gear. Great photo op, but in fact their friends came later and cleaned it all up.
2. Whether or not a demonstration changes the world, it changes the people who demonstrate. You demonstrate to yourself that you have courage. You learn. You come away more committed. You are inspired by others who walk with you. We literally walked our talk — six miles of it.
3. While Break Free was designed to draw attention to climate change, another climate changed more quietly. The organizers recognized that change that serves one interest while hurting another won’t work. What about the workers who will lose their jobs when the refinery shuts down? What about the rights of the indigenous people who lost their clamming and fishing grounds when the refineries were built? We worked on all those issues at a parallel conference.
We are at the end of an era. Either we change or the climate will change us. There’s much we have to reckon with to restore balance to society and the environment. We need a “just transition” where workers are trained for living wage green jobs. We must recognize indigenous rights. And we must clean up all our messes from the dirty energy era.
Ultimately, that’s our demonstration.