Campement d’Action Climatique!

2 09 2010

Co-written by Maryam Adrangi and Joshua Kahn Russell
Last week saw the culmination of the Quebec Climate Action Camp, the most recent in a series of similar events around the world. Climate Camps look different in different places, but the general idea is to bring together like-minded people from around a region to build common strategies, share skills, and take ACTION!

The Tar Sands have been a focal point this year; in the UK Climate Camp brought together activists challenging the Royal Bank of Scottland’s investments in the Canadian gigaproject. Here in Dunham, Quebec, climate camp was set up to challenge a pipeline coming through this community. The proposed pipeline is called the Enbridge Trailbreaker project, and would bring dirty tar sands bitumen to Montreal and then down to Maine, eventually ending on tankers heading to refineries in the Gulf Coast.

The camp brought together activists from across Quebec, Ontario, the Northeastern US, and beyond, to learn about the intersections of climate and social justice issues, and plan out how to best work together in the coming year. Participants cooked, fed, and set up camp outside and were able to build lasting relationships between various communities to talk about how to build a climate movement.

Resistance to tar sands projects has been growing in Canada and people are taking action locally to end the addiction to fossil fuels and the injustices facing communities because of the dirty industry.

The two-week climate camp ended with a march to the proposed pumping station for the pipeline. Local community member and climate camp participants rallied at the proposed site. “Our objective is to unite in order to act on the root causes of climate change. It is the right time to denounce and block the Trailbreaker project. Local communities and ecosystems cannot afford more oil spills, like that in the Gulf of Mexico.” says Pierre-Olivier Parent, a Climate Action Camp organizer.

Check out some of the media stories about the camp here, and stay up on Quebec action from Climate Justice Montreal

Moments like this are just another signal of increasingly mobilized action-oriented groups who are supporting communities resisting point-source fossil fuel destruction. A couple days ago in the Bay Area, 150 people took action on BP, Chevron, and the EPA, with 26 participating in civil disobedience. Its an exciting moment – lets keep building.





How Bolivia celebrates Earth Day

22 04 2010

This morning my email inbox was full of advocacy groups commemorating the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. As the ecological systems that support life are reaching their brink, there is certainly a good reason to use this opportunity to shine a spotlight on a range of issues and challenges. But activist organizations aren’t alone in commemorating today.

Today I was struck even more by corporations trying to capitalize on Earth Day to green their images. As Becky Tarbotton observed in the Huffington Post, the New York Times summarized the situation well: “So strong was the antibusiness sentiment for the first Earth Day in 1970 that organizers took no money from corporations and held teach-ins ‘to challenge corporate and government leaders’… Forty years later, the day has turned into a premier marketing platform for selling a variety of goods and services, like office products, Greek yogurt and eco-dentistry.”

Photo by Diana Pei Wu

Against this backdrop, World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Cochabamba today is a breath of fresh air.

The Indigenous Environmental Network celebrated today by explaining that “this morning Bolivian President Evo Morales was joined by representatives of 90 governments and several Heads of State to receive the findings of the conference on topics such as a Climate Tribunal, Climate Debt, just finance for mitigation and adaptation, agriculture, and forests. The working group on forests held one of the more hotly contested negotiations of the summit, but with the leadership of Indigenous Peoples, a consensus was reached to reject REDD and call for wide-scale grassroots reforestation programs.”

Jason Negrón-Gonzales of Movement Generation elaborated on how they do Earth Day in Cochabamba: “…from now I’ll be talking to my children and 2010 will be remembered as the year that Earth Day took on new meaning.  It will be the year that humanity turned a corner in our relationship to Mother Earth and began struggling along a new course…more than politics, the conference in Cochabamba brought to the table humanity’s relationship with Pachamama.  This question, raised most pointedly by the Indigenous communities present, was reflected in the project of creating a declaration of Mother Earth Rights, but also went way beyond it.  Can we really reach a sustainable relationship with the Earth unless we stop looking at it as something to be conquered or fixed that is outside of us?  How would it change our lives and our struggles if we thought, as Leonardo Boff of Brazil said, ‘Todo lo que existe merece existir, y todo lo que vive merece vivir (Everything that exists deserves to exist, and everything that lives deserves to live)’?  Or if we understood the Earth as a living thing that we are a part of and that, ‘La vida es un momento de la tierra, y la vida humana un momento de la vida (Life is a moment of the earth, and the human life is a moment of life)’?”

Read the rest of this entry »





Propagandhi wants you to stop the Tar Sands

2 03 2010

Last fall I went on tour with Propagandhi to recruit people to join a campaign to stop the Tar Sands. We created this video to connect with their fans and get them to sign up.





U.N. Climate Talks Bangkok day 3: Filipino activists call for justice as Manila floods

29 09 2009

Cross Posted From Grist.

Flooding in the Philippines yesterday displaced over 600,000 people. As if we didn’t need more of an urgent call to solve the climate crisis.

