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.





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:





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)’?”

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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.

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Copenhagen day one: Scandal! Bullying!

7 12 2009

Cross Posted from Grist.

Well it was opening day of the madness that is COP15: the meeting of the UNFCCC that is supposedly going to decide the fate of the entire world. And what better way to open it than with broad civil society outrage at the egregious lack of democracy in the process.

Here’s the inside scoop: the Danish presidency is desperate for a positive spin on any outcome of the climate negotiations here. That means forcing an outcome by bringing together the rich and powerful nations to broker a deal in private and then to announce it to the rest of the world. There is widespread concern of US-friendly text being “parachuted” into the negotiating documents, at the expense of G77 countries (everyone else).

We all know that international agreements involve quite a lot of back-room deals and often intimidation. We just usually don’t expect it to come from the facilitators. Obviously this is both antithetical to the UN process but also to the duties of the Danish Government in playing a neutral convening role at the Conference of Parties. It’s not just an attack on democracy, but it amounts to an attack on the rest of the world on behalf of a few powerful interests. It’s the sort of “green room” behavior one would expect from the World Trade Organization, not the United Nations, which has a consensus process designed to make global decisions.

The logic is this – the US needs to be on board to get any deal, so therefore let’s force a watering-down of the process to get the US to sign. Déjà vu? It’s errily like we’re replaying the Kyoto meeting in 1997. Remember how the world watered down the treaty (giving birth to the concept of offsets and the Clean Development Mechanism) so that the US would sign? …and the US never even signed anyway.

Will COP15 be a race to the bottom, hijacked to pander to the United States? Today Raman Mehta from Action Aid India said, “The global community trusted the Danish government to host a fair and transparent process but they have betrayed that trust. Most importantly, they are betraying those who are disproportionately impacted by climate change and whose voices are not being heard. This unfair behavior strikes a blow to all efforts to achieve justice and equity in the climate change negotiations process.”

Civil Society has brought foreward a number of specific concerns:

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VIDEO: Climate Justice and the Copenhagen Moment

19 11 2009

An inspiring new video from smartMeme with leaders from frontline communities and allies talking about the Copenhagen moment.





Geoengineering: Plan B for when Copenhagen fails? eek!

4 11 2009

Some scary prospects of where people are turning – geoengineering, the false solution that once seemed like science fiction, is actually being taken seriously. Seriously?

Diana Bronson, ETC Group

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. – Albert Einstein

As global climate negotiations in Barcelona enter into the last week of talks before December’s Copenhagen summit, there continues to be more aggravation than agreement amongst negotiators. Despite the litany of warnings about the devastation a failure in Copenhagen will cause – mass migrations, floods, worsening hunger and elimination of entire small island states – the most powerful countries in the world have failed to significantly reduce emissions, let alone commit to new targets or adequate funds to pay for adaptation. Unwilling to muster collective political will to dramatically reduce consumption, wealthy countries are looking for ways to continue business as usual.

The surprising announcement that the US Congressional Committee on Science and Technology will be holding hearings on geoengineering in Washington later this week has some participants in Barcelona wondering if the lack of collective political will on the part of industrialized countries has something to do with Plan B moving a whole lot faster than we thought. Plan B is geoengineering: the intentional, large-scale plans to modify the climate and related systems.
geoengineering
Geoengineering technologies include, for example, schemes to simulate a volcanic eruption by shooting sulphur particles into the stratosphere to reflect the sun’s rays back to outer space. Other technologies whiten clouds to make them more reflective. Some geoengineers propose dumping iron particles in the oceans to feed algae that might soak up CO2. Others want to change hurricane paths and rainfall patterns.
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Bangkok: Rich countries try to kill the Kyoto Protocol, International Youth declare “No Confidence” in road to Copenhagen

7 10 2009

cross posted from Grist.

Today marked one of the final days of the Bangkok UN Climate Negotiations. With the end of this intersessional in sight, the International Youth Delegation (IYD) has officially declared “No Confidence” in the road to Copenhagen.

With youth delegates from over 30 countries engaging in the Bangkok process, the IYD cited pathetically weak targets from the North, alarm that a second commitment period in the Kyoto Protocol will not be secured, and a lack of guarantees for protection of Indigenous peoples’ rights and interests, in its Declaration. The current text of the draft climate deal is so weak and so full of “false solutions” (measures like offsetting that actually make the problem worse) it is unacceptable.

