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The Year Of The Earth-Loving Cop


In the first hours of the climate talk demonstrations in Paris, the police attacked with tear gas etc. – and our hearts sank as we saw protest criminalized. For New Yorkers this was a familiar sight. We remembered the inside-out logic after 9/11 that found peace marchers attacked by cops. They had vague ideas that we were associated with foreign money and distantly - Al Qaida.

By the last days of the two weeks in Paris the police walked the streets with us peacefully. Volunteers from civil society had talked them down. By December 12th, the French police were still wildly off the mark with their Darth Vader outfits were, but it is really magical how a smile neutralizes armor.

Who were they ready to fight and why? As we look out across the next twelve months, this would be a good question to ask. Let’s be clear about what security means. Where is the violence?

The answer is: the sellers of fossil fuel. There is no group of men near that level of violence. These criminals threaten us. The violence to our children is deadly. But so far we have called them respectable businessmen. That’s what they said.

In my neighborhood the parents who are protesters and the parents who are police take their kids to the same schools. And in December this year, the temperature was 25 degrees higher than normal. We talked about the weather. “Hot day today, yes?” “The mockingbird in our tree is going crazy like its summer…”

This year we will appeal directly to police. Come into the modern world and identify the modern criminal. Do the forensics. Put pictures of tornadoes up on the walls of the precinct house. Why is the city spraying us with carcinogenic herbicides from Monsanto? Who created Hurricane Sandy?

The environmental movement has been stuck in lobbying, litigation, nonprofit fundraising, publicity – years of this same cycle of activities. Somehow the police’s allegiance has remained beyond the pale. And yet in all revolutions in history there was an important moment when the police holstered their guns and changed their idea of crime.

It is up to us to find ways to communicate. Tell the story. Cop-and-courtroom dramas dominate our movies and TV. It would be huge if Earth crimes suddenly showed up on the docket. How long can we keep the hundreds of thousands of dead from the global south out of our idea of crime? Report the crime in progress at the power plant, not just here but in South Africa, in Indonesia, in Colombia. Bring the DA the stats, the pictures, the evidence. Invite the police to be good fathers and mothers. Why aren’t the ExxonMobil science doubters in the tank?

Now you may be wondering – is this all just fanciful? How far are we really from this notion of changing law enforcement to see climate change as a crime? The point is: We have no choice. We want to survive.