Increased intensity of flooding is among one of the may well-documented impacts of global warming. The implications have hit our organizing here at the UN in Bangkok too – as some activists had to go to support their families amidst crisis.

But Filipino groups are still here in full force, emboldened to call for the solutions their communities need – this morning The Peasant Movement of the Philippines and the National Federation of Peasant Women in the Philippines held a demonstration in front of the United Nations Climate Change Negotiations in Bangkok.

With vivid street theater, the groups called to abandon false solutions to climate change – such as biofuels.

Demonstrators this morning said “Climate change is not only jeopardizing our future but is being used by multi-national and trans-national corporations who are the main contributors to global warming to rake in more profit from our misery…vast tracts of agricultural lands around the world are being controlled and converted by plunderers into cash-crop plantations such as biofuels and other corporate schemes that forcibly drives us out from our land.”

Their calls for climate equity in negotiations were echoed by even more demonstrators today from Jubilee South and many others, calling on rich countries to pay their ecological and climate debt to the rest of the world. Activists from Thailand, Nepal, Philippines, Malaysia, Pakistan, Indonesia, Africa, and Latin America mobilized to push Northern countries to recognize their historical and disproportionate contributions to climate change, and the disproportionate negative impacts suffered by the Global South. This concept of climate debt is increasingly gaining traction among international civil society, flipping on its head the idea of the debt owed by the South to the North from loans from international finance institutions.

As civil society groups call for financing and compensation for the averse affects of climate change for affected peoples, delegates inside the UN continue to debate on our 3rd day of the climate talks. The pressure is on, and the 600,000 people displaced in the last day only add to the urgency.





BREAKING – activists drop 70′ banner off of NIAGARA FALLS to tell Canadian PM: NO TAR SANDS oil!

15 09 2009

Rainforest Action Network drops Seventy-Foot Banner Over Niagara Falls to Welcome Prime Minister Harper to the U.S.
Canadian Tar Sands Oil Undermines North America’s Clean Energy Future
See more photos here.
update: video below, and climber interview here.

Before dawn this morning, a small team of climate and Native Rights activists rappelled from the US observation deck at Niagara Falls. Dangling hundreds of feet above the ground, they sent a special welcome message to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper ahead of his first official visit to the White House to push dirty Tar Sands oil.

Not that he’s feeling so welcome anyway. Obama limited the meeting to just one hour. While some have called it a slap in the face, Aides say Harper will turn the other cheek. “The economy, and the clean-energy dialogue,” one aide told the Globe and Mail, “will dominate the discussions.” Obama needed to dodge controversy over oil imports from Canada’s tar sands in the midst of the Climate Legislation debate. Harper needed a story to go with his photo-op.

During Harper’s first official trip to meet Obama in the U.S., the two leaders are expected to discuss climate change and energy policy ahead of the upcoming G20 Summit. Canada supplies 19% of U.S. oil imports, more than half of which now comes from the tar sands, making the region the largest single source of U.S. oil imports. The expansion of the tar sands will strip mine an area the size of Florida. Complete with skyrocketing rates of cancer (by 400%!) for First Nations communities living downstream, broken treaties, toxic belching lakes so large you can see them from outer space, churning up ancient boreal forest, destroyed air and water quality, the tar sands have been called the most destructive project on Earth.

Tomorrow’s visit to the U.S. by Prime Minister Harper is the latest attempt by Canadian Federal and Provincial officials to lock in subsidies for 22 new and expanded refinery projects and oil pipelines crisscrossing 28 states, which would transport and process the dirty tar sands oil. Many are concerned that Prime Minister Harper wants to protect the tar sands oil industry from climate regulation, even though it is one of the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada.

Read the rest of this entry »





Mrs. Nixon, Please Help us Stop the Tar Sands

29 07 2009

I originally posted this on itsgettinghotinhere. We’re still reeling from our success yesterday.

During rush-hour commute this morning, two Indigenous Canadian women – Eriel Tchekwie Deranger, and Heather Milton-Lightening – scaled flagpoles in front of the main entrance of Royal Bank of Canada’s (RBC’s) headquarters in Toronto, dropping a banner reading “Please Help Us Mrs. Nixon.com” – appealing to the bank to pull its massive investments in Alberta tar sands projects. Supported by RAN, the Ruckus Society, and their Indigenous People’s Power Project, they were joined by dozens of Toronto RAN activists, swarming entrances to ensure every RBC employee heard our appeal Mrs. Janet Nixon, the wife of RBC CEO Gordon Nixon, to lend her strong and influential voice to those fighting to protect Canada’s clean water and respect Indigenous rights by pushing RBC to stop bankrolling the tar sands. They handed out flyers, held banners, and even circled the building on bikes with “Please Help Us Mrs. Nixon.com” flags.

RBC is the ATM of the Tar Sands.

