Last week before comments go BOEM!

I recorded a short video to explain what we’ve been doing for the last 50+ days as part of the comment on the Bureau of Ocean Energy management (BOEM) comment period on the Trump administration’s proposal to open more than 90% of US Coastal waters to offshore oil and gas drilling. I wanted to explain what we’ve been doing for two reasons: the first is that there’s still time to submit a comment to BOEM (before March 9, 2018), and we’ve got a new way for you to do it that ensures you comment gets heard when you submit it through this super cool new action portal we set up with friends. The second reason is that this is a really great example of the kind of work 198 methods does, how we’re different from other environmental groups, and why it matters.

A quick recap

Early this year, Ryan Zinke, Trump’s Interior Secretary, announced a new plan that would open more than 90% of US coastal waters to oil and gas drilling. It’s a really really bad plan, since offshore oil drilling always leads to more spills and accidents.And if anything, Trump’s other actions to roll back protections for the environment and worker safety will make accidents even MORE likely. Plus, there’s simply no way to manage the decline of fossil fuels and create the 100% renewable powered economy we need to stop climate change if we open up millions of new acres to offshore drilling. Which is why the Obama administration just banned all drilling off the Atlantic and pacific coasts 2 years ago after a HUGE public comment period in which more than 3 million people, dozens of governors, hundreds of mayors and just about everyone who lives along the coast clearly said #NoDrilling. Loads more footnotes and references in this pst from early in the comment period. As usual for this White House, the rollout was chaotic and ham-handed, and the whole thing may not even be legal because Zinke tried to exempt just the state of Florida as an explicit political favor to Governor Rick Scott who wants to run for US Senate. More on that later.

Our plan in action

BOEM is required by law to hold a 60 day public comment period on any new offshore drilling plan like this. But it was clear from the rollout, and from Zinke & Trump’s past actions, that they weren’t going to be talked out of drilling just because a majority of Americans oppose it. Which brings us to the first part of our plan: We didn’t just want you to comment online – though more than 14,000 of you did, and that’s awesome – we wanted to deliver the comments through direct action speak outs at the hearings, and that’s just what we did. Drew got up on a chair and shouted down the Columbia SC BOEM hearing, earning him a mention in the Washington Post. We did a similar action a few weeks later in Raleigh NC with friends from NC APPPL, who we’ve been working with to fight the pipeline. And once it got going, we weren’t alone: There were public disruptions and refusals to play along with BOEM’s process at hearings in Washington DC, New Jersey, and lots of other places. One of my favorite’s was the action in Rhode Island where our friend and frequent ally Tim DeChristopher, succeeded in turning the whole hearing on its head with citizen after citizen getting on a literal soap-box to speak out about offshore drilling and (eventually) dragging the BOEM staff into a debate on the issues.

