It’s been years!

10 08 2017

Hey Friends, turns out I’ve only made one post in the last 4 years. Considering coming back…more soon?

In the meantime here’s an interview I did just after Trump’s inauguration. It was published at Medium, as an excerpt from a forthcoming book Radical Democracy: an inventory of transformational ideas, documents, quotes and conversations

xo,

Joshua

Radical Hope: Life During the Climate Apocalypse

Global organizer Joshua Kahn Russell on the shifting terrain of climate justice, the need for spiritual perspective in the movement, and learning to love contradiction in the age of Bernie and Trump.

joshua interview radical democracy

Part of our series of interviews with transformative activists, organizers, writers and dreamers from the New Left and Freedom Movement of the 1960s through radical social and political movements of today. From the soon to be published Radical Democracy ebook.

Joshua Kahn Russell is a long-time movement facilitator. He’s a core trainer and action coordinator with The Wildfire Project and the Ruckus Society, and currently serves as the Global Trainings Manager at 350.org. He has helped lead winning campaigns against banks, oil companies, logging corporations, and coal barons. Joshua has trained thousands of activists around the world, including Brazil, Turkey, Vietnam, Australia, Canada, Peru, Poland, Thailand, Spain, Denmark, Jamaica, Guatemala, Mexico, and the US. His recent books include A Line In The Tar Sands: Struggles for Environmental Justice , Beautiful Trouble with Andrew Boyd, and Organizing Cools the Planet: Tools and Reflections to Navigate the Climate Crisis, with Hilary Moore.

“Stopping the climate crisis is impossible to strategize, because stopping it is impossible. But navigating the climate crisis to a place of stability and the new way of life it will demand — that’s not only easy for me to imagine, it’s easy to get excited about envisioning it.”

Radical Democracy: Since you started doing environmental work many years ago, the context for your work — the climate itself — has been changing drastically. How has that impacted the scope and strategy of your work?

Joshua Kahn Russell: I’ve spent the last twelve years with my face deep in the science of the apocalypse, including working on an international level at the U.N. with scientists who are talking about the basic survival of our species. It can be overwhelming.

We live in a time of denial about the crisis, but also coming out of a cultural amnesia in regards to social movements and how change can happen. We need to recognize that we stand on the shoulders of our ancestors; there are real lessons to learn from the past. But there is also something fundamentally new about this crisis, which requires real innovation. Both sides of the generational equation — movement veterans who have so much to teach us, and newly radicalized young folks with fresh thinking — are beginning to walk with more humility to reflect together to face this challenge.

Read the rest of this entry »





Time To Get Off The Fence

2 12 2015

Why Climate Justice connects us all to the Black Lives Matter activists shot by white supremacists in Minneapolis.

Last night, Andy Pearson of MN350 was with the Black Lives Matter protesters at the #4thPrecinctShutDown when shots were fired. The encampment was demanding accountability (eg: names of the officers, and the release of police videotape – the names have since been released, and the video tape remains a demand) after the killing of unarmed black man Jamar Clark at the hands of police.

Andy heard the shots and saw people running. 5 protestors were shot by white supremacists. The injured protesters were taken to the hospital and one underwent overnight surgery. Andy noted that people were not just running away from the shots – many were running towards them to help. The next day he challenged all of us, “If you’ve ever wondered what you’d do if you were alive during the civil rights era, now’s the time to find out.”

white supremacists mlps

Photo of two white supremacists, one carrying a pistol, who came to #4thPrecinctShutDown. Photo: @BlackLivesMLPS

It should be no secret that we are in a heightened level of racist backlash in this country — and around the world. In the last two weeks alone, we have witnessed the terrorist attacks in Paris, Beirut, and Mali, and the violent and xenophobic backlash in its wake, often emerging as fear and hate crimes against Syrian refugees.

We have footage of people at a recent Trump rally beating and choking a Black man — all while calling him the n-word and “monkey” for saying “Black Lives Matter.” The man was arrested while the attackers went free. Trump later bragged about the violence saying “he deserved to get roughed up” and after his supporters beat a homeless Latino man, he called them “enthusiastic.”

These are only a few of the many forms of insidious threats against communities of color, particularly Black people, that persist in our justice system, that create inequities in access to clean air and water, and that feed a cycle of division and prejudice.

Addressing climate change means replacing the old unequal systems with a new world; it requires us to fight racism and climate change hand-in-hand. Our movement gets weaker when we talk about climate change only through the lens of saving the environment. It gets stronger when we can talk fluidly about how climate change is impacting our people, is about racial and economic justice, is about reconnecting to our spiritual roots, is about the daily problems people face.  For us, fighting climate change is about fighting against a system that devalues the Earth, treats all natural resources as commodities, devalues individuals, and refuses to see each person as sacred.

That is why we join MN350 in their declaration:

“MN350 organizes for climate justice: We recognize and seek to address the deep connections between the injustices that perpetuate racism, inequality, and runaway climate change.  Today, the leaders, staff and activists who work with MN350 send their thoughts and prayers to the family of Jamar Clark and those who were the victims of white supremacist violence last night and too many times before. ‪#‎Justice4Jamar‬”

justice for jamar

Prayers for justice from Minneapolis. Photo: @BlackLivesMLPS

If you have been “on the fence” on this issue — depending on where you and your family are coming from in experiencing and confronting racism, whether by lack of action or feeling disconnected from it — now is the time to get off the fence.  This Thursday, as many of us gather to give thanks with our families, is a great opportunity for all of us to help our relatives understand why climate justice work is work for peace and racial justice.  Wherever you are, really talk about why racial justice matters — talk it out with others, even those who disagree with you.

Looking for resources to take a stand right now?  Today Chris Crass published a free e-book calledTowards the “Other America”: Anti-Racist Resources for White People Taking Action for Black Lives Matter. 350 staffer Daniel Hunter has also released free copies of the organizing guide: Building a Movement Against the New Jim Crow.

Also, consider making a donation to Black Lives Matter Minneapolis as a way of expressing gratitude this Thursday.

We’ll close with more encouragement for boldness from Andy: “I wasn’t alive in the 1960s and so don’t know what that time in our history felt like. When white terrorists can hang out at a police precinct, shoot a bunch of black people, and walk away into the night, we have a deep and systemic problem.  I know that what happened last night is wrong, profoundly wrong, and makes me think on how much work there still is to do. ”

With love and justice,

 – Everette R. H. Thompson, Daniel Hunter, Joshua Kahn Russell, and Yong Jung Cho





Resistance in real-time — Global Power Shift kicks off in Istanbul

28 06 2013

by Joshua Kahn Russell

This article was originally published by Earth Island Journal and Waging Nonviolence.

