Climate Change Strategies

i love Beatrice, especially when we disagree.  She recently went to Larry Kramer’s Facebook Page and read the speech he gave that sparked the AIDS group ACT UP.

“Kramer said:** “If my speech tonight doesn’t scare the shit out of you, we’re in real trouble. If what you’re hearing doesn’t rouse you to anger, fury, rage, and action, gay men will have no future here on earth. How long does it take before you get angry and fight back?”**

And Beatrice asks “Where is our Larry Kramer? to fight to save our Biosphere, to take on big oil.”

She found Kramer’s anger and passion compelling and believes that climate change needs a similar enraged and dedicated hero.


ACT UP logo – and compelling political message

i am less convinced.  i certainly dont want to stop such a person from stepping forward, and i will get arrested and a non-violent climate change action faster than most people will (and already have).  But the issues are so different and the forces which need to shift are not at all the same.

In climate change we are fighting big oil, big coal and to a lesser extend nuclear.  These are rich, powerful entrenched interests which are willing to do lots of legal and illegal things to stop us.  With AIDS we were fighting a priorities battle.  Would medical resources be spent on dealing with this epidemic?  For the first many years the entrenched bureaucracy said “no”.  And Kramer gang was extremely effective in changing this, they were relentless, they got arrested repeatedly, they dogged political candidates and bureaucracies until they finally caved.

bush on climate change as junk science

Big oil wont cave.  They have extremely effectively used a similar type of disinformation campaign that the 1% have used to convince working class people that poor people are the problem.  Rush Limbaugh is pitching the idea that the heat index is a government conspiracy to convince us of the existence of climate change.  Climate change was not mentioned once in the presidential debates, this is the first time it was left out since it first showed up on the political scene in 1984.  But the very longevity of the issue works against the sense of immediacies that many of us activists feel about it.

This is part of the problem

This is part of the problem

In the long Facebook thread/debate on where is the Climate Change Kramer and do these tactics work there was the commonly heard call for the need for big actions.  People love to call for big actions. There issue is important, lets get a million people who agree in Washington to protest for it and that will change things.  Organizing big actions is extremely difficult and expensive.  I am not at all saying it should not be done, i am just saying it is not easy and we need to look at what it takes to make it work.  I wrote this about it:

Let’s talk about what it takes to create big actions, who has done it successfully in the last decade. We had big actions around the Bush II war in Iraq, which had an immediacy that i dont see a parallel to with climate change (which we have been talking about as a serious problem since before 1992 and the Rio Summit). We have had some big demonstrations for women’s reproductive rights – this again feels very immediate to many of the women and men involved. Perhaps the model is the pre-9/11 anti-globalization movement. Starting in Seattle in 1999 and the subsequent World Bank/IMF demonstrations and the Quebec City FTAA demo – we got tens to hundreds of thousands of people out for a very abstract issue, not very immediate at all. What made globalization protests work? Until they were destroyed by the “you are with the terrorists or you are with the US” rhetoric of the Bush administration post 9/11. For me this a more compelling organizing parallel than ACT UP which was incredibly immediate to a pretty small group of people.

Part of the argument in this thread was about does political change happen via “throwing the better party” or “harnessing peoples rage”.  And while the ACT UP folks definitely harnessed rage, it is clear from some of the reading i have done that the cohesion of the group was that the meetings has a better party aspect to them.

This is one of the most vexing issues of our time.  It is time to be brilliant about it.  What ar eyour thoughts?

And in this case, i am inclined to believe them

And in this case, i am inclined to believe them

An excellent link on how there is not science to support the denires.

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About paxus

a funologist, memeticist and revolutionary. Can be found in the vanity bin of Wikipedia and in locations of imminent calamity. buckle up, there is going to be some rough sledding.

5 responses to “Climate Change Strategies”

  1. bea says :

    good point about the better party aspect too.

    During the first iraq war protests, i always marched with actup or queer nation. they were having the most fun while marching. most joyful and irreverent.

    i taught this young straight punk girl about this, and in subsequent actions she was always marching with the queers.

    it’s so not an either/or kind of thing. rage vs party.

    i do think Sandy may have been a bigger turning point than you seem to be saying. A major US city, indeed a major global power center, certainly gets climate chaos very very viscerally now.

    I think the tide is ready to turn.

    and with that i bid you ‘Shabbat Shalom’.

    off to sing and eat with no tech tools allowed!! 🙂

  2. Ian Mayes says :

    There was an anarchist text that appeared last year that I recommend reading, it is entitled “Desert.” It’s basic premise is that it is too late to stop climate change and that political power is too entrenched to have a global anarchist revolution. Instead of trying to pursue these things, the author recommends anarchists seriously looking at how climate change will affect conditions around the world, and to pursue the spaces that would subsequently open up as being more conducive for liberation.

    I like this perspective because it shifts things from an either/or winner-take-all model of either complete “defeat” or complete “victory”, and instead views the world as being a whole bunch of constantly shifting territories of more or less domination/freedom. You can read Desert online at:

  3. David Goldstein says :

    Hey Pax- I just sent this out to organizers as an offer to assist them in creating a ‘Large Event’: We are, as 350 well realizes, in a climate emergency. Some organizations including 350 and Climate Reality Project are doing the necessary ‘on the ground’, painstaking education around raising ‘acumen’ and awareness. However, given that the emergency is quite time sensitive (We have realistically approached or perhaps even crossed the line for 2C and are heading for 3-4 C as evidenced by multiple recent reports World Bank, Price Waterhouse, etc., New Scientist, UN, etc.), it seems time for the climate change movement to generate watershed protests akin to similar protests of other civil rights movements. The civil right is ‘The Right to a Livable Climate’. If 350 is amenable, I am very interested to come aboard and lend my energies to build Feb 18th into such a watershed event. This entails 1) Generating as large an attendance as possible
    2) Generating an effective, media ‘image’ laden protest.

