How a new generation of climate activists is reviving fossil fuel divestment and gaining victories

By tapping into existing networks and old campaigns, a new wave of student activism is making the fossil fuel divestment movement bigger, bolder and more creative.

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Student climate activists at the 2019 Harvard-Yale football game. (Facebook/Divest Ed)

A wave of student-led actions swept across the campuses of around 60 U.S. and Canadian schools last month, as students turned to sit-ins, walkouts and banner drops to pressure universities into divesting their endowments from fossil fuel companies. Called “Divestment Day” by activists, the Feb. 13 series of actions was just the latest escalation for a movement that’s been undergoing a serious revival.

In fact, even just one year ago, something like the events of Divestment Day would have been unimaginable, as the movement was just coming out of a protracted lull. Since then, however, existing and newly formed divestment-focused groups have begun working together, old campaigns have adopted new tactics and the next generation of youth climate organizers has risen to the forefront.

As a result, this revitalized divestment movement is now bigger, bolder and more creative than ever before. While that’s certainly a testament to scale of the climate crisis we face — and the fact that young people are running out of patience with institutions that consistently refuse to take action — there is also a deeper story about the stabilizing role movement organizations play during periods of inaction.

Origins of the divestment movement

The nationwide fossil fuel divestment movement first took off at Swarthmore College, when students there were inspired to launch a fossil fuel divestment campaign after a 2010 visit to Appalachian communities affected by mountaintop removal mining. Previously, a scattering of student campaigns had experimented with pressuring schools to end investments in fossil fuel industries. However, while these early efforts gave climate activists valuable experience navigating the world of school investments, they were largely isolated.

The Swarthmore campaign was different. It started when national climate groups like were looking seriously at divestment as a strategy. By 2012 several other East Coast and Midwest schools — including University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and University of Illinois — had started their own divestment campaigns. Then, later that year, held its Do The Math Tour, a nationwide series of events designed to kick the divestment movement into high gear. Within a few weeks, campaigns spread to more than 100 campuses.

Over the next few years, hundreds of churches, local governments, and philanthropic institutions started divesting from fossil fuels. However, by about 2016, the college and university arm of the movement was losing steam. It was a victim of its own success, as much of the lower-hanging fruit had already been won, with many progressive-leaning, smaller colleges already committed to divest. At other schools, administrations and boards of trustees with deep ties to the fossil fuel industry had proven themselves to be intractable.

“By 2017, a lot of campaigns had already gone through two or three rejections, and some older students were growing cynical,” said Alyssa Lee of Divest Ed, which works with divestment campaigns across the country and coordinated this month’s Divestment Day.

Lee got her start as a divestment activist at University of California Los Angeles in the movement’s early years. As a freshman, she heard visiting speakers from Tuvalu and Vanuatu describe the impact of rising sea levels on their island homelands. These stories from the frontlines inspired Lee to get involved in climate activism. At another event, hosted by the California Student Sustainability Coalition, she learned about divestment. In 2012, as the movement took off nationally, Lee helped launch a divestment campaign at UCLA.

After college Lee took a job with the Better Futures Project supporting student divestment campaigns in New England. At the time she was one of many staff spread across several organizations — including, Responsible Endowments Coalition, and Divestment Student Network — working to provide student divestment campaigns with resources. Gradually, though, most of these other groups either moved on to other priorities or dissolved.

In 2017, Lee realized she was the only staffer left in the country doing fossil fuel divestment work full-time. It seemed like a good moment to ask whether the movement had run its course, or just needed a new injection of energy to bring it fully back to life.

The following year Better Futures began a series of consultations with students and alumni from colleges where divestment campaigns were or had been organizing. “We found there were still lots of campaigns active across the country,” Lee said. “But they were generally not being noticed beyond their schools and had lost the feeling of being part of a national movement.”

Convinced there was lots of life left in the student divestment movement after all, Better Futures launched the Divest Ed project. Bolstered by additional staff and resources, Divest Ed expanded Better Futures’ divestment work to the national level, attempting to fill the void left by other organizations.

As it turned out, the timing could hardly have been better. That coming school year was an especially propitious time to be investing in student climate organizing.

A new wave of student activism

While Divest Ed was starting up in 2018, a group of high school students coordinating over social media were launching a new youth-led climate group called Zero Hour, which debuted with a national day of marches that July. Then, as the school year began in the fall, Zero Hour along with the burgeoning international climate strike movement began inspiring hundreds of young people to become climate activists. Meanwhile, some who had already become active earlier in the year were now starting college.

“We noticed immediately, in fall of 2018, an influx of student energy around climate activism,” Lee said.

One of those students was Ilana Cohen, a New Yorker entering Harvard. Cohen traces her awareness of climate injustice to 2012, when she was 11 years old and Hurricane Sandy battered New York City. She was confused as to why she and other students in more affluent areas returned to school within days, while schools in lower-income neighborhoods remained closed for weeks after the storm. For the first time, she saw firsthand the effects of a social order where already-marginalized people are hit hardest by extreme weather and given fewer resources to cope with it.

In her senior year of high school Cohen got involved in Zero Hour, after reading about the organization online. She and a friend founded a New York chapter that coordinated a march for the first Zero Hour day of action.

On arriving at Harvard, Cohen was quickly drawn to divestment as a way to continue her activism. But the Harvard campaign, which began in 2012, had by then dwindled to only a few active members. A new cohort of activists began working to change that — including Cohen, who participated in an organizing fellowship through Divest Ed. Given that the Harvard campaign had been ongoing for years, they determined it was time to escalate.

Activists with Divest Harvard, Fossil Free Yale and the Yale Endowment Justice Coalition ran onto the field at last year’s Harvard-Yale football game. (Facebook/Divest Harvard)


An opportunity to do so came in November 2019 at a Harvard-Yale football game. During halftime, around 150 activists from Divest Harvard, Fossil Free Yale, and Yale Endowment Justice Coalition began running to the middle of the field. As 30,000 people watched from the stands, the students unfurled banners with messages including the phrase, “Yale and Harvard are complicit in climate injustice.” Unplanned, hundreds more people from the packed stands spontaneously ran to join them until the crowd swelled to around 500.

Cohen believes the wider divestment movement will need to escalate to overcome the grip of fossil fuel interests on schools like Harvard. “Harvard-Yale is only the start of what we’ll be seeing here and at campuses around the country,” she said.

As campaigns prepare for new waves of escalation, some are turning for support not only to Divest Ed, but to a new organization committed to encouraging more direct action in the climate movement: Extinction Rebellion University.

Rebelling for climate justice

Ayisha Siddiqa was about the same age as Ilana Cohen when Hurricane Sandy brought its path of destruction to New York. But for Siddiqa’s family, living in a community of mostly black and brown immigrants on Coney Island, the effects were much longer lasting. Even today, piles of rubble and abandoned buildings attest to the power of the storm.

