Thursday, March 21, 2013

Nonviolent Method 18: Displays of Flags and Symbolic Colors

So, today we’re gonna look at Nonviolent Method Number 18: Displays of Flags and Symbolic Colors. 

Now, I went to a rally for the climate movement on February 19th and everybody was wearing black.   I’m sorry but black has been done to death.  Yes, everything looks good in black but it doesn’t really set you apart as a supporter of the movement.  I mean everybody wears black.  It just makes everybody look like a bunch of hipsters.  Black doesn’t really make a statement like it used to.

So, I might like to suggest a couple alternate colors.  One would be green.  You know, the Green movement.  Hello!  We want to protect God’s green Earth.  I’m big on green.

The Iran uprising two years ago used green and it was really cool! 

But there’s one color I’m even bigger on.  Now just hear me out cuz it might sound a little weird at first.  It’s…Purple! 

Now you’re like “Why purple, Pete?”  ‘Cuz!  First of all, it stands out, not that many people wear it, so if they had a movement or rally one day and everybody was wearing purple, people’d notice that! 

You know if you had a purple flag people would be like “Oh, wow, I get it.”  If you had a black flag people’d be like “What, you’re a pirate?  You’re death?  You’re against ants?”  Black has come to represent so many other things!  We can do better. 

The other thing is polar bear’s tongues are purple.  And since polar bears have become a symbolic representative of why we need to stop climate change, even though it affects everybody, polar bears are the first ones getting big time affected.  So, since polar bears have purple tongues, I suggest we use the color purple.

Before actions we could hand out purple popsicles.  This would have two effects, one: everyone loves grape popsicles (I guess you could do grape juice too, or wine, or even blueberries.  Why don’t they call ‘em purple berries!  Urrh…)  And then you could tell the people who are with you because they’d have purple tongues.  And we could do that Maori warrior thing where they stick out their tongues to look scary. That’d be a fun thing to resurrect.

If we all showed up outside of Exxon-Mobil and did the Maori thing with our purple tongues, that’d just scare the crap out of ‘em, right?  Well, okay it probably wouldn’t but it would make for a great picture, and we’d get on the news and we’d show the world we had a sense of humor, which is important.  The leaders of Serbia’s Otpor learned that if you had 200 people marching down the street that wasn’t news, but if you had 200 people doing something ridiculous – THAT was a picture!

So that’s my pitch for purple, but I’m open to green too, and I know that lesbians do lavender, but lavender is different from purple, so, I don’t think we’d be steppin’ on anybody’s toes here. 

Anyway the other part of this method is flags.  The first flag I would suggest using is Old Glory – ‘cuz you’re trying to protect America’s future! I’m aware that somewhere along the line the hardcore right-wingers appropriated the American flag for themselves – which is so not fair to Betsy Ross!  Could you imagine?!  “Hey, that’s my flag, you can’t use my flag for your stupid…ignorant buttheadedness!  Seriously, stop it!”  The people who created the American flag created the American government – they like our government, they don’t hate it like these flag usurpers.

And you’re not just protecting America, you’re protecting America’s standing for all of history.  We don’t’ want to go down in history as the country that spewed the most greenhouse gases and stopped all action on climate change – we want to go down in history as the cool country that saved the day!

So that’s my pitch for Old Glory.  Alternates could be, say, a flag of a Pissed-Off Polar Bear…(Okay I won’t self-promote) Uh…a flag of 350, a flag of, like, the Earth Guardians (who I very much admire), the clenched fist of resistance.  Or you could do mock flags.  Go to a Tea Party rally and they’re holding up that cool Don’t Tread On Me snake flag, which again they’re trying to appropriate, don’t let ‘em!  Make fun of ‘em!  Make the snake a sheep, because they go along and believe anything the Fox News noise machine wants them to believe, like the melting ice cap is no big deal! 

“Don’t Tread On Me-eh-eh-eh!”.

Okay, so that’s Displays of Flags and Symbolic Colors.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Method 17: Mock Elections

Okay, so, today we’re going to look an Method Number 17: Mock Elections. 

Now, in the book “Methods of Nonviolent Struggle”, by Gene Sharp, which is excellent and you should buy it, by the way, the examples of Mock Elections were very serious things!

