2020 foresight

2020 and the new decade are not off to a very encouraging start: Australia is on fire. So is the Amazon and there was just a huge oil spill in Brazil. Puerto Rico is being rocked by earthquakes even as it struggles to get the relief money Congress appropriated, and which Trump’s racist administration still wont deliver. Trump might start a war with Iran to distract himself from Impeachment. And the blitzkrieg assault on the planet continues apace: with Trump opening new attacks on (another) one of our oldest and most effective environmental laws: the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA).

And that’s just the part of the list from the last two weeks; The first of the 2020s — a decade in which we need radical action to stop the climate crisis on a scale rarely seen in the human endeavor.

But there’s good news too: 88 people chipped in just under $1000 to support this project in December – so we’ve got the funds we need to keep writing and emailing you. New coalitions are launching and re-launching with exciting plans for a 72 hour climate strike in April to honor the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and the new generation of climate leaders. And lawsuits are advancing to honor treaty rights and stop Keystone XL, as well as to stop the Atlantic Coast Pipeline from Crossing the Appalachian trail, and much more. Not to mention the 2020 election – with primaries starting in a few weeks.

A famous phrase notes that the opposite of war isn’t peace, it’s creation; And the opposite of fear isn’t courage, it’s action. So with the pre-amble that this is very much a ‘going gets tough’ moment, here’s three key themes of our plans to get going, creating and taking action in 2020:

Redefine radical

One of the big lessons of the last three years is that things that seemed radical now have to become common. Twenty years ago we had time for incremental solutions to the climate crisis – driving less or recycling were appropriate actions for people to take when we ‘only’ needed to cut emissions by 3% a year. Now we need to cut them 15% a year, every year and those actions, any individual action really, just aren’t enough.

What we need now are big changes in big systems – electrify everything, de-carbonize the shipping industry, put millions of people to work building the new energy economy. And we absolutely have to stop building and investing in the fossil fuel projects that are literally killing us all – which means we need to be ready to put our bodies, our lives, and our collective will in the way.

As Rebecca Solnit said in a beautiful essay on the first day of this decade:

I have seen change that was unimaginable until it happened and then became so ordinary-seeming a part of everyday life that people forgot there was a struggle, forgot there was a transformation, forgot how we got here, forgot that we are living in the once-unimaginable. I believe that there are many unimaginables in this moment that will become, must become ordinary, including the end of the era of fossil fuel. Almost no one seems to know that 20 years ago, we literally did not have the solution, because wind and solar were ineffectual and expensive; we have had an energy revolution that now makes it possible to make the transition we need, and it’s not unimaginable now—just unimagined because it’s so overlooked.

https://lithub.com/letter-to-a-young-climate-activist-on-the-first-day-of-the-new-decade/

We’ll try and embody this goal in 2020 by focussing on more & more escalated actions to stop fossil fuels. We’ll still have online petitions for you to sign, from time to time, but we’ll try and pair each and every one with a specific, in-person delivery event. Where possible we’ll also try and have a way for you to participate no matter what zip code you live in. And at big moments like the April climate strikes we’ll focus our attention on the second day of action –

Creation & social media

Another key lesson from the last few years is not to underestimate the value and role of art and creativity in our work, and also the importance of co-creation: of building things together. There’s just something so authentic and powerful about painting a banner together, singing a song together, assembling the lock box together. You’re not just talking about community, you’re literally making it.

By contrast, at the same time we’ve been re-learning the value of creating together, we’ve seen the utter failure of social media as a space for community building. The last few years took us from Tahrir square and digitally-powered movements that toppled dictators, to the Trump administration and the era of paid disinformation as a Facebook ad policy.

As Zeynep Tufekci said in this must-read article from last year:

What is to be done? There are no easy answers. More important, there are no purely digital answers. …The way forward is not to cultivate nostalgia for the old-world information gatekeepers or for the idealism of the Arab Spring. It’s to figure out how our institutions, our checks and balances, and our societal safeguards should function in the 21st century—not just for digital technologies but for politics and the economy in general. This responsibility isn’t on Russia, or solely on Facebook or Google or Twitter. It’s on us.

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/611806/how-social-media-took-us-from-tahrir-square-to-donald-trump/

That article was gutting for me because I spent the last 10 years trying to use tech tools to expand democracy and movement building in the US. The original idea of 198 methods was to update Gene Sharp’s anti-fascist methodology to use modern, digital tools like social media.

But we’re going to try and use Tufekci’s advice in 2020 by building the communities we need, not idealizing the ones we could have had. In particular we’re committing to building a curriculum of direct action training tools online. After 2 years of ignoring Facebook and other big social platforms, we’re also going to take another shot at using it to create authentic, multi-directional conversation through live video chats and Instagram stories. And of course we’ll keep, texting, emailing and continuing to reply to all the messages you write (eventually, and not counting the trolls).

Your vote matters, but it’s not enough

Last thought, since this is a very consequential election year, is about the 2020 election. Like social media, we’re forced to admit that we don’t live in the world we want, or have the things we need. But we also see that we can create them.

