Since Polite Protests Don’t Work, What’s Next? Part II

Hundreds of you read and commented on Thursday’s post that greatly amplified on Chris Hedges’ view that we need to tear up the playbook and embark on serious disruption. Today we discuss what this could look like.

Trump & His Penchant for Sharpies

A tad of humor before we embark on today’s weighty topic. Yes, our President did announce his commitment to building his wall along our southern border, in Colorado.

Also, click here to check out our actions & events page: we have details on today’s radio show, our legislative panel discussion on Tuesday, and our Fracking Tour of Greater Chaco Canyon Area, as well as the YUCCA action planned for Wednesday preceding the hearing on produced water. In other words, a very busy five days coming.

Arrests, Blocked Roads, Interrupted Hearings, Unpaid Taxes, Boycotts?

…. but what about elections & the legislature, do they matter?

So, on Tuesday Chris Hedges gave us a pretty good blast of brutally cold reality. What we are doing is not working and we are running out of time. If we have run out of time and we can no longer “fix” this, the need for action is even more urgent, as every action taken that can lead to the world’s leaders relenting and taking appropriate, urgent action will be lives and species saved, and a greater opportunity to survive and rebuild.

So today we consider some of the many comments made on Thursday’s post. One reaction to the Hedges post: well, this is depressing, should we just give up? And the answer is, no, there is too much at stake to cause us to retreat or to give up. From The Guardian’s As Climate Collapses We Can Ether Stand Together or Perish Alone:

Survivalist retreat shuts off the possibility of action. It assumes that there is no longer any chance of preventing catastrophe, that there is nothing left to be done, that no action to reduce our impact will have any effect. While the scientists whose research I read and who I speak to are increasingly desperate, none condone this view. All argue that, even if we were to pull out all stops now and drive the fastest and largest transition in human history, we will still face severe impacts for generations to come. We will almost certainly lose all corals, including the Great Barrier Reef, for example. Fires and storms and droughts will continue to get more intense and frequent. Make no mistake, things will be bad. But, if we act fast, it doesn’t have to mean extinction. The worst thing to do right now would be to cut off that option and give in to those who want to keep milking profits out of the destruction of our only home. That only makes it less likely that any of us will survive.

And so, if inaction is not an option, if retreat is cowardice, then what are our options for action?

The more I thought about the comments made on Tuesday and yesterday the more I realized that the three prong strategy developed by Retake are ideally suited for addressing one important aspect of what must be done — building a movement by advancing three core strategies: election campaigning, legislative advocacy, and community education and organizing. These strategies afford individuals opportunities to plug in where they are inspired, to encourage others to join them, and to continuously improve our capacity for advocacy while changing the political composition of the legislature.

For example, advocacy around Community Solar in 2020 will galvanize and motivate people to get in the game. If it passes, it will inspire more action. We are unlikely to pass more impactful legislation in 2020. So again, we will be able to again shine a light on Democratic Senators who impede necessary action. And a motivated base will turn its attention to the 2020 primary. If we are successful in ousting a handful of GOP and DINO State Senators the legislative calculus for 2021 is transformed and our attention can turn to the fourth floor, the Governor. With a growing movement of informed advocates, fresh from battle in November 2020, there will be momentum to press for truly bold action. Thus, the three strategies can work synergistically to achieve incremental progress while building a movement.

But in our last post, Hedges demonstrated quite convincingly that these kinds of strategies had failed us for the passed forty or fifty years and it is a fool’s game to consider that they will suddenly begin to achieve earth-shattering results. And so, that is why civil disobedience on a sustained, highly visible, and highly disruptive nature must be incorporated as a fourth strategy. Enter Youth United for Climate Crisis Action (YUCCA) and the Extinction Rebellion (XR). We have devoted a good deal of space to YUCCA. To read more on their demands and actions, click here. Today, I want to turn to XR. From Why Extinction Rebellion Might Succeed and In Many Ways Already Has

XR has three demands of governments: 1) Tell the truth about these crises; 2) reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025; and 3) create a democratic citizens’ assembly of randomly selected and demographically representative citizens to hear expert testimonies and direct an emergency-level effort to reduce carbon emission and protect biodiversity.

