The Climate Disobedience Center exists to support a growing community of climate dissidents who take the risk of acting commensurate with the scale and urgency of the crisis.
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This year, the Climate Disobedience Center has launched a new experiment - and invites you to join us. Collectively, we have come to understand the need for morally imaginative, strategic, and decisive climate disobedience. Yet, within our own selves and our work as climate activists - we also hear the call for deep connection, community, and love. That is why we are convening praxis groups - to more fully sink into the relationships, learning, and trust required to move into climate action.
What is a praxis group?
Praxis groups are intended to hold space for learning, nurturing spiritual and strategic connections to the work and to each other, and to build a resilient network of humans bent towards climate justice and disobedience. We understand that the insidious nature of oppressive forces has created a tendency for our movement to break activists down into component parts, treat community members as leverage points, and create more foot soldiers than holistically transformed leaders and friends. That is why these praxis groups seek to further our own inquiry into ourselves and our collective power.
We want to build a culture that embraces deep struggle with the reality of our crisis and one that doesn’t shy away from difficult, emotional or intense conversation. We want a culture of love but also of asking hard questions. We won’t try to plug you into an action and train you to do a job; we will provide tools and encourage habits to help your group become morally imaginative, creative and self-driving--in short, empowered.
The framework of praxis groups allows for this by: eating and exploring together, giving time for reflection, and learning together. Based around an initial affinity with CDC principles, and a serious commitment to active nonviolence, praxis groups hold the potential to deepen learning and prepare participants to act swiftly when the need to disobey arises.
Finally, we’ll work with our partners across the country to help groups identify and train for action. When anyone in our praxis groups feels called to action, our whole network of people and resources can help to faithfully answer that call. We’ll strive to put ideas into practice quickly, learn from our experiments, and then put the lessons into practice.
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The primary lesson reinforced by the Minnesota Valve Turners Trial is that with climate necessity defense trials, and other political trials, you never know what you’re going to get, and you have to be ready for anything.
I’ve attended quite a few trials that were almost necessity defense trials, or what we hoped could have been necessity defense trials, and there is always something standing in the way of the trial becoming what we wanted it to be. A week before the Minnesota trial, it seemed like it was the best hope yet to finally be a full necessity defense trial in front of a jury. The case had already been through two rounds of appeals, with the state superior court affirming that the defendants had the right to use the necessity defense. And this is important: those appeals court victories by the valve turners set a precedent in Minnesota that will help others use the necessity defense. This could be critical in the the line 3 pipeline battle that is now heating up.
But a few days before the trial started, the judge severely restricted what the defense could present as evidence and witnesses. All of the political science expert witnesses who could testify to the lack of legal alternatives, an essential element of the necessity defense, were stricken from the witness list. The witnesses with expertise on the efficacy of civil disobedience were also banned from testifying. And perhaps most importantly, the judge ruled the expert testimony about climate science was not allowed on the grounds that the reality and severity of climate change was “commonly understood and accepted knowledge.”
This threw a twist into the trial at the very earliest stages. The jury selection process is an opportunity to frame the narrative of the case for the jurors. The way questions are asked shapes the way people think about the issues. In a climate necessity defense case, the narrative should be about how we respond to very real and serious threats. But lead attorney Lauren Regan was put into a difficult position by the last minute restrictions on climate science testimony, so she made an unusual gamble.
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In 2018 we have been expanding our reach, and we are scaling up. There is a lot of work to do. As part of that new energy, we are excited to announce that Emma Schoenberg is joining the Climate Disobedience Center as our newest Fellow. Emma is a Vermont-born community organizer and trainer, who got her start during Occupy Wall Street in 2011. Emma is bringing her considerable organizing skills, including in direct action and civil disobedience, facilitation and campaigns, to work with the core team - the three of us. Together we are building a more disciplined, focused, and effective Climate Disobedience Center to support and nurture the movement we need. Hurray!
We're grateful to be on your team, and hope to hear from you about starting a praxis group in your area.
-Marla, Tim, and Jay
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The climate trial we've been waiting for begins this morning in Bagley, Minnesota. If you need a refresher on what this trial is about, check out Wen Stephenson's analysis in The Nation.
As our friends, Annette and Emily (Valve Turners) and Ben (support team) head to court, they are surrounded by supporters, and they are ready to tell their powerful stories of why their actions were necessary.
At the same time, they have been forced to change up their approach to the trial. Although the highest court in the state of Minnesota affirmed their right to proceed with the presentation of a necessity defense, the Court in Bagley has rejected most of their expert witness list.
As Nicky Bradford and Alec Connon report in this blog post:
"The jury will, in other words, be prevented from hearing the evidence required to make an informed decision on whether or not the Valve Turners actions were necessary."
