From Walden to the White House
Henry David Thoreau’s Cabin Site next to Walden Pond.
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.
- Sierra Club to Engage in Civil Disobedience for First Time in Organization’s History to Stop Tar Sands (ecowatch.org)
- Climate Patriotism: Sierra Club Endorses Civil Disobedience For First Time In Its History (thinkprogress.org)
- From Walden to the White House (sierraclub.typepad.com)
- Michael Brune: From Walden to the White House (huffingtonpost.com)
- Sierra Club Announces Direct Action to Stop Tar Sands?!? (earthfirstnews.wordpress.com)
- Sierra Club to engage in civil disobedience for first time (timesunion.com)
- To Block Keystone XL, Sierra Club to Engage in Civil Disobedience for 1st Time (sfgate.com)
- Climate change alters ecosystems from Walden Pond to ‘The Shack’ (csmonitor.com)