Evolutionary logic of collective action (series)

15 02 2011

Beyond the Choir is publishing a valuable series of articles getting at the root of human behavior and ways we are hard-wired for collective change. Below are four articles from Jonathan Smucker. Check em out.

In this series I explore how evolutionary theory might help to explain the origins and logic of collective action, and how it might inform the thinking and strategies of progressive change agents.

This is the landing page for the series. You can bookmark it and check back for new posts, which I’ll be linking to from this page.

  1. Humans: not just selfish
  2. War, xenophobia and other downsides to group selection
  3. The Political Identity Paradox
  4. Immigration: anatomy of a progressive narrative




U.S. State Dept, Translated

14 02 2011

All last week during the Egyptian uprising, many of us joked that Obama would take a firm stance asking Mubarak to immediately step down…at least 3 days after he steps down. While Egypitans and freedom-loving people around the world were rejoicing this weekend with an important and momentous battle won (and a long struggle still ahead), the U.S. government was saving face. Obama declared that it was a beautiful example of non-violent mass movement and moral force. He’s right, of course. But as the U.S. administration’s position constant shifts and turns may be confusing to the casual observer. Luckily Diary of a Walking Butterfly shares with us a translation of the U.S. State Dept’s position two weeks BEFORE people toppled their repressive U.S.-backed regime with nonviolent mass movements….

‘Oh what’s that? Sorry its hard to hear you with all these flags flapping in my ear.’ — David Cross

On another note, it has been fascinating to watch the political divides in the Right Wing in the previous week. Many conservatives were ready to see Mubarak go, and liked the idea of the military taking over. Many others (including Fox News) threw their hats in with the Islamophobes, creating a fantasy of an Islamic fundamentalist overthrow a-la-Iran. Glenn Beck’s conspiracy theories, as always, were the most entertaining – that U.S. Communists were forming an alliance with Middle Eastern “Islamic Terrorists,” and engineering a revolution in Egypt to create a haven and base-of-operations for the coming revolution in the U.S. While its fun to laugh at his lunacy, the political fracturing among the Right is important, and will likely increase with time. Another blog on that soon…





SF to Cancun: Social Movements Bring Hope as COP16 Falters

7 12 2010

Thousands of community activists around the world take action to promote Local Solutions to the Climate Crisis


The tone inside the conference center at the U.N. Climate Negotiations in Cancun has been a bit dismal this past week. Yet despite the reduced expectations inside, this morning the international peasant movement La Via Campesina gave us a new injection of hope and vision with a vibrant march of thousands of small farmers, Indigenous peoples and community activists through the streets in Mexico. It kicked off today’s international day of action – “1,000 Cancuns” – where grassroots organizations across the world demonstrated local resiliency and real solutions to the climate crisis. 30 coordinated events took place in the U.S. and Canada today, anchored by the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance.

Here in San Francisco, more than a dozen local community organizations joined forces to help convert a Mission District parking lot into a community garden and park with affordable housing units. Click here for photos.

“This action demonstrates a tangible solution to the climate crisis by promoting local food production, challenging our dependence on automobiles and strengthening bonds within the community,” explained Teresa Almaguer of People Organizing to Demand Environmental & Economic Rights (PODER) “The climate crisis requires community-based solutions and an end to corporate influence within the UN climate negotiations.” In addition to planting vegetables, participants enjoyed live music, theatrical performances and speakers all focusing on solutions to the climate crisis. A common theme at the event was increasing local food production in the fight against climate change, in contrast to the corporate-driven false solutions being put forth inside the U.N. negotiations.

