2023 in Review

If you follow our work, you know that we aren't the best at posting updates. We've made a new commitment to updating you more often, and today I realized that we hadn't posted the relevant content from our end-of-year email blast for 2023 to the blog. I'm sure that's my oversight! I have a personal aversion to this form: the relatively brief recap. It causes me some despair to see a whole year condensed into a quick read. This mode of collapsing the work inevitably misses most of the richness, the deep lessons, and the resilience we built together. 

People I trust assure me that most people do not experience the year-in-review as I do. So here is ours for 2023! We'd love to hear from you about something we missed or some detail about what any of these pieces have meant to you. 

It feels to us like we've already moved some mountains in 2024. More on that soon!

Fierce Love!
- Marla



As we enter 2024, we wanted to share this recap of 2023 for the Climate Disobedience Center. Thank you so much for being a part of our work – we’d love to hear about your favorite memories of 2023.

We also hope you will consider donating to keep our collective disobedience going into 2024.  Of course, you support us in many ways, and we are grateful for all of the gifts of time and skills you also share to build resilient community.

This year, we have been deepening our commitment to an environmental justice lens that connects injustice in all of its forms with the climate crisis. This means that our work has not only focused on resisting fossil fuels and extractive environmental practices, but also has prioritized developing a resource to fight transphobia, as well as supporting de-escalation and systems of protection for protestors. We have also started a blog series grappling with the meaning of disobedience: how it shows up in our lives in and outside of action spaces and how we can exercise it to build deep solidarity with each other.

We are so grateful that you’ve been a part of this work with us, and we can’t wait to stay with the trouble together in the New Year... oh, and Happy BIrthday  to Leif! 


Lots of love, 

Leif, Marla, and Nastasia 



Here's an overview of the contents, so you can skip to read about the parts of our work you are most interested in: 


1) Training and Strategic Planning Support

2) Combatting Transphobia

3) Restorative Justice


5) No Coal No Gas campaign

6) Conservation Demand Response Project

7) Third Act and Greenfaith Support

8) Protest Safety Work

9) Legal Support & Resource Development

10) Other ongoing projects

1) Training and Strategic Planning Support 

If you work with an organization that can use our support on a specific project, reach out! We ask established organizations with staff and budgets to compensate us for our support work. These funds help to free us up to offer no-cost support to grassroots and frontline groups. 

We’ve offered dozens of trainings and strategic planning sessions this year. You’ll read about some of them below, and but most of the support we’ve provided to other groups stays between us and them. We aren’t seeking to build our organization off the work of others. We’re honored to be able to help people fighting for justice to think strategically, build skills, prepare to take action, and nurture resilient communities. 

We are equipped to offer training or facilitate strategic discussions and planning on the following topics: basic nonviolent direct action training, de-escalation, emotional self-regulation, scouting, action design, media and messaging, security culture, know-your-rights, basic medic skills, and strategic campaign planning.


2) Combatting Transphobia 

Part of our work around community healing and activist safety has been the creation of a toolkit to combat transphobia and TERF-ism. This year we have been alarmed at the proliferation of trans-exclusionary radical feminist (TERF) ideology. This ideology is everywhere, and it’s impacted our own work and the wellbeing of dear folks in our networks. So our community did one of the things we know how to do together: we made a toolkit to help us have important conversations about transphobia and to help our larger climate activist community recognize and combat TERF propaganda. You’ll find the toolkit here, and you can read more about this project here

A note on this project: the toolkit is a resource for people who want to have conversations with people they trust. One response to the toolkit was asking us why we didn’t make this toolkit for the people who are actively physically harming trans folks. We want to take the opportunity to answer that question here: people who physically harm trans folks aren’t likely to listen to us or to spend thoughtful time with a toolkit designed to prompt honest conversations and reflection. We know that people who perpetrate this kind of violence don’t do it in a vaccuum. They hear the rhetoric coming from others. We hope everyone can spend a little time thinking about the impacts of transphobia and reflecting on what they can do to avoid contributing to it. 

3) Restorative Justice

This year, we’ve also been leaning into work around restorative justice and community healing. Nastasia is enrolled in a Restorative Justice program  at Vermont Law School and has been exploring restorative transition processes from fossil fuels that include land healing and remediation, restorative justice circles to repair community harm, and rights and protection of natural entities like rivers. Leif has been practicing their mediation skills by working to facilitate group healing processes, while Marla has been working on a framework for sharing feedback and culture building skills with our community. We have all had the honor of participating in larger community discussions of harm and repair and really look forward to continuing this work into the new year.


