Reflections of a Climate Justice Three-Eyed Raven

The Army of Climate Capitalism (i.e. the Dead) prepares to march.

By Ananda Lee Tan (but not really)

If Game of Thrones were an allegory for climate change, and the Army of the Dead represented the forces of destruction causing this ecological crisis, then:

The White Walkers would be Multi-National Corporations (MNCs), whose zombie army represented the hordes of utility companies, bankers, government shills, venture capitalists, climate engineering firms, clean energy technology vendors and pollution traders advancing an agenda of climate capitalism.

House Lannister would be leaders of philanthropy, entrenched in their allegiance to the oppressive systems that created their wealth, while divided in their conscience and recognition that their wealth was stolen from the lands, lives and labor of others – folks who need it back, if the army of the dead is to be stopped.

Other Houses of the Seven Kingdoms resemble various civil society clusters at large:

The Houses of High Garden, Dorne and the Baratheons resemble the Big Green NGOs, with varying degrees of loyalty and allegiance to Lannister wealth, their campaign goals and strategies guided by Lannister money. Yet, these national and international NGOs often find themselves confronted by frontline communities, whom they sometimes side with when forced to reckon with the values, common sense and ecological knowledge of place-based power.

The Houses of the Riverlands and the Iron Islands are the associations of farmers and fisherfolk – salt of the earth and sea, whose loyalty to place and tradition is often manipulated to serve the needs of the MNCs, usually resulting in their own demise. However, when the day comes to take a final stand, there is no one else you’d rather have by your side.

The Kingdom of the Mountains and Vale appear to have the closest likeness to the House of Labor – who are deeply suspicious of the Lannisters and the non-profit complex that serves them. Like many International Unions, the Knights of the Vale are often wary of stepping outside the boundaries and comforts of their well-protected fortresses and towers, to serve the needs of those less fortunate and more vulnerable. However, when push comes to shove, these Knights will honor their core principles and step up in times of peril, especially when responding to calls for solidarity.

This brings us to House Stark, the environmental justice movement – least favored or funded by the Lannisters; honor-bound by principles and often suffering the consequences of speaking inconvenient truths to those holding the purse-strings. This is a family that strives to remind itself that “protecting the realms of men” includes serving a deeper and more inclusive democracy – including all frontline communities, both Northerners and Southerners who challenge imperialist borders and walls built by the ruling class. And by diligently following principles of Inclusion, Bottom-up Organizing and Just Relations, House Stark can help align diverse formations – so that Dothraki and Unsullied, Free-folk and Crows can band together against the Night King’s armies.

Of course, Winterfell is not the only bastion of environmental justice but simply one amongst many metaphorical frontiers. For the long history of the Dothraki struggle, or that of the Unsullied, and so many other movements of black, brown and Indigenous peoples are barely mentioned in this otherwise epic saga. And we cannot even begin to comprehend the root systemic drivers of climate change without examining the 500 + year war waged by European colonialism, or the role of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade in building the foundations of the settler, colonial economy and concentrating the wealth of the fossil fuel corporations.

We cannot begin to unpack the complexity of the climate puzzle, without first understanding the history of struggles for Indigenous Sovereignty and Black Liberation, and connecting the dots between these struggles to the realities that Black, Brown, Indigenous and Migrant communities around the world continue to face today. For not only are these communities the first and most impacted by the storms, floods, fires and droughts brought on by climate change, they have historically suffered the most harm from the systemic pollution, poverty, police and prison violence deployed by the colonial, extractive empires warming this planet.

Hence, it’s no surprise that while the thought-leadership and wisdom of the Dothraki tribes and the Unsullied warriors are not invited to the war rooms and strategic command tables of the NGO elite, our forces are always the first to be deployed in the fighting vanguard; forming the front lines of defense for planetary survival, often offered up as poorly-equipped cannon-fodder and sacrifice zones – akin to trade-offs made at pollution policy tables where the NGO elite negotiate compromise and “Net Zero Common Sense” with the dead.

So many more likenesses abound, such as:

  • The Brotherhood without Banners – clearly Rising Tide renegades, anti-authoritarian trouble makers who bow to no king nor non-profit sigil, but willing to play undervalued, yet critical roles in standing with climate justice;
  • The Order of Maesters – scientists and scholars, many whom serve the MNCs, their markets and neoliberal ideologies, and a few whose integrity cannot be easily bought or sold;
  • Sellswords – consultants who serve the Lannisters one day, and then the Brotherhood the next – depending on who offers the weightiest purse or the most pleasurable company.
  • And, of course the Society of Faceless Men/Women – those operatives who work in the shadows; highly-skilled organizers who are not in the game for money, status, accolades or honorific titles – folks who get the work done quietly, behind-the-scenes, and in ways that avoid the gaze and detection of the White Walkers. We could certainly use less “rock stars” and more unsung heroes like Arya Stark across our movements.

What becomes clear in the staging of this all-time greatest zombie apocalypse battle scene, is that however large a movement force we muster against the Corporate white walkers, and their armies of ecological collapse, we will never win…

We will never win if we rely on the false promises and resources of the Lannisters.

We will never win if we continue to neglect and sacrifice our best fighting forces, sending them out to face the full onslaught of winter with token flaming swords, and weak campaign strategies designed by elite war councils of privileged and inexperienced youth.

We will never win unless we center the thought leadership of those who best understand the forces of the dead; those who have struggled against the white walkers for centuries and have even succeeded, from time to time, at pushing back their advance without any support from the Lannisters or their NGO banner men.

We will never succeed in defeating the MNC White Walkers without transferring the wealth and power of the seven kingdoms to serve the true needs of the frontlines of the crises, the communities who understand that dismantling hetero-patriarchy, white supremacy and capitalism are all essential components of a comprehensive battle plan against climate change.

And we will never win unless we develop a creative, holistic, collaborative and coordinated strategy that plays to everyone’s strengths and skills involved.

Unless we ensure that cavalry, infantry, dragons, catapults, burning trenches, Valyrian steel and dragon glass are all synchronized in their purpose – the forces of climate capitalism will remain far stronger in its unified goal of overwhelming and destroying us all

For in real life, what we need to say to the God of Death is “Not This Way”.

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.

###

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 
    
###