They are a leading investor in what has been called the dirtiest project on Earth and is one of the greatest social and ecological injustices of our time. Unless they’re stopped by grassroots pressure, oil companies will transform a boreal forest the size of Florida into an industrial sacrifice zone – complete with lakes full of toxic waste that are so big that you can see them from outer space. Tar sands projects poison First Nations Communities, pollute precious water resources, kill wildlife, and are the single biggest contributor to global warming from Canada.

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At the same time as the banner was being unfurled, thousands of RAN supporters and allies began emailing a video to key RBC executives – in which RAN’s Michael Brune appeals to Mrs. Nixon to help RBC offer leadership by withdrawing its funding for the tar sands. (If you haven’t participated in this online action yet, it’s not too late! Click here to view the video and email it to RBC executives.)

You can also view the video on YouTube (be sure to go to PleaseHelpUsMrsNixon.com and take action when you’re done watching):

Check out ongoing news coverage that is just starting, from Bloomberg, CBC, Toronto Star, Toronto Sun, Canadian Press, Daily Kos, Financial Post, Canada.com, Brandon Sun, Stockhouse, KBS Radio, New Brunswick Business Journal, AM 1150, Canadian Business, Vancouver Sun, and much more.

See lots of photos of the action here.

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Climate Justice and Coal’s Funeral Procession

2 05 2009

I wrote a movement strategy piece that is the cover story for the May issue of Z Magazine.

Climate Justice and Coal’s Funeral Procession
Learning from the Capitol Climate Action

The snow was 4.5 inches deep and it was 23 degrees out when our action started at 1pm. We could already hear the Fox News commentators making the usual absurd statements: “A global warming protest in the snow?! Maybe this climate change stuff isn’t real after all, ha ha ha.” But by the end of the day, even Fox News gave positive coverage to the largest protest in history demanding solutions to the climate crisis.

On March 2nd, around 4,000 people came to the Capitol Power Plant in Washington DC, over 2,000 of whom risked arrest through civil disobedience. The vast majority had never been to a demonstration of any kind before, let alone engaged in non-violent direct action. People from communities most directly impacted by coal’s lifecycle — from Navajo reservations in the Southwest to Appalachian towns in the Southeast — led the march. With vibrant multicolored flags depicting windmills, people planting gardens, waves crashing, and captions like “community,” “security,” “change” and “power,” we sat-in to blockade five entrances to the power plant that literally fuels Congress. We called the whole thing the “Capitol Climate Action” (CCA).

The belching smoke stacks just two blocks from the Capitol building made a fitting target for a national flashpoint. They symbolize the stranglehold that the dirty fossil fuel industry – and coal industry in particular – has on our government, economy, and future. Burning coal is the single biggest contributor to global warming. We will not be able to solve the climate crisis or build a clean energy economy without breaking its hold.

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Toronto activists award RBC “fossil fool of the year” for Tar Sands financing

2 04 2009

Five actions in one day in downtown Toronto? No foolin!


Today Rainforest Action Network activists kicked Fossil Fools Day off with a bang, dropping banners off of a highway, greeting over 4,000 cars stuck in deadlock traffic over a period of two hours. From bridges, we broadcast messages about Royal Bank of Canada (RBC)’s financing of the Canadian Tar Sands from our makeshift Pirate Radio station. Our banners read “Pirate Radio 89.9 FM Tune in now” and “Royal Bank creates climate chaos. Renewables not tar sands.” The pouring rain didn’t block our view of car after car reaching for the radio dial as they drove under us. Listen to the audio broadcast we played here!

We moved on to RBC’s headquarters downtown, and throughout the day were joined by over 30 activists filtering in and out for the festivities.

We began by dressing up and impersonated bank employees. About 16 of us rode elevators for up to two more hours, chatting up other RBC personel – “Hey, on my way to work today I heard about how RBC is financing the destruction of Native territories in Alberta, causing people cancer and polluting the water! Tar Sands are the world’s dirtiest oil. Did you know that? I had no idea! I’m telling my manager right away!”

Meanwhile, outside the HQ, several more of us leafleted and held banners reading “RBC Creates poisoned water in our community,” “Renewables not tar sands” and “RBC: financing cancer and toxic sludge.”

Back inside, a lone Torontan walked inside the main office with a beautiful bouquet of balloons. I don’t know where he got the idea to release them in the atrium, or how a banner reading “ROYAL BANK CREATES CLIMATE CHAOS” got attached….I also don’t know how they’re gonna get it down. We have undercover footage of the prank here:

Later that evening, dozens of activists reconvened outside RBC headquarters alongside “Tarbie,” an oil-soaked version of RBC’s prized mascot “Arbie” who explained to passersby that he and RBC are helping finance one of the fastest growing sources of water pollution and greenhouse gas emissions on the planet, and how they conflict with the financial giant’s PR promises to promote clean water.

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SmartMeme analysis on Capitol Climate Action

19 03 2009

Wanted to share a reportback on CCA from Doyle Canning from SmartMeme, an amazing strategy, communications, and training organization.


