Flood the System Report Back: Still Lots of Work To Do

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In May of 2015, Rising Tide North America issued a bold and ambitious invitation to organize a flood of actions “washing over, occupying, blockading, shutting down and flooding the institutions that exploit us and threaten our survival” throughout fall of 2015. The invitation recognized a need begin to organize in a way that would allow us to grow and connect social movements at an unprecedented scale and scope in order to respond to the many crises we face and shift power back to our communities. While much of the climate movement was orienting a focus on the COP21 talks in Paris, we argued that governments and corporations would only address the crisis we are facing with negotiations that propose minor changes and sustain capitalism.

The Flood the System invitation envisioned a small start growing into a massive flood of actions over a period of months. “We will build slowly, like a small trickle of a stream. We’ll reach out to allies, new friends and partners. Our trickle will turn into rapids, as more organizations and affinity groups join decentralized direct actions to Flood the System. By November we will engage in a series of coordinated mass direct actions to seriously disrupt the institutions that threaten our collective survival.”

The vision to build to a series of coordinated mass direct actions around the continent in a period of months was ambitious, perhaps overly so. But, that vision recognized a need to begin to change the way that we organize and mobilize to build our movements to a much larger scale. Flood the System was a meaningful step in exploring organizing tools and practices that could facilitate that type of growth. And even though we knew we might fail to reach the scale we were hoping for, we dove in anyways.

Flood the System aspired to push beyond the traditional lenses of climate change and fossil fuel extraction to challenge systems of white supremacy, capitalism, colonialism, patriarchy and capitalism. Around the continent, activists and organizers coming from diverse movements responded to the call signing up online, joining organizing conference calls, and turning out for local organizing meetings. Through Flood, Rising Tide North America and groups in the RTNA network started a much longer process of engaging with groups and networks such as Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), migrant justice groups, prison abolition groups and community organizations. Flood was part of a long-term, multi-year effort for Rising Tide to push the climate movement to deepen our collective analysis and open doors to other movements.

Throughout the fall, dozens of groups around North America engaged in energetic stream of actions targeting fossil fuel extraction, racist policing, and financial institutions. Climate organizers pushed to expand their collective analysis to understand the struggle for climate justice as a part of a broader struggle against capitalism, white supremacy, patriarchy and colonialism.

Building the Flood

On May 20, 2015, Rising Tide North America launched the Flood the System invitation, culminating a months-long process of visioning, consultation, and engagement. The process started in December of 2014 through conversations within the Rising Tide North America network and allied organizations about what escalation could look like coming off the People’s Climate March and Flood Wall Street in September of 2014. As ideas began to crystalize we began to test the waters to assess interest among the Rising Tide network and among our allies for a coordinated program of escalated action.

We floated the idea to local groups around the network and organizers from other movements. The proposal was workshopped at movement spaces and on a series of open conference calls which brought together hundreds of voices and perspectives. Throughout the process, the vision for the project went through multiple iterations, evolving from a string of weeks of action to a program of actions escalating from smaller rapids to giant floods. The frame of Flood the System shifted as well, away from focusing heavily on the climate negotiation at the COP21 meetings in Paris towards an open-container call around the root causes of the climate crisis.

Because Flood the System was to engage a broad cross section of organizers from diverse movements, we sought to create an autonomous organizing structure to facilitate the organizing work. Throughout the spring and summer, RTNA organizers worked to build local action councils to bring together diverse voices and begin planning actions and continental working groups to facilitate program-wide work and coordination. While these action councils and working groups relied on strong participation from Rising Tide activists, Flood the System’s organizational structure was intended to be an autonomous project.

The Arts and Culture working group developed a narrative graphic, which was presented on webinars and in action summits around the continent and published a 35-page organizing booklet explaining the vision for the project and the organizing process.  At the continental level, the work was to be coordinated by a continental “River Council,” with spokespeople from each working group and each action council.

To facilitate such an ambitious project, Rising Tide stipended a team of two organizers (which later grew to four organizers) to work on Flood the System, supporting local organizing work and taking on key coordination tasks. This was the first time that Rising Tide North America — historically an all-volunteer organization — had provided financial compensation to organizers. While stipending organizers added some much-needed capacity to the project, paying organizers presents some interesting challenges for a horizontal organization like Rising Tide North America.

