As we relaunch the Climate Disobedience Center, we are placing a significant amount of emphasis in our work on building community. This might seem like a strange departure, and a bit incongruous with the state that the world is in now when the signals of urgency are all around: the dire circumstances in Puerto Rico amid a slew of powerful hurricanes, the western US on fire, pipelines under construction everywhere and fossil fuel emissions continuing to rise. It is not unreasonable to say “we just need action, NOW!”
I certainly have at times rushed into action, because action is needed. And I also know I need to think strategically about how I use my energy. If I’m trying to move the climate boulder up the hill, no amount of rage, energy or urgency will get it up there if it’s too big for me (or the few of us actively engaged in this work) to lift. The other side of the coin is an organizational mentality that assumes a large number of people is the key to unlocking change. Often organizers will orient around trying to make an action or campaign “accessible” so that large numbers of people join, which sometimes has the effect of decreasing the power of the action itself. This tendency becomes the source of much cognitive dissonance when organizations are saying (rightly) that the world is ending, and that the appropriate response should be to sign a petition, lobby congress, or donate $20.Read more
On October 23rd, 2017, 84 members of congress submitted a letter to Attorney General Sessions regarding nonviolent direct action on crude oil pipelines. The letter, backed by American Petroleum Institute, Association of Oil Pipe Lines, and the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, is a dishonest effort to smear the climate movement, and fabricate a threat in order to legitimate further criminalization of dissent against one of Congress’s largest clients: the fossil fuel industry. Rather than doing their job and protecting current and future generations from civilizational collapse caused by run-away climate change, members of Congress are working to protect their funders at the risk their constituents.
The letter begins the official process of expanding the Patriot Act and domestic terrorism laws to target those who resist fossil fuel infrastructure. The accusation of terrorism hinges on violence to human beings, which has never been even a fringe element of the climate movement. The only violent reference which this Congressional letter could find was Tucker Carlson’s creative interpretation of a letter to the editor of a local newspaper in Boulder, Colorado. On that single thread hangs this attempt to defame a mass movement in order to repress dissent and free speech.Read more
It has been two years since we launched the Climate Disobedience Center, and those have been two seriously big years. We are in a dramatically different political situation, and our movement is also in a significantly different position. As activists and movement leaders, we strive to constantly reassess the context of our struggle and identify opportunities to be more effective at our work. And in the context of this moment we have been doing some serious reevaluation. We began with several prongs to our work housed under one umbrella because those tasks were all underrepresented in the climate movement. The emergence of new organizations over the past year allows us to spin off some of those tasks so that all of them can be approached with greater focus and clarity. We are excited to announce some big shifts that will allow us to refocus our efforts and allow our skills and vision to build a culture and community of disciplined nonviolence needed in these challenging times, and will be following up in the coming weeks with more detail about what that work looks like.Read more
One year after Emily Johnston and Annette Klapstein entered a valve site to manually shut down the flow of oil in two Enbridge tar sands pipelines near Leonard, Minnesota, District Court judge Robert Tiffany granted a motion brought by the “Valve Turners” and two supporters to present a necessity defense at trial.
The case is the result of coordinated “Shut It Down” actions to halt the flow of all tar sands pipelines in the country on October 11, 2106. Johnston and Klapstein shutting off the flow of Enbridge Corporation’s pipelines 4 and 67 near Leonard, Minnesota, while fellow activists manually engaged the emergency valves on pipelines in Washington, North Dakota, and Montana. Documentary filmmaker Steve Liptay and support person Ben Joldersma were also arrested in the Minnesota action, and they join Valve Turners Johnston and Klapstein in this landmark effort to present a climate necessity defense.
A climate necessity defense offers a jury a novel scenario: the defendants freely admit to taking the actions for which they have been charged. Instead of seeking to plant doubt in the minds of jurors, the defense provides context for the action, calling expert witnesses to offer testimony about the urgency of the climate crisis, the imminent danger posed by tar sands pipelines, and the historic role of civil disobedience in transforming unjust systems.Read more
Michael Foster knew what he had to do last October when he turned the valve that shut off the Keystone pipeline in North Dakota: "Stop the poison."
Monday October 2nd, Michael heads to trial in Cavalier, North Dakota to make exactly that point: that he had no reasonable alternative to address the magnitude of the climate crisis, and as a conscientious citizen he was duty-bound to take the most appropriate action. Sam Jessup, who was Michael's support person in North Dakota, is headed to trial as well.
This is a unique climate trial. We have never before seen a high-profile action go to trial in the center of the country. The jury pool won't look like the one that would have sat for the Lobster Boat Trial, nor will it look like the juries in Washington State for the Delta 5 and Ken Ward's valve turner trials. We will be paying close attention to how these farmers and ranchers, who had this pipeline run through their back yards in 2010.
The valve turners are producing a series of videos on each of the activists who turned the valves and shut down 15% of the US oil supply on October 11, 2016. Each of them are ordinary individuals with a compelling vision of action in these times of crisis. Michael Foster goes to trial October 2nd in North Dakota.
The valve turners are producting a series of videos on each of the activists who turned the valves and shut down 15% of the US oil supply on October 11, 2016. Each of them are ordinary individuals with a compelling vision of action in these times of crisis. We are happy to help share their story.
Thanks to Climate Disobedience Center Fellow, Nicky Bradford, for this great overview of Day 1 of Ken Ward's re-trial in Skagit County, Washington.
You'll find the post and links to social media updates here (on the front page of ShutItDown.Today).
Jeremy Brecher, noted labor historian, is out with a new book growing out of his earlier work, Climate Insurgency: A Strategy for Survival. I got to review the book in Waging Nonviolence, where I write:
"To the outward eye, the climate movement looks to be back on its heels, reeling from the ascendancy of a fossil fuel regime, the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline, the zombie Keystone XL and the threatened departure of the United States from the Paris Climate Accord. And there’s not much I can offer, as a climate organizer, to dissuade one from that opinion. The one major effort thus far was a massive march on Washington, D.C. that was planned when most expected Hillary Clinton to be in the White House. So we’re left wondering: What the hell are we supposed to do now?
Into this breach steps Jeremy Brecher’s slim new volume Against Doom: A Climate Insurgency Manual. Neither glitzy, eloquent nor subtle, Brecher methodically lays out an interlocking vision of direct action within a constitutional legal framework to build the powerful nonviolent climate insurgency necessary to turn the ship around. “Against Doom” smartly connects disparate threads of the existing climate movement and pulls them together with strategic vision."
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: JUDGE DENIES CLIMATE ACTIVIST’S NECESSITY DEFENSE, RESTRICTING RIGHT TO DEFEND PROTEST AT TRIAL
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MAY 10, 2017
Climate Defence Project
Climate Disobedience Center
Mount Vernon, WA — A Washington state judge has ruled that Ken Ward, a climate activist who who helped to temporarily block the flow of tar sands oil from Canada to the United States in an October protest, cannot present the climate necessity defense at his trial scheduled to begin on May 22. The decision — which limits Mr. Ward’s constitutional right to defend himself in court — bars Mr. Ward from from arguing to a jury that his actions were necessary, and prohibits him from calling expert witnesses to testify about the ongoing harms of climate change and the need for grassroots civil disobedience to impel policy change.Read more