Reportback: Capitol Climate Action

Doyle Canning, SmartMeme

Two weeks ago I was in the streets with thousands of friends, old and new, for the historic Capitol Climate Action (Check out my pics on FLICKR!) SmartMeme endorsed this action, and I was excited to support the effort by helping to create messages for the action’s banners, training participants in nonviolent direct action , and being a “contingent coordinator” with the awesome Blue Team.

Honestly, I had a ball! The action was well organized, colorful, and upbeat despite the cold temperatures. My nonviolence training session was packed – with a dozen participants showing up 30 minutes early to ensure they got a spot, and a line going out the door when the room was full. 95% of that group were first timers to nonviolent protest, and they were fired up and ready to stop coal and solve global warming.

The action was endorsed by a large and diverse community of organizations, and attention was made to amplifying the voices of directly-impacted people. Leading the march were residents of Appalachian communities being blown-up by the Coal Industry; Indigenous delegations from Black Mesa and Michigan (where five new coal fired power plants are proposed), and leaders from Chicago’s Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, who are fighting for clean air against coal fired power plants. They were joined by celebrities and prominent environmental leaders like Bill McKibben and Wendell Berry, and the executive directors of the convening groups. The majority of participants were students (mostly white), many of them taking action in the streets for the first time.

Action Logic

The Capitol Coal Plant was a smart venue for this event. It comes with built in symbolism and implicit story-based strategy. The plant is powered by coal to warm and cool our nation’s Capitol building. The concept of the action was to draw attention to the fact that coal-fired power is fueling climate destabilization, and highlight the utterly destructive life cycle of coal, from mining to slurry to smog. It was also a way to point to the heavyweight influence that the coal industry has over all of Capitol Hill. Symbolically this was a perfect stage for our play.

But two unexpected things happened that took the story off the script.

1. Days before the protest, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Leader Harry Reid released a letter asking the Capitol Architect to switch the Capitol Power Plant from coal to 100 percent natural gas by the end of 2009.

Organizers responded saying that this was a victory, showing the power of grassroots mobilization to get the attention of power holders. This hardly took the wind out of our sails, but did complicate the frame. The discussion emerged in my nonviolence training about whether this shift even was a victory: “Natural gas is also a fossil fuel.” “The problem is the whole coal/oil/fossil fuel paradigm.” “One symbolic concession is a dangerous victory to claim, given the stakes.”

So the question is, what would a real victory look like? What if we’d pressed Pelosi further, and said “If you want to make a statement, put solar panels on the Mall and windmills along the Potomac, and kick Coal Inc. out of Congress.” As the climate fight intensifies, we cannot settle for half-hearted victories or afford to celebrate false solutions. We’ve got to shift our thinking and get ahead of the curve with visionary, foreshadowing stories and strategies. Bolder demands can be made of the new political establishment, and now is the time to make them.

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Our Capitol Climate Action Victory: in context

4 03 2009

Yesterday thousands of people converged on the Capitol Power Plant to engage in mass civil disobedience, shutting it down for the afternoon to demand clean energy solutions to our economic and climate crises.

Check out the recent media coverage in Associated Press (AP), TIME Magazine, CNN, Huffington Post, The Hill, Alternet, and USA Today.

See lots of pictures here.

There is already a lot being written about how this action achieved our goals in building outside pressure, political will, and urgency to change the national conversation around the climate crisis and get bold policy in 2009. The announcement three days prior to our action that the Capitol Power Plant would be switched off coal validates the power of mass pressure and people power, as we push on to fight for truly clean energy. The amazing media (over 400 stories) we have already gotten have helped shape the national conversation.

I want to talk about another goal we had: movement building – and how we can make the most of it.

Through organizing this action, nearly 2,000 people were trained in non-violent direct action. Hundreds of people stepped into roles like peacekeepers, contingent leaders, artists, trainers, media runners, tablers, scouts, chant leaders, media wranglers, technical communications, police liaisons, worker liaisons, trash clean up, medics, support (bringing people food, water, blankets, and hot chocolate), online support, photographers and videographers, spokespeople, and many many others. Our resolve and determination not only brought many to risk arrest, but all of us to brave harsh weather. Speakers ranging from Dr. Vandana Shiva, to Bobby Kennedy, to DC Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, to Dr. James Hansen took the mic to support this movement and action.

We certainly surpassed our expectation of 3,000 people participating, some are estimating many more than that.

But here’s the inside scoop: it’s important to be real about this action, what it is, and what it isn’t.

This action was a national flashpoint to get together and help move our country forward on a federal level. It was also an “outside strategy” that gave leverage to the thousands who were inside Congress lobbying for clear and specific policy.

But we all know that civil disobedience and non-violent direct action is just one tool of many – sometimes it’s strategic, sometimes its not. We are honored and excited that so many thousands of people have had a transformational experience yesterday and are energized to go home and use these tactics. That was a goal.

But to get excited about tactics for their own sake – devoid of strategic context and community accountability – would be to take the wrong lesson home.

