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Radical activism has a role in speeding up corporate change

George Marshall, The Guardian
Large businesses and governments often regard radical activists as a nuisance, a threat or an outright enemy. I’ve worked with both sides and the feeling is entirely mutual. But what both sides rarely recognise is this conflict can catalyse the positive and lasting change that would be slow or impossible to achieve otherwise.

Given the fascination that management theorists have with change, it is strange how little recognition is given to the value of outside agitation as an opportunity for organisational change.

B&Q is one example of a company that accepted that challenge. Back in 1990, I was working for the London Rainforest Action Group on a national protest campaign against the DIY giant for its sale of rainforest timber. I was somewhat surprised to get a phone call from Alan Knight, B&Q’s sustainability director, asking to meet…
(31 January 2013)

Rebuilding optimism of will for effective climate activism

Trent Hawkins, Climate Code Red
…Given that the climate movement has focussed on setting targets/deadlines/time-frames, seeing an ever shrinking time-frame for acting to avoid climate disruption is very depressing indeed. Moreover many of us look at the size of the task and further despair at how far we have to go to win the support necessary for change.

So we are faced with an unanswerable riddle. How to steer the boat away from the iceberg, when the captain and crew are convinced there is no iceberg, and the passengers are too busy enjoying themselves. How does a small group, aware of the problem, organise a mutiny in time?

So whilst pessimism of the intellect is growing sharper, how do we “right the balance” and grow optimism of the will?

It is my view that the only real time-frame of concern to us is the time-frame necessary to build a movement large enough to win the political power necessary to enact change. In my view it takes nothing less than ten years to build such a movement, after reaching the point of achieving a unified leadership. Sadly we are too disunited and have too many bases for disagreement that a united leadership is some way off. Panicking about impending doom doesn’t help us much with the organised patient work of building a movement.

So where do we begin?

It is the imperative of the climate movement leadership to rebuild optimism in the face of our challenge and there needs to be concrete demonstrable actions undertaken to illustrate to all the activists in the climate movement reasons to be optimistic…
(24 January 2013)

State of Fear

Chris Hedges, truthdig
Shannon McLeish of Florida is a 45-year-old married mother of two young children. She is a homeowner, a taxpayer and a safe driver. She votes in every election. She attends a Unitarian Universalist church on Sundays. She is also, like nearly all who have a relationship with the Occupy movement in the United States, being monitored by the federal government. She knows this because when she read FBI documents obtained by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) through the Freedom of Information Act, she was startled to see a redaction that could only be referring to her. McLeish’s story is the story of hundreds of thousands of people—perhaps more—whose lives are being invaded by the state. It is the story of a security and surveillance apparatus—overseen by the executive branch under Barack Obama—that has empowered the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security to silence the voices and obstruct the activity of citizens who question corporate power.

Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the PCJF, said in a written statement about the released files: “This production [of information], which we believe is just the tip of the iceberg, is a window into the nationwide scope of the FBI’s surveillance, monitoring, and reporting on peaceful protesters organizing with the Occupy movement. These documents show that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are treating protests against the corporate and banking structure of America as potential criminal and terrorist activity. These documents also show these federal agencies functioning as a de facto intelligence arm of Wall Street and Corporate America.”…
(7 January 2013)
Related article Revealed: how the FBI coordinated the crackdown on Occupy

Exporting carbon: Canada’s new asbestos?

Briony Penn, Focus Online
Truck driver John Snyder retired to bucolic Fanny Bay to live the life, only to wake up one morning three years ago to find a notice on his doorstep—an invitation to an information session on the Raven Coal Mine, proposed five kilometres upstream of his home.

After attending the meeting, Snyder launched into his new career as a citizen researcher on the impacts of coal mining on his community. With others, he set up the group CoalWatch. As he says, “It started with concerns about how the mine might contaminate our wells, and took off from there.”…

ACROSS THE WATER from Fanny Bay, Dr Mark Jaccard, a high-profile SFU expert on energy economics who has been vocal on the pricing of carbon, was arrested for trying to stop coal trains from the US reaching Vancouver ports. Flanked by other briefcase-toting professionals, he told the media that “the current willingness of—especially our federal government—to brazenly take actions that ensure we cannot meet scientifically- and economically-sound greenhouse gas reduction targets for Canada and the planet, leaves me with no alternative.” …

The Post Carbon Institute’s Hughes elaborates on those costs: “British Columbians will take the collateral damage for the impact of the vented methane, the environmental impacts of water use, disposal of fracking fluids, and carving up of the forest for pads, pipelines and roads, while the corporations will take the profit. Christy Clark would argue that we get royalties, taxes and jobs, but these are short-term benefits compared to the longer-term energy security and environmental interests of Canadians, which are being sold out.”…
(1 February 2013)

A chat with the Sierra Club’s Michael Brune about civil disobedience

David Roberts, Grist
Earlier this month, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune announced that the Club would, for the first time in its long and storied history, officially participate in an act of civil disobedience — i.e., break the law. The target? The Keystone XL pipeline. “For civil disobedience to be justified, something must be so wrong that it compels the strongest defensible protest,” he wrote. “Such a protest, if rendered thoughtfully and peacefully, is in fact a profound act of patriotism.”

I called Brune to get some insight on the Club’s thinking and its future plans.

Q. How was this decision made?

A. One of the strengths of the Club is that we are a democratically driven organization. If you’re a member and you write a check for $30, you get to vote on who’s on our board, and the board sets policies. The board voted to authorize the Sierra Club to engage in civil disobedience, to pressure the president to use his full authority to reject the Keystone pipeline. There will likely be a conversation about the Club’s position on civil disobedience more broadly, but all that has happened so far is approval to take this single action…
(28 January 2013)

The new weapon in the battle for Hastings – the ‘granny tree’

Tom Rowley, The Daily Telegraph
…They are campaigning against a new three-mile stretch of road, which will join the A259 and B2092. The route, which was finally approved in March after 20 years of debate, will cross the valley between Hastings and Bexhill-on-Sea and could be used by up to 30,000 vehicles a day….

Their eye-catching “granny tree” demonstration, in which elderly activists climbed branches and swung from nets, may have made headlines for their cause this week but they are merely the most prominent in a new breed of older protester who is abandoning the stiffly worded letter for more direct action….

“There are angry young men at the protests,” says Tina Louise. “They were people I would scowl at before but I don’t any more because I think they are righteously angry. Their lives haven’t panned out as they should, but they aren’t capable of vocalising that. So we feel obliged to do our bit.”
(11 January 2013)

Green fist image via shutterstock. Reproduced at with permission.