A New Year’s Resolution: Mobilize in Mass to Halt Coal Exports

If there’s one takeaway lesson we activists can learn from 2011, it’s that mass mobilization works.  From the Tar Sands Action in DC to Occupy Wall Street (and hundreds of other Occupy movements across the country), 2011 will be remembered as the year US residents took to the streets to reclaim control over our future.  The result?  The Keystone XL pipeline is likely dead, Tea Party conservatives are on the defensive, and President Obama has suddenly started talking about economic fairness.

Mass mobilization works.  And in 2012, it’s time to apply this lesson to what may be the biggest carbon bomb of them all: a proposal to export US coal from the Powder River Basin to the international market.

If you’re not familiar with coal export proposals, you can get the miserable truth about the issue here.  For now, suffice to say large-scale coal export projects seem to be an even bigger threat to the climate than the Keystone XL pipeline.  In states like Montana, both Republicans and Democrats in statewide office seem bent on blowing up this carbon bomb, and have ignored the protests of environmental groups.

Lobbying, petitioning, and talking about “green jobs” have all failed to stop mine-for-export proposals moving forward (though all these tactics have helped build the movement we’ll need to win).  I believe the only thing that can keep Montana and Wyoming coal in the ground is a mobilization that includes large-scale direct action.  It’s time to do here what Occupy Wall Street did in Zuccotti Park, and what the Tar Sands Action did on President Obama’s doorstep.  We must reclaim power over our communities, and chart the course ourselves to a cleaner, more just future.

This isn’t going to be easy.  There are no really large urban areas in the northern Intermountain West, making mass mobilizations difficult to organize.  However, there is a growing movement within these states to protect our communities from the coal industry.  We know we have the support of activists in the not-so-far-off Pacific Northwest proper, who are organizing to stop proposed coal terminals on the West Coast.  And with a livable planet hanging in the balance, the stakes couldn’t be higher.

In 2012, we can channel the power of mass mobilization into the places where it will be most effective, throwing off the stranglehold of fossil fuel industries over our communities while opening up space for clean energy and green jobs.  With direct action sweeping the country, and ever more people in the West waking up to the impacts of coal export proposals, there couldn’t be a better moment.

I know I’m excited.


About Nick


Nick is a freelance writer, climate activist, and a graduate student at the University of Montana. He got his start in activism by helping to establish a new campus recycling system at Portland Community College; since then he has organized to stop fossil fuel projects and open up space for clean energy in Oregon, Washington, and Montana. Nick is currently working with activists throughout the Greater Northwest to protect Northwest communities from coal export projects. When not in school or organizing for a clean energy future, he can be found hiking in the natural areas around Missoula, bird watching, or writing a novel.

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