Posted by Bill McKibben – 07/07/12, 5:18am
Below is the note we just sent out to our friends across the USA.
I think I screwed up.
Yesterday 350.org sent out an email, telling people that we were going to melt a big hunk of ice in the form of the word “Hoax?” in front of Capitol Hill. We asked for money for it, and also for relief efforts for victims of the heat wave. The idea was simple enough: If this epic heatwave gripping the nation has one small silver lining, it’s that its reminding people that global warming is very very real. And the response was strong — we raised the $5000 it would have taken to pull off the event, and far more than that for relief efforts.
But we also heard from old friends, especially in nearby West Virginia, who asked us not to do it. The sight of ice melting while they sweltered would be too hard to take; their region, they pointed out, is as hard hit as any in the country by the heat wave, and it would make people feel like their plight wasn’t being taken seriously. Bob Kincaid, at Coal River Mountain Watch, said: “Our work in Appalachia is hard enough as it is, since we must ever contend with the well-funded coal industry PR machine.” They’d use, he said, the sight of that melting ice to make people feel disrespected.
That makes sense to me.
It’s sometimes hard to balance what we should do in one place with what we should be doing around the globe. Climate denial in the U.S. has huge implications for, say, the two million people in Assam, India, currently flooded out of house and home — it’s really important to fight people who deny science and hold up needed action. But it’s not worth causing trouble to our friends in the process. And the people who fight mountaintop removal in Appalachia are some of our oldest friends; we’ve been, as it were, up and down the mountain with them. Movements only really work when they move together.
So: No ice melting on the mall this morning. We’re sending out whatever the reverse of a press release is called. The money we collected will all go for heat and drought relief, and we hope it will do some good. If you’d like your contribution back, let us know (and we’ll send a separate mailing to everyone who contributed to make sure they get that chance). It’s been a long, hot, tough week everywhere east of the Rockies; let’s hope the heat breaks soon.
Bill McKibben for 350.org
P.S. The note announcing this thing yesterday came from Jamie Henn, our communications director. But the idea was mine, not his. I’m a volunteer in this effort, and there are days when it definitely feels like you get what you pay for.