“Industrial agriculture is one of the top three sources of greenhouse gas emissions,” said Michelle Mascarenhas-Swan of Movement Generation. “Agribusiness corporations profit from everything from fertilizer and pesticide sales to control of what goes onto supermarket shelves. The people are left paying the true costs in polluted water, depleted soil, diet-related diseases, and climate disruption. Meanwhile, U.S. agribusiness harms small farmers, farm workers and consumers – in the U.S. and around the world.” Read the rest of this entry »





At COP16 Cancun: Canadian First Nations Representatives Deploy Giant Human Banner Demanding End to Tar Sands Development

2 12 2010

Cancun, Mexico, Dec 2, 2010 — Indigenous Peoples of Canada and their allies from around the world are in Cancun at the COP-16 climate summit demanding real action to reduce fossil fuel pollution. Over twenty people with color-coded T-shirts that spelled out the words “Shut Down the Tar Sands” in both English and Spanish gathered in front of the Maya building to directly deliver their message to UNFCCC delegates. Participants included Indigenous community representatives from fossil fuel impacted community across Canada and the U.S., many carrying personal banners linking tar sands with the destruction of their territories.

Melina Laboucan-Massimo of the Lubicon Cree comes from a community impacted by tar sands. “We have seen the destruction of our lands happen right before our eyes. Our water is being contaminated and we are seeing droughts throughout the region. My family used to be able to drink from our watershed, and now within my lifetime we can no longer do so. Young and old people alike have developed respiratory illnesses as neighboring plants emit noxious gases into the air. First Nations and farming communities have reported health effects to the wildlife and livestock. The area is drastically changing – I fear for the future of my homeland.”

The tar sands are the fastest growing source of GHG emissions in Canada. Unless Canada changes track emissions from the tar sands industry are set to triple to over 120 millions tonnes. Clayton Thomas-Muller of the Indigenous Environmental Network said, “Our communities demand real solutions to address the climate crisis and that means shutting down the tar sands and a moratorium on new fossil fuel development.”

Read the rest of this entry »





VIDEO: our opposition

30 11 2010

I’ve spent most of my life learning to organize with the following premise: social movements are won not by beating and overpowering your opposition, but by shifting the support out from under them. This involves providing action-opportunities to help “passive” allies become “active” ones, and media-strategies to help transform “fence-sitters” into passive allies.

Depending on the campaign, we often must confront our opposition, but this usually means targeting power-holders; for example, when fighting to end Mountaintop Removal, we need to deal with Massey Energy and other coal companies directly. That’s not exactly the same thing as being over-consumed by focusing on our ideological-opposition – the loudmouths who happen to have a different world-view than we do.

But with the rise of the “populist” Right wing backlash that has gotten so much attention in the last year, I have been more and more drawn to studying some of our most vocal (and often ideologically fanatic) opponents. They’re effective at fear-mongering for sure, but their rhetoric is powerful – even when wildly inaccurate – because they have a well-organized base that is rooted in institutional relationships. Talking points aren’t just repeated on Fox News and the message-disciplined Right Wing noise machine, but also every week in churches across our country and other institutions that offer meaning to people’s lives in a holistic way.

It is in that context that I want to share this video, which is being viewed across our country by churches who are reinforcing its anti-poor, anti-environmental, anti-earth message. Its a short clip of a 12 part DVD series.

Their website says: “One of the greatest threats to society and the church today is the multifaceted environmentalist movement,” says Cornwall Alliance founder and national spokesman Dr. E. Calvin Beisner. “There isn’t an aspect of life that it doesn’t seek to force into its own mold.” Whew!

As Dangerous Minds noted, this is so ridiculous that it may be the “Reefer Madness” of our generation…but I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss it. As long as the Environmental movement fails to speak to the concerns of faith-based people, poor and working people, and the needs of communities hurting, dominant narratives like this will continue to compel people.

There has been much hand-wringing about the dramatic poll drop in the U.S. public’s belief in climate change, and how “environmentalists” are losing the battle of the story on climate science. A lot of this shift, I think, is not exactly that we’re losing this specific battle of public opinion. It’s that climate denial is just a small part of a broader “populist-Right” platform that has swept the country; people who used to default on the side of real climate science, are now defaulting on the side of the denial-fantasy because its built into a larger world view that makes meaning in their lives. In that context, it makes sense that now we are seeing a much stronger issue-based conspiracy-theory oriented push from our opposition on climate, because their ideas fit in with a broader orientation of the Tea Party platform.

