In the face of climate change, some activists are willing to go to prison if it means disrupting the political system.
On Wednesday, a jury in Skagit County, Wash., failed to convict Ken Ward, the first protester to be tried for a shutting off a pipeline, after days of being presented with evidence of climate change and arguments that Ward’s disruptive action was necessary.
“I spent 30-some-odd years following only legal approaches,” Ward told Reuters. “It’s only been in recent years that the scale of the problem and lack of a political solution leaves no choice but direct action.”
Breaking in at a Trans Mountain pipeline facility in 2016, Ward activated an emergency shut-off valve, temporarily stymieing the import of Canadian tar sands oil to Washington state. He acted alongside five #ShutItDown valve-turners (now awaiting trial) and three videographers (two of whom no longer face charges) who targeted pipelines in several states on Oct. 11 in solidarity with protesters at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation demonstrating against the Dakota Access pipeline.
Now the activists are being taken to court over their nonviolent actions, which they believe were necessary in the face of acute threats to the climate from the use of carbon-rich fossil fuels.