Following is the statement written by my friend Miriam Kashia. This statement was written to be delivered during yesterday’s trial of the Climate Defenders Five (detailed here). She wasn’t permitted to read the entire statement then, so it is published here.
GUILTY OR NOT-GUILTY: YOU DECIDE
On November 12, I and four others were tried for a simple misdemeanor trespass. Our “crime” was for entering a privately owned parking lot while protesting for climate action at a Trump fundraiser event in West Des Moines and refusing to leave. We pled “not-guilty” based on a clause in Iowa Code that says in essence: if you are justified in trespassing, it is not illegal. As of this writing, there is no verdict. I was not allowed to read the statement for my defense that I had prepared for the trial. I am sharing parts of it with the public here. You get to decide: GUILTY OR NOT GUILTY?
I am native Iowan, a retired psychotherapist, who has chosen to commit my remaining time, energy, knowledge, skills and resources to combating the rapidly emerging climate Apocalypse. I hold a lifelong love, awareness and concern about the preciousness and fragility of our Earth. In 2014 I walked 3,000 miles from Los Angeles to Washington DC for 8 months with the Great March for Climate Action. Then, as now, my goal was to raise public awareness about the looming climate disaster.
Why would I spend my “golden years” enduring the many hardships required of dedicated activists – including costs to my personal: time, energy, limited resources, and comfort. Why would I risk arrest at age 76 when I could be living a comfortable retirement?
BECAUSE EVERYTHING I LOVE IS AT STAKE. EVERYTHING!!
And my government is making it worse.
Our government, which is charged with protection and wellbeing of its citizens, is instead protecting and benefiting the fossil fuel corporations. Our two Legislative bodies are gridlocked, and the Executive branch denies climate science, refuses to work on solutions with the nations of the world, and, according to the New York Times, our president has unilaterally voided over 80 environmental protections. We need the Judiciary, the third pillar of our government, to dig deeply and act boldly and in accordance with the original intent of our constitution: to uphold the people’s right to protest non-violently with precedent-setting decisions to help avert this crisis before it is too late.
Science tells us if we move immediately and comprehensively, with the knowledge and technology that is now available, we may be able to avert the worst of this calamity, but we only have about a decade to do it. I will be 86 years old by then if I am still around, and I have some very serious questions to pose:
- What about the young people all over the planet who are striking and desperately fighting for a livable future?
- What about the estimated 200 species per day going extinct right now and a million more species researchers expect to go extinct in the next few years?
- What about climate chaos implications for Iowa’s farmers and declining food production here and elsewhere?
- What about the millions of people who will die from storms, heat, starvation, drought, fire, rising sea levels, climate-exacerbated conflicts and wars, and the spreading of existing diseases and the emerging of unimaginable new ones?
- What about the millions of families who will flee from these threats in migrations like we have never imagined, creating more global chaos, conflict, suffering and death.
- And what about the children?
This is from 11,000 scientists from 153 nations in a statement recently published in the journal BioScience. “We declare clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency. There is no time to lose. The climate crisis has arrived and is accelerating faster than most scientists expected. It is more severe than anticipated, threatening natural ecosystems and the fate of humanity.”
So, given these realities, I reflect back to the question, “Why would I risk arrest?”
Because the historical record of social justice and environmental progress in the United States tells us that the great shifts in public awareness and opinion have happened because people took to the streets and were willing to risk arrest to fight injustice.
October 12, 2019 from REUTERS news: “In a joint declaration, climate scientists, physicists, biologists, engineers and others from at least 20 countries broke with the caution traditionally associated with academia to side with peaceful protesters courting arrest. “We believe that the continued governmental inaction over the climate and ecological crisis now justifies peaceful and non-violent protest and direct action, even if this goes beyond the bounds of the current law. We therefore support those who are rising up peacefully against governments around the world that are failing to act proportionately to the scale of the crisis. The urgency of the crisis is now so great that many scientists feel, as humans, that we now have a moral duty to take radical action.”
Life on our planet is imperiled. We have got to act – and quickly. How could I not be justified in peacefully risking arrest to try to stop this from happening?
I vehemently maintain that we were totally justified, under Iowa law, to bring our message to that gathering.
Guilty or Not-Guilty? You decide – when you vote.