 

What Happened?!

Throughout the summer and fall of 2015 Flood the System generated or supported dozens of actions around North America targeting fossil fuel infrastructure, extraction sites, immigration detention centers, and racist police. We supported the network and our allies in expanding our skills and analysis with webinars and trainings on topics ranging from action planning, to racial justice, to corporate research. And we moved forward the very long-term and intentional work of developing relationships between our network and other social movements at the local and the continental level.

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Here are a couple of action highlights:

San Francisco: On September 28, over 250 people  in the Bay area, anchored by Diablo Rising Tide, marched in through the financial district of San Francisco in a “corporate tour of shame,” stopping at the offices of Chevron, Wells Fargo and Bank of the West.  The march occupied a major city intersection and painted a giant mural, while another team of people occupied the lobby of Bank of the West’s corporate headquarters. Bank of the West is a wholly owned subsidiary of French bank BNP-Paribas, a major funder of the global coal sector. A dozen were arrested.

FloodWallStWest

Chicago: Groups, anchored by Rising Tide Chicago, did two actions as part of Flood the System. Working with local residents in Southeast Chicago, five people were arrested blocking trucks from a Koch Industries-owned petcoke facility. Two weeks later, groups fighting climate change, gentrification and prisons came together to “Flood the Banks” and marched to JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo branches in downtown Chicago.

FloodtheBanks

Vermont: In October, hundreds of people, anchored by Rising Tide Vermont, marched in Montpelier against a proposed pipeline being pushed by Vermont Gas. As Indigenous tribes and rural landowners spoke, a few “oil tycoons” scaled a 20-foot oil derrick to block the street.

Seattle: Rising Tide Seattle worked with 350 Seattle and BAYAN, a Filipino organization, to march to declare “Not Another Haiyan,” on the anniversary of the devastating typhoon that hit the Philippines in 2013. In September, Rising Tide Seattle also worked in solidarity with Northwest Detention Center Resistance and other groups to prevent the detention of community members by ICE.

Seattle

Minnesota: On November 2nd, a coalition of Indigenous, student and community groups in Duluth, MN took over the office of Enbridge to ask the corporation to meet with Indigenous tribes regarding the company’s Sandpiper pipeline. Seven people were arrested occupying the Enbridge lobby.

Endbirdge Action

Australia: The call for Flood the System took off in Australia, where groups used the hashtag to link to actions in the United States. There were multiple actions using flood imagery, including one where an intersection was shut down using a web of blue string.

FTS Australia

Youth Action Council: Through Flood, a continental Youth Action Council that was anchored by Energy Action Coalition formed to pull together pieces of youth and student organizing happening in the Fall. This included young people working on actions such as the Duluth occupation of Enbridge offices, the Million Student March, Our Generation Our Choice in DC and the Michigan Climate March. The Youth Action Council will be used for youth coordination around Democracy Spring in April.

Analysis-Building: Through Flood the System, we released an infographic around the connections between the climate crisis and prison-industrial complex. This work was held by the Flood the System research group — a new working group for Rising Tide, that did multiple workshops for Rising Tide groups on how to do community-led research into corporations, politicians and local power structures. We also held webinars with dozens of organizers about climate and racial justice with other groups such as Showing Up for Racial Justice, the NAACP and Black Lives Matter Boston.

Prison Graphic

What We Learned and What it Means Going Forward

Flood the System was a recognition that in order to fight back against the crises we are facing, we need to go big. Our movements need to build to scale, we need to take bold action, and we need to understand our struggles as deeply interconnected struggles against capitalism, patriarchy, white supremacy and the institutions that threaten our collective survival.

In crafting the Flood the System call to action, we went big.  We envisioned that “By November we will engage in a series of coordinated mass direct actions to seriously disrupt the institutions that threaten our collective survival.” And while the actions did not grow to the scale or the scope that we had initially envisioned we pushed the analysis of the climate justice movement, we started the long-term process of building deep and real relationships with other social movements in our communities, supported dozens of strong actions around the continent, and introduced new buckets of work to Rising Tide such as integrating arts and culture into our organizing and thinking about strategic research as an analysis-building tool.

