Last week, thousands of people came to Seattle — on foot and by kayak — and put their bodies on the line to say “Shell No” to arctic drilling. Like many climate activists who couldn’t be there in person, I watched the events unfold on Twitter on the edge of my seat. Seeing hundreds of people stand up to a 30-story arctic drilling rig in their tiny kayaks is enough to make a longtime activist think, maybe we’re not so screwed after all. The odds might still be stacked against us, but at least now we’re witnessing the rise of a mass movement determined to fight back. As one local organizer of the “Paddle in Seattle” recently said , “I’ve never seen anything like this. When the Kulluk [another Shell Arctic drilling rig] was here in 2012 there was nothing like this here.”
The past few years have been a time of unprecedented energy and dedication in the climate movement. Together, we’ve marched in the streets in the largest climate mobilization in history. We’ve fought in our communities and stopped dirty energy projects from going forward. We’ve successfully pushed public institutions, universities, and pension funds to divest from fossil fuels. We’ve banned fracking in New York, stopped coal export terminals from being built, and blockaded oil trains.
Within the past year there were two big victories on corporate campaigns that Rainforest Action Network and our allies worked on for years, that many people told us would never be won: agribusiness giant Cargill, the largest importer of rainforest-destroying, climate-killing conflict palm oil into the U.S., announced last September that it would implement a new policy across its sprawling global supply chains to eliminate suppliers connected to deforestation and carbon pollution. And, after years of pressure, Bank of America announced earlier this month that it would phase out its support for coal mining entirely. When we first approached Bank of America four years ago, they told us they aspired to be “number one in every sector” — including coal. But here we are in 2015, with BofA “turning its back on coal,” in the words of one industry publication.
On top of all that, things don’t look good for the fate of the Keystone XL, despite insiders calling the pipeline a done deal back in 2011.