Siddiqa, who emigrated from Pakistan with her family when she was six, didn’t grow up hearing about the climate crisis in school. Only when she was a freshman at New York’s Hunter College, taking an ecology class, did the topic begin coming up regularly. But somehow, news that something was deeply wrong with the Earth didn’t come as a shock. “I think I was aware of it subconsciously,” Siddiqa said. Perhaps this came partly from living through events like Hurricane Sandy.

Determined to do something about the climate crisis, in May 2019 Siddiqa worked to launch Extinction Rebellion University, a student branch of the direct action movement that first made headlines by using massive crowds to shut down streets in the United Kingdom. Studying the history of social movements had impressed on her the value of nonviolent civil disobedience — but she wasn’t convinced Extinction Rebellion’s tactics in major cities were always strategic. On the other hand, college campuses seemed an ideal place to deploy nonviolent disruption for maximum effect.

“When you block traffic in a city, the only people you’re inconveniencing are those getting to and from home or work,” Siddiqa explained. “But at a university you can more easily be affecting actual decision makers. You can take over a college president’s office or board of trustees meeting.”

Columbia University students hold up Extinction Rebellion banners in October. (Twitter/@xruniversityUS)

Extinction Rebellion University has held direct action trainings at more than 50 mainly Northeastern schools, some of which have already led to disruptive protests. Last fall at Columbia University, where the movement is especially strong, students organized an occupation of the library building and a week-long hunger strike with divestment as one of their demands. “We are changing the culture of civil disobedience at schools,” Siddiqa said.

The fact that such escalation has been necessary is an indicator of the resistance school administrations have presented to divestment campaigns. But while convincing major institutions to divest is almost never easy, the movement has also had recent victories.

Winning campaigns

On Feb. 6, Georgetown University’s administration announced that the Jesuit school would fully divest from all fossil fuels. For the university’s student divestment activists, it was a vindication of their years-long work.

Georgetown’s divestment campaign — Georgetown University Fossil Free, or GUFF — launched in January 2013. Early on, the campaign made use of high-visibility tactics like sit-ins, banner drops, and walking into the university board of directors’ meetings unannounced. Students got the board’s attention, prompting it to refer the fossil fuel divestment question to its Committee on Investments and Social Responsibility.

GUFF members worried the Social Responsibility Committee, which formed in response to the anti-apartheid movement decades ago, might be used to shield divestment conversations away from public view, delaying any action. But in the face of pressure from students, the committee sent a proposal to the full board that passed in 2016, committing to divest from coal. In 2018 the board voted to also divest from tar sands companies. But GUFF’s ultimate goal — full divestment from all fossil fuels — remained elusive.

GUFF members posing on the day of the day of the Youth Climate Strike in September. (Twitter/@GUFossilFree/)


By late 2019, it seemed GUFF’s fears about the committee had been realized. Students pushed a proposal for full divestment, but committee members had largely stopped communicating. “There was radio silence for half a year,” said Sadie Morris, a GUFF member who grew up in California and transferred to GU from UC-Davis. “We got the occasional very short email saying they were looking at our proposal, but they didn’t actually seem to be meeting or moving forward.”

GUFF members realized they needed to make the board feel more accountable to students through higher-visibility tactics. “We decided to go back to our roots and engage the student body in creating public pressure,” she said.

Eventually, Morris and other GUFF members launched a campus-wide student divestment referendum — to build support they tabled, visited classes and organized through the school’s club network. In response the Social Responsibility Committee reached out, apparently alarmed about the publicity. On the same day the student referendum vote was scheduled to take place, GU’s board of directors announced they would divest from all fossil fuels.

Supporting frontline communities

One of the campus divestment movement’s messages is that students and educational institutions must work in solidarity with people on the frontlines of climate change and fossil fuel extraction. This theme was visible on Divestment Day, when many student protests voiced support for the Wet’suwet’en people’s fight against a TransCanada fracked gas pipeline in British Columbia. Wet’suwet’en protesters at a camp in the path of the pipeline have been met with police violence and repression, in an ongoing conflict reminiscent of the fight over indigenous rights at Standing Rock.

“Divestment campaigns are highlighting how their schools are tied to companies that violate indigenous rights,” Lee said. “The key to climate justice is to restore sovereignty to tribes over their land and water.”

Some divestment activists, like Siddiqa, have directly experienced climate change impacts in highly visceral ways. Others feel a responsibility to act from a place of privilege. “We need to mobilize our privilege as Harvard students to work on behalf of a world that is more just, ethical and sustainable,” Cohen said.

The Georgetown University victory is only one of the most recent signs that the new wave of divestment activism is proving effective. Last fall the massive University of California system committed to full divestment. Even at Harvard, where monied fossil fuel interests hold immense influence, there are signs of real momentum. Harvard faculty recently voted 179-20 to urge the school to divest, and Divest Harvard is calling for a commitment by Earth Day 2020.

Other actions are also in the works as Divest Ed and Extinction Rebellion University both plan to support escalations in the spring and fall. Meanwhile, Georgetown students are working through the Catholic Divestment Network to leverage their win by offering it as a model for other Jesuit schools.

Far from dying out, the campus fossil fuel divestment movement now has more momentum than ever, buoyed by the new wave of youth activism that inspired students like Cohen, Siddiqa and Morris to get involved.

“Divestment is just as effective as it always was, but now it’s happening against a new political backdrop,” Lee said. “It’s bringing in people at earlier ages who are already exposed to climate organizing.”

The worsening climate crisis makes the arguments for divestment ever more compelling. “Universities’ missions are to invest in young people’s future,” Cohen said. “It’s really hard to say we’re doing that while pouring money into fossil fuel industries.” SOURCE

Even if geoengineering can help mitigate climate change, is it ethical?

(Karl-Josef Hildenbrand/Getty Images)

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and scientists from around the world have said it time and again: CO2 emissions need to be radically reduced in order to stop the world from warming to a point where it will trigger catastrophic climate change.

But radical reductions aren’t in place right now, which is why some scientists and policymakers are considering a controversial option: geoengineering, or the deliberate manipulation of the environment.

The discussion has recently taken centre stage as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the U.S. received $4 million to research geoengineering, with no confirmation as to what that might look like.

One of the more popular methods of geoengineering is solar radiation management (SRM). In this method, particles of sulphur or calcium carbonate are sprayed into the stratosphere, which makes solar radiation “bounce” off clouds back into space, creating a cooling effect. It’s the same process that happens after a large volcanic eruption.

There are many issues concerning the potential of employing such a method, including whether it is scientifically possible, economically viable and how a body like the United Nations might govern its use.

But another big one is whether it is ethical.

Thus far, geoengineering studies have been done primarily in labs using models. It’s unknown whether it would produce the desired effect on a larger scale or what the consequences might be.

