Glacier Climate Action Glacier Climate Action, May 12, 2017

Why would a soft-spoken grandfather trespass on private property, close the valve on an oil pipeline, report himself to authorities, and risk 10 years in a Montana prison?

Leonard Higgins, Climate Activist

Leonard Higgins, Climate Activist

Leonard Higgins will answer that question at a community presentation on Saturday, May 20 in Whitefish, sponsored by Glacier Climate Action. The 7 p.m. program will be at Whitefish Community Center, 121 East 2nd Street.

On Oct. 11, 2016, Leonard Higgins cut a lock near Fort Benton, Montana, and manually turned off a pipeline carrying Alberta tar sands oil. He reported this act of civil disobedience and waited for arrest by the Choteau County sheriff. The retired Oregon man faces more than 10 years in prison at an upcoming trial this summer in Fort Benton.

Along with four other valve turners who acted simultaneously that day in four states, Leonard argues that the urgency of acting on climate change justifies their action to turn off the flow of tar sand oil, which is a major contributor of carbon pollution. The consequences of inaction on climate change far outweigh the personal consequences, Leonard says.

“If people are not acting as though there is an emergency, people don’t believe there is an emergency,” said Higgins in a video produced by supporters. Higgins understood going in that he would almost certainly do time in prison for his act of climate change resistance. But he says it’s a price he’s willing to pay.

Is civil disobedience justified as a tactic to raise awareness about the need to act on climate change and slow the pollution? As an organization, Glacier Climate Action does not engage in acts of civil disobedience, and individual members have different opinions about the controversial practice. But the organization welcomes the opportunity to learn first-hand from a climate activist why he has taken this personal risk on behalf of his grandchildren and the planet.

More about the five valve turners and their direct action campaign here:

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