4) ISO-NE 

We spent much of this year bringing the spirit of disobedience to dealings with the New England electric grid operator (ISO-NE). We continued our work supporting No Coal No Gas’s resistance to ISO’s ratepayer-funded gas subsidies, and organized more than 400 activists to submit comments to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) opposing ISO’s continued funding of fossil fuel plants. We also hosted a parody “Auction of Horrible Things” to make fun of ISO’s misguided priorities, and partnered with both No Coal No Gas and Fix the Grid to bring demands to grid officials. 

Building off last winter’s “ballroom coup” where New England activists elected our entire slate of 12, including 6 ratepayer activists to ISO’s consumer liaison group coordinating committee (CLG CC), CDC invested serious time in supporting our new CLG CC members as they planned and facilitated consumer liaison group meetings focused on environmental justice and grid transition. This wasn’t always smooth sailing, especially since ISO-NE repeatedly put up roadblocks to our efforts to democratize CLG meetings. But with a mix of disobedience, malicious compliance and growing activist power, we managed to hold the spring CLG meeting in a community center in the environmental justice community of Peabody, MA, and the fall meeting in Burlington VT’s town hall. This year, CLG meetings shifted from stuffy industry-insider affairs to more raucous community forums- spaces where activists attached stickers to walls, dropped banners, confronted our grid operators on their inaction, and mapped out potential pathways to solar and battery storage, energy conservation, and a just transition. 

We are now building off of this CLG momentum with disobedience at NEPOOL- the New England grid’s “stakeholder advisory group” and chief decision making body. In December, a group of ratepayers crashed NEPOOL’s members-only end-of-year meeting, bringing with them an application for membership and the required $500 in loose change (delivered, of course, with several buckets!). This group was able to stay for the entire meeting – providing an unprecedented ratepayer presence at a usually secret meeting and strengthening CLG CC members’ demand for future governance seats at NEPOOL.     


5) No Coal No Gas campaign

In conjunction with our ISO-NE work, we’ve continued to staff the No Coal No Gas campaign (together with our partner org 350 New Hampshire). A massive chunk of our CDC staff time this year has gone toward supporting the campaign’s work in building unity and community, showing what’s possible, and shutting down the coal-fired Merrimack Station. Skill sharing has been the main focus of our community building efforts this year, and we’ve formed learning cohorts to support activists across the region in stepping into leadership roles in the campaign. Dozens of our No Coal No Gas friends have stepped into roles as NVDA trainers, song leaders, action planners, onboarding captains, medics, and researchers! 

And we are now closer to shutting down Merrimack Station than ever before. Last spring, (after years of submitting comments to FERC opposing the funding of coal on the regional grid) Merrimack Station LOST its bid in the New England forward capacity auction for the first time and has since withdrawn from future auctions. This means that in 2026, the hundreds of thousands of dollars of ratepayer-funded subsidy payments will end! The plant owner, Granite Shore Power, is also facing a lawsuit brought by it coal supplier for “nonpayment and breach of contract” – it seems our continued blockades of coal shipments may have contributed to the fracture of this relationship. We also recently learned that the coal plant failed a stack test in February because they were emitting over 70% more than the federally allowed amount of particulate matter, and are now having technical issues with their pollution measurement systems and boilers. 

In response to Merrimack Station’s seemingly imminent shut down, No Coal No Gas is leaning hard into the goal of “showing what’s possible.” In June, we hosted a retirement party at Merrimack Station, complete with cake, comedy, and dancing. Based on the outrageous police response and expensive security upgrades at the plant, the mere presence of activists in Tyvek suits really seemed to alarm Granite Shore Power! We followed up on this momentum with a surprise action in October, bringing dozens of people to the coal plant for a healing ceremony. Activists took to the water in kayaks, determined to demonstrate how a just transition to solar energy could bring back union jobs, and improved water, air and soil quality to the Bow community. In response, 8 of our friends were unlawfully arrested right out of their canoes- their case is still pending. You can read more about that action here


6) Conservation Demand Response Project (we promise to find a better name for this)

A huge part of our philosophy with ISO-NE has been, “if they won’t do it, then we will just do it ourselves.” This certainly applies to energy conservation and residential electricity demand reduction, which ISO-NE consistently neglects in favor of continued fossil fuel subsidies and plans to build more and more transmission capacity. Each year, hundreds of corporate entities bid into a “forward capacity auction,” which awards money to power plants to keep them on the grid for future moments of “peak demand.” Technically, this system also awards companies money for agreeing to reduce their electrical consumption at peak load times, but it is not clear whether these conservation contracts are ever actually activated. What the forward capacity system ignores however, is the massive potential of residential conservation demand response – asking ratepayers to reduce our electricity usage at times of peak demand instead of simply putting more fossil fuels onto the grid. ISO-NE claims that “grid reliability” means unlimited electricity at any time, and that New England residents are unwilling to conserve. 