From Why Extinction Rebellion Might Succeed and In Many Ways Already Has

At the heart of the XR movement is a strategy to engage and involve 3.5 percent of the population to be so disruptive and to draw so much attention to the looming climate catastrophe that it can’t be ignored in the media, it will remain front page top of the fold news. It will be breaking news on the local news channel, as people want to see what XR has done next and will do tomorrow. To find out if their morning commute will be a nightmare may be their reason for viewing (and the station’s motivation for airing the actions), but the reality is the climate catastrophe will compete with Trump’s latest Tweet stupidity for air time when previous climate news was limited to the daily weather report.

And before we dismiss the XR movement as frivolous or hippy-dippy, consider that in June the British Parliament voted to convene a democratic citizens assembly. Think about that. The same Parliament that is hell-bent on exiting the EU has voted to accede to one of the XR’s three demands. What’s more, from various reports from London, members of the House of Lords and House of Commons on both sides of the aisles are competing with each other to express stronger support for XR principles and goals. They are moving the needle and they are relying on social science and research on effective social movements to guide their tactics.

Extinction Rebellion’s goal is no less than to save the Earth. To win, they say they need 3.5 percent of the U.S. population to participate. But whether a largely white, middle-class movement has what it takes to meet a sky-high ambition of mobilizing more than 11 million people to force sweeping climate action is an open question.

As I did on Thursday, I want to invite your thoughts on this subject. I want you to discuss this with a partner or friend and share this with others. We are in uncharted waters. I would add that while Hedges pointed to our historic failure to address climate crisis and economic injustice, we have never faced such an obvious and important challenge. Hence my continuing hope that we can change the composition of our State Senate and begin debate on real change in 2021. But that is 2 years off, and so now we need to keep the fire burning, and civil disobedience is the necessary ingredient to inject fervor and urgency to our work. Retake will announce a Town Hall Conversation to be held in the next month, where we will invite everyone to the table and have a deep conversation about the actions we might take and the sacrifices we might be willing to make. But we need to do this together.

Before we close, I want to ask you consider one more aspect of this discussion that was not covered above or on Thursday. At some point, even the ruling elite will realize their skin is in this game and their billions will only go so far in preserving their comfort. They will start to press leaders to act. Here is where I feel we need to re-frame the argument, because when actions begin to unfold it can’t be just about climate. All climate actions need to be framed in justice and equity. If the issue is solely climate, the actions designed by our leaders will protect our Northern hemisphere interests and the Southern hemisphere will become the largest sacrifice zone in human history, with billions dying because to save them would be too costly for our comfort level.

At this point in the discussion it would be good to invoke Bernie, not as an endorsement of him as a candidate, but to underscore why his candidacy is so important. His voice is different; he is trying to build a movement, not advance a campaign. At his recent NY rally he paused and asked the crowd to look around and pick out someone who doesn’t look like you, doesn’t come from where you come from, may look odd. He then asked the crowd to ask themselves: would you fight just as hard for that person as you would for yourself? That is a question advocates must ask themselves and something we must ask our leaders to invoke as they draw up their plans and actions. Right now in the Northern Hemisphere, serious climate disruption is an infrequent but increasing problem. In vast parts of the Southern Hemisphere it is a tragic daily reality with fields barren, water scarce, heat unrelenting, and survival continuously challenged.

And so whatever strategies are ultimately developed, racial, social, economic, and geographic justice must be front and center. And that means that the Northern Hemisphere is going to have to make enormous sacrifices that compromise virtually every assumed comfort we now enjoy. No more billionaires, no more millionaires, no more gated mansions. We have to be in this together, and that means finding ways to take in billions of people fleeing lands that no longer can provide food, water or other human needs. Those people on islands and in the Southern Hemisphere will not have resources to sacrifice; they will have little political leverage; to flee will be their only recourse, and we will need a plan to address this.

In closing, I return to Bernie’s question: What would you give up for that stranger? That person on the corner with their hat out asking for a buck? For that person in tatters across the globe walking away from a climatic disaster that we caused and walking towards us? It will require sacrifice, are you ready for that level of sacrifice?

