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.
Paul & Roxanne