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From Occupy to Climate Justice | Common Dreams

Published on Friday, February 7, 2014 by The Nation
From Occupy to Climate Justice
There’s a growing effort to merge economic-justice and climate activism. Call it climate democracy.

by Wen Stephenson

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(Photo: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)
It’s an odd thing, really. In certain precincts of the left, especially across a broad spectrum of what could be called the economic left, our (by which I mean humanity’s) accelerating trajectory toward the climate cliff is little more popular as a topic than it is on the right. In fact, possibly less so. (Plenty of right-wingers love to talk about climate change, if only to deny its grim and urgent scientific reality. On the left, to say nothing of the center, denial takes different forms.)

Sometimes, though, the prospect of climate catastrophe shows up unexpectedly, awkwardly, as a kind of non sequitur—or the return of the repressed.

“I don’t know anyone who has all the answers, but I do know a few people who are at least asking the right kinds of questions, starting the necessary conversations and actually working to connect climate and economic-justice organizing across the country.”

I was reminded of this not long ago when I came to a showstopping passage deep in the final chapter of anarchist anthropologist David Graeber’s The Democracy Project: A History, a Crisis, a Movement, his interpretive account of the Occupy Wall Street uprising, in which he played a role not only as a core OWS organizer but as a kind of house intellectual (his magnum opus, Debt: The First 5,000 Years, happened to come out in the summer of 2011). Midway through a brief discourse on the nature of labor, he pauses to reflect, as though it has just occurred to him: “At the moment, probably the most pressing need is simply to slow down the engines of productivity.” Why? Because “if you consider the overall state of the world,” there are “two insoluble problems” we seem to face: “On the one hand, we have witnessed an endless series of global debt crises…to the point where the overall burden of debt…is obviously unsustainable. On the other we have an ecological crisis, a galloping process of climate change that is threatening to throw the entire planet into drought, floods, chaos, starvation, and war.”

These two problems may appear unrelated, Graeber tells us, but “ultimately they are the same.” That’s because debt is nothing if not “the promise of future productivity.” Therefore, “human beings are promising each other to produce an even greater volume of goods and services in the future than they are creating now. But even current levels are clearly unsustainable. They are precisely what’s destroying the planet, at an ever-increasing pace.”

Talk about burying the lead. Graeber’s solution—“a planetary debt cancellation” and a “mass reduction in working hours: a four-hour day, perhaps, or a guaranteed five-month vacation”—may sound far-fetched, but at least he acknowledges the “galloping” climate crisis and what’s at stake in it, and proposes something commensurate (if somewhat detached from the central challenge of leaving fossil fuels in the ground). That’s more than can be said for most others on the left side of the spectrum, where climate change is too often completely absent from economic and political analysis.

It’s unclear what explains this reticence about the existential threat facing humanity, beginning with the poorest and most vulnerable people on the planet—unless it’s that the implications of climate science, when you really begin to grasp them, are simply too radical, even for radicals.

Two years ago, the International Energy Agency reported that corporations and governments must shift decisively away from new long-term investments in fossil-fuel infrastructure—such as Keystone XL and any number of other projects—within five years, meaning by 2017, in order to avoid “locking in” decades of carbon emissions that will guarantee warming the planet, within this century, far more than 2°C above the preindustrial average, the internationally agreed-upon red line. But on December 3, the eminent climate scientist James Hansen, recently retired as head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and seventeen co-authors released a study in the journal PLOS ONE confirming that the United Nations–approved 2°C ceiling has no real basis in science, only politics, and would itself set in motion “disastrous consequences” beyond humanity’s control.

Instead, according to Hansen and his co-authors, we should do everything we can to stay as close as possible to a ceiling of 1°C. Given that we’ve already warmed about 0.8°C in the past 100 years (with still more “baked in” as a result of the climate system’s lag time), you would be correct in concluding that the time frame in which to act is vanishingly short—and that the scale of action required is epically large. On our current trajectory, with global emissions still rising, we’re headed to at least 4°C this century. Even to have a shot at the 2°C goal, global emissions must peak by, say, 2020, and then plummet to near zero by mid-century. That may appear unlikely, but as Hansen et al. write, “There is still opportunity for humanity to exercise free will.”

Anyone who is committed to the hard work of bringing deep structural change to our economic, social and political systems—the kind of change that requires a long-term strategy of organizing and movement-building—is now faced with scientific facts so immediate and so dire as to render a life’s work seemingly futile. The question, then, becomes how to escape that paralyzing sense of futility, and how to accelerate the sort of grassroots democratic mobilization we need if we’re to salvage any hope of a just and stable society.

A lot of people I know in the climate movement think the left, and the economic left in particular—pretty much the entire spectrum from mainstream liberals to Occupy radicals—has not yet taken on board the scale and urgency of the climate crisis. Not really. Not the full, stark set of facts. At the same time, mainstream climate advocates, wanting to broaden the climate movement, are told that they have too often been tone-deaf on issues of economic justice and inequality. How to reconcile these? How to merge the fights for economic justice and climate action with the kind of good faith and urgency required to build a real climate-justice movement?

I don’t know anyone who has all the answers, but I do know a few people who are at least asking the right kinds of questions, starting the necessary conversations and actually working to connect climate and economic-justice organizing across the country. As it happens, more than a few of them were engaged in Occupy. (David Graeber should be proud.) They point to a convergence of movements for economic democracy and climate justice, and show us what a trajectory from Occupy to something new—call it climate democracy—might look like.

Equally important, they’re acting with the kind of urgency, and commitment to civil resistance, that the crisis demands. They know there can be no climate justice without economic justice, but they also know there won’t be any economic justice—any justice at all—without facing up to our climate reality, simultaneously slashing emissions and building resilience. They know the “climate” part of “climate justice” cannot be an afterthought, some optional add-on to please “environmentalists.” Because this shit is real. And the game is far from over. No matter what happens in terms of climate policy in the next few years—and the prospects are not pretty—current and future generations have to live through what’s coming.

