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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    The Gift


    We launched the Climate Disobedience Center five years ago. It was a wild proposition at the time: to form a little center that would have the back of people who take risks to defend the web of life, and would broaden the conversation around direct action, invitational nonviolence, and push the edge of moral imagination of climate action. When we started out we were clear that we would not be a typical non-profit. We weren’t going to take typical non-profit salaries. We were ready to risk the very existence of the organization if it was the strategic and moral thing to do. And because of our commitment to act on our principles in accordance with our sense of strategy, morality, creativity and intuition, we weren’t going to be dependent on grants that would limit our ability to act. 

    Since 2015 we’ve supported activists across the country through their legal processes, through trials using the climate necessity defense, we’ve consulted about strategy, and connected hundreds of people with lawyers and legal resources. In the last year alone, we have offered new trainings and innovated ways to offer real community support to defendants with remote court appearances. Meanwhile, we have also struck out on our own to build coalitions, develop campaigns and support actions that would push the boundaries of what is possible from the West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline fight, to the Valve Turners to the No Coal No Gas campaign in New England. And over the past two years, we have joined partners across the country to develop a network of direct action teams at the intersection of racial healing and climate justice.

    At the end of the day, movements sustain themselves when people show up to share with their community the most precious things they have: their time, their wisdom, their vision, creativity, passion and skills. A movement grows when people see what is happening, how something new is growing, and feel called to add their gifts into the mix as well. There’s no amount of compensation, or paid staff, that can build it.

    We didn’t have language for this when we started out. However, since we began our work as part of the “Yet-To-Be-Named” network, we have come to understand this as the functioning of a gift economy: a relationship of mutuality, trust and care made real in the material world by time and resources.

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    Racial Justice is Climate Justice

    This March we put our plans for training and action on hold due to COVID-19 and threw ourselves into mutual aid and resiliency work while also pivoting into the pandemic future. In our last big email we asked our friends who are financially stable to use their stimulus checks for reparations. In June we turned our attention and time to the fight for Black lives in the streets sparked by the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, the most recent in a 400 year history of oppression and death. In response we have been helping train, organize and act at the invitation of Black leadership where most of us live. Why? Because Black lives matter.

    Racial Justice is Climate Justice

    The fight for Black lives and the fight for climate justice are related. It has been evident forever that the front lines of the climate crisis are run across the bodies of Black, brown and Indigenous people in this country and around the world. The communities on the fence lines of refineries, oil rigs, power plants, tar sands mines, toxic waste dumps, polluting industries, and the people on the receiving end of the worst diesel exhaust and particulate pollution are not white. With perhaps the exception of Appalachia as a sacrifice zone for coal and fracking, the impacts of the fossil fuel industry fall along racial lines. And of course it is well established that those most directly impacted directly by the ravages of climate change in the US and around the world are the Black and brown people who have historically suffered under the boot of Western economic and environmental colonization, genocide, and exploitation.

    But it goes deeper…


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    On Reparations, Resources, and Relationships

    I hope this finds you and your family and friends healthy and doing as well as is possible under the circumstances. I want to invite you into some of our personal and collective commitments at the Climate Disobedience Center to participate in the creation of a more just and equitable world.

    The COVID-19 pandemic brings into sharp focus many of the ugly truths about racial inequities embedded in our institutions and systems, including a dramatic racial wealth gap that raises barriers to access educational, nutritional, healthcare, housing, and other critical resources. This wealth gap compounds the disproportionately high rates of chronic disease, incarceration, and environmental injustice experienced by people of color, particularly Black, Latinx and Indigenous people.

    In this moment of global uncertainty, we can contribute to building the future we envision by beginning or deepening practices of radical solidarity. And we want to invite you to take a concrete action this week.

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    We Need Each Other

    We were already in unprecedented times while staring down the barrel of the climate crisis. And now we’re in a pandemic that is pulling our attention to real immediate needs in communities across the country. Many of us have been practicing all our lives how to handle crisis situations. For some this experience of societal unraveling is brand new - for others this is an emergency that has been unfolding for generations. In this time, a legacy of racial violence and economic disparity is driving harms harder and faster for the most vulnerable and those on the front-lines. Meanwhile, we face a government that downplays the magnitude of the problems and does too little too late. Now we are confronted with a real opportunity to turn toward each other and community rather than isolation or turning on one another.


    A lot of climate organizations are writing about what they’re doing in this time-of-virus. We’re not going to do that right now. Instead, we want to take a moment to share some things we’re seeing that impact our movement in this time.

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    Coal Resupply Train Blockaded in Two States

    This weekend across two states, a community of climate activists stopped 10,000 tons of coal in its tracks in three successive train blockades. This is the next step in a campaign that started in August to shut down the Merrimack Generating Station in Bow, New Hampshire - the last large coal-fired power plant in New England without a shut-down date. There is no justification for burning coal in 2019: it’s far too late for that. And taking responsibility in 2019 means taking action.