Put another way, yesterday I met with the Governor’s chief legislative liaison, Victor Reyes, and Communications lead Tripp Stelnicki. At one point, I pressed them on how we get to a point where we can “keep it in the ground.” I acknowledged that ranking 50th in so many indicators and relying on gas and oil for 40% of our revenue makes it hard to consider keeping it all in the ground immediately. But as I worked on this piece later I wondered, perhaps that is a reasonable measure, a reasonable level of sacrifice to consider. Who among us would not cut our own personal spending 40% to save our children’s lives? Maybe that is something we need to begin to ask of our elected officials.

In solidarity,

Paul & Roxanne

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11 replies

  1. Your closing paragraphs contain the crux of the matter. This is 100% about justice.

  2. And WHY NOT endorse Bernie Sanders for President? We were with you are the 2016 pre-primary convention where Hillary’s people defied the will of the people of New Mexico and forced her on us. I blame Hillary in part for Trump’s election, and if she enters the race again, we’ll be faced with trading one narcissist for another. There are still 17 candidates running in the Democratic field. The sooner we get that number down to 2-3, the greater the chance that we’ll elect someone like Bernie. Not only do I support his ideas, I think he may be the ONLY candidate running in 2020 who is true to his values & principles, and genuinely cares about every American. My two cents. Linda

  3. Maybe the disruption tactics need to be in the oil and gas fields and pipelines ala Standing Rock rather than just pissing people off in traffic jams. Or maybe both.

  4. Enough already of sugar coating resistence. Bring back The Monkey Wrench Gang!! It’s time to destroy oil And gas machinery and dink oil tankers once empty of oil cargo, take over PNM forcibly! Any other ideas? I’m in. We need a radical team of green deal monkey wrenchers! And our work needs to happen successively so fast that security cannot keep up with US. One travesty after another. Fight fire with fire. Revolution is required.

  5. I have to agree with Arrow. Just returning from a visit to the NW there are some really pissed off people because of the actions of groups that are disrupting traffic, making morning commutes into Portland, for example, a nightmare. Truly inconveniencing people just trying to pay their bills each month.
    This tactic doesn’t endear people to your cause. It doesn’t excite them to join you!!
    I also agree that this needs to be about justice and equity. Yes, the environment is so important AND people need to be able to make a decent wage and afford a roof over their head at the same time. EVERYONE deserves to be able to go to the doctor and get prescriptions that they need.
    Went to pick up my husband’s new prescription this week and the CO-PAY was $250/month!! We had to turn it down. How many others are making choices like this? It’s totally unacceptable, especially in one of the richest countries in the world!!
    I lived in the 60’s-70’s and embrace the idea of being jailed for your ideals, but did it really make that much difference, after all we did back then? NO!

  6. We have to look at the counter-narratives in the media, and the general complacency that is projected around here. It is not only climate change, it is all of the societal denial. The effect of mass media and social-media need to be identified and called out. All of the nonsense and propaganda that people are exposed to daily to build this complacency.

    It is an outrage that people do not have healthcare, that children are neglected and abused, and that wages are not going up. The evidence of the poverty and despair is everywhere, just like the evidence of global warming. So much of the information people are exposed to is essentially marketing. People used to care about kids, now it is as if future generations don’t matter.

    No one is paying attention to the Facebook debacle, either. It seems to be lacking in local news. Watching Alexandria Occasio Cortez, grill Zuckerberg should have been a wake up call. The big tech companies have their own agenda, one that they are fully exploiting by spreading misinformation and worse. Our politicians are still in their thrall.

    The thing about “sacrifice” is that a good portion of our population is already “sacrificing” due to poverty. Bernie is the only candidate talking about the approximately 50% of Americans with less than 500 bucks to their names. It is the people who consider themselves “investors” are in denial, and avoid thinking about it all, because these destructive stocks are profitable. These corporations are really good at perpetuating that denial with their constant advertising. The Oil and Gas industry is not so bad after all they are researching “Green Fuel” and of course the actual environmental destruction is never front and center in the news.

    There was no protest when even the things that affect us locally and have a generational impact are brought up. We are actually witnessing societal breakdown, and people are silent. There are some that cheered this on thinking it was a good idea or it was “innovative.” The Neoliberals dismantled societal protections, schools, and healthcare here in NM. There are not enough people trained in these areas, to even hire to fix the problems. They are still pretending to “reform” it all, as if they are doing something new. When it comes to the schools, they do not have enough teachers, trained social workers or even school nurses, even if they had the money. They have to repair generational damage, yet they are still in denial about all of the effects. The corporations have some clever counter narratives for all of, they turned the despair, hopelessness and dysfunction into a marketing campaign.