* * *

Rachel Plattus was speaking to a roomful of college students and recent grads at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, where they’d gathered for a weekend in late October along with some 8,000 other young activists at Power Shift, the biannual national convergence of the youth climate movement. Rachel is the 26-year-old director of youth and student organizing for the New Economy Coalition, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. By her side was 35-year-old Farhad Ebrahimi, who serves on the NEC board and who founded and runs the Boston-based Chorus Foundation, which supports grassroots climate and environmental-justice organizing in communities around the country.

I know Rachel and Farhad from the Boston-area climate movement, and I was tagging along with them and their colleagues at Power Shift. It was strange to see the two of them in front of a room at a high-tech convention center; in the past year I’ve been more apt to see them in church basements and community-organizing spaces, leading nonviolent direct-action trainings, or on the streets leading protests against tar sands pipelines and coal-fired power plants.

“I met Farhad at Occupy Boston,” Rachel told the hundred or so young people who’d come to hear about the intersection of climate and economic justice (a strong showing, given the dozens of concurrent breakout sessions offered at Power Shift). “We spent a lot of time there a couple years ago, and it was a transformative experience for a lot of us.”

Two important things came out of her Occupy experience, Rachel explained. First, she and several friends who had been “radicalized on climate issues,” including Farhad and her NEC colleague Eli Feghali (who was also in the room), decided to form an organizing collective “to do resistance work around climate justice.” At the same time, she began thinking seriously about the central question raised by Occupy but never really answered: “If you’re so angry at this system, if all the people here have been wronged by the system, what are you proposing that we do instead?” While she and her friends wanted to keep organizing resistance, she said, “I found myself looking for a way to have an answer to ‘What do you want instead?’” She dove into the worker-ownership movement in Boston and tried unsuccessfully to start a worker co-op with some friends.

“We have to be willing to tell the truth about what the dangers of climate change are and how we balance immediate economic survival with longer-term survival. We have to be willing to be honest about those things. But we also have to recognize when we’re building power toward addressing the climate crisis—even if people aren’t calling it the climate-justice movement.” —Rachel Plattus

It was around this time, in late 2011 and early 2012, that she started talking with Bob Massie, a longtime social-justice and environmental activist, ordained Episcopal priest with a doctorate from Harvard Business School and, among other things, the initiator of the Investor Network on Climate Risk. Massie had recently been hired to head the New Economics Institute, which merged early last year with the New Economy Network to form the NEC. Rachel began to realize, she told her Power Shift listeners, that the kind of work going on in the “new economy” or “solidarity economy” movement—with things like cooperatives and worker-owned businesses, community-development financial institutions, community land trusts, local agriculture and community-owned renewable energy, as well as efforts to reconceive corporations and redefine economic growth—is challenging the dominant and unsustainable corporate capitalist system. And not simply rejecting that system, she emphasizes, but “creating new economic institutions that are democratic and participatory, decentralized to appropriate scale so that decisions are made at the most local level that makes sense and, rather than only prioritizing one thing—the maximization of profit—prioritizing people, place and planet.”

“New-economy innovations are occurring all over the country, bubbling up,” Massie told me. “What they lack is mutual awareness, mutual support and mutual connectivity.” There’s potential for real transformation, he believes, in providing those connections. “As people become aware of each other, their frame of reference about what’s happening, and what could happen, changes. They realize all these problems are linked—but all these solutions may also be linked.” He points to what happened recently in Boulder, Colorado, where voters approved a grassroots energy initiative, by a two-thirds landslide, to move the city from a big, corporate, coal-dominated utility, Xcel Energy, to a publicly owned municipal utility that will expand renewables at the same or lower rates.

When I followed up with Rachel back in Cambridge, I pressed her to explain how she connects the new-economy work—which seems to represent real progress, at least in pockets around the country—with her work organizing nonviolent resistance to the fossil-fuel industry. First, she pointed out, “in a civil society that is essentially owned by multinational corporations, driven to maximize profit over all else, to engage in building these parallel economic institutions is to engage in civil resistance.”

But even more, she suggested, in the merging of climate justice and economic democracy, it’s the democracy part that may ultimately matter most. Rachel understands that the kind of deep, systemic change envisioned by the new-economy movement is no doubt a long-term, evolutionary process, on a time scale out of sync with our climate emergency. But she argues that grassroots economic democracy, actually organizing to create those alternative institutions, can also build a base of political power in the near term, at the local level, which is not only where all politics has to start but all resilience as well—something we’re going to need plenty of in the years ahead.

Rachel told me that she knows a lot of people who are focused primarily on the economic-democracy piece—and yet, she added “almost all of them recognize the level at which that also plays into climate issues, how we build resilient communities.” She pointed not only to something like the community-owned energy initiative in Boulder, but to projects like the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative in the Roxbury/North Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, which has brought a racially diverse, low-income community together around fair and affordable housing, community economic development, food justice, education and youth empowerment. The initiative, she said, is “building relationships, making sure the community is there, people interacting with each other in the kinds of ways we need people to be interacting with each other…. Occupy did that, too. Being part of participatory democracy, in all its forms, does that: it gives people the skills and capacities they need” to help build a social movement. Rachel noted that NEC will launch an initiative this year to expand and strengthen organizing among its coalition members around racial and economic justice.

And yet, I asked, where’s the climate crisis in that picture? What happens to communities like Roxbury and Dorchester, where people are already struggling, if we don’t urgently build the kind of grassroots power we need to shift the politics of climate and deal head-on with the crisis?

“We have to be willing to tell the truth about what the dangers of climate change are,” Rachel said, “and how we balance immediate economic survival with longer-term survival. We have to be willing to be honest about those things. But we also have to recognize when we’re building power toward addressing the climate crisis—even if people aren’t calling it the climate-justice movement.”