Youth delegates representing each continent addressed the U.N. today, detailing the urgency of the crisis as it affects their communities currently, telling stories of their hope and organizing alongside their denunciation of the state of play in the UN Negotiations.

This week the Annex 1 (rich countries), attempted to kill the Kyoto Protocol (KP). We are nearing upon the end of the current KP term, and a lack of renewing it means that the world would lose the few legally binding international climate agreements it has (as insufficient as they are). The excuse is that the United States will not sign, and therefore the whole thing should be scrapped and an entirely new deal can be struck on its own. It is lunacy to think that this will yield a stronger outcome, and the G77 (the rest of the world) countries are furious. We have always known the US wont sign the KP; the world cannot continue to wait for the US to get on board. In Bali, the U.S. already committed to setting comparable targets to other Annex 1 countries, so the world could deal with the U.S. in the LCA (Long Term Cooperative Action).

This all amounts to a shell game: more dirty delaying tactics from self-interested countries who are content to strip away basic attempts at an international agreement (for example “compliance” – meaning that the U.S. would have international oversight of its targets, or “top-down target setting” – meaning the international community sets carbon targets together based on science, rather than each countries independently setting their targets based on what their fossil fuel extraction industries dictate).

Allowing the U.S. to drag the world out of existing legal obligations is disgraceful. These negotiations are going backwards.

Make no mistake: Our future is being held hostage to interests that have consistently thumbed their noses at the international community and their obligations to the rest of the world. This process has been polluted by self-interested corporations and nations looking to profit off of our crisis. They have been pushing false solutions that exacerbate rather than fix the problem. Not only are the targets set by rich countries weak, but they are deceptive. Rather than representing actual emissions reductions, they contain unacceptable proportions of offsets, which do not reduce emissions, and displace the burden back onto the developing countries of the world.
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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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Focus Earth on the Capitol Climate Action and Power Shift

10 04 2009

Great news segment on the Capitol Climate Action and Power Shift 09





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 call for a Climate Rescue Plan at the UN

5 12 2008

The economic crisis is an opportunity to transform our economy
Cross Posted from Grist

It’s day four of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations in Poznan Poland, but it feels like I’ve been here for months. I’m up before the sun rises and in bed after midnight – and the action is nonstop. I with 500 youth delegates here from over 54 countries across the globe, from India to Peru, to Australia. Young people have been meeting with governments, participating in negotiations, harassing corporations, training each other in everything from climate justice to organizing skills, and speaking clearly and loudly: young people are collaborating across borders and have a shared vision. We want binding, equitable, science-based targets, and we’re going to fight for them.

One of the ways that we’ve been telling our story is through actions – we’ve been coordinating two per day! This afternoon, we hosted a “Who Wants To Be a Trillionaire?” game show. One contestant was the “big banks,” who have recently won 4.1 trillion dollars in government bailouts from the E.U. and the U.S. The other was a “climate rescue plan” which got over 40 times less – a measly 13.1 billion (if that doesn’t sound like a big disparity, check out the graph on this report here: http://www.ips-dc.org/getfile.php?id=314). The United States Congress has committed zero dollars (http://www.ips-dc.org/articles/913). Despite getting all the questions wrong, the “big banks” got all the money anyway. A rambunctious game show audience held a banner that said: “EU Bailout: $2.8 Trillion. US Bailout: $1.3 Trillion. Climate Rescue: Priceless”

Our point was simple: the same people who have spent decades telling us they can’t afford to save our planet, can clearly move trillions of dollars within weeks (when their own pocketbooks are directly affected). The issue is not lack of resources, its lack of political will. Youth are demanding our governments invest in a strong green economy, our planet, and our future.

Lucky for us, this economic crisis presents us with a wonderful opportunity. The opening day here in Poland, the UNFCCC said that the economic crisis is no excuse for inaction. We are saying that in fact, it’s the best reason in the world to invest in clean energy now, creating green jobs and sparking opportunity worldwide.
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What do immigrant rights have to do with the youth climate movement?

1 11 2008

Melting the I.C.E.

Yesterday was a Halloween to remember. I had the honor of participating in an inspiring action organized and led by Bay Area Latino & Latina youth. Over 400 high school students walked out of school on Halloween to protest the vicious I.C.E. raids that have terrorized their communities, violently ripped apart their families, traumatized children, racially profiled neighborhoods, and demonized hard working people in the Bay Area and across our country.