We believe in direct action that is community led, and part of ongoing campaigns where directly affected people are in leadership positions and making decisions. These kinds of direct actions are often smaller and much less “sexy” and “flashy” than national convergences like Capitol Climate Action. The role of national convergences like CCA is specific and rare – and the real work happens when we go back home.

While yesterday’s action was endorsed by over 100 organizations, including many from impacted regions throughout the continent, the convening organizations who made up our organizing group (along with allies) – Rainforest Action Network, Greenpeace, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, and the Ruckus Society – are justice-minded organizations that are national or regional in scope, but are not community-based groups. We want to be transparent about that. We believe in supporting such groups and their leadership in our movement. We were honored to be able to support Native, Appalachian, and urban communities affected by the life cycle of coal in leading our march and being spokespeople for the action. But people wanting to engage in tactics like this should seek local community support and build with one another to craft a smart, thoughtful intervention and escalation with people who live in the impacted area. Read the rest of this entry »





International Youth Climate Movement at the U.N.

15 12 2008

This video was made by Yong Ping Loo from Singapore from the last day of youth action at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Conference of Parties (COP14).

We are everywhere.





Wise Up Dominion!

16 09 2008

The Beginning

We woke up at 3:30am, but few of us had slept the night before. You’d think we’d be groggy, but the adrenaline and excitement propelled us into action. By 5:30am two trucks holding steel barrels reading “good jobs, healthy communities: we deserve a clean energy future” and “prosperity without poison” pulled into the rendezvous point. My heart was pounding as I pulled a van full of concerned citizens and young activists to meet them, two more cars trailing me. A half hour later we all jumped out at the entrance to Dominion’s new $1.8 Billion coal-fired power plant in Wise County VA. Within seconds we had a blockade. Nine people were connected to concrete-filled barrels, two of which donned six large solar panels illuminating the sun in the background of a large banner reading “Renewable Jobs to Renew Appalachia.” Two more chained themselves to gates, keeping them closed. Our solar lit banner stretched out above the rosy smiles of visionaries young and old. It was a true privilege to work with such skilled organizers and help coordinate one of the most fluid, tight, and positive Nonviolent Direct Actions I’ve ever been a part of.

We watched the sun rise together.

CHECK OUT OUR VIDEO HERE:

Solidarity

I’m not from Appalachia. I’m here because I’ve been deeply inspired by coal-field residents who have spent their lives standing up for clean air and water, good green jobs and a better future for their families. And it’s made them subject to intense harassment and intimidation. Wise County citizens have been fighting this Dominion plant for over two years; they’ve spoken out at every public hearing, filed ever paper and lawsuit possible, and gotten 45,000 people to sign a “mile long” petition to the governor. And now many took the next step and invited friends from around the region and country to join them in solidarity for the first ever protest at this plant. Nonviolent Direct Action is about risking one’s own personal safety for the greater good. It is an act of courage that can come with some severe consequences. That people travel from all around to support this local struggle is emblematic of the world we are fighting for – one in which we look out for one another and support each other, even when that comes at personal cost. 11 of the activists today were arrested and are currently navigating their way through the labyrinth that is the U.S. legal system. We have a vigil setting up for them as I type this.

Intergenerational

Alongside those (mostly young people) who chose to put their bodies on the line, came a contingent of cheering protesters of all ages, including a nun, ex coal miner, veteran, schoolteachers, and students. The positive energy was infectious: there was a sense of agency and empowerment shared among all of us, even as we choreographed an elaborate and potentially dangerous dance between police and Dominion employees. The action was courteous, respectful, and residents who were new to this type of action kept remarking about how it was a “class act.” The words “classy,” “beautiful,” “reasonable,” and “respectful” were constantly heard both from Wise County residents, passers-by in cars and trucks, and even the police.

It’s no surprise people were ready to take such a step – and to take it so seriously. Wise County has already had 25% of its historic mountain ranges destroyed forever to mountaintop removal mining. We’re not just talking about saving the environment here, we’re talking about cultural survival for one of the poorest regions of the country.

Click below for more story, pictures, & media links.

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on megacamps and imaginal cells.

20 08 2008

I just got back from seven days that reminded me why youth are gonna save the world. I had the privilege of helping train and learn from 200 brilliant young organizers in Minneapolis Minnesota at the Energy Action Coalition Power Vote camp.

It was the most fluid and well organized training I had ever been a part of. More striking than the hard organizing skills, the web2.0 tech saavy, the smart message, strategic approach or visionary ideas, was the overwhelming sense of being called to duty.

Over and over again I heard college students telling stories about how something deep inside of them is telling us that our planet – our ecosystems, our economic, and social systems – is on the brink of collapse, and that it’s our generational challenge to steer our society and world back to sanity.

