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.

Elections and consequences

You may have heard that the 2018 midterms were more of a blue puddle or a blue splash than a Blue wave, but I disagree. In fact, I’m with Alexandra Petri who wrote the day after that if Pundits covered star wars like they covered the Blue Wave their headline would have been:

Disappointing Night for Rebels Who Only Manage to Destroy Death Star, Dashing Hopes They Might Also Have Engaged and Defeated Entire Imperial Navy

And I know that it can be hard to pay attention or find the silver lining since the next day Trump replaced Jeff Sessions (good riddance) with the even more nakedly corrupt and cowardly Matt Whitaker — kicking off a constitutional crisis in an attempt to end the Mueller investigation and declare himself above the law. But it’s important – not just to those of us who worked on the election but to all of us who care about climate change –  to pause for a second and remember that we fought like hell and actually WON an amazing thing.

Let the Blue Wave wash over me

Like a lot of you, I was bummed to lose high-profile races like Beto and Ben Jealous (MD). And I think Andrew Gillum might have conceded too soon in FL – Stacy Abrams (GA) has the right idea fighting for every single ballot to be counted. But there’s no spinning some of the great house candidates who we fought hard for, and deserved to win. Candidates like Leslie Cockburn (VA-05), Dana Balter (NY-24) and Ammar Campa-Najjar’s (CA-50).

But for every race we lost, there were more that we won 30+ House pickups, and seven (7!) Governorships! And it’s not just that Scot Walker lost (though good riddance), it’s that we elected strong WOMEN governors in states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Kansas. That, combined with the passage of Measure 4 in Florida, which returns the right to vote to 1.4 million returning citizens and non-partisan redistricting in Michigan is going to re-shape the election map.All over teh country we swept out corrupt, anti-voter politicians and installed progressive, pro-voting leaders.

Given how badly gerrymandered the House map was after the 2010 election, Democrats needed to win the national popular vote by 5 % or more just to take the chamber. Instead we won by closer to 10% – an absolute thumpin’ for Republican values and ideas – even if some seats were too gerrymandered to win and Trump is too narcissistic to notice.

But more important than where we won and lost, is how we fought this election and who we fought for. Because we didn’t just win, we made history by sending a diverse set of progressive champions to Congress. Champions like Deb Haaland and Sharice Davids, the first two indigenous women elected to Congress. Like Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, the first two muslim women ever elected to Congress; And like  even Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, one of the youngest people (and a woman of color to boot) ever elected to Congress.

Now what

There was some initial worry among climate hawks that the Democratic gains in the House and at the state level wouldn’t mean much. After all, Republicans expanded their control of the Senate, and Trump will still be Trump. Faced with the epic challenge of trying to set a bold new path under divided government, Nancy Pelosi’s initial response was not inspiring.

But things have really turned around in the week since: Those brave progressives I talked about earlier got to DC for orientation and immediately made a mark. AOC jumped on a table to fire up youth climate activists, and then visited their sit in at Nancy Pelosi’s office the next day. That kind of outside-in pressure is just what we need to really change things in Congress, and this country.

And, if we may be so bold, it’s right up our alley. For just over 2 years now, we’ve been using digital tools to help stage creative direct actions – usually with an elected or appointed politician as the target. We live streamed the occupation of the North Carolina Governor’s office, brought thousands of people into a conversation about pipelines and fracked gas infrastructure while locked to a giant bamboo tripod outside FERC (the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission), used twitter and facebook to expand the audience of the occupation of Governor Cuomo’s office (and sang “Hey yo Cuomo walk the talk” more times than I want to talk about) and lots and lots of other things too.

What we DO here at 198 methods is use digital tools to expand the reach and power of direct action campaigns for the climate. Thanks to the incoming, diverse, progressive class in Congress, we might just have more chances to do that starting soon.

 

 

Stand and Deliver to #FirePruitt

The Scandals keep piling up for Scott Pruitt, Trump’s racist, corrupt, and dangerous EPA administrator. But this latest one – broken late Friday by a team of New York Times investigative reporters – might be enough to end him:

While on a lavish trip to Rome paid for by taxpayers, Pruitt took a Cardinal who denies climate science and is under investigation for child sex abuse out to dinner at a $240/plate restaurant. Then, he tried to hide it from reporters and the public by changing his official schedule four different times. Wow.

More than 300,000 people have signed on to demand Congress Fire Pruitt. And it’s essential that they do. Trump’s not going to do it – As recently as Thursday his press office said that “The president is pleased with the job that he’s doing…” And Pruitt’s digging in:  He’s refusing to show up at the EPA or speak to anyone but a tiny handful close advisors. And he’ll do anything to change the story, even instructing his staff to leak embarrassing stories about his rival, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. And all this after weeks of scandals, nearly a dozen investigations and more!