In the coming months, Rising Tide North America plans to learn from the important, and sometimes hard, lessons we were taught through Flood the System and continue our vision of building to scale for big, bold and intersectional action.  We plan to continue to push our movement’s collective analysis with trainings on the intersections of the climate justice movement with other movements, particularly focused on the root causes of white supremacy, capitalism, colonialism and patriarchy.  We are also also exploring doing some large actions in specific geographic areas in support of intersectional struggles that demonstrate what an ideal flood action could be!

And of course we’re committing to continuing the work of supporting a growing and increasingly interconnected Rising Tide North America network by providing resources like mini-grants and trainings to local RTNA groups, using our communications tools to lift up local struggles, and creating spaces for local RTNA groups and allies to get together to develop relationships and find opportunities for shared work.

Going forward, we’ll continue to go big. And we encourage our friends and allies to do the same. With more experiments and more reflection, we hope that together we can build the bold and deeply intersectional movement we need to take on the crises we’re facing. Going big and taking risks are our only chance in building something that can take on the root causes of the climate crisis.

Rising Tide North America Statement of Solidarity With The Delta Five

San Francisco, CA– Rising Tide North America released this statement in response to the conclusion of the trial for the five climate activists charged for blockading an oil train in 2014 in Everett, WA:RisingTideSeaSept

“Rising Tide North America stands in solidarity with our friends and allies Abby Brockway, Patrick Mazza, Michael Lapointe, Jackie Minchew, and Liz Spoerri, ( the Delta Five), who had a decision rendered today by a Washington court on two counts. The Delta Five successfully blockaded a mile long oil train in the BNSF Delta railyard in Everett,WA for over eight hours in September, 2014.

“The first count of trespass, they were found “guilty.” On the second count of obstructing an oil train, they were found “not guilty.” The “necessity defense” which had been the cornerstone of their defense was thrown out by Judge Anthony Howard at the end of the trial when the judge instructed the jury to not consider whether the Delta Five acted out of necessity to stop climate change.

“We applaud their courageous action and for building a strong community response to the catastrophic climate change being perpetuated by Big Oil’s doomsday economy.

“The Delta Five’s action threatened Big Oil millions of dollars in lost profit.  One BNSF Railroad official said “One train can be millions in revenue. “When you have a backup on a system, this impacts yard activity, the ports are impacted from ships, then you have passenger and commuter (traffic) in the corridor. It’s a time-sensitive, very busy terminal area. We can’t tolerate it. They can voice their opinion, but we don’t want them on our property. We’re trying to conduct our business.” Corporations and the government don’t want a climate movement willing to take such risks to stop such abhorrent destruction costing them untold profits.

“Our democracy is broken. Our voices are not heard. Corporations own politicians in Washington D.C. and state capitols across the country making it impossible for ordinary people to have a voice on crucial issues such as global warming. Large environmental groups are also compromised as they pander to politicians and seek funding from corporate donors.  The Delta Five’s action is an example of a powerful and courageous direct action that is needed in our society.

“As we watch social justice and environmental uprisings across North America from ongoing fights against oil and gas infrastructure in places like Utah and Rhode Island to Black Lives Matter actions across the United States to the Indigenous resistance happening in response to fossil fuel infrastructure in Ontario and British Colombia, the actions and words of ordinary people are beginning to be heard more and more. The trial of the Delta Five only further pierces the veil our elected and corporate leaders have over the general public. The power in the Delta Five’s direct action and their willingness to go to trial, and possibly jail, to advance the climate movement gives us hope.

“Our fight is only beginning.”

Thanks for all your support.
Donate to the Delta 5 at www.Delta5.org

Press Release: Historic Climate Trial Starts Monday In Lynwood, WA

Delta_5_Trial-1-of-1600x400-1cross-posted from the Climate Disobedience Center

For Immediate Release
Contact: Ahmed Gaya, adgaya@gmail.com, 773-960-2587

Historic Climate Trial Starts Monday In Lynwood, WA

Lynnwood, WA – Five community members who blocked the path of an explosive oil train in Everett last year will finally go to trial in Snohomish County on Monday. In a surprise ruling Judge Anthony E. Howard has allowed the defendants to argue that their actions were justified by the threat of climate change. This is the first time a U.S. court has heard a ‘necessity defense’ in a case relating to climate action.

