Reflections at Midpoint: Scaling Up the Climate Resistance at Home

As the “Scaling Resistance” tour reaches its halfway mark, here are some impressions I’ve had from 2 weeks on the road with German climate activists Ende Gelaende (EG) and Rising Tide North America.

Starting with some impressions from Ende Gelaende presentation:

1)      “We say what we do and we do what we say”:  Ende Gelaende is radically transparent.  Hundreds of people attend plenaries and make decisions on strategy and tactics.  There are tens of direct action trainings, including those attended by media. Participants get regular updates on the action progress and can choose which of the “five fingers” (i.e. tactical) groups they wish to participate in.  Ende Gelaende’s approach is to put out a big public call to action on their timeline and against the target they want. By dictating the terms of their action, they can do the work to ensure thousands of people show up, enough to get to almost any mine

2)      Through a combination of symbolic and nonsymbolic action, Ende Gelaende has changed the debate in Germany.  By focusing on huge coal mines, EG made many Germans, who were excited about the high level of renewals and energy transition, uncomfortable.  But they changed the narrative in the country around coal and made the EG mass actions the happening event. As we speak, major papers are writing about this year’s action, which will be in mid-June. The actions are powerful for their symbolic value, they feature a “David versus Goliath” scenario, with thousands of small (at least in the pictures) people standing up to giant earth moving machinery and shutting down mine sites.  And thisis a real shut down extraction, as thousands of people are able to stop coal mining operations for a day or coal train shipments for a day or two.

3)      A small core of people can build something really big.  Ende Gelaende grew out of the climate camps, grassroots groups like ausgeCO2hlt and others in the left who knew that they had to scale up their climate resistance. They used a threefold approach.  First, they built relationships throughout the climate sector, including with larger nonprofits who supported their work in various ways and academic institutions, which participated in summer climate camps, providing a base for potential participants.  Second, they traveled Germany and neighboring European countries giving Direct Action trainings encouraging the building of affinity groups. Finally, as mentioned earlier, they are masters at building buzz in the press and using all media outlets to their advantage.  All of this is accomplished with only volunteers.

4)      Civil Disobedience means something very different in Germany.  In Ende Gelaende’s case, the goal is to go around the police and stop the mine, no arrests and a mine occupation is the very definition of success.  If people are arrested, they do not have their IDs on them and sometimes even put superglue on their fingers to avoid identification, in the hopes (generally successful) that they will be released without charges because they cannot be identified.

Ende Galaende “Scaling up the resistance” tour.

Reactions to the presentation from U.S. audiences:

1)      There is a lot of doubt on our side.  We worry about all the ways Ende Gelaende’s approach is not applicable to the United States, whether that is about geography and density, or that people will not participate, or that legislative and regulatory strategies have efficacy.  There is also real doubt about our collective ability to find the time, given the economic demands on so many of our volunteers.

2)      There is also incredible enthusiasm for doing some experiments.  Standing Rock showed us what is possible.  There are tens of local fights against power plants, pipelines and extraction sites with thousands of courageous folks.  There are also other interesting targets that get at the intersection of class and climate, like private airports. Finally, the same banks that fund extraction and pipelines are also the same banks that fund private prisons, immigrant detention centers, and the military industrial complex.  There are lots of places with a lot of density, like the Northeast and the Northwest, who have crews of solid veteran organizers.

3)      Race matters a lot more here than in Germany. Ende Gelaende is open about the fact that they are a predominantly white movement and need to work on that..  While not everyone who has attended our presentations has been white, this is a tour, and a slice of the movement that has been predominantly white, and has also skewed much older than Ende Gelaende. For us, being cognizant of race, and our nation’s history and present of colonialism, white supremacy and anti-blackness matters a lot.  It also is vital to recognize that there is a rich and vibrant climate justice movement in the US. One of the key questions for us as we move forward is whether our work as white folks in the climate justice movement means we should be providing direct support to and coordination on actions with the most affected frontline communities, or whether we should be using our privilege to be putting our bodies on the line in ever more powerful ways against the largest corporations and points of extraction.

4)      There is also a theory of change conversation.  Many groups we are meeting with are focused on a winning a particular struggle, generally around policy or an infrastructure project.  Obviously folks understand that winning is vital and part of a larger struggle, but we do not often connect the dots. What would it mean to view mass disruption that pushes on power as an inherent good in and of itself and as a theory of change.  As Naomi Klein says, we need to change everything. Capitalism, colonialism, heteropatriarchy and white supremacy are the problems and climate change is a symptom. Could we be winning battles while losing the war?

Over the last three weeks we have been excited to share stories about scaling up the resistance, and our guests from Ende Gelaende have been excited to learn about the climate movements  and other social movements here at home. We have done our best to make the teachings accessible to all, by offering webinars to those who are not at tour stops. Now, we ask for thoughts on what our next steps should be?