* * *

Farhad Ebrahimi stood in front of the room at Power Shift wearing a gray hoodie with the words Kentuckians for the Commonwealth printed across it. He was talking about what he’d learned since diving into climate work in 2006 and seeing even the most inadequate national legislation die in Congress in 2009 and 2010. What was missing, he and others began to see, “was any sense of building political power, any sense of a social movement, and the intersectionality of climate justice and other social-justice movements.” Through his young foundation, Chorus, he decided to start supporting grassroots organizing in frontline communities, those already bearing the brunt of the fossil-fuel industry. One of the first places he went was Kentucky.

“We went to look at the extraction stuff going on, mountaintop removal,” he said, “and we saw that the folks who were trying to fight the coal companies, stop them from blowing up their mountains, were also doing great work around energy efficiency and renewables—and when it was tied together with this resistance work, it was actually much more effective.”

He learned about Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, a statewide independent grassroots group that’s been working for more than thirty years on democratic reform and economic and environmental justice. KFTC does far more than work on coal and environmental health issues, central as those are in eastern Kentucky, where the group has its strongest base. Confronting climate change is the first plank of the KFTC platform, but much of its work is on local and regional economic development, tax-justice issues, mass incarceration and voting rights, as well as worker cooperatives, local agriculture, and community-owned and -distributed renewables.

The folks at KFTC frame all of these as essential parts of a “just transition” from the old, extractive, exploitative economy to a new, more democratic clean-energy economy. The idea is that even as they build grassroots political power, they’re also creating real economic alternatives to fill the void left by the coal industry. KFTC has established its presence in state politics. In 2010, as part of its strategy to move rural electric cooperatives away from overdependence on coal, the group helped prevent the East Kentucky Power Cooperative from building a new coal-fired plant and reached an agreement with the utility to explore energy efficiency and clean-energy alternatives. Last year, KFTC convened the Appalachia’s Bright Future conference, which influenced the agenda of a major Eastern Kentucky “summit” in December, called by Governor Steve Beshear, a Democrat, and Republican Congressman Hal Rogers, to jump-start an economic transition in a region reeling from the loss of coal-industry jobs.

In the face of our climate reality, Farhad told me back in Boston, “economic transition is inevitable.” In Appalachia, as coal declines, it’s already happening. The question is: “Will the transition be just or not?”

Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, he noted, is part of the recently formed Climate Justice Alliance, a national collaborative effort among more than thirty-five organizations committed to grassroots organizing in frontline communities, especially communities of color. Its recently launched Our Power Campaign focuses on three “hot spots”: in the Black Mesa region of the Navajo Nation, led by the Black Mesa Water Coalition; in Detroit, led by the East Michigan Environmental Action Council; and in Richmond, California, led by the Asian Pacific Environmental Network and Communities for a Better Environment. Each of these groups is not only fighting the local impacts of fossil-fuel extraction and infrastructure—coal mines and power plants in Arizona, a coal plant and oil refinery in Detroit, and the massive Chevron refinery in Richmond—but just as much, applying principles of economic democracy to work toward more sustainable and resilient local economies in struggling communities.

Jihan Gearon, executive director of the Black Mesa Water Coalition, grew up on the Navajo reservation in Arizona. She told me that their approach to climate is “holistic,” addressing not only emissions as they move away from coal but also adaptation—especially as water becomes scarce—and economic transition. “We are not content with parts per million of CO2 reduced,” she said. “We also want to ensure that we protect health, water and jobs as we reduce CO2.”

In any likely scenario, Farhad asked, “what are we going to need, no matter what? Local political power and local resilience.” We won’t get where we need to be politically on climate change, at the national and international levels, “without real local base-building,” he added. And if we don’t get anywhere at the national and international levels, “well, then, we’re going to need the local work in place so that we can take care of each other as the old way of doing things slips away.”

Farhad and Rachel both like to think of this work as having three essential pieces. The first is resistance: saying “no” to a corrupt, oppressive, extractive system, whether through legislation and litigation, at one end of the spectrum, and nonviolent direct action or mass protests at the other. The second is “replacement”: creating the alternatives, which can itself be a form of resistance, as Rachel noted. And the third essential piece is resilience.

“So we’re trying to go from ‘no’ to ‘yes,’” Farhad said, “but it’s gonna be a really fuckin’ rough ride. It’s gonna be a rough ride because of climate change. But it’s also gonna be a rough ride politically and economically.”

Resilience becomes crucial, but so does social justice, because the two are intimately linked. Resilience requires strong communities—and there’s no real community without social justice.

“We have this journey, this transition, that we have to make,” Farhad told me. “And we have to figure out how to organize so that we’re not only going toward ‘yes,’ but we’re doing it in a way that’s equitable.” Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, he pointed out, is important right now because of how it intervenes in Kentucky politics, organizes communities and fights the big coal companies. “And when the climate changes and what grows there changes and how they can live there changes—they’re going to need that ability to act collectively to deal with all of that as well.”

Farhad thought of another example. “Occupy Sandy happened not because people responded to Sandy really well; it was because the relationships and tool sets were already built through Occupy Wall Street.”

David Graeber argues in The Democracy Project that Occupy reawakened the radical imagination in this country. To the extent that’s true, it’s possible that the merging of climate justice and economic democracy can matter in a similar way—reawakening the sense of democratic possibility and grassroots power in our communities. But Occupy did something else, too: it reminded us of the sheer speed and unpredictability with which unrest can explode across the country, taking everyone (including the organizers) by surprise.

In Cambridge, I asked Rachel if she agreed that much of the economic left has yet to take on board the full magnitude and urgency of the climate crisis. “I mean, the climate movement has barely taken it on board,” she replied. “There are a lot of folks, even in the climate movement, and certainly in the economic left, who haven’t even made the decision to take on the reality of it—and to recognize that this fight, [which] for them was never really about survival, all of a sudden is.”

