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#TheoryThursday: Rethink Environmental Activism (On "Horizontal Hostility")

Posted 8 months ago on March 5, 2014, 3:15 p.m. EST by OccupyWallSt
Tags: environmentalism, Theory Thursday

OSN editors' note: Our friends at Earth First! published this much needed intervention into contemporary environmental activism. When will we North American activists learn to use the "lawful excuse defense"? Committing "illegal acts" in order to prevent the greater crime of climate change is not illegal. Learn about that here Not guilty: the Greenpeace activists who used climate change as a legal defense

Earth First! Journal editors note: This letter was originally published as a comment on our re-post about the No KXL protests in Washington D.C. this week. While we fully support a diversity of tactics, ranging from petitions and lawsuits to civil disobedience and sabotage, the critique made in this letter has been actively suppressed in environmental movement coverage of the climate crisis for fear of causing "horizontal hostility." We hope student and environmental NGO organizers will hear the loving pleas of "not enough" and take the constructive advice to "start listening to the people most affected and supporting their struggles." For example, support is needed right now to resist pipeline expansion in Wet'suwet'en territory!

An open letter from some students at Green Mountain College re: XL DISSENT

This isn’t personal, honest. Nothing holier-than-thou. Most of us are playing the same game as you– conference calls, teach-ins, unpaid internships. And it’s for the same reasons, or at least we think so-we’ve seen some of what this way of life is doing to the world, and we know that there’s more out there that we don’t know, more than we could ever absorb. And we’re scared, and we want it to stop.

But we’ve started, slowly, to realize something even scarier. The ways that we’ve been taught to fight back aren’t cutting it. Not even close. Candlelight vigils, petitions, chaining yourself to the White House fence, none of it is going to make the continued extraction of fossil fuels less profitable, and none of it is going to shift our communities away from a way of life centered on profit.

Barack Obama does not care about your arrest record any more than he cares about a soundbite he delivered to a bunch of rich college kids at Georgetown a couple years back. When he told some fellow students trying to speak truth to power that “We had the pipeline rally in the summer,” it summed up pretty well how much pressure he’s actually feeling from all of the environmentalists’ efforts to stop KXL.

Let’s break it down a little bit. This KXL dissent thing, as well as pretty much all of 350 and friends’ strategy, is meant to draw media attention and put political pressure on the president. We’re gonna hold Obama accountable, make him deliver on his promises. The problem is, there’s absolutely nothing in it for him. Even if we all have to hold our noses, the vast majority of self-identified environmentalists are going to vote for Democrats in 2016 and beyond because there’s no other viable option. Third parties sound nice but we all took Gov in high school and know that it’s not gonna happen. The Democrats also know it. It would be nice for them if we knocked and doors and phone banked in 2016, but it’s nothing compared to the money they need from Wall St. And I’m sure you know where Wall St. stands on the whole pipeline thing.

The truth is we’re not going to get anything done if we keep playing politics. Bill McKibben is wrong–this movement is not solving the climate crisis, and there’s no time to stick to the same old strategies a little longer, hoping for a different result. The crisis is here. We’re living in it, even though we’re all insulated to some degree by our privilege. It’s scary, but it doesn’t mean we have to give up. It means we need to try something new.

Rather than appointing ourselves representatives of frontline communities, let’s start listening to the people most affected and supporting their struggles–not just by paying lip service and not just by offering a few minutes of stage time at Powershift. Other communities have much more at stake here than we do and if we’re going to say that we’re standing in solidarity then we need to start acting like it. If you have the privilege to travel across the country to get arrested, use it to take some pressure off people of color fighting for their lives instead of helping some big non-governmental organization put out another press release.

We’re not doing the best job of this either. Very few allies are. It’s hard enough to face the police, classmates, your parents, even when you’re doing the kind of activism you can put on a resume. But we all know what’s at stake here–how many lives, how many communities are threatened by this system–and if we really want to dismantle it we need to start having serious conversations about our priorities and our next steps as a movement. We hope this letter will help start those conversations at your school.

Original Source: Earth First!

Suggested reading:

“The Climate Movement’s Pipeline Preoccupation”

“Earth First! Means Social War”

“Introduction to the Apocalypse”

“Decolonizing Pipeline Resistance”

39 Comments

39 Comments


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[-] 3 points by johnswift (3) 8 months ago

I am watching some program on the TV. I think it is CNN. It is a very good program. It is all about the Mayor. I think... it is about the Mayor. I don't think it is about the kids.

They want to hide this information. I don't think we should watch the news anymore. Because these commentators. Have no feeling... for us.