Its clear by now that policy progress won’t happen on a national level until climate is just one element of a broader progressive platform that gains momentum (led primarily by other concerns, like the economy and health care). So where are the national spokespeople articulating such a platform in a compelling way? Until climate advocates are unafraid to speak boldly and directly to other progressive issues, we will be stuck in issue-based silos that the progressive movement desperately wants to move beyond, but is still struggling to figure out how to do it. That “how” has to go beyond media-saavy messaging and must be rooted in organizing the institutions that people belong to that give our lives meaning – church groups, unions, schools, base-building political organizations, etc.

This video is one example of how people aren’t compelled by facts, but by meaning. On the Left we still seem to think that because what we’re saying is true, that it will automatically be meaningful. The Christian Right proves that the opposite tends to be the case: if something is meaningful to people, they believe it to be true. The old axiom of the “truth will set you free” is only one part of the story. Meaningful stories set us free, if they happen to also be true. That’s our task.





Open Letter to Board and Staff of 1 Sky

23 10 2010

I was asked to post the letter below (to Grist, Znet, & Rabble), written by grassroots organizations engaged in climate justice organizing across the United States (including Grassroots Global Justice, Movement Generation, Indigenous Environmental Network, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives etc – full list at the end).We are at a critical moment for reflection on movement strategy. Perspectives from the front-lines are illuminating and offer us direction. – JKR

To the Board and Staff of 1 Sky,

We are grassroots and allied organizations representing racial justice, indigenous rights, economic justice, immigrant rights, youth organizing and environmental justice communities actively engaged in Climate Justice organizing.

Given the very necessary discussion spurred by your recent public letter (August 8, 2010), we wanted to share with you some of the work we have been doing to protect people and planet, as well as our reflections on a forward-thinking movement strategy. Your honest reflections on the political moment in which we find ourselves, alongside the open invitation to join in this discussion, are heartening.

Organizing a Powerful Climate Justice Movement

Like you, we recognize Climate Disruption as a central issue of our time. With the right set of strategies and coordinated efforts we can mobilize diverse communities to powerful action. Our organizing strategy for climate justice is to: 1) Organize in, network with and support communities who have found their frontlines[1] of climate justice; 2) Organize with communities to identify their frontlines of climate justice, and 3) Coalesce these communities towards a common agenda that is manifested from locally defined strategies to state and national policy objectives through to international solidarity agreements.

Community-Led Climate Justice has been Winning

In assessing the broader landscape of climate activism it is critical to recognize that despite the failure of DC policy-led campaigns, there have also been significant successes on the part of grassroots climate justice campaigns across the U.S.

Read the rest of this entry »





Activists Derail Business School Q&A With Chevron CEO John Watson

13 10 2010

Chevron CEO John Watson was invited to speak about “The Energy Economy” at the University of Chicago business school, Chicago Booth this morning. The event provided audience members a chance to ask Watson questions, and as it just so happens, we have a few we’ve been meaning to ask him.

Some friends and I were concerned about Chevron’s attempts to evade both the law and the company’s moral responsibility to clean up the 18 billion gallons of toxic oil waste it deliberately dumped in the Amazon, killing 1,400 people and poisoning thousands of others. So we paid him a visit.

Rainforest Action Network photo: Change Chevron activists confront John Watson at his alma mater, University of Chicago

Chevron CEO John Watson flees up a staircase (Watson is on the top left) while we hold banners.

Dressed business casual, we came in early and each took seats in different parts of the room. We listened to John Watson distance Chevron from the BP oil disaster. He reassured us all that Chevron is a thoughtful oil company. He went on to say that, above all other objectives, “No goal is more important than operating in a safe and responsible manner.”

On that note, Debra Michaud, a University of Chicago alumna, jumped up to express her dismay that a fellow graduate would be involved in poisoning the communities of 30,000 people. She asked Watson to speak to Chevron’s toxic legacy in Ecuador.