Why we did it and why it works

All of which brings me back to why I wanted 198 to work on offshore drilling plan in the first place, and how your actions with us really make a difference: First – It’s about an important concept in Gene Sharp’s writings and teachings called ‘withholding consent’. When we fight climate change, we’re fighting a really BIG system. It involves money and power at a lot of different levels. Fundamentally, it’s also an autocratic system – meaning it’s accountable to a ruling elite, not to the people or the planet. At 198 methods, we’re convinced that fighting climate change requires a specifically anti-authoritarian approach. Like what we did at the BOEM hearings: by standing up speaking out in ways that BOEM didn’t condone (and threatened to throw us out or shut down the hearings over) we put the staff of this administrative agency in a bind. We’re asking them to consciously choose NOT to do their jobs, if that’s what it takes, in order to stop the greater harms of offshore drilling. We’re demonstrating, in a really physical, in-your-face way, that there will be a reckoning — we know most of the people are commenting in opposition to offshore drilling. We know that the consequences of this offshore drilling plan will threaten us all through climate chaos, oil spills and more. And we’re asking them to pick a side: with us or with the polluters. Second – It’s about inspiring people who are already part of the process to realize they have more power than just typing a comment into a laptop — including our allies in groups like the Sierra Club and Oceana that did not support our efforts to stand up and disrupt the hearings in advance. I noted after the SC hearing that I saw a lot of groups advocating a sort of NIMBY (Not In My backyard) strategy. Basically, they were trying to convince BOEM to give them the same exemption Zinke gave Florida (which, again, may not hold up in court). They did this either through explicit argument, like by siting the value of their coastal tourism economies, for example; Or through an implicitly political argument, like by having lots of Republicans or state-wide officials testify that they are opposed to drilling, which helps make the argument that Trump & Co. will lose support in the mid-term elections if they push forward with the plan. But I think that’s the wrong approach for two reasons: one, as outlined below, it fails to move the media narrative and focusses attention on our weakest and least reliable partners. More importantly, it uses a NIMBY argument when what we need is a NIABY argument – Not in ANYBODY’s Back Yard. We don’t just want to ban offshore drilling in South Carolina, or California, or in places that have Republican Governor’s, or in places with coastal tourism: We want to ban offshore drilling – ALL of it – because it’s way to dangerous for our communities and our planet. Third – It’s about inspiring everyone who’s not part of the process yet. Two years ago, more than 3 million people and hundreds of academics, researchers, churches, and all kinds of organizations commented in opposition to offshore drilling (all of it). Obama responded by banning drilling off the Atlantic and mainland US Pacific coasts, but allowed it to continue in the “sacrifice zones” of the Gulf of Mexico and much of Alaska. That was basically what the conventional wisdom in the media expected, and so it was ‘enough’ to turn out lots and lots of comments so that Obama would feel empowered to do that. But there is no conventional wisdom for what Trump is doing. He’s already given away more land to fossil fuels, and more brazenly, than anyone imagined a few years ago. And, dazzled by the sheer, crazy, deluge of horribleness, the main stream media (like that Washington post story) default to covering this as a ‘normal’ political story where there are people for drilling, and people against it, and BOEM is a sort of neutral mediator. To stop Trump and team’s plan we need to be bigger, more powerful, and reach more people. That means working outside of the conventional wisdom of what works in the media and political wisdom. We can’t wait for Trump to come to his senses, or be satisfied with incremental NIIMBY victories any longer. Honestly, it will probably mean more of us lining up on roads and paddling our kayaks in front of drilling rigs to stop them. That’s movement building work – not lobbying and media work. And to inspire people, a LOT of people to rise up against big authoritarian power of the petro-state as represented by this offshore drilling plan, we need to inspire people. And that, fundamentally, is why we do digitally supported direct actions JUST LIKE THIS! Look, there are enough of us, in America, to stop offshore drilling, reverse climate change and build the 100% renewable fossil free world we need. What’s more, we’ll all have more jobs, more money, more political power and more control over our daily lives when we do.  What’s holding us back is the raw political power (fueled by money, fear, and a lot of other things) of the fossil fuel industry and their allies in power – like the Trump administration. but to mobilize those people, we need to show them that resistance is possible, that it works, that it feels good (if I can’t dance I don’t want to be in your revolution) and most importantly that they have the power.

So, what next?

Glad you asked. First of all, if you liked our actions and the ideas in this post, please chip in to support us. If everybody who sent in a public comment with us gave $1.98, we’d have more than enough money to fund our entire operation for 6 months. Of Course, not everyone can donate, so if you’re in a position to give a little, please consider a weekly donation of $1.98, or a gift of $19.80 to support our ongoing work. Second – it’s not too late to submit your comment, and even if you already sent one in with us, or with another group, hang on and consider this new tool as well. Working with our friends at Daily Kos and Action Network, we’ve set up a new comment form that delivers your comments directly to the BOEM staff in charge of this docket. I’ll still deliver all the 14,000+ signatures you sent in through the in-person deliveries, and I’ll submit them as evidence before the March 9 deadline. But by also submitting a comment through this new form, you’ll essentially get two comments — and that can be really helpful for when our friends in the legal community go to court to challenge this rule. Being able to cite the fact that there were a LOT of comments, and also to pull out individual voices of opposition from the public record, will be really helpful. So, if you haven’t commented, please do so now. And if you already have, comment again!

BOEM goes the dynamite – your comments in action

When the Bureau of Ocean Energy management (BOEM) came to my town, there was already a great plan in place with rallies, lobby days,and speak outs planned by partners. But I wanted to make sure we did more than show up and record your comments (and mine) as opposed to the Trump administration’s plan.

There’s an important role for direct action in moments like these. First it’s an important way to withhold consent – a critical strategy in the Gene Sharp model of anti-authoritarian organizing we ascribe to.