I challenge any man to listen not to these things. To not listen to the police.

To not listen to the politician. Oh yes. I was on a little while ago. They chose not to put up the stuff I was saying. I guess this is not Occupy Wall Street. Because they... do not care about our children!!

[-] 5 points by shadz66 (19985) 8 months ago

What's with that ?! I had to join twitter [ https://twitter.com/Shadz66 ] in order to try to get a word to '4umPTB' re. the ''501 Bad Gateway'' situation but why would you be blocked ?!! While we're on this matter of unfairness ... why are your Karma Points and 'auto +1' frozen ?!!! I don't like unfairness so solidarity @ u MattLHolck - you've been here a long while & should be treated like anyone else imo. Finally, re. this thread - I append and recommend :

fiat lux ...

[-] 3 points by JGriff99mph (507) 8 months ago

"If you have the privilege to travel across the country to get arrested, use it to take some pressure off people of color fighting for their lives instead of helping some big non-governmental organization put out another press release."

I agree 100%. Unfortunately, it is very difficult for anyone who has family or a relationship to do this, and for those that don't its not cheap to travel. Yes, even a $150 bus ticket and meals can add up quickly.

With that being said, any suggestions for those who have prior commitments?

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[-] 2 points by mrbadexample (15) from Brooklyn, NY 8 months ago

Please note that a jury in ENGLAND found the protesters not guilty. Their rules on evidence are also different from ours--the Greenpeace activists were able to use a Necessity Defense. For the last 34 years, the Plowshares anti-nuclear activists who've gone to court have argued for a Necessity Defense. The case I'm most familiar with was Katya Komisaruk, who disabled the NAVSTAR weapons targeting system at Vandenberg AFB in 1987. Her defense was necessity defense-- preventing the US from being able to use its first strike capability (which NAVSTAR makes possible) in order to prevent the crime of nuclear war. In all such cases stretching back to 1981, the prosecution has successfully applied motions IN LIMINE which blocked the jury from hearing such testimony. The jury hears only the prosecution's side--did they break into a nuclear facility with intent to cause damage?The defendants' reasons for doing so are immaterial. I have no doubt that mass civil disobedience (or 'monkey wrenching') against the KXL pipeline would result in trials where the necessity defense would be blocked by the prosecution. I also think such action is absolutely necessary to stop KXL. This is about getting word out. This is about massive jury nullification.

[-] 2 points by DKAtoday (22310) from Coon Rapids, MN 8 months ago

EDIT - Thanks for this post - as WE are at a VERY critical point in time.

EDIT-> In addition:

Protesting in and of itself - IS - NOT ENOUGH - Solutions Need To Be Forwarded As Part Of The Protest Process

[-] 1 points by JohnWa (513) 8 months ago

Are things coming to a head.

Is the propaganda fed to the masses loosing its appeal

Are lies being more widely recognized.

Obama like Bush works for the war mongers, not people in any country let alone the US

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37948.htm

Now a new war based on deliberate misinformation to folks at home and worldwide.

The potential backlash may bring this administration to its knees and if that happens then the people must act. The warmongers must go.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37945.htm

Climate change denial also is facing more hostility. Will the US wake up to the 1% Vandals.

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/earth-insight/2014/mar/14/nasa-civilisation-irreversible-collapse-study-scientists

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[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 8 months ago

the republicans replaced the whig party

so party system can change

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[-] 2 points by DKAtoday (22310) from Coon Rapids, MN 8 months ago

I can not help but to wonder why this comment of yours was down voted twice. I mean - whats wrong with it? OH and - loose the dogs on all of those around the world who are sending this world down the toilet!!!

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[-] 2 points by DKAtoday (22310) from Coon Rapids, MN 8 months ago

the foundation, the social unrest, the agitation - vital components to such a scheme - already exists. It is us.

Yep and the insane assholes ( obscenely wealthy corp(se)oRATists and lackeys ) keep increasingly applying the whip.

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[-] 2 points by JGriff99mph (507) 8 months ago

We've been there for a while dude.

Endless wars of aggression overseas, everything recorded here and spied because of a boogeyman, corporations running every street, consolidation of all political and corporate power, etc etc etc.

We need to acknowledge we are there NOW and start calling it that as they do in most every other country in Europe.

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[-] 2 points by JGriff99mph (507) 8 months ago

Please clarify what you believe fascism in the 21st century would look like.

Edit: I will add to my list from above these three things:

  • Media ran by the establishment and a war on journalists
  • A corporate induced shit system of education that is nothing more than remember and recite
  • More people in cages than anywhere else in the world, ever.

