Friday, March 1, 2013

Boo State Department!

I still have great faith in the Obama administration, I mean, he spoke more about climate change than anything else in his second inauguration speech, BUT, the State Department being all copacetic about the Keystone Pipeline, nuh uh.  That won't fly!

Obama's asked for massive citizen activism.  Let's give him more than he was imagining!  He'll be okay with it, I'm sure of it!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Pete Reacts to the Climate Organizations' Presidents' Day Protests: Can't You Find a Better Target Than Obama's White House?

Perhaps you’ve heard the news that the climate organizations this weekend are protesting outside the White House. 

To me, this is like whales protesting the Sea Shepherds!  I mean, the president has come out swinging in his second inaugural address and State of the Union in favor of sweeping climate action. 

Now, some will say they’re doing it for maximum visibility.  No!  They announced this in November, and probably were planning it way longer.  They just have an inability to change their plans.

A young environmentalist once told me it took six months to plan an action.  Bullshit!  Bill McKibben could get thousands of people to do something next weekend if he asked. 

And it’s not like, having asked all these people to come to DC, they have no other targets.  Why not go after the people who have been the biggest obstacles to doing something about the climate?  Go to those Koch brothers’ funded think tanks that are spreading all the disinformation!  You’re not gonna get on TV but, news flash, you’re not gonna get on TV at the White House either!  But at least you’ll be going after the real culprits.  

But if you really want to get on TV, start protesting the major networks, who still aren’t reporting on these huge things.  I mean, yesterday it came out that only a fifth of the sea ice remains from 1980 levels!  This is a gigantic story, with much more long term importance than anything, but the media isn’t reporting it.  So protest the networks, hammer away at the networks!  Maybe they’ll cover you, maybe they won’t, but, start targeting who’s really keeping climate awareness from happening!

The thing about these climate organizations that keeps them from being a movement is they still use “organization think”.  Organizations think it takes six months to plan an action.  Well it doesn’t!

And you’ve gotta be able to react to a changing political landscape.  Last summer all the extreme weather provided a great opportunity for the organizations of the "movement" to really make political hay in the coming elections, but they didn’t do a damn thing! 

Now you’ve got the president standing up to do something about this, and these organizations are still protesting him like nothing has happened over the last month.  Like he was Romney or something!  And if you look forward at what seems to be on the agenda for these organizations this year, it appears to be just more of the same!  They made all these plans of what to do this coming summer before Obama presented them with this golden opportunity.  So do they react to this golden opportunity?  No!  They’ve already made plans! 

What the hell?!

There’s a thing called rapid response and unless these organizations tap into the concept we’re not going to be able to give the president the citizen action that he needs.

Anyway, climate organizations: Throw away your game plans and react to the new reality.  It might just save the planet.

- Pete the Pissed-Off Polar Bear


Monday, February 11, 2013

Pete Highlights Nonviolent Method #3: Declarations by Organizations and Instituions

The third Method of Nonviolent Action that Gene Sharp writes about is Declarations by Organizations and Institutions.  This, too, could help the climate movement when President Obama pushes to get something done about it.

My favorite example came in Nazi-occupied Holland in 1943 when the Dutch Reformed Church AND the Roman Catholic Church came out with a letter that told their congregations it was their RELIGIOUS DUTY to do civil disobedience and to refuse to collaborate with the Nazis.

That drove Hitler’s Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels crazy.  He said it was an “exceptionally insolent letter”.

Oh, right, Goebbels!  It’s INSOLENT for churches not to want to help mass murderers.  “Where do these people who worship the Prince of Peace GET OFF not helping us exterminate people?!  They’re insolent, I tell you!”


Anyway, isn’t it also a RELIGIOUS DUTY to save God’s creation?  I mean, how can it not be?!  “Oh, thanks for creating all this, God, now we’re just gonna use it all up!”  God’s not gonna be cool with that.  Not the human God and not the great mama polar bear spirit, who’s breath of life colors the sky of the Arctic night.

Anyway, more and more churches are realizing they all have a religious duty to protect our planet from climate catastrophe.

In Nazi-occupied Norway, on one Sunday in 1941, one pastoral letter was read from almost every pulpit in the land, then copies of the letter were handed out and posted all over the place.  It would be great if, when the President really needs our help to pressure congress to do the right thing, a letter about saving the climate was read in houses of worship from coast to coast.

All kinds of organizations and institutions can do this, not just religious ones.     Trade groups, business and industry groups, they all should do it because they’re all in line to get hammered by climate change: artists’ unions, educational institutions, school districts, parents’ and students’ groups, athletic leagues and organizations, journalist groups, farm groups, unions, guilds, charities, advocacy groups, animal herds, wolf packs, parties of polar bears hunting in concert.  The list is as long as the sea ice used to be.  There’s all kinds of organizations and institutions, and all of them could help, and they ought to!