Second, it helps inspire people to realize they don’t have to obey unjust and destructive dictates from the Trump administration. Across the country, people have been showing up at these BOEM events to speak out and demand a full retraction of this plan. The louder, less orderly, and more disruptive we get, the more Zinke and his team withdrawal. Some in the media are already saying that it looks more like a political stunt than a serious energy plan.

And finally, it helps to correct the media narrative, which tends towards “both side-ism” and false balance by giving drilling opponents, who vastly outnumber drilling supporters, the same amount of coverage as the fossil fuel industry, and paints BOEM as an impartial referee for science. In fact, Trump’s  Interior secretary Ryan Zinke is already ignoring mountains of scientific evidence that offshore drilling is too dangerous for our coasts and economies, and a disaster for our climate. In many cases, they’re ignoring evidence that was just submitted 1-2 years ago as part of the Obama administration process that resulted in a ban on all offshore drilling in the Atlantic and continental Pacific (eg not Alaska) oceans.*

So, when more than 10,000 members and supporters of 198 methods submitted comments opposing the Trump/Zinke offshore drilling plan, we didn’t just want to hand over your names and comments, we wanted to make a ruckus.

And that’s what we did in South Carolina – arguably the Reddest, most Trump-friendly state where BOEM is holding an offshore drilling hearing (and also Drew’s Home turf).  Below is a LONG recap of the day’s events. But if you’re already into our idea to deliver comments in the most loud, non-compliant, media-shattering way possible, then please chip in. There are important hearings happening in the next week in Washington, D.C. and North Carolina that we want to support and play a role in – and we need your help to make it happen.

The Story in South Carolina.

First of all, all respect to the Sierra Club of South Carolina and their Ready for 100% rally and lobby day, which was already planned at the statehouse. This was lead by Minister Leo Woodbury, he’s from the northeast corner of South Carolina. That’s right across the state-line from Robeson county, which we talked a lot about in the live-stream about the ACP and the Rev., in addition to talking a lot about clean power, talked about the dangers of expanding fossil fuel infrastructure including offshore drilling and new pipelines. Here’s a bit of Rev. Woodbury to give you the flavor:

Later in the morning, the big ocean groups- OCEANA, Coastal Conservation League, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, etc – organized a big rally on the statehouse steps that featured equal numbers of democratic and Republican law makers speaking out against drilling. It was a good event, and did a good job highlighting what SC ‘insiders’ view as our most plausible route to stopping drilling in this state: that the issue is so politically toxic, that it might even suppress turnout among Trump’s base voters in 2018. These groups hope that the threat of an electoral back-lash will lead Zinke and team to offer an exemption for SC like they did for FL – but I’m not so sure.

Here’s some video of that rally:

Our local big greens did a great job planning and executing a rally based on conventional political wisdom.  It featured the voices of big politicians like Rep. Mark “Appalachian trail” Sanford and lots of State legislators. But those same reasons, the rally was not very radical  — for example it did NOT connect offshore drilling to pipelines and other fossil fuel infrastructure, Climate Change was barely mentioned once, nor was an explicit connection to environmental and racial justice made by most speakers (except the Gullah Geechee nation, of course). Still, that was the part of the day that got the most media attention.

After that it was off to the Doubletree — a hotel as far as you can get from downtown and still technically be in Columbia. Seriously, the location has no public transit it sits at the intersection of two interstate highways. Once there it was clear that BOEM was expecting some pushback given the amount of security on site.  To counteract the un-democratic format of the hearing (more on that below) a lot of those same big green groups staged a counter-rally outside the BOEM hearing room, essentially in the ballroom next door. Where the focus of the earlier rally at the statehouse was clearly political – featuring elected officials and politically connected spokespeople – the pre-BOEM rally at the hotel was focussed on the grassroots. Local mayors, business owners, and impacted trade associations like fishermen were the featured speakers. And the clear focus was to get everyone fired up and ready to submit a comment in opposition to the Trump-Zinke plan. Here’s some video of that rally to give you a taste:

About that BOEM process.

The format of the hearings is always the same, they call it a ‘townhall’ but it’s not the format most of us associate with that description – EG one microphone and people get up one at a time to testify in favor or against on the record. What they have are a bunch of table displays, staffed by career BOEM people about the proposed offshore drilling plan. The displays and staff are not explicitly pro-drilling, but they are there to explain the Trump/Zinke proposal, which is very pro drilling. So the information includes things like “why oil drilling is safer than ever” and “Why is offshore oil important to America’s Economy”. There is no display specifically on climate change or pipelines (which will be needed to get oil from offshore rigs to shore, and then onshore to refineries).

