Archive for the ‘Big Business’ Category

Climate Ground Zero Delivers Toxic Blasting Dust to Capitol Building in Charleston, West Virginia

For Immediate release:

Climate Ground Zero Delivers Toxic Blasting Dust
to Capitol Building in Charleston, West Virginia

When: Monday, November 25 at 1:00 P.M.
Where: The Liberty Bell Memorial near the back steps of the Capitol Building.

“Blasting mountaintops to mine for coal has been controversial in Appalachia since the 1970′s when it was first introduced. We believe it has never been legal or regulated. It destroys the streams that are the headwaters for our nations great rivers. The communities that live here have fought in every war since the American Revolution yet they are being dishonorably displaced and even their cemeteries are being desecrated, blasted, and buried in toxic mining spoils. Most importantly, new studies have shown that breathing the blasting dust can be fatal. It is past time to end the blasting,” said Mike Roselle, director of Climate Ground Zero
“If this does not stop, and stop soon, our next actions will be on the blasting sites.

At present, two million pounds of explosives are detonated every day, save Sunday, in Appalachia.

No one should have to live under this,” said James McGuinness, one of the protesters with Climate Ground Zero.

End Mountain Top Removal

End Mountain Top Removal

Additional background information available at climategroundzero.org
Contact: Mike Roselle Climate Ground Zero cell: 205 999 8391

cell: 304 854 7788 (office)

 

Coal Ash Ponds will Leak and Kill our Fresh Water!

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View Duke Energy well contamination in a larger map

Illegal discharges of toxic heavy metals also have been detected seeping from the ash-laden ponds into the nearby French Broad River.

For environmentalists following the issue, those are reasons enough for state regulators to take immediate steps to address the pollution.

That’s also why they are dismayed with a proposed settlement of a lawsuit against Duke by the N.C. Division of Water Quality.

The consent decree announced last week calls for more testing of problems already well-documented and little in the way of stopping the contamination, said Hartwell Carson, French Broad Riverkeeper with the Asheville-based environmental group Western North Carolina Alliance.

“It’s basically a way to drag this out as long as possible,” Carson said. “This is definitely a deal to study this almost indefinitely, when what we know is there are violations of the Clean Water Act and state groundwater standards.

“And everyone knows where it’s coming from. It’s coming from the unlined hole in the ground that’s full of toxic coal ash.”

State officials contend that while the proposed settlement outlines a series of steps to assess the contamination at the Lake Julian plant and Duke’s Riverbend facility in Gaston County, it also requires the utility to develop plans for addressing the problem.

“You have to determine the extent of the contamination before you know what it is you have to do to clean it up,” said Jamie Kritzer, spokesman for the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources. “We’re doing our due diligence to do just that. We have to act within the guidelines set forth by state law, and that’s what we’ve done.”

New attention on old problem

North Carolina has 14 plants that burn coal to heat water, creating steam that turns turbines to produce electricity. About 10 percent of what is burned becomes ash — a black, powdery material that is sluiced into holding ponds.

The Asheville plant has two ponds. One built in 1964 covers 45 acres, and the other constructed in 1982 is 46 acres.

At spots, the ash is 60 feet deep, and together the lagoons can hold some 450 million gallons.

The issue of coal ash grabbed the nation’s attention in 2008 when an ash pond at Kingston Power Plant in Tennessee ruptured, inundating homes downhill with some 1.1 billion gallons of toxic coal ash slurry.

Despite the age of Duke’s coal ash ponds near the French Broad, the state first required groundwater testing three years ago. Those tests found levels of contamination well above state health standards with toxic heavy metals associated with coal ash.

Carson also collected samples from seeps and springs flowing into the French Broad next to the plant that tested positive for many of the same toxic substances. Such unpermitted discharges violate the federal Clean Water Act.

In addition, a study by the Duke University Nicholas School of the Environment released last year found that the facility discharges arsenic, selenium, cadmium and thallium in concentrations above U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards.

“There really is no question about the contamination,” said D.J. Gerken, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center in Asheville. “We have no doubt there is enough confirmation of the contamination to require action.

“They are kicking the can down the road when it comes to fixing the source.”

Frustrated by a lack movement on the state’s part, the law center, representing several environmental organizations, in January filed notice of intent to sue Duke Energy over violations of the Clean Water Act.

That was followed in March with the filing of the state’s suit in Wake County Superior Court against the utility.

The complaint contends continued operation of the plant in violation of groundwater standards “without assessing the problem and taking corrective action poses a serious danger to the health, safety and welfare of the people of the state of North Carolina and serious harm to the water resources of the state.”

In addition to groundwater contamination, the lawsuit claims inspectors discovered seeps of materials making their way into the river. The chemicals include thallium, a highly toxic element associated with nerve damage, along with boron, selenium, iron and magnesium.

The proposed settlement includes a timeline of required actions to address violations or threatened violations of state statutes and rules for water quality protection. It also calls for an initial fine of $99,112.

Failure to comply with provisions of the order also would subject the utility to fines of $1,000 per day for the first 30 days and $5,000 per day thereafter for each violation.

Lawsuit a first

Erin Culbert, spokeswoman for Duke Energy, said the utility has complied with the conditions of all its permits and that water quality in the French Broad is good.

“We all share the same objectives in protecting water quality, which is reflected in this agreement,” she said. “Key provisions in the agreement call for more rigorous information gathering, monitoring and reporting of discharges to groundwater and surface waters.”

Gerken said the settlement is inadequate. The state already has the information it needs to force immediate action, he said.

“The state submitted a sworn statement saying there is contamination, and instead of taking action they are looking to study what they already know,” he said. “There are no firm deadlines in this agreement.

“There’s all of this study and analysis. Meanwhile, we have coal ash in unlined lagoons that we know is still contaminating groundwater. They are still dumping coal ash into these ponds.”

But Kritzer noted the lawsuit is the first in history filed by the state to address unpermitted discharges from coal ash ponds.

“The lawsuit talks specifically about the cleanup of the pollution,” he said. The settlement requires not only “a thorough assessment of the extent of the contamination, but a corrective action plan for how this problem will be addressed going forward.”