(I know that “Mock” is kind of a funny word: “Oh, you’re mocking me!”…”Oh, you’re meawking me!”…”Stop it!”…”Schma-pit!”  Right?  But the Mock elections in the book were actually very serious things.)

Back before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, blacks “supposedly” had equal citizenship, but in the southern states, there were all these voting laws, that made it so that only like 43 percent of the state’s adults could actually vote, and that 43 percent wasn’t the black folks!  So essentially blacks couldn’t vote! 

So back in the sixties in Mississippi they did mock elections to show people that if black people were allowed to vote the politicians would be completely different. 

(I know that I’m a big white bear so people might think I’d be more sympathetic to the whites – but come on!  Bears are fair!  I’m cool with black bears and grizzlies, and even koalas – even though they aren’t even bears.)

I’m off topic…so how would you do an effective mock vote for the climate movement?

Gee, let’s think.  What is the one giant segment of American society that has zero political participation?  Hmmm…..

Young  people!  Hello!  We could do a mock election for young people.  Just have one question: Should we do something about climate change?  I think you’d have have an overwhelming “Yeah!”  A landslide! 

Instead, the people in power make no accommodations for young people at all, it’s all about “How can I help my rich contributors today?”  “How can we make sure people don’t have to pay taxes today to protect the future?”  And lots of adults are just kind of like falling in line with that, “Yeah!  It’s all about today!”  A**holes.

So a mock election for young people would be cool. 

Or how about a new tactic…a focus group election.  So you get a focus group together and ask them “Hey, vote on how serious it is that we act urgently on climate change.”

And you could even do it by tiers “Oh, we really need to do something”, “Oh we sorta need to do something”, “I don’t really know about it”, “It’s not worth doing something” or “F*** you, go to hell, I don’t even believe it exists.”  Right?

And then show them the worst case scenarios of how bad climate change can be – just the basic scientific facts – it could unravel like this. Which it could!

Then you also include with that the mounting evidence that not only could it happen, but it’s kinda likely it’s gonna happen.  And then do a re-vote.  I bet you the numbers change!  (Except, of course, for the “f*** you” people.)

Anyway, that’s Method Number 17: Mock Elections.  Tomorrow: Method Number 18: Display of Flags and Symbolic Colors.  Can’t wait!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Nonviolent Method Number 16: Picketing

Alright, Nonviolent Method Number 16 is Picketing. 

Now, this is another method that’s kind of been done to death and people really don’t think it’s effective.  If you see a bunch of hotel employees picketing in front of a hotel, you generally kind of think “Well that’s a waste of time”. 

When the BLM is doing an auction for oil and gas leases and environmentalists are outside holding up signs saying “This is wrong!”, nobody inside the auction is gonna give a crap.  All you’re doing is standing outside freezin’ your nuts off!  (Or boiling, as the case may be.) Cuz the only people who see it are the people who are driving by right then and there and they may honk in approval but SO WHAT?!  It’s not effective.  

So how do you make it effective?

You make it interesting, you make it go viral.  You wear a funny costume or do something funny or clever or creative or interesting.  The Internet is the new public square, and if something goes viral, that’s gonna reach a lot more people than a protest outside the federal building.  But in order for it to go viral it needs to be particularly creative AND it needs a push from the rest of the movement.

For instance, your pickets could be the size of fortune cookies, that no one will see up close, but you could enlarge it on video and post it on YouTube and that could, in the right hands, be funny! 

Or you could do something huge, like, you know how at football games sometimes they have thousands of placards that everyone in the section of the stadium holds up and it says something like “Go Terps”, or “Go Bears!”  (I like that one, “Go Bears!”) 

As long as someone caught that on video that would be impressive, like if you did it in front of the fossil fuel headquarters or the climate denier “think tanks” or the big media organizations, and it was really big and coordinated and impressive – that would be cool!  (So long as you got someone to videotape it from above). 

Another thing you could do with pickets is you could psychologically work the opposition.  Stand outside the “think-tanks” holding up signs with the names of the “think-tank” staff inside who’s job it is to stop climate solutions from happening.  Let them know you know who they are.  Let the world know who they are!  These people make a good living helping destroy the world.  These people deserve a slice of infamy for that, right?  Their neighbors should know who they are.  Their neighbor’s kids should know who they are.  Everyone in their towns should know who they are.