It’s an auspicious time for 500 young climate activists from around the world to be gathering in Istanbul. Just a few weeks ago, an effort to save the city’s Taksim Square and Gezi Park (one the last green spaces in the city center) from development sparked a full fledged people-powered movement across the country. When 350.org and our allies envisioned convening this broad movement convergence two years ago, we never could have imagined that we would be holding this event in the midst of a popular uprising. Still, it feels appropriate (if a bit surreal). After all, this Global Power Shift convergence is aimed at helping catalyze a new phase of an international climate movement that will be able to put on such a massive and sustained show of force that it disrupts the status quo and captures the public imagination. Just like the Taksim Square activists have done.

With our strategy meetings here in Istanbul having just begun, I have been deeply inspired and humbled by the people I am meeting and their commitment to addressing the climate crisis. There are young climate activists here from the plains of East Africa, from the farthest reaches of the Canadian Arctic, from the altiplano of Bolivia and from Russian Siberia. About 70 percent of the participants come from the Global South. Landry Ninteretse from Burundi took a 16-hour bus ride to the Turkish embassy in Uganda to get a tourist visa to come to Istanbul, and then had to wait for 8 days in Kampala to receive his paperwork. Sao Sotheary from Cambodia spent months fighting the Turkish government bureaucracy to get permission to come to Istanbul. Our team of Turkish coordinators have been organizing Global Power Shift amid tear gas and water cannons, in the midst of what 350.org’s Turkish coordinator, Mahir Ilgaz, calls “the most politically significant development in Turkey in a generation.”

GPS dance

It’s no exaggeration to say that this is an historic meeting: Global Power Shift marks the first international gathering organized by young climate activists, for young climate activists, that has taken place outside of the United Nations climate negotiations.

Last June, I was in Rio de Janiero, just before the 20th anniversary of the United Nations Earth Summit. We at 350.org had jumped on the opportunity to bring together our Latin American activist networks for strategizing and collaboration. Frankly, we didn’t expect much progress coming from the U.N. conference itself. We had become accustomed to the cycle of low-expectations and disempowerment that the U.N. climate talks have devolved into. Yet the annual U.N. conferences also have left us buoyed by the feelings of inspiration we felt watching young people come together to build a global movement, regardless of what was on the official agenda. We all agreed that in order for the U.N. to have any relevance in addressing climate change, grassroots progressive social movements around the world needed to be stronger, better organized, locally rooted, and more successful at changing the game of what governments considered “politically realistic” and in their “interests.”

As organizers from Bolivia to Argentina shared stories in Rio, we brainstormed an idea that had been percolating within 350.org for a while: creating a truly international youth convergence outside the U.N. process that could serve as a space for aligning strategies, sharing ideas, and building concrete skills to wage and win campaigns to halt greenhouse gas emissions. Young people aren’t waiting for governments to catch up — they’re taking the lead and organizing their own communities. And now here we are, in Istanbul.

We kicked off our opening night with cultural performances from peoples all over the world — it was breathtaking to feel the thunder of youth shake the plenary hall. Mikaele Maiava shared a story about his community in Tokelau fighting to maintain traditional ways of living in the face of rising sea levels that threaten land-based peoples around the world. The Global Power Shift Pacific team offered us a traditional Haka warrior dance, and connected stories from islands around the world. Check out a video they shared here:

The 500 young activists in Turkey this week are working together to navigate a common challenge we all confront in the course of our climate justice organizing, no matter where we come from: How to balance breadth and depth as we work in our communities. That is, how do we organize with the millions of people needed to address the scale of the climate crisis, and do so in a way that is rooted, transformational, and engages us in our own hope and humanity? How can we navigate the psychological burden of this generational challenge? And how can we successfully confront an adversary as powerful as the fossil fuel industry?

To help navigate those questions, we recruited a remarkable international facilitation team that designed a unique curriculum that meets the varied needs of young people from more than 135 countries. We have a geographically diverse “Listening Team,” with skill sets around cross-cultural dialogue and mediation in order to be responsive to participant needs. Workshops will include week-long sessions on “hard skills” like grassroots campaigning, policy advocacy, nonviolent direct action and civil disobedience coordination, creative arts, digital innovation, and media outreach. During the course of the week we hope to foster an understanding that movements in different places have different needs and circumstances, but can also work together in shared frameworks to build a movement that is greater than the sum of its parts. Together we can build synergy to face a common foe — the fossil fuel industry — and create a shared vision of local clean energy solutions that takes power away from corporations and puts it in the hands of people.

GPS PHOTO 2

It isn’t easy. We are inheriting all sorts of old divisions of power built by the generations before us: economics, race, colonial legacies, gender and many more. One manifestation of this is language — English is the “language of empire” that these sorts of international convenings are conducted in. Without the resources to simultaneously translate to dozens of languages, our entire convergence is proactively grappling with creative facilitation techniques to make the conversation accessible to those who speak English as a learned language. Every day, participants self-organize and make plans in regional groups, some of which are facilitated in different languages. The effort to democratize communication is itself a mirror of our work here — it’s messy and imperfect, but it’s an honest attempt at overcoming the barriers that separate us and gives us the skills we need to genuinely collaborate and empathize with one another. Trainings like this don’t just teach us how to be skilled in activism — they also teach us to be better people. I was struck by a comment a participant made after our opening night – “we all belong here because we are all different. Yes, we all belong here.” This is a new stage of our movements’ growth.

The gathering in Istanbul is just Phase One of a multi-year plan to challenge the power of the fossil fuel industry and demand climate sanity. While 500 young people are here in Turkey, more than 5,000 others have committed to participating in Phase Two. The second stage has three central goals: directly targeting the fossil fuel industry and its dangerous business model; connecting the dots between extreme weather events and global climate change while also creating community resilience to weather disasters; and building local, community-controlled renewable energy systems.

We will kick off this second stage with at least 70 national and regional convergences and summits taking place over the next 18 months. The world will witness a new wave of events and mobilizations that embody the renewed spirit of our evolving movements. The mobilizations will look different in different places, reflecting local needs and leadership, but will share the culture collectively built here at Global Power Shift.

A community of more than 45 organizational partners will spearhead the upcoming mobilizations. Partners include The Global Campaign to Demand Climate Justice (a network of more than 250 frontline community groups, mostly from the Global South), Jubilee SouthGreenpeace and Friends of the Earth International. These groups and others are offering support and coaching for youth back in their home countries. Additionally, we will be working with Global Greengrants to administer small grants for each summit, with an emphasis on supporting youth to do their own fundraising to help them develop autonomous financial capacity so our movements can resource themselves and reshape the landscape of nonprofit funding models.