However, several studies that have modelled SRM find that large-scale use of it could increase precipitation in some parts of the world — potentially in some of the regions in the tropics.

“If you’re talking about justice and equity, then the impacts of changing rainfall patterns are going to fall disproportionately on the poorest around the world,” said Emily Cox, an environmental policy researcher at Cardiff University as well as the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in the U.K.

Cox also noted that there is a philosophical discussion around intentional versus unintentional harm. For example, burning coal and emitting CO2 isn’t limited to borders and is already causing unintended consequences. Similarly, if we employ SRM, we could be causing unintentional harm for other countries.

“Everything we do affects other nations,” she said.

David Keith is a Canadian professor of applied physics at the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University, which is home to one of the leading geoengineering labs in the world. He disputes the findings that state SRM will increase precipitation.

“We had a big paper that was very well reported last year in [the journal] Nature Climate Change that contradicts that assumption,” he said.

There is clearly still dispute over the effects of geoengineering, but given the potential differences in outcome, it’s unlikely every country in the world will agree on the specifics of SRM. So what happens when one country says it doesn’t support it? How ethical would it be for another country to simply proceed?

There are “big philosophical questions here,” said Cox. As a result, “there’s a real danger of polarization.” SOURCE

James Hansen: No Time for Despair

We have no time for despair.  Nor is there good reason to despair.  Yes, as I noted recently the Wheels of Justice turn slowly.  But they can be turned, and we will achieve justice soonest if we are smart and have a realistic view of the world.

“Shell’s Crude Awakening” in the 27 January issue of Time provides reasons for optimism, as well as need for continued resolve and hard work.  Shell is beginning to bend under the pressure of the Dutch public, but additional pressure is needed before it will be transformed into an energy company that will be part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.

As Dan Galpern, my legal adviser, and I argued at the recent COP25 meeting in Madrid, it is important to use lawsuits to ratchet up the pressure on the fossil fuel industry.

Roger Cox, pictured on the right above, deserves accolades for his success in the Urgenda (Urgent Agenda) case in the Netherlands and continued pressure on Shell.  Upon returning from a trip to the Netherlands in 2012 to help launch that case, I was irritated (Galileo and the Fireflies) by Roger’s decision to base Urgenda’s challenge to federal policy on the 2°C IPCC ‘guardrail’ target for limiting global warming.  It turns out he was right: the international target assured that even conservative Dutch scientists supported him.  Seven years later, Urgenda won their historic case, requiring the Dutch government to phase down emissions faster.  As wheels of justice go, that was pretty fast.

The other historic case, by Our Children’s Trust against the U.S. federal government, suffered a setback last week when a federal appeals court voted 2-1 to dismiss the case.  That is not the end of the story, though.  As Joe Robertson points out, the opinion of the two majority judges is logically incoherent: the Court exists to redress grievances protected by the Constitution, yet they conclude they are not empowered to do so.  The more reasoned opinion of dissenting Judge Staton includes “…plaintiffs’ claims adhere to a judicially administrable standard.  And considering plaintiffs seek no less than to forestall the Nation’s demise, even a partial and temporary reprieve would constitute meaningful redress.”

Our requested redress no doubt flummoxed the majority judges.  However, as both a Plaintiff and Expert Witness in the case, I note that our “ask” is based on science that the Defendants will not be able to refute: a plan is needed to reduce atmospheric CO2 to some value south of 350 ppm, if we are to avoid unacceptable consequences such as eventual loss of coastal cities.

Thanks to the slow pace of the wheels of justice, we can no longer achieve that CO2 target in an acceptable period solely by reducing the rate of fossil fuel emissions.  But that is no reason to despair.  And we should not be frightening vulnerable young people with gloom and doom pronouncements.  The problem can still be solved.  Our planet has a bright future.

The ridiculous climate statement – even from politicians – goes something like: “we have 10 years, 7 months, x days until the carbon budget is used up and we are doomed!”  IPCC should be censured for initiating that nonsense, and wrongly frightening young people.  We are already in carbon overshoot, but that does not mean that the problem is unsolvable.

Instead of despair, we should celebrate how far we have come.

I was stunned to hear U.S. Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg precisely describe Carbon Fee & Dividend as the central pillar of his plan to address climate change.  Underlying economic forces unleashed by a rising carbon fee will do more to move us to a clean energy future than all the laws and regulations that can be imagined.  The public would accept a rising carbon fee/tax, if and only if 100% of the money is distributed to the public so as also to address wealth disparity.

That is not enough, however.  The fossil fuel industry, if we allow them to get away with it, will build an infrastructure that locks young people into a future of gas + renewables – and increasing climate change.  The fossil fuel industry is spending large amounts of money campaigning against nuclear power, for the purpose of locking in gas + renewables.

Massive amounts of power will be needed for drawing down atmospheric CO2, for producing liquid fuels, and for desalinization, as well as for an electricity-dominant energy system.  Young people will get fracked and gassed, if there is no viable alternative for baseload electric power.

Andrew Yang is the one candidate in Iowa who seems to have the most complete understanding of the energy and climate story.  Yang, of all the candidates, gave the shortest, best answer to the Des Moines Register question about their climate policy: Carbon Fee & Dividend.

In addition, with Cory Booker’s withdrawal, Yang is the one remaining candidate with an understanding of the crucial role of United States leadership in nuclear technology.  That technologic leadership, and our young people’s future, depend upon investment and support from the government comparable to the support that brought down the cost of solar energy.

Yang’s party, unfortunately, has a history of hostility toward nuclear power, our largest source of carbon-free energy, with smallest environmental footprint, as discussed in Fire on Planet Earth.  Some candidates espouse a ‘Green New Deal,’ characterized by limited understanding of the energy/climate problem, but by an $XX trillion price tag.  One thing is assured: if they get the nomination, they will lose the election.

Yes, I know, young people are afraid of hurting their Boomer hippie grandparents’ feelings.  Of course, they meant well when they paraded against nuclear power.  It was identified as the next villain, after the Viet Nam war ended.  But what is more important: their feelings or your future?

As with Obama, it is said that Yang has no chance.  But a message can be sent to the other 49 states: we all had best take a closer look at this guy, for the sake of the future of young people. SOURCE

Teen girls took over the climate movement. What happens next?

Greta Thunberg takes part in a climate strike in Montreal. September 27, 2019. Photography by The Canadian Press / Paul Chiasson

If you try to picture a climate activist over the past very long year, you will likely summon the image of a young girl. It’s not necessarily the stern Swedish one with pigtails. It could be the bespectacled daughter of one embattled Somali-American representative, the tall Latina from Seattle drenched and yelling at the first Youth Climate March, or a less nationally-known girl you happened to catch at the head of your local climate strike.

