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Posts Tagged ‘Nonviolent resistance’

BPSDB Disempowering ourselves again

It’s unlikely that the U.S. is going to take serious action on climate change until there are observable, dramatic events, almost catastrophic in nature, that drive public opinion and drive the political process in that direction,” Stavins, director of Harvard’s Environmental Economics Program in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said today in an interview in Bloomberg’s Boston office.

Disaster Needed for U.S. to Act on Climate Change, Harvard’s Stavins Says

The argument that people will not do anything until it starts to affect them has probably been around for all of history. Certainly it is an old one with respect to climate change. The most recent iteration by Harvard economist Robert Stavins.

I was not able to find  much response to Stavins in the climate science blogosphere, perhaps because we have repeatedly been here before. However, there were two which illustrate several of the false assumptions that tend to get associated with this argument:

  1. What do we mean by “affect”?

  2. “Act” or react?

  3. Why catastrophe? Why Wait?

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Let’s start by noting that what is being referred to is what is known as “trigger events” in discussions of political activism. Trigger events are things that spike public awareness of a particular issue, for good or ill.

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As long as we’re on the topic  (for the last time, at least for a good long while) I decided to move this post up (and several others still to appear).

The context is this video by Katie Goodman of Broad Comedy. It’s a little ditty that uses “f**ked” as a hook and to entertain, but that nonetheless touches on some important points relevant to mobilizing the public.

For most of the points I am going to do no more than note them in the expectation of returning to them at some later time. You may argue that I read too much into a comedic song, but I think that the lyrics resonate with the audience because they touch on truths regardless of the light nature of this particular context.

OK, that’s understated. In a microcosm it pretty much sums up where we are and why we are stuck here.  Kudos to Katie for raising those points, but the really scary interesting  scary thing about this video is the comments people made about it.

First watch the video if you care to (and are not too offended by the F-word) and then we can get to my points.

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When I first saw the video my immediate thought was that it should be the anthem for the youth climate justice movement. Let’s take a quick walk through some of the lyrics:

There’s never been a time
as fucked up as this

No argument there, not for humans anyway. Maybe the Toba eruption, and I understand the PETM was pretty nasty for most species, but that’s pedantic quibbling.

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BPSDB

Fuddle Duddle

Chamberlain, Trudeau or … ?

Flotsam

A couple of weeks ago Michael Tobis shocked the delicate, refined sensibilities of the climate change Deniers by stating unambiguously what is at stake and what he felt were the unhelpful contributions of Steve Mosher.

Michael was blowing off some steam and may have used some language that he generally doesn’t. The incident would warrant only passing remark except for some of the fall out and follow up.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

Getting past the irrelevant, the incident raises some important questions about how we engage in the debate, what our goals are, and what the implications are for our struggle, as individuals and as a collective.

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Fuddle Duddle

Text of what Tobis actually said

“Let me explain why. It is not because I am a pusillanimous chickenshit, Mosher. It is because the fucking survival of the fucking planet is at fucking stake. And if we narrowly fucking miss pulling this out, it may well end up being your, your own fucking personal individual fucking self-satisfied mischief and disrespect for authority that tips the balance. You have a lot of fucking nerve saying you are on my “side”.

Unless and until you find it within yourself to understand that you have major fucked up, big time, by throwing big juicy meat to the deniers to chew on and spin paranoid fantasies about for years, even decades,”

What I heard as significant:

“Let me explain why. It is not because I am a pusillanimous chickenshit, Mosher. It is because the fucking survival of the fucking planet is at fucking stake.

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BPSDB On April 29th a person using the twitter account “@septscelles”  released a large file to Barrett Brown that purportedly contained secret US Chamber of Commerce documents. ~ Muskegon Critic

If you hadn’t heard about this it’s because there’s nothing to hear. The data dump seems to contain nothing that wasn’t already publicly available and/or of no interest. “a big nothing-burger.”