Climate Disobedience Center's Tim DeChristopher is there to support the Valve Turners and their team, to learn from this trial so that we can apply those lessons in support of future trials, and to share his analysis of the proceedings with all of us. Tim will be tweeting from @dechristopher and @ClimateDisobey.
You can also follow Climate Direct Action (the Valve Turners and their team) on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and their trial blog.
We're building community for the long haul because opponents and challenges like this are bound to rise up to meet us. Please know that your support – even from a distance – matters to people who put themselves on the line for the sake of all of us.
Let's keep building hope and resilience together,
Marla (for the Climate Disobedience Center team)
P.S. If you missed our webinars about holding it together in tough times (1) and our new effort to support people to build strong, resilient communities where they are (2), you can watch recordings here and here.
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Update! Our email was restored 10/01/2018. You can email any of us at firstname [at] climatedisobedience [dot] org. This week, Tim is at the Valve Turners' #ClimateTrial in Minnesota and probably won't see many emails. For most of the rest of October, Jay (and Meg) are sailing... it's a honeymoon! Marla is on call for all matters! (that's MarLa with an L).
Hi friends, if you have been trying to reach us via email starting Friday afternoon 9/28, your email has gone into a black hole. We've been switching email over and run into a snag. We should be up and running by Monday, but if you need to reach us immediately call (781) 819-0993.
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I’m writing today to make sure you’ve heard the news about a necessity defense climate trial in Cortlandt, New York where six defendants have been granted a necessity defense by Judge Kimberly Ragazzo. Although the Westchester District Attorney’s office reduced charges to a level that denies these pipeline fighters a jury trial, their case is moving forward in a bench trial (in which the judge makes the ruling on guilt or innocence).
I spent spent the last two and a half days in preparation and in court with the defendants and their supporters, and this necessity defense trial is unfolding in some fascinating and promising ways.
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Last week Jay and Marla participated in a webcast that covered an overview of the climate necessity defense, a discussion of its uses for movement organizing, and an update on current cases. Kelsey Skaggs from the Climate Defense Project and Valve Turner Ben Joldersma also participated in the discussion. Thanks to Stand.Earth for hosting this important conversation.
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We are delighted to announce that Moona Cancino is the latest CDC Fellow!
Moona is engaging in the efforts to stop the Mountain Valley Pipeline and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline which both run through the Commonwealth of Virginia. As a cancer survivor and a mother, Moona found herself needing to develop practices that heal her mind, body and spirit. It is these practices which translate into powerful activism without burning us out on the grief and anger that can come with finding a movement that sometimes holds more sadness than joy. She realized that her spirituality only was meaningful if it was taken out into the world. In 2016 Moona trained with the Satyagraha Institute and spent a month at Standing Rock. In addition to her local work in Virginia, she is working with others across the country to build a decentralized network of heart-centered nonviolence practitioners working at the intersection of climate justice and racial healing. Moona lives with her son at The Woodfolk Community, an intentional community in Charlottesville.
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Big and exciting news! Earlier today (March 27) 13 defendants went into Boston’s West Roxbury District courthouse to answer charges related to their arrests as part of a sustained campaign to block construction on the West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline that included 198 arrests from October 2015 through September 2016. Although the prosecutor moved to reduce the charges from misdemeanor criminal offenses to civil infractions — the equivalent of a parking ticket, Judge Mary Ann Driscoll allowed each defendant testify briefly on the necessity of their actions.
The defendants collectively presented a powerful and comprehensive argument for why it was necessary to engage in civil disobedience to stop the imminent local and global harms of this fracked gas pipeline. Following their testimony, the judge ruled that the defendants’ actions were necessary in order prevent a greater harm.
While defendants were still denied a jury trial and the possibility of a full necessity defense, this is the first time that defendants were acquitted by a U.S. judge based on climate necessity. Since then the defendants have had a celebratory lunch together, and met to talk about next steps and future struggles.
We’ll have audio from the courtroom as soon as it’s available (in a few days), but in the meantime Climate Disobedience Center would love your help sharing this news:
Join us tomorrow at 7pm at the JP Forum in Boston, or watch the live stream online! Invite your friends and family to join us and learn more.
Share this Facebook live video of all the defendants and their legal team on the steps of the courthouse just after the verdict.
- Or Share this Twitter video about the same.
If you're looking for more background info, you can explore the defendants and the campaign below on our West Roxbury page. Read the press release from before the verdict on the next page and find Media coverage of the verdict here.
Want even more info to share with your social networks? Try our partner pack for allied organizations and individuals who want to spread the word!
- Join us tomorrow at 7pm at the JP Forum in Boston, or watch the live stream online! Invite your friends and family to join us and learn more.