The defendants, known to supporters as the Delta 5, will call expert witnesses including a co-author of the UN’s intergovernmental panel on climate change report and a rail safety expert, to convince the jury that the threat posed by climate change justifies their acts of civil disobedience. “There came a point where I could no longer sit back and wait for the politicians to act. I had to put my body on the line to demand not talk, but action on a massive scale to rapidly replace fossil fuels,” said Patrick Mazza, a member of the Delta 5 who has worked for years as an advocate for climate action.

Next week’s trial was moved to the Lynwood courtroom to accommodate a documentary crew and dozens of supporters who are expected to pack the courthouse. Some supporters have traveled across the country to attend, including Tim DeChristopher who gained national attention as ‘bidder 70’ after disrupting a 2008 Bureau of Land Management auction in Utah. DeChristopher spent two years in federal prison for his action.

The Delta 5 are receiving national support from the Climate Disobedience Center, a group co-founded by DeChristopher, whose founders call on their own experiences advancing the necessity defense in high profile cases to support others in bold acts of conscience. Seattle City Councilmember Mike O’Brien has also expressed his support of the Delta 5.

Many supporters come from communities of faith who have rallied around the case. On Sunday Dec. 10th the Delta 5 will receive a pre-trial blessing at Woodland Park Presbyterian Church. “Before taking action I read the daily prayer from The Book of Common Prayer,” said Abby Brockway, a member of the Delta 5 who will be preaching at Sunday’s blessing. “I took the prayer with me as I climbed atop the tripod. I understood that climbing the tripod was my way of participating in the Book of Acts.”

While the Delta 5 defend themselves in court next week, Washington regulators are considering six new oil-by-rail facilities. In Vancouver regulators are holding hearings on the largest such terminal proposed in North America. With Congress’ recent decision to lift the oil-export ban more proposals are expected. Activists have pledged an increased campaign of direct action and civil disobedience until these terminals are rejected. The outcome of next week’s trial could set important precedent for future actions of this kind.

Note: Defendants will not be available to speak to media during the trial. If you wish to speak to a defendant before the trial please contact Ahmed Gaya at adgaya@gmail.com or 773-960-2587

For more information visit:

Delta5Trial.org

ClimateDisobedience.org

Expert Witnesses:

Dr. Richard Gammon Professor (Emeritus) of Chemistry and Oceanography, and Adjunct Professor (Emeritus) of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Washington. Dr. Gammon was a co-author of the first Scientific Assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 1990).  As Chief of the Carbon Dioxide Program, he directed the US program to globally monitor atmospheric CO2 (NOAA Environmental Research Laboratories, Boulder, 1982-84).

Fred Millar an oil train safety expert

Dr. Frank Eugene James, M.D. speaking about the human health impacts of oil tankers.

Statements from defendants:

http://delta5trial.org/2015/12/18/patrick-mazza-why-i-moved-to-direct-action/

http://delta5trial.org/2015/12/18/obedience-to-what-abby-brockway-and-others-head-to-trial-in-washington/

http://www.climatedisobedience.org/liz_spoerri_political_reality_not_keeping_up_with_physical_reality

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S0R3Il_FDPo

Key Dates:

1. Blessing and Climate Justice Sunday: Sunday January 10th @ 10:30 AM, Woodland Park Presbyterian Church, 225 N 70th St

More information at: http://delta5trial.org/2015/12/31/blessing-delta-5-trial-january-10th/

2. Trial: Monday January 11th – Wednesday January 15th, 8 AM – 3 PM each day. Snohomish County South District Court, 20520 68th Ave W, Lynnwood, WA 98036. Meet outside of the courthouse on Monday, January 11th @ 8:00 AM

 

Demanding the Impossible: Saying “No Compromise” in the Climate Movement, And Meaning It

shutterstock_291913025Cross-posted from Counterpunch

“The earth is not dying, it is being killed, and those who are killing it have names and addresses.”

