Acknowledging human’s contributions to climate change is pretty easy to understand, at least for 60% of the American population.
But at times, political action in support of addressing climate change can create a situation in which the commitment to environmental change is overshadowed by the irony of the tactics.
Such was the case on Friday, September 20 when student protesters in Washington, DC and elsewhere formed human barricades on major thoroughfares, bringing traffic to a halt. At first, it seems like a really good idea. It is a way of broadening the awareness to the ‘content with fossil fuels’ part of the population. The message was that their complacency will not be tolerated by most young people who will have to live with the inaction of today’s ruling class of adults.
But the problem with the tactic of blocking traffic was vividly pointed out by ABC reporter Kristen Powers, not to be confused with fellow journalist Kirsten Powers. Kristen Powers made the following observation in Twitter protesters in DC:
She points out an obvious disconnect in the protest. Some people walking by the protesters asked them why they were blocking cars that are burning fossil fuels to get their point across. The longer that the cars are stalled in traffic, the more pollutants that their vehicles emit into the atmosphere, thus contributing to further global warming and climate change.
Clearly, the protesters made their point. But they were aware of the irony of how their tactics were worsening a situation that they were trying to make better? I don’t know if it would have been better had they seen the disconnect, or not see the disconnect.
Even if the protesters had not been generating more pollution into the atmosphere, one has to wonder about the effectiveness of tactics that create victims out of people who are possibly innocent by-standers. Does pissing anyone off really help the cause? There are times when protesters of varying stripes seem to ignore that their tactics can create backlash.
None of this should detract from the remarkable work most of the protesters who are passionately trying to awaken America’s adults to the reality that climate challenges have far greater impact on today’s youth than today’s adults. Like every component of social change, protests require fore-thought and planning. Just the way in which our government would be better if there was a Department of Common Sense (perhaps instead of the Supreme Court), protesters could benefit in their planning with a few critical contrarians. All the same, mega-kudos to the protesters, and last Friday was a remarkable learning experience for all of us.