To protect and serve who again?

British riot police confront 'dangerous' protestor

I don’t get it. Really, I don’t.

Climate change is destroying the planet. Oceans are becoming warmer and more acidic, the glaciers and polar ice caps are shrinking faster then even the most pessimistic projections, South Sea islands like the Maldives are becoming inundated by sea level rise and we are in the middle of a man-made mass extinction event where scientists predict that one-half of all species of life will be extinct by 2100.

This is all pretty horrific to contemplate, right?

And yet, when people try to protest peacefully against the polluters who are damaging the planet beyond all recognition, when people try to highlight and bring a halt to this madness so we can save some shred of our decency, as well as some of the lifeforms on the planet, what happens? They are confronted by lines of police in riot gear, at best, or battered and thrown in jail on trumped up charges, or worse.

Look up civil disobedience in Wikipedia and you see a photo of Gandhi! Other famous proponents of civil disobedience are Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Henry David Thoreau.

Why then, when people are looking to better our planet and by extension our lives, are they attacked and frequently imprisoned by the police, the very force who are supposed to protect and serve us? Obviously it is not us whom the police are protecting and serving. Shame on them.

Then today, I see a report that the provincial government in Alberta, Canada is threatening to unleash its counterterrorism plan if activists continue using civil disobedience to protest the tar sands. No really.

From the report:

Canada’s tar sands will singlehandedly produce more greenhouse gas emissions than Denmark, Ireland, Austria or Portugal by 2020 if the development continues expanding at its current rate, according to a recent report written by award-winning business reporter Andrew Nikiforuk


“We’re going to be working very closely with industry and our solicitor general will be reviewing all of the guidelines we have in place,” said a visibly irritated Premier Stelmach in early October.

Fred Lindsay, the solicitor general, went a step further, suggesting the province might use its counterterrorism plan against future protests.

Now people trying to protect life on this Earth are terrorists? Seriously, it should be the people extracting oil from the tar sands who are subject to counterterrorism plans, if anyone.

When will we see the forces of law and order arresting executives of mining companies for their lack of concern for human rights, or lack of concern for the planet?

Photo credit clearbrian


  1. says


    I think the most valuable piece of insight to take away from these sorts of confrontations is this: activists are only portrayed and responded to as the problem because the entities doing the responding and portrayal are part of a system that is totally reliant on continuing the sort of practices that lead to the crisis we are in. And, they don’t know what do do about this conflict of interest (save the planet vs save their institutions). Generally, these sorts of bizarrely irrational behavior can be traced back to some fear held by someone. In this case, that someone is the media, western government, and the industrial complex that provides their funding and justification being. And the fear is that there is no way to address the problem without negatively altering their positions of power.

    The next best thing, then, is to focus your attention on somebody else.

    I guess at least this tells us that the crisis is real.

  2. says

    As Hunter Lovins of Natural Capitalism so eloquently pointed out at the Radical Collaboration event this past August, both environmentalists, green activists and corporations, governments need to take a new approach towards mutually addressing climate change issues in a positive, partnership-oriented manner. This has been hard for green activists who have been fighting the trenches for so long — but for the first time in a long time, at least here in the US we have an administration that has climate change on the top agenda and we have corporations beginning to understand that “cause” is the new corporate currency. It’s frustrating to see continued “us vs. them” mentally in the case you point out here but we need to continually look for solutions to improve awareness and understanding as clearly maintaining the status quo will not work.

  3. says


    I sense we are heading again for a fairly turbulent cycle of activism.

    As we do those of us operating mostly in the corporate sphere would do well to remember we owe a lot to the change makers at the front end. Marc Gunther’s post this week is good on this point:

    ‘While these tactics might not be well suited for, say, the World Resources Institute, the diversity of the environmental movement is a wonderful thing. Activists at groups like Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network or Friends of the Earth function, in essence, as the business development arms of the more collaborative, mainstream groups like the Environmental Defense Fund or Conservation International. Companies under attack from Greenpeace or RAN often ask EDF or CI to help them dig out of trouble.’

  4. says

    A potent and scary article. I ache for the day when the odds are even. Those with Big Wigs need oil (and all the other horrific polluters) require massive amounts of energy to keep violence–even the show of potential violence–high.

    Protesters these days own lots of courage.

  5. says

    As a certified Transition Town Terrorist, I can see the government’s position and I also know the work-arounds that ensure the right amount of television footage, meaningful dialogue and political maneuvers.

    It’s handy that elected officials can roll out the terrorism statutes when “visibly irritated”. It’s important to realise that if we stood on the sidelines and granted wide-reaching and unbalanced anti-terrorism powers to the government, we often have ourselves to blame when the government pushes the anti-terrorism button when it suits the establishment.

  6. emily says

    You put too much faith in what essentially amounts to questionable science.