If you belong to any of ‘em, you should start workin’ it!  Don’t take no for an answer!  Keep pushing, get allies, get the organization’s leaders and membership to realize how urgent this is!

You can light the spark!

So that’s how declarations by organizations and institutions can work.  Next time we’ll talk about Method #4, Signed Public Statements.


Saturday, February 2, 2013

Nonviolent Method #2: Letters of Opposition or Support

Today we’re going to talk about Nonviolent Method #2, Letters of Opposition or Support, as outlined by Gene Sharp, in his seminal tome “The Methods of Nonviolent Action”, which you must buy or I will maul you.  (Nonviolently of course.)  

As lame as letters may sound, they can help the climate movement in lotsa ways. 

Let’s start with the letters of Support concept.  President Obama has indicated that at some point he’s gonna push forward initiatives designed to protect the climate.  If you don’t think he’ll be opposed, you’re living in an imaginary world of unicorns and fairies.  So, people need to make statements in support of him!   These can be private or public.  Suppose you live in a state with a senator who can reliably be counted on to vote against any action on climate change.  Well, parents, students, churches, and businesses, can send said senator letters or postcards of support for what the President is doing. The more the senator gets, the more pressure he’ll feel to do the right thing. 

There’s also Open Letters, which are generally published in newspapers, but popular blogs would work too.  Open letters can be from prominent citizens, like doctors groups, business groups, religious groups; or from pillars of society, like, I dunno, Tom Brokaw.

In Nazi-occupied Bulgaria the Union of Bulgarian Writers sent a letter to their government saying that an anti-Jewish law would “enslave part of the Bulgarian people and blemish Bulgaria’s modern history.”

Inaction on climate change is gonna completely tarnish America’s history.  God, history’s gonna HATE us for it!  Especially if civilization collapses, which it easily could.  (Course, then there’d be no one there to record history, but still….)  Anyway that could be what America’s remembered for, because America’s always been the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases – until just recently – and the biggest political obstacle to international action!  People’d be like: “Yeah, America…they did some cool things with freedom but then they went and destroyed the world!  Idiots.”

Or we could be remembered as the heroes and good guys that led the way to save the planet from catastrophe.  Our choice.

Another thing that would work is using the internet.  Famous people could post youtube messages in support of action on climate change. 

Got that?  I’m talkin’ to YOU Bieber! 

Also, groups could publish full-page ads to pressure network news organizations to do more stories about climate disruption and how serious it is.  Because that’s a HUGE part of the problem, too many people think climate change won’t be a big deal until way off future and then it won’t be all that bad.  Hello!  When the natural feedback loops kick in it will be HORRIBLE EVERYWHERE!  That could be triggered at any time!  But no one knows that cuz the news organizations aren’t doing their JOB of informing the public.

Alright, next installment we’ll talk about Declarations by Organizations and Institutions.  I can feel your excitement.


Friday, February 1, 2013

So at some point this year the President is going to ask us to step up to support his push to do something about climate DISRUPTION.  And we gotta be ready when that happens! 

Currently this movement follows only a couple leaders, and apparently  they don’t have the resources to drum up actions more than a couple times a year.  SO, we all need to use our own creativity, resources, and friends to step in and come up with our own Nonviolent Actions.   So you’re gonna need to know all the nonviolent weapons at your disposal!

In Gene Sharp’s book The Methods of Nonviolent Action, he outlines 198 different methods.
Here’s the list.  Good lord!  Those are just a bunch of words!  Just reading that list is kind of a useless exercise for nonviolent activists.

That’s why Sharp included 300 pages worth of examples of each and every one of them, which gives you a much more tangible feel of how these things work…and a lot of them could work for the climate movement!

Today, we’ll look at Method #1: Public Speeches.

Now, lots of times public speeches are lame!  The Serbian resistance movement Otpor decided right from the get-go that their movement wasn’t gonna do speeches! 

But they can work.  It depends on who’s giving the speech and when and where. 

For instance, if you stand on a street corner and give a speech about climate change, it’s not likely to be effective.

BUT, if you’re, President Obama, and you go on at length about climate change in your 2nd inauguration speech, that would qualify as surprising and therefore effective. 

I mean, everyone was like “Holy crap, he talked more about climate change than anything else!  My God, he really means to do something about it!”

It was also big news when mayor Bloomberg endorsed Obama after Hurricane Sandy hit his city.  It depended on the moment!

