Alec Johnson has. Like in that Anne Feeney song that asks this question, the Columbus-based activist took a stand by sitting down near the White House in August. He and hundreds of other protesters spent more than two days in a D.C. jail as a way to tell President Obama to stop the Keystone XL Pipeline plan that would transport tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada to Houston, Texas.

“It’s one of many tools we can use. There are hundreds of them that we can be effective with, but in this particular case, it (getting arrested) really drew attention to the issue. The fact that we got more than 1,250 people to do it over the course of two weeks was huge.”

Johnson said it was the largest nonviolent civil disobedience action in the environmental movement’s history.

“We started to make a statement and we continue to make a statement. So far our movement has shadowed the president everywhere he’s gone outside of D.C. --all of the stops he has made on his American Jobs Act tour---to remind him and the public that he and he alone w/ the stroke of a pen can stop the Keystone XL Pipeline.”

But Keystone XL is just one of many projects that seek to address energy security in ways that exacerbate climate change and other environmental problems.

For example, consider how fracking for natural gas affects water quality. Johnson was in the Short North on Sept 15 to offer his support for the fight to defeat SB-5, the union busting bill, and HB 194, the voter suppression bill.

But he was also there to tell Congressman Tim Ryan face-to-face that his support of fracking is unacceptable to him and to a large number of people in greater Columbus. Ryan was in town to help defeat SB-5 and HB-194.

“ I told him on no uncertain terms that energy sources that imperil our health will imperil his political future…He was very gracious about it but he’s going to be hearing about it again and again. So this will be good practice for Congressman Ryan.”

Johnson joked that losing his job helped him to intensify his activism. But he was serious when he said he can’t imagine not being political.

“Politics is the second most important thing next to your heartbeat. My children are counting on me to look clearly into the future and do everything I can to make sure theirs is at least tolerably as good as mine was."

Johnson said activism enriches his life. "I have a fairly exciting life because of the choices I’ve made, to embrace what are the defining issues of our era, to make them my own. So, I would encourage everybody to do that.”

When asked whether we can use technological fixes for our environmental and energy problems, Johnson said, “We’re going to have to transition to safe, cleaner, renewable energy sources in very short order. The only justification I can come up w/ for using fossil fuels right now is to make that transition in as orderly a fashion as possible.”

But he said that is not what is happening right now. “ The tar sands ? That’s a desperation move. If we had plenty of oil, they wouldn’t be trying to turn that sludge into oil. They wouldn’t be drilling miles down in the Gulf of Mexico, and they wouldn’t be trying to get it from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.”

He agrees w/ peak oil writer Richard Heinberg who calls for creating a society that uses much less energy.

“Renewable energy will not power a consumer society, and I don’t think the benefits of a consumer society are worth preserving. I think what we need to do is to start creating things like Transition Towns. These are communities that work very hard to build local resilience and actually use a lot less energy.”

According to some activists, building a stronger mass movement has to involve applying our values in hands-on and other practical ways. Johnson and his partner Nancy Wernz are doing that by working on permaculture projects w/ people in their community.

“It’s all about having polyculture, perennial agriculture rather than the tremendously wasteful monoculture that we have going on now.”

Though technology will not enable us to save our high energy way of life, it still can be at least part of the solution, said Johnson.

“ I totally agree w/ Al Gore when he says there are no shortages of solutions, only a lack of political will, and that in our country political will ought to be a renewable resource.”

Like many if not most environmentalists, Johnson said giant corporations obstruct solutions to our problems. But, in turn, as environmental problems unfold, it will reduce corporate power, according to Johnson.

“Their power is entirely dependent on cheap energy and cheap energy is going away…This puts us in a much stronger position to push for solutions.”

Johnson said energy constraints and other ecological limits will stop economic growth.

“Richard Heinberg has argued quite effectively that we may actually be at the end of growth, that civilization is about to be downsized. I think these are tremendous opportunities for us--- if we perceive them properly and move in the right direction to begin to establish the kind of society that will be able to persist thru the end of this century.”