Energy & Environment

A Bad Day for a Global Warming Protest

You can’t say nobody saw it coming.

Global warmists, and particularly Al Gore, have developed an uncanny habit of choosing record-cold days to launch major initiatives and give high profile speeches against carbon emissions. In fact, back in mid-December, when environmental groups announced plans for “mass non-violent civil disobedience” on March 2 to shut down a Washington, D.C., coal plant, National Review Online blogger Greg Pollowitz predicted a snowstorm would hit the capital that day.

Who else do you know who can forecast a snowstorm two-and-a-half months ahead of time? By the time the protest kicked off yesterday at 1:00 p.m., a massive snowstorm had indeed blanketed the Northeast, shutting down much of D.C. According to the New York Times, “The burst of snow challenged or shattered records for March snowfalls in dozens of cities.” Nevertheless, around 2,000 shivering global warmists gathered in icy, windy, 24-degree weather (7 degrees, including wind chill) to make the inconvenient argument that the planet is too hot.

Publicity for the protest emphasized the prospect of mass arrests. The organizers’ website vowed, “We will surround the plant, disrupting access, and refuse to leave when asked.” It advised protestors to bring bail money and assured them of legal assistance.

The festivities kicked off with a “prayer vigil” at the gathering site, a small park close to the Capitol. A few dozen warmists congregated to pray to a highly inclusive, non-denominational, non-judgmental higher spirit for the well-being of the planet and the safety of the civil disobeyers. To the slow beat of a drum, the warmists turned in all four directions, and then to the sky and to the ground, each time reciting a mawkish prayer and “offering the tobacco to Mother Earth.” This surprised me, since burning tobacco emits carbon, but I shrugged it off.

Demonstrators gather in the snow to protest global warming.

The vigil was then addressed by a few Christian and Jewish clergymen, including a rabbi who declared that “Old King Coal is the new Pharaoh.” The speeches were interspersed with songs expressing sentiments such as, “The Earth is our mother, we must take care of her.” Overall, the scene did little to dispel my personal theory that global warming involves more religion than science.

By now, the bulk of the warmists stood quivering close by. They differed in a few ways from the anti-war protestors who periodically descend on D.C. First, the warmists tended to be younger than the aging anti-war hippies. And second, none of the warmists smoked. In fact, after I dropped my matches in the snow, I didn’t bother asking anyone for a light — notwithstanding the pagan tobacco offering, these people seemed to have a negative, visceral reaction to the act of burning anything.

The warmists held signs and chanted slogans attacking coal and vowing to shut down all the country’s coal plants. But the protests went beyond that. An Asian Indian activist addressed the crowd, eliciting boisterous cheers when she condemned clean coal technology, all fossil fuels, nuclear power, and even biofuels. The only acceptable energy sources, it was clear, were solar and wind. And good luck powering your car with either of those.

The warmists set off on their march just as it began snowing again. Unfortunately, from that point on I could not record any interviews about the imminent inferno of global warming because my pen froze.

Not big fans of coal.

There was some nervous anticipation in the air. I heard several warmists ask their comrades if they were planning on getting arrested, and the answer was always “yes.” On the organizers’ twitter network, a protestor wrote in, “march about to begin. just walked by the plant. police eveywhere [sic] with buses waiting to take folks away.”

Chanting “climate justice,” the warmists marched about a block to the coal plant, where they were welcomed by about twenty counter-protestors carrying signs with blasphemous slogans like “Celebrate Coal.” One good-natured heretic sang “We Shall Overcome” while hoisting a sign with “Not Evil, Just Wrong” printed under a picture of Al Gore.

The plant, which serves the Capitol building, was surrounded by a chain-link fence, with a police officer stationed every twenty feet or so in front of it. At each of the plant’s several entryways (which were all blocked by the same fence), the warmists left a contingent of singing, dancing, and chanting protestors. There was no altercation with the police, because at the entryways the cops were almost always positioned behind the fence. “We are taking the gate!” one warmist yelled as his group moved in front of an entryway. But it wasn’t all that exciting, since all the protestors were doing was moving into an empty space in front of a fence.

We turned a corner and walked by a McDonald’s. At that point, a protest leader shouted into a bullhorn, “This is the moment of truth!” For a moment, I thought the theater at the gates had been a brilliant feint to misdirect the police away from the protest’s real target: the rapacious, carbon-spewing, cow-killing McDonald’s corporation. But alas, the leader directed his contingent just past the restaurant to another entryway to the plant. McDonald’s was left unmolested and even got some extra business from a stream of protestors who put aside their anti-capitalist animus to warm up with a nice cup of hot McDonald’s cocoa.

After the demonstrators had positioned themselves in front of all the entryways, a series of activists and politicians began speechifying at one of the sites. There were a lot of over-excited proclamations, including a declaration from one activist that coal plants are “the most dangerous thing in the world.” I wonder how the families of the 32 million people worldwide who have died of AIDS feel about that statement. Or the families of the 1 million people who die of malaria every year.

Overall, it was a rather peculiar demonstration. Despite all the defiant rhetoric of civil disobedience, there was none on display at all. The cops closed down the streets for the marchers and allowed them to gather in front of the gates unhindered. It seems that the organizers’ legal councilors had a slow day, since multiple police officers confirmed to me that there was not a single arrest.

The organizers proclaimed the event a success. “We have locked down all the gates to this plant,” one protest leader informed the cheering crowd through a bullhorn. This may have been true, but the boast omitted one fairly important detail: all the plant workers were already inside. Business at the plant, in fact, continued throughout the entire protest. So in the end, the warmists failed to prevent even a single gram of carbon from wreaking havoc on the atmosphere.

But in the end, it’s safe to say that the warmists learned something: next time, stage the protest in August.

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