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Think & Drink at Naked City: ‘Climate Change and Civil Disobedience — How Far is Too Far?’

The next Humanities Washington “Think & Drink” at Naked City Brewery is set for 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb.17, and will explore “the necessity defense” by climate change activists practicing civil disobedience. Naked City is at 8564 Greenwood Ave. N. Admission is free.

In September of 2014, a group of environmental activists tried to stop climate change in its tracks. Claiming that “the Pacific Northwest is fast becoming a corridor for fossil fuel development,” five protesters blocked an oil train in Everett for over eight hours. They believed the move necessary to “avert a climate catastrophe.”

They were arrested and later tried, and at the heart of their argument was “The Necessity Defense”—the assertion that their actions, though illegal, were necessary to prevent a greater harm. At the last minute, the judge told the jury not to consider the defense, citing lack of precedent. But still the protesters, dubbed the Delta 5, were found guilty only of trespassing and they avoided jail time.

As climate change worsens, what role will civil disobedience play? How far is too far? Can lack of access to things like clean air be considered a civil right in the traditional sense? And what parallels can be drawn between the 60s Civil Rights movement and the actions of environmental protestors like the Delta 5 and “kayaktivists?”

Humanities Washington’s next Think & Drink, “The Necessity Defense: Climate Change and Civil Disobedience,” features Abby Brockway, a member of the Delta 5 and part of the environmental activist group Rising Tide Seattle; Richard Gammon, professor of oceanography and chemistry at the University of Washington; and Megan Ming Francis, assistant professor in the department of Political Science at the University of Washington and author of the award-winning book, Civil Rights and the Making of the Modern American State. The event will be moderated by KUOW’s environmental reporter Ashley Ahearn.