— Utah Phillips

In the summer of 2003, my friends and I launched a campaign called Dirty South Earth First! (DSEF!) that targeted the executives of financial holding company MAXXAM in their ostensibly safe gated communities in suburban Houston. MAXXAM was the parent company of Pacific Lumber (PALCO) which spent decades logging the majestic Redwoods of Northern California.

MAXXAM’s CEO Charles Hurwitz bought PALCO and escalated the logging of Northern California for higher profit and the need to pay off the debt from the acquisition. Hurwitiz had a history of financial misdeeds including the raiding of worker pensions from other companies he’d bought and crashing a Savings and Loans costing U.S. tax-payers $1.6 billion during the financial crisis of the late 1980s.

Forest defenders in Northern California fought long and hard at the point of destruction in the lush forests of Northern California with tree-sits and road blockades. These fights against MAXXAM and Pacific Lumber had a long and sorted history. They included “Redwood Summer,” a mass direct action campaign organized by Judy Bari, which led to a pipe bomb being planted in Bari’s car in 1990, the death of forest defender David “Gypsy” Chain, who died when a tree was felled on him by loggers in 1998 and a yearlong tree-sit by celebrity Julia Butterfly Hill in 1999.

We humorously nicknamed the campaign “Dirt First! after a Simpsons’ episode where Lisa sits in a tree to save Springfield’s last Redwood, but took our campaign very serious as we had the lofty “No Compromise” goals of MAXXAM divesting from PALCO and ending clearcutting operations in Northern California.

The DSEF! campaign utilized a different strategy to pressure MAXXAM into stopping the devastation. It was modeled on the Stop Huntington Animal Cruelty (SHAC) campaign which included the targeting individual executives with “naming and shaming” tactics at their homes, their places of worship, their communities and in their personal lives. SHAC had been an effective animal rights campaign that bankrupted the world’s largest animal testing company, Huntington Life Sciences, a number of times as well as getting them delisted from the New York Stock Exchange. Eventually governments in Britain and the United States intervened with financial bailouts for Huntington, prosecuting SHAC organizers and sending them to federal prison.

That summer, our first wave of actions began with two very distinct tactics: a symbolic tree-sit in Memorial Park, a large urban Houston park near Hurwitz’s home led by North Coast Earth First!ers who’d been on the frontlines of resistance to PALCO’s logging; and home demonstrations and other “naming and shaming” tactics targeting MAXXAM’s top corporate officers. The tree-sit captured the attention of the local media while the personalized protests send shockwaves into MAXXAM’s corporate elite and their neighbors.

While the tree-sit ended by the end of the summer, the “SHAC-tics” against MAXXAM’s execs lasted for over a year. While other campaigns compromised with Pacific Lumber and other logging companies for a kindler gentler form of logging of Northern California’s Redwoods, we offered an uncompromising approach. DSEF! was not only ignored, shunned or denounced by more mainstream environmentalists (shocking, I know), but within Earth First! community as well.  Our tactics left many uncomfortable in the forest defense movements.

As my DSEF! co-organizer scott crow has said “We weren’t being vanguardist, but just pushing the edge of where political action might go. The radical enviro movement had really lost its militancy and was comfortable in the forms of resistance like blockades and tree-sits. I’m not knocking those, but corporations and the state had adapted to them and expected them. When we stepped in, it was outside the EF! norm.”

Our goal for Dirty South Earth First! was to be a more widespread campaign that targeted companies doing business with our targets. That didn’t work. Our capacity and resources only allowed the campaign to be effective at local actions in Houston. DSEF! eventually burned out due to that lack of growth of a wider campaign. Furthermore, repression by the state played a role as well.  We later learned that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had an in the Houston activist community reporting on us regularly and MAXXAM had private security that monitored our activities.

Clearcutting in the Redwoods continued, but a number of MAXXAM executives ended up leaving the company or relocating to more secure gated communities (which we still protested). Not long after DSEF! folded, Pacific Lumber declared bankruptcy and relinquished the land, thus saving the last few remaining Redwoods. DSEF! played a small role in these turn of events, but the loss of forest, wilderness and biodiversity for corporate profit was beyond cost.

Moving forward over the past 12 years with the hard lessons of Dirty South Earth First!, I’ve been an active participant in the North American direct action movements against the extraction of oil, coal and natural gas with the explicit goal of supporting those on the frontlines of fossil fuel extraction and keeping all fossil fuels in the ground. The demand of “No Compromise” continues to evade mainstream environmental organizations who seek a redress of climate grievances in the corporate dominated political status quo.