If you want to submit a “public comment” at the hearing, you have to sit down, by yourself at a laptop (provided by BOEM) and type your name, address and other personal information into the approved terminal before being allowed to (in complete silence) type your comment into the system.

I wasn’t having it. So, after a few minutes of letting people sign in and mill around, I pulled out a chair, stood on it, and called BS on the whole process.

I’m using the “BS” frame here as an intentional homage to Emma Gonzalez and her speech in Florida on gun violence. There’s something really powerful about having someone call out a lie, and it’s a similar energy I’m hoping to channel into these remaining BOEM hearings – because they’re NOT OVER YET!

In fact there three more weeks to comment on this offshore drilling plan. So before March 9, tell your friends to comment, share the action online, and if you can please chip in to support us getting to as many of these hearings as possible to shout, disrupt, and make our voices heard any way we can.


* We think the Obama rules should have gone farther, and protected the Gulf of Mexico as well. If it’s too dirty and dangerous for the South Atlantic, why is it safe for the Gulf? Answer it’s not, but the Gulf is treated as a sacrifice zone.  But that’s another story.

Trump’s first SOTU

Donald Trump gives his first official State of the Union address on Tuesday, January 30, at 9pm Eastern | 6pm Pacific. Even if you hate the guy (and you should), somebody needs to listed to make sure he doesn’t announce any stupid new ideas (like drilling for oil on the moon, or requiring every citizen to genuflect and donate $5 every time the pass an Exxon station).

Our team will be listening in (and providing live color-commentary via twitter). And you can tune in with us! RSVP here and/or come back just before the speech starts Tuesday night and we’ll host a live stream of the speech, with running commentary from our team and a range of climate journalists, activists Climate Justice Warriors and more. 

Live Blog State of the Union hate Watching party

Trouble viewing the RSVP/Iframe? Click Here

What to watch for: the Pre Game.

Here’s some links and hot-takes before the big speech to give you an idea what to listen for.

The pipelines and the wave

One of the things I’ve done for years now is help progressive, climate-action groups and people raise money online. Today is #GivingTuesday, so you can imagine that it’s been a bit of a whirl here at 198 methods.

The idea of #GivingTuesday is nice – we all take a day out at the start of December, proximate to black Friday, cyber Monday, and other major moments in late America’s capitalist over-consumption, and we just … give. People donate to charities and non-profits of all sizes and kinds. Billions are raised on this day every year. And most of the groups I work with or know will ask for your help and raise some needed operating cash today.

I’m doing that too – because we’re just getting our bylaws ready and filing as an official non-profit organization. And so, yes, it would be great if you can chip in a few dollars and help us expand our work in 2018.

But I also want to do something a little different – because I think 198 methods is a little different. So I’m taking a step back to tell you why you should donate. Call it my 30,000 foot view. The world as I see it from where I sit today. And why I think that world needs one more non-profit environmental group (this one). Call it the story of the pipelines and the wave of people powered resistance people.

But nobody has time to read a long email on giving Tuesday, so I’ll do the whole thing in a couple of charts and headlines:

The problem is that we’re not doing nearly, nearly enough to cut global warming pollution.  Only the blue lines on this chart indicate getting NEAR the cap on global warming pollution that every country in the world (except Trump’s America) has agreed to. The red lines are 3-6 degrees C of warming, which makes most of the planet uninhabitable.

from the Global Carbon Project via

Here’s another version of the same thing, this one showing what the US, in particular is doing, has said it will do (under the paris Agreement) and what we actually NEED to be doing.

Here’s another take from the New York Times.

The good news is that as bleak as things look, we actually have all the solutions we need. Solar and wind prices are falling dramatically, so are batteries and electric cars. Coal is going out of business even with all the help the Trump administration is trying to give it in the form of unfettered subsidies.

Here’s 2 charts side by side from the same Guardian article that will raise your spirits.

Global wind and solar costs
Global Wind and solar installations are soaring according to the Guardian
Global EV fleet
So is the global fleet of electric cars, according to the same article.

The problem is, of course, that we don’t have an endless amount of time. In fact, every month and year we delay the action we need (effectively bending those lines down in the top 2 charts, and up, much more steeply in the second two) the changes get harder to make.  Lake anything else in life (including me writing this message) the longer you put something off, the harder it is to complete the whole task by the deadline.