    1) Large Attendance:
    *Get other significant climate coalitions on-board and partnered and ‘co-sponsored’ NOW. All massive civil rights movements eventually gather together as a unified coalition. Climate Reality, Sierra Club, Citizen’s Climate Coalition, etc.

    *Utilize celebrity and social media. Television and internet are where the ‘money is’. David Letterman, Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart, Christopher Hayes, Bill Maher have demonstrated deep concern around climate change. If climate change is truly an existential emergency, we need to ACT LIKE IT IS. Use our celebrities- Bill Mckibben, Al Gore, James Hansen, etc to reach out to get us an appearance on these shows. Really impress that this is no joke- I think most of these folks really do, on a moral level, want to help. Tine is short- make them understand that. Then, create an ‘appearance capsule’ that 350/The Coalition can take to the shows.

    Appearance Capsule:
    (1) We need to connect to emotions: Bill Mckibben has appeared on these shows, but he is a liberally/older guy ‘explaining’ things. (and he is a hero of mine!). Instead, get someone who viscerally connects with an audience during a 5 minute appearance. An idea is to actually have Lilly Hellman from the video I have enclosed-or perhaps an articulate young person (teen). We need a short (45 second?) powerful video to show and then we need our guest to follow up the video with a heartfelt explanation and appeal to ‘Please, Come To Washington!’. (Possibly have a climate scientists accompany our ‘guest’ to provide brief explanations and to provide credibility.)

    (2) The Theme: We need a theme/images that are repeated and that resonate. The science is telling us- we are on the verge of leaving a very, very hard world for our children and for their children. This can reach people. (Lilly Hellman explicitly and emotionally stated that this is for her children and grandchildren) An idea: Have our guest bring a picture of a child- actual child, niece/nephew, younger brother/sister and show it to Letterman, etc. “SHE/HE is why I am going to Washington. The changes we are starting to see will be MUCH WORSE when he grows up, etc. That is not something I can accept or live with”

    Social Media:
    (1) Reach out to the many celebrities who are climate activists. The bigger, the better. Matt Damon, Leo DiCarprio, Susan Sarandon, Jason Mraz (he can do a ‘Please Come to Washington’ song). Make 45 second videos: ‘Please Come to Washington’. Place vids all over social media. Parenthetically-Jason Mraz, Susan Sarandon, Kevin Bacon, Sarah Jessica Parker are all family/friend connections of mine.

    2) Effective Protest:
    Themes: Extend beyond Keystone XL. Use Keystone XL as a centerpiece, but widen protest to include all of climate change arena. Additional theme (signs can be made for protesters) can include Carbon Tax/Patriotism: “Patriots for Carbon Tax” – We need to get assertive and take back the dialog by constantly asserting that climate policy/carbon tax IS patriotic. (Surveys show that children/legacy and patriotism appeals are effective reach outs in climate change arena).

    Media Exploitation: We need the images to go front page. 2 major strategies:
    (1) The Children. EVERY protester displays a picture of a child/nephew, etc. (or, better yet, brings a child). At the end of march, gathered at the White House, (hopefully many 10s of thousands strong) the crowd is brought to complete silence. For 10 minutes, in silence, all protestor hold up their pictures and their children.
    (2) Arrests. At the end of the 10 minutes, in a pre-organized fashion. all who wish to engage in non-violent civil disobedience step forward, still in silence, still holding up their children’s pictures. (along with as many ‘Patriots for Carbon Tax’ placards as possible. Also- possibly placeards of Bill’s number-2, 565, 2795) Hopefully, Mr. Gore, Mr. Mckibben, Mr. Hansen and some of ‘our’ celebrities will be among this group to be arrested.

    3) User-Friendly Delivery

    We need an extremely user-friendly method for the public to get to the rally. If they are watching one of or videos or appearances there needs to be a website where they can easily register and sign-up for transportation (perhaps bus fleets from major cities.)

    Summary: Okay, that’s enough for now. I’ll wind up on a personal note. My grandparents were ‘lefties’. In 1936 there was a call put out to ‘Come to Spain’ to fight the budding fascist regime. Many of their friends went. They were eventually labeled ‘Pre-mature anti-fascists’. I am wondering if, in a similar fashion, calls for such a ‘watershed’, all-hands-on-board event may seem somewhat pre-mature. After all, public action has to this point been extremely muted in light of the direness of the situation. But, we know that we have an actual, clear and present emergency on our hands. The divestment idea is a good one as is targeting fossil fuel meetings with protests. But in Washington we have a president who, very fortunately, may be willing to step up. But he has clearly not been willing to do so minus public pressure. We need him to step up massively (China and India, etc may or may not follow our lead-but we at least have to lead!). If there is any possibility of this happening in the next 4 years –before it is too late – we need to generate congruent and massive pressure. Perhaps we will only generate the 20,000 that Bill called for. Perhaps 40,000. It is impossible to say. But we do know this- the time is now and it gets later with each passing day.

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