Watson was quick to evade the question, claiming that the damage was not Chevron’s responsibility. He seemed relieved at the end, as if he was thinking, “Phew, glad that’s over.” But it wasn’t.

Read the rest of this entry »





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.





Root Causes of the BP oil disaster

9 08 2010

Recently here in the Bay Area, Mobilization for Climate Justice-West held a Teach In on the BP oil disaster, to prep for an upcoming action on the Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Here’s an excerpt from Carla Perez from Movement Generation, talking about root causes:





Environmentalists say: stop ALL of Arizona’s anti-immigrant law

29 07 2010

Today, Arizona’s “show me your papers” anti-immigrant law SB1070 goes into effect. Across the country, July 29th has been declared a national day of action for Human Rights. Phoenix is ground zero for the collective outrage and protest that this bill has inspired. Here thousands of people are in the streets, many showing their courage by participating in civil disobedience across the city. In particular, downtown Phoenix has been transformed into a temporary “Human Rights Zone” with public promises from communities, businesses, and police to not comply with the law. It is an inspiring moment of solidarity and protest during a very dark time. Don’t let the partial-injunction fool you, most of this law has been allowed to continue, and we all know there are no half-measures when it comes to human rights. The hate and racism we are seeing in Arizona is only the latest, in a long series of escalating demonization of brown communities.

There is one unlikely group that has joined in protest against the anti-immigrant law: Environmentalists.

As I am practicing civil disobedience in Phoenix today, I’m proud to be a part of the new generation of eco-activists who see the forests for the trees (and the people). We believe the fate of our planet intimately depends on how we treat our brothers and sisters, and that standing up for Immigrant Rights is a central element of our task.

These new environmentalists represent a new way of thinking. We’re connecting the dots: an ecosystem is your home. Economy is the management of your home. When you globalize your economy, you globalize your ecosystem. Here’s the frank outcome: the ecological systems that support life on our planet have been pushed to the brink by an economy that trashes natural resources and destroys relationships between peoples across the planet in the process. When you convert forests into paper, mountains into coal, and oceans into oil, you force people off their land and deprive those land-based peoples of the resources they depend on to survive. A key lesson from the Environmental Justice movement is that supporting those communities in protecting their land and their livelihoods is one of the most strategic ways to fight the drivers of climate change. The root cause of environmental degradation and climate change is the root cause of forced migration. Read the rest of this entry »





Why Climate Activists should care about Immigration and Arizona

13 05 2010

Like many people, I’ve been deeply disturbed at the recent racial profiling and deportation laws passed in Arizona, as well as the recent ban of ethnic studies. Its clear that Arizona is our new battle ground. Immigration is going to be front and center for Climate Justice, particularly in the coming years when there are increasing numbers of climate refugees and migrants. I’m in the process of getting my thoughts together for a call-out to the climate community to throw down for a “Freedom Summer” style push to organize in Arizona, but in the meantime wanted to share this recent post by Jason from Movement Generation.

Lets Get This Right: Why We All Need to Stand up for Immigrant Rights Now!

By Jason Negrón-Gonzales

(photo by Marisa Franco, Right to the City Alliance)

Events in recent weeks in Arizona should be a cause for concern for all people who seek justice and progress in the US, and they have special significance for those of us who call the climate justice, environmental justice, and environmental movements our home.  These events call for a principled stand and action on our part, in defense of communities that have been displaced by economic and ecological crises, and against the racist and bigoted institutions that we also confront in the fight for a sustainable future.

In the words of Pablo Alvarado, the Director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Committee (NDLON), “this week, the Arizona legislature passed the most anti-immigrant legislation the United States has seen in a generation.”  This legislation, SB 1070, will:  1. legislate racial profiling by requiring police to arrest and detain people based on a “reasonable suspicion” that they are undocumented, 2. make it a state crime to be unable to produce legal residency documents, and or to transport or shelter undocumented people, and 3. ban day laborers by making it a crime for anyone to “pick up passengers for work” and penalizing anyone seeking work at a day labor site, or those contractors who hire them.