Here’s a  great illustration of that “the longer you put it off, the steeper it gets” concept:

emissions path for 66 percent chance of staying below 2c
This one is from Robbie Andrew by way of a real bummer of a D. Roberts piece in Vox.

And it’s not just that we’re standing still, refusing to act. Oh no, not in the age of Donald Trump and his minions trying to rollback every law that protects public health, our climate or our communities. And they don’t stop at rolling back protections or opening up new and novel lands to drilling (not just BLM land, but national parks and monuments, even the Grand Canyon? Geez, guys, take it easy. What are you expecting to get impeached before your 4 years are up?).

But that’s not all! Trump’s team, led by Secretary of Oops Rick Perry, has even proposed charging US ratepayers and extra $1 billion+ to subsidize nuclear and coal plants in a plan so outrageous, even the gas and oil industry are speaking out against it (Really, it’s so brazen, you have to read this Vox piece to believe it).

But here is where the crisis becomes an opportunity. We know that the real reason Trump and his cronies (who mostly worked for the oil and gas industry before this administration) are so desperate to frack, drill, mine and defile every place they can right away is because they’re actually worried that they’re running out of time. What these people care about (all these people care about?) is money. And if the world starts to act on climate change like it means it (take a look at those top 2 graphs again) then the carbon bubble they’ve been sitting on for years is going to pop in a big way.

The only way they can cash in is to stop, or at least delay, the global shift to clean, renewable energy (those second 2 graphs). They know the party can’t last forever, so they have to get every last hydrocarbon out of the ground NOW while there’s still a chance to do it. In fact, they’re so eager to dig it all up, that they’ve over-saturated the US market with oil and gas.

Which brings me, at last, to how I think we can win, and why I’d appreciate it if you can chip in a few dollars to support our work today. Take a look at this mash up of 2 maps – one a slightly older map of proposed Tar Sands Pipelines, the other just released today showing many (but not all) of the East Coast’s proposed gas pipelines.

Tar sands pipelines

Gas pipelines mapTar sands on the left is a little outdated so doesn’t include DAPL, from Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers via this blog. The gas map on the right is from today’s E&E news.

This isn’t all the pipelines, export terminals and new fossil fuel infrastructure proposed in north America. But it is a lot of it.

When I look at that map, I don’t just see the pipelines and projects threatening so many communities. I see their vulnerability. If we can delay, disrupt, and derail these pipelines — even just for a few months — we can significantly increase their costs and give the clean, sustainable power options we need time to catch up.

Even more encouraging, there’s a whole new wave of people showing up ready to fight for our collective home like all our lives depend on it – because they do. Brave climate warriors are sounding the alarm that we need to start acting like, as our friend Emily said, “the building is indeed burning, and all the world’s babies are in it.” They’re demanding that leaders of any party that allow new fossil fuel infrastructure to be built are treated, as our friend Wen says in this week’s Nation: “a Climate Criminal—and I’m Willing to Go to Jail to Say So.”

Even more fun than outrage, I met lots of folks at last week’s People Vs Oil and Gas summit who are ready to build the future we want – clean, sustainable, just and led by women of color – right in the path of these pipelines. And then dare the Trump team and their fossil fueled backers to try and come drag us out of that better future. That’s what they’re doing in Nebraska with Solar XKL, in Pennsylvania at Camp White Pine, and are about to do a lot more of in Louisiana and lots of other places.

I want 198 methods to be there to help – to use our smarts and digital tools (like this stuff) to raise money, drag attention, and connect fights all across North America into one big movement for change. But to do that, we’re going to need money. Not a lot, but a little. There’s a little over $500 in our bank account right now. I’m hoping to raise $10,000 by the end of the month to have a lawyer look over our incorporation paperwork, buy some additional software and storage space we need to scale up the project, and get started on some cool new projects with our friends (which I’ll tell you more about next week, since this is already too long).

Chip in here to help.

Taking action while waiting for Keystone.

I hate waiting for news. And this morning, we were waiting on a doozy of an update: A few days after a massive oil spill on the keystone 1 pipeline, the the Nebraska Public Service Commissions (PSC) was to decide whether or not to approve the Keystone XL pipeline route. (See this post if you want to catch up on the spill.) They did, with a really important caveat. And now I’m thinking about what’s next.

