Climate Defiance, a new youth-led group dedicated to confronting the climate crisis, was launched in March with support from author Bill McKibben, noted environmentalist and co-founder of the international climate action group 350.org. The grassroots organizing collective is employing peaceful, nonviolent direct-action tactics to focus public attention on the urgent fight to dramatically reduce and eventually end the use of fossil fuels, the largest contributor to global climate change.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the scientific group assembled by the United Nations, warned in its latest report that even if every country in the world delivers on its current climate pledges, that’s probably not enough to avoid the worst impacts of climate change causing irreversible changes to some ecosystems around the world, which would be catastrophic for the people and wildlife that depend on them.
Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Rylee Haught, an action organizer with Climate Defiance, who talks about the need to hold President Biden accountable for his broken promise to stop all fossil fuel drilling on federal lands, the importance of non-violent, civil disobedience for the climate movement and their planned blockade of the White House Correspondents Dinner on April 29.
RYLEE HAUGHT: Climate Defiance, as you mentioned, is a new youth-led group, and we are focused on using nonviolent direct action to confront the climate crisis and to end extraction on public lands. So we are demanding that Biden end fossil fuel extraction on federal lands and waters. That is something he promised to do when he was running for president and has failed to deliver on.
He has actually signed over 200 more oil and gas leases on federal lands than Trump had at this point in his presidency. And that is just incompatible with a livable, survivable future for young people. We have the most to lose and we also have the most to give in this fight. So, yeah, super excited. We are taking it to the White House Correspondents Dinner on April 29 and shutting it down.
SCOTT HARRIS: On your website, you talk about the fact that petitions and social media posts won’t effectively address the climate crisis and that there’s an urgent need for direct action now through nonviolent civil disobedience, disrupting business as usual. You know, it harkens back to what Mario Savio said during the Free Speech movement in Berkeley—that we have to throw our bodies in the gears to stop the machine.
RYLEE HAUGHT: Absolutely. I mean, direct action is is putting the state in a double bind in the sense, you know, either they can allow the disruption to continue or most often they like to utilize violence or other tactics to separate us up or … In the end, driving up more support for the cause because people feel it, no matter which one they do, whether whether we are blockading the correspondents dinner for hours and hours or the police come in and decide to try to physically remove people who are utilizing our First Amendment rights to peacefully assemble.
People are going to see it. And I think right now, that’s what we need. We need people to see it. We need people to wake up and hear what is going on. Because I think our choice of using the Correspondents Dinner as well is really strategic because mainstream media outlets are also being paid by the same corporations that are paying off our politicians to not act with the urgency that the climate crisis deserves.
And so I think activists in general need to start moving with a sense of urgency, because signing on to projects that are 30 years long already puts us past a goal of net zero by 2050 that the Biden administration loves to tout. We need to put the fire under them to actually commit to his word and to do what he says he’s going to do.
SCOTT HARRIS: Tell us why your group has chosen the White House Correspondents Dinner as a target for a symbolic blockade in order to draw attention to the climate crisis.
RYLEE HAUGHT: As I mentioned, I think this is a really strategic choice and target because one, you know, President Biden will be there, Vice President Harris will be there. And most of the mainstream media outlets will also be in attendance. And literally every single person I just named is not acting with the urgency that the climate crisis deserved.
And they’re going to go have a fancy dinner and celebrate themselves and talk about the importance of the freedom of the press. But it doesn’t feel very free when you look at the money and you follow the money and you recognize that it seems like all of these people are in the pocket of fossil fuel execs and if if we’re going to actually act with honesty and character around climate change, that is just simply incompatible.
And to continue to sign on to new projects is incompatible with a vision of a future that’s sustainable and healthy for everybody, not just, you know, the the people who can wine and dine themselves in D.C. So, yeah, that’s why we’re taking it to the Correspondents Dinner on April 29th.
For more information, visit Climate Defiance at climatedefiance.
Listen to Scott Harris’ in-depth interview with Rylee Haught (16:32) and see more articles and opinion pieces in the Related Links section of this page.
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