Whether you like it or not, the teenage girl has become the symbol of the climate movement. They have demanded to be seen, heard, and heeded, and they’ve at least gotten their way with the first two. There is a reason that Greta Thunberg, founder of the school climate strikes and not yet 17 years old, is Time’s Person of The Year and that Alexandria Villaseñor, the 14-year-old founder of Earth Uprising, spoke at COP25 in Madrid. Quannah Chasing Horse and Nanieezh Peter, 17 and 15, also traveled to Madrid to advocate for climate justice in their homeland of Alaska.

But it’s that third item on their wish list, that pesky “heeded” part, that remains elusive. Thunberg has insisted over and over again that she doesn’t want attention, she wants action. Villaseñor was horrified by the rather spectacular collapse of the international climate summit she crossed an ocean to attend. None of these girls is content with the mere spotlight, and rightfully so — they want leaders to make swift, meaningful overhauls to national economies and infrastructure, and that hasn’t happened.

A high school girl has a uniquely precarious place in American society. She doesn’t have a voice in the political system, but she’s depended upon heavily as a consumer. She gets the message that she should be empowered and confident and generally sans fucks, but the grown women she sees on Instagram are digitally and surgically altering everything from their rib cages to their cheekbones to look like composite Kardashians. She knows how to use social media to be heard, but she can also be tortured by it. And maybe most overwhelmingly of all, she knows that the world she’s going to grow up in is going to be much more chaotic than the one her parents expected, and she had no role in making it that way.

Hava Gordon, a sociologist at Denver University who studies gender and social movements, described a dynamic where teenage girls today are looking at the world they’ve been left and realizing they’re completely ostracized from the power structures that could change it. So they’re using what they can to get noticed, and it’s working pretty well.

“Most teenage activists don’t have the right to vote or run for office just yet,” she said. “So they’re harnessing media and social media in really interesting ways; they’re also finding their institutional leverage with schools and school strikes as well.”

Teenage girls have long been defined by their obsession of the hour — and long been the object of a good deal of American cultural obsession themselves. The current iteration is the VSCO girl, the Instagram-centric trend characterized by ‘90s-revival style and a surprising environmental ethic. Kate Aronoff reported on the VSCO girl’s climate enthusiasm for The Intercept in September and noted:

It’s not as if all VSCO Girls are sleeper climate champions. But as climate organizing has come to involve more and more people, it’s sucking the trends of the day up with it, as those trends in turn reflect the concerns and anxieties of the generation from which they’ve sprouted.

You see all kinds of variation in the way young women use the tools they have to be heard. Alexis Ren, the 23-year-old American Instagram model, has made a recent attempt to awaken the millions of followers devoted to her bikini shots to the destruction of coral reefs in the North Pacific. Meanwhile, Thunberg, who seems much more comfortable in a zip-up hoodie than a high-rise French cut, has certainly become the best-known girl climate activist in the country due in part to her savvy use of Twitter.

Thunberg’s prominence has only been boosted by one Twitter-obsessed president’s snide comments about her, where he characterizes her as a weird, petulant, tantrum-throwing child. (Even the least astute psychologist might be able to identify this as “projection,” but that’s neither here nor there.) And the young girl’s ascent has been accompanied by her very own religious iconography; in October, her face was painted across a building in San Francisco like a cathedral mural. She’s even released a short book of her speeches, a kind of pocket scripture for the modern-day climate disciple.

Thunberg has said she doesn’t want to be the center of attention; she just feels obligated to use her platform to advocate for change. It calls to mind an earlier pioneering environmental activist: Rachel Carson, who was 55 when she published Silent Spring in 1962. In What a Book Can Do: The Publication and Reception of Silent Spring, Priscilla Coit Murphy describes the writer and scientist’s desire to remove herself as a character from the conversation about her landmark journalistic work revealing the impacts of DDT. But despite the enigma Carson fought to maintain, she remained a focus of the press: “Carson herself was a classically appealing protagonist, despite her best efforts to remain private,” writes Murphy. “Much of the news coverage began with a description of her appearance and various qualities: ‘shy,’ ‘petite,’ ‘soft-spoken,’ or less felicitously, ‘spinster,’ or ‘bachelor biologist.’”

Movements of outspoken women have been fascinating to the public at the very least since suffragettes, and that fascination runs the gamut from religious adoration to cruel denigration. And yet many social justice efforts throughout history have been predominantly women-led; the most recent examples are the Black Lives Matter and Fight for $15 movements. Why women? Gordon describes a theory that we’re socialized to mind the home — keep things orderly, functional, and pretty — and that that cultivated instinct carries over to, well, the entire world.

But the suffragettes were doing their thing over a hundred years ago; this is not new! I asked Gordon why the surge of teen girl climate activists seems so novel. She mentioned two things: They’re younger than most women leaders before them, and we continue to be surprised by women who lead social movements because we don’t see that dynamic represented in the halls of power. Just under a quarter of Congressional representatives are women, and just under 30 percent of state-level elected officials are women.

“You can look at a teenage boy activist and think, ‘He’s gonna be president or a senator, this is good practice for him!’” said Gordon. “But the public doesn’t look at young women and girls that way.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a notable exception to the accepted model of legislator: young, female, Latina, internet–fluent, and, of course, unapologetically outspoken. She’s also been a vocal advocate for both young teen climate activists and comprehensive and transformative climate legislation.

But despite the fact that Ocasio-Cortez is now a household name whose likeness can be found riding a unicorn on a coffee mug, she’s still up against a largely old, white, male Congress that’s resistant to the kind of systemic transformation she and millions of young climate activists would love to see.

Girl activists rose to prominence in 2019 and captured the world’s attention. As they grow into women activists — and maybe politicians — over this year and the coming ones, I would love nothing more than to see them capture some of its power.  SOURCE


Naomi Klein On Looming Eco-Fascism: ‘We Are Literally And Politically Flammable’

The intellectual godmother of the Green New Deal movement laid out what, exactly, such a plan must entail to be successful.

Image result for naomi klein green new deal

Naomi Klein appears on Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman. (YouTube s

California burned. The Amazon burned. Greenland burned. Siberia burned. Indonesia burned. Australia’s ongoing fires look hellish.

Now, last year’s global inferno looks to Naomi Klein, the author and intellectual godmother of the Green New Deal movement, like a lit fuse to a fascist future.

“We’re in a moment where we are literally flammable,” Klein, whose latest book “On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal” was published in September, said on a recent afternoon. “But we are also politically flammable.”

In 2019, some factions of the global far-right that gained power in the past decade started to abandon their traditional climate denialism and adopt new rhetoric that looks increasingly eco-fascist, an ideology that defends its violent authoritarianism as necessary to protect the environment.

In France, the leader of the far right, Marine Le Pen, refurbished Nazi-era blood-and-soil rhetoric in a pledge to make Europe the “world’s first ecological civilization,” drawing a distinction between the “ecologist” social groups who are “rooted in their home” and the “nomadic” people who “have no homeland” and “do not care about the environment.” In Germany, the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany party’s Berlin youth wing urged its leaders to abandon climate denialism. The manifestos posted online by the alleged gunmen in massacres from Christchurch, New Zealand, and El Paso, Texas, explicitly cited climate change as a motivation for murdering immigrants and minorities.