Are you thinking about mass action?  Let us know! Should we be building a community of practice around scaling up?  Should we have some advance webinars with Ende Galaede?

Should we be thinking about mass action, but in a much more intersectional way?  Let us know what you think at: We will be in touch and follow the last three weeks of the tour on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, as well as here on our website.

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Jeff Ordower is a long-time community and labor organizer and a member of the Rising Tide Collective, who is currently peripatetic. You can follow the exploits of the second half of the tour at @risingtidena on Twitter.            

 

Support RTNA in 2019!

This year has made it clear that there are no shortcuts to addressing the overlapping social, economic, and climate crises. We need to change the entire system — and we need a strong radical movement to do it.

We’re asking you to contribute $15, $50 or even $500 to keep our work going this year as we take on our political and economic systems to demand real systemic change.

In 2019, Rising Tide will continue to support radical collaborative social movement work — to build and support power from the bottom up, from frontline communities, from those pushing directly back against injustice. We will continue supporting direct action against pipelines and other fossil fuel projects and organizing for community-based responses to climate disasters.

As a major project in the spring of 2019, we hope to host a US-based tour with European allies to promote stronger networks between radical movement in the US and Europe and to learn from those fighting rising fascism and white nationalism in other parts of the world.

Rising Tide is fighting to change the system.

Donate and join us.

Community Members Blockade Oil Train in Downtown Vancouver, WA

Community Members Blockade Oil Train in the Face of Police Presence in Downtown Vancouver, WA with Pop-up Sunflower Garden

On Site Media Contact: Jessie Braverman, (617) 833-9766
Media Contact: Sophie Scholl, (360) 601-7187
Vancouver, WA — Community members blocked an oil train in downtown Vancouver, WA in a creative direct action calling for an end to oil trains, oil terminals, and all fossil fuels. Community activists erected a pop-up garden of sunflowers on train tracks in Vancouver, WA today, even in the face of police presence, to block an oil train. The blockaders locked themselves to large sunflower pots adapted to serve as blockade devices. Three people arrested. Community members are taking non-violent direct action to demand Governor Inslee reject the Vancouver Tesoro Savage Oil Terminal and all other proposed fossil fuel infrastructure in the State of Washington.
Where: 101 W 11th St, Vancouver WA 98660
The train, BNSF unit 5956, is carrying Bakken Crude Oil, a highly volatile oil notorious for derailments and explosions such as the recent derailment and fire in Mosier, OR on June 3rd, 2016. The Mosier oil train derailment ignited a wave of massive public opposition to oil train traffic, including from government officials and train operators. “Our community and our planet are under attack, yet the political response has been amoral and inadequate. We were here on the tracks a year after the Mosier oil train derailment and nothing has changed,” said Jessie Braverman. “The trains are still coming and new fossil fuel projects are still being proposed; we’re in the midst of a worldwide climate emergency and we’re fighting back.”
The derailment and explosion in Mosier is just one manifestation of our society’s dependence on fossil fuels. This incident is not an anomaly, as fossil fuel extraction, production, and transportation continually present a threat to human life and natural ecosystems; we have been subsidizing them not only with money but with lives. In these early days of the sixth great extinction and a devastating climate crisis, community members are reclaiming their power to confront this rogue industry. “It’s now or never. We’re up against the wire and nobody — no politician, no agency, no industry — is stepping up to resolve the climate crisis,” said Mike, a resident of Portland, OR, who is locked to a flower pot on the rail tracks. “It’s time for the people to step up to resolve this crisis before we run out of time.”
Community members are calling on Governnor Jay Inslee to reject the proposed Tesoro Savage Vancouver Oil Terminal, which would be the largest oil-by-rail terminal in North America. The terminal would ship out 360,000 barrels of Bakken crude oil and bring up to four additional oil trains into the Columbia Gorge each day. 
Governor Jay Inslee, a self-proclaimed advocate for climate action, has overseen a state government that has failed to craft an emissions reductions strategy, despite being repeatedly ordered to do so by the courts. The Governor is flagrantly endangering the people of Washington state. Washington continues to move towards a dizzying array of new fossil fuel developments. “If I can stop an oil train, Governor Jay Inslee can stop an oil terminal,said Chris, one of two individuals locked down to flower pots on the rail tracks.
 
For on site interviews, contact Jessie Braverman, 617-833-9766. 
    
    
    
More information via the Shut Down Fossil Fuels- 
Twitter:@shutdownff 
    
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An Open Letter from Environmental & Climate Justice Organizations on May Day

via Climate Workers

An Open Letter from Environmental & Climate Justice Organizations on May Day

Worker power, immigrant rights, and racial justice must be at the heart of environmental and climate movements

As environmental and climate justice organizations, we declare our support for protests planned for International Workers Day (“May Day”), May 1st, 2017 and for workers who choose to participate by honoring the general strike.