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[-] 2 points by JGriff99mph (507) 8 months ago

No kidding, and they all have a different interpretation, just like every other model/organization of society.

So what's yours?

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[-] 2 points by JGriff99mph (507) 8 months ago

An outsider would probably take what you just listed as a good example of this current situation looks like.

The fact most don't think its here "yet" could very possibly show just how systemic it already is. Something to ponder.

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[-] 2 points by JGriff99mph (507) 8 months ago

From your article:

"Overall, the measure expands the FBI's powers to conduct secret searches, intercept phone calls and obtain information on terrorism suspects from businesses and libraries while concealing the existence of an investigation."

It's here dude. Convincing yourself that its not "yet" is only avoiding the uncomfortable truth that we have all been horribly played and continue to be so.

Edit: I think the difference me and you may be speaking of is simply the brutality of which the state comes down on its own dissenters.

I don't see anything major happening in terms of crushing dissent until we actually start acting in such manner. Occupy was a drop in the bucket compared to what large scale dissent looks like.

When the time has come that drones over our heads is a guarantee, and msm outlets like CNN are openly debating killing US citizens abroad (for now).... That time is now my friend. It's here.

You may be simply looking for more extreme instances off of the last ones, of which there will always be a "could be worse" example.

All I'm saying is that the word is used all over the globe, and yet we have been trained here the ol USA to think its this complex, specific, cant-happen-here term.

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[-] 2 points by JGriff99mph (507) 8 months ago

I've given you concrete examples of what I believe is modern day fascism.

You have replied with "go read a book" and "its systemic"

Sounds like the usual philosopher stuff these days. Nothing concrete, no examples, nothing. Just vague philosophy.

And a declaration that the other one is wrong.

(facepalm).

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[-] 1 points by JGriff99mph (507) 8 months ago

Well I will leave it at this:

If what I listed above does not constitute what 21st Century fascism looks like, I would hate to see what does. Perhaps it would take an all out war by the government on its own people and killing thousands in the street on a weekly or daily basis?

At which point I would probably classify it as all out revolution.

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[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 8 months ago

facism is akin to nationalism

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[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (22310) from Coon Rapids, MN 8 months ago

Did you by chance look at the comment?

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[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (22310) from Coon Rapids, MN 8 months ago

Ya think maybe Bernie is aware of one or two who might be able to in time fill his shoes? And recommend them? Part of the next campaign - whoever is running ( for the people ) - should be pointing out the roadblocks to healthy growth/government that are currently holding office and enthusiastically pointing out good replacements to serve the public.

Yeah - I know - Huge Job - but the Presidency Is a huge job/responsibility.

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[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (22310) from Coon Rapids, MN 8 months ago

All the more reason to point out seditious bastards working against the constitution as priorities to be removed from office - if this country is ever gonna work for the people and a healthy environment/world. It is not a job for any single individual - as aptly shown in the last 5+ years. It is a job for an involved population with proper representation in all aspects of government.

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[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (22310) from Coon Rapids, MN 8 months ago

Yes - much - MUCH - LOUDER


No I can't - the caps lock is not on.

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 8 months ago

i'm not sure if property is not addressed

we will see significant change in the control of our economy

[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (22310) from Coon Rapids, MN 8 months ago

Send your own comment - what I sent is not the be all end all.

[-] 0 points by FredAstaire1234567890 (0) 8 months ago

"Colonialism Is Not The Power." "Stop The Atom Bomb."

These signs are to be read in conjunction with each other, wherever you see fit.

And God now I pray...

[-] 0 points by FredAstaire1234567890 (0) 8 months ago

Wow. These powers are cohesive. They know what you are writing before you know it.

All I want to do is apologize to the Japanese, for making the bomb go off.

I guess I cannot do that... It goes to a world of explanation. First of all, we have the problem of pollution. That is not the problem...you say.

Hmm. I think I am being pursued. I told the Parliament of England to apologize to the Japanese. They refused. I guess we can make every effort to do so...

I went to South Africa. They refused to publish a book of poetry...

I guess we know world peace now.

I am glad you are happy with it. It is the old argument. Colonialism. How can you live with yourself, like that? I guess I go on with my life.

God rests. I don't know what to do about that. I guess we have all retreated. The Government is feeling pretty good about itself. Hmm. I have to think about that. Here is the plan. I don't know myself that well. Okay. To be understood. We don't want the atom bomb. And I don't care whose Administration it is. We need to protest it. The Colonialists (of which you are one) have taken over the world. You...live in peace. But, first you stop the war that we may go to...in Ukraine.

Please hear my words as I now pray.