We see Global Power Shift and its follow-up as a proactive response to the situation the global climate movement found itself in after 2009. Four years ago, there was tremendous focus on passing comprehensive climate legislation in the United States and also on creating a new binding global treaty to slash greenhouse gas emissions. As we all know, those efforts ended in disappointment. Those goals were important — and continue to be — but a main lesson for the movement was that it lacked the national political power to hold politicians accountable. The movement learned from groups organizing in directly-affected areas that we do have power — the power of our own communities. During the last several years, local community-based organizing has kept more carbon in the ground than any other effort. With Global Power Shift, the current generation of activists is leapfrogging that stage into a place of more sustainable and skilled leadership. Maybe — just maybe — these and other efforts will also shape a new political paradigm going into the next wave of international climate negotiations in Paris in 2015.

GPS Photo 1

Meanwhile, the situation here in Istanbul offers one hopeful example of how citizen protests can disrupt the status quo in just a short amount of time. Many of Global Power Shift’s Turkish organizers are closely involved in the protests here, and they say the street mobilizations have renewed the spirit of Turkish civil society.

Last week, for example, the governor of Istanbul called on the parents of young people occupying Gezi Park to get their kids and bring them home. Instead, mothers came out en masse, encircling the park to protect their children from police. Mothers brought mixtures to heal tear gas-burned eyes and other supplies.

It’s a wonderful real-time lesson in popular mobilization, and it’s just what we need in the global climate justice movement: Widespread, cross-generational solidarity that can stand up to the structures of power and put in place the new systems we need to survive and thrive on this planet. One of our panels today was entitled “a movement of movements”: with stories from Idle No More’s indigenous resistance in Canada, the Indignados in Spain, the Arab Spring in Egypt, uprisings in Brazil, Occupy Wall Street, and of course, the Turkish uprisings. We’re making connections.

The problems that caused climate change separated us. We believe that coming together to solve a global problem can set the world right. Climate change isn’t just the biggest problem humanity has ever faced, it’s also our biggest opportunity to rethink the way we live, rethink our economic system, and rethink the way we treat each other and the planet. In fact, we will have to have these new systems in place in order to survive on this planet.





Today would have been Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 84th birthday

15 01 2013

Today would have been Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s 84th birthday. Check out this billboard of him participating in a direct action training at the Highlander Center. The training was infiltrated by the Right Wing Georgia Commission on Education to smear him as a Communist. The more things change, the more they stay the same. By the end of his life he was in fact strong critic of war and talked about our economic system as a root of the problem, though that is not what he is remembered for.

 

MLK communist





Rest in peace and power Becky. I love you.

1 01 2013

becky RIP

becky memorial





We Are Unstoppable, Another World is Possible!

21 11 2012

Its been a long time since I’ve updated here – excited to reflect on the last several months, because they’ve been really hopeful and inspiring to me. So grateful to work wish such remarkable people. For now, I wanted to share a keynote talk I gave at Power Shift Canada – its one of my first times telling more personal stories with strategy and organizing lessons in them.

Part 1

Part 2





In Ohio, the People Push Back on Fracking

27 06 2012

Tired of waiting for their leaders to ban the destructive drilling practice, citizens passed their own resolution—and took over the Statehouse to make it heard.

By Joshua Kahn Russell. Originally published in Yes! Magazine

Last week an estimated 1,000 people took over the Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio to protest the destructive practice of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” Joined by others from neighboring states facing similar issues, this “People’s Assembly” rallied and marched to the Capitol building—without a permit—to decide how they, the people, could end the practice in their state.

Jamie Frederick was one of them. She had been told by doctors that it was safe to drink her well water, despite the presence of gas wells surrounding her home. She later discovered the water was contaminated with chemicals used in the fracking process. As a result, she says, she has lost her gall bladder and can’t risk having children because of fatal health risks and potential birth defects.

“If there had been solar panels and wind turbines surrounding my home instead of gas wells, I never would have gotten sick, and I would be called ‘Mom’,” she told the crowd. These days, she said, her mouth bleeds and it’s difficult to talk: “I am losing my voice more all the time. But I seem to have found it today.”

As the Assembly convened, the rotunda, filled to capacity, thundered with stomping, clapping, and chanting that was hushed when families shared experiences of being devastated by the side effects of fracking, as Frederick was. Some had been invited to testify at the Statehouse in the past, only to find empty rooms and legislators who, they felt, did not respect their concerns.

These stories had been shared throughout the lead-up to the action, with three full days committed to workshops, trainings, and cross-movement strategy sessions. Teri Blanton, of Appalachia, connected fracking to another highly destructive extraction process she has been fighting in her own neighborhood: mountaintop coal removal. “They’re trying to do to you what they’ve done to us,” she said. “‘Regulation’ just gives them permission to do it. If you think regulation works, take a look at the West Virginia strip mining.”

The Ohio Assembly ended with the passage of a “people’s legislation” to ban fracking. Though no actual law backs this resolution, it signifies a commitment by many in the state to oppose further development of fracking wells.

This July will see thousands more mobilize in Washington, D.C. for the Don’t Stop the Frack Attack rally. Grassroots communities across New York State are already speaking out against Governor Andrew Cuomo’s attempt to turn the Southern Tier of New York into a sacrifice zone for fracking. This creative, nonviolent action bubbling across the United States may turn out to be the most powerful way of halting extreme energy development at the expense of both people and the planet.





New Radical Alliances for a New Era

9 05 2012

How the Left’s talk of co-optation missed the real critical questions that 99% Spring offers our movements

This post originally appears on Znet

By Joshua Kahn Russell and Harmony Goldberg.

Last month, a broad alliance of organizations from across the progressive spectrum came together to train 100,000 people in nonviolent direct action in the hopes of supporting a wave of action targeting corporations and the politicians that own them. It was called 99% Spring. Some also called it “co-optation.” We call it “alliance building.” 

The conversation within the movement has been fascinating, and reveals some key pitfalls that the resurgent U.S. Left might fall into if we’re not careful.

Grassroots groups that organize primarily in working class and communities of color such as National Peoples Action and the National Domestic Workers Alliance helped lead the 99% Spring process. Despite this, the terms of the debate have almost exclusively centered on the participation and limits of MoveOn.org (as a symbol and stand-in for more moderate liberals, the institutional left, and the nonprofit industrial complex). “Are the liberals co-opting Occupy?” or “Is Occupy co-opting the liberals?” There is indeed a historical precedent of radical peoples’ movements becoming de-fanged by the status quo. And yet, too often, the historic limits of the Left in the United States has been connected to its internal tendency towards sectarianism and the politics of purity. At this moment, our own circular firing squads may be a deeper threat to the viability of our movements than “outside” groups.

ImageIt is precisely because of our long-term work with radical grassroots movements that both of us dove into helping organize 99% Spring. We were each involved in writing the curriculum and designing the trainings. We were challenged by, and learned a lot from, the process. Our organizations (the National Domestic Workers Alliance and the Ruckus Society) are both movement groups that support frontline communities speaking and acting for themselves, and we were both part of the left wing of the 99% Spring alliance. 