One of the most enduring metaphors of the week was shared by a young organizer: when a caterpillar is about to encase itself in a cocoon it becomes over-consumptive. It eats more than its share of leaves on the tree and grows fat and sluggish. At the moment of its developmental excess, a group of specialized cells called “imaginal cells” gravitate toward one another and find each other. Even though they are in the minority, they flow through the “nutritive soup” that has become of the rest of the caterpillar, and then they steer the caterpillar’s development until it eventually breaks through its cocoon as a butterfly.

I had heard activists of various kinds share this metaphor before. But never had I seen it catch with such resonance as this week. It struck a deep chord with participants, who were grounded in their knowledge that this is our moment and our movement. These young folks are helping usher in a new era of civic engagement with revolutionary ideas like climate justice, clean energy, sustainable communities, economies, and self determination.

The current call-to-action is called Power Vote. The idea is to build a youth voice to hold our leaders accountable by getting 1 million young people to pledge making climate a priority in the presidential election AND afterwards…

That in itself would be a remarkable feat. But we’re not stopping there. With our ‘organizer hats’ on, we see these elections as an opportunity: right now everyone in our country is talking politics. We view the elections not as an end in of themselves, but as a chance to build connections between young progressives across the country to join the youth climate movement and engage in work long after the elections. We’re leveraging our political moment to build lasting power from the ground up, strengthening local organizing across the country where it matters: in our communities.

Many students told me that for the first time, they genuinely feel a part of a movement. The energy was infectious and boundless. Trainers from Wellstone Action!, Energy Action Coalition, EAC Partners (like me!), and the Georgetown Day School Diversity Coordinators, helped set the stage for something beautiful. In particular if you ever get the chance to experience Wellstone Action, it may just change your life. I know it did for so many young visionaries this week.





Rebirth of a Dream

15 04 2008

by Amy Ortiz and Joshua Kahn Russell

This past weekend, April 4-6th, something historic took place in Memphis, Tennessee. During the same few days where people from across the nation gathered in the place where Martin Luther King Jr’s was assassinated forty years ago to honor the man, his legacy, and his dream for America, a thousand people, the majority of them people of color, came together to take part in rebirthing MLK’s vision. At The Dream Reborn, visionaries, artists and leaders came together to “create ecological solutions to heal the earth while bringing jobs, justice, wealth and health to all our communities.” We saw environmentalism re-defined, re-vitalized, re-energized and re-imagined, and witnessed not just the rebirth of MLK’s dream, but also the birth of a transformative movement with the power to bring the kind of change that we so desperately need.

The Dream Reborn was a weekend charting a new environmentalism that isn’t so new: the marriage of movements for social justice and the environment. Environmental Justice and other groups have been working at this intersection for years. Racial and Economic justice organizations strive to put an ecological lens on their organizing, just as Environmental organizations strive to put a racial and social justice lens on their work. But this weekend was the birth of that organizing with new language that is gaining influence in the mainstream of society, energy around program such as Green Jobs, and forcing major institutions and even presidential candidates to take notice. In more ways than one, the time for a new environmental movement, one for justice for both people and the planet, has come.

We spent our time at Dream Reborn coordinating and participating in Rainforest Action Network (RAN) – and it’s youth arm RAN Youth Sustaining the Earth (RYSE)’s youth delegation. 13 amazing people aged 13-22, along with 4 RAN staff, came together from across the nation. We represented many different communities, ages, and interests. We came to Memphis to connect, learn, grow, share and ultimately leave with the tools and the inspiration to go back to our communities and build a just, sustainable future. It was a chance not only to bring diverse youth to the table as stakeholders in conversations around green jobs and movements for environmental social justice, but to offer ideas and leadership to RAN’s growing network and the evolution of RYSE.

Featuring keynote speakers such as the Reverend Lennox Yearwood, Winona LaDuke, Afeni Shakur and Majora Carter, with Van Jones emceeing the event, it isn’t surprising that visions of a future of eco-equity permeated the entire weekend. Workshop and panel sessions such as Food Justice and Building a Youth Movement for Green Jobs focused on providing conference attendees with the connections and skills needed to go back to their communities and make this vision a reality. A shared understanding of the truly historic moment we were all partaking in created a space that was imbued with hope and spirituality. There were many moments when we all broke out in spontaneous hand clapping, song, celebrating the beginning of a revolution birthed from love, compassion and respect for all people and the planet.
The conference was more than just a networking opportunity. We were building community. Community with one another as RAN and RYSE organizers; community across organizations and movements. It was the birth of something exciting. It charted a course for a new revitalized vision for our country and the world. It helped provide the kind of glue that social movements are made of, bringing together the longstanding amazing work of organizers and organizations for racial and economic justice, and for the sustainability of our planet, in a way that makes a truly multi-racial mass movement for change in this country seem within our reach.

As young people, we’re committed to making the dream a reality. Lucky for us, we have the knowledge and wisdom of movements past and present to build with and learn from. We’re ready.





Chevron, this weekend!