When that recognition finally comes, anything could happen.

“It’s interesting,” Rachel said, “because there certainly are parts of the left, not the liberal elite, but parts of the left”—like those, she pointed out, who have fought their whole lives for racial justice—“for whom being engaged has always been about survival.”

“There is a deep, rich tradition of organizing for survival,” Rachel said. “In fact, it’s the only thing that’s ever worked.”

© 2014 The Nation

Freelance journalist and climate activist Wen Stephenson, a former editor at The Atlantic and The Boston Globe, contributes frequently to Grist and has written about climate and culture for the Globe, The New York Times, The Nation and Slate. On Twitter: @wenstephenson

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/02/07-5#.UvvTBe8FISg


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Occupy Sandy, from relief to resistance

Occupy Sandy, from relief to resistance

I highly recommend checking out the link at the bottom-this article is only a smidgen of the awesomeness to be found there! 😉

by | November 13, 2012
 

Rockaway Park residents in front of YANA Community Center. (Facebook/Occupy Sandy Relief NYC)

Two weeks ago I was in my hometown of Hoboken, New Jersey, wading waist deep in a murky combination of floodwater, oil and sewage. More than a week later, after finally getting unstuck from New Jersey (even the deepest Jersey pride has its limits…), I found myself in a van full of Occupy Sandy activists delivering hot meals to housing-project high rises in Coney Island during a Nor’easter. We were taking cues from local leaders, and I was amazed at the way people were mobilizing by creating support structures and politicizing one another through practice. In the past few days I’ve helped facilitate trainings for hundreds of people who came to Occupy Sandy hubs as volunteers for relief work, and who left for the Rockaways or Staten Island well on their way to becoming community organizers or committed activists.

All along, I’ve been coming to terms with the fact that this is what climate change looks like; but it’s also what the beginning of a climate justice movement might look like.

Hurricane Sandy is a crisis in itself; it flooded homes, turned off power, kept people from work, made families cold — it even took lives and put families on the street. And of course it’s more complicated than just bad weather. This hurricane is one more expression of the erratic weather patterns that we can expect more and more as a result of global warming, which is the product of our society’s dependency on fossil fuels, driven by multinational fossil fuel companies. Hurricane Sandy is a reminder that the climate crisis sets off a whole set of other crises, based on social, economic and political systems that are already in place, and that those things land on top of crises already in play. Many of the communities hardest hit by the hurricane are the same ones hardest hit by foreclosure, debt, austerity and mass incarceration. The flood didn’t create those things, but it made them worse and washed away all the crap that made them hard to see.

At the same time, Hurricane Sandy has brought new networks to life and put thousands of people in the streets to rebuild communities with an explicitly political framing. It’s now widely agreed that, despite setbacks, Occupy Sandy’s organizing has put the official agencies to shame. Equity, solidarity and mass participation have been at the center of the effort from the get-go, driven forward by committed organizers with deep politics and foresight. All along the intention has been to see this as an organizing project rather than just a volunteer effort. Still, the question remains of whether those networks in motion now can rise to the occasion and begin to address the underlying crises.

Windows opening and closing

If we let things go the way they usually do, the coming weeks are likely to show a decline in community involvement in the relief effort. More and more people will gradually get their power turned on and go back to work if they still have jobs. Less attention will be paid to the crisis in general, fewer goods will be donated to Occupy Sandy hubs and other relief networks, and fewer volunteers will continue to go out to hard-hit communities to deliver those goods. Communities will do what they can with the rubble; most of the rest of us will go back to our business.

But volunteers and community organizers are not the only ones on the scene, not the only ones in motion. Already, an army of disaster-capitalist developers are plotting to use this opportunity to finally knock down the housing projects and replace them with the condos they’ve been drooling about for decades. We can begin to hear the whispers of businessmen and politicians who are always looking for ways to cut our budgets and privatize our schools, hospitals, homes for the elderly and every other public institution they can get their hands on. For them, the game has just begun, and they don’t take many days off. They will be out there, trying to beat us to the Rockaways, Staten Island, Redhook, Coney Island, Jersey City and other battered regions. If we don’t do something about it, they’re going to do a lot more damage to communities than Hurricane Sandy did. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Flexible networks like Occupy Sandy are incredible machines — more fluid than big organizations, more dynamic than government agencies. But they rely on having people or strong communities to network. Networks connect dots, but you still need the dots themselves to be ready. Crises and opportunities — like Hurricane Sandy or Occupy Wall Street last fall — put people in motion, but they only become part of a movement beyond those moments when participants are grounded in stable frameworks to keep them going.

We have to build infrastructure and create the institutional frameworks that can sustain a struggle over the long haul. Every movement needs them. The civil rights movement had SNCC and the Highlander School, among countless other organizations, schools, training institutes, churches and foundations. Even Occupy has had institutions all along, from the occupations themselves to the many groups that rose to the occasion to support it; part of the reason Occupy Sandy could mobilize so quickly and effectively is that the Occupy movement already had enough building blocks in place, enough experience with alternative structures, enough relationships built and enough organizing being done behind the scenes to leap into action when it was needed.

If we want to last, we need to create the frameworks, processes and systems that keep us in motion — that keep the windows open — for long enough to win.

Where the rain boots meet the road

We need to think clearly about how to deepen, grow and nourish all of the different circles of people in action right now, so we can transition from surviving Hurricane Sandy to beating back the hurricane of profiteers to come, and use the momentum from that to build a vibrant climate justice movement.

Thousands of volunteers have come through Occupy Sandy hubs and gone out to the hardest-hit areas in New York to do relief work and support the community organizing taking shape there. Watching people react strongly in the trainings being facilitated at the different sites and watching them come back to become trainers themselves has been some of the most rewarding activist work I’ve ever participated in.

In my experience, people who come to Occupy Sandy get it. They want to understand the politics behind all of this because they’ve seen the crisis in action. They are ready to stand and fight, and they are excited to envision their task as part of something bigger. We just need to create structures to support that.