Gerken said he believes the state filed its lawsuit as a means to circumvent the Southern Environmental Law Center from lodging a complaint with the court.

“The notice we issued was for a lawsuit under the Clean Water Act,” he said. “The way the law works, if the state within 60 days files a lawsuit, we can’t file a second lawsuit on the same claims. Instead, we have to intervene in the state’s case.”

Gerken said his organization has filed a motion with the court to make it a party to the case, and a judge has yet to rule.

The public has until Aug. 14 to submit comments on the proposed settlement.

“We recognize this is a matter of great public interest,” Kritzer said. “We are striving to be as forthright and as transparent as possible.”

EPA proposed regulating coal ash as a hazardous waste in 2010, but no action has been taken.

According to the Duke University study, the burning of coal to generate electricity produces about 130 million tons of ash each year in the United States. It found that discharges from coal ash ponds “lack consistent monitoring and limit requirements that are relevant to composition of (ash) effluents.”

 

Anti-Fracking Activists Celebrate Cancellation of Gas Leases and Drilling Plans in NE Pennsylvania

Unprecedented mass lease cancellation occurs near homes of some of fractivism’s most effective mobilizers.

Photo Credit: Pincasso/ Shutterstock.com

July 19, 2013  |

Certain powerful images really stick with you when you watch Gasland or Gasland 2. First is the shot of the tap water on fire. Equally powerful are the images of the film’s director Josh Fox on his porch strumming his banjo, in the woods on his property, walking by the local stream, and celebrating the pristine beauty of the nearby Delaware River. The film keeps returning to the land that Fox treasures, cluing us in on why he turned down a sizeable offer to lease for gas drilling, and what drove him forth with his camera on a fact-finding journey that culminated in the first Gasland, the film that ignited the fractivism movement.

The offer on the table in Fox’s corner of Wayne County, PA was part of the first incursion of fracking into the Northeastern U.S. The arrival of landsmen— the gas company representatives offering quick and easy money with no downside if people signed away the mineral rights to their land, had already been going on in the Western U.S. As it plays out road by road, town by town, and state by state, fracking baldly reveals the downsides of the myth of American individualism. Americans prize the right to do what they want on their property. But other people’s rights wind up violated when what Neighbor A chooses to do contaminates the water supply, impinges on the quality of life, or destroys the property value of Neighbor B.

And that cross point—one person’s rights to drill versus others’ rights to protect their homes, community and water supply is central to every community’s divide over fracking.  It’s science’s job to assess benefits versus risks. It’s government’s job to mediate my rights versus yours.  When science fails to study, when government fails to monitor, it’s neighbor against neighbor.  When millions of dollars spent on ad buys and lobbyists assure that marketing slogans like “energy independence” appear everywhere from Superbowl commercials to State of the Union talking points, then local battles erupt in places like Wayne County. Since 2007, when leasing began in Wayne County, Fox’s once idyllic rural community has been embattled. And so is a nation divided at a crossroads of energy choice and climate change.

But over the last few weeks, that changed for Wayne County. Hess and Newfield, the two major gas companies leasing land there, decided to cancel their leases in Marcellus shale, and move out of Wayne and much of northeastern PA. The companies sent letters stating that they “have elected to release your lease, thus your lease will not be continued to the development phase,” terminating approximately 1,500 leases covering over 100,000 acres of land.

“I can’t believe it and I can’t stop crying,” Fox said, adding that he is deeply grateful for this “amazing victory.” “This proves that people passionate and organized can actually win sometimes. We won’t stop until we win everywhere.”

It’s no happenstance that the unprecedented mass lease cancellation occurred in a region that is home both to Josh Fox, fractivism’s heroic Pied Piper, and to the first fractivist organization founded in the Northeast U.S., Damascus Citizens for Sustainability (DCS)— making it a triumph both for Fox and for the dedicated grassroots effort by a community of neighbors that began in 2007.

Fox was inspired to film his investigation of fracking’s impacts on average citizens in 2008 after attending a local public event hosted by DCS co-founders Joe Levine, Jane Cyphers and Barbara Arrindell. The first Gasland film is dedicated to them. When faced with the shared threat of fracking, this trio pooled their skills to organize. Levine is an architect conversant with land use, zoning, and local ordinances and officials; Cyphers is an educator; and Arrindell has a background in science, which made it easy for her to grasp the geological complexities beneath the marketing phrases.

 

Welcome to Portage County, the Fracking Waste Disposal Capital of Ohio

A small part of Ohio has secured the ignominious honor of becoming the most successful frackwater dumping ground in the state.

Welcome to Portage County, Ohio, the biggest dumping ground for fracking waste in a state that is fast becoming the go-to destination for the byproducts of America’s latest energy boom.

As fracking—pumping a briny solution of water, lubricants, anti-bacterial agents, and a cocktail of other chemicals into underground shale formations at high pressure to fracture the rock and extract trapped natural gas—has expanded in the Midwest, so has the need for disposing of used fracking fluid. That fracking waste can be recycled or processed at wastewater treatment facilities, much like sewage. But most of the waste—630 billion gallons, each year—goes back into the ground, pumped into disposal wells, which are then capped and sealed. A bunch of it ends up underneath Portage County.

Nestled in the northeast corner of Ohio, about halfway between Cleveland and Youngstown, this 500-square-mile county pumped 2,358,371 million barrels—almost 75 million gallons—of fracking brine into 15 wells last year, driving enough liquid into the ground to fill a train of tanker cars that would stretch 37 miles. Most of the waste came from out of state.

According to the Akron Beacon Journal, almost 58 percent of the waste injected into Ohio wells is trucked in—much of it from Pennsylvania and West Virginia. More than 200 disposal wells dot the state, which has looser regulations than its neighbors. The Columbus Dispatch recently reported that Ohio injected just over 14 million barrels of fracking waste into disposal wells in 2012, and more than 8 million came from other states—an uptick of 19 percent from 2011. And despite Republican Gov. John Kasich saying he’s not thrilled about the amount of waste crossing state lines, federal commerce protections prevent the state from barring legal substances from being shipped in. Because Ohio regulates its own disposal wells, the waiting period to get approval to drill a new well is about five weeks, compared to upwards of eight months in Pennsylvania, where the feds are in charge. That might explain why Ohio has more than 20 times as many wells as its neighbor.