We are living in an incredible time. Occupy has helped us all re-imagine political vision and strategy. 99% Spring was a bold effort with a lot of success, real limitations, and some mistakes. We want to share our experiences from the heart of 99% Spring project to help our movements think more clearly about alliances, and some of the challenges that our political moment presents us.

At a Crossroads
We are at a crossroads as a movement.  Many have been slogging away in the trenches for years, pushing against the political winds and doing the slow work of organizing to build popular power within communities hit hardest by the economic and ecological crises. It was hard work, and it moved slowly. Last fall, Occupy exploded on the scene and challenged many of our assumptions about what was possible. By offering both an inspiring political tactic (“occupy”) and a unifying frame (“We are the 99%”), the Occupy movement was able to tap into the mass anger about the crisis that had been brewing for years. Occupy showed that it was possible to have an explicitly radical message, to engage in confrontational action and still speak to millions of people in this country. It became acceptable to talk about economic inequality, corporate greed and capitalism, and that changed the context for all of our work in important ways. It was a humbling moment for many long-term organizers. It also helped reveal some of the shortcomings of the institutional left.

But now what? Like all movements, we have challenges. Most physical occupations have been evicted by the police, removing the ongoing public spaces that made us visible, and the ongoing police confrontations aren’t tapping into organic mass anger in the same way. Many of our internal challenges make it difficult to do the big-picture strategic thinking we need to envision the next steps. This offers us all a moment of experimentation and innovation. In order to engage it, we need to seriously reflect on our circumstance.

Read the rest of this entry »





Shift the Spectrum of Allies

7 05 2012

I am excited and honored to be one of 60 contributors to a new book called Beautiful Trouble: A Toolbox for the Revolution. The book reads as an activists manual, weaving together case studies, principles, theories, and tactics, distilled from years of working in many movements for social change. Here is one of my entries in the book, based on lessons from Training for Change, the Highlander Center, Ruckus Society, and others.

Shift the Spectrum of Allies.

In sum: Movements seldom win by overpowering the opposition; they win by shifting the support out from under them. Determine the social blocs at play on a given issue, and work to shift them closer to your position.

Activists are often good at analyzing systemic social problems, but less good at thinking systemically about organizing.

Activism is about using your power and voice to make change. Organizing is about that, too, but it’s also about activating and empowering others. It helps to think in terms of groups. Successful movement-building hinges on being able to see a society in terms of specific blocs or networks, some of which are institutions (unions, churches, schools), others of which are less visible or cohesive, like youth subcultures or demographic groupings.

Analyzing your spectrum of allies can help you to identify and mobilize the networks around you. A spectrum-of-allies analysis can be used to map out a local campaign or to strategize for a whole social movement.

Here’s how a spectrum-of-allies analysis works: in each wedge you can place different individuals (be specific: name them!), groups, or institutions. Moving from left to right, identify your active allies: people who agree with you and are fighting alongside you; your passive allies: folks who agree with you but aren’t doing anything about it; neutrals: fence-sitters, the unengaged; passive opposition: people who disagree with you but aren’t trying to stop you; and finally your active opposition.

Some activist groups only speak or work with  those in the first wedge (active allies), building insular, self-referential, marginal subcultures that are incomprehensible to everyone else. Others behave as if everyone is in the last wedge (active opposition), playing out the “story of the righteous few,” acting as if the whole world is against them. Both of these approaches virtually guarantee failure. Movements win not by overpowering their active opposition, but by shifting the support out from under them.

For example, in 1964, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), a major driver of the civil rights movement in the U.S. South, conducted a “spectrum-of-allies style” analysis. They determined that they had a lot of passive allies who were students in the North: these students were sympathetic, but had no entry point into the movement. They didn’t need to be “educated” or convinced, they needed an invitation to enter.

To shift these allies from “passive” to “active,” SNCC sent buses north to bring folks down to participate in the struggle under the banner “Freedom Summer.” Students came in droves, and many were deeply radicalized in the process, witnessing lynching, violent police abuse, and angry white mobs, all simply as a result of black people trying to vote.

Many wrote letters home to their parents, who suddenly had a personal connection to the struggle. This triggered another shift: their families became passive allies, often bringing their workplaces and social networks with them. The students, meanwhile, went back to school in the fall and proceeded to organize their campuses. More shifts. The result: a profound transformation of the political landscape of the U.S. This cascading shift of support, it’s important to emphasize, wasn’t spontaneous; it was part of a deliberate movement strategy that, to this day, carries profound lessons for other movements.

Further insights:

Explanation of the “Spectrum of Allies,” from NewTactics

Strategy tool for “Spectrum of Allies,” from Training for Change

Douglas McAdam, Freedom Summer. Oxford Univ. Press, 1988.





BREAKING: Keystone XL Denied!

18 01 2012

In case you haven’t heard the thunderous celebration by the North American climate movement, today the State Dept is set to outright reject the Keystone XL pipeline. #booyah

This is a reminder that people power works. Direct Action works. Social movements work. Grassroots organizing works. Lets take some time today to celebrate another huge victory.

Every time we win, it builds our resolve for the next fight. We know the fossil fuel industry owns Congress, and so far the Keystone XL campaign has been like playing Whack-A-Mole, or kinda like going to battle with a zombie who just won’t die. There may yet be another stage of the fight, and there will definitely be other theaters of engagement heating up in the Tar Sands fights, like the Enbridge Northern Gateway. I’m confident we’ll be ready to take em on. Moments like this help us remember our power, and that its worth all the headaches and stress of movement building. So lets keep winning.

If you’re in DC, help build the momentum by joining 500 referees blowing the whistle on congress being soaked in big oil Jan 24th. Or this friday, you can join the J20 (January 20) #occupy actions all around the world mobilizing to take on dirty corporate interests. Here in the Bay Area we will be shutting down the SF financial district with nonviolent direct action (check out the hot Lady Gaga outreach flashmob video here).

Here’s a quick sampling of the breaking coverage of the Keystone XL victory from Bill McKibben, and on Globe and MailWashington Post, Mother Jones, Huffington Post, ThinkProgress, Grist, Daily Kos, and Politico.

Congratulations, climate movement. What a great way to kick off the new year, eh?





We published a little book!

