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mailmanOn September 8th and 9th two men will stand trial for taking a non violent action meant to inform the public that the need to take meaningful steps to prevent global climate suicide is urgent.  Both men are known to be of exemplary character, and have taken their action after many years of careful thought and personal action in the area of climate change.  One of the men, Jay O'Hara, is known to me personally.

Both men raise the justification of 'necessity' in their defense. This legal defense states that their action was directly related to a higher moral calling – that of preventing the global health and economic disaster that is climate change.

In brief, they moored an unarmed lobster boat in the way of a coal barge seeking to deliver coal to the Brayton Point power plant (the largest coal fired plant in New England) located in Somerset, Massachusetts.  (details at  Ken Ward and Jay O'Hara were arraigned in May, 2013 in Fall River, Mass. on four charges in connection with their non violent action: disturbing the peace, conspiracy, failure to act to avoid a collision, and negligent operation of a motor vessel.

Their intent in court is to not dispute the facts of being anchored in a lobster boat in the Brayton Point ship channel, but to seek to prove the necessity of their doing so. Jury instructions for Massachusetts courts require that "Three factors must be present for a necessity defense to apply:

  • First: That the defendant was faced with a clear and imminent danger, not one that was debatable or speculative;
  • Second: That the defendant reasonably expected that his (her) actions would be effective in directly reducing or eliminating the danger;
  • and Third: That there was no legal alternative which would have been effective to reduce or eliminate the danger."

In answering these three challenges, by their own testimony and best available expert witnesses, They offer an opportunity to get to to the very essence of the climate dilemma, to articulate why actions to date are inadequate to address this threat, and to tell a story which could energize our people to take more urgent action to stop climate change.

While they stand ready to accept the judgment of the court, we cannot stand idly by and go as lambs to the slaughter of climate change.  All of our work on all of our other important issues will stand as naught if climate change is allowed to happen.  It will matter not if we succeed in our other endeavors if the disease, pestilence, and economic collapse it will cause prevail.

They took their action knowing that they would delay the delivery of the coal by, at most, days.  They took their action in the faith that those of us aware of their action would be moved to action.  If we do not then their efforts are in vein.

We should call the country's attention to the need to cast off coal, gas, and all fossil fuels and move to renewable energy by talking to our village, town and county governments, and by pressing our state and congressional representatives.  We should take individual action such as participation in projects like Solarize Tompkins as we are able.  Such projects seek to lower the cost and the effort involved for us to use alternative energy sources.

Analysis by leading experts show that with EXISTING technology we can get virtually all our energy from renewables by 2030, spur the economy, protect our environment, and forestall Global Warming.  One such study is: "Examining the Feasibility of Converting New York State's All-Purpose Energy Infrastructure to One Using Wind, Water and Sunlight" which was published in Energy Policy in March12, 2013 .

Climate change is the time bomb set to go off in our lifetime.  We know how to attempt to dismantle it. Let us not crucify ourselves upon a cross of fossil fuel carbon.

Dr Wm Klepack
Village of Lansing
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