Read the rest of this entry »





Don’t get caught in a bad hotel

13 05 2010

9,000 hotel workers in San Francisco have been struggling for a fair union contract since August 2009.

Some of my friends hatched this idea of a Lady Gaga flash mob inside two of the boycotted hotels. 4 days ago the video went up of the action’s kickoff in the Westin St. Francis hotel – it already has 100,000 views! Props to Pride and Work and One Struggle One Fight.

Never underestimate the power of a fun and creative action – especially one that can ride pop culture momentum. The video has gone viral and is not just shining a spotlight on the campaign, but inspiring lots of others to get into the streets (or corporate offices) and have some fun.





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 »





Dispatch 1: Rumbo a Cochabamba

19 04 2010

The historic gathering of the worlds most affected by climate change is kicking off in Cochabamba this week. Delegations of grassroots activists from the U.S. are going to help give a voice to the “South within the North” – communities on the frontlines of the impacts of climate change and resource extraction and fossil fuel development. Below is the first blog from Jason Negrón-Gonzales of the Movement Generation Justice & Ecology Project on his way down to Bolivia. For up-to-the-minute reports back from Cochabamba check out Global Justice Ecology Project’s Climate Connections Blog.
Dispatch 1: Rumbo a Cochabamba
Jason Negrón-Gonzales

I’m writing from the plane in route to Cochabamba for the People’s World Conference on Climate Change and Rights of the Mother Earth. For those who aren’t familiar with the conference, it was proposed by Bolivian president Evo Morales in the aftermath of the COP15 conference in Copenhagen last December. While that conference was billed early as “Hopenhagen”, this week’s meetings in Cochabamba, Bolivia hold the real seeds of hope for a global response to climate chaos that is rooted in justice, equity, and historical accountability, and led by global social movements of workers, farmers, and the poor.

What’s at stake?

While the world needed and hoped for a responsible and sufficient (if not radical) response to climate change, or at least a solid step in that direction, instead what we got in Copenhagen was more of the same: corporations and developed countries trying to extend their advantage and wealth. The class character of the debate was striking. One the one hand, delegates from Global South and Indigenous communities who are least to blame for emissions and are facing the loss of the livelihoods and homelands were demanding strong action now. On the other, economic powerhouses like the US, which consumes about a quarter of the global energy supply, refused to be accountable for the environmental impacts of their economies and way of life.

Read the rest of this entry »





Lisa Jackson’s Reaction To Mountaintop Removal Activist Lock Down At EPA

18 03 2010

Photos by Chris Eichler

Group Erects Purple Mountain Majesty At EPA: “If Administrator Lisa Jackson Won’t Visit the Appalachian Mountains, They’ll Bring the Mountains to Her”

At 7:00 am this morning, a dozen brave activists released a 25-foot banner on the lawn of the EPA headquarters in Washington, DC. The message on the banner calls on the EPA to pledge to end mountaintop removal coal mining in 2010. But there’s a catch—the banner and two of its holders are suspended from two freestanding tripods 20-feet above the air, and after seven hours they are still hanging there with no sign of coming down.

Today’s protest is an attempt to further pressure EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to enforce the Clean Water Act and halt mountaintop removal coal mining (MTR). Called the worst of the worst strip mining, the practice blows the tops off of whole mountains and contaminates drinking water all for a tiny amount of coal. Activists in today’s protest say they won’t leave unless Administrator Jackson commits to a flyover visit of the Appalachian Mountains and MTR sites, which, shockingly, she has never done before.

After seven hours, Administrator Jackson has made no such commitment. However, a few hours ago she tweeted her response to the protest gathering attention outside her window. As Administrator Jackson said in her tweet: “People are here today expressing views on MTM, a critical issue to our country. They’re concerned abt human health & water quality & so am I.”
Read the rest of this entry »





Indigenous voices challenge Royal Bank tar sands policies, supported by hundreds at shareholder meeting

3 03 2010

Today more than 170 people rallied outside of the Royal Bank of Canada’s (RBC’s) Annual General Shareholder meeting (AGM) in Toronto after a series of creative non-violent actions all morning. Inside, First Nations Chiefs and community representatives from four different Nations demanded RBC phase out of its Tar Sands financing and to recognize the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent for Indigenous communities. Afterward, Indigenous leaders lead the crowd in a march to rally outside both RBC Headquarters buildings.

