The Common Good of Everyone

“I am committed to the moral necessity of participating in nonviolent direct action to protect life.”

That’s what Leonard Higgins said after his well-planned action, turning the emergency shut-off valve on the Express Pipeline in northern Montana on October 11, 2016, one of five simultaneous shut-offs on the five principal pipelines carrying Canadian tar sands.

Leonard and Reed Ingalls, his videographer, will be speaking about conscientious objection to the fossil fuel industry’s ongoing climate destruction on December 7 at a potluck reception sponsored by 350 Missoula, which starts at 5:30 pm. In the second floor ballroom of the Union Hall at 208 East Main.

This was an unprecedented act of non-violent direct action that shut down 15 percent of US crude oil imports all at once. And it comes as fossil fuel companies have identified $27 trillion worth of new fossil fuels they want to bring to market at the same time climate scientists tell us that all of these carbon-sources must stay in the ground if we are to meet the goal set in Paris of limiting temperature rise to less than 1.5 C.

To keep our livable planet, in other words, we must pivot immediately to renewable energy. Encouraging this Great Transition is the mission of 350 Missoula.

The “Valve Turners” are facing felony charges with sentences of up to 95 years in prison. Leonard and Reed will appear in court on December 6 in the Choteau County Courthouse in Fort Benton to answer for their actions. The next night Leonard and Reed will be in Missoula to discuss why they felt morally compelled to take non-violent direct action.

In general, the theory of nonviolent civil disobedience hearkens back to the theory that there is a “higher law,” something more urgent than the ones on the books. In the past, resisters to unjust acts by government have also cited the welfare of the whole people, what the philosopher Thomas Merton called “the common good of everyone,” to justify acts that fall outside the law.

The organization that organized the pipeline shutdown, Direct Climate Action, puts it this way, “We are in an emergency. The aim is to avert a climate catastrophe, something we are inextricably barreling toward without adequate public policy.”

Please bring a dish and join us. We hope to see you there.

Jeff Smith, Chair, 350 Missoula