When speaking at a convention the National Council of La Raza, even Barack Obama, who sharply pulls to the center on this issue, has said: “The system isn’t working, when 12 million people live in hiding…when communities are terrorized by ICE immigration raids; when nursing mothers are torn from their babies; when children come home from school to find their parents missing; when people are detained without access to legal counsel.” And yet we see no action being taken on a national electoral level. So yesterday young folks have decided that they must act directly, challenging the concept that a human being can be “illegal”.

When initially writing this post describing the day, I thought about posting it in Its Getting Hot In Here, and realized that the connections between immigrant justice and the youth climate movement may not be obvious on their surface. Here’s just a couple of ways that they intersect…

Yesterday I felt the power of youth, and the moral legitimacy of young people speaking truth to power – of being bold and not letting injustices stand; of offering leadership; of youth organizing for a better world. A Youth Climate Movement holds this same power, and as young climate activists strive to integrate a deep understanding of power, race, class, and gender into that growing movement, we would do well to explore the links between our work and the struggles of immigrant youth and their families across the country.

We in the U.S., as principal carbon emitters, have a responsibility when it comes to this issue. The young people in our immigrant rights demonstration held signs that said “our immigration is forced migration” – articulately making visible the effects of policies like NAFTA, and the havoc they have wreaked on Latin American countries, creating the economic hardship that forces families to move in order to survive.

We know that as Climate Crisis intensifies, millions will be displaced from their homes – especially along the equator (and disproportionately in countries that are not responsible for the crisis).

Where will they go?

Will our country be the beacon of hope it has aspired to, a refuge for tired, huddled masses, yearning to breathe free? Unless we sharply move toward a sane and humane immigration policy, we will see an acceleration of barbaric dehumanization of people searching for a better life, as more and more people are displaced, forced to adapt to a changing climate.

The political challenge of transforming our immigration policy to one that is compassionate and human will only grow more difficult as more people search for a new place to call home. Let’s work for immigrant justice now.

Yesterday morning was kicked off when hundreds of East Bay youth were prevented from riding BART to cross into San Francisco for the event. Some were detained. Ironic, huh? Several BART stations in poor neighborhoods were temporarily closed down. The students rallied outside the BART stations, and started making news headlines for the disruption.

Meanwhile in SF (and eventually joined by some of the East Bay youth who made it across), hundreds of young folks and allies, mostly Latino/a, gathered and rallied in downtown SF. We honored the dead and disappeared by painting our faces as skulls or wearing masks, and dressing in black. Traditional Cherokee and Aztec blessings, prayers, and drums were offered, grounding participants in the large Native presence and solidarity there, and casting the hypocrisy of the U.S. immigration debate itself into sharp perspective. Signs crying out “I am indigenous to this land!”, “We didn’t cross the borders, the borders crossed us!” were held alongside “Immigrant rights are human rights.”

We began to march to the I.C.E. building, circled it while chanting and asserting that no human being is illegal, while out front of the building people spoke out, including social movement veteran and Latino/a rights activist Betita Martinez. After, Danza Azteca as well as others offered traditional dances and prayers.

As we circled the building again, students aged 18-21 non-violently locked themselves to barrels and lock-boxes, forming two blockades on each side of the I.C.E. alleyway that deploys their vans for raids and to transport prisoners. It was a beautifully and gracefully executed non-violent direct action. Until the facility closed at 6 pm, two groups of demonstrators supported the blockaders, sharing stories of their fathers being taken away in the middle of the night, poetry, music, and chants of justified and palpable pain and anger. At the close of the building, blockaders declared victory and peacefully left the area, no arrests were made.

Their words were far more powerful than anything I could write here. The young folks who blockaded wrote a letter to San Francisco. I’ve shared it below, along with more pictures. Please read it.

All Hollow’s Eve, 2008.

Our Dear San Francisco,

It has begun. Last week we saw government officials blow open people’s doors in the middle of the night to kidnap so called “gang members.” They came for us. Each night we wait in panic, waiting to see who next of our friends and family will be disappeared. But today is something else.

Today, a day when we celebrate the dead and disappeared – a day when we don masks to make the real monsters tremble in their empty coffers – it begins.

CLICK BELOW FOR THE REST OF THE LETTER AND PHOTOS FROM THE DAY

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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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