The Most Important Book I've Read

This morning I finished a book by Sarah Schulman called Conflict Is Not Abuse. I’ve been reading this book slowly over the past couple months, and taking the time to think deeply about what it says. I’ve come to the conclusion that it is the single most important book for the climate movement at this moment in our development. 

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Schulman’s book offers a compassionate and honest perspective on addressing the real tensions and traumas in our communities without turning against one another with cruelty. She focuses on getting better and not just feeling better at someone else’s expense. Schulman actively pushes back against the culture of shunning, shaming, and self-righteousness that is killing the climate movement right now. I think all progressive movements probably need this book right now, but I know the climate movement needs it. Without exaggeration, when I look at the social tensions that seem to be at a breaking point across our society, and when I look at the exponentially increasing hardships and stresses that we know are coming with the climate crisis, I think the courageous and caring insights put forth by Sarah Schulman are our best source of hope for maintaining our humanity. 

I urge everyone who reads this message to please take the time to read Conflict Is Not Abuse. In fact, I feel so strongly about the need of people in the climate movement to read this book, if you cannot afford the price of the book, please email me at tim.dechristopher@gmail.com and I will gladly buy you a copy. (Even if more people take me up on that offer than I can personally afford, I will figure something out and raise the money to make it work.) Feel free to share your thoughts with me as you’re reading the book, and I’m eager to engage in conversation about how Schulman’s insights can impact our movement.

As I told a friend last week, there have been times over the past few years when I was so disgusted with the toxic callout culture on the left that if I hadn’t already built my life around this movement, I would have walked away. If I had anywhere else to go, I would have gone, and I know many others followed that path. We have a long road ahead in the struggle for climate justice, and we have to find a healthy way of working together. Schulman’s book offers the best possibility I’ve seen of rising to that challenge.

Ultimately, Sarah Schulman calls for communities of progressives that are willing to be “responsible for bucking the trend of cruelty.” That is exactly the kind of crews of activists that the Climate Disobedience Center is trying to build with our new small-group program. If you’d like to be a part of a local group that reads this book together and puts its principles into action while doing the work of fighting for a livable climate, please contact the Climate Disobedience Center at http://www.climatedisobedience.org/community_signup

Read the book, and please reach out to me about any ideas this book brings up for you.

 

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Fossil Fuel Congress Asks Jeff Sessions To Label Climate Action "Terrorism"

(This is a press release we issued from the Climate Disobedience Center in response to what I think is a serious push to criminalize our movement. -Tim) Cross-posted from Climate Disobedience Center website. 

On October 23rd, 2017, 84 members of congress submitted a letter to Attorney General Sessions regarding nonviolent direct action on crude oil pipelines. The letter, backed by American Petroleum Institute, Association of Oil Pipe Lines, and the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, is a dishonest effort to smear the climate movement, and fabricate a threat in order to legitimate further criminalization of dissent against one of Congress’s largest clients: the fossil fuel industry. Rather than doing their job and protecting current and future generations from civilizational collapse caused by run-away climate change, members of Congress are working to protect their funders at the risk their constituents.

The letter begins the official process of expanding the Patriot Act and domestic terrorism laws to target those who resist fossil fuel infrastructure. The accusation of terrorism hinges on violence to human beings, which has never been even a fringe element of the climate movement. The only violent reference which this Congressional letter could find was Tucker Carlson’s creative interpretation of a letter to the editor of a local newspaper in Boulder, Colorado. On that single thread hangs this attempt to defame a mass movement in order to repress dissent and free speech.

Unlike every right wing movement, the climate movement has never engaged in violence against human beings in pursuit of political aims. From colorful marches with hundreds of thousands of people to actions disrupting fossil fuel infrastructure construction and blockades of coal trains and ships, the climate movement has been disciplined and intentional about protecting life. Citizens placing themselves in the path of destruction, placing themselves at risk in order to avert climate catastrophe, cannot be equated with violence. 