Specifically, we’re forced to confront these two facts:

  1. Defeating Trump and his corrupt, climate-wrecking administration in 2020 is incredibly important. No single thing will make as much of an impact on the climate as removing this regime from power.
  2. Our election system is deeply broken: Trump won without the popular vote, and millions of our fellow citizens are already disenfranchised by bogus redistricting, an arrest or incarceration record, and lots of other racist features of our system.

We have to vote. Everyone we know has to vote. And we have to spend time and resources (as best we’re allowed as a non-profit group) making sure people are registered, informed, and able to exercise their right to vote. But that simply can’t be the sum of our work.

No politician can be elected to save us. We have to save ourselves.

Too many things need to happen while the campaign is ongoing – from fighting Trump’s NEPA rollback, to pressing Congress and the Courts to act and hold Trump’s corrupt regime accountable, to building intentional and creative communities of action to stop pipelines.

And no matter who is elected at the end of this year, we need to keep pushing – because we only have this one last decade to make big changes in every part of our society. To change everything, it will take all of us, pushing everywhere.

So that’s our plan for 2020 in a nutshell: take radical action that reflects the urgency of the climate crisis; begin again with the project of using digital tools to build creative, connected action with people; And pay attention to the 2020 election and politics, without getting consumed or distracted by it.


8 thoughts on “2020 foresight

  1. Raleigh Brecht

    Hope to god this is the year we can change to tackle climate emergency!

  2. Richard Blake

    As long as corporations (especially the fossil fuel industry and their bankers) have the status of “persons” with “inalienable rights”, legally defined as being solely obligated to maximize returns for their shareholders and no obligation to even acknowledge the public good, AND given unlimited ability to buy political outcomes friendly to their wishes, there will be NO, repeat, NO lasting progress on the scale needed to save this planet. It’s utterly amazing, and enormously dispiriting, that more people seem able to imagine an uninhabitable planet within a couple generations than are able to imagine a world free of predatory capital. Most “good liberals” want to blame the Orange Shitgibbon for things like KXL, for example, while conveniently ignoring that Saint Obama’s toothless decision against it was IMMEDIATELY challenged under ISDS by TransCanada. If a dem had been elected President in 2016 that ISDS case surely would have gone forward,; if TransCanada won their case IT WOULDN’T MAKE A DAMN BIT OF DIFFERENCE WHO THE PRESIDENT WAS, since the current system gives ULTIMATE SOVEREIGNTY to corporations rather than states. For a truly terrifying example of where we are today one needs to consider the Oceana Gold case against the people of El Salvador – here was a corporation brazenly asserting that THEY have every right to seize the last remaining potable water in that country FOR THE SAKE OF THEIR PROFITS, pursuing that manifestly psychotic goal through trade tribunals; just because they did not win their suit DOES NOT MITIGATE THE GRAVITY OF THE EXISTENTIAL THREAT POSED BY THIS SYSTEM. Voting for dems isn’t going to change this, neither is changing our individual habits – ONLY by re-asserting HUMANS’ SOVEREIGNTY OVER CORPORATIONS will we be able to save this planet from ecocide.

  3. Christine Jeffords

    The one thing nobody ever says about climate change is that it didn’t become a Thing until after we had all these billions of HUMAN BEINGS on the planet! Earth was designed for X number of us and Y number of other creatures. We can’t “save” the planet without getting about 6 billion of us (6.5 would be better) OFF it! If you go back and read the early science-fiction writers, you see that any of them who mentioned dates at all were convinced that by 2020 we’d have colonized the entire solar system and invented a Faster-Than-Light drive so we could get to other systems. If each colony was restricted half a billion people, it wouldn’t wreck its planet and would have room to grow. Elon Musk is doing what he can, but not enough and not fast enough, and as for government, fuggedaboudit! The way to make real space travel a reality is to get private, for-profit companies into it. The New World was settled that way, and so will any other planet be.

  4. Julie Slater-giglioli

    I AM DEEPLY MOVED
    THANK YOU ALL

  5. Fred Mallery

    In what I know, after serving a career in Energy Management, we have some opportunities for carbon reduction. Especially in the Pacific Northwest we need to stop cutting our trees and switch to electric transportation. We have a surplus of Green Hydro-Power. The state of the art of transportation is in removing the internal (infernal) combustion engine and replacing that with the electric motor. The science proves it!

  6. Tony Marple

    In Maine, environmentalists are opposing a power line through mostly an existing corridor in the north woods to bring Hydro Quebec power to Massachusetts and into the New England grid. So, this “What’s in it for Maine” attitude is just one example of people’s unwillingness to do something that’s critically needed because it might be unpopular. In Maine, almost everything you see on the roads is a big pickup or an SUV. Meanwhile, the state is floating bonds to fund work on our aging infrastructure, but even “environmentalist” state legislators won’t discuss raising the gas tax or lowering interstate speed limits.
    Major sacrifices are needed at all levels.

  7. Dan

    You should make your petitions shareable on Instagram and TikTok — two of the biggest social media streams. Would help get the word out on all your great causes 😉

  8. Maurene E McGrain

    I’m in. Please keep me informed. Thank you for all you do.

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