“People are concerned,” says Maureen Frederick, one of three county commissioners for Portage, “and rightly so.” According to Frederick, the county not only has no say over the wells, but it also doesn’t see so much as a cent of the revenue collected. Well permits cost $1,000, and the state charges $0.20 per barrel for out-of-state waste and $0.05 for in-state waste, meaning the state collected roughly $2 million for the 14 million barrels of frackwater that were pumped into the ground in 2012.

Portage, which is home to Kent State University, was mostly a farming community 25 years ago, and it has benefited from the growth of ancillary industries that come with fracking. But Frederick, who lives less than a mile from a disposal site, said she wasn’t aware of any economic boon that has followed the injection wells. Local realtors, on the other hand, were “observing the difficulty of people wanting to buy property, and those looking to sell being worried about their property values,” as residents’ concerns about groundwater contamination and earthquakes have grown.

There are good reasons to worry. The dozen earthquakes that rattled Youngstown at the end of 2011 were thought at the time to have been caused by fracking. A new study connecting underground injection to earthquakes seems to confirm those suspicions, and there is growing evidence that the practice is linked to methane leaking into water supplies. (See the GIF below for more.) There are problems with the wells used to store the used fracking brine, too. The wells that this waste is pumped into—called Class II disposal wells—are subject to softer regulations than other disposal wells (there are six classes in all). The EPA estimates that the chance of a given injection well failing is around 1 in a million. But 680,000 injection wells—some 170,000 of them Class II—dot the country, containing about 30 trillion gallons of toxic liquid.

Many of the wells in Ohio are repurposed oil and gas wells that are grandfathered in and exempt from current standards, and government regulators raised concerns about disposal wells contaminating groundwater as far back as the 1980s. At the time, the EPA knew of 23 cases nationwide where drinking water was contaminated by Class II wells. But a recent ProPublica investigation found another 25 cases of alleged contamination from Class II wells between 2008 and 2011 alone. In 1989, the Government Accountability Office, then called the General Accounting Office, filed a report that “says that we have some problems with Class II wells,” says Briana Mordick, a staff scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “They actually wrote up proposed improvements to the regulations, but those regulations have never been updated.” Even perfectly sounds wells have leaked after waste was injected at higher pressure than the rock formations holding it could bear. In southern Ohio, waste from one well migrated up through 1,400 feet of rock.

The injection-well boom has led to rising community tensions. At an open house back in May, a mostly middle-aged crowd of about 50 people, many of them academics at Kent State, were surprised to be met with 14 armed Ohio Department of Natural Resources police officers and a police dog, according to the Portage County Record-Courier. An ODNR spokesman told the local paper that the show of force was in response to an earlier problem with protesters, but an octogenarian who attended the meeting told the Record-Courier he’d “never been to a public meeting so oversupplied with armed people.” There have also been recent problems with disposal. In February, Ben Lupo, who owns D&L Energy, an energy production and marketing company based in Youngstown, was indicted on charges of ordering more than 20,000 gallons of brine into the Mahoning River. The company had racked up 120 violations, but didn’t suffer serious consequences until an anonymous tip exposed the illegal dumping.

Two of the three members of the Portage County Commission have voiced their support for a recent bill that would ban injection wells, but even the bill’s sponsor doesn’t think it will get traction in the GOP-controlled state House of Representatives. “I abhor having the distinction of being the injection well capital of Ohio,” Frederick says. But there’s not much she can do about it.

Thomas Stackpole

Thomas Stackpole is an editorial fellow in Mother Jones’ Washington, DC, bureau. He has also written for The New Republic and MSN News. Email him tips at tstackpole [at] motherjones [dot] com. You can follow him @tom_stackpole.

 

 

This Is What Fracking Really Looks Like

By

Posted Friday, July 19, 2013, at 1:13 PM

Jodie Simons  demonstrates how her sink water lights on fire.  It is full of methane.   Their water was pristine before gas drilling started.  Their neighbors' water is also contaminated by the state Department of Environmental protection has not determined the source of the problem.  They have been without clean drinking or bathing water for months.  Their animals also became sick and they now give bottled water to their horses.   A methane vent rises from their property.

Jodie Simons demonstrates how her sink water, full of methane, lights on fire. Simons’ household’s water was pristine before gas drilling started, but now they’ve been without clean drinking or bathing water for months.

Nina Berman/NOOR

Photographer Nina Berman had just started focusing on climate and environmental issues when she read an article about fracking and its connection to the possible contamination of New York City’s drinking water. Berman resides in New York and knew very little about how the controversial process of drilling for natural gas via hydraulic fracturing worked and decided to head to Pennsylvania for Gov. Thomas Corbett’s inauguration in 2011.

“I knew there would be demonstrators (opposed to his support of natural gas drilling), and I wanted to learn what they were screaming about,” Berman said. After researching the issues, she then had to figure out how to document them in a visual way.

“It’s a very hard subject to photograph,” Berman explained. “You see a drill, and you don’t know what that means, and then it disappears. What does that mean? It took me a while to figure out how to approach it.”

To do that, she spent time in part of Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale region, a hotbed of fracking controversy, producing a series titled “Fractured: The Shale Play.” Berman began calling activists, hoping to get a sense of the communities and knowing the people who feel they have been violated are those “interested in having their story told.”

Protesters against gas drilling and the technique of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) outside Pennsylvania's Department of Enviornmental Protection (DEP) office where the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission was holding a meeting.

Protesters against gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing gather outside Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection, where the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission was holding a meeting.Nina Berman/NOOR

Shale Gas drilling rig on dairy farm property

A shale gas-drilling rig on a dairy farmNina Berman/NOOR

Jodie Simons and Jason Lamphere demonstrate how their sink water lights on fire.  It is full of methane.   Their water was pristine before gas drilling started.  Their neighbors' water is also contaminated by the state Department of Environmental protection has not determined the source of the problem.  They have been without clean drinking or bathing water for months.  Their animals also became sick and they now give bottled water to their horses.   A methane vent rises from their property.