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The Paradox Within Us

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(Heather Heyer and James Alex Fields represent two very real lineages of American history and society)

The spectacle of white supremacist violence and hatred on display in Charlottesville last week was disgusting and unacceptable. It seems to have been a wake up call for a lot of Americans about how serious the threat of racism and outright Nazism is to our communities. The sacrifices of those who gave their lives and safety in resistance to white supremacy may yet serve to be a catalyst that moves many individuals to action and our country closer to overcoming our toxic history of slavery and bigotry.

In the days since the atrocities of Charlottesville, there have been many commentators on social media who have rightly insisted that white Americans cannot declare that the racism we witnessed is not who we are. They point out that the ideology of James Alex Fields, the white supremacist who murdered Heather Heyer, is as old as America and is embedded in our nation’s history. It is part of the social history that formed all of us, which means that ugly ideology is buried in each of us and toxifies our relationships. This is the reality that needs to be acknowledged and unpacked if we are to work toward racial justice.

But I think it is equally important to remember there was also fierce resistance to white supremacy on the streets of Charlottesville, and this too is part of who we are and always have been as a nation. Abolitionism is also old as America, and long before the civl war, outspoken white and black abolitionists were often murdered by white supremacists. Shortly after Christopher Columbus arrived on this continent, there were dissenters like Bartolomé de las Casas who decried European barbarism against Native Americans and advocated for universal human rights. Every shameful chapter of American injustice has been paralleled by a chapter in the tradition of struggling for equality and mutual liberation. Just like the lineage of white supremacy, this tradition of resistance is inside us and has shaped all Americans, whether we have embraced it or not. In the words of the last sane Republican president in this country, “Here in America we are descended in blood and in spirit from revolutionists and rebels - men and women who dare to dissent from accepted doctrine.” 

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New Record from Bryan!

Bryan Cahall has been writing and singing his powerful songs all over the country for years. His music has graced most of the events I've done over the past year. His songs cultivate the deep resilience that we need to not only rise to the challenge of our times, but to continue to find beauty and meaning in these struggles. But as many people as have been moved and inspired by Bryan's music, he has never actually recorded a professional album with any of his wonderful songs. Until now.  Bryan is finally getting into the recording studio this summer so that his songs can touch countless more people. But he needs support to be able to make it happen. Please watch the video on his Kickstarter page and donate whatever you can. Then send this on to the folks you know that understand how important art and music are to the struggle for a just and healthy world. 

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1011992869/bryan-cahalls-new-record-his-studio-debut/description  

 

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Statements from Harvard and Union

I'm sharing side by side two public statements recently released in response to Trump's ban on Muslim immigration and refugees.  The first is from Harvard president Drew Faust on behalf of the university. The second is from the Union Theological Seminary president and faculty.  They both unequivocally oppose Trump's fascist order, but they are strikingly different in tone, style, and substance.  Their differences reveal the vastly different value systems represented by the two schools: the technocratic paradigm of globalism, capitalism, and neoliberalism on one hand, and Christian-centered prophetic justice on the other hand.  To be clear, I applaud both schools for their responses, but I think the differences are too interesting to ignore.

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Reflections from #DisruptJ20 and the Women's March

Over the years that I’ve been giving speeches, workshops, and interviews, I have frequently said that the climate movement is going to have to get a lot tougher.  I usually say this in the context of acknowledging the hard truths of the catastrophic levels of climate change that are now inevitable, based on my assumption that it would take some time to toughen up enough to be ready to deal with difficult situations when they arrive.  My experience in DC last week protesting the inauguration of the Trump regime has caused me to question and deepen some of those assumptions about how to approach these challenging times.

On Friday, January 20th, I was part of the climate movement contingent that was blocking the Red Gate checkpoint for people entering the inauguration ceremonies.  The inauguration had a massive security barrier around the National Mall with several large, airport style screening areas that funneled people into the secured area.  As other social justice movements blocked other gates, our crew of about 400 climate activists blockaded the checkpoint marked Red Gate at 3rd St. and D St. NW.  Around 8am, we stretched across the street with several lines of people with linked arms and unfurled banners about climate justice.

It was immediately a chaotic scene.  Several Trump supporters who happened to be mixed up in our large group took a while to figure out what was going on.  Some turned around or tried to go around us. The police started escorting some Trump supporters over a small wall to our right and through the grass behind us, but this was a slow, single-file trickle compared to the wide flow of people for which the checkpoint was designed. 