I mean, this is removal of consent, we’re not gonna sit here and keep making nice while you’re in there destroying everybody’s futures! 

During the Indian independence movement they did pickets outside of every establishment that cooperated with the British, so people would know. 

We could do that with restaurants and bars and sports clubs that are subjecting its clients to Fox News, ‘cuz Fox New is horrible about the climate.  They do more stories about climate change than any other network but almost all the stories are like “Climate change is bullshit!”

So these people need to be shamed, it’s not cool – ‘course it’s not cool to picket either, so you gotta make it cool.

Schools and universities they’re doing divestment campaigns right now to help the climate movement – you could definitely picket outside of administration buildings “If You Care So Much About My Future – Please Take Your $ Away From People Who Are Destroying It!”

You could even picket gas stations, or, indirectly power companies.  When you send your bill back, write on the outside of the envelope “____ Energy supports climate destruction!”, so the mail carriers and their billing department is clued in to that company’s greedy, rapacious nature!

A lot of people are poor and can’t afford solar panels and wind turbines so they’re stuck with the grid that’s killing us, but I don’t think of these people as hypocrites, they’re no-alterna-crites!  The fossil fuel companies have used their power and influence to crush the development of sustainable energy and transportation for decades, so a lot of people can’t realistically go off the grid, but we still need ‘em in our movement, so don’t belittle them because they’re not as “pure” as you, welcome them to the fold!  We need everybody in America and the world on our side here, all lined up against the climate deniers who are forcing us all to stick with dirty energy even though it’s now obvious it’s KILLING THE WORLD!

So, anything you can do to spread the message of noncooperation, you need to do!

So that’s Method Number 16: Picketing. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Climate Movement Needs to Realize it's Potential

Nonviolent struggle is a way to mobilize our power potential and sever our opponent’s sources of power.

Now, it would be easy to sever our opponents’ sources of power if we mobilize our own potential.

Potential is a Greek word (actually I don’t know if it’s Greek or not, but it is a word), and it means “capable of being, but not yet in existence”.

Well then, let’s look at the climate movement’s potential.  Which segments of society will be directly hurt by global warming, so it’s in their best interests to get involved? 

First, there’s the people who need WATER.  They will be completely screwed, because the snowpack that accumulates on mountain peaks is diminishing year by year.  That’s not just bad for skiers, it’s terrible for drinkers of WATER, because the snowpack’s meltwater turns into the streams, lakes, and rivers that provide our water. 

Another group who will be completely screwed are those who eat FOOD.   You see, America’s crops depend on those rivers too.  They also need rain, but as the temperatures go up every year, there’s less and less rain to nourish the crops, which in turn means less food and water for whatever animals those humans devour.

A third group that will completely, entirely fucked are those people who breathe OXYGEN.  You see, half the oxygen produced in the world is made by phytoplankton, tiny organisms who live in massive numbers in the world’s oceans.  But, since 1950, there’s forty percent less phytoplankton!  That means 20 percent less oxygen is being produced.  That’s with ocean surface temperatures going up just one degree, it’s gonna go up more!  Also, the other half of our oxygen is produced by forests and grasslands, and climate change is helping kill off those too! 

So, anyone in our society who depends upon water, food, and oxygen, are POTENTIAL climate activists.

Of course we’re a long way from that cuz only 16 percent of Americans are really concerned right now about climate change, and barely any of them are actually DOING anything to stop it!

But let’s consider their POTENTIAL.  Chances are, they’re well aware that this could mean the collapse of civilization and that, depending on how fast the permafrost melts, it could actually happen within DECADES. So, I’d think, that 16% should be willing to do just about anything to stop climate change.  Especially if they’re young!

So, here we’ve got 40 million people who could be called upon to join a nonviolent movement immediately.  THAT’S potential! 

If we could get 40 million people to start doing nonviolent action to stop climate change, we could force the government to act upon it. 

But we gotta be smart!  We have to know how systematic nonviolent struggle works,  Everyone who cares about the future of civilization and life on earth needs to know it.  This movement will be stronger if ALL the activists, not just the leaders, know exactly how to use nonviolent action for maximum effect.  The leaders we’ve got don’t have that much for us to do.  But the climate’s unravelling at breakneck speed, so we can’t just keep sitting around and waiting for their next call to action!  We need to come up with our own actions to help the movement grow in numbers and in strength.  Like the Freedom Riders did!  Martin Luther King did not want the Freedom Rides to happen, but it ended up galvanizing the Civil Rights movement.  In fact the original Freedom Rider leaders gave up, but others stepped in and took it to another level. 

