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.
IT WAS NOT CHEAP GAS
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.Read more
Emma Schoenberg and I leading the Next Steps walk into Montpelier on April 9th. photo credit: Zac Rudge/350VT
It’s a badly-kept secret that I love taking long walks. That started for me in 2005 when I hiked the Appalachian Trail and got mixed with climate activism starting with the Energy Exodus walk in 2013, and with two Quaker-led climate pilgrimages along pipeline routes and between coal plants in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. So it’s no wonder that when my friend Maeve McBride asked about doing a climate walk led by 350 Vermont, I got excited and jumped in.
It might not be exactly obvious why pitching in on a five-day 65 mile walk through Vermont called Next Steps is the work of the Climate Disobedience Center. Aside from taking the streets through Middlebury and Montpelier without a permit, we followed the traffic laws and weren’t overtly disruptive on our journey. We gathered 300 people in the state house at the conclusion of the walk and sang the place down at the invitation of our elected representative allies, and the doors were open for us and we left on our own accord.
But on another level this is precisely the work of the CDC - building the bonds of trust and love that make possible a vibrant movement of risk taking and disobedience. And was for me an experiment in building what we call “the field”.Read more
As the climate crisis grows ever more urgent, Trump signed two executive orders today that expedite oil and gas pipelines and undermine states’ rights to protect themselves from the assault of the fossil fuel industry. This was yet another reminder that our government is run by a nihilistic sociopath who serves the whims of an industry that has killed people for profit throughout its history. This latest rush toward apocalypse will undoubtedly be met with complicity from the Republican politicians who have spent years pretending to care about states’ rights, and with ineffectual faux-outrage from Democratic politicians who have rarely ever used the powers available to them to stop fossil fuel expansion.
Thankfully there is a growing movement of people willing to engage in civil disobedience to stop fossil fuel infrastructure everywhere in this country. The Climate Disobedience Center is proud to be part of that movement which has effectively made all new pipelines losing investments, and we will continue fighting every one of these stupid projects until we have the organized power to overthrow our system of corporate rule and establish a democracy that respects life.
Contact/Media Inquiries: Diane Leutgeb Munson, (218) 565-3660, firstname.lastname@example.org
Monday morning, February 4, four climate activists in Blackberry Township, Minnesota closed safety valves on a crude oil pipeline belonging to the Canadian energy corporation Enbridge. This is an escalation of ongoing activism aimed at Enbridge, which is facing stiff resistance to their plan to build a new high capacity crude oil pipeline, Line 3, through Minnesota and across multiple Native American reservations. It is also the second time in just over two years that activists have shut down Enbridge pipelines, citing the urgency of climate change as justifying their actions.
January 8, 2019
Contact: Resist Spectra Media Liaison, Lee Ziesche
Activists Who Crawled Into Fracked Gas Pipeline Found Guilty
In Narrow Ruling, Granted Unconditional Release
Cortlandt, New York - Today, Cortlandt Town Justice Kimberly Ragazzo found three New Yorkers -- Rebecca Berlin, David Publow, and Janet González -- guilty of trespass, rejecting the climate necessity defense; the three shut down construction of the Spectra Energy (now Enbridge) high-pressure, high-volume, fracked-gas, “Algonquin” Incremental Market (AIM) pipeline. Justice Ragazzo highlighted the strict, objective standard of New York’s necessity defense and focused her verdict on the narrow grounds that the defendants had not exhausted all legal remedies, specifically citing the defendants failure to file as ‘intervenors’ with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
Courtney Williams, an impacted Peekskill resident and member of Stop the “Algonquin” Pipeline Expansion (SAPE) said she was frustrated by the verdict. “That the judge ruled against these water protectors because they had not filed as intervenors is ridiculous. SAPE, Riverkeeper, City of Peekskill, and Town of Cortlandt all filed as intervenors. At the time of the action in October 2016 we were under a “Tolling Order” from FERC. That meant we had no legal recourse, we couldn’t go to the Court of Appeals, but Spectra could build the pipeline. Being an intervenor wouldn't have given Dave, Rebecca, or Janet any more ability to stop the pipeline. They had to act.”
David Publow, a New York State organic farmer and member of Resist Spectra said, “The legal process is always seeking to go for a narrow route. That process is not going to cut a new path for us, but I think we’re cutting a new path for ourselves.”Read more
On Monday night I went out with my in-laws to a Christmas Eve service in upstate New York. The big crowd gathered in the chapel on the campus of Cornell University, and the minister hit all the right notes for this presumably liberal crowd: alluding to the occupant of the White House, pleading the cause of the immigrant, and giving voice to the yearning for peace and calm.