Jodie Simons and Jason Lamphere’s animals have became sick, and they now give bottled water to their horses. A methane vent rises from their property.Nina Berman/NOOR

“What struck me very personally as an outsider was how any kind of industrial activity feels like an enormous intrusion, almost like a creature from outer space; these drills at night are almost supernatural,” Berman said. “I looked for points where the industrial activity impacted these quiet rural landscapes, and I found at night was when things came alive, so I combined those pictures with more conventional documentary [style of ]subject-driven photography about people who were having serious health impacts.”

Fracking’s health impact, specifically its impact on water, is one of many controversies surrounding the process of drilling into rock in order to release gas.  While some argue it is an alternative to dependence on oil, the methods of drilling involving water, sand, and chemicals to break up the rock has also been argued as the culprit for contaminated water.

“Those of us who are used to clean water have no concept of what that feels like when your water coming from your well on your land is destroyed and you can’t do anything about it,” Berman said.

Water from the kitchen faucet of Jodie Simons and Jason Lamphere home.  THey say their water was contaminated by gas drilling operations.   The DEP has taken several months and still has not made a determination.

Water from the kitchen faucet of Jodie Simons and Jason Lamphere’s home. They say their water was contaminated by gas-drilling operations. Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection has not determined the source of the problem.Nina Berman/NOOR

NICK  DeREMER, 22,  Kayak tour operator, shows where methane has been bubbling in the Susquehanna River.  He attributes it to gas drilling and wants to leave his home state because of the the shale exploration

Nick Deremer, 22, a kayak tour operator, shows where methane has been bubbling in the Susquehanna River. He attributes it to gas drilling and wants to leave his home state because of the the shale exploration.Nina Berman/NOOR

Part of the way Berman is sharing her experience is through the Marcellus Shale Documentary Project.” Started in November 2011, Berman and five other photographers documented how communities in the Pennsylvania Marcellus Shale region have been affected by natural gas drilling.

With a nod to the Farm Security Administration’s program assigning photographers to document communities during the Great Depression or the Documerica project during the 1970s that looked at how environmental concerns were impacting Americans, the “Marcellus Shale Documentary Project”  focused on the impact of fracking on the lives of Pennsylvanians. The exhibition is currently on view at the Center for Photography at Woodstock in New York through Aug. 18.

Berman said for now she has done as much as possible in Pennsylvania but would be interested in documenting areas around the country that have also been affected by fracking. Until then, she has been exhibiting and touring with the “Marcellus Shale Documentary Project” and feels the impact has been positive.

“That is how I like to work in many ways, to be a part of bigger things,” she said.

Dr. Stephen Cleghorn declares his farm forever frack free in a memorial tribute to his wife Lucinda Hart Gonzalez who died of breast cancer.   Environmental activists from across the region attended to honor Lucinda and participate in the release of her ashes.

Dr. Stephen Cleghorn declares his farm forever frack-free in a memorial tribute to his wife, Lucinda Hart Gonzalez, who died of breast cancer. Environmental activists from across the region attended the gathering to honor Gonzalez and participate in the release of her ashes.Nina Berman/NOOR

Methane Flaring from gas drilling wells

Methane flaring from gas-drilling wellsNina Berman/NOOR

 

Vincent Makes the News

Will Work for Change: Activists say their work might not be lucrative, but it’s fulfilling

“It sounds noble but in reality, I’m broke.”

by

Mel Packer with Marcellus ProtestPhoto courtesy of Mel Packer

Mel Packer with Marcellus Protest

Someone has been shouting “get a job!” at Vincent Eirene since he was a little boy.

The thing is, he does have a job. Eirene is a lifelong activist, plying his trade at protests, speeches and actions, and running a house for the homeless supported from his own pocket and community donations. But, like many protest pros around Pittsburgh will tell you, his calling comes with a price, financial and otherwise.

“It’s like the Catholics: We take a vow of poverty,” says Eirene, 60. “It sounds noble but in reality, I’m broke.”

Supporting oneself by supporting a cause is rarely a lucrative career move. One year, for example, Eirene said he was “lucky” if he pulled in $8,000.  Helen Gerhardt, an organizer for Pittsburghers for Public Transit, gave up her apartment to live at Occupy Pittsburgh’s Downtown encampment last year, and has lived in her car between organizing jobs. Joyce Wagner, former board chair of the national Iraq Veterans Against the War, has found herself facing foreclosure.

Others, like peace and social-justice activist Celeste Taylor, do their own fundraising and compete for paying jobs in the organizing field, while working other gigs: Taylor’s work history includes stints as a floral designer and administrator of the Friends Meeting House.

And while there is little financial security for those whose work-day tools include a protest sign, few can imagine pursuing any other way of life.

“I always thought it was honorable work and you should be good at it,” says Taylor, who most recently served as the regional coordinator for the Pennsylvania Voter ID Coalition. “It’s not a place to plunk yourself down and make money.”

Jodi Hirsh, sole founder of JustAction LLC — an Edgewood-based consulting agency whose work includes advocacy and grassroots campaigns — agrees. “I’d be miserable doing anything else,” she says.

Hirsh has faced financial uncertainty, the anxiety of not knowing when her next paycheck would arrive. “As an independent contractor, you never know what’s coming,” she says. “I spent all of November and December nervously biting my fingernails.”

Contracts eventually came, enough to stay afloat with the help of her partner’s full-time job and health benefits, which also help cope with the responsibility of raising two children under the age of 4.

Having young kids can complicate advocacy work in other ways, since meetings and actions often take place on evenings and weekends. “People will say something is kid-friendly, but there’s nothing for kids to do,” says Wagner, who has a 3-year-old son. “You often find meetings start at times when children need to sleep or eat.”

When Wagner was single, “I could scrape by with less,” says the North Side resident. “Now I have a lot more responsibility to feed, clothe and shelter another person.”

Wagner has taken some time off from activism, which allows her to work as an ironworker apprentice, and to spend time with her son. As an activist, burn-out is an occupational hazard, she says: “You’re ineffective unless you’re taking care of yourself and your basic needs are met.”