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A Special Message from Tim

Despite the obvious threats we face as activists and as a civilization, I feel deeply grateful for where my life is at right now. In addition to my personal fulfillment, Im grateful for the ability to do meaningful work as an activist struggling for a better world. Nearly everything that defines my life today can be traced back to that fateful act of civil disobedience I took in 2008. And the main reason that this has been such a positive and joyful path was the resolute support I received from thousands of people across the country.

When I stuck my neck out, countless people stepped up to lend their support physically, morally, and financially. They gave me the courage to make the most of the opportunity I had, and they generously donated to make sure I had the resources to sustain the struggle. Many of you who are reading this were probably among the folks who gave your time, money, and emotional energy. 
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Now Im working with a group of activists who have also stuck their neck out in a bold way by shutting down all five of the tar sands pipelines flowing into the US from Canada. When folks in Standing Rock called for solidarity actions in October, this group went on the offensive against the pipeline companies that were assaulting our brothers and sisters. In addition to keeping about 700,000 gallons of tar sands oil in the ground, their peaceful and well planned action expanded the boundaries of climate resistance, knowing that they would face serious consequences. Eight of the people involved in that action are facing criminal charges more serious than I faced for disrupting the BLM oil and gas auction, and they could spend decades in prison for their nonviolent act.

My friend Ken Ward, with whom I started the Climate Disobedience Center, turned the valve in Washington to stop the flow of tar sands for the day. He will be the first of the group to go to trial, currently scheduled to begin on January 30th, 2017. Ken has been working to stop climate change for a long time. I started working with him after he used a lobster boat in 2013 to block a shipment of West Virginia coal from being delivered to Brayton Point coal fired power plant. He took that case to trial and had the amazing outcome of the prosecutor dropping the charges and expressing his solidarity with their action. Ken is now ready to take this case to trial, but he needs support.

The Climate Disobedience Center is spearheading support for Ken and all the other brave activists who are facing prosecution for this action. This could be a long journey through the courts and the prison system for Ken and the others, and we want to show them that they have committed and sustained support through it all. Thats why Im asking you to become a sustaining donor to the Climate Disobedience Center.

We have hired lawyers for them in four different states, so it will take some serious financial support to see them through the whole process. But I know from experience that if they end up serving time in prison, more than anything they will need to know that they are not alone and that their actions were not in vain. Your support will make a world of difference for them at the most difficult parts of their journey.

We are not naive about the political landscape we are entering, or about the likelihood that organizations like ours that foster dissent will face unprecedented repression. We could be shut down and our assets seized, but our only real asset is a network of relationships with people that are willing to support bold activism for climate justice. Thats why rather than asking for a big one time donation, Im asking you to become a sustaining monthly donorIf you are able to donate $100, sign up to be a sustaining donor at $10 a month instead. And then if they take us down, step up and keep supporting each other in doing the brave and loving work of defending a livable future.

Let's keep building a strong, loving resistance together,
-Tim

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The Morning After

I woke up this morning feeling like I got hit by a truck, which is at least partially due to the fact that I got hit by a truck last night. 

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When I was coming into Providence on the commuter rail around 9:45, things were already looking bad.  Trump was pulling ahead in Florida and North Carolina, and it was beginning to look like he could actually win.  I got on my bike and started riding home.  As I rode past a gas station on North Main St, a black Dodge Ram suddenly pulled out of the parking lot and into my right hip, sending me sprawling onto the pavement.  I hopped up and dragged the bike to the curb. I immediately sat down and leaned against a telephone pole while I figured out what just happened.

My shoulder hurt, as did my hip, but I felt right away that I was basically fine.  I never saw him coming until the last moment.  At the moment the truck hit me, I remember having a thought along the lines of, “Well, this is really happening. I figured this might happen at some point.” I was wearing a helmet and and lights in the front and the back, as well as a reflective leg cuff on my right ankle, but I found myself immediately thinking about the things I could have done differently. In a minute or two the adrenaline wore off, and I felt pretty calm.