But to accomplish similar things climate activists need to know everything about Nonviolent Struggle and how it works. 

For one thing, we need to be fearless and bold, we’re taking on powerful forces here and a lot of stone-cold crazies.  But, hell, we’re saving the planet, so it’s time to nut-up!

We need to be fluid and fast, so we can react to unforeseen events, like extreme weather or our opponent’s mistakes. 

And we have to be FUN, because if you’re not having fun you burn out and you’re not cool.

Okay, great.  Now, for openers, repeat after me:   Groouumph!  Okay, that was pretty good.  It’s more in the back of the throat, though.  We’ll work on it.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Nonviolent Method Number 15: Group Lobbying

Aye, begorrah!  Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Today we’re looking at Nonviolent Method Number 15: Group Lobbying. 

Now, lobbying works incredibly well if you’re the fossil fuel industry, and you have, like, four highly paid lobbyists for every member of the Congress and the Senate. 

But, even though they have a huge number advantage, they don’t with the general public, more people want to do something about climate change than not.  Of course, they’re not highly paid, they’re not paid at all, so people’d be reduced to lobby on their own – on their own time and on their own dime!

And considering Congressmen and Senators are gone most of the time and really can only meet with your during work hours, it’s gonna take you away from work to talk with them, so it’s gonna cost you to do lobbying, unless you’re like a bartender!  But even bartenders can’t get access like lobbyists can.  These guys are bigwigs and only meet with people who can make political contributions, like fossil fuel lobbyists. They don’t care if you’re their constituent as long as you’re writing them a check with a lot of zeroes in it. 

But this method is not called lobbying, it’s called Group Lobbying.  During the Vietnam War there was a group that went and visited their congressman every Wednesday – somebody from that group would go. 

OR you could have a giant mass of people show up on a certain day to lobby.

Frankly, I gotta say, I don’t have a lot of faith in this idea.  ‘Cuz, unless they know you’re their constituents, they’re not gonna care, and even if you’re their constituents they’re probably not gonna care.  (It probably helps if you look like you come from their state.  If you’re from Oklahoma you should show up with a farmer’s tan, maybe.   Or if you’re from Maine show up dressed as a lobster man.  Probably not, actually.)

If you’re gonna do group lobbying don’t do it in Washington.  Wait until your Senator’s home so it’s a lot more likely that the masses of people showing up at his door are actually from that place. 

Once Obama really starts his push for climate action, I’m pretty sure all the fossil-fuel funded think tanks will get all the Nugent nitwits to get out and support Senators who are friendly to destroying the world and also to show up and scream at Senators and Congressmen that wanna save the world.  They did this when Obama first tried to pass climate legislation and it worked.  Senators chickened out and backed down.  So of course they’re gonna do it again.

And we gotta represent in equal numbers.    ‘Cuz essentially those old guys are shouting any hope you’ll have of living in a world that was as good as the one they’ve had.  We gotta stand up for the world with just as much passion as they do standing up for stupidity.

‘Course we can’t be assholes.  First of all, they’ve got that market cornered.  So we have to be brave and resolute and classy.  And, I’m tellin’ ya, funny works too!  People look silly when they’re trying to shout down puppets and people wearing polar bear hats.  It puts them in awkward predicament.

Anyway, for what it’s worth that, is Method Number 15: Group Lobbying.  Join us tomorrow for a scintillating talk about Method Number 16: Picketing.

And I thank you.

Saturday, March 16, 2013


Today I’m going to announce the award for Climate Ostrich of the Month: The first recipient will be Faried Zakariah, who just wrote a column in Time Magazine called “Build that Pipeline!”

Clearly this guy has his head in the sand and has no idea how bad climate change will be. 

In October, I would have given the award to Candy Crowley of CNN, who, just weeks before Hurricane Sandy hit, decided that climate change wasn’t a relevant enough topic to ask about during the presidential debates.  An audience member had the question to ask, but Candy, in her infinite wisdom, opted instead to ask yet another question about the economy.  (This is because Candy lives in a beltway bubble that insulates her from anything outside the 24-hour news cycle.  Poor Candy, and poor EVERYBODY IN THE WORLD!)