“This is what it means to have people so close to the edge,” Klein said. “There is a rage out there that is going to go somewhere, and we have demagogues who are expert at directing that rage at the most vulnerable among us while protecting the most powerful and most culpable.”

The solution, she said, is to enact the kind of Green New Deal that progressives in the United States and elsewhere started fleshing out over the past year. The proposal ― more of a framework than a policy ― calls for the most generous expansion of the social safety net in decades. It promises good-paying, federally backed jobs for workers displaced by the transition away from fossil fuels, and those struggling to get by with stagnant wages and insecure gig-economy and retail jobs.

Klein, a journalist and author whose work over the past decade thrust pointed critiques of capitalism into the mainstream debate over climate change, has campaigned in recent months for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) as he runs for the 2020 Democratic nomination on a platform that includes a sweeping, $16.3 trillion Green New Deal.

HuffPost sat down with Klein to discuss her latest book and what comes next in the climate fight.

In Spain, there are competing versions of a Green New Deal. In New York, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo called his clean energy proposal a “green new deal.” The European Commission is pushing a “green deal.” Are you worried about Green New Deal branding being coopted by advocates of austerity and centrism? How do you fight back against that? 

Any phrase can be coopted and watered down. The main reason why I wanted to write the book is to help define what a transformational Green New Deal has to mean, to put more details out there. Any vague proposal is vulnerable to what you’re describing. The reason why I’m using the phrase now is because it is being used in a climate-justice context and the parameters that have been put around it by the resolution sponsored by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) — and further supported by the Sanders campaign and Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s (D) campaigns — have made it more detailed.

Canadian author and activist Naomi Klein speaks to the media before speaking at the Willy Brandt Foundation in December. CARSTEN KOALL VIA GETTY IMAGES

But I still think there are parts of the discussion that we need to talk about — like the danger of a Green New Deal inadvertently failing to lower emissions in line with what scientists are telling us we need to do, and what sort of mechanisms need to be in place to prevent a carbon bubble that could be generated by rolling out a bunch of new infrastructure and creating a whole bunch of jobs.

How has the emergence of the Green New Deal changed the way we talk about neoliberalism? The movement seems to take the governing ideology of the past five decades as a given, yet we still have certain pundits questioning whether “neoliberalism” even exists. 

It’s so interesting, this. I’ve been trying to understand what the insistence on refusing to understand neoliberalism is all about. In most parts of the world there was a discussion about the phenomenon of neoliberalism and there was a name for it, while in the United States, people were always asking what neoliberalism was. It was always about what hegemony means and that it was an ideology that didn’t want to recognize itself as an ideology. Rather, it sees itself as seriousness and commonsense. The very fact of being named as an ideology, as a contested ideology that had opponents at every stage, was antithetical to the project. How it’s possible to still deny that there is a thing called neoliberalism ― understanding that the term gets thrown around, and every term gets used and abused ― but the insistence that it doesn’t exist is about a desire to not debate it on its merits, to not reckon with the history of how it was imposed through tremendous violence in many parts of the world.

A true Green New Deal platform makes visible that the failure to act in the face of the climate crisis is not the result of something innate in humans. It’s the reality that the things that we need to do to lower emissions while avoiding a massive backlash ― while bringing the population along with you, which is what you have to do in a democracy ― require breaking every single rule in the neoliberal playbook.

Can you briefly define it?

Neoliberalism is a clear set of policy frameworks which used to be called the “Washington consensus.” It’s privatization of the public sphere. It’s deregulation of the corporate sphere. It’s low taxes for corporations and all of this offset with austerity and public cutbacks of the social sphere. That in turn creates more of an argument for privatization, because you starve the public sphere. And all of it is locked in with technocratic-seeming arrangements like free trade deals.

And a progressive Green New Deal would be a reversal of these trends? 

That is what the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has told us we need to do. We need unprecedented transformation in every aspect of society: Energy, transportation, agriculture, built environment. That requires huge investments in the public sphere. It requires regulating corporations. It requires getting some money from somewhere, and usually involves raising taxes on the wealthy. And if you want to do it democratically, you need to do it in a way that is fair. That means creating a lot of well-paying jobs and improving services, so you’re not just adding burdens onto people’s daily lives.

Besides the obvious, what are some obstacles to this project?

It so happens that we have a lot of trade agreements that our governments have signed that make a lot of the things we need to do illegal under international law. So, a lot of those trade agreements are going to have to go.

The reason why we haven’t done these things is we’ve been trying to do them in the constraints and confines of the neoliberal imaginary. That’s the only reason we’re actually now finally talking about solutions: We’re in the midst of a democratic socialist revival, which is breathing oxygen into the political imagination and made us think that maybe we can do things again. The Green New Deal has made visible the constraints, the actual barriers to what it would take to deal with this crisis.

Why can’t a market-based solution deliver on those goals? 

The Green New Deal is certainly making visible the tremendous costs of the neoliberal project. There have been so many attacks on public goods, on public services like transportation, on trade unions, on worker rights of every kind, on living standards. Climate policies that adhere to a neoliberal framework ― like introducing a marginal carbon tax or a buying a fleet of electric buses (but you want to do it in a “fiscally responsible” way, so then you increase bus fares) …  We are seeing these huge, popular resistances.

It’s the reality that the things that we need to do to lower emissions while avoiding a massive backlash … requires breaking every single rule in the neoliberal playbook. Naomi Klein

We saw it in France when President Emmanuel Macron introduced a tax on gasoline. We saw it in Chile with President Sebastián Piñera, ahead of the U.N. climate summit, when they bought a whole bunch of electric buses in order to make their public transit appear green. But, of course, because Chile has been the laboratory for neoliberalism since 1973, they have rules in place that say all of your expenditures have to be offset, so they increased transit fares. That was the spark that set off the Chilean uprising.

A thing I’ve been thinking about a lot, which you write about in the book, is the looming threat of eco-fascism. It’s been hard not to think about that over the past few months, as you’ve had these different shooters in El Paso and Christchurch citing environmental concerns in their manifestos and you have somebody like Marine Le Pen talking about borders as a climate policy and “nomadic” people having no appreciation for the need to make France an ecological society. How quickly do you think this kind of right-wing, climate fascism is going to spread? What besides adopting equitable policies can you do to fight back against that? 

These types of policies that make life more secure for people, that could tamp down the political flammability of the moment we’re in, are absolutely necessary. I don’t think they’re sufficient. I don’t think there’s any way that we move forward without a frontal confrontation with white supremacy. Which isn’t to say “Oh, just fund schools and hospitals and create lots of jobs and it’ll take care of itself.” We need both: We have to address the underlying supremacist logics in our societies and we also need to do what is necessary to be less flammable.

