Still image from TJ Jones News2Share video

Message to #ClimateEmergency Absolutists — Open One Lane

A tiny human tragedy at a climate campaign’s highway shutdown shows the realtime costs of extremism by activists focused on long-term threats

In between writing about the deadly unpredicted collapse of a heat-shriveled glacier in the Italian alps and preparing for today’s Sustain What webcast on Colorado communities trying to rebuild after the Marshall Fire, I noticed, and then became horrified by, a Twitter thread of video clips posted by Ford Fischer, one of the new breed of real-time video purveyors funneling breaking-news footage to TV news networks and social media.

The sequence, recorded by videographer TJ Jones, pulled me in like a Mamet play or Tarantino script. The full video, now you YouTube, is wrenching and infuriating. Think of it as a 25-minute mini-series focused on a struggling, stressed-out, down-on-his-luck ex con vying for a better life who gets sucked back into the void as his weaknesses collide with some unexpected obstacle.

The obstacle in this case was a highway cordon of climate activists seemingly oblivious to the real-time harms that can result form high-minded publicity stunts.

And of course in this case it’s not fiction.

This young man’s story is worth examining because it crystallizes a damaging and self destructive trait in a small, but highly visible, corner of climate activism.

Head over to my Sustain What dispatch for my post and my interview with Jonathan Tijerina, one of the climate-action demonstrators involved.

This post is not about the logic of such uncivil disobedience, nor is it about Declare Emergency’s “climate emergency” demand. I’ll be devoting a thorough #Watchwords entry to that term. (For one hint see this Twitter thread.)

It’s about absolutism, and the failure to recognize when a tiny bit of flex in a shock strategy not only might avoid worst-case damaging outcomes, but also boost a movement’s public support.



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Andy Revkin

Andy Revkin

Pursuing progress on a finite planet at @columbia @earthinstitute. The rest? Family, friends, books, songs