Political education needs to be part of our practical skills trainings, and that skills training needs to be broader than the particular mission at hand, so that well-meaning volunteers become grounded organizers with the capacity to be active movement leaders beyond this particular moment.

Hundreds of organizers are at work in this effort already. They’re developing rotations so that some stay at the main hubs to keep a level of consistency and institutional memory while others spend a few days at a time at different sites in the field to help build similar systems and create connections. We need more of that — more coordinating between different hubs, more unifying the different trainings and processes, more strategizing together about directions for moving forward. Before we know it, the communities slowly recovering from Hurricane Sandy will be under direct attack. We need to lay the ground for solidarity across communities and coordination in action, so that when the time comes our volunteers and community members are ready to transform into home defenders, direct action practitioners and occupiers.

Dozens of local community institutions, from churches to community centers, have opened their doors and become the vital infrastructure for this network of relief and recovery all across New York City. Just setting foot in one of the Coney Island hubs based in a church was enough to feel the weight of that institution, its deep roots in the community and the potential it has to make possible a movement to come. Now is the time to be intentional about cultivating these relationships, and to begin developing with them a shared analysis, vision and strategy. Just as the Southern Baptist churches served as the institutional foundations of the civil rights movements, these institutions serving as support systems for relief work today may be the basis of resistance tomorrow and a genuine recovery after that.

Tens of thousands of people have been drastically affected by the storm, and they are responding with courage and foresight; many are emerging as genuine community leaders and skilled activists. I was reminded of this by Tameka — a 39-year old mom in Coney Island who had organized her block. She knew who lived where and who needed what. She knew where to put the hot meals and had all the relationships necessary to make our distribution effort work. Tameka is a community organizer, whether she uses that term or not. What she needs now are direct ties to other people like her in neighboring communities, some support in developing her politics and her skills, and some material aid to help her meet her needs and those in her community. The stakes are high for her; it won’t be long before she will be a leader of a front-line community in a climate justice movement.

Hurricanes and social movements

Welcome to the climate crisis. There’s nothing abstract about it. It isn’t some apocalypse decades away or an event that comes down like one big hurricane to wipe us all out. It’s Hurricane Sandy. It’s all the economic, political and social conditions that were already in place. And it’s the opportunity for forces of profit and repression to push their agenda forward in the aftermath.

But guess what: The climate justice movement isn’t so abstract either. This is it. It’s dedicated organizers recognizing how their work can be aligned across issues. It’s relief providers and hard-working volunteers transforming into activists and community leaders. It’s the hardest hit neighborhoods taking control of their own liberation. It’s local community institutions with deep roots and long histories connecting to one another and mobilizing their efforts as part of a movement. It’s all of that alongside so many other fights for climate justice — from the blockade of the Keystone XL pipeline to the fight for water rights in Bolivia, from Indian women standing up to corporate seed monopolies to youth from 350.org launching campaigns to divest from fossil fuel companies.

There is much work to do. But people are doing it — day by day, block by block. Windows of opportunity have opened here in New York, just as they have in other places around the world. Many people are working to keep those windows open and continue the transformation that is already underway — from volunteer work to organizing, from emergency response to a genuine recovery, from relief to resistance.

http://wagingnonviolence.org/2012/11/occupy-sandy-from-relief-to-resistance/


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Hope and Optimism

I have copied the text here for convenience of reading, but the article has clickable links all thru it, and there is a lot of other great info on the site. So to read this article in its original form with links, click the link below.

Hope and Optimism.

10 Reasons For Hope and Optimism
Or
Why We’re Not All Screwed

Dear friends,

What wild, crazy, and exciting times we live in! If you watch the news or read the newspaper, it may seem that everything is falling apart, the world is filled with war, fear, greed, and hate, and we’re all screwed. These are real challenges we are facing, yet there are also many amazing developments that the media is hardly reporting. The old media truism is that fear-mongering and sensationalism sell. But what if we make it more fun and even profitable to spread love, joy, and inspiration in life?

Below is a list of 10 most inspiring trends showing that we are not screwed, that despite the challenges, there are many great reasons for hope and optimism. These inspiring trends suggest that we are in the midst of a huge shift that could very well lead to a much more rich and enjoyable world for all. For each reason listed below, several links are given to verify the inspiring material presented and to dive deeper into it. Behold, 10 reasons to become hope-mongerers!

Reason #1 : Humans Are Not Lemmings! Global Population Leveling Off

Reason #2 : Solar Power Soon Cheaper Than Coal, Gas, and Oil

Reason #3 : The Internet Miracle – Unprecedented Networking, Information Access

Reason #4 : Children More Loved, Supported Than Past Generations

Reason #5 : Violent Crime Dropping Dramatically, Wars Much Less Vicious

Reason #6 : Focus Shifting from Left vs. Right to 99% vs. 1% to the Human Family

Reason #7 : Man Behind the Curtain Exposed – The Global Power Elite

Reason #8 : Interest in Personal Growth, Consciousness Expansion on the Rise

Reason #9 : Love and Cooperation Are Rockin’ Our World!

Reason #10 : You Can Be Master of Your Own Life Now!!!

Reason #1: Humans Are Not Lemmings! Global Population Leveling Off

The world recently witnessed the birth of the seven billionth human on our planet. That’s a lot of people! But did you know that the pessimistic predictions of a few decades ago that a lemming-like population bomb would drive humanity over the cliff of self-extinction are turning out not to be true? As the whole world gets wealthier and more secure, the desire for having many kids is dropping.

The average number of children per woman has been declining rapidly for decades. According to official UN data, the average number of children per woman worldwide for the period 1965 to 1970 was 4.85. Yet 40 years later, for the period of 2005 to 2010, that number dropped nearly 50% to 2.52! And the numbers continue to decline. Most experts predict that global population will level out by about 2100 at around 10 billion and may even decrease after that. And if we use our resources wisely, we can easily support that number of people. Yea!!!