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Breaking: Tar Sands Pipeline Shut Down

For Immediate Release: To avert climate catastrophe, activists shut down 5 pipelines bringing Tar Sands Oil into the U.S, in Solidarity with Standing Rock 
October 11th 2016

Press Contact: Afrin Sopariwala 408.598.7656

 

This morning, by 7:30 PST, 5 activists have successfully shut down 5 pipelines across the United States deliverying tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada in support of the call for International Days of Prayer and Action for Standing Rock. Activists employed manual safety valves, calling on President Obama to use emergency powers to keep the pipelines closed and mobilize for the extraordinary shift away from fossil fuels now required to avert catastrophe. 


192 nations have agreed that average global temperature should not increase 1.5C° above baseline in order to avert climate change cataclysm. This objective cannot be met, and any hope of keeping temperature below even 2.0°C depends on a total ban on new fossil fuel extractions and an immediate end to oil sands and coal use. In the absence of any political leadership or legal mechanisms for accomplishing this, these individuals feel duty bound to halt the extraction and combustion of fossil fuels by personal direct action. 


Ken Ward, 59, of Corbette OR said, "There is no plan of action, policy or strategy being advanced now by any political leader or environmental organization playing by the rules that does anything but acquiesce to ruin. Our only hope is to step outside polite conversation and put our bodies in the way. We must shut it down, starting with the most immediate threats -- oil sands fuels and coal."


Emily Johnston, 50, of Seattle WA said, "For years we’ve tried the legal, incremental, reasonable methods, and they haven’t been enough; without a radical shift in our relationship to Earth, all that we love will disappear. My fear of that possibility is far greater than my fear of jail. My love for the beauties of this world is far greater than my love of an easy life."


Annette Klapstein, 64, of Bainbridge Island, WA said "Like mothers everywhere, I act from a deep love that extends to all children and young people, and all living beings on this planet.  I have signed hundreds of petitions, testified at dozens of hearings, met with most of my political representatives at every level, to very little avail. I have come to believe that our current economic and political system is a death sentence to life on earth, and that I must do everything in my power to replace these systems with cooperative, just, equitable and love-centered ways of living together. This is my act of love."


Michael Foster, 52 of Seattle WA said, "I am here to generate action that wakes people up to the reality of what we are doing to life as we know it. All of our climate victories are meaningless if we don’t stop extracting oil, coal and gas now."


Leonard Higgins, 64, of Eugene, OR said, "Because of the climate change emergency, because governments and corporations have for decades increased fossil fuel extraction and carbon emissions when instead we must dramatically reduce carbon emissions; I am committed to the moral necessity of participating in nonviolent direct action to protect life." 


More words from the activists here: http://www.shutitdown.today/activist_bios


WHERE. Enbridge line 4 and 67, Leonard, MN;  TransCanada’s Keystone pipeline, Walhalla, ND;  Spectra Energy’s Express pipeline, Coal Banks Landing, MT; Kinder-Morgan’s Trans-Mountain pipeline, Anacortes, WA. 


WHO. Climate Direct Action is Emily Johnson, 50 and Michael Foster, 52, of Seattle, WA, Annette Klapstein, 64, of Bainbridge Island, WA, Ken Ward, 59, of Corbett, OR, and Leonard Higgins, 64, of Eugene, Oregon, with the support of Climate Disobedience Action Fund.


Livestream videos and photos available on our Facebook Page and www.shutitdown.today

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Court Appearance and Planning for Mass Grave 6 Trial

I appeared in court in West Roxbury, MA today with my #‎MassGrave6 codefendants Nora Collins, Karenna Gore, Dave Publow, Sophia Wilansky and Callista Womick.

All six of us continue to refuse a plea bargain and are eager to take our case to a jury trial. Our next court appearance date has been set for September 6th.

Personally, I'm excited for a jury trial in which everyday people can decide if our actions were justified after hearing all the evidence of our government's inability to stop Spectra's assault against both West Roxbury and our global climate. Every elected official representing West Roxbury opposed this project, but they have been unable to stop it, so this is a clear case where civil disobedience is necessary to protect our communities.

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