- The Farm
- The Alliance
The IPCC climate report triggered a lot of thoughts about how to get to action.
Given the scale of the problem – climate change is being driven by enormous corporate, military, and government offenses, while our personal consumption has very little effect – why bother changing your own life?
This is why: so you can be ready to live without the destructiveness of fossil fuels and much more.
That’s enough examples. If our lives depend directly on use of fossil fuels, lithium mining, or the like, nearly all of us will protect our lives first. And our children’s immediate lives, even if we are sacrificing their futures to do it. We need to get off that dependence – every one of us – or we will not be free to interfere with the system that is plunging us into climate disaster.
That’s about it on personal lifestyle – and it’s a lot to do. Every single person who claims to be worried about climate change needs to get rid of this dependence, or they will be an enemy at crucial moments.
There is more.
Roger Hallam, a founder of Extinction Rebellion, gave an in-your-face talk about what it takes to make change. First, effective strategy involves material disruption of the machine – political or industrial machine, that is. Protests and marches raise energy, feel good, help with networking – but they don’t interrupt the machine. Interrupting the machine actually does interrupt the machine. Like that well-known tactic of the strike. Like the Valve Turners who safely shut down the pipelines bringing Canadian oil into the U.S. Like every person who has ever blocked a road or locked themselves to a drilling rig.
When you begin resisting, the authorities call you ridiculous, terrorists, and your demands unthinkable. If you’re effective, they arrest you. At some point, they quietly begin negotiations.
Hallam suggests that 500 people in jail or 3000 arrests is what it would take (for the UK); he gave historical examples including the US Civil Rights Movement. He points out the difference between a protest and actual disruption: it’s disruption that works.
Right now in Minnesota at Line 3 (StopLine3.org) people are showing up, disrupting the drilling of the pipeline under the rivers. They’re also filing court actions, publicizing the leaks, pointing out the disastrous social consequences of man camps, pointing out the many ways the drilling is illegal, petitioning any public official who has clout, pressuring the banks that fund these projects and the insurance companies that protect them – materially interfering with the pipeline construction in every possible way.
People specialize in things they can do. Some people physically block the machinery, which gets them arrested and often abused. For each such person there are five or six support people. Some people write letters or phone their legislators.Some send money, or raise money. And everything you can imagine in between. Look at your options – and get ready to live without fossil fuel. Stop thinking electric cars will save our way of life: they won’t.
If we’re going to stop fossil fuels, we have to want to actually stop them. That means some of us have to be doing the other work, securing food, transportation, health care, education, community, shelter, and safety for after we succeed.
Hallam observes that, just like in military strategy, it works to focus on one target at a time, and be overwhelming there. Line 3 is happening now, the team is strong, and although Minnesota’s official actions are closer to its worst stereotypes than its best, it’s far from the worst place to be in jail. (Maybe it’s not possible, maybe we are strong enough to overwhelm them in multiple places at once – the point is to think strategically and work together.)
Finally, Hallam says there are practically no excuses for not getting out there.
I’ll say, about this other work, that the only people excused are the ones at the front lines or those working 80 hours a week (yes, they do that) on legal, lobbying, fundraising, and the like. The rest of us – well, do we want to be allies of the earth or allies of fossil fuels? Let’s get to work on that sustainable infrastructure called food, shelter, transportation, health care. And community.