Taylor agrees that there are times activists get overwhelmed, and that balancing family considerations can be difficult. “Sometimes I wonder if I should have made different choices so I could have done different things with my children.”

“A lot of activists’ families probably feel rejected and not given the same kind of weight or importance that political causes are,” says Gerhardt, of Wilkinsburg. Gerhardt has held a handful of organizing jobs since serving in Iraq with the Army National Guard; her work week sometimes eclipses the 60- or 70-hour marks.

Her current contract with Pittsburghers for Public Transit, paid for by the Amalgamated Transit Union, is only temporary. And she admits, “I often think about getting a stable, professional job and just doing this part time,” adding she plans to re-evaluate within the next year.

Even so, Gerhardt says, activism “is a tight-knit community,” offering work that is “incredibly interesting and satisfying.”

Activists believe that kids with activist parents  enjoy some benefits, too — like being exposed to different ideas and people. Mel Packer, a Point Breeze veteran protester who just retired as a physician’s assistant, worked part time to help take care of his family. Taylor, a mother of four, recalls taking her twins to a rally in Topeka, Kan., on the anniversary of Brown vs. the Board of Education.

Activism has also brought families together. Packer, for example, met his wife, Emily De Ferrari, through political organizing.

Such personal rewards, activists say, transcend having elaborate lifestyles. Eirene, for one, says he deliberately lives simply. For 35 years, he supported himself through his light-hauling business, which he started in 1977 and stopped two years ago when he got on disability for injuries sustained after getting struck by a vehicle.

Eirene protested on behalf of various causes in college in the 1970s: the United Farm Workers, rebuilding Bach Mai Hospital in Vietnam, and racial equality. And while the cost of living was cheaper with a $75 apartment rent split three ways, he says, even then “it seems like it was always a struggle” to get by.

In 1977, he started a house to take in homeless people in the community, which he financed with personal funds and contributions for the next 35 years. While limited income was due in part to Eirene’s activism, it was also partly by design.

“I thought that my activism would be more effective and unlimited, if I wasn’t being paid by someone telling me what to do. Nobody can tell you what to do when you’re hauling garbage.”

Coupled with more than 70 arrests for civil disobedience, and having spent more than two-and-a-half-years in jail all told, Eirene’s finances are complicated, to say the least. But he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“It just didn’t add up, yet everything was fine,” Eirene says. “You have more money in your account if you don’t check it.”

 

10 Pro-Gun Myths, Shot Down

10 Pro-Gun Myths, Shot Down

Fact-checking some of the gun lobby’s favorite arguments shows they’re full of holes.

—By

| Thu Jan. 31, 2013 3:01 AM PST

By cutting off federal funding for research and stymieing data collection and sharing, the National Rifle Association has tried to do to the study of gun violence what climate deniers have done to the science of global warming. No wonder: When it comes to hard numbers, some of the gun lobby’s favorite arguments are full of holes.

Myth #1: They’re coming for your guns.
Fact-check: No one knows the exact number of guns in America, but it’s clear there’s no practical way to round them all up (never mind that no one in Washington is proposing this). Yet if you fantasize about rifle-toting citizens facing down the government, you’ll rest easy knowing that America’s roughly 80 million gun owners already have the feds and cops outgunned by a factor of around 79 to 1.

gun ownership

Sources: Congressional Research Service (PDF), Small Arms Survey

Myth #2: Guns don’t kill people—people kill people.
Fact-check: People with more guns tend to kill more people—with guns. The states with the highest gun ownership rates have a gun murder rate 114% higher than those with the lowest gun ownership rates. Also, gun death rates tend to be higher in states with higher rates of gun ownership. Gun death rates are generally lower in states with restrictions such as assault-weapons bans or safe-storage requirements.

ownership vs gun death

Sources: Pediatrics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Myth #3: An armed society is a polite society.
Fact-check: Drivers who carry guns are 44% more likely than unarmed drivers to make obscene gestures at other motorists, and 77% more likely to follow them aggressively.
• Among Texans convicted of serious crimes, those with concealed-handgun licenses were sentenced for threatening someone with a firearm 4.8 times more than those without.
• In states with Stand Your Ground and other laws making it easier to shoot in self-defense, those policies have been linked to a 7 to 10% increase in homicides.

Myth #4: More good guys with guns can stop rampaging bad guys.
Fact-check: Mass shootings stopped by armed civilians in the past 30 years: 0
• Chances that a shooting at an ER involves guns taken from guards: 1 in 5

Myth #5: Keeping a gun at home makes you safer.
Fact-check: Owning a gun has been linked to higher risks of homicide, suicide, and accidental death by gun.
• For every time a gun is used in self-defense in the home, there are 7 assaults or murders, 11 suicide attempts, and 4 accidents involving guns in or around a home.
43% of homes with guns and kids have at least one unlocked firearm.
• In one experiment, one third of 8-to-12-year-old boys who found a handgun pulled the trigger.

Myth #6: Carrying a gun for self-defense makes you safer.
Fact-check: In 2011, nearly 10 times more people were shot and killed in arguments than by civilians trying to stop a crime.
• In one survey, nearly 1% of Americans reported using guns to defend themselves or their property. However, a closer look at their claims found that more than 50% involved using guns in an aggressive manner, such as escalating an argument.
• A Philadelphia study found that the odds of an assault victim being shot were 4.5 times greater if he carried a gun. His odds of being killed were 4.2 times greater.

Myth #7: Guns make women safer.
Fact-check: In 2010, nearly 6 times more women were shot by husbands, boyfriends, and ex-partners than murdered by male strangers.
• A woman’s chances of being killed by her abuser increase more than 7 times if he has access to a gun.
• One study found that women in states with higher gun ownership rates were 4.9 times more likely to be murdered by a gun that women in states with lower gun ownership rates.

Myth #8: “Vicious, violent video games” deserve more blame than guns.
Fact-check: So said NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre after Newtown. So what’s up with Japan?

