Supporting Climate Dissidents Heading To Trial

As we close out 2017, we’re reflecting on the time and energy that so many climate dissidents and supporters have spent preparing for and going to trial this year. And we are looking forward to supporting four more climate trials in the first half of 2018.

We launched the Climate Disobedience Center after our own experiences taking high legal risk climate disobedience actions through to trial. Using a trial as an organizing and power-building opportunity is neither easy, nor straightforward. In fact, we learned much of what we know now the hard way, and we are determined to help others avoid those same mistakes and blind spots.

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Disobedience is our middle name

In 2017, it seemed like suddenly everyone was talking about disobedience. Even military leaders talked openly about disobeying some of Trump’s most despotic and destructive orders. Droves of new activists realized that they could no longer just go with flow but had to resist and disobey. In an article in the New York Times earlier this month, Roger Cohen argued that, “Disobedience may stand between humanity and Armageddon.” Well here at the Climate Disobedience Center, disobedience is our middle name. Literally.

Since our government has been failing to address the climate crisis for far longer than the past year, we’ve been engaging in acts of civil disobedience for years. We also go to great lengths to support others who engage in disobedience, making sure they have the training, connections, and resources to achieve the biggest impact for their sacrifice.

Part of the Climate Disobedience Center’s original mission also called us to build a culture of dissent and disobedience. This year, Jay, Marla and I decided to focus on that culture building as the central part of our work. That’s why we’re building small community groups that we call Praxis Groups to help activists support each other in their personal development and their actions of disobedience and dissent.

We’re developing tools and curriculum to catalyze transformative conversations, and when participants in our Praxis Groups are called to action, we intend to provide them with all the resources and support needed to bring that call into reality as a powerful action. For that we need your help and financial support. Please make a year end donation of $50 today to help us spread disobedience in 2018.

Thanks for your support!

-Tim DeChristopher


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Supporting Civil Disobedience in Maine

Our own Jay O'Hara is in Maine and supporting these clergy working to halt the immoral tax bill with training, coaching and social media.


Maine Clergy Risk Arrest in Civil Disobedience Action Against Immoral Tax Bill to Remind Senator Collins of Biblical Responsibility to Protect the Poor and Vulnerable

Portland, ME -- On Thursday, December 7th at 11 a.m., faith leaders will lead a nonviolent, faith-based civil disobedience action, calling on Senator Susan Collins to reject the tax bill that gives massive tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans and powerful corporations, funded by raising taxes on middle class families and slashing funding for Medicare, Medicaid and education.

"Unitarian Universalism affirms the worth and dignity of each person, and our social and religious prophets spur us to work for justice, equality, and compassion so that we can live in community with others. My faith calls me to oppose this legislation because of the great harm it could cause in our communities. Cutting funding to those most vulnerable and using the gains as relief for those who need none flies in the face of our values, as people called to care for one another. In this moment, our faith calls us to speak out for those who will be most hurt by this bill, and we likewise call on Senator Collins to speak out for Maine's people by opposing this legislation." Molly Brewer, ministerial intern of the First Universalist Church of Auburn while working toward a Master of Divinity degree at Meadville Lombard Theological School. 

"Our faith calls us to take care of our neighbors. Our faith calls us to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with God. We call on Senator Collins to do the right thing for her constituents and to listen to God’s call at this pivotal moment by opposing this unjust, immoral, and harmful piece of legislation. The fact is, this tax plan hurts low-income Mainers and seniors, and it gives massive tax cuts to the very wealthiest Americans and powerful corporations. This is an issue of fairness and misplaced priorities, especially because the tax breaks will be funded by raising taxes on middle class families and slashing funding for Medicare, Medicaid, and education."  – Rev. Allen Ewing-Merrill pastor at Hope Gateway.

What: Multi-denominational faith leaders will participate in a civil disobedience action against the tax bill and call on Sen. Collins to remember the moral commitments of her faith traditions by publicly praying and reading Bible verses highlighting the commands to protect poor and vulnerable people.

When: Thursday, December 7th, 11 a.m.

Where: Sen. Susan Collins’ Portland Office,  Canal Plaza # 802, Portland, ME 04101 

Who:  Confirmed Faith leaders include:   

Visuals:  Faith leaders wearing clerical attire reading the Bible and praying publicly. Civil disobedience action planned with potential arrest of several faith leaders. Faith leaders will be accompanied by many supporters with signage.

For footage and photos please follow

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The Tide Is Rising

Climate Disobedience Center Fellow, and Clergy Climate Action Founder, Rabbi Shoshana Meira Friedman shares her story of faithful action on the West Roxbury fracked gas pipeline.

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#GivingTuesday: Harnessing the Power of Our Vulnerability

The Climate Disobedience Center truly NEEDS your support to sustain our unique and revolutionary work. From using civil disobedience trials as movement building opportunities to cultivating small groups that holistically fortify activists, the Climate Disobedience Center continues to strive for adaptable, effective and principled ways of defending a livable future.

Donate to keep our work going.

Let’s be honest. The Climate Disobedience Center probably won’t start getting big grants from major foundations and billionaires any time soon. The mainstream movement landscape is dependent on measurables, deliverables, and professing certainty about how approaches will play out in unprecedented crisis situations.

We don’t pretend to have that certainty. But we strongly believe that the power of chosen vulnerability - a willingness to take disruptive action and to bear the consequences - has the potential to arouse the empathy of others in a way that expands what is possible. This is a culture-shifting strategy that aims to transform landscape of possibility within which politics and policy emerge. That’s why the Climate Disobedience Center works to help people develop the courage and community of support to that make it possible to step into their power of vulnerability.

Our total annual budget is only about $150,000. Your gift to the Climate Disobedience Center supports trials and activists across the country and resources communities of resistance. We raise that money from people like you who value the critical grassroots work we do. Please donate today.

Can you give $50 to continue this critical work?  Or give $250?

Thank you for your support, and for being a part of this movement.

Tim DeChristopher
for all of us at the Climate Disobedience Center
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Transforming the Blocks to Climate Disobedience: Community

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.

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Fossil Fuel Congress Asks Jeff Sessions To Label Climate Action "Terrorism"

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.

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Celebrating New Growth and New Partnerships at CDC

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.

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Climate Necessity Defense Approved By Minnesota Judge In Tar Sands "Valve Turners" Case

October 17, 2017


Marla Marcum, Climate Disobedience Center, [email protected], 781-475-0996
Jay O’Hara, Climate Disobedience Center, [email protected], 774-313-0881

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.

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#ClimateTrial starts MONDAY in North Dakota

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.

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