Join Actions in Defense of Black Lives – NOW.

I’ll keep this short, because I know a lot of you, like me, are already caught up in local efforts to defend black lives in this extraordinary moment.

The murders of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police officers, as well as Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and so many more, have touched off a nationwide conversation, protest and moment of revolution. All over the country, and all over the world, people are taking to the streets, flooding social media, calling politicians and demanding justice for those who have been killed by the police. We unequivocally endorse the demands of the Movement for Black lives, and now is the time to join them.

From their call to action:

With all actions, there are a variety of risks and roles. All roles are important, and this moment is no different. In the last three months, 100,000 people in the United States have died of COVID-19, and Black people are dying disproportionately. As we move into collective and community action, we have to learn the risks involved, and how to keep ourselves and our communities safe. There is no one right way to take action. Do what you can from where you can. Power building takes many shapes. Thanks for joining us.

The Movement For Black Lives, and organizers mobilizing across the country, invite you to take part in a week of action June 1st to 7th in defense of Black lives. This is an opportunity to uplift and fight alongside those turning up in the streets and online

If you’re struggling to find the right way to take action in this moment, here are some resources:

  1. Check out the Movement for Black Lives’ site and call to action. It has actions you can take from home, and actions you can take in the streets; actions you can take alone, and actions you can take with friends. Most important, these are demands from black leaders, and they’re asking us to show up, right now, to support them.
  2. Chip in to support local bail funds, mutual aid funds, and use your money to support local protest, action and organizing. Here’s a great page that will let you split a donation in (almost) any amount between up to 70 local groups.
  3. Recognize that showing up for black lives IS showing up for climate action. M4BL has has a position supporting divestment from fossil fuels and investment in communities for years. And if you’ve ever showed up to protest polluted water in Flint MI, Denmark SC, or dozens of other cities you should have already been following black leadership. And while it’s not as important as saving literal human black lives, a policy shift that defunds police and incarceration at the local, state, and federal level has always been part of the plan for how to pay for a Green New Deal. If you want to learn more about how to support and show up respectfully in this moment, check out this webinar with the Sunrise movement.

So whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever your race or ethnicity: This is the moment to take action and show up in defense of Black Lives. Check out the call to action, find an activity that works for you, and get to it or back to it.

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.

Here and No Further

Watching US policy the last few months – with the triumph and travails of the Green New Deal, the mixed messages from 2020 Presidential candidates, the #FakeTrumpEmergency, and more, I’m left with an inescapable conclusion: Politicians and corporations wont save us from the climate crisis. But we might be able to save each other.

Which is why I was excited to see our old friends at Rising Tide North America are going on a U.S. tour with radical climate justice group Ende Gelände. Together, they’ll share stories from Germany’s wildly successful mass mobilizations and talk about how we in the US can mobilize the numbers to truly stop the fossil fuel industry, topple the systems that let it run amuck, and create truly decentralized and democratized energy systems.

Will you join us? The tour is on the West Coast through early March, and then on the East Coast and through midwestern coal fields until April. Click here to find out when the tour stops near you and stay in the loop!

RSVP: Get tour updates by signing up here
(Specific dates are below and many events are cross-listed on our Facebook Page here)

Last fall, Ende Gelände organized 6,000 people to block an active coal mine and 82 simultaneous tree sits to protect a forest from being bulldozed.

Demonstrators invaded mining pits, danced in front of the diggers, slept on the railways, and made the connection between climate chaos and capitalism.

To do that here in the US, Rising Tide (and lots of us) believe we need to build a grassroots movement that uses direct action to bring down the fossil fuel industry and demand a just transition to clean and democratic energy systems.

We also need to confront false solutions like carbon trading; build international solidarity; use local and municipal power; and take leadership from those hit first and worst by pollution and climate catastrophes.

West Coast: February 21 – March 16

More West Coast dates and locations coming soon….!