But as fortune would have it, I wasn’t stuck home alone, worrying about the vote; Or out at work trying to stay busy while clicking the refresh button on my news feed every few minutes. I was in Pittsburgh at the People Vs Oil & Gas conference, surrounded by pipeline fighters from British Columbia, Canada, South Texas, New York, California and everywhere in between.

So when a couple friends from the local Rising Tide chapter asked me to pitch in (and do what 198 methods does — digital communications support for direct action campaigns), I said yes in a heartbeat; Even if it meant getting up really, really early this morning.

Which is how I ended up holding my cellphone with shivering hands to film, tweet and share a cold, late November morning from Southpointe, PA. I was there to support a brave group of 5 local activists, each of whom had been touched directly by the fracking, coal mining, and extraction industries that have run roughshod over the shale fields and coal fields of that part of western PA, West Virginia, and too many of our communities.

In freezing weather lit by headlamps and watery pre-dawn light they erected two twenty foot tall tripods, dangled themselves from the apex and locked their bodies to the base. All of it to block an entrance to a local office park that is home to some of the biggest, richest and most destructive fossil fuel extraction companies in America. Frackers, Pipeline builders, Injection well profiteers and petro export barons all rub elbows and share office space on the plush Southpointe campus. Heck, even Halliburton rents a suite there.

I think it was a really perfect Counter-pointe to the waiting. While the drillers, frackers and polluters showed up expecting “another day at the often” we did something beutifle, creative, and a little bit crazy to disrupt their morning commute and make it clear #WeWontStop. You can read all about it, and check out my epic, shaky-shivering, 3.5 hour live stream of the whole action, at the Rising tide Facebook page. You can also chip in a few dollars to support the legal defense fund of the two climbers who were arrested here.

And that’s how it needs to be with Keystone XL too. Today’s decision isn’t a defeat — for us or Transcanada, the pipeline builder either. It’s a sort of detente, a “game on” moment that we need to rise to with creativity, love and a powerful spirit of action. You don’t need a giant tripod or a beutifle banner, or even to run out in the street and stop traffic where you live (yet). But you DO need to be willing to speak up and take action when the moment is right. And that’s why we’re encouraging everyone to sign the “promise to protect” today.

Lead by Nebraska landowners and local tribal nations and indigenous leaders, the promise asks you to be ready, to get trained, make a plan, recruit some friends. And when the moment is ripe as a late-July ear of corn, to be ready to take action to protect our country, our communities, and our climate from the Keystone XL pipeline (or whatever else they think of). Will you sign on?

Let’s get to that decision, because it’s a little confusing but here’s the gist:

The Decision is BAD because it’s basically saying the Keystone Xl pipeline can get built, despite all the protests, problems, and last week’s massive oil spill. On the other hand it’s GOOD because the “alternate route” they approved is hundreds of miles longer and needs new and different land to be taken by eminent domain — none of which has been vetted by the EPA and other federal agencies before.That gives us an opportunity to sue, demand more information, and otherwise gum up the works until they do. Because of all that, and the fact that the price of oil has been crashing (undercut by the price of renewable energy, but mostly by cheap fracked gas), a lot of economists and investors think that KXL will simply never be built.

For now, the best thing to do to help is to dig in and get ready to fight this pipeline (and lots more like it) with everything you’ve got. And you can start with the Promise to Protect.

Together, we can stop all of the pipelines, export terminals, compressor stations and more. But only if we promise to take action.

Will you join us?

About that Republican Carbon Tax

Editorial boards everywhere are positively swooning over the dulcet crooning of a new boy band called The Climate Leadership Council (CLC). That’s right, the carbon tax band is back together! But as usual, for backers of a carbon tax, the editorial boards are missing a fundamental truth: Climate change will not be solved by a bipartisan consensus of old white men. And we know this is so because 1) We’ve heard all this before; 2) This isn’t a sincere attempt to solve climate change, it’s grandstanding by paid pundits; and 3) Sincere, workable plans to solve climate change exist, but they’re never written by bipartisan old white men from the pundit class.

more “About that Republican Carbon Tax”

Disecting the #DistruptJ20 inauguration protest

It’s been more than a  week since the inauguration and the protest that denied Trump the crowds he craves, and helped reset the media narrative. We’ve got a lot to be proud of in the climate movement, and we’re struggling under the sheer weight of horrible news that’s been dumped on us in an unbelievably short period of time. Tillerson confirmed, Pruitt likely, the Muslim ban, the defections and failure to block cloture by Democrats.