I want to be clear: I don’t think there are any shortcuts where we don’t actually have to battle supremacist logics. And it’s different in different parts of the world. In the United States, it’s white supremacy, it’s Christian supremacy, it’s male supremacy. With Prime Minister Narendra Modi in India right now, it’s Hindu supremacy; under Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, it’s Jewish supremacy. It’s all very, very similar. As I argue in the book, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that supremacists have come to power at the very moment when the climate crisis becomes pretty much impossible to deny.

Do you think that’s a blindspot for the climate movement at large? It seems like there has been this consensus for a long time that, if only we could exorcise denialism from the polity, then people would embrace social democratic policies to deal with emissions. Is there any evidence for that? 

It’s a massive blindspot. The assumption that the biggest problem we’ve had is just convincing the right to believe in the scientific reality of climate change was a failure to understand that the right denied climate change not because they didn’t understand the science, but because they objected to the political implications of the science. They understood it better than many liberals understood it.

This is the argument I made after spending some time at the Heartland Institute conference and interviewing [co-founder] Joseph Bast, who was very honest about his motivation. He understood that if the science was true, then the whole reason for the Heartland Institute, a free-market think tank that exists to advance the neoliberal project, would crumble. He said to me that if it was true, then any kind of regulation would be possible, because in the name of safeguarding the habitability of the planet, you’d need to regulate.

It was never about the science or needing someone to patiently explain the science to you. It was always about the political implications of the science.

That said, I think there are lots of people who are not hardcore climate deniers but who are just exposed to a certain kind of right-wing media and haven’t heard the counter arguments, and could absolutely be persuaded. But if you’re talking about the hardcore denier, it’s an epic waste of time, because you’re dealing with somebody who has an intensely hierarchical worldview, which is what all the studies show. That’s just a nice way of saying somebody is racist: It means you’re OK with massive levels of inequality, you think the people who are doing well in the world are doing well because they’re somehow better and the people who are poor and suffering are experiencing this through some cultural or biological failure of their own making.

White nationalists march on the grounds of the University of Virginia ahead of the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017. Many of the white supremacists in attendance chanted “blood and soil.” STEPHANIE KEITH / REUTERS

So what happens when those people stop denying climate change? 

If you convince those people climate change really is real, or if it just becomes so obvious that they can no longer deny it, they don’t suddenly want to sign onto the Paris Agreement. What actually happens is they apply that intensely hierarchical supremacist worldview to the reality that what climate change means is that the space for people to live well on this planet is contracting. More and more of us are going to have to live on less and less land, even if we do everything right. It’s already happening. So if you have that worldview, then you will apply it to people who are migrating to your country and to those who want to migrate to your country. We will harden the narratives that say those people deserve what they get because they’re inferior and we deserve what we have because we’re superior. In other words, the racism will get worse.

One last question. Former Secretary of State John Kerry just announced a new project, this star-studded effort called World War Zero, saying we’ve got to have war footing on climate change but we’re not married to any specific policy. John Kasich, the Republican former governor of Ohio, was quoted in The New York Times saying he was on board because it’s policy agnostic and if there were a “no frackers” provision, he wouldn’t join. Is there a danger to these elite, “let’s just do something about climate change” efforts?

There would be a huge danger if there wasn’t a powerful movement today pushing for a Green New Deal at the same time. The idea that what we need to just scare people in this moment, or just get people to understand that we’re in an emergency and once we’re on emergency footing, this will somehow solve itself, that’s a very dangerous theory of change.

I began writing about climate change while I was writing about something I called the “shock doctrine,” which says that for the past four decades, states of emergency have been systematically harnessed by the most powerful and wealthy forces in our society to impose policies that are so harmful and unpopular that they are unable to impose them under normal circumstances.

I get my back up when people just say all we need to do is get people to understand we’re in a crisis. There are many ways of responding to a climate emergency, and a lot of them are very harmful. You could decide to dim the sun with solar radiation management. You could decide that you need a massive expansion of nuclear power and ignore the impact on the people whose lands are being poisoned. You could decide to fortress your borders. There are any number of emergency responses to climate change that could make our world much more unjust than it currently is.

That said, I’m not too bothered by the idea that there’s going to be a lot of people out there just screaming “fire!” For the first time since I’ve been involved in the climate movement, there’s now a critical mass of people out there who have a plan for putting out the fire that is robust, justice-based, science-based and has a movement behind it. That’s the movement for a Green New Deal. There are enough of us out there who can harness that energy and direct it in the right way. But we certainly have our work cut out for us.  SOURCE

Vulnerable Nations Call for Ecocide to Be Recognized As an International Crime

The nations of Vanuatu and Maldives are spearheading an effort for the International Criminal Court to consider wide-scale environmental damage a global crime. Photo credit: Stop Ecocide

The Pacific island of Vanuatu has called for ecocide— wide-scale, long-term environmental damage—to be considered an international crime equivalent to genocide.

At a meeting of the International Criminal Court in the Hague on Tuesday, ambassador John Licht of Vanuatu said the court should consider an amendment to the Rome Statute, which sets the court’s legal framework, that would “criminalize acts that amount to ecocide. We believe this radical idea merits serious discussion.”

The International Criminal Court is currently responsible for prosecuting four internationally recognized crimes against peace: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression. A fifth could be included through an amendment to the Rome Statute.

The court’s authority extends only to the 122 nations that have ratified the Rome Statute, a list that does not include the United States, China, India and Israel.

Vanuatu, which is particularly vulnerable to sea level rise, has been an advocate of climate justice at international forums for many years, but has been more vocal since 2015, when Cyclone Pam devastated the island, an example of a major storm whose impact was made significantly worse by climate change.

Vanuatu’s statement is a major victory for the Stop Ecocide campaign, which was launched by British lawyer Polly Higgins two years ago. The organization wants any agreed-upon criminal definition of ecocide to include the impacts of climate change as well as other forms of environmental harm.

Until now, Vanuatu was the only state to have formally announced it was working with the campaign, which provides diplomatic and practical help for countries to get to the negotiation table. The Republic of Maldives announced on Thursday that it was adding its support as well.

Ahmed Saleem, member of the Maldives parliament and chair of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Climate Change and Environment, said in a statement the “time is ripe” to consider an ecocide amendment, emphasizing how serious a threat climate change posed to his nation.

“We see little or no concrete action at multilateral level to bring about transformative changes necessary to prevent the repercussions of climate change,” Saleem said. “It is time justice for climate change victims be recognised as part and parcel of the international criminal justice system.”

To change the Rome Statute, the head of a state that is party to the International Criminal Court must submit a formal amendment. If a two-thirds majority approve the change, it can be adopted into the Rome Statute and countries can formally ratify it.