    They keep attacking Medicare For All, each new ideologically based article leaves out serious factors. Imagine if there was no healthcare advertising. Imagine if people actually got healthcare the first time they engaged with the system. What they continue to leave out, is that we are all paying for it already. Our society would rethink marketing sugar to children, because we will pay for it. The FDA, FTC and CDC have failed this nation by allowing deceptive health marketing. That costs us too. Of course these things are hard to measure, because the corporations made sure of it. Even the lie about choices and prices is just that a lie. People die every day due to these lies and misinformation. They die because their heath issue, was misdiagnosed or they got inappropriate care. These interactions cost us billions of dollars, yet none of it is tracked. we are not even allowed to know about it locally. 30 years ago local news papers actually covered healthcare,now they merely market a distorted version of public relations releases, and deceptive advertising.

    Even the anti vaxx movement, which was impossible, but for deceptive health advertising, is costing the healthcare system money. Facts are a choice now, and beliefs are just as good. Of course this state did not step in to regulate any health advertising, including in the marijuana program. Just like the tobacco industry they marketed marijuana as a wellness product. They view desperate and vulnerable patients as a marketing opportunity. A lot of lives, and wasted money would be saved if we have Medicare For All, but of course most people have no idea how dire the situation is.

    Nobody Boycotting nuthin here, The masses are still patronizing Whole Foods, and ordering crap from Amazon. All of that stuff has a huge carbon footprint, and their labor standards are horrendous. Nobody paying much attention to what they are doing with all of our data either. Big tech corporations repackaged data surveillance they used over seas, and now are using it against us here. Didja all think this complacency and denial was natural?

    No one noticed when the protest got sent off to the back of a parking lot, or when money now equals free speech. The corporations are actually killing us, and their impact on local politics is censored. It is or almost as if the corporations are a religion now, too sacred to even criticize. Notice how the media is covering the protests, or not covering the protests across the globe. In the US a lot of protests are kept out of the media, unless they can use them to create a false narrative, like the TV news did with old footage for the dumpf rally, in Rio Rancho.

    Maybe we should be asking how to get people on the same page, or with the same set of Facts!

  7. you write…..Arrests, Blocked Roads, Interrupted Hearings, Unpaid Taxes, Boycotts?

    …. but what about elections & the legislature, do they matter?…..

    Yes, everything, every action, counts.
    But we must establish priorities as well as learn what worked before. There is so much time and energy. and no more. And we, the people, seem not to have the money to pay for high caliber lawyers and lobbyists…

    We must think local, above all. Because, maybe, here, in our neighborhoods, city and county is where we have the best chances for success.

    Further develop our Foodshed, that is, we begin from the ground up. We regenerate our community/es by locally connecting farmers, ranchers, producers and consumers.

    We build a Local Regenerative Movement to last centuries.

    We resist, adapt and build resilience and self-sufficiency. All at the same time by changing the Living paradigm.

    Regenerative Ag and Ranching follow the Original Instructions ALL our ancestors received thousand of years ago.
    Forgotten and subsequently perverted Instructions.

    I will not be arrested because is not going to bring systemic change.

    Regenerating our soils and forests together with our communities will regenerate our communities and all our relationships.

    A new paradigm!

  8. There is a woman named Rivera Sun who lives outside of Taos who is an expert at nonviolent resistance. She came to a Taos United meeting and gave a very informed introduction to it.

  9. Taking a more extreme approach like destruction of oil pipelines (most protected by federal law) could easily be turned against us thru the media. Plus the resulting pollution. AVERAGE Americans could be swayed not to buy local. Forcing companies who are stockholders to divest of their fossil fuel holdings will devalue the stock. Exploration expeditions would be put on hold.

  10. I understand the moral impulse for civil disobedience, but I also know that’s what a large group of Republican congressmen did last week at a House impeachment hearing. It’s not like anything we do on our side won’t be done on their side when they feel powerless. Do we really want to go down this road?

    • I don’t think we have much choice but to go down this path given the lack of attention, much less action that has resulted with all the efforts made to date. But we are planning a Town Hall where we can open this up for discussion.

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