Economist Mark Jaccard nervous about direct action to stop coal trains
Long-time SFU professor and environmental economist Mark Jaccard claims he’s “not feeling all that great” about the act of civil disobedience he says he’s been forced to partake in this weekend for the sake of future generations.
In a statement released today (May 3), Jaccard explained why he will go to White Rock with other protesters at dawn on Saturday (May 5), to block Burlington Northern Santa Fe coal trains from reaching Vancouver’s ports.
“I’ve worked hard in university to do a masters and a PhD in computer modelling of sustainable-energy policy,” Jaccard told the Straight by phone today. “I’m still an advisor right now to the California Energy Commission, because California is moving ahead. And I do work with people at Stanford University, who work in collaboration with departments of the U.S. government. But basically, North American politicians have backed away on this [climate change], and I just think that this is inexcusable.”
So after more than a quarter century at SFU, Jaccard is now turning to civil disobedience.
“All I will say is, I have no idea what will happen on Saturday,” Jaccard said. “But I think everybody should be doing this.”
Jaccard noted that he has tried to bring the dangers of climate change to the attention of leaders of “all political stripes” and he headed the B.C. Utilities Commission during the reign of NDP premier Glen Clark. He said he still holds out hope that Prime Minister Stephen Harper will seek him out for his advice.
“You never know,” Jaccard said. “So I don’t close the door on that.”
However, with policies like expanded pipelines and ramped-up tar sands production, according to Jaccard, “Stephen Harper is willingly searching for profits and political benefits at the expense of our children.”
Jaccard said he had not heard of a 2008 action in the north of England, which U.K. author George Monbiot referred to when he spoke to the Straight that year.
“They did one of the most daring actions I’ve seen for a very long time, where they dressed up as railway workers, learnt all the right track signals for stopping a train, stopped this coal train, boarded it and tipped all of the coal out on to the tracks,” Monbiot said in a sit-down interview in a coffee shop in his hometown in Wales.
“You expose yourself to potentially serious charges in doing this, so it was an incredibly brave action, but an action very clearly motivated by the recognition that, if you don’t do this and you don’t stop the burning of coal, then we have to contemplate the end of life as we know it. So in terms of the aims of the action, it was a very mild thing to do, but in terms of the way the law perceives it, it was a very dangerous thing to do.”