Other cities across Canada supported the First Nations voices inside the AGM as well with solidarity actions from (click on a city for pictures) London, Calgary, Vancouver, Edmonton, Victoria and more. Check out photos from those and our events in Toronto. And beautiful photography from Allan Lissner.

And see some preliminary media coverage from the Wall Street Journal and Yahoo.

Since 2007 RBC has backed more than $16.7 billion (USD) in loans to companies operating in the tar sands—more than any other bank. Called, ‘the most destructive project on Earth,’ Alberta’s tar sands projects will eventually transform a Boreal forest the size of England into an industrial sacrifice zone complete with lakes full of toxic waste and man-made volcanoes spewing out clouds of global warming emissions.

Outside the shareholder meeting school children, bank customers of every age, First Nations community representatives joined Rainforest Action Network, Indigenous Environmental Network, No One Is Illegal, and Council of Canadians made their outrage at RBC’s investments heard – to the thumping beats of street Samba band, the crowd shouted “Cultural Genocide: who do we thank? Dirty investments from Royal Bank!

Inside the shareholder meeting, Chief Al Lameman of Beaver Lake First Nation, Alberta,Vice Chief Terry Teegee of the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council of BC, Hereditary Chief Warner Naziel of the Wet’suwe’ten First Nation of BC, and Gitz Crazyboy of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation addressed RBC CEO Gordon Nixon directly about the way tar sands extraction projects have jeopardized their health and their rights.

Downstream communities have experienced polluted water, water reductions in rivers and aquifers, declines in wildlife populations such as moose and muskrat, and significant declines in fish populations. Tar sands has all but destroyed the traditional livelihood of First Nations in the northern Athabasca watershed.

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.





Philadelphia activists rally & risk arrest to tell the EPA no more MTR

1 03 2010

Philly EPA Considering 16 New Mining Permits

This morning activists in Philadelphia descended upon their Regional EPA branch to put an end to Mountaintop Removal mining (MTR).  Decisions made here in Philly have devastating consequences for Appalachian communities and our country as a whole.

Activists prepared to enter the building and risk arrest by sitting-in until they were granted a meeting with officials inside, and after a successful engagement and demands met, the rally of 40 people exited.

In recent months, the EPA has wavered in their position on mountaintop removal coal mining (MTR); in particular with the recent approval of the high profile Hobet 45 Mine permit. Philadelphia’s EPA has oversight of MTR permits for Virginia and West Virginia, which includes the Hobet 45 Mine. Philadelphia’s Region 3 EPA is considering 16 upcoming MTR permits and is responsible for the enforcement of the Clean Water Protection Act at existing MTR sites, which makes it a critical agent in ending the mining practice.

This has become a national issue. Appalachians can’t wait any longer, and Philadelphia activists met this urgency with action.

Meanwhile, there is a simultaneous rally at EPA’s region 4 in Atlanta GA, also responsible for MTR permitting.

Every day, across Appalachia, the coal industry literally blows the tops off of historic mountains, impoverishing communities, poisoning drinking water, clear-cutting entire forests, wiping out the natural habitats of countless animals, and sacrificing the heritage and the health of families across the region. The EPA estimates that more than a million acres of American mountains across Appalachia have already been lost to MTR, and yet they allow it to continue.

Read the rest of this entry »





Click It and Stick It to King Coal’s Dirty Bankers

18 02 2010

Today, Rainforest Action Network (RAN) is joining with thousands of friends and allies on the internet to send a message to JP Morgan Chase to stop financing mountaintop removal coal mining!

This Thursday morning at 9am EST, DirtyMoney.org revealed a list of simple actions people can take online, letting Chase know that America is aware of the bank’s involvement in destroying Appalachia. Participants will have a choice of actions to take on a variety of social networks, including Twitter, Facebook and Flickr.