13 03 2008

Join us (Bay Rising affinity group) and about a million other groups in saying…

NO WAR, NO WARMING, NO MORE POLLUTION
Saturday, March 15th – 11.00am RALLY, 1pm DIRECT ACTION
For more info: www.actagainstwar.net; 510 984 2566


* End the War and Occupation in Iraq and the Policies of Empire Behind the War; TROOPS HOME NOW!.
* Stop Chevron’s Plans to Expand their Richmond Refinery to Refine Dirty Crude!
* ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE, CLIMATE JUSTICE & HUMAN RIGHTS NOW! From Richmond to Burma, from Ecaudor to the Philipines, from Alaska to Nigeria
* Create Just, Democratic REAL Green Energy, Transportation, Jobs and Economy!
Join us.

11am. Rally. Judge G. Carroll Park, W. Cutting Blvd & S. Garrard Blvd, Richmond. Community groups from Richmond and other impacted communities will be speaking. Speakers at the rally include Henry Clark of West County Toxics Coalition, Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, and Jessica Tovar from Communities for a Better Environment. Performers include DJ Jermiah and Afrobeat Nation, DJ Zeph and Azeem, spoken word artist Ariel Luckey, and the Raging Grannies.

1pm. Nonviolent Direct Action. Chevron Refinery, 100 Chevron Way, Richmond. Our goal is to stop all stolen Iraqi oil from exiting and entering the refinery by land, by boat, by bike. We’re also planning a street party with awesome DJs, bands and local artists.

This action is cosponored by West County Toxics Coalition, Richmond Greens, Richmond Progressive Alliance, Community Health Initiative, Direct Action to Stop the War, Amazon Watch, Rainforest Action Network, Bay Area united for Peace and Justice, ANSWER SF, Greenaction and many more

Here’s our press release:

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Vote for the biggest Fossil Fool!

8 03 2008

Well its that time of the year again – Fossil Fools Day is coming up! On April 1st all across the world people are going to take creative action to expose the Fossil Fuels industry for who they really are. You might even want to learn all about it here.
To gear up for it, Energy Action Coalition, Rainforest Action Network, and Co-op America are hosting The Foolies – the first ever Fossil Fools day Awards. Don’t forget to vote!

And in case you’re wondering who I voted for….

Fossil Fool of the Year: Ken Lewis, CEO of Bank of America
Most Inauspicious Newcomer: Patricia Woertz, CEO of ADM
Lifetime Achievement: Don Blankenship, CEO of Massey Energy
Biggest Human Toll: Gregory Page, CEO of Cargill
Outstanding Performance in Corporate Greenwashing: Rick Wagoner, CEO of General Motors





VICTORY for the Old Growth Campaign!

28 02 2008

Yesterday our Old Growth Campaign won a major victory! We have been supporting the Indigenous community of Grassy Narrows in their struggle to protect their traditional territory. As the result of mounting pressure – including pressure from our recent day of action targeting Office Max, and actions like the sit-in at Ohio State University (which you can keep up with here, here, here, and here), Boise announced yesterday that they are refusing to purchase stolen wood that comes from Grassy. This is big. Millions of dollars big.

Annie Sartor explains what all this means below:

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Environmental Justice Movement says NO to Carbon Trading!

20 02 2008

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Hot on the heels of an amazing speaking tour by members of the Durban Group for Climate Justice – a coalition of mostly California-based groups spoke out today opposing carbon-trading schemes. Issuing The California Environmental Justice Movement’s Declaration Against Use of Carbon Trading Schemes to Address Climate Change – the groups argued that such systems are inadequate to confront the climate crisis; marginalize front-lines communities fighting environmental justice battles; and are designed to benefit corporate interests – not communities or the climate.

Endorsing organizations include California Communities Against Toxics, California Environmental Rights Alliance, Carbon Trade Watch, Communities for a Better Environment, GreenAction, Rainforest Action Network, West County Toxics Coalition and many more.

Interesting factoid – Does anyone know what organization had the largest delegation in Bali? It wasn’t the usual suspects of Greenpeace, or Friends of the Earth – it was the pro-carbon trading lobbing group – the International Emissions Trading Association. Why? Because the idea of creating a trade-able commodity of our atmosphere means trillions of dollars – in a market that working-class people have no access to – but multi-national corporations, banks, brokers, and investors are giddy over.

In addition to the myriad reasons to oppose carbon trading – here’s a big unintended, but very real consequence. We have a hard enough battle in the climate movement already fighting the lobbying interests of Big Oil, King Coal, and the Big 6. But a carbon trading scheme entails a whole new cadre of lobbyists – the brokers and traders and middle-men who have a vested interest in trading away our atmosphere and our future. A zero-carbon economy doesn’t leave many carbon credits to play and profit with – and they will help further delay our transition to a clean energy future.

  • Press ReleaseDownload PDF
  • California Environmental Justice Movement’s Declaration Against Use of Carbon Trading Schemes to Address Climate ChangeDownload PDF
  • Signatories Download PDF
  • Factsheet: The Cap and Trade Charade for Climate Change Download PDF
  • Article “Cap and Charade: The political and business self-interest behind carbon limits,” Wall Street Journal, March 2007. – Link to article.

