(Credit: Jay O’Hara)
An update on the day's outcome appears below.
It seems fitting that this would be my first post here, given the subject of my first piece for The Nation, on the cover of the current issue. Near the end of that essay, I write that it’s time for climate activists “to say and do ‘crazy’ and ‘radical’ things,” such as “put their bodies in the way of coal shipments.” I didn’t know I’d be writing this post when I wrote those words, but this morning, that is precisely what’s happened.
At around 9:30 am, two climate activists I know through 350 Massachusetts anchored an old wooden lobster boat, the Henry David T. (I like the name), in the path of a coal tanker—putting their bodies in the way of a shipment to the Brayton Point coal-fired power plant in Somerset, Massachusetts, the largest fossil-fueled plant and largest source of carbon emissions in the Northeast.
They’re calling for the plant to be shut down—immediately—for the sake of the climate and all of us.
One of them, 31-year-old Jay O’Hara, captain of the HDT, is a devout Quaker. The other, Ken Ward, 57, was deputy director of GreenpeaceUSA in the 1990s and is a longtime environmental insider. He’s also a pointed critic of what he argues is the big green groups’ collective failure to grapple seriously with the climate crisis. (Read their bios here.)
Of course there’s already an effort underway, led by the Coal Free Massachusetts coalition, to close Brayton Point—by 2020. But Ken and Jay are saying that if we actually take the threat of catastrophic climate change seriously, based on the science, 2020 isn’t anywhere near soon enough. We’ve run out of time. We should have closed it down long ago.
To lose the world on our watch is a miserable prospect. To lose the world when a solution is available is perverse. Denying outright that climate change exists is the most extreme response, but considering climate change to be anything other than the single most important matter facing humanity has the same effect.