The most recent (and biggest, to date) example of the failure of mainstream liberal and environmental compromise came during the 21st United Nations Conference of Parties (COP21) climate talks in Paris. The agreement, signed by nearly 200 nations, failed to address the most pressing issues facing the climate and global communities. It sent a powerful message that the governments of the world are committed to participating in the carbon emissions trading economy, not addressing a low-carbon future or keeping fossil fuels in the ground. The agreement states its goal is to limit temperature increases to 1.5 degrees, but shows no tangible mechanisms to deliver such a lofty goal. Furthermore, negotiators removed the rights of Indigenous people and reparations for those impacted by climate change in the Global South.

Hailed as a triumph by politicians such as French President Francois Hollande, UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon and Barack Obama, the mainstream environmental non-profit complex followed suit: Sierra Club (“a turning point for humanity”), Environmental Defense (a transformative moment”),  Natural Resources Defense Council (“A great tide has turned”), and Avaaz (“Victory! The end of fossil fuels has begun…”).  The environmental establishment continues to support the politicians that perpetuate notions of unrealistic action on climate change, climate injustice and social inequality.

In contrast, a broad spectrum of voices from the scientific community to frontline groups to grassroots direct action groups pronounced the agreement an epic failure. U.S. climatologist James Hanson called the agreement “bullshit” and added ‘we’ll have a 2C warming target and then try to do a little better every five years.’ It’s just worthless words.” UK climate scientist Kevin Anderson of Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research called the agreement “weaker than Copenhagen” and inconsistent with current science. Noted British climate campaigner and policy expert George Monbiot said “by comparison to what it could have been, it’s a miracle. By comparison to what it should have been, it’s a disaster.”

The Climate Justice Alliance, a coalition of North American frontline and climate justice groups, called the Paris Agreement “a failure for humanity.” They further stated that market based mechanisms from “cap and trade in California, to the carbon trading requirements of the Clean Power Plan,” particularly in the United States and Canada, to offset catastrophic climate change is “blind to the stark realities of climate crisis.” Anti-capitalist climate justice group Rising Tide North America articulated that the agreement was “exploitive, deceitful and hollow, favoring the rights and voices of corporations over people.

The marketplace had its own opinions about Paris. Wall Street banks joined the climate action early with investments in renewable energy and pledging to drop losing industries like coal mining, while still funding coal power plants and the oil and gas industries. Goldman Sachs got in line with the Obama-Big Green public relations strategy and called the outcome in Paristhe most ambitious climate deal since 1997.

But, the oil industry saw some fallout from Paris. Exxon declared they expect to see a permanent decrease in its stock value after the agreement. West Texas crude prices dropped to $34 a barrel and are expected to dip as low as $20 a barrel. Also, Exxon also had a 37% drop in revenues this quarter from this same time in 2014.

But oil and gas trade associations don’t see it impeding long term oil and gas development. During COP21, the Obama administration signed legislation to allow the continuing expansion of infrastructure. The Exxon-Koch Industries backed FAST (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation) Act that permits the expediting of federal permits on oil and gas pipelines. This is at least partially in response to the “Keystone-ization” of fossil fuel projects by environmentalists and local communities. Furthermore, emails and documents obtained by reporter Steve Horn revealed that the U.S. International Trade Agency facilitated and promoted business deals for the Liquefied Natural Gas industry and export terminal owners before federal agencies had approved permits.

The coal industry took a harder line on the agreement when Brian Ricketts, the head of the European coal lobby, said that the Paris agreement would lead to the coal industry being vilified “like slave traders.” After the agreement, the world’s largest coal company Peabody Energy took at 12% stock hit and Consol Energy saw its stock fall 3%. In the United States, regulation, environmental campaigns, the proliferation of renewables and the price of gas have hurt the industry, but nations like Australia and Indonesia continue to export vast amounts of it. Furthermore, worldwide, the equivalent of over 350,000 megawatts in new coal power generation is under construction or approaching approval for construction.  Like Yogi Berra said “it ain’t over until it’s over.

