Check out This American Life episode 440: “Game Changer.” <–link
5 Reasons to Stay Active this Summer July 1, 2011
1) Harness Energy Post-Power Shift and Keep Momentum Going
This year we had over 400 Pennsylvanians from across the state travel to Power Shift. Sending a clear and powerful statement to the country: Frack is Wack! During our state break out with help of Josh Fox, we sent the message directly to President Barack Obama. And we weren’t done yet. Students broke into groups by region and organized actions across the state directed at a new DEP policy which gave the gas industry a free pass on violations. And less than a month later, the day after a direct action in Philadelphia, the policy was rescinded! Victory!
This story is definitely an inspiring one but we can’t let it end with, “and then everyone went home for the summer.” Because the story is not finished yet. There are still more battles to be waged.
We came together during power shift, and acted effectively right after. Lets not let all of that dwindle out!
2) Natural Gas Industry wont be Taking a Break
Summer break doesn’t mean anything to Natural Gas companies, or the people living in affected communities. Their water is still at risk, as is their health and well-being. In addition the people in those communities often don’t have the luxury of time. So if you’re a student on break, summer is a great time reach out to community leaders, and organize, actions, rallies, protests etc. Chances are, on thing you have a lot of this summer is time. So donate some of it too a good cause. Help raise awareness about the dangers of natural gas, and fracking, in your community!
3) Prepare for Future Direct Actions
One great way to do this is by getting involved with Key Coalitions Fall Kick-off meeting.
Please fill out the doodle for a call next week: http://doodle.com/uixmhq83ycrw47n5 (Fill it out by SUNDAY).
Also, we’re recruiting folks to this team/group! So if you know anyone who is interested in planning a state-wide youth environmental gathering please tell them about the call or let me/Sasha know.
4) Important Bonding Time
For most students summer is the time of year they actually get spend in their community. Get involved! Find out whats going on, what are the major issues getting people riled up? Are there any community leaders you know? Use the summer to strengthen these important connections. Later on in the year when we plan direct actions, have grassroots connections will be extremely important. You could also approach folks from the business community (who are likely to be friendly to Key Co. issues), as well as other prominent community members.
If you want to bond with other student activists, then check out reason number 3 and get involved!
5) It’s Fun!
Summer really is the best time for organizing. The nice weather brings people out. Many times people par take in fun outdoor activities. It’s a great time to remind people why you love the environment, and why its so important to protect it!
Wanna have some fun and raise awareness around fracking in your community this summer? Why not start a Fracking Lemonade Stand with some friends? Get clear plastic cups, and fill them up with differing amounts of water. Then get as many food dye colors as you can (incase anyone actually drinks one). Drop different colors into each cup. Then with a marker write the name of as many different fracking fluid chemicals as you can on outside of the cups. (Here is a small list to get you started: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydraulic_fracturing#Chemicals_used_in_fracturing_fluid)
This is just one creative suggestion for raising awareness in your neck of PA. If you have a better idea please post below. Are there other reasons to organize in the summer? What’s yours?
Power Shift Reflection April 26, 2011
I have been siting here trying to think of the right words to use. Yesterday I wrote a draft, but it barely began to encompass my experience. I have so many notes, and ideas scrawled in the margins of my Power Shift hand outs. But trying to put it all together has been kinda daunting.
Instead I thought I would share some pictures from Power Shift, and a little video with you all. If you have cool pictures, video, or recordings you would like me to include please email them to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Otherwise enjoy a little glimpse into my Power Shift adventure:
Here is some lovely footage from that mini rally:
This is a bit embarrassing because you can hear my woot-woots!
Let’s Replace We The Corporations With We The People; Restore The Middle Class, And Have Fun: Part III March 14, 2011
This post was authored by Ljubica Sarafov and is part III of a series entitled: Let’s Replace we the corporations with We The People; Restore the Middle Class, and Have Fun!
Let’s Have Fun!
Recently I did a simple search, “fun in social movements,” Believe it or not, google, for all its searching power, could not provide me with a relevant link.
I think this is sad and a really missed opportunity on the part of organizers. In part 1 of this series of articles I wrote about tea partiers and and showed this video:
But really, if you look at any video, or protest of tea partiers they always look like that. They get dressed up in American flag t-shirts, or better yet, founding fathers garb. They get out there, and have a good time. In the video above it seems clear that many of the people are ill informed about the purpose of the Glenn Beck rally. But all of those bodies showed up. For week after there was debate about the number of people who showed up to “restore Honor to America’. One thing was clear though, it was a whole heck of a lot!