The idea of ecocide has been around for nearly 50 years and had been under serious consideration in early drafts of the Rome Statute. But it was dropped due to resistance from a few countries including the United States and the United Kingdom.

According to the Stop Ecocide campaign, it is the first time since 1972 that a state representative has formally called for ecocide to be recognized at this kind of international forum.

Jojo Mehta, spokesperson for Stop Ecocide and co-ordinator of its international diplomatic and campaign teams, said she is optimistic that a formal amendment could be submitted as early as next year, although others believe it is unlikely to happen until at least 2021.

“This is an idea whose time has not only come, it’s long overdue,” said Mehta. “It’s committed and courageous of Vanuatu to take the step of openly calling for consideration of a crime of ecocide, and it was clear from the response today that they will not be alone. The political climate is changing, in recognition of the changing climate.  This initiative is only going to grow – all we are doing is helping to accelerate a much-needed legal inevitability.”

Pope Francis has lent his support to the idea of making ecocide a crime, proposing in November that ‘sins against ecology’ be added to the teachings of the Catholic Church. SOURCE

Question at COP25: What Role Should Carbon Markets Play in Meeting Paris Goals?

Environmental justice advocates and indigenous groups argue that emissions trading leaves the poor bearing the brunt of pollution.

Homes in El Segundo, California, sit blocks from the Chevron refinery. Credit: Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
“You’re privatizing forests in our Mother Lands so you’ll be able to pollute more in our communities,” said Tere Almaguer, an environmental justice organizer whose group works with communities near California refineries that feel that they bear the brunt of poor air quality from fossil fuel emissions. Credit: Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Climate justice advocates at the UN climate summit this week are focusing their frustration over global climate inaction into one highly technical debate: What role should carbon markets play in meeting the promise of the Paris climate accord?

Carbon markets started as a way to offer polluters more flexibility as they try to meet their countries’ emissions reduction targets and, in theory, lower the cost. But past international emissions trading systems have failed to reduce emissions significantly, and representatives of vulnerable and indigenous groups argue that their communities end up bearing the brunt of pollution under such systems, as industries seek to make emissions reductions where it is easiest and cheapest.

Writing the rules for future carbon market mechanisms to fulfill the Paris commitments is at the top of the agenda for the delegates of nearly 200 nations gathered in Spain through Dec. 13 at the 25th Conference of the Parties (COP25). But the task has proven so difficult that it remains the last unresolved portion of the Paris treaty rulebook.

The controversy around this part of the Paris climate agreement, known as Article 6, is even more striking given the long history of international discussions over carbon markets, which nations have looked to as part of the climate solution ever since adopting the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992. But to opponents in the environmental justice and indigenous people’s communities, that long experience has engendered mistrust.

“Over and over again, carbon markets have proven that they are not effective in reducing emissions,” said Tere Almaguer, environmental justice organizer for PODER in San Francisco. Her group focuses on organizing Latino communities—including those who live near California refineries and feel that they bear the brunt of poor air quality from fossil fuel emissions.

She says the state’s carbon cap-and-trade system allows the oil companies to invest in far-flung carbon mitigation projects rather than cutting emissions at home, leaving the communities to continue suffering the consequences. Referring to industry investments in forest preservation projects in the developing world to earn credit for cutting emissions, Almaguer said: “You’re privatizing forests in our Mother Lands so you’ll be able to pollute more in our communities.” MORE

James Hansen: Carbon Reality!

Our children must live in the real world. We cannot pretend we have fossil fuel replacements and “all that is needed is political will.” Eventually we will have energy cheaper than coal, but not today. Fossil fuels are a convenient energy source and can raise standards of living. If we are to phase down fossil fuel emissions rapidly, we must make fossil fuels pay their costs to society.

A viable strategy to rapidly phase down fossil emissions is an across-the-board (oil, gas, coal) rising carbon fee. These funds, collected from the fossil fuel companies, must be distributed, 100 per cent, to the public. Otherwise, the public will rebel, as ‘yellow vests’ demonstrated in France.

Merits of the carbon fee & dividend: it is progressive, as most low-income people get more in the dividend than they pay in increased prices. And, economists agree, it is, by far, the fastest way to phase down emissions. It stimulates the economy, creates jobs, and modernizes infrastructure.

The United States, China and the European Union are the big players on the global stage today. If, preferably, at least two of these three adopt a rising carbon fee, it can be made near-global via border duties on products from countries without such fee, and rebates to manufacturers on products shipped to countries without a fee. This would encourage most countries to have their own carbon fee, so they could collect the money themselves.

Will one of these three major players lead the way by initiating fee & dividend?

European Union: Citizens Climate Lobby, the Danish chapter, is spurring an initiative to collect one million signatures, which would force the European Parliament to vote on fee & dividend. They have a good start, 21,790 signatures, but they must get 1,000,000 by 6 May 2020.

Please visit (add /dk for Danish version, /es for Spanish, /bg for Bulgarian, etc.) where it is possible to sign electronically – you must be European to sign.

It is hard to inform people about this one-by-one, but if enough organizations understand the carbon reality, they can get their memberships behind the ballot initiative.

Fig. 2. Cumulative per capita emissions in tons of carbon and cost of extraction in thousands of dollars per person from the air, assuming extraction cost of $123 per ton of CO2.

United States: Dan Miller and I submitted a response to a ‘Request for Information’ from the United States House of Representatives Select Committee on the Climate Crisis.

Citizens Climate Lobby in the United States now has more than 500 Chapters with more than 170,000 members. I believe that they can eventually get Congress to adopt a rising Carbon Fee & Dividend. Please consider joining CCL and adding your support to their efforts.

China: The merits of a carbon fee in China will include a huge reduction of air pollution, as well as reduction of carbon emissions. If the dividend is distributed uniformly, as in other countries, it will increase social justice. Wealthy people will lose some money, but they can afford it. The population as a whole will be glad to see the government taking action to deal with pollution and rewarding financially those citizens who make an effort to limit their carbon footprint.

The West must understand that China does not owe us any special effort. China now has the largest annual emissions, but climate change is proportional to cumulative emissions. China’s cumulative per capita emissions are far less than those of the U.S., U.K. and Germany (Fig. 2).

China’s greatest emissions are from coal burning, as they have massive energy needs for power plants and industrial heat. Their best hope to phase down those emissions is modern, safe nuclear power plants that shut down in an accident, such as an earthquake or tsunami, and require no external power to cool the nuclear fuel. Data show that nuclear power has been our safest power source, with smallest carbon footprint, but major improvements are possible. For mutual benefit, the United States and China should cooperate to develop modular reactors that would drive the price of nuclear power below that of coal (see Cao et al., Science 353, 547, 2016).