JP Morgan Chase is the biggest U.S. financier of mountaintop removal coal mining, the highly destructive practice that literally explodes the tops off of mountains for access coal below the surface.   To date, mountaintop removal has irreversibly destroyed almost 500 mountains and 1.2 million acres of forest, harmed numerous communities with increased rates of increases rates of human mortality, lung cancer, and chronic heart, lung and kidney disease and ruined Appalachia’s economy by creating conditions that have led to the worst poverty rates in the nation. Read the rest of this entry »





Notes from Lumumba’s speech at UN

12 12 2009

Here are some notes (from Karen Orenstein) from the most powerful and moving speech I have heard in the UN, from Abassador Lumumba, chair of the G77:

Most critical aspect for successful outcome:

Fundamental is issue of 1.5 degrees C and 350 ppm. Centrality of this is a deal that cannot save god, humanity and nature is not a deal we should entertain in the first place.

Read the rest of this entry »





Indigenous Peoples at Copenhagen Climate Talks Deliver Peace Prize Message to Obama at US Embassy: Procession, Prayer & Protests “Indigenous rights and knowledge are the foundation for addressing climate change”

11 12 2009

Indigenous Peoples from across North America and their allies from around the world gathered at the US Embassy in Copenhagen today to deliver a message to President Obama as he traveled to Oslo to accept his Nobel Prize. The delegation of Native Americans, Alaska Natives, and First Nations Peoples is in Denmark this week for the historic COP 15 Climate Talks, and is calling for a climate deal that includes a moratorium on all new exploration of oil, gas, coal and uranium as a first step towards the full phase-out of fossil fuels and a just solution to the climate crisis.
Read the rest of this entry »





Youth and Indigenous People escalate actions inside UN

10 12 2009

Echoing the words of Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed (We will not die quietly!) and the African negotiator Ambassador Lumumba, (No to climate colonialism!) hundreds of youth created a loud and energetic “climate storm” today inside the Copenhagen climate talks at the UN. It was the largest demonstration at COP15 yet – and was just a taste of the storm to come. Youth from every continent clapped, snapped, and pounded their feet to make the sounds of a rainstorm in a representation of the typhoons and hurricanes that have ravaged communities around the world this year.

“Negotiators are turning their backs on us and telling us to keep quiet. As a young person living in the Pacific, I know what it’s like to fear climate change,” said Subhashni Raj, a youth organizer from Fiji who spoke at the rally. “I’m here to say that we will not die quietly.”

Responding to growing calls from African, Island Nation and Developing Country delegates for real justice, today’s storm was an effort to link the plight of G77 countries to the debt they are owed by the global North. The over 1,000 youth participating in the talks – the largest youth delegation in COP history – have consistently refused talk of political compromises that amount to “suicide pacts” for many low-lying nations around the world that would be destroyed by unchecked climate change. Youth are specifically calling on developed countries to step up their emissions reductions commitments and to cease the secret, back-room dealing that has plagued the talks.

“Yesterday, in a meeting with African civil society groups, Ambassador Lumumba made it clear that African countries will refuse to sign a suicide pact here in Copenhagen,” said Landry Ninteretse, a youth organizer from Burundi. “European and American aid proposals look more like colonialism than an attempt to solve climate change. Our hopes and dreams can’t be bought off $10 billion dollars.”

Those of us in the North have colonized more than our share of the atmosphere, and it will be impossible to reach a deal without a serious commitment to repaying our climate debt.

Immediately afterward, Indigenous people inside the UN formed a human chain to demand much stronger safeguards for Indigenous Rights within the treaty. Today is human rights day, and it was a celebration in style. With youth support, Indigenous people led this spontaneous demonstration which became a march throughout the Bella Center. Chants such as “NO RIGHTS, NO REDD!” echoed throughout the building.

This is just a taste of what is to come in the weeks that are unfolding here in Copenhagen. The protests today signify just another escalation of international activists inside the Climate negotiations