East Coast/Appalachia/Midwest: March 6 – April 2

  • March 7th (afternoon): Boston, Massachusetts RSVP Page
  • March 7th (evening): Boston, Massachusetts Event Page
  • March 12th: Brooklyn, New York
  • March 13th: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • March 16: Baltimore, Maryland, Facebook event
  • March 17th: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • March 18th: Charleston, West Virginia
  • March 23rd: Blacksburg, Virginia
  • March 24th: Charlottesville, Virginia
  • TBA: Eastern Kentucky
  • March 26th: St Louis, Missouri
  • TBA: Minneapolis, Minnesota

Wheeler, Schumer and a week of action in DC

This has been a busy week for Congress, which means it’s been a busy week for activists. On Tuesday afternoon, Drew helped run a training session at the Friends of the Earth headquarters in Washington D.C. and prepared to take action at Andrew Wheeler’s confirmation hearing. At the training, six of us (including Drew) volunteered to risk arrest by speaking out during the hearing.

The plan was to enter in pairs, splitting the roles so that one would stand and read out a story from someone impacted by Wheeler’s dirty EPA policies or by the government shutdown. The other partner would silently hold a sign reading, “Shut down Wheeler, not the EPA.”

protest in the hallway
Photo by Liz Gorman

The stories to be read were compiled from Friends of the Earth members and public reports on the impacts of EPA policy. The goal was to highlight the injustice of Andrew Wheeler’s confirmation hearing while hundreds of people are impacted by the ongoing government shutdown. With so many people unable to pay their mortgages or afford critical medications, why is Congress prioritizing the confirmation of a puppet to the coal industry to lead the EPA?

The next morning, we arrived on Capitol Hill to line up. We had to hide our posters in bags and under coats. But Capitol Police and Republican Senate staffers suspected something – and in an attempt to prevent any kind of disruption, they filled the hearing room with EPA staff and Republican lawyers before the public was even let in. For this reason, Drew and I were the only pair to make it successfully into the hearing room before the doors were closed and those still in line were moved to the overflow space.

Silent protestors hold signs while emily and other FOE friends are arrested for refusing to be quiet

Photo by Liz Gorman

We waited until Wheeler made his opening remarks and allowed him to introduce his family before standing up. I held a sign and Drew shouted out the story a Texas woman who lives near a coal fired power plant that Wheeler wants to allow to pollute more. Capitol Police ushered us quickly out into the hallway where more than a dozen allier were also chanting and holding up posters. Four more friends were ultimately placed under arrest for refusing to stop chanting or disburse from outside the hearing.

The rest of the crowd stood in the hallway outside of the hearing room with their posters in silence until all of us were escorted out. All six of us were released after paying a fine of fifty dollars.

Drew is placed under arrest for disrupting the hearing of Andrew Wheeler for EPA Administrator

Photo by Liz Gorman

Later that same night, we were back at it, attending a meeting with 350 to plan and train folks for an action the following morning at the office of Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer. The plan was for a large group to enter the office of Senator Schumer and read out a letter demanding that he sign on to the Green New Deal. Members of the group would also tell their own stories about how the climate change movement has affected their lives. As we exited the office we would sing protest songs while two floors above, four people would drop a banner over the side of a balcony to be viewed from below.

Banner dropped over Sen Schumer's office
photo by 350

On the morning of the action, we met at Union Station and briefed a larger crowd that had not been able to attend the previous night’s training. Then we walked over to the Capitol to file through metal detectors and security checkpoints before making our way to Chuck Schumer’s office. The stories and testimony insider from impacted young people were powerful. And the songs and chants outside echoed through the hallways and marble lobby of the Hart office building. No arrests were made that day, since our banner team chose to comply with orders by Capitol Police to pull up the banner.

On the lower floor, the larger group continued to sing, and share stories of climate impacts, until we were warned to cease and desist. After a second warning, the whole group together then walked over to the park across the street from the capitol building, where reflections and feelings of hope were shared before one final song was sung.

Emily and our team with the banner after the action at Sen Schumer's office
Photo by 350.org

Donate, Rise, Burn, or Drown

Earlier this week I wrote to you about how, even in a time of climate fueled fires, super-storms and destruction, our movement for global climate justice gives me hope. Specifically, I asked you to come out to Rise for Climate Jobs and Justice action near you this Saturday, September 8, and see and feel that movement for yourself. And I still hope you’ll do that.

