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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.