17 11 2011

It’s finally out! Actually it’s been out for a month, but we’ve been so busy WINNING battles against Fracking hearings and Tar Sands pipelines I haven’t posted. Hilary Moore and I spent the last year working on a booklet for activists who don’t come from “frontline communities” but want to be part of a powerful climate justice movement. We consulted with over 60 frontline community organizers in its creation, and landed on a booklet that is 1/3 refletions & stories, 1/3 organizing tools, and 1/3 analysis. Check it out:

ORGANIZING COOLS THE PLANET: Tools and Reflections To Navigate the Climate Crisis
By Hilary Moore and Joshua Kahn Russell
PM Press 2011

Organizing Cools The Planet offers a challenge to all concerned about the ecological crisis: find your frontline. This booklet weaves together stories, analysis, organizing tools, and provocative questions, to offer a snapshot of the North American Climate Justice movement and provide pathways for readers to participate in it. Authors share hard lessons learned, reflect on strategy, and grapple with the challenges of their roles as organizers who do not come from “frontline communities” but work to build a movement big enough for everyone and led by the priorities and solutions of low-income people, communities of color, Indigenous, youth, and other constituencies most directly impacted by the crisis. Rooted in the authors’ experiences organizing in local, national, and international arenas, they challenge readers to look at the scale of ecological collapse with open eyes, without falling prey to disempowering doomsday narratives. This booklet is for anyone who wants to build a movement with the resiliency to navigate one of the most rapid transitions in human history.

Order copies from PM Press here

Free PDF download here

Praise:

“Joshua and Hilary’s manual will be useful to all who want to make change creatively and peacefully in our brutal times.”
—Dr. Vandana Shiva

“There is no task more urgent than to organize a mass popular movement to deal effectively with the looming environmental crisis. The barriers are high, the forces opposed powerful. All the more reason to dedicate ourselves to the kinds of efforts outlined Joshua Kahn Russell and Hilary Moore’s booklet.”
—Noam Chomsky

“In an atmosphere heavy with doomsday predictions and fear, this booklet is a breath of fresh air. Joshua Kahn Russell and Hilary Moore weave together stories and organizing tools to create a vision for practical transition amid the climate crisis. Organizing Cools the Planet confronts pressing questions of our time.”
—Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Founding Director, Indigenous World Association

“This booklet comes from people who do what they’re talking about, and do it well. If we’ve got a hope, it lies in organizing–in reaching ever broader circles of our civilization and getting people to take action in their common interest. If you want to be a part of that, this guide is a good place to start.”
— Bill McKibben

“As the climate crisis becomes increasingly unignorable, our movements must learn to navigate a rapidly changing and high-stakes political landscape. Our times demand we think bigger, push harder, and reimagine the possibilities for twenty-first-century movement building. This potent booklet is a great place to begin the conversation. Authored by two visionary young leaders who share their personal struggles and hard-earned lessons from organizing at the intersection of justice, ecology, and change, Organizing Cools the Planet is required reading for anyone who gives a damn about the future. Tune in for some indispensable analysis, provocative thinking and a healthy dose of people-powered optimism.”
—Patrick Reinsborough, cofounder, smartMeme Strategy & Training Project

“This is a rigorous and useful tool for teaching and learning the architecture of organizing, a valuable nourishment for climate justice activists and change agents.”
—Dorothy Guerrero, Focus on the Global South

“It is an erudite manual, spirited and consistently engaging.”
—Andrej Grubačić, author, Don’t Mourn, Balkanize! and Wobblies and Zapatistas

“Still young and developing, the climate justice movement has already shaken up politics with its holistic perspective and fresh energy. Organizing Cools the Planet offers a set of tools to help this dynamic new movement sharpen its strategies, promote frontline leadership, and realize its tremendous potential.”
—Max Elbaum, cofounder, WarTimes/Tiempo de Guerras; author





@occupyWINNING

31 10 2011

So much going on, that in typical fashion, I’m not posting. But I am thoroughly inspired by our country getting into motion right now, and the synergy between different movements, campaigns, and long-term fights. Spending time right now trying to serve the #Occupy effort around the country, continuing to push full-force on this Keystone XL Tar Sands pipeline fight, fracking organizing, and how to make our new booklet, Organizing Cools the Planet, useful to folks on the ground.

But until I write more I want to share an excellent resource from Beyond the Choir for the occupy movement. Its called @occupyWinning, which you can follow on twitter, or check out at www.occupywinning.com

Here are some recent posts, tools, and analysis:

#OWS: Not “No Leaders”, but “We are All Leaders!”

The Political Identity Paradox

#OWS: Welcome New Visitors and Plug In Participants

#Occupy Tactic Star





#OccupyMovementStrategy

10 10 2011

“Change happens slowly. Except when it happens fast!” – Tom Hayden

One of my favorite things about #OccupyWallStreet is that its turning everyone into a movement strategist. Everyone has advice or criticism. The fact that its a large-container has made everyone wanna talk about organizing, strategy, analysis, message, demands, direction, etc. Getting thousands to think critically about movement building is a gift.

Here are some great strategy pieces on the #occupytogether phenomenon by organizers contributing to building it:

Boston shows us how to #Occupy with purpose and political vision.

Three Reasons Why I Love Occupy Wall Street.

Occupy Wall Street: Perfectly Coherent.

In Front and Center: Critical Voices in the 99%.

Base Building organizations in the Bay Area came together this week to shut down Wells Fargo world HQ. http://www.foreclosewallst.org/





Nonviolent Direct Action to Defuse the Carbon Bomb

7 09 2011

note – I wrote this for the Ruckus Society blog to clarify our involvement in the Tar Sands Action for our own network. Enjoy! – JKR

This weekend marked the end of the Tar Sands Action in Washington DC, and the beginning of a renewed surge of civil disobedience and action against fossil fuel extraction in the United States. A coalition from across the continent came together to sustain 14 days of sit-ins in front of the White House to pressure President Obama to veto a proposal for the Keystone XL pipeline. The Keystone XL threatens to split the U.S. from Canada down to Texas, all to ship the dirtiest crude oil from the Alberta Tar Sands down to the Gulf Coast for export to international markets. It spells trillions of dollars for big oil, death for Indigenous communities in Canada, displacement and poisoned air, land, and water for those living along the pipeline route, and disaster for the climate. In fact, Dr. James Hansen said if the pipeline goes through, it is essentially “game over” for the planet.

Outcomes

In the last two weeks 1,252 people were arrested sitting-in at the White House, and thousands more came out to support, rally, and build connections across movements. The vast majority of participants had never taken action before. Delegations of frontline communities came on different days to speak their truth directly to the White House, including a large delegation of Native American and Canadian leaders with Indigenous Environmental Network & Indigenous Peoples Power Project (IP3), communities from Appalachia, the Gulf Coast, and along the proposed pipeline route from Idaho, Nebraska, Montana, and Texas. Climate scientists, teachers, mothers, farmers, senators, and celebrities participated. The action persisted through both an earthquake and a hurricane, highlighting the message that the earth is in crisis and extreme weather patterns will only increase if this goes through. There were over 4,500 media hits, including every major media outlet in the United States and Canada (Wall Street Journal, AP, Reuters, CNN, NBC, Fox, CBC, NPR, Huffington Post, etc) and on the day of Hurricane Irene, we made the front page of the New York Times.

Through the process, nightly action briefings/trainings introduced thousands to Nonviolent Direct Action as a tool for change and as an orientation to movement strategy. The experience of these participants is one of the ways we measure success in the action.