But let me direct your attention backwards, for just a moment, to consider what happened on January 20, and some (I think) important lessons it provides about how the Climate movement can and should lead the resistance, and how this project can help.

Some beautiful folks holding space at the inauguration, saying NO to Trump’s agenda of fossil fuel cronyism. #disruptj20 #climatej20

— Alex Doukas (@adoukas) January 20, 2017

First of all, thanks to all our friends who wrote up great accounts of the day have been written up by some friends. Special kudos to David at OCI and Farhad of the Chorus Foundation (nerd power!) for ones I liked. I won’t recount the whole day and what happened since others have done that well.


  1. The climate movement was actually, truly, a really big and important part of what happened. The protest at the “Red Gate” was a really big demonstration (hundreds of people) and was largely effective at the goals we set for ourselves. Planning meetings to support the action and plan strategy more generally were also attended by dozens of people on Wednesday and Thursday night. Numbers aren’t everything, but in the age of mass-resistance, they are an important thing – and we brought some big ones.
  2. Part of what made it work was that nobody tried to “own” it. There were a couple of logos and banners for organizations at the Red Gate, but mostly there were just people. The organizers of the event and the trainings that pre-ceded it worked for Oil Change International,, and half a dozen groups. But none of those organizations tried to control the agenda or speak to the press on behalf of the rally. In fact, I was a little surprised at hoe many groups – even groups that support Direct Action tactics like 350 and Greenpeace – stood back from #DisruptJ20 and decided to fund actions, email their lists about it, or otherwise raise awareness. The positive side of that was that this was clearly an ‘organic’ action – no paid protestors, just a lot of pissed off people some of whom worked or volunteered with specific climate action groups, and some just showing up for the first time.
  3. Protest, big protest works. This is the most important thing, and again, I’m not the first or only one to say it. But it’s worth noting that our actions directly contributed to the biggest news story of the inauguration – which was about the competing crowd size and narratives of ‘legitimacy’: When Trump & co falsely claimed that there were big supportive crowds at the inauguration, the press had no choice but to present the reality that the crowds on the mall and parade route were historically small  and that there were many more protestors on the street than celebrants. That’s the real power of mass action. The inventor of our namesake – Gene Sharp – writes:

Mass noncooperation and defiance can so change social and political institutions, especially power relationships , that the dictator’ ability to control the economic, social, and political processes of government and the society is taken away.

So, what’s this thing, 198 methods, got to do with it?

  1. Fundamentally, i think this showed me that an idea like 198-methods can world. A big, climate-lead movement of resistance and disruption can be effective and can happen. I also  firmly believe in an intersectional approach to organizing – that means owning, acknowledging, and addressing (where we can) the fact that systems like climate change are racist. We’ll never defeat pollution until we address hate and discrimination (against women, immigrants, you name it) in our culture as well. Just like at the inauguration, our fights are linked. And now we have a clear example of what action together and in solidarity can look like.
  2. The part where big green (and event smaller, more radical green groups) stepped back and didn’t (or weren’t able to recruit for this action also showed that there’s a need for this kind of organizing – intersectional, distributed, not leader-less but rather leader-full actions. #DisruptJ20 and the climate blockade didn’t organize themselves. But we might have been the only climate-oriented group that sent an email out to tell you about it- specifically recruiting some 150+ action participants. If #1 shows that we can make these actions work and be meaningful, #2 shows that we’re not duplicating effort.
  3. Lots and lots of groups are asking you to call your Senators and oppose confirming key Trump cabinet members – that’s good stuff and we should all be making those calls, attending those town hall meetings, and signing those petitions. But if, like me, you’re not convinced that’s enough to stop Trump or demonstrate real resistance, then 198 methods will give you alternatives and additional actions that DO. Actions like Divestment, boycotts, protests, and civil disobedience/resistance – you know, all the stuff that’s on that 198 methods list written by Gene Sharp.

To that’s it – my recollection of the #ClimateJ20 protests at the #DisruptJ20 inauguration protest. And here’s some more excellent photos, video and more from the day. What do you think? Were you at a protest on inauguration day and have a story or opinion to share? Let us know in the comments or hit me on twitter and tell me what you think.