Some thoughts from CDC core team member Tim DeChristopher in response to the recent self-immolation of climate activist Wynn Bruce.
The philosophy of nonviolence is grounded on an understanding that all beings are deeply interconnected into a web of life, so harm to one is a harm to all and to the larger whole. As part of our great work of social and spiritual transformation, we have to grow our awareness that each one of us, ourselves, is part of this larger whole. As such, it must be emphasized that nonviolence encompasses self-care, and harming one’s self is violence. If nonviolence means anything, we must be able to unequivocally state that burning a human being to death is wrong. It is still wrong when that human being is oneself.
As a climate movement, we need everyone at their fullest and healthiest. Even in small ways, refusing to take care of one’s own needs and health is rarely an act of genuine compassion for the larger group. While we may need to allow ourselves to be vulnerable to harm or risk being harmed, to actively cause harm, even against yourself, is to push on the wrong side of the moral scale. As every one of us is an expression of an infinite potential of love, the irreversible action of taking one’s own life deprives the world of limitless possibilities. We can never be certain about the impact of our actions on the world, so we must have the humility to act with uncertainty, inclined toward learning. Our job is to keep showing up for one another with our whole selves. Our job is to keep showing up for one another with love. It may not be our job to know exactly why or how our presence is so important. But our job is to keep showing up.
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or a crisis, please reach out immediately to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
While many folks have been taking a break during this holiday season, our Marla Marcum has not been one of them. Over the last week Marla has been jumping between lawyers and dozens of defendants who are before multiple courts defending their acts of conscience and moral imagination.
Will you support Marla’s incredible court-support work with a donation?
The Climate Disobedience Center arose out of a need to deal with court cases after someone has taken action. I’m sure many of you know how we’ve spearheaded efforts to bring the climate necessity defense into courtrooms across the country. But legal strategy isn’t the only thing that happens when activists enter a courtroom; it can be a place to build community, build the disobedience muscles of those around us, and build power we can use in the next phase of action.
Defendants from the 2019 mass action to remove coal in Bow, New Hampshire fill the room in Concord District Court February 14th, 2020.Read more
I remember when the terror of climate change first sank in for me in early 2008, and the seemingly stable world I thought I knew suddenly became a much more scary place. Everyday actions took on life or death consequences. For a while I was paralyzed by this fear, but as I moved forward into action and community, I began to feel empowered and equipped for this dangerous world.
This year a similar kind of fear took hold of our whole society. For many people, even a hug or a handshake can seem terrifying right now. Just today I listened to someone describe the sense of panic she felt when someone approached her without a mask. We have been taking necessary steps to protect each other from a very real danger, and at the same time, we have also been practicing being afraid of each other. As climate activists should know well at this point, even when the danger is very real, we still can’t allow ourselves to get lost in our own fear. Thinking out of fear too often makes us feel small and inclined toward dogmatism.
At some point, likely in the coming year, we will get past this pandemic. But there is no guarantee we will get past the fear. After 9/11, rights and freedoms were sacrificed in the name of one scary threat, and they never came back. Whether it’s the mass tracking of movements through cell phones or just the practice of seeing a person’s face as a sign of danger, we cannot allow this fear to become normalized.Read more
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.Read more
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…
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.Read more
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.Read more
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.Read more
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.Read more
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.