I know that a lot of people in KEY Coalition probably don’t feel that the tea party is the most effective mode of organizing for a number of reasons. Most obviously because of their deep corporate ties, and unconsciousness of those ties. But lets ignore all that stuff, since I don’t really think thats up for debate. Instead I would like to point out one indisputable fact. Those people are having fun. Yes a lot of them appear angry, scared and dumb. The point is those people are having fun, and their movement is successful, at least from an electoral perspective. For such a nascent third party movement the tea party is surprisingly well represented in the halls of congress, and legislative state houses across the country.
That is why I am starting to think that just like you can’t build a homogenous movement and expect it to be popular, you cannot expect to build a movement on seriousness. People join causes primarily because they are concerned about themselves, and secondarily because they are concerned about others or their community. I think that if our movement was built around more fun, then people would be more open to it. More likely to stop by and check it out. The thing is that our movement has all the facts and science on our side. And the reality is the climate change is a scary future. So even without fear mongering, or manipulating facts, we have the high ground. We have a substantive argument that should win, when we appeal to logic. But when it comes to emotion we don’t win. So perhaps that is the aspect we should change most.
I don’t know about you but I have enough seriousness in my life everyday. Whether you’re in school or working, there are lots of things to stress you out. So it is really difficult to add another serious thing on top of that by committing to a serious movement. Now don’t misunderstand me. The work that we do as activists and organizers, especially around the environment and dirty energy, is some of the most important work in the world. However, not everyone wants to commit to it 110%.
Dirty energy activism can get really technical for example. You have to know what effects chlorine has on people when its burned if you’re going to confidently stand against Tire Derived Fuel (TDF), for example. I think too often we alienate people in this movement, with our jargon and abbreviations. But its about more than just the level of discourse. This movement is serious! And because it is serious, it can feel really scary to outsiders. When we talk about fracking fluid that causes people’s water to light up near an open flame, that is scary. That feels like a really big problem too. And too many times individuals feel overwhelmed, and under prepared or motivated to do anything. But if we have a fun movement then people don’t have to get motivated, they will show up just to see whats going on.
Another aspect to consider is how protests are organized (I would recommend clicking on this link, I will be referring to it and Naomi Wolf from here on out). Unlike the Vietnam and Civil Rights protests of our past, today protestors must attain a permit from local law enforcement before demonstrating. That means that if they get the permit, they are not allow to step on the street and only allowed to stay in a designated, predetermined area. In other words they are not allow to disrupt ‘business as usual’. One of the reasons the protests of the 60′s were so successful is that they occurred pre-neutering—to borrow Wolf’s phrase. Those protests stopped traffic. Actually they stopped the world. People looked up and took notice.
Today protests are ‘Disney-fied’ as Wolf puts it. As evidenced by the Restoring Honor Rally. Actually as much as I like ripping on Glenn Beck, I have to say his rally is really just one in a long line. I have been going to protests and rallies for a long time now, and I have yet to go to one where there is a direct action or result following. I have never felt that by showing up there, I changed, or improved anything. However, I think that we should use this to our advantage. I understand Wolf’s point that this stuff is serious and scary. But as I said I think her old school approach is played out, and doesn’t actually appeal to people. Instead we need more rallies like Obama’s during the campaign.
Mass gatherings of people who have hope, change, and fun on the brain. Rallies people want to go to and be a part of. In fact I wonder if we should think of protests more as events. As opportunities not only to show power in numbers but also to network, or even to train people. I think that these events should be more like the consciousness raising groups of the women’s movement (though on a more massive scale).
The other thing is that people want to join people who are having fun. And people are willing to come down to an event at the state house on Saturday versus a protest. They are not just likely to come, they are likely to be more open to listening and discussing with others. I think this re-thinking of how we consider and classify protests could be a game changer for the global warming crowd.
I am not trying to say that there is no need or room for real protests in our society. Obviously the collective bargaining protests across the country, show that that would be a foolish conclusion to draw. All I am saying, is that this is the reality of the situation. And perhaps instead of only looking to assembly models of the past, or trying to fight todays protest laws (which might, ironically, require protests and a movement of its own) it might be most productive to take a new look at the situation. Perhaps this is an area where we can learn from tea partiers. After all there movement is of the 21st century, and not as old as ours.
I threw out a few of my own ideas. However one event really taking this idea of making protests events is Power Shift. Power Shift is an event at which we show our power in numbers. However we also take the time to train people, demonstrate, network, share our stories, and perspectives. It is a really unique opportunity, and it is FUN!