For a fun 13-minute video of Dr. Hans Rosling graphically showing these trends, click here.

Read a Discovery News article titled “Population to Bulge, But Will Hit Ceiling” at this link.

Check out an article in the respected journal Nature on population projections available here.

For a New York Times article titled “Dire Poverty Falls Despite Global Slump,” click here.

Additional great news is that statistics show global life expectancy has increased from only 30 years in the early 1800s to 50 years in 1955, and on up to 68 years in 2010. And even though the top 1% of the population has taken most of the profits in recent years, average global income has risen dramatically in the last 200 years. For a fun and powerfully inspiring five-minute video presentation by statistics guru Hans Rosling beautifully showing these exciting trends, click here. Rosling debunks many other pessimistic global statistics on his excellent website at this link.

Don’t ignore the bad stuff, but make a point of celebrating the beautiful stuff with all the exuberant devotion you can muster. ~~ Rob Brezsny in his fun book Pronoia is the Antidote for Paranoia

Reason #2: Solar Power Soon Cheaper Than Coal, Gas, and Oil

The major media sadly have given very little attention to the exciting fact that we are already very close to solar energy becoming less expensive for energy generation than gas, coal, and oil. This is a huge game changer! If we no longer depend on big oil for our energy needs, we naturally gain an unprecedented level of energy independence that strengthens us as individuals and weakens the strangling grip of the greedy energy megacorporations.

If you explore major media websites, you’ll find unbelievably little coverage of the amazing hope and promise of energy independence related to solar energy. Nor will you see much about other incredible new energy sources which have the potential to make energy virtually free for all people on our planet. Think about the implications of that! Thankfully, a few little-publicized media articles by mainstream sources have reported on some of these highly promising new energy technologies. Explore the links below for more exciting information on all of this.

Read an inspiring Businessweek article at this link showing that solar power is projected to become less expensive than coal for energy generation within just a few years.

Click here for concise summaries of key major media articles revealing exciting new energy sources, many of which tap into the boundless field of zero-point energy.

An excellent two-page summary available here shows that little-known new energy sources would almost certainly be cheaper than gas and oil now were it not for four key forces.

For an inspiring online lesson exploring deep into powerful new energy sources, any one of which would likely revolutionize our way of life and give access to infinite energy in the not too distant future, click here.

After we have mastered the wind, the waves, the tides, and gravity, we shall harness the energies of love. Then, for the second time, man will have discovered fire. ~~ Teilhard de Chardin

Reason #3: The Internet Miracle – Unprecedented Networking, Information Access

Thanks to the amazing miracle of the Internet, humanity is interconnected around the world like never before. Facebook, twitter, change.org, and thousands of other social networking websites allow us to develop and maintain relationships with hundreds of people around the world, and to quickly and effectively spread the word far and wide on great causes. Caring and concerned groups like avaaz.org and many others can now pool legitimate electronic signatures of hundreds of thousands of people for political and social petitions sometimes in a matter of days.

Where in the past the major media and those in power often set or at least limited the terms of debate in our world, the Internet now allows any idea whose time has come to spread like wildfire without any censorship from above. Pirate radio stations continually harassed by the powers that be are a thing of the past, as anyone can now set up a podcast or a blog and reach not just a local, but a worldwide audience. And you can set up your own website to promote any interest which matches your passion. It’s incredibly easy and free these days.

Start your own petition online and reach thousands of readers by going to the webpage on change.org which teaches you how at this link.

Learn how to make a free, professional-looking website at webs.com or weebly.com.

Join over 10 million members worldwide in taking action to build a better world at avaaz.org.

Read an inspiring article on how the Internet is a big game changer in our world at this link.

Those who know how to check and verify information using reliable sources can now quickly and easily carry out legitimate research to expose greed and corruption. This has forced unwanted transparency onto politicians and government in a way that empowers us all. Even intelligence agents around the world are realizing how they have been manipulated by the powers that be, and many are now secretly working to expose all the craziness. I’ve had several contact me personally. And have you noticed that almost every significant bill to limit Internet freedom has failed? Yea!!!

For great examples of how the Internet is a game changer, explore the case of former FBI translator and whistleblower Sibel Edmonds. It’s remarkable not only that she’s not in jail, but that she’s breaking her gag order by self-publishing her tell-all book Classified Woman. The fact that I have never been bothered for my whistleblowing as a White House interpreter and for my muckraking on WantToKnow.info is another inspiring example. For more great information you could not have accessed before, check out Project Censored, David Wilcock, and the Transformation Team.

Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now. ~~ Goethe

Reason #4: Children More Loved, Supported Than Past Generations

100 years ago, if parents wanted professional advice on how best to raise their children, the only sources they could turn to might be Sigmond Freud or their family doctor. Now a plethora of great resources is available in books, websites, and health clinics around the world. Back then, corporal punishment was considered the norm and no one dared talk about physical or sexual abuse. Nowadays, child abuse can quickly be reported and stopped, and parents around the world are finding many ways to be more loving and supportive of their kids than even a generation ago.

Partially as a result of these changes, the generation of children growing up now is more tolerant and accepting of widely differing lifestyles and a broad diversity of people and cultures than ever before. In this modern culture where everyone is increasingly interconnected, we’re likely in for some big and wonderful changes as the harsh old guard retires and successive generations of increasingly caring individuals move into positions of influence in our world.

Watch a heart-warming, five-minute video beautifully showing the kind of love some newborns are receiving today, here in the form of a baby’s first bath at this link.

For a great article showing how drastically child rearing practices have changed and improved over the centuries, from common infanticide to what is called the “helping mode,” click here.

Time magazine’s best-selling cover story “Are You Mom Enough?” shows the extremes to which some parents will go now to make sure their kids feel loved and supported. The article describes practices that would have been considered crazy just a couple generations ago. See the provocative cover photo and read the full story at this link and this one.