SHE has her head in the sand too!  So, the Mock Award idea, is Nonviolent Method #14: Mock Awards. 

This was used in the sixties when the Ecology Action campaign of Boston gave out a “Polluter of the Month” award.  (Although I think they only gave it out one time.)

I also think there should be a Climate Hall of Shame, so everyone knows who the biggest obstacles to climate solutions are.  Clearly the Koch Brothers, former Exxon-Mobil CEO Lee Raymond, ultra-right-wing profiteers like Lord Monckton (who’s not really a lord!) and Chris Horner and Marc Marano and Steve McIntyre and Anthony Watts and Joseph Bast and Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly, as well as DIShounorable Senator James Inhofe and Congresstoadies James Sensenbrenner and Joe Barton, to say nothing of Dick Cheney (who considers himself a, quote, “man of principle”, as long as “principle” can be defined as “the unwavering support of people who LINE YOUR POCKETS a the expense of truth, justice, and the American Way”).

I’m sure I’m forgetting a bunch, but that’s what the “comments” section is for!

The Hall of Shame is for posterity and for today, but the Ostrich Award is for the Here and Now, 'cuz media-celebrities need to know that their Ostrich-like behavior is KILLING THE WORLD!

Anyway, that’s Method 14: Mock Awards.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Nonviolent Method #13: Deputations

Nonviolent Method Number 13 is Deputations.  Now, I read that, and I kind of think “Oh!  I’ve seen this in movies.  The sheriff goes to a guy and pins a badge on his shirt and says “Okay.  Here.  Now you’re a deputy.”

But that’s not how this method works.  With deputations a selected group of people take a grievance to somebody who is generally a big part of the problem

The best example they have in the book was in 1899 the Czar of Russia was ruling over Finland, and Finland was like “That sucks!”, and so he ordered all the men of Finland to fight for the Russian army, and they were like “We don’t even like you guys!”  So they got this petition signed by pretty much every man in Finland and got a deputation of 500 guys to take that petition to the Czar, and the Czar was like “I’m not gonna see them!”

So it didn’t really do any good, BUT that doesn’t mean it never does any good.  There was example from China where it worked.  Actually the second time it worked, the first time they all got 50 lashes from bamboo rods, but when they back AGAIN, even after all the lashes, that made an impression.  “Geez, these deputies are bad-ass!”

But if we were gonna do it, who would our deputation comprise of?  Well, we could send A) farmers and ranchers whose livelihood is being destroyed by the drought and heat that climate change has brought on; or, B) we could send a deputation of kids saying “Hey!  This is our futures, man!”, or C) a deputation of moms saying “Hey!  This is our kids’ futures!” 

But who do you send the deputation to? 

Well, I think it’s pretty obvious you don’t send it to the climate denier think tanks, ‘cuz they clearly wouldn’t give a crap about farmers or moms or kids.  Though they might be more than happy to dole out 50 lashes from bamboo rods.

It MIGHT work to send deputations of parents and kids to the fossil fuel companies, because they do supposedly have a public image to look after, but I’m not even sure that’s true.  Exxon-Mobil for years was the number one contributor to climate denier think tanks and politicians.  And yeah, people hated them, but they were still the richest company in the world.  

Now it MIGHT work if farmers from Oklahoma, and Texas, and Nebraska, and Kansas went to their national senators and representatives with a group of parents and kids and said “Enough!  We’ve got to stop climate change.”  It might work.

But I think what would work the best would be a deputation of parents and kids going to the big network news organizations and then saying “Hey!  You gotta cover this, this is serious.  You’re abrogating your duty.  People need to know how bad this could be.  They need to know about all the money that’s being spent to confuse the issue.  They need to know who’s behind that.  They need to know what the scientists are saying, and about the studies that show this is worse than everybody thought.  They need to know about how fast this could actually happen – a matter of decades and not a matter of a century.  They need to know how much the temperatures could go up here in the U.S. because everybody seems to think it would be that bad here, which is bullshit.  They need to know how the melting permafrost is gonna amplify this past the point we can do anything about it.  Just that.  Those minor points they’ve neglected to share with the American people!

THAT would be an effective deputation!  Tomorrow we’ll talk about Method Number 14: Mock Awards.