Let’s Replace We The Corporations With We The People; Restore The Middle Class, And Have Fun: Part II March 7, 2011
This post was authored by Ljubica Sarafov and is part II of a series entitled: Let’s Replace we the corporations with We The People; Restore the Middle Class, and Have Fun!
Let’s Restore the Middle Class
The Tea Party is a movement made up of ordinary, blue collar, hard-working Americans (at least on the ground). Tea Party supporters are laborers, police offices, firemen, postmen, and teachers just like liberals. That means that we should be able to find common ground on middle class issues, and worker’s rights.
Right now the labor movement is being attacked in this country. With governors in Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana not just demanding that unions members give up their benefits, but they give up their right to collective bargaining. Its so serious that democratic representatives are fleeing those states in order to avoid giving republicans the quorum needed to pass the vote.
It shouldn’t just be those of us on the left standing up for workers rights though. Tea Partiers should be there too! This is a real grassroots movement. Plus the stakes effect all working people. I know republicans want to bust unions (Wondering why? Its all about money and campaign donations. Check out Rachel Maddow’s excellent analysis–here). But the Tea party is supposed to be a populous movement. And I think that the tea partiers need to be reminded that the people in these videos are people like themselves, their neighbors and their friends. Unions protect worker’s rights—all worker’s rights. And without collective barging we would not enjoy most of the basic rights we enjoy at work today.
It seems to me that this is a topic we should all be able to come together on. Support for unions, public workers, and green jobs initiatives all of these issues should not divide the right and the left in this country.
There is no reason why every tea partier in America shouldn’t be for green jobs. The problem is the framework of the discourse. Right now conservatives don’t like hearing about a green economy, or green jobs because they see no benefit. Beyond the fact that many don’t believe in global warming, green jobs are seen as an enviornmentalist thing. Those associations shut-down the conversation with most conservatives.
But what if we re-craft the discussion? What if we present green jobs as jobs for everyone, which they already are! We need to make it clear that you don’t need to be a lefty-environmentalist to support this issue. It should be clear that this is an economic issue. What if we remind people that Roosevelt built an infrastructure for this country that lasts to the present, and got us out of a recession by putting people to work? What if we remind our fellow citizens that we can create a new green infrastructure for future generations but we need their help. Rather than environmentalists (though we are awesome) we need engineers, electricians, train operators etc. Basically ordinary, blue collar, hard-working Americans (like those in the Tea Party). We need to remind them, that creating such an infrastructure is more than an incredible opportunity to jump start our economy and put millions of people back to work (though thats pretty great!). They need to be reminded that green=conservation. The same root word of conservative. That conservation breeds efficiency, and that they love efficiency because it creates healthy, competitive markets! We could remind them of the massive subsidies big oil and other dirty energy producers get. Money which could make investment in the green economy deficit neutral. I mean all we have to do is cut those subsidies, and re-invest that money into green jobs.
We need to stand together, and demand a power shift in this country. We should demand investment in green jobs because we need to build infrastructure for the future in this country. We should stand with our public workers, and union members, because we are one in the same. And an advancement for them is an advancement for all.
I think that if we can unite and stand together on issues like this then we can began to create a dialogue in this country. A dialogue that is clearly needed and lacking between the right and the left. If we can come together on some basic issues, then we can begin to bargain and negotiate, on more divisive issues. And maybe we can even begin to attempt to solve problems like the deficit, which require compromise, dialogue, and foresight.
Let’s Replace we the corporations with We The People; Restore the Middle Class, and Have Fun: Part I February 23, 2011
This post was authored by Ljubica Sarafov and is part 1 of a series entitled: Let’s Replace we the corporations with We The People; Restore the Middle Class, and Have Fun!
So I started thinking about this blog, as I do about most things, by learning about something completely different. That is why I feel compelled to make a confession: I am an Anglophile.
god bless the Queen; driving on the wrong side of the road; and the Beetles!
So it’s not completely random that I have taken in interest in the alternative vote (AV) debate happening in England. I am not even going to get into all that stuff, (the AV and the debate) I hope those links will do the trick. Instead I would like to explain what triggered me: in England there is a Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition in parliament! That is so cool! That is like Bernie Sanders working with Saxsby Chambliss (yes, that Saxsby) or something, but on a much larger scale.