    There was fresh snow on the ground when the train, which was 80 cars long, rolled into Worcester, MA at 9:30 AM on Saturday, December 7th. It sat there almost a full day before it started rolling north again at 7:30 PM. Before the train had moved more than a couple miles, it was stopped by a small but determined group of activists who had been standing in temperatures well below freezing all day. A rotation of students from Clark Climate Justice (Clark University), with support from members of 350 Central Massachusetts and the Central MA climate disobedience praxis group, had been keeping themselves warm enough and ready to act throughout the many hours of waiting. 

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    A few thoughts on the necessity defense

    As with any tactic for responding to the climate crisis, the use of the necessity defense in civil disobedience trials is subject to misinformation from a variety of sources. Regardless of the intentions of those sources of misinformation, part of our job is to routinely reiterate the facts and clarify where we stand. There is of course a lot of grey area on this, since “The Law” is not a hard and fast code, but rather a constantly evolving context of countless power struggles. So with that in mind, let’s look at some of the misinformation floating around the web recently.

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    You, too, have all the tools you need

    I was arrested a week ago. Getting arrested is good for news headlines and Facebook statuses. But getting arrested wasn’t the point.

    We were trying to remove fuel from the fire that’s burning our planet. This specific fire: the coal-fired Merrimack Generating Station in Bow, NH. But that wasn’t the point either.

    The point was to build power, to build unity, to build a sense of what is possible. To deepen our bonds with each other as friends and community. To increase our ability to take risks. To act from our hearts and conviction. To take one more step — together — in a strategic, nonviolent campaign to shut this plant down for good and save what we can of our futures and our burning planet.

    We definitely did all those things, and we did them with an extraordinary quantity of bravery, care, and love. That combination creates a magical kind of power. It’s the kind of power that can build the world beyond the horizon.


    Gathering at the Concord UU church. Photo by ECHO Action NH.

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    Transformation is Long Work

    I have spent the past week reveling in the beauty of the climate strikes mingled with many ongoing grassroots fights for justice. I feel deeply connected to and grateful for the energy that is rising. I am also conscious that this one moment didn't achieve the transformation we need – not yet.

    This is for all of you who have been building the world you are certain we need, doing it sometimes quietly and sometimes very loudly. I see you. Your long work has created the conditions that made this week possible.


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    Climate Activists Take Principled Action To Remove Coal From Merrimack Generating Station

    Screen_Shot_2019-08-20_at_12.02.27_PM.pngFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
    August 20, 2019

    Press contact: Jay O'Hara, 774-313-0881

    Concord, NH - On Saturday, August 17th 2019, eight determined New Englanders, supported by a team of more than a dozen others, removed over 500lbs of coal from the fuel pile at Merrimack Generating Station in Bow, New Hampshire. This facility is the largest coal-fired power plant in New England without a shutdown date. Says Tim DeChristopher, co-founder of the Climate Disobedience Center: “With the global climate crisis having advanced this far without a dramatic change in US carbon emissions, we have a responsibility to remove this fuel from the fire. Indeed, it is now a necessity to take matters into our own hands and safely shut down this facility.”

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    Coal's Final Implosion In Massachusetts

    This weekend on the South Coast of Massachusetts we're going to get to witness the end of an era in the state, when a controlled demolition implodes the huge cooling towers on Saturday April 27th. Providence's Extraordinary Rendition Band will provide the soundtrack for a jubilant dance party in Fall River's Kennedy Park at 8AM that morning. (I hope you'll join us!) This moment is both an important moment for our movement to reflect, as well as a personal point for me.


    I got into climate disobedience in earnest in 2013 when Ken Ward and I anchored our little white lobster boat, the "Henry David T" in the shipping channel in front of the coal plant, and demanded that the plant be shut down immediately. We remained there for a day, blocking the unloading of 40,000 tons of Appalachian coal from a hulking black ship which has traveled up from Norfolk, Virginia, to supply what was then the largest single source of CO2 emissions in New England.

    That act of disobedience lit a fire in the climate movement to focus on direct action and hone in on that massive coal plant. That summer, there were hundreds of people at the gates of the plant demanding it's immediate closure, dozens were arrested at the gates, and a long march kicked off later that summer from Fall River to the proposed site of Cape Wind.


    And it's precisely here that we see the catalytic work of climate disobedience: to set a narrative, grounded in the moral imagination of what is necessary, rather than what is thought to be politically possible. Prior to the lobster boat action, advocates were proposing that the plant be shut down by 2020. But on Saturday the plant will have been shut down for nearly two years and the huge monuments that tower above the skyline of Fall River (let alone Somerset) will come down forever.


    But why, you might ask, have a dance party celebration for the climate justice movement when it was cheap fracked gas that really shut down the plant? It's conventional wisdom to say that this plant was shut down because the cost of coal couldn't compete against cheap fracked gas flowing into New England. And we're going to dance because we believe that premise is utterly false - or at least incomplete.

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