The moral failure of climate incrementalism

David Roberts responds to Andy Revkin’s piece in the New York Times calling the Keystone fight “counterproductive”. I think it’s one of the most important pieces of writing on the climate movement so far this year:

If you want to argue that activists shouldn’t focus on Keystone, you can’t just establish that rallying around and/or blocking Keystone won’t reduce carbon emissions much. So what? Why not try it? Something’s better than nothing, after all. Even if it’s a total waste of time, that may be unproductive, but it’s not counterproductive.

There are benefits to an activated, impassioned constituency and the social and political machinery that brings them together in large numbers. It’s what the right has: an intense core, fighting on behalf of the status quo (using the status quo’s money), that has captured one of America’s two political parties. It’s what the fight against climate change does not yet have: an intense core, fighting on behalf of social and political change, with at least one political party that is scared to cross it…

At some point, dithering over incrementalism in the imaginary center will come to be seen as a failure of moral clarity and judgment. I wouldn’t want to be the last person dug into that trench.

The situation calls for large-scale, rapid, systemic change. That kind of change doesn’t happen when wonks and bloggers agree on the perfect solution and achieve multiple PDFs. It happens when people put their asses on the line and fight. It happens when power shifts.