But I also wanted to ask if you can chip in $1.98 or more to support our work at this weekend’s Rise events and beyond. I’m in California now, and I plan to do more than march. I’ll be rallying with frontline leaders and taking direct action in the streets. Can you make a quick donation to support what we’re doing?

I’ll let you in on a secret: I don’t think another march is going to stop climate change. Big international shows of solidarity are an essential part of the movement – a way that (nearly) everyone can get together and call for change. But if we’re seriously going to change Jerry Brown and other local leaders’ minds, if we’re going to get the solutions we need to stop the climate crisis, we’re going to have to take bold direct action.

And that’s what 198 methods is here for: When the climate movement gets into the streets and takes direct action to force real change, we show up and provide digital tools, material support, and good old fashioned participation to help. That’s why I’m in California – and starting tomorrow, you’ll be able to see a series of videos and reports from Direct Actions happening all this week to create the change we need.

But, I can only be here, and only stream, record an broadcast all this stuff, because of generous supporters. So, if you’re in a position, I’d love it if you can chip in $1.98 or more to keep me going, and my camera rolling.

Show up with the Poor People’s Campaign: Because everybody’s got a right to breathe

Since mid-May, thousands of people have been rallying for policies to dismantle systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, and environmental degradation. It’s called the Poor People’s Campaign, A national call for moral revival, and the vision was laid down by Dr. Martin luther King 50 years ago.

The call is for all of us to join 40 days of nonviolent moral action, and on June 3, the campaign will focus a week of action on “The Right to Health and a Healthy Planet.” Already, actions have been happening weekly outside of 35 state capitals and Washington, D.C. Thousands have shown up already, and hundreds have been arrested, Including me – Last month, I was arrested in an act of civil disobedience with the Poor People’s Campaign alongside more than a dozen neighbors, clergy, and friends in my home state of South Carolina.

This Monday, I’m asking you to show up and do the same. Will you join a local Poor People’s Campaign action focussed on our health and the health of the planet this Monday?

You don’t need to risk arrest, but there is training and support available for those who want or feel called to do so. All most states ask is that you RSVP and attend a short training on the morning before. Click here to learn more​:

There are lots of good reasons to get involved with the Poor People’s Campaign. Their call for justice on behalf of people and the planet is powerful, and it’s clearly catching on. And in a time when climate-fueled weather events from hurricanes to wildfires threaten more communities than ever, it’s always poor people, communities of color and the disenfranchised who are ht first and worst.

Just last week news broke that independent medical examiners determined that the official death toll in Puerto Rico from hurricanes Maria was closer to 4600, not the 64 fatalities Trump and his team have reported. It’s an outrage that has ​everything​ to do with our nation (and Puerto Rico, in particular)’s dependance on fossil fuels. And it’s a story that clearly connects the dots between Trump’s racism, climate denial, and the disastrous consequences born by our neighbors – especially those who are poor, brown, or dispossessed. ​

But instead of igniting a moral call to action to make sure there are no more Climate fatalities on US soil, the media overwhelmingly focussed on a racist tweet from Roseanne Barr.

I’m not saying this just to knock cable news and the main stream media. But it’s an indication that there’s something sick and wrong with our political discourse. I don’t know if sitting down in the street and getting arrested will change it or heal our political discourse. But Dr. King hoped so; In 1967 he said “People ought to come to Washington, sit down if necessary in the middle of the street and say, ‘We are here; we are poor; we don’t have any money; you have made us this way … and we’ve come to stay until you do something about it.'”

When I was arrested a few weeks ago, I was standing right next to a local reverend who was part of the civil right’s movement in the 60s. A few yards to my left, young people from a neighboring town who cared about climate justice, immigrant rights and more were also arrested standing for their principles. Every Monday for the last three weeks people of conscience have shown up for justice.  On Monday, they show up for the health of our people and planet.

If you’re ready to answer Dr. King’s call 50 years later – if you’re ready to show up, sit in, speak out and make your presence known for climate justice – there’s never been a better time than this Monday June 4. Click here to find the nearest Poor People’s Campaign Action, and sign up to join them on Monday.