Read an inspiring New York Times article about a new breed of children being referred to as the Indigo children at this link. The title of the article is “Are They Here to Save the world?”

It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye. ~~ Antione de Saint Exupéry in The Little Prince

Reason #5: Violent Crime Dropping Dramatically, Wars Much Less Vicious

Violent crime rates have been dropping dramatically for 20 years. Official U.S. Department of Justice statistics show that violent crime rates of 2010 were 1/3 the rates of 1994! Other countries are experiencing a similar decline. And deaths of law enforcement officers are at their lowest in 50 years according to this Boston Globe article, while according to official FBI statistics, rape rates have dropped to one-sixth of what they were 20 years ago! How awesome is that!!! Yet if you just watch the sensationalized news on TV, you might never know about these inspiring trends.

Consider also that 1,000 years ago, rape and pillaging were felt to be the natural spoils of war. The severed heads of enemies hung above the gates on the city wall greeted those who entered there. War atrocities were once the norm, where today they are prosecuted in international courts.

And the number of war deaths has dropped significantly since the over 15 million killed in WWI and roughly 60 million killed in WWII. Roughly three million were killed in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Since then, only two wars in Africa and the Soviet war against Afghanistan have had more than a million casualties. We still have a long way to go, but at least wars are now significantly less vicious, and we’ve managed not to destroy ourselves in a nuclear holocaust.

To see the charts of each type of crime, both violent and non-violent, on U.S. Department of Justice websites showing almost all categories at historic lows, click here and here.

Read an MSNBC/Associated Press article showing a 70% decline in crime rates at this link.

Check out a great article with lots of links to reliable sources showing how the media has downplayed the inspiring news of the major drop in crime rates at this link.

For a list of major wars and manmade disasters which caused the most deaths, click here.

Explore an excellent online lesson on key, little-known causes behind war and the hidden agendas of the military/industrial complex available here.

Naturally the common people don’t want war. It is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people [into war], whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country. ~~ Nazi leader Hermann Goering at the Nuremberg trials.

Reason #6: Focus Shifting from Left vs. Right to 99% vs. 1% to the Human Family

The terms of political debate have rapidly shifted in the last few years. As recently as 2007, the public was sharply divided into liberal versus conservative camps with people fighting over issues which exacerbated the left/right divide. For thousands of years, the global elite have used the “divide and conquer” strategy to keep the public fighting against each other, while they reaped the spoils of the conflict they incited. Keeping people in conflict and at war with each other is highly profitable for those who sell weapons and fear.

The global financial crisis of 2008, however, has changed all that. Now you find conservative Tea Party groups working together with liberal new-age groups in the Occupy movement to stop the incessant flow of wealth from the 99% to the wealthiest 1%. And it’s only a matter of time before people really get it that we’re all one human family doing our best to survive and thrive on this beautiful planet we call home. Maybe it’s time for all of us to occupy our hearts. 99% + 1% = 100%.

See the website of Occupy Wall Street at this link. For lots more on the movement, click here.

Read summaries of key major media articles exposing the manipulations of the banksters and huge financial institutions at this link.

Explore a profound and inspiring online essay titled “Beyond Duality” available here.

For a website showing how deeply interconnected we all are and exercises to open more to the heart connection we all share, click here.

The line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart? ~~ Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Reason #7: Man Behind the Curtain Exposed – The Global Power Elite

As the public became aware of the massive greed and market manipulations of the banking elite during the financial crisis, an increasing amount of attention was focused on the global power elite. Where in the past people who talked about the immense power of secretive organizations like the Bilderberg Group and Skull and Bones were considered crazy “conspiracy theorists,” now many caring citizens are exploring what these and other very real secret groups of the power elite of our world are doing. Even the once-reluctant media is now helping to expose these secrets.

Read revealing summaries of major media articles exposing power elite gatherings like the Bilderberg Group, Skull and Bones, Davos, the Bohemian Grove, and more at this link.

For a concise, excellent summary describing methods used by the power elite to control the public, and how that is now changing thanks to people like you and me, click here.

Explore a well researched online lesson exposing the role of the power elite in fomenting wars, polarizing the public, and what we can do about it at this link.

Once very effective in keeping their secret meetings off the public radar screen, the global power elite now realize that the jig is up. Their manipulations are being closely scrutinized, forcing them to act more responsibly. Entrenched factions of this elite are still struggling desperately to hold on to the vast amount of control they once exercised through using sophisticated technologies like HAARP, non-lethal weapons, and more. Yet these factions now find themselves in the minority, as even many members of the power elite say it’s all gone too far.

Due to these internal pressures, the global power elite has become increasingly fractured, with many factions battling for differing agendas like never before. Even the most power-hungry factions are overwhelmed now with fighting to put out the fires caused by whistleblowers and newly emerging movements around the world. Little-known groups of intelligence agents like “The Library” are working behind the scenes to undermine global manipulations and support positive change for all in our world. The old “need to know” culture of secrecy is inexorably giving way to rapid information sharing which serves all of us in building a better world. What exciting times we live in!

In societies with strong power elites, the powerholders’ power is dependent on the co-operation, acquiescence, and tacit support of the great majority of common citizens. ~~ Bill Moyer

Reason #8: Interest in Personal Growth, Consciousness Expansion on the Rise

As people around the world awaken to the previously hidden shadow side of our world, they are also opening more to new ways of looking at life and the inspiring light side of our world. Ever increasing numbers are seeing that life is not all about sex, money, and consumerism, and that we can find more joy and satisfaction through exploring deeper into personal growth and into the role of consciousness in our lives and in human development.