Meanwhile, the planet continues to react to the emission of greenhouse gases by human activity with rapidly changing weather patterns and large scale natural disasters. At the end of December, the North Pole saw a 60 degree spike in temperatures making the region warmer than many cities in North America and Europe. In South American countries like Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay saw floods touched off by El Nino displace 150,000 people. In Southern Africa, 29 million people are expected to face critical food shortages due to drought. In the Middle East, temperatures spiked from Egypt to Syria. In Pakistan, the heatwaves took 2,000 lives and in India, 2,500. Arctic eco-systems are being impacted by a warming world with melting ice, endangered wildlife and impacted Indigenous communities.

Global levels of carbon in the atmosphere averaged around 400 parts per million (ppm) for the entire month of March 2015. The scientific community tells us that if not returned to at least 350 ppm than climate catastrophe will only continue to grow in scale and extremity. Nature doesn’t compromise in the same way as political systems. Or really at all.

As daunting as it sounds the gross agenda of industry, banks and compromised political and not for profit institutions can still be undercut and the worst impacts of the climate and environmental crisis mitigated. Most importantly, the poisoning and polluting of communities on the frontlines of environmental disaster can be stopped. Through history, we’ve seen movements for equality, justice and ecological sanity build power and take on the agenda of the corporations and the politicians that love them.

After Paris, Obama, the Democrats, the liberal environmental establishment and governments around the world will defend the Paris narrative that the COP21 agreement is an effective solution to climate change. But, our fight is far from over. There are tangible institutions responsible for fossil fuel extraction, infrastructure and combustion. As noted above, industry has learned the lessons of Keystone XL and begun to shift rules and regulations to make resistance more difficult. Furthermore, movements will encounter an increasingly unaccountable police and corporate surveillance state.

In the face of these new obstacles, our organizing must take the small disparate pieces of the existing climate movement and grow them exponentially to become a fierce, more militant, counterbalance to the industry.

Ongoing lessons when fighting for climate justice:

System Change: We can’t lose sight that each action and campaign is pushing us towards system change. The existing political economy is hardwired in anti-democratic and exploitive behavior. Stopping a pipeline, a coal company or ending the clearcutting of the Redwoods is not enough. We must continue to fight for greater system change. Fight corporations. Fight capitalism.

Revoking the social and political license of fossil fuels: We must utilize strategies that create an environment so toxic for the climate pollution industry, its executives, its politicians and the financial institutions that back them that business as usual becomes impossible. Enough said.

More militant tactics: In 2012, the Tar Sands Blockade held an 80 day tree-sit and organized dozens of actions disrupting construction on the Keystone XL pipeline costing oil company TransCanada millions of dollars. In Peru, social movements are fighting mining projects with militant street tactics and sabotage of machinery.  This past weekend, Black Lives Matter Cleveland went to the home District Attorney Tim McGinty, who refused to indict police officers who’d killed 12 year old Tamir Rice, demanding his resignation. Tactics costing corporations, political institutions and the individuals that run them economic and social capital are effective. Be bold, be militant and escalate.

Harness Rebel Energy: Non-profits, Democratic politicians, groups with big mailing lists, socialist senators from Vermont and various other manifestations of the existing political system are not the movement.  The momentum to stop climate change is going to come from the rebel energy that operates outside the current political system. Author and activist George Lakey penned in the pamphlet The Sword That Heals: “You can’t pull off powerful nonviolent direct action without rebel energy. You’ve run this campaign as a conventional lobbying operation and you can’t — at the last minute — switch gears and become a nonviolent protest movement!

In many ways, Dirty South Earth First! is an important example for environmental radicals taking action on a villainous target with uncompromising  goals. It gives a broader analysis of environmental destruction, corporate power and how to strategically move these bigger institutions.

It is very clear that people are hungry for action. The brushfire rebellion against fossil fuels continues to burn. Folks are organizing against oil pipelines, fracking, export terminals and coal every day across North America. The part to remember is that these campaigns require effective strategies and uncompromising goals. In the words of a previous generation on the streets of Paris: “Be realistic, demand the impossible.”

Scott Parkin is a climate organizer working with Rising Tide North America. You can follow him on Twitter at @sparki1969