The Tar Sands Action was thoroughly an intergenerational effort – on the first day the youngest person to be arrested was 17 and the oldest was 82. On the third day, an 84 year old woman greeted me as she was getting out of jail and said:

“When I saw all you young people leading trainings, I thought ‘yes! The youth will save us.’ But as I sat in with so many people in their 70s and beyond, I thought ‘no, we all have to do it together!”

Other participants shared insights like “It seems like this action was the training wheels I needed – and now I’m ready to ride the bike!”

The action was not just designed to pressure Obama and make a strong stand against the pipeline, but to offer a pathway into sustained organizing and action for people across the country.

Ruckus’ Involvement

The Ruckus Society’s network offered much of the training, facilitation, action coordination, and jail support. Our teams included Ruckus and Indigenous Peoples Power Project members: Rob C, Madeline G, Heather ML, Joshua KR, Hannah S, Jack D, Omi H, Gitz C, Adam T, Levana S; the art was coordinated by Cesàr M; and one of the action’s core coordinators was Matt L.

Mohawk activist and Ruckus member Ben P, took a photo of NASA’s Dr. James Hansen getting arrested, which Rolling Stone magazine called “Iconic” and the most important photo since the 1970’s “Blue Marble” photo, depicting Earth as a lonely sphere adrift in space.

Check out a video of Hansen’s statement at the White House.

It was an honor for Ruckus to support so many different groups and people from across the country, helping offer a pathway into movements for change.

Supporting Indigenous Leadership

One of the most powerful aspects of the action for a lot of the trainers was including testimonials and presentations from impacted peoples in each training. In addition to training, our organizational role was to help support Indigenous People’s Power Project (IP3) and Indigenous Environmental Network’s delegation to have a series of actions, including a statement at the Canadian Embassy, meetings with officials, public presentations, and of course, participating in the civil disobedience.

Strategic Questions

The scale and scope of this action raises many movement strategy questions for us that we’re excited to explore. While the “arrest count” was highly visible, we do not measure success in arrests, but in more qualitative measures such as:

1)   Of the thousands who participated in this action, did we prepare them enough and offer them clear next steps to take their organizing and action to the next level beyond this action? Was it truly a doorway into sustained action, or just a flash-in-the-pan?

2)   How much did the attention this action gave to frontline voices create capacity for their ongoing work?

3)   What new alliances were born out of this work between the environmental and other movement sectors? For example, Ben Jealous, the head of the NAACP came and spoke at one of the trainings – what are the next steps for us to build deeper relationships?

4)   How does the media success of this action open up space to popularize Nonviolent Direct Action not just as a pressure-tactic, but as a strategic approach to campaigning?

5)   How do we measure political success when the final week of the action saw a number of disappointing moves by the Obama administration, including his caving-in on Ozone standards. How do we understand this pipeline, whether its approved or not, as a piece of a larger puzzle of shifting the balance of forces in our society?

What’s next

In the wake of the action, communities around the country have a renewed sense of energy for their own local fights, and Ruckus is excited to support them though that. In Montana, a group of grandmothers, including Margot Kidder (who played Lois Lane in the Superman films), and Tantoo Cardinal (a Cree actress who grew up in Alberta and starred in Dances With Wolves, and many other Hollywood films) will be working with Ruckus trainers to engage in direct action to stop the pipeline from coming through their homes. This action has made a national issue of the Tar Sands, which previously few people in the United States knew much about. It has offered an opportunity for continued pressure on Obama around pipeline approval, which Ruckus will stay involved with. It is also an injection of new support for the longstanding and ongoing Tar Sands fights, including the Heavy Haul, which Rising Tide activists in the US have recently been laying their bodies in front of trucks to stop, Indigenous Tar Sands campaigning in Canada, and finance campaigns in Europe.





Defusing the Carbon Bomb

22 08 2011

Wanted to make a quick personal update – shortly after leaving Salt Lake City to train & help coordinate actions for Tim Dechristopher’s trial, I am now in Washington DC for the next few weeks. We are coordinating sit-ins for 14 days in a row, where 50-100 people are risking arrest each day at the White House to draw attention to, and ultimately stop, the Keystone XL Pipeline. Thousands have signed up to participate, and we’ve already seen overwhelming media attention. This pipeline would another tentacle on the largest fossil fuel development on the planet, the Alberta Tar Sands, and NASA climatologist James Hansen calls it “game over for the planet” if it goes through. So we’re drawing a line in the sand for Obama.

I’m here as a trainer and action coordinator, helping organize and prepare participants to commit an act of civil disobedience, and help navigate & facilitate the experience with them. Many are risking arrest for the first time. It’s an honor to support them through it, and even though we are just beginning, this action already feels historic. It’s particularly nourishing to me that so many of the participants are of an older generation – its a thrill getting to train people twice my age. On our first day, the youngest person arrested was 17, and the oldest was 71.

There is of course a lot more to say, but unfortunately we don’t get time to write much these days… though I am updating twitter regularly. In other brief news, my booklet/organizing manual Organizing Cools the Planet, co-authored with Hilary Moore, comes out in a couple weeks. I can’t wait.

Here’s a video from the first day of our action:





26 go to Jail for Justice outside SLC courthouse

26 07 2011

Today, Tim DeChristopher was sentenced to 2 years in prison and taken away from the courthouse without goodbyes or the option to self-report. In court, Tim said “You can put me in prison but it will not deter my future of civil disobedience and it won’t deter others who are willing to fight to defend a livable future.”

Blockading the courthouse entrance following Tim's sentencingOutside the Courthouse, hundreds of supporters had gathered from the Salt Lake City community, singing, chanting, and speaking out as they bore witness to the sentencing. Immediately after the bang of the gavel Ashely Anderson and Ashley Sanders were hauled out of the courtroom for loudly rallying people inside saying, “this court has proven itself incapable of justice. So the people will take it back – it is now our court!” foreshadowing the civil disobedience to come outside. As Henia Belalia left the Courthouse, she made an official statement declaring, “If there was ever a day in history to take action, this is it.” And people took action. Peaceful Uprising activists did a sit-in to blockade the 2 front entrances of the Federal Courthouse, to tell the world “its ours” and emphasize that if Tim was going to jail, they were too, giving meaning to the slogan “we are all Bidder 70.” Taking their lead, members of the community began to join the blockade to show their love and outrage. 26 people were arrested.

A mother who joined the blockade was with her three children during the time of arrest, and said in tears “I need you to see this, its for your future.” Those participating in the sit-in chose to emphasize their point that business as usual is unacceptable by moving to blockade a major intersection in front of the courthouse during rush hour. As supporters continued to sing and support those who locked down, Tim DeChristopher was quickly rushed out the side door in chains and loaded into a police van. We can only hope he felt our support, and that that support is carried to all people of conscience who do what is right for people and the planet.