See the entire press release below – or visit www.ejmatters.org to learn more or sign the declaration!

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Climate Justice and Left Turn

26 12 2007

There is a new issue of Left Turn out. And I have an article in it.
left turn

The issue’s theme is Collective Soul: Religion and the Left. There is also a section on Climate Justice, and my writeup is on the Powershift 2007 summit. I had hoped to give a more intimate reportback here in this blog, as well as a writeup about the RAN/SEAC network that a bunch of us busted our butts launching at Powershift through what turned out to be almost a mini-action camp…but for now, here’s the article. It’s being run next to a few articles on Climate Justice, so it’s meant to compliment those, which are much more heavy in terms of political content.

Powershift 2007: Youth Rising to the Climate Challenge

On November 3rd, I felt a stadium shake from 6,000 students jumping to their feet and chanting “Green Jobs, Not Jails! Parks, Not Prisons! We Won’t Stop Till Somebody Listens!” It was kind of a national coming-out party for the youth climate movement. More than a student environmental conference, Powershift 2007 was a moment revealing youth power and its potential to drive some deeply transformative shifts in this country.

Click below to read the rest of the article!
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Highlights from the Day of Action Against Coal Finance

20 11 2007

From Scott Parkin

The Day of Action Against Coal Finance has been great, over 40 cities and towns did well over 100 actions against Citi and Bank of America (with a couple of actions against Duke and Peabody).

The movements to stop destructive coal extraction and coal-fired power plants is building momentum. These are a few highlights from the Thursday, Friday and Saturday’s activities.

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Citibank shut down!

15 11 2007

On Monday Nov 5th, Rainforest Action Network (RAN), Coal River Mountain Watch, the Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC), Rising Tide, representatives from mountain-top removal affected communities, and 300 of our closest friends shut down a major Citibank branch with mass civil disobedience in DC for a day.


Citibank is one of the biggest funders of coal-fired power plants , which are ravaging our climate and destroying Appalachia through mountain-top removal.

Representatives from affected communities – the places that are being destroyed by mountain-top removal – came and gave moving speeches and rallied at the park across from the World Bank. Activists dressed in haz-mat suits with Citi logos that were transformed into smokestacks, dumped wheelbarrows full of coal all over the front of Citibank, taped up the doors and with “climate criminal” caution tape, while more than 300 young activists had a die-in, blocking the Citibank entrance using our bodies and mountains of coal as blockades. We chanted “Hey people! (yeah?!) Coal is over! (yeah?!) Tell Citibank to invest in wind and solar!” Before the rally began, community members from directly impacted communities in Appalachia entered the branch to dialogue with the bank’s management and employees about their employer’s policies. Then a group of students went into talk with investment bankers about what the money from their student loans are being used for.

Most of the 300+ participants had never done an action before. It was organized to be accessible, inclusive, and build a collective sense of power, while directly confronting one of the largest financial institutions on earth with civil disobedience. It was empowering, exciting, and had creative but tight messaging that was focused, with props, costumes, art, and signs of all kinds. We shut down all of Citibank, including ATMs, and there were no arrests. The action put a lot of heat on Citi in a way that is helping escalate a larger campaign against them, but was also a radicalizing moment for a lot of folks who had never even thought about that kind of activism before. The action was led and directed by people from the communities most impacted by the issue, and there were immediate ways to keep the momentum going and plug in beyond the action itself.

After the shutdown, we had a dance party and people came up and spoke to the crowd making connections between war in Iraq and oil dependency and energy at home, between the destruction ravaging Appalachia and the destruction in New Orleans after Katrina.

And it’s just an appetizer for a Day of Action that is happening a week later, where there will be over 100 actions at Citibank and Bank of America branches in over 50 cites across the country.

To join the campaign holding Citibank and Bank of America accountable for destroying our climate, planet, people’s livelihoods and communities, see www.dirtymoney.org

Click below for video, photos, links to articles and info!

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On media stunts and humor…

24 10 2007

About a week ago, we issued some statements challenging Al Gore to do civil disobedience on a RAN day of action coming up. I hope to write an analysis soon about the logic behind doing it and the way it has helped frame issues in the media, but in lieu of talking about media strategy and Story, I wanted to quickly share one of the articles that resulted from it.

This is from The Nation.

If Gore Were Arrested…

Mark Hertsgaard

Fresh from winning the Nobel Peace Prize for his climate change evangelism, Al Gore is apparently considering an invitation from a prominent environmental group to engage in civil disobedience against the construction of new coal-fired power plants.

Rainforest Action Network issued the invitation to the former Vice President, according to RAN executive director Michael Brune. The San Francisco-based group has a twenty-year history of protesting against destructive logging practices and other causes of climate change; it specializes in targeting corporations as much as governments.

Read more by clicking below…

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