That is what caused me to begin thinking about how much stuff progressives and conservatives can agree on. Now of course its not lost on me that Brits have a completely different system of governing, which forces parties to create coalitions, while our two party system spurs competition. However, I think there is a lot of room, for consensus, compromise in our system, and a lot we can learn for the ‘lib dems’ and conservatives in England.
I believe that we can find common ground with conservatives on the following ideas: replace we the corporations with We The People; restore the middle class, and have fun. I am not throwing that last one in there lightly at all.
Over the Next few days I am going to do a series on these issues. My goal is to cut through the surface and get to the crux of each of these issues because I think that is where we will find the seeds for change. In other words I would like to look past the simple identifiers that divide us and get to the core of these issues, where I believe we can find common ground. Common ground which could bring about real change.
There was a great blog (linked above) written by Gabriel Elsner entitled, “Lets Replace We the Corporations with We the People.” In the piece Elsner says that, “We must unite the grassroots on the right and the left. The people that make up the Tea Party recognize the same truths as the people that make up the Progressive movement. Our government is not working in the best interests of We the People. We need real solutions to our economic depression, our addiction to fossil fuels, the housing crisis, the rising cost of health care, and our national deficit.”
In other words Elsner is saying despite political differences we have common ground and we need to find a way to relate to each other, and work together. I think this is a really important concept; although it is easy to dismiss as a liberal pipe dream after watching videos like this one:
It can seem difficult to believe we have anything in common, not true.
Tea Partiers are a group of people I would love to work with. They are passionate, they know how to get attention and they have fun. Just like me, these people are fired up! Just like me they feel let down by Washington and business as usual. And like me they want to be heard.
Unlike me, these people need a true grassroots movement. I know its something now one talks about anymore. But lets not forget all of the astro-turfing that went on to create the tea party. If you did forget check out David Koch explaining it below, in his own words:
You see while we recognize common issues, Tea Partiers have been co-opted by corporations. They are being mis-led into believing that they are part of a natural citizen’s movement, and false consciousness is really hard to break. No one wants to hear that they are being advantage of.
I think we need a different approach. Instead of arguing with tea partiers I hope we can harness that energy, commitment, and fortitude. But we need to offer solutions to do it. We need solutions, which are stay true to our cause, but are also likely to appeal to the ideals of the Tea Party. Let’s show them our vision for America’s future, instead of debating about it. Then they too might see that there are areas where we can compromise, and areas where we can work together. For example green jobs!
But there is no way that any of that will happen unless we unite and demand such changes. We’re never going to get the change we want if we don’t engage with the other side, and allow them to be co-opted by dirty energy producers like the Koch brothers.
No, instead we need a power shift. We need Real People (not corporate citizens) to unite on the left and the right so that we can replace we the corporations with We the People.
If you’re interested in attending Powershift check out: www.powershift2011.org
or shoot me an email: email@example.com
What Does American Apparel Have to do with Climate Change? February 9, 2011
This post was authored by Ljubica Sarafov, KEY Coalition member.
Recently I was reading an article about American Apparel. If you’re like me and you’ve been living under a rock or something, maybe you haven’t heard but the company is shady! I knew their ads were controversial, namely because they strike many consumers as borderline pornographic (which is fair, i think, considering they have used porn stars in their ads). But I had no clue about everything else. If you’re unfamiliar with the shadiness that is American Apparel, go here, here, here and here. Or here, or here and … I’m sure there are many, many more.
So all of this is very interesting. But not very obviously connected to the climate change movement, dirty energy, or the usual topics discussed here. So why bring it up? because as I was clicking through these stories and getting deeper and deeper I found, A Wolf In Sheep Clothing by Ari Paul. In the article Paul is talking about how buying from American Apparel is an easy way to feel good. He says: “Additionally, “consumption activism” strikes me as just an easy way out. If I buy this sweatshop-free tee that is ALSO in support of same-sex marriage, I’m covering all my bases, right?”
I think the sentiments in that sentence go well beyond American Apparel, and it’s something I would like to unpack.
It might sound strange coming from an environmental activist, but I hate the “Green Movement.”
Why? Well, despite the ridiculous climate change debate I blogged about last time, many Americans understand that global warming is real. They want to do something about it. But what? It seems hard to ride a bike to the grocery store instead of a car. Its hard not to crank up the heat in these cold winter months and harder still not to turn it way down in the sweltering heat of summer (both intensified thanks to climate change). So what is a semi-conscious citizen to do? Go shopping!