International Workers’ Day was first established to commemorate the deaths of workers fighting for the 8-hour work day in Chicago in 1886. It has long been a day to uplift the struggles, honor the sacrifices, and celebrate the triumphs of working people across the world. The day has taken special significance in the U.S. since May 1st, 2006 when 1.5 million immigrants and their allies took to the streets to protest racist immigration policies.

Today, workers face unprecedented attacks on wages, benefits, workplace safety, and the right to organize free from fear and retaliation. But we know that we are all stronger when workers in our communities have safe, fair, and dignified employment with which they can support their families without fear of deportation or violence.

The effects of our fossil fuel economy fall first and worst on working class communities, communities of color, immigrants, and indigenous peoples who have not only contributed the least to climate disruption, but have the least resources to shoulder the burden of a transition to a new, climate-friendly economy. It is these frontline communities who are also at the forefront of change and whose solutions and leadership we most need.

As organizations working to transition our economy away from profit-seeking resource extraction toward ecological resilience and economic democracy, we know that worker power has to be at the heart of that transition.

We urgently need the wisdom and skills of millions of workers to transform our food, water, waste, transit, and energy systems in order to live within the finite resources of this planet that we call home. But the Trump agenda only promises jobs building more prison cells, border walls, bombs, and oil pipelines. Workers deserve not only fair wages, but work that makes our ecosystems and communities more resilient, not destroys them.

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. No significant social change in this country has come without tremendous risk and sacrifice by ordinary people – from workers who walk off the job to water protectors facing down water cannons and attack dogs.

As environmental and climate justice organizations, we support workers who choose to walk off their jobs on May 1st because we know that the fight to protect land, water, air and soil is inseparable from the fight to protect the life and dignity of workers, migrants, and communities of color.

To workers participating in protests on May 1st, we say: “Thank you. You deserve better. And we’ve got your back.”

To that end, we join with unions and worker-led organizations throughout the country in asking that there be NO RETALIATION against any worker – union or non union – who exercises their rights by taking time off from work on May 1. Further, should workers face retaliation, we pledge our strong support for efforts to defend those workers.

To sign your organization onto letter and to specify what type of support you can pledge, click here.

 

AUTHORED BY

Climate Workers and Movement Generation Justice & Ecology Project

 

SIGNED BY

350.org

350 Bay Area

350 Mass for a Better Future

350 Santa Barbara

Amazon Watch

AMP Creeks Council

Asian Pacific Environmental Network

Azul

Bay Area Justice Funders Network

Bay Area Labor Committee for Peace & Justice

Bay Area System Change Not Climate Change

Beyond Extreme Energy

Blue Heart

California Environmental Justice Alliance

Center for Economic Democracy

Center for Environmental Health

Center for Popular Democracy

Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment

Climate Justice Alliance

Climate Justice Project

Climate Workers

CODEPINK

CoFED

Corporate Accountability International

Diablo Rising Tide

Filipino / American Coalition for Environmental Solidarity (FACES)

Food Empowerment Project

Food First

Friends of Broward Detainees

Friends of the Earth

Fund for Democratic Communities

GAIA: Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives

Global Climate Convergence

Global Environmental Justice Project

Grassroots Global Justice

Greenbelt Climate Action Network

Greenpeace

Groundswell Fund

Industrial Workers of the World

Labor Network for Sustainability

Liberty Tree Foundation

Little Village Environmental Justice Organization

Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment (MORE)

Movement Generation Justice & Ecology Project

Movement Strategy Center

NAACP Portland Branch

National Economic and Social Rights Initiative

New Economy Coalition

New Jim Crow Movement – Vallejo

No Coal in Oakland

North Bay Organizing Project

Oakland Climate Action Coalition

Occidental Arts and Ecology Center

Oil Change International

People’s Action

People’s Climate Movement – Bay Area

PODER (People Organizing to Demand Environmental & Economic Rights)

Post Carbon Institute

Power Shift Network

Pesticide Action Network North America

Planting Justice

Popular Resistance

Railroad Workers United

Raizes Collective

Rainforest Action Network

Real Pickles

Right to the City Boston

Rising Tide North America

Rising Tide Sacramento

Sierra Club

Sierra Club Massachusetts Chapter

Sierra Club San Francisco Bay Chapter

Sonoma County Conservation Action

Students for a Just & Stable Future

Sunflower Alliance

SustainUS

The LEAP

Urban Habitat

U.S. Department of of Arts and Culture

U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives

U.S. Human Rights Network