But Pruitt can’t hide forever. He’s scheduled to testify before a Senate subcommittee next Wednesday May 16, and Drew’s headed to D.C. to make sure he doesn’t get off easy. Along with dozens of partners, we’re planning to escalate. Can you help?

RSVP to #FirePruittIt’s past time For Congress to fire Pruitt. Trump won’t do it and Pruitt won’t resign voluntarily (people have been telling him to for weeks). So impeachment is the only solution for an administrator this corrupt, venal, and dangerous to the agency he’s supposed to lead and the people he’s supposed to protect.

But Congress isn’t likely to act without a push. Hundreds of members have already called for Pruitt to resign, and they feel like that’s enough. Even worse, some Democrats feel like they’d rather have Pruitt as a punching bag – an example of Trump’s corrupt, reckless leadership team – to campaign against in November’s mid-term election. That’s not leadership or courage.

We’ve said for months that if elected leaders want to act like the climate hawks they claim to be, they need to do more than condemn the Trump administration with words. They need to take action – by refusing to fill vacant posts (like at FERC), firing his most dangerous cabinet secretaries, and refusing to confirm deputies and who will carry out the Trump’s deadly anti-climate agenda with less publicity or notice. Pruitt deserves to be the first to go, given all that he’s done, but he shouldn’t be the last. That’s the message we’ll deliver to every member of Congress next week, with your support

We’ve got everything you need to deliver a powerful message. Before you go to your local congressional representative’s office, print out a copy of this two-page delivery packet. When you arrive take a picture of you and your friends holding up the first page in front of the office. Then head inside and deliver a copy of the second page, which has a copy of the petition we all signed. Finally, post your pictures on social media using the hashtag #FirePruitt and we’ll share them with activists and reporters all over the country.

But we can’t do it without your support. Can you sign up to show up – and if you can’t chip in to support those who can?

 

 

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 pic.twitter.com/7sFVMDp6uE

— 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.

Observations

  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, 350.org, Stand.earth 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.

The non-consent of the governed

I want to propose a radical idea: We don’t owe Trump or his supporters anything but resistance. And it’s time to show them they will get nothing from us – not an inch of compromise, not an ounce of permission. It’s time to get out your wooden shoes and dismantle the machinery of oppression.

Before the election, indigenous leaders called for a national day of action on November 15targeting Army Corps of Engineers offices around the country. In solidarity with the ongoing protest and encampment to block the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota, the idea was to dial up pressure on the Obama administration and all parts of the federal government that permit – literally and figuratively – the destruction of sacred sites, the desecration of water, and the poisoning of our climate

It was and is a good plan. But after the election of Donald Trump, it’s more. It’s our first big opportunity to make it clear that we, the movement for climate justice and life on earth, have the power to shut down and dismantle the institutions pushing death and injustice. Over 100 events are already being organized with thousands of people planning to attend. Will you join us? Click here to watch the video and RSVP to join us in the streets on November 15.

NODAPL video

The next four years are not going to be easy. I first came up with the idea for 198 Methods after reading This is an Uprising and re-reading Gene Sharp’s From Dictatorship to Democracy. I thought, a few weeks ago, that we were facing a moment of moral clarity on climate change. I thought we needed smart, confrontational strategies to highlight the friction between people who say they want to act on climate and the actual action this moment requires of us. I thought we needed a lot more people, organizations, and mobilizations – especially ones led by women, indigenous people, people of color, LGBTQ, and marginalized folks.

I still think we need all those things. But as many others have argued and are arguing still, that work is more visceral now because Trump’s America is a fascist America. Reports of hate speech, threats, and attacks on Muslims, women, and people of color are on the rise. Our actions need to evolve accordingly from demonstrations to active resistance.

Put on your safety pin and be an ally – but do more. It’s time to think hard about what you’re willing to risk and about what is truly at risk now. It’s time to join the resistance not because it’s smart or strategic – but because the center has fallen and we need to protect each other now.

I know a lot of us are scared, but this isn’t a moment to negotiate. I’m asking you to get used to the feeling of insecurity caused by refusing to obey unjust laws. This isn’t the first time, nor will it be the last time, that we are asked to stand between the actions of our government and the lives of our neighbors and planet.

November 15 is a moment of solidarity. Join us in the streets and be part of the resistance.

Start here?

I’ve been thinking about what to say. About what can be said. Where do we start with what just happened in this country? So I’ve been reading facebook and text messages like everyone else.