Mainstream scientists are now studying various aspects of consciousness and finding that we have much more creative power in our lives than was once believed. Dr. Bruce Lipton’s pioneering cell biology research suggests that, contrary to popular belief, genes are not the primary regulators of life. Rather the way we perceive our life and world may be a key factor in determining gene activity. And experts in the field of quantum physics are confirming that for deeper understanding of our world, it may be impossible to separate the physical world from the consciousness that perceives it.

Innovative communication and conflict resolution techniques like nonviolent communication are helping us to to move through challenges with each other with more love and compassion. Interest in transformative near-death experiences, the healing properties of psychoactive substances, young children with detailed memories of past lives, the so-called “indigo children,” the holographic model of the universe, and much more are on the rise. These and more are inspiring us to reconsider just what reality is and how our consciousness plays a role in shaping the reality in which we live.

People all over are stretching beyond their old belief systems and opening to the possibility that we are all much more connected than we once thought. Many are increasingly developing and refining their life purpose and intentions so that they can move with greater focus and clarity as they consciously create the life and world they envision. We are living ever more fully Mahatma Gandhi’s inspiring words, “Be the change you want to see.”

For a concise guide with simple, yet practical suggestions designed to help you develop, refine, and more fully live your life purpose and intentions, click here.

For lots of highly inspiring material on profound near-death experiences and how even just reading about them can transform your life, click here and here.

For an excellent, thought-provoking essay on fluid intelligence and how flexibility in thinking is literally changing the paradigm in which we live, click here.

There is a vitality, a life force, an energy that is translated through you into action. There is only one you in all time. This expression is unique. If you block your unique expression, it will never exist through any other medium. It is not your business to determine how good it is. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. ~~ Martha Graham

Reason #9: Love and Cooperation Are Rockin’ Our World!

Ever more people around the world are embracing the interconnectedness of each of us and of all humanity and all beings in the world and universe around us. It’s exciting to see growing numbers of people opening to love and cooperation and finding a rich variety of powerful ways to build a richer life and world for all of us. We are increasingly recognizing that every one of us can make a difference. Even simple acts such as a smile or a warm greeting can turn around a person’s day and make the whole world a little brighter for us all.

There are an incredible number of people, websites, and organizations beautifully spreading love and cooperation in our world today! So many shining examples like Nipun Mehta, who has spread love and inspiration far and wide with his DailyGood and weekly KarmaTube email lists. Websites like Moment of Love and The Love Foundation are inviting people to realize that every person in the world has heart, and everyone has a place in their heart that just wants to love and be loved. Great organizations like Challenge Day, idealist.org, and the HeartMath Institute are helping break down the barriers between us and bring us together with ever more love and joy.

To invite more love, inspiration, and cooperation into your life, explore some of the great links provided in the paragraph above.

For an amazingly inspiring, six-minute video titled “Blessed Unrest” showing how millions around the planet are coming together in unprecedented ways to transform our world through love and cooperation, click here. We are making a big difference!

Explore the Web of Love website showing how deeply interconnected we all are and offering great exercises to open more to the heart connection we share with all beings, click here.

A wave of profound spirituality based in love and interconnectedness is sweeping the globe and changing the collective consciousness of all humanity. And while healthy competition has its place, people all around the world are cooperating in a variety of meaningful ways to focus more on what matters most in life and create a brighter future for all. Talk about exciting!!! Now is the time to step more fully into your power through love!

When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace. ~~ Jimi Hendrix

Reason #10: You Can Be Master of Your Own Life Now!!!

You are more powerful than you may even know. In the old paradigm, the global power elite wanted you to live in fear and scarcity and to believe that you were powerless, so that they could keep the power and abundance for themselves. In the new paradigm, ever more people are coming to realize that we all have unlimited power and potential within us. Every one of us can play a decisive role in changing our lives and our world for the better!

What’s stopping you? Where do you feel weak and powerless in your life? How can you transform that? Recognize the things that you can’t change, and choose to focus on changing the things that you can. If each of us does our part to reach out and mend the part of the world within our reach, life can’t help but get richer for all of us. The ideas and resources below can help you to step more fully into your power and become a master of your own life.

Open to your own inner or higher guidance asking for what is right and best for you right now to step more fully into your power and become a master of your own life. Then pay attention to what life presents and do what it takes to make it happen.

For an empowering essay with practical ideas for transforming yourself from a reactive victim into a purposeful creator in your life, click here.

For an awesome online course which has gotten rave reviews for helping individuals around the world to step more fully into their power and become masters of their own lives, see the Insight Course at this link. If you don’t have time for the full course, see the best single lesson from this course in helping you to take responsibility and transform your life at this link.

Recognize when you are feeling doom and gloom about the world. If you are ready to transform that feeling, consider opening to gratitude for all you have in your life. Remember that there are many millions around the globe who join you in wanting to be the change.

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. ~~ Jalaluddin Rumi

Rock On!!!

There are many more reasons for hope and optimism, including holistic healing models being increasingly embraced by mainstream medicine, a new paradigm in prisons which truly rehabilitates, and the incredibly empowering microcredit movement whose pioneers won the Nobel Peace Prize for helping many millions worldwide to escape poverty. And learn about the 100-year-old man who recently completed a 26-mile marathon, or the 86-year old gymnast who brought a standing ovation from the audience. There is so much inspiration out there if we choose to look!

This is not at all to suggest that we ignore the shadow sides of our world. It is by shining light into the darkness and working together to integrate the shadow and the light that we powerfully transform our lives and world. Fear and major challenges in our life and in our world can actually teach us and help us to grow. Every act can be seen as either an act of love or a call for love. When we live from a place of love and integration, our lives can’t help but be filled with more love and joy.

Together, we are making a big difference. And by using the amazing power of the Internet, we can make even more of a difference by spreading this underreported, inspiring news around our planet. Share this message with your friends and help us all to move into inspired action as we join together in transforming our lives and world. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. And while you’re at it, have a fun, rich and meaningful day, week, and life ahead!

With abundant love, hope, and excitement,
Fred Burks for PEERS and WantToKnow.info

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