United States Japan
Per capita spending
on video games
$44 $55
Civilian firearms
per 100 people
88 0.6
Gun homicides
in 2008
11,030 11

Sources: PricewaterhouseCoopers, Small Arms Survey (PDF), UN Office on Drugs and Crime

Myth #9: More and more Americans are becoming gun owners.
Fact-check: More guns are being sold, but they’re owned by a shrinking portion of the population.
About 50% of Americans said they had a gun in their homes in 1973. Today, about 45% say they do. Overall, 35% of Americans personally own a gun.
• Around 80% of gun owners are men. On average they own 7.9 guns each.

Myth #10: We don’t need more gun laws—we just need to enforce the ones we have.
Fact-check:
Weak laws and loopholes backed by the gun lobby make it easier to get guns illegally.
Around 40% of all legal gun sales involve private sellers and don’t require background checks. 40% of prison inmates who used guns in their crimes got them this way.
• An investigation found 62% of online gun sellers were willing to sell to buyers who said they couldn’t pass a background check.
20% of licensed California gun dealers agreed to sell handguns to researchers posing as illegal “straw” buyers.
• The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives has not had a permanent director for 6 years, due to an NRA-backed requirement that the Senate approve nominees.

This article has been updated.

Icons in gun ownership chart: Handgun designed by Simon Child, rifle designed by Nadav Barkan, shotgun designed by Ammar Ceker, all from the Noun Project

Front page image by konstantynov/Shutterstock

 

One Man’s Mission to Combat Pollution in Bejing China – Crazy Bad Air!

 

Sierra Club to Engage in Civil Disobedience for First Time in Organization’s History to Stop Tar Sands

If you could do it nonstop, it would take you six days to walk from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden Pond to President Barack Obama’s White House. For the Sierra Club, that journey has taken much longer. For 120 years, we have remained committed to using every “lawful means” to achieve our objectives. Now, for the first time in our history, we are prepared to go further.

Next month, the Sierra Club will officially participate in an act of peaceful civil resistance. We’ll be following in the hallowed footsteps of Thoreau, who first articulated the principles of civil disobedience 44 years before John Muir founded the Sierra Club.

Some of you might wonder what took us so long. Others might wonder whether John Muir is sitting up in his grave. In fact, John Muir had both a deep appreciation for Thoreau and a powerful sense of right and wrong. And it’s the issue of right versus wrong that has brought the Sierra Club to this unprecedented decision.

For civil disobedience to be justified, something must be so wrong that it compels the strongest defensible protest. Such a protest, if rendered thoughtfully and peacefully, is in fact a profound act of patriotism. For Thoreau, the wrongs were slavery and the invasion of Mexico. For Martin Luther King, Jr., it was the brutal, institutionalized racism of the Jim Crow South. For us, it is the possibility that the U.S. might surrender any hope of stabilizing our planet’s climate.

As President Obama eloquently said during his inaugural address, “You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time, not only with the votes we cast, but the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideas.”

As citizens, for us to give up on stopping runaway global temperatures would be all the more tragic if it happened at the very moment when we are seeing both tremendous growth in clean energy and firsthand evidence of what extreme weather can do. Last year, record heat and drought across the nation wiped out half of our corn crop and 60 percent of our pasturelands. Wildfires in Colorado, Texas, and elsewhere burned nearly nine million acres. And superstorm Sandy brought devastation beyond anyone’s imagining to the Eastern Seaboard.

We are watching a global crisis unfold before our eyes, and to stand aside and let it happen—even though we know how to stop it—would be unconscionable. As the president said on Monday, “to do so would betray our children and future generations.” It couldn’t be simpler: Either we leave at least two-thirds of the known fossil fuel reserves in the ground, or we destroy our planet as we know it. That’s our choice, if you can call it that.

The Sierra Club has refused to stand by. We’ve worked hard and brought all of our traditional tactics of lobbying, electoral work, litigation, grassroots organizing and public education to bear on this crisis. And we have had great success—stopping more than 170 coal plants from being built, securing the retirement of another 129 existing plants and helping grow a clean energy economy. But time is running out, and there is so much more to do. The stakes are enormous. At this point, we can’t afford to lose a single major battle. That’s why the Sierra Club’s board of directors has for the first time endorsed an act of peaceful civil disobedience.

In doing so, we’re issuing a challenge to President Obama, who spoke stirringly in his inaugural address about how America must lead the world on the transition to clean energy. Welcome as those words were, we need the president to match them with strong action and use the first 100 days of his second term to begin building a bold and lasting legacy of clean energy and climate stability.

That means rejecting the dangerous tar sands pipeline that would transport some of the dirtiest oil on the planet, and other reckless fossil fuel projects from Northwest coal exports to Arctic drilling. It means following through on his pledge to double down again on clean energy, and cut carbon pollution from smokestacks across the country. And, perhaps most of all, it means standing up to the fossil fuel corporations that would drive us over the climate cliff without so much as a backward glance.

One of my favorite quotes is from Martin Luther King, Jr., although it has its roots in the writings of Theodore Parker (an acquaintance of Henry David Thoreau): “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”

I believe that, given sufficient time, our government would certainly follow the moral arc that leads to decisive action on this crisis. We have a democracy, and the tide of public opinion has shifted decisively. What’s more, I doubt that even the most ardent climate denier actually wants to destroy our world.

We have a clear understanding of the crisis. We have solutions. What we don’t have is time. We cannot afford to wait, and neither can President Obama.

Visit EcoWatch’s CLIMATE CHANGE and RENEWABLES page for more related news on this topic.

——–

Click here to tell Congress to Expedite Renewable Energy.

 

“Letter from a Birmingham Jail [Martin Luther King, Jr.]“

16 April 1963
My Dear Fellow Clergymen:
While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom do I pause to answer
criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.

I think I should indicate why I am here in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against “outsiders coming in.” I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty five affiliated organizations across the South, and one of them is the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Frequently we share staff, educational and financial resources with our affiliates. Several months ago the affiliate here in Birmingham asked us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct action program if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented, and when the hour came we lived up to our promise. So I, along with several members of my staff, am here because I was invited here. I am here because I have organizational ties here.

But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.

Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.

You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.