I liked Farhad’s I see you and I need to be seen. I feel very viscerally everyone who’s just devastated: crying, inconsolable, destroyed by this news. I feel to the shock and numbness so many people speak of. I just went and stood in my own garden, as I usually do when I need to find my center, and there’s something unrecognizable about the whole world. Like some piece of gravity or physics has changed and I can’t fathom up or down yet.

I don’t yet feel the anger, the determination, the drive to go organize and fight and win some speak of, but I understand it. I cringe at the finger-pointing, but I understand that too. This was a thing done to us, not a thing born of our inaction or complacency. We need to fight, I believe we will.

Far and away the hardest to read and respond to are the posts from my younger relatives – biological and otherwise. These young people who ask “why? What did we do wrong?” And I want to tell them they didn’t do anything wrong, or that we can fix it next time. But it’s not like that. This isn’t a rebuke of a thing they did, it’s a rebuke of who they are. How do you tell someone “I love you, but they just hate you more”?

I had a tremendously hard time hearing president Obama say (in effect) that this was just another election. That in politics sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, and the important thing is to continue the civil debate.

I’ve lost elections before. As  liberal Democrat, I’ve lost much more than I’ve won. But it’s never felt like this before. It’s not just the suddenness and surprise, it’s the utter slap in the face of it. This wasn’t about strategy and tactics. We didn’t miss a media opportunity or fail to deliver the right message at the right time. They hate everything about us, and there are more of them than us, and the next logical step is that they will begin to COME FOR some of us – that’s what it’s like.

So I don’t want to continue the civil debate. I think the debate is broken. I think the people on the other side are not trying to debate me so much as exterminate me. And that’s what I think a lot of us are feeling – and responding to by variously feeling frightened, sad, pugnacious or whatever.

Somebody smarter than me also talked about Gene Sharp and his body of works advising and documenting how one creates a peaceful resistance to a tyrannical and oppressive state. There’s no doubt that’s what we need now. And this website, this little organization is an idea of mine.

So let’s start here:

198 methods is a reference to one of Sharp’s earlier movement texts. The idea was to write down a list of all the different nonviolent tactics one could use – boycotts, sit-ins, marches etc – to challenge power. Its genius was that it was just a list. There’s no attempt to say what things work better in certain situations. Becuase the truth is, we can’t know in advance what works and what doesn’t, we have to be willing to try it all.

This project my riff on that idea. Sharp’s manual famously leaves out digital tools because he wrote it before their invention. So I wanted to update his list with 198 digital methods of nonviolent Direct action.

I also wanted to know, like sharp, what would happen if you put access to those tools into a LOT more revolutionary hands. The mix of digital and field is basically what made leading US progressive groups like MoveOn, 350.org, and DFA powerful. And we’ve seen examples like Keystone and #NoDAPL where that style of organizing is really effective at shutting down climate-killing projects and ideas.

But there are literally dozens of pipeline, power plant, oil train and other projects that don’t have celebrity endorsers or big green NGO backing. What if all of them had an email list of 100,000 people, a proportional social media reach, and the skills and experience to turn that list and audience into the power they need – from funding for their staff to people at their rallies and protests.

That’s the idea of 198-menthods.org, and our catch-phrase. There are lots of ways to save the planet. If all of them had a good digital organizing program behind them we could sow a lot more revolution a lot faster — and it’s as good an idea any  for how to reap peace and

 Not quite ready yet

I’ll be honest, I’m not quite ready to launch this thing yet. The website, as you can see, is still coming together. We’ve got no funding or community buy-in. There’s no board or stakeholders. For now, this is just me, feeling my way through the fallout and hoping that this is an idea folks can get behind.

Go Vote!

It’s election day, and the most important thing you can do  is go vote if you haven’t already. But in case you’re looking for tools to help others get out and vote

If you need help finding your polling place (or referring others to theirs) we recommend Vote.org’s tools. they work great on a phone or on your laptop and the data is all well-checked

Look up your Polling place

Since we believe climate change is the most important issue facing humanity, we’d also like to recommend the fine people at votecliamte.net, and especially their voter guide which is assembled by our friends Climate Hawks Vote. Just enter your address and then add endorsements from Climate Hawks, the Sierra Club and any other organizations you support to see a list of endorsed candidates for Congress and other down-ballot races.

PLEDGE TO #VOTECLIMATE

Finally, we know a lot of you have voted already. But you don’t just have to sit there wringing your hands and refreshing 538. Check out the excellent voter contact programs from our friends at NextGen and MoveOn.org and you’ll be able to call swing state voters right up until 9pm eastern.

Call with Moveon

Call with NextGen