That works for me since I want to talk about the context rather than the content, and now can do so without the distraction of what the hacked information may or may not mean. Call this a preemptive discussion for if and when there is some sort of “real” release of information from one of the Denier monoliths.

I think there are three important issues to consider:

  1. The validity of the content;
  2. Our response to the content;
  3. Our response to the nature of the release.

The validity of the content

Of the US Chamber of Commerce release The Atlantic Wire reports:

“Suspicions? Well, yes–Brown has reason to believe the new cache of documents isn’t totally on the level. Recall that when Anonymous released a bunch of documents from the cyberintelligence group Team Themis, those files described various strategies for discrediting watchdog groups–including creating “false documents” and “fake insider personas.” So Septscelles may be a concerned citizen who values transparency, or, as another posting at AnonNews puts it, he or she may be trying to “discredit Anonymous through a campaign of misinformation.”

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SOA Quebec City 2001

BPSDB In the dim mists of time hundreds of us were gathered by a foundation to discuss how we were going to move from our then state of impending environmental crisis to a sustainable society. Demographically we were a sampling of politicians, bureaucrats, scientists, business people, NGO staffers, and community organizers.

We talked and worked over three days in ever changing combinations that always had representation from each sector. By the last evening we were a much smaller, exhausted group consisting almost exclusively of the NGO staffers, community organizers and scientists, with only a handful of the others still present.  The organizers then revealed our last task, which was to answer:

  1. What needs to happen?
  2. What will it take?
  3. Who will pay for it?

There was a long silence, and then finally a voice (an environmental consultant) said in a calm, measured manner “Revolution … Blood in the streets … Eat the rich.”

There was another long silence as we all looked around to see how the others were reacting to this.  What we saw was a room full of people calmly nodding. We then spent the last few hours translating that answer into language that the Foundation could actually publish in it’s report.

Make no mistake, this was not a gathering of radical activists. The participants were drawn from quite mainstream, moderate organizations and institutions. Nor, I think, would that have been the answer given when we first gathered, even by the subset of us still there at the end.

Although the group had an abundance of experience trying to make change, the day long sessions of quibbling over trivia and dross had brought into stark relief just how inert “the system” was. Apparently imminent catastrophe was simply not sufficient reason to fiddle with the price of gas, or anything else for that matter.

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Simple people,people who don’t exist,prefer things which don’t exist,simple things.

e.e. cummings; six nonlectures

Al Gore had a few minor errors of no particular consequence in his movie “An Inconvenient Truth“, but his book “The Assault on Reason” was wildly wrong in at least two important respects:

i) The internet has proven to be a far more useful tool for the climate change Deniers than it has for the science fact community. This is undoubtedly because it is easier to tweet simple things such as “If evolution climate change is real, why are there still monkeys snowstorms?” than it is to understand the facts.

Not that the explanation is that complex, just that it takes more than 140 characters to say and a bit of actual thinking to understand.

ii) What we are witnessing is not an “Assault on Reason”, it is the wholesale abandonment of reason. Democracy requires dialogue, a dialogue that simply isn’t happening, and quite possibly cannot happen when one of the camps has chosen paranoid delusions and willful stupidity as their coping mechanisms.

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PSDB On the advice of many Derrick Jensen’s “Endgame” has been on the ‘should read’ list for years, but somehow I have never gotten around to it. More recently a youtube clip of him reading an excerpt was brought to my attention, so I watched that, and then checked out sections of the books that are available online.

The clip in question is a reading of the apparently infamous “The enviromentalist version of Star Wars” analogy (text from book here). Many apparently feel that this is a wonderful encapsulation of all that is wrong with “mainstream environmentalism.” Actually it’s a pretty good encapsulation of all that is wrong with Derrick Jensen’s arguments.

The short version (if you want to save 9 min of your life) is that Jensen uses a Star Wars analogy to mock nonviolent activists. eg:

In a surprise move that will rivet viewers to the edges of their seats, other groups of rebels file lawsuits against the Empire, attempting to show that the Environmental Impact Statement Darth Vader was required to file failed to adequately support its …

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