In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action. We have gone through all these steps in Birmingham. There can be no gainsaying the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Its ugly record of brutality is widely known. Negroes have experienced grossly unjust treatment in the courts. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than in any other city in the nation. These are the hard, brutal facts of the case. On the basis of these conditions, Negro leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers. But the latter consistently refused to engage in good faith negotiation.

Then, last September, came the opportunity to talk with leaders of Birmingham’s economic community. In the course of the negotiations, certain promises were made by the merchants–for example, to remove the stores’ humiliating racial signs. On the basis of these promises, the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth and the leaders of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights agreed to a moratorium on all demonstrations. As the weeks and months went by, we realized that we were the victims of a broken promise. A few signs, briefly removed, returned; the others remained. As in so many past experiences, our hopes had been blasted, and the shadow of deep disappointment settled upon us. We had no alternative except to prepare for direct action, whereby we would present our very bodies as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the local and the national community. Mindful of the difficulties involved, we decided to undertake a process of self purification. We began a series of workshops on nonviolence, and we repeatedly asked ourselves: “Are you able to accept blows without retaliating?” “Are you able to endure the ordeal of jail?” We decided to schedule our direct action program for the Easter season, realizing that except for Christmas, this is the main shopping period of the year. Knowing that a strong economic-withdrawal program would be the by product of direct action, we felt that this would be the best time to bring pressure to bear on the merchants for the needed change.

Then it occurred to us that Birmingham’s mayoral election was coming up in March, and we speedily decided to postpone action until after election day. When we discovered that the Commissioner of Public Safety, Eugene “Bull” Connor, had piled up enough votes to be in the run off, we decided again to postpone action until the day after the run off so that the demonstrations could not be used to cloud the issues. Like many others, we waited to see Mr. Connor defeated, and to this end we endured postponement after postponement. Having aided in this community need, we felt that our direct action program could be delayed no longer.

You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.

One of the basic points in your statement is that the action that I and my associates have taken in Birmingham is untimely. Some have asked: “Why didn’t you give the new city administration time to act?” The only answer that I can give to this query is that the new Birmingham administration must be prodded about as much as the outgoing one, before it will act. We are sadly mistaken if we feel that the election of Albert Boutwell as mayor will bring the millennium to Birmingham. While Mr. Boutwell is a much more gentle person than Mr. Connor, they are both segregationists, dedicated to maintenance of the status quo. I have hope that Mr. Boutwell will be reasonable enough to see the futility of massive resistance to desegregation. But he will not see this without pressure from devotees of civil rights. My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”–then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an “I it” relationship for an “I thou” relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful. Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. Is not segregation an existential expression of man’s tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? Thus it is that I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court, for it is morally right; and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong.

Let us consider a more concrete example of just and unjust laws. An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal. Let me give another explanation. A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law. Who can say that the legislature of Alabama which set up that state’s segregation laws was democratically elected? Throughout Alabama all sorts of devious methods are used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters, and there are some counties in which, even though Negroes constitute a majority of the population, not a single Negro is registered. Can any law enacted under such circumstances be considered democratically structured?

Sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust in its application. For instance, I have been arrested on a charge of parading without a permit. Now, there is nothing wrong in having an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade. But such an ordinance becomes unjust when it is used to maintain segregation and to deny citizens the First-Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and protest.

I hope you are able to see the distinction I am trying to point out. In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.

Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was evidenced sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar, on the ground that a higher moral law was at stake. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks rather than submit to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire. To a degree, academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civil disobedience. In our own nation, the Boston Tea Party represented a massive act of civil disobedience.

We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal.” It was “illegal” to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country’s antireligious laws.

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But is this a logical assertion? Isn’t this like condemning a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn’t this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock? Isn’t this like condemning Jesus because his unique God consciousness and never ceasing devotion to God’s will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come to see that, as the federal courts have consistently affirmed, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber. I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth concerning time in relation to the struggle for freedom. I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: “All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth.” Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.

You speak of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. At first I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist. I began thinking about the fact that I stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the Negro community. One is a force of complacency, made up in part of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, are so drained of self respect and a sense of “somebodiness” that they have adjusted to segregation; and in part of a few middle-class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses. The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and it comes perilously close to advocating violence. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups that are springing up across the nation, the largest and best known being Elijah Muhammad’s Muslim movement. Nourished by the Negro’s frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination, this movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incorrigible “devil.”

I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need emulate neither the “do nothingism” of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist. For there is the more excellent way of love and nonviolent protest. I am grateful to God that, through the influence of the Negro church, the way of nonviolence became an integral part of our struggle. If this philosophy had not emerged, by now many streets of the South would, I am convinced, be flowing with blood. And I am further convinced that if our white brothers dismiss as “rabble rousers” and “outside agitators” those of us who employ nonviolent direct action, and if they refuse to support our nonviolent efforts, millions of Negroes will, out of frustration and despair, seek solace and security in black nationalist ideologies–a development that would inevitably lead to a frightening racial nightmare.

Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained. Consciously or unconsciously, he has been caught up by the Zeitgeist, and with his black brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America and the Caribbean, the United States Negro is moving with a sense of great urgency toward the promised land of racial justice. If one recognizes this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community, one should readily understand why public demonstrations are taking place. The Negro has many pent up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release them. So let him march; let him make prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; let him go on freedom rides -and try to understand why he must do so. If his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history. So I have not said to my people: “Get rid of your discontent.” Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. And now this approach is being termed extremist. But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Was not Amos an extremist for justice: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.” Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Was not Martin Luther an extremist: “Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.” And John Bunyan: “I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.” And Abraham Lincoln: “This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.” And Thomas Jefferson: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . . .” So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime–the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.

