So… we have a problem. If you are familiar with the standard twelve-step program, the first step to overcoming a problem is admitting that you have one. That is what we are here to do tonight – to talk about it. And the obvious next step is to just quit, right?
Well its not that easy. Even individuals with chemical addictions must go through enormous trials, totally transforming and rebuilding their lifestyles to cut out bad habits and associated activities, struggling to maintain their willpower in spite of painful withdrawal symptoms, and fighting to maintain their integrity in the face of temptation even years later. Our societal addiction is much more complex, and there will surely be many people who do not want to quit. Certainly not the powerful pushers and enablers at the top of the pyramid, but maybe even many people at all levels who are too scared of the big changes that are necessary. Perhaps what we need is an intervention!
Diverse communities around this region and around the world are staging interventions. Many of them are asking for help from all of us.
For many people the place to start is in breaking out of the pyramid scheme. In order to make the big changes that are necessary, somewhere along the way most of us will need to stop feeding the one-way system. Think of it as a mass exodus from the pyramid scheme. But we cant physically travel to some promised land, this is a mental and spiritual exodus, and we will have to build our future together. Here are diverse neighbors coming together to talk about how they are connected by the land they live on, to share their culture, and to strategize to build community power from the ground up, together.
They are gathered around a watershed map to see how they are all connected by the land that they live on.
They are sharing their culture through song and learning from their elders in this library.
They are making power maps and strategizing how to build their power from the ground up, one step at a time.
This bat, with its big ears reminds us how very important it is to listen, and the empty chair tells us there is always room for more of us to join.
So every effective resistance movement is built on mutually-beneficial relationships and organized communities that support each other, and watch each others back, people working to build common understanding and effective strategy to fight, and visioning a system that is healthy and fulfilling, together.
There are countless examples of this long-haul bottom-up community building. One particularly impressive one is the Idle No More movement, which has been reinvigorating Native peoples engagement in politics, centered around treaty rights and tar sands, all across Canada and the US.
This is the peoples media machine. These bees are rolling out letterpress posters, screen-printing t-shirts, and blasting their messages out on social media too… they even have a pirate radio broadcast! Media and Education are crucial – this needs to be a massive movement, and many different perspectives are needed and are valid. We gotta talk about it yo! These bees understand the power of the word – we can literally change the world by changing perceptions and prejudices, and open up new possibilities by sharing new ideas. And there are countless examples of this as well, like the Penokee Hills Education Project in Ashland, they have made loads of really great educational maps and pamphlets, they host speakers and discussions in their community and send their local experts out to spread the word in other communities around the region, and now everbodys talking about the controversial Penokee Mine.
Here are a bunch of pollinator species gathered together to raise their voices and speak out! They are engaged in traditional protest tactics like candelight vigils and sign-making.
These ones are signing petitions, and this ant is getting antsy and heading off to the march without everyone else. 🙂
We met a group in Central Illinois, called Stand Up to Coal, who have thus far kept a proposed coal mine out of their rural community by collecting signatures and delivering them to local officials in regular protests at public meetings. Sadly, the most recent news is that the mine may be approved by the state regardless of local opposition, so now they will need to think about escalating their tactics.
Like in this scene, where we see a millipede engaged in legal work which is often referred to as paper-wrenching. Its combing through the fine print of permits and regulations, and its turning all of this paperwork into paper airplanes…
which it is pitching at this new proposed “clean coal” power-plant. At least one hits its mark, in the form of a hearing request, and gums up the gears, slowing down the plant.
Often, paper-wrenching cannot stop power-plants or mines on its own, but it can buy time, so that these folks can get organized and take action to physically keep the power-plant out of their neighborhood. Here they are engaged in civil disobedience, making a bold and brave statement that they are willing to put their lives on the line to protect their community. The Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands (MI-CATS) have made a series of civil disobedience actions, blocking tar sands pipelines using lock-boxes, tree-sits, banners.
Sometimes it is necessary to escalate further, blockading and shutting down infrastructure and extractive activities. The protests, petitions, and legal challenges made by indigenous people often go completely ignored, so some indigenous front-line communities are doing the only thing they can to protect their land – Unistoten people in British Columbia have been blockading an Enbridge pipeline for over 4 years, they have built a village and have no plans to leave, while more recently Mikmak people in New Brunswick are keeping fracking crews out by blockading roads, destroying mining equipment, and even fighting police who are protecting the mining equipment… They know that water is life, and though many people have been arrested, they continue to defend their lands and waters and their lives.
I just learned a new idea called a “Community Bill of Rights” – in some small rural communities in the US a new strategy is evolving, centered around reasserting human rights and abolishing corporate rights. These communities have thus far kept fracking, and other harmful corporate activities out by writing clever laws that have scared corporate lawyers away, and building community power one step at a time using all the tactics we just covered, to make sure they stay out. So far, over 160 communities have had success with this strategy, even the city of Pittsburgh has passed a “Community Bill of Rights,” which has been effective in keeping out companies who actually wanted to frack under the city!
Its an unusual approach with untested power, who knows where it will go? I think its inspiring – I like to encourage all approaches, creativity and diversity are some of our greatest strengths. The encouraging upshot is that there are countless ways to get involved – whatever your skills or interests are, they can make change in the world. And these extreme technologies are still young, untested technologies – we actually do have the collective power to stop them at this early stage.
That is why this ant is carrying a slogan that says, “Un no, muchos si – One no, but many yeses.” It reminds us of the importance of being unified in what we stand against, but understanding that each ecosystem and community will have different paths and needs moving forward.