    What exactly are you doing about the problem besides protesting/complaining about it? That is the answer to why the US has still not come very far in terms of freeing itself from fossil fuels.

    Get over yourself. You hold up a sign, or write an article, thinking you contribute something positive to society. You don’t. Anybody can do that. When you look at your own life, how much are you really doing about today’s environmental problems besides discussing it?

    Go build a solar plant or a wind farm or something. Once you see how much work it takes, then come back and talk down to us.


    biodiesel producer (from waste restaurant grease)

  7. Uncle B says

    Police state versus World saviors – Read your Bible! Evey time someone comes up with a good idea, that may disturb the “Status Quo” they get their asses kicked, put on a cross, and destroyed, then reality sets in and they are worshiped for over 2 thousand years! Here’s a Modern, Scientific, Law to make as a base to your “Church of Green” EROI: – Energy Return on Investment, law, “can survive only as long as they are capable of getting more net energy from any activity than they expend during the performance of that activity” – And Americans are using oil for leverage in this, for their very survival, as we speak! Take away the oil, we have great hulking American Neanderthals, starving in Hoovervilles, Tent cities, Shanty Towns, casual labor jobs only, no medical coverage, disenfranchised from all that is good in America eating spam at xmas, road kill, possum and rodents the rest the year, composting, hand watering and humanuring garden plots, and with free bus passage, one way, paid by New York city to rural areas to build tar-paper shacks, and scavenge for food! Higher priced Oil, less leverage for the EROI equation did this!
    The other factor: Asian Explosion! America is in full recoil to the superior business practices, educational prowess, manufacturing capability and now greater military skills, with “Secret” Chinese Plutonium and Chinese delivery systems for it in Iran to protect their recent purchase of the South Azadegan Oil Fields there – along side the “secret” nukes of American origins in Israel – Two “Secrets” in the Middle East! Toucher! America China can play international chess too! Goddammit! and less of the worlds oil for U.S.A.! Less leverage for the survival equation EROI!
    Next we attack the great American Neanderthal beast himself! Bred by greedy capitalists he evolved over the last 200 years, very fast! He was force fed richer and richer food to drive his body to exploit the richness found in America! These first easy to mine resources are almost all gone, now! What to do with these great hulking high calorie dependent, over-muscled, over-sized, super consumers of up to 80% of the world’s resources now that we have no more tasks for him to perform? The “Legacy Workers” from the flight to Asia of American capital? The “Smoke Stack” era remenants and their massive great strong physically yet practically uneducatable (to Asian standards) children? The up and coming “Foot Ball Stars” given preferential breeding rites even today over intellectual performers at our high schools, colleges and Universities? Lauded and applauded, for What? Can we ever convert from “Mr. Muscles” adoration to intellectual promotion as in Asian circumstances? Will this once necessary mass propagandization of our lives end as abruptly as needed? Can we start to worship the smaller smarter, physically lighter, vegan, Computer whiz, Science geniuses, Chemistry gurus, Physics wizards, Math meisters, over “Mr Hardcock Giant Strong Sports Star” we worship today? Can we do this soon enough to epoch Asian efforts in the sane direction for today’s world conquests? Once again, the EROI equation that cannot be cheated, We cannot compete in the car manufacturing industry, our former forte, all these years, against 98 pound, little, slight, vegan, Asian, ladies, with all our force! They have beaten our asses good at our own game, and make the parts in China for all the cars we drive, even Harley Davidson’s have Chinese parts! Goddamn the equation again! They have us beat! They do it better, for less effort!
    Next, we wittiness: Our dollar has fallen in the world as the transfer of capital world wide to Asian Investment markets occurred, and we show a very large drop in our net value over that period. We also see a migration of Capital deliberately away from our dollar, even at small losses! Proof Positive that we are fighting a losing war with the free markets of the world, and with Asians in particular, they have even bought up all the free oil in the world for themselves, taking our great lever away from us! We cannot compete because our ways deny the EROI equation, from the food we eat to the ‘Hummer” example, and we die off!
    The “Status Quo” in America, those with money invested, lives at stake, ways of life fixed in tradition, family histories undeniable, the “entitled, the Old Money indolent rich, the inheritors of security, the comfortably pensioned, the stable civil service, the career professionals, sports stars, movie stars, don’t want anything to change! no matter how unreal their stand! They are secure, comfortable and safe with things just like they are, and don’t seem to fit into the EROI equation, but they do! later than some perhaps, but they too will have to taylor there costs of survival to fit! like it or not! Inflation, the great equalizer, will get them but good!
    Police on the other hand, are underlings, following orders, surviving in numb-minded, shuttered, blinkered, obedience, a gun in hand, a gun at their foreheads, they are the ultimate slave to the Status Quo, an interdependent pair however, and still subject to the EROI law!
    See you in Asia, Where the big game is now, Yankee Doodle! I leave you to your own devices! Have a Happy Day!