I had hoped that the white moderate would see this need. Perhaps I was too optimistic; perhaps I expected too much. I suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent and determined action. I am thankful, however, that some of our white brothers in the South have grasped the meaning of this social revolution and committed themselves to it. They are still all too few in quantity, but they are big in quality. Some -such as Ralph McGill, Lillian Smith, Harry Golden, James McBride Dabbs, Ann Braden and Sarah Patton Boyle–have written about our struggle in eloquent and prophetic terms. Others have marched with us down nameless streets of the South. They have languished in filthy, roach infested jails, suffering the abuse and brutality of policemen who view them as “dirty nigger-lovers.” Unlike so many of their moderate brothers and sisters, they have recognized the urgency of the moment and sensed the need for powerful “action” antidotes to combat the disease of segregation. Let me take note of my other major disappointment. I have been so greatly disappointed with the white church and its leadership. Of course, there are some notable exceptions. I am not unmindful of the fact that each of you has taken some significant stands on this issue. I commend you, Reverend Stallings, for your Christian stand on this past Sunday, in welcoming Negroes to your worship service on a nonsegregated basis. I commend the Catholic leaders of this state for integrating Spring Hill College several years ago.

But despite these notable exceptions, I must honestly reiterate that I have been disappointed with the church. I do not say this as one of those negative critics who can always find something wrong with the church. I say this as a minister of the gospel, who loves the church; who was nurtured in its bosom; who has been sustained by its spiritual blessings and who will remain true to it as long as the cord of life shall lengthen.

When I was suddenly catapulted into the leadership of the bus protest in Montgomery, Alabama, a few years ago, I felt we would be supported by the white church. I felt that the white ministers, priests and rabbis of the South would be among our strongest allies. Instead, some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting its leaders; all too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained glass windows.

In spite of my shattered dreams, I came to Birmingham with the hope that the white religious leadership of this community would see the justice of our cause and, with deep moral concern, would serve as the channel through which our just grievances could reach the power structure. I had hoped that each of you would understand. But again I have been disappointed.

I have heard numerous southern religious leaders admonish their worshipers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers declare: “Follow this decree because integration is morally right and because the Negro is your brother.” In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say: “Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern.” And I have watched many churches commit themselves to a completely other worldly religion which makes a strange, un-Biblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular.

I have traveled the length and breadth of Alabama, Mississippi and all the other southern states. On sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings I have looked at the South’s beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward. I have beheld the impressive outlines of her massive religious education buildings. Over and over I have found myself asking: “What kind of people worship here? Who is their God? Where were their voices when the lips of Governor Barnett dripped with words of interposition and nullification? Where were they when Governor Wallace gave a clarion call for defiance and hatred? Where were their voices of support when bruised and weary Negro men and women decided to rise from the dark dungeons of complacency to the bright hills of creative protest?”

Yes, these questions are still in my mind. In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church. How could I do otherwise? I am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson and the great grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists.

There was a time when the church was very powerful–in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators.”‘ But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were “a colony of heaven,” called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be “astronomically intimidated.” By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests. Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent–and often even vocal–sanction of things as they are.

But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.

Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ekklesia and the hope of the world. But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom. They have left their secure congregations and walked the streets of Albany, Georgia, with us. They have gone down the highways of the South on tortuous rides for freedom. Yes, they have gone to jail with us. Some have been dismissed from their churches, have lost the support of their bishops and fellow ministers. But they have acted in the faith that right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. Their witness has been the spiritual salt that has preserved the true meaning of the gospel in these troubled times. They have carved a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment. I hope the church as a whole will meet the challenge of this decisive hour. But even if the church does not come to the aid of justice, I have no despair about the future. I have no fear about the outcome of our struggle in Birmingham, even if our motives are at present misunderstood. We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham and all over the nation, because the goal of America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with America’s destiny. Before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth, we were here. Before the pen of Jefferson etched the majestic words of the Declaration of Independence across the pages of history, we were here. For more than two centuries our forebears labored in this country without wages; they made cotton king; they built the homes of their masters while suffering gross injustice and shameful humiliation -and yet out of a bottomless vitality they continued to thrive and develop. If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands. Before closing I feel impelled to mention one other point in your statement that has troubled me profoundly. You warmly commended the Birmingham police force for keeping “order” and “preventing violence.” I doubt that you would have so warmly commended the police force if you had seen its dogs sinking their teeth into unarmed, nonviolent Negroes. I doubt that you would so quickly commend the policemen if you were to observe their ugly and inhumane treatment of Negroes here in the city jail; if you were to watch them push and curse old Negro women and young Negro girls; if you were to see them slap and kick old Negro men and young boys; if you were to observe them, as they did on two occasions, refuse to give us food because we wanted to sing our grace together. I cannot join you in your praise of the Birmingham police department.

It is true that the police have exercised a degree of discipline in handling the demonstrators. In this sense they have conducted themselves rather “nonviolently” in public. But for what purpose? To preserve the evil system of segregation. Over the past few years I have consistently preached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. I have tried to make clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends. Perhaps Mr. Connor and his policemen have been rather nonviolent in public, as was Chief Pritchett in Albany, Georgia, but they have used the moral means of nonviolence to maintain the immoral end of racial injustice. As T. S. Eliot has said: “The last temptation is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason.”

I wish you had commended the Negro sit inners and demonstrators of Birmingham for their sublime courage, their willingness to suffer and their amazing discipline in the midst of great provocation. One day the South will recognize its real heroes. They will be the James Merediths, with the noble sense of purpose that enables them to face jeering and hostile mobs, and with the agonizing loneliness that characterizes the life of the pioneer. They will be old, oppressed, battered Negro women, symbolized in a seventy two year old woman in Montgomery, Alabama, who rose up with a sense of dignity and with her people decided not to ride segregated buses, and who responded with ungrammatical profundity to one who inquired about her weariness: “My feets is tired, but my soul is at rest.” They will be the young high school and college students, the young ministers of the gospel and a host of their elders, courageously and nonviolently sitting in at lunch counters and willingly going to jail for conscience’ sake. One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judaeo Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

Never before have I written so long a letter. I’m afraid it is much too long to take your precious time. I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else can one do when he is alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts and pray long prayers?

If I have said anything in this letter that overstates the truth and indicates an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything that understates the truth and indicates my having a patience that allows me to settle for anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me.

I hope this letter finds you strong in the faith. I also hope that circumstances will soon make it possible for me to meet each of you, not as an integrationist or a civil-rights leader but as a fellow clergyman and a Christian brother. Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.

Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood, Martin Luther King, Jr.