Yes, go shopping, and believe me corporations are ready for you. While once upon a time, I had to go to my local natural foods store to get environmentally friendly products, today thanks to the “green revolution” going on in your grocery store, companies like Windex have produced eco-friendly versions of their products.
But, I want to push back on the idea that we can forgo grassroots activism in favor of consumer /consumption activism. You see, activism challenges the wrongs in our society. It’s about closing down coal plants across campuses like the SSC is doing. It’s about closing down incinerators one at a time and fighting against newly proposed ones, like EJN is doing. Activism is about making substantive change, while consumerism provides a cheap thrill that doesn’t last very long. Consumerism is about using things up and then going on to the next one (like that Jay-Z song), so one day you need an eco-friendly tote bag and the next it’s “green” Windex. That isn’t exactly a conservationist model. No, indeed, environmentalism is almost completely mutually exclusive from consumerism; “consumption activism” is an oxymoron.
Now don’t get me wrong its great that there are options for consumers, and that its convenient. The part I have a major beef with is the concept. I don’t like that they’re trying to sell us on this idea of “voting with your wallet.” I guess that’s supposed to mean if you want things to change in your local store then you need to buy certain products (i.e. Eco-friendly Windex). And lots of other people like you will buy them, and then that somehow makes the world a better place via Adam Smith’s invisible hand – the market will sort out the best way to serve needs.
Unfortunately, markets can be complicated ((Not sure what I mean? Check out this Planet Money episode where an economist who kept losing his slippers, paid his 7-year-old son $1 every time he found them. Pretty soon, the kid started hiding the slippers and making easy money. ). For example, Walmart may sell both “green” and regular Windex. You can buy green Windex and feel good about yourself and your “vote.” But When Walmart needs Windex (or whatever cleaning product they use) they let bottom-lines talk. It’s not that they are evil. They are a corporation and by their very existence all they care about is maximizing profit for shareholders. So, they use the cheaper product, regular Windex. Interestingly, this creates a feedback loop, where the regular Windex is cheaper because there is a higher demand for it thanks to corporations like Walmart. Still feel like you can vote effectively with your money? All things equal, when we vote with our wallets, corporations get bigger votes.
So how long is this really going to last. I don’t know. I hope that more eco-friendly products are always widely available. The problem is that its not a sustainable for change. It doesn’t challenge the status quo.
The fact is that we need to make bigger changes in our lives then simply switching window cleaners and buying tote bags. We do need to leave thermostat down, and get rid or the SUV or old clunker that gets like 15 miles a gallon. We need to challenge the status quo and make big change because at the end of the day, although they like to tell us differently, corporations are only accountable to their shareholders. Consumers might make up most of their profit, but we are not their main concern. That being said there are people who’s job it is to be accountable. Its their job to be concerned with “we the people,” our public servants!
That is who we need to think about when voting (duh!). If you want to vote with you wallet then donate to a candidate who has a strong stance on climate change and conservation. Oh, there isn’t one running? Let them know that you care. Gather 15 constituents and march down to their office. Let them know that these people’s votes can be hers/his if they take a better stance.
You see, people think that government is really corrupt and tangled with special interest money. I think to some extent that is true – now more than ever, thanks to Citizens United. However, Politicians need money to get your vote. It’s expensive to run a campaign and they know that whoever spends the most has an advantage. BUT, you can circumvent all that by just going directly to your representative. Believe it or not, it’s as good as walking in and handing him/her a check for your own special interest. In fact, it’s better! You’ve also just provided him/her with contacts of concerned citizens and people who might be willing to help campaign. The relationship you create is more powerful than the check.
More importantly, you’ve just acted as a catalyst of change. Real substantive change. And, unlike a corporation, you can hold your representative accountable for that promised change. That is activism at work, and, believe me, it is more rewarding than buying Windex at the grocery store.
If you’ve stuck with me up til now, then I just have one more exercise for you:
Imagine if, instead of 15 people, we gathered like 10,000. That’s Power Shift. That’s what it’s about. Yes, there are workshops, keynote speakers, caucuses and all kinds of training. Things that will be beneficial to you in your future. But what Power Shift really does, why it’s really important, it shows the strength of our movement. It says to politicians: hear our concerns and act if you would like to stay in office. It’s real activism that can change our future.
If you would like to attend Power Shift, registration is now LIVE—GO! GO! GO!
***Please Note: Early Registration Deadline is FEB 13th
If youre interested in coordinating a group from your area or campus its not too late.
Sign up to he a coordinator: http://powershift2011.org/organize/coordinators
Or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org