Today a true crime was committed in every federal courthouse in the United States. Why is Tim now in prison for protecting our future, while corporate CEOs walk free with millions of dollars for destroying it? We recognized today that our justice system has failed us. It, like our economy and other branches of government, are controlled by the fossil fuel industry. And today we affirm that we stand with millions actively taking it back. Please see our official response to the sentencing for action opportunities and links to all of the remarkable actions that are being taken around the country.

Act! The movement is with you.





Breaking: Tim DeChristopher sentenced to 2 years in prison, taken immediately into custody

26 07 2011

Tim DeChristopher was sentenced to 2 years in prison today at the Salt Lake City federal courthouse. He was taken immediately into custody, being denied the typical 3 weeks afforded to put his affairs in order and say goodbye to his friends and family.

Federal prosecutors asked for Tim to receive an extra harsh prison sentence in an effort to intimidate the movement that stands with him. They hoped that by condemning him to years behind bars, they would “make an example out of him” and deter all of us from taking meaningful action. But Tim is already an example. He’s an example of the courageous acts that people across our movements are taking to fight for justice and a liveable future. We support Tim by continuing to organize. Our response to this sentence is an affirmation: we will not be intimidated.  What’s your response?

The government’s statement is clear. Tim has been sentenced to 2 years as punishment for his politics; for the uncompromising content of his speeches and organizing in the two years sincehis act of civil disobedience protected 150,000 acres of land. Ironically, his principled views and motivations behind his actions he took were never allowed to enter a courtroom, due to their “irrelevance.” In a highly political trial, the jury was unjustly stripped of its right to be their community’s conscience and manipulated into making a political prisoner of a peaceful and concerned young man.

Tim DeChristopher

Author and activist Terry Tempest Williams said, “To think that a young man in an act of conscience might [do any amount of time] in a federal prison for raising a paddle in an already illegal sale of oil and gas leases, compared to the CEO of BP or the financial wizards on Wall Street who have pocketed millions of dollars at our expense  – and who will never step into a court of law to even get their hands slapped, let alone go to jail, is an assault on democracy.”

She’s right. But we have the power to turn this assault on democracy into a battle for democracy. Today the Salt Lake City community is expressing both their love and their outrage.

Fossil fuel lobbyists knew that Tim would be indicted the evening before it was officially filed, Jury members explained that they were intimidated throughout the process. The fossil fuel industry should not control our justice system.

Unless we decide to respond accordingly, as Tim serves his time, the real criminals — the fossil fuel industry wrecking our planet and our communities — will continue to run free, unaccountable for the countless oil spills, asthma attacks, contaminated waterways, cancer clusters, and carbon seeping into the air we breathe every day. If the justice system is intent on prosecuting the people protecting rather than pillaging the planet, we must confront the real criminals ourselves. With our heads held high, we continue to stand on the moral high-ground – and will do what’s right, despite the consequences. We know that mother nature’s consequences of inaction are far harsher than any imposed by a court system.

But we are not isolated individuals. We come together with our communities as groups of empowered agents of change who know our system is broken and does not represent us. Our communities represent us, and our vision of a resilient, just, and sustainable world that we are fighting for.

Tim’s sentence is a call to action.

For those of us who’ve been following his story fervently, our hearts were broken today. It is a sad moment. But we now have an opportunity and a responsibility to act on those feelings of hurt and outrage. For Tim’s sacrifice to truly mean something, for the spark it ignites in each of us to burn, we all must take action.

2011 has already become a year of peaceful uprisings around the country. As Tim once said, we were never promised that it would be easy. We know it will take courage, sacrifice and a willingness to sustain our resistance in our fight for real Justice. Tim has taken a step and we will take the next thousand.

Here are a few upcoming action opportunities to join:

We’ll see you on the streets,

Peaceful Uprising and Tim’s community of courage.





Lessons from Tea Party Tweets

13 06 2011

What I learned from spending 5 minutes looking at a Tea Party twitter feed.

cross-posted from Beyond the Choir

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the activist filter bubble, the reverberating echo-chamber of insular social media and political networks that keeps progressives marginal and talking to ourselves. Recently, I’ve had several different Tea Party twitter accounts follow me (at least four this week alone) and began talking to friends about whether or not this means they are 1) building lists of progressive activists for potential future smear-campaigns; 2) following their opposition so they can Retweet things out of context to scare/outrage their base; or 3) genuinely interested in hearing perspectives outside their own echo-chamber. Whatever their purposes, it reminded me that we can learn a lot from the way our opposition presents itself through social media forums (of course there is a lot of deception and other missteps that we don't  want to emulate, but there are some transferrable best practices mixed  in too – here’s some of both).

A few minutes ago I got an email notice that @TheTeaParty_net is following me.

1) Their twitter profile (which I see in the notification email) succinctly states the values they profess to hold: “Limited federal government • Individual freedoms • Personal responsibility • Free markets • Returning political power to the states and the people”

I already know what they stand for and I haven’t even looked at their twitter feed yet. In fact, their statement of values is likely the thing that will make me choose to look or not look.

And here’s what I notice from literally 5 minutes of browsing their twitter feed:

2) Constant creation of an “us vs. them” narrative, inviting people to identify as part of their group (“us”) and asking people to take a small action (retweeting) to signal their insiderness. A kinestetic action simple as pressing a button helps solidify the choice that was made by the tweeter. It asks them to take a stand, pick a side, and then reinforces that choice with a physical action that their peers can see. They ask their tweeps to do this on a regular basis.

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Activists Caught in the Filter Bubble

2 06 2011

How personalization helps activists find each other while losing society
By Jonathan Smucker. Cross Posted from Beyond the Choir.

Eli Pariser’s new book The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You is a must-read for pretty much anyone who uses the Internet. Eli breaks down troubling trends emerging in the World Wide Web that threaten not only individual privacy but also the very idea of civic space.

Of key concern to Eli is “web personalization”: code that maps the algorithms of your individual web use and helps you more easily find the things that the code “thinks” will pique your interest. There’s a daunting amount of information out there, and sometimes it can feel overwhelming to even begin sorting through it. Personalization can help. For instance, I can find music that fits my tastes by using Pandora, or movies I like through Netflix. The services provided by companies like Pandora, Netflix, Amazon, et al are designed to study us—to get to know us rather intimately—to the point where Netflix can now predict the average customer’s rating of a given movie within half a star. Eli paints a picture of your computer monitor as “a kind of one-way mirror, reflecting your own interests while algorithmic observers watch what you click.”

Whatever the benefits, the intent of these services isn’t just to benevolently help us find the things we’re looking for. They’re also designed to help companies find unwitting customers. When you open your web browser to shop for a product—or really for any other reason—you yourself are a product whose personal information is literally being sold. Companies that you know, like Google and Facebook, and companies you’ve probably never heard of (e.g. Acxiom) are using increasingly sophisticated programs to map your personality.