But something felt deeply off for me. In the midst of the carols and candlelight, the minister expressed a longing for silence, calm, stability and peace in this time of upheaval. She claimed that the time is coming where the strong and gentle people will win.
Honestly I don’t think it’s going to work that way.Read more
Today, we are excited to get to tell you about a project we've been working on over the past year - one that we hope could be a major new force in the climate justice movement. This week three of us are headed to California for the first 'on-boarding' into a new national network of locally rooted cells, working at the intersection of direct action on climate change and racial reparations and atonement.
What is this network?
At the core this network of groups, which is still emerging (and thus hasn't been named yet), is the belief that while there are many paths to make the strides needed in climate action and in reparations, and we are called to orient in a particular way. We know that we want to lead with a fierce vulnerability; being firm in the truth and leading with our hearts on our sleeve. We know that lifting up the gifts and the vocation of each person in the network will make us more powerful than trying to fill slots with foot soldiers. And we trust in the wisdom of emergent strategy, because the top-down, centralized organizations of the past can't muster the power and creativity needed in these times. We hold a vision of a holistic, integrated approach to nonviolence that goes beyond a tactic or a strategy to the core of our world view where the means we use are the ends in the making.
We have felt for a long time that something is missing in the climate movement ecosystem - a network of people for whom nonviolence and justice are more than just buzz-words, but are rooted deeply in an integrated approach at a spiritual level. And it is clear that an integrated approach where the means make the ends cannot simply advocate for a just transition, we need to be living and experimenting with new honest approaches of reparations right now. None of this can wait.
As science-fiction writer Octavia Butler put it - the only truth we know is change. Our planet’s climate changes; our lives change, too. If we are fortunate, we grow older by the day, time reshapes our beloved friends and families in so many ways, and our relationship to ourselves, each other, and our planet remain fluid.
Here are a few of our changes and explorations in recent months:
- Marla has moved to Knoxville, TN! She’s sad to move away from her community of resistance in the Northeast, but her and our partnerships there continue. We are excited to be able to reliably show up (in-person) in more parts of the country, deepening existing partnerships in North Carolina and Virginia (fighting the Atlantic Coast Pipeline) and in South Carolina, while building new ties with the Mountain Valley Pipeline resistance efforts in West Virginia and Virginia.
Sometimes pipeline fights are punctuated with some seriously ironic moments, like the time Marla (center), Penny (left), and Emily (right) were headed to the tree sit and encampment near Elliston, Virginia, located the right of way for the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Loaded up with hot food and warm clothes donated by local supporters, their path was blocked by a broken down (empty) coal train! That long line of cars and trucks in the background is comprised of pipeline fighters and pipeline workers who had been waiting for amost four hours to access the only road in/out of the hollow where Appalachians Against Pipelines and friends are still encamped and supporting a tree sit.
Please note our new mailing address: PO Box 20693, Knoxville, TN 37940.
- Our capacity has expanded by bringing a new member, Emma Schoenberg, onto our Core Team.
- Praxis groups are forming in Massachusetts, Vermont, Washington State, California, North Carolina and Minnesota. Read more about this deeply connected, relational call to participate in our invitation and apply to learn more.
With your help, we are building strong communities of support
We are grateful and excited to be digging in to explore with this extended network some practices and disciplines that can help us to build even more resilient, connected, grounded communities of resistance and vision that can hold together through the unraveling, the sharing, and the struggles to come.
As always - 100% of the funding for the Climate Disobedience Center most years is from small, one-time and monthly donations from people like you, as well as allied organizations and groups and a few family foundations. Your support is invaluable in this effort as we strive to remain free from the restrictions of grant-funding. Can you support us with a $25, $50, or even $100 gift today?
With gratitude and resolve,
-Marla, Tim, Jay, and Emma
P.S. An ally and academic that we've been in conversation with for some time is writing a book about climate and reproductive choices and is asking for folks between the ages of 27 and 60 to fill out a survey. We found the survey a valuable experience for reflection, and you may find it a opportunity for grounding in deeper reality after the hubbub of an election week. For every person that fills out the survey, you can choose to have $20 donated to the Climate Disobedience Center! So help us out, fill out a survey and/or share it with others! CLICK HERE
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.
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.Read more