That’s simply not the case- we know that true grid reliability means a just and sustainable grid that will last generations into the future, and that NE ratepayers are more than willing to participate in solutions. So if ISO-NE won’t create a system for residential demand response, we will! Climate Disobedience Center is currently working on a project to support New England ratepayers create a residential demand response collective and bid into the very auction system that seeks to keep us dependent on fossil fuels. We hope to use this action to disrupt corporate definitions of reliability, challenge the current model of ratepayers-as-powerless-consumers, and generate resources to support low income ratepayers and to expand residential demand response capacity! It’s important to note that this model IS NOT focused on ideas of individual action – it’s only collectively that ratepayers can challenge industry control of our electricity and show what true grid reliability means. 


7) Third Act and Greenfaith Support

We have been working with Third Act as they think through how to support their volunteers who take principled, nonviolent direct action. Marla and our friend Cathy Hoffman have been in the lead on training Third Actors, and we have been supporting direct-action focused Third Act cohorts in their continued learning. Both Marla and Leif have held trainings to support specific Third Act working groups, and coordinated support crews for actions in DC, New York City, and Burlington VT. If you want to register for an upcoming online training, you can see more here.

We also have a long-term relationship with Greenfaith, periodically partnering to support their members engaged in nonviolent direct action. In April we supported their mobilization to confront Bank of America at the corporate headquarters in Charlotte, NC.

As we noted above, if you work with an organization that can use our support on a specific project, reach out! We ask established organizations with staff and budgets to compensate us for our support work. These funds help to free us up to offer no-cost support to grassroots and frontline groups.


8) Protest Safety Work

We have also much of the year supporting communities’ safety needs as they take action against our current domination system. We’ve offered over a dozen de-escalation training sessions for activists and communities facing political violence and state repression, and have been honored to partner with many incredible abolitionist community safety groups across the country in this work! Together with these friends, we’ve also facilitated, organized, and/or hosted multiple legal observer, know-your-rights, police liaison, jail support, stop the bleed, street medic and traffic marshall workshops. Leif has been particularly involved in organizing safety teams for events and protests in Vermont, and has been working with several dear local comrades to build the network of relationships and skills necessary to protect each other from right-wing violence- without having to rely on the police. This year, much of this work has focused on supporting safety teams for queer pride, police and prison abolition, and Palestine solidarity events. As we go into an election year, we expect that requests for this kind of support will increase. We’re preparing to scale up this work so we can continue to keep each other safe in the face of rising state and political violence. 


9) Legal Support & Resource Development 

An important component of our work is serving as legal workers to support individuals and communities as they navigate the criminal legal system. This year, Marla continued her role as remote legal support coordinator for Line 3 defendants – supporting water protectors as they moved toward trial or resolved their cases, collaborating with attorneys, and tracking cases. At the moment, the total number of Line 3 cases is down from about a thousand  to just six! We are still supporting the activists who remain in the criminal legal system, as well as their legal teams, the folks who are providing in-person court support, and dozens navigating probation and “good behavior” periods. 

The repression of protesters is on the rise throughout the country. We coordinate with others to track this trend, and Marla is quoted in several high profile stories this year. You can see some of them herehere, and here

We were excited collaborate with the Pipeline Legal Action Network in the creation of the second workbook in their Legal Strategies for Movement Activists series. You can download workbook 1 (for pre-action planning) and workbook 2 (covering legal issues that arise concurrent with actions) at https://www.planline3.com/resources.

This year, CDC has also been active in legal support around Stop Cop City, the fight against the Mountain Valley Pipeline, No Coal No Gas, and dozens of other actions for justice across the country.. This spring, two NCNG activists went to trial for a 2021 guerilla-gardening action, where they were found guilty of class B misdemeanor trespass. We were able to support another NCNG community member as he contested unconstitutional loitering and prowling charges for appearing near the Merrimack Generating Station, and eventually saw these charges dropped. After several NCNG kayakers were unlawfully arrested in October for appearing near the coal plant, we are gearing up to do even more legal support work in the coming year, with a potential trial in March in New Hampshire.


10) Other ongoing projects

The CDC has several other ongoing projects as well. We continue to be a core group supporting the formation of the Fierce Vulnerability Network

Over the past months, we’ve also been engaging in several writing projects. We have an ongoing blog series wrestling with concepts of disobedience- please check it out here! Nastasia is currently editing a volume titled Uncovering Possible: Pedagogies for Apocalyptic Times, exploring education and activism through the pandemic and intersecting apocalypses.  Some of Leif’s writing is being published in a forthcoming book about climate pedagogy titled The Existential Toolkit. We have also been partnering with Professors Nathan Phillips, Siobhan Senier, Sabine vonMering and a few others on their work of scholarship and teaching, and we look forward to joint writings, workshops, classes, and more!


Wow, you made it to the end... except this is also a beginning! Let's keep building power in 2024! 

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  • Marla Marcum
    published this page in Blog 2024-03-18 17:10:28 -0400