And it’s not just creepiness and individual privacy that’s at issue here. Personalization is also adding to a civic crisis. It’s one thing for code to help us find music, movies and other consumer products we like. But what about when code also feeds us our preferred news and political opinions, shielding us from alternative viewpoints? Personalization now means that you and your Republican uncle will see dramatically different results when you run the same exact Google news search. You’re both likely to see results that come from news sources that you prefer — sources that tend to reinforce your existing opinions. Maybe your search will pull articles from NPR and Huffington Post, while his will spotlight stories from FOX News. Both of you will have your biases and worldviews fed back to you — typically without even being aware that your news feed has been personalized.

Web personalization is invisibly creating individual-tailored information universes. Each of us is increasingly surrounded by information that affirms—rather than challenges—our existing opinions, biases, worldviews, and identities.

This filter bubble impacts everyone. And it poses big challenges for grassroots activists and organizers in particular.

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The Rapture didn’t come, but don’t worry, the world is still boiling.

22 05 2011

Cross-posted from Beyond the Choir
Church this morning must have been quite awkward for some people. The sermon might have gone something like “I know we’re all disappointed that the rapture didn’t come, but don’t worry, its not like it’s the end of the world or anything.” Ha ha.

I was among many progressives making fun of the rapture all day yesterday, but ultimately the joke might be on us. When it comes to global warming and climate chaos, the script is a bit too familiar. According to a recent poll, 44% of Americans believe increased severity of “natural” disasters is “evidence of biblical end times. ” That’s nearly half the people in the most powerful country on Earth. 38% believe God uses Nature to dispense justice. It’s an important poll that climate change activists and sensible people everywhere should take seriously.

The #rapture meme picked up remarkably fast. While some have seen billboards declaring May 21st, 2011 to be Judgment Day for a while now, it wasn’t until a couple of days ago that it started getting into the media and many Americans learned that a small fundamentalist sect believed they uncovered the true date of the Beginning of The End. Within a few days over a million people joined multiple “post rapture looting” facebook events, pranks were being played across the country, it was all over the news, and people were cracking jokes on twitter like there’s no tomorrow.

So why did that meme spread so quickly? Unfortunately biblical notions of the coming Apocalypse are not just entrenched in our culture, but are also rearing their ugly heads in our political landscape. And they’re shaping policy.

John Shimkus, The Republican Congressman who hoped to chair the House Energy Committee told reporters this Autumn that we didn’t need to take action to reduce greenhouse gasses because he knows the planet won’t be destroyed. How does he know? God told Noah that it wouldn’t happen again after the Great Flood. Obviously. Shimkus went on to clarify that “The earth will end only when God declares its time to be over.” And its not just Shimkus – the November election saw a wave of new Republican leadership hell-bent on scriptural justifications for inaction on global warming.

In his excellent article Apocalyptic beliefs hasten the end of the world, Jason Mark discusses the depth of biblical explanations used to explain the recent Mississippi river flooding and tornado in Alabama. He cites “two surveys by the Pew Center [that] reveal what climate campaigners are up against. According to a 2010 Pew poll, 41 percent of Americans believe that Jesus will return by 2050. A roughly similar number — 36 percent — disagree that human activity is causing global temperatures to rise.” Jason points out that while causality between these two stats is dubious, worldview clearly plays a significant role in the public’s response to climate science.

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Look mom! I’m in a new book!

19 05 2011

Cross posted from Beyond the Choir.
Look mom! I’m in a book! It just came out. Its called The Next Eco-Warriors and is an anthology of young activists working on environmental issues. While I have contributed chapters to “activist anthologies” before, this project excited me because it is designed for a popular audience. My mom could find it in a random bookstore. It’s being released in multiple countries. And most of the people reading it are likely not active themselves…yet.

Most chapters are personal stories of overcoming difficult odds in service of protecting Mother Earth. The challenge, as I saw it, was to write a personal story that could be accessible and digestible to the (likely older, white, middle class) audience, many of whom have an existing political frame of a “conservation movement.” The task was to then shift that story by underscoring concepts of economic and racial justice, privilege, solidarity, movement building, and collective organizing. I chose to write about my experience helping organize the Capitol Climate Action (CCA). While I have written reflections on this complicated action for other organizers before (here and then here), most of these accounts were analytical; they didn’t actually tell the story at all, they just explained outcomes. Even those accounts felt a little too celebratory – they didn’t fully get into the behind the scenes coalition drama, the challenges around community accountability, or ways the action itself could have better embodied climate justice. I was hesitant to write another “victory” account that didn’t interrogate these real concerns, even though its mostly “insider” debate amongst organizers. I was even more hesitant about writing a first-person narrative about a group effort – a common challenge for organizers writing about collective process to an audience who has a default framework of honoring individual efforts.

And yet, because the Capitol Climate Action was designed to mobilize thousands of “passive allies” – people who agree with us but aren’t yet organizing alongside us – the story of CCA itself seemed a useful narrative to communicate those ideas. No one had simply told the story – and used it as an opportunity to highlight and explain key justice-based concepts to the very audience that was the key demographic CCA tried to mobilize. Despite all the way I might organize the action differently next time, it was a beautiful story that was well positioned to teach some of these lessons.

So here was my attempt at it, direct from the book (also check out chapters by my friends Ben Powless and Enei Begaye):

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I’m on tour with the beehive collective!

29 03 2011

Animals strategizing at the Highlander Folk School

Whew! What a whirlwind it’s been. I’ve been doing a collaborative tour with the Beehive Design Collective for the last month! We’ve been in West Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, and North Carolina so far. We’re so grateful to so many people in the coal fields sharing their stories with us. We’ve stood on top of mountains where we could see 3 mountaintop removal moonscapes at once; given workshops for a middle school girls afterschool program; presented alongside frontline coal community advocates; facilitated interactive organizing trainings at community spaces; given keynote talks at conferences; hung out at community colleges; and had so many generous people open up their homes to us and share with us raw and painful accounts of the challenges they’re up against in their fights for justice.

It has been absolutely exhausting, but deeply politically fulfilling.

We’re leaving coal-affected regions now, and excited to come to Pensylvania, Washington DC, New York, Connecticut, Massachussets, New Hampshire and more. You can check out some of our upcoming dates at Aid and Abet’s site.

It’s been exciting experiment so far that I hope I’ll have more time to reflect on in the near future: mixing beehive style storytelling and graphic presentations with interactive training content on organizing, social movement strategy, campaign strategy, action design, and more. In some cases we’ve been tag-teaming trainings with an organization during the day, and a public beehive presentation at night, but mostly we have been mixing the two somewhat fluidly. It’s felt engaging and a much more accessible format than your standard training OR your standard lecture-style presentation.

For a full listing of our dates (some have info forthcoming), click below:

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