Wealthy Countries’ Approach to Climate Change Condemns Hundreds of Millions of People to Suffer
 ‘Blowing through our carbon budget’: Avoiding catastrophic impacts from warming gets harder as carbon emissions hit another record

Review – This Is Not A Drill: An Extinction Rebellion Handbook

Suki Ferguson reviews the XR guide to climate activism

Extinction Rebellion at Oxford Circus. By Mark Ramsay, under a CC BY 2.0 license

Extinction Rebellion (XR) is many things at once: a hopeful mass movement; a commuter’s nightmare; a source of inspiration; an apocalyptic kick up the arse. Within the UK climate movement, it has become a Rorschach test. For some, its shock doctrine ethos flirts with eco-fascism. For others, the actions have become their life’s calling. This Is Not A Drill has been written to clarify, inform, inspire and equip the people who are undecided yet interested in moving deeper into the climate action zeitgeist XR has ingeniously catalysed.

The book is loud and proud. Its hot pink cover is impossible to ignore, and pages of the text are dedicated to vivid woodcut imagery and all-caps messages. The book contains a wealth of essays, anecdotes, and advice. All are short and generally unfussy: no footnotes here. They are written by people from a variety of backgrounds, united through their concern over climate breakdown. An Indian farmer and a Californian firefighter offer their perspectives; individuals working in academia, climate science, politics and other fields weigh in too. These include Mohamed Nasheed, the former president of the Maldives; psychotherapist Susie Orbach; Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, an indigenous rights campaigner from the Mbororo community in Chad; and visionary economist Kate Raworth, among many others.

Notably, XR is working to develop a deeper understanding of climate justice and the causes of climate breakdown. The Indian environmental activist Vandana Shiva writes a powerful foreword stating explicitly that ‘ecocide and genocide are one indivisible process’, pointing to colonialism’s ravaging motive by quoting US President Andrew Jackson’s 1833 call for ‘a superior race’ to triumph over native people in America. She and other contributors make it clear that colonialism and capitalism comprise a pincer movement that is destroying life as we know it. This lays important foundations for conversations about what an ecologically healthy and socially just future needs to consign to history.

Salutary reads

These big global overviews of climate breakdown and its impact on different communities are salutary reads for any reader. The more practical pieces that explore the logistics of effective direct action are excellent too. One, ‘Cultural Roadblocks’, shares the story behind how XR sourced a boat for activism purposes, and it conveys the mix of determination, absurdity, effort and camaraderie that collective action can involve. From branding textiles, to befriending journalists, to cooking on-site meals that won’t give everyone food poisoning, the best of these chapters share the qualities of being informal, smart, and motivating.

There is unexplored tension in the text. Horizontal self-organising is recommended throughout, yet the encouraged action, reiterated through a number of chapters, remains bafflingly prescriptive: disrupt transport in capital cities. Blocking bridges is a tactic, but is it the only option? According to This Is Not A Drill, it would seem so. The roots to this strategy can be found in the chapter written by XR co-founder Roger Hallam, where he states that disrupting cities is the only option: ‘That’s just the way it is.’ Martin Luther King and Mohandas Gandhi, effective civil rights leaders whose work Hallam cites elsewhere, might have disagreed with this dogma; the Salt Marches in India and the Selma to Montgomery marches in the US, for example, were pivotal to their respective causes.

It’s worth noting that Hallam has form in presenting opinion as fact. When interviewed on the Politics Theory Other podcast, he was challenged on the claim that ‘most prison officers are black’, which appeared in the (now-deleted) XR prison handbook. Hallam doubled down on the claim, saying, ‘That’s just an empirical fact. I mean, I’ve been to prison several times and that’s the fact of the matter.’ Given that, in reality, over 94 per cent of all UK prison officers are white, it seems wise to take Hallam’s other ‘empirical facts’ with a pinch of salt, city roadblocks as a means to liberation for all being one of the them. MORE

A burning case for a radical future: Naomi Klein says UBC needs to get with the program

Naomi Klein wrapped up the final leg of her book tour on October 26 Chan Centre

Naomi Klein wrapped up the final leg of her book tour on October 26, presenting at UBC’s Chan Centre for a sold out venue as part of the Vancouver Writers Festival.

Klein opened the event with a discussion on her new book and was joined by Kanahus Manuel, an Indigenous land defender from the Secwepemc territories as well as event moderator, UBC School of Journalism Professor Kathryn Gretsinger.

Klein’s seventh book, On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal, focuses on the interconnectedness of what she refers to as simultaneous planetary and political “fires.” These fires are both literal in reference to rising temperatures and climate crisis, as well as in a metaphorical sense; With references to global political crises and the rise of fascism under figures like Trump, Bolsonaro in Brazil, Modi in India and Kashmir, and Duterte in the Philippines, to name a few she touched on.

“A clear formula is emerging between many of these fascist figures who are trading tactics,” she said.

In her opening address Klein emphasized themes from her book, particularly that climate destruction systematically intensifies pre-existing societal inequalities and vulnerabilities. She cited the historic 2017 wildfires in BC as an example, sharing that while smoke hung over the entire Lower Mainland for weeks on end, it was Indigenous communities whose wellbeing was disproportionately affected, along with undocumented migrant workers working in BC’s interior.

Klein brought hope to the on-stage conversation by addressing that while political and planetary fires are raging, metaphorical ‘personal’ fires are also on the rise, and continue to spark global social movements, from Haiti to Chile to Lebanon and beyond.

From racism to colonialism, imperialism, neoliberalism, extractivism, eco-fascism, climate destruction, poverty and despair, in Klein’s words, these struggles can be tackled all at the same time rather than as single-voter issues.

“The fight for Indigenous rights and title is absolutely inseparable from the fight for a habitable planet. They are one and the same,” Klein stated emphatically in the two hour event.

Klein’s book is dedicated to the late Secwepemc leader and activist Arthur Manuel. His daughter, Kanahus Manuel — founder of the Tiny House Warriors movement in BC — joined her on stage for the event. Manuel reiterated the interconnectedness of Indigenous land rights as central to movements for climate justice, particularly as the Canadian government has repeatedly stated it’s intent to go on with Trans Mountain Pipeline construction despite a lack of Indigenous peoples’ consent.

Image result for kanahus manuelBearing a broken wrist and a defiantly raised fist, in a voice that was calm and contained, Manuel recounted a chilling incident of police violence from the week before.

“As I stand here today, I have this cast as proof of what Canada does to Indigenous people when they stand up for Indigenous land rights. There are mothers and children on the front lines.

“I don’t want anyone here to ever have to feel how this feels — for the RCMP to come and break your wrist at your home and take you away for three days without medical attention.”

Manuel was referring to her arrest the week before, when she and other Secwepemc land defenders had been resisting as federal pipeline developers encroached onto unceded Secwepemc territories.

“We expected them to deal with the matter in a diplomatic way; this is supposed to be a first world country,” said Manuel.

As Manuel handed the microphone back to Klein, she received a standing ovation from the packed Chan Centre audience, members of the audience joining her in standing with fists raised in unison with her own stance. MORE