One of the guys Gene Sharp talks about was a Catholic Priest in Nazi Germany named Bernard Lictenberg who told his congregation that he wished to share the fate of the Jews who were being sent off to concentration camps.  That was brave.  And the Nazis did send him off to Dachau, and he did share their fate.  But thousands and thousands of people were dying, and he did the only thing he could.

Now, no minister in America is gonna get killed if they speak to their congregations for action on climate change, but a lot of people in those congregations do NOT believe in it and do NOT want to hear about it.  So it would be a great moral stand for a member of the clergy to do that.

Also, Republican politicians would be really brave and would have an eye-opening impact if they stood up in favor of action.  You know they can’t ALL believe climate change is just a hoax. 

I mean they got kids and grandkids and they need to do the right thing for them.  They don’t want those grandkids to one day say “Yeah, grampa was a senator but I don’t want to talk about him”
“Why not?”
“He was a climate denier dirtbag!” 
“Oh, that’s horrible!  Now America is a dried up wasteland”.
“I KNOW!  Stupid grandpa!”

Seriously that’s how they’re gonna be remembered.  (Polar bears already talk about ‘em like that.  It’s brutal!)

So public speeches can work depending on who gives the speech and when and where. 

Tomorrow we’ll talk about Method Number 2: Letters of Opposition or Support.

“Oh wow!  He’s gonna talk about correspondence!  Can’t wait!”

Well tune in anyway, we all need to learn all these methods.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

3 Days On: How the President's Climate Push is Shaping Up (and What it Means for Us)

I just read a couple articles that talk about how the president’s push to save the world from climate change is shaping up, three days after he unveiled it in the inauguration.

First of all, it’s going to be “deliberately paced”, and activists are being cautioned to not expect anything before the president is done dealing with immigration reform, gun control, and the budget.

Duh!  Though climate change is by far the most important and urgent issue, ultimately the political issues of the day will force Obama to deal with the budget first, then gun control (while people are still outraged about Sandy Hook), and immigration reform (because if it wasn’t for the immigration issue we’d have had Romney’s inauguration on Monday). I get it, we can’t expect action just yet, BUT we have to start pushing harder than ever so the president will have wind at his back.  And we know the other side will be screaming "Tyranny!" like they always do, but this time our side needs to strap on a pair and stand up to them.  Nonviolently, of course.

The biggest risk that faces the climate movement right now is that people will assume Obama’s gonna take care of it and we’ll go right back to doing nothing. 

But remember how he finished the speech:
You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country’s course.
“You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time – not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals.
“Let each of us now embrace, with solemn duty and awesome joy, what is our lasting birthright. With common effort and common purpose, with passion and dedication, let us answer the call of history, and carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom.”
Cool.  I'm reminded of something Charles Stuart Parnell, the great Irish Member of Parliament, once said: “The measure of the Land Bill next season will be the measure of your activity and energy this winter…It depends therefore, upon yourselves, and not upon any Commission or any Government.”

Same thing here guys.  If  you want nonexistent climate reforms, don’t engage yourself.  If you want Obama to pull off great reforms, make lots and lots of noise.  And if you want Obama to pull off the changes that are really necessary but seem impossible even to Obama, then learn how nonviolent struggle works and help us take it to a whole ‘nuther level!

We in the climate movement have been so marginalized and ignored for so long, but the president’s going to be giving us an outstanding platform.  Let’s be ready when that day comes!


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Pete Knows Nonviolent Struggle, Do You?

(I can't upload the video tonight!  Here's a link to tonight's video posted on youtube:

As a polar bear, I want to clear up some misconceptions about nonviolent struggle. 

People say to me “Pete!  You’re a hypocrite.  You claim to believe in nonviolence, and yet, you’re a carnivore!”

Indeed I am.  I eat seals, not salads.  But I’m am a disciplined advocate of Nonviolent Struggle. 

Perhaps I can explain best by illustrating what Nonviolent Struggle is not.

Nonviolent struggle has nothing to do with passivity.  We do not believe people should sit back and say “Gosh, I wish they’d do something about climate change!”  First of all, what’s this “They”?  WE.  We’re going to do something about climate change.  THEY are gonna follow. Capice?

Nonviolent action is a means of conflict where you conduct a struggle on your terms.  Those in power WANT you to use violence because they can easily trounce you with the police and the military.  But with nonviolence you emphasize your strengths, which puts them at a disadvantage.  You use people power, or, polar bear power.

Nonviolent struggle does not depend the assumption people are good.  And I can tell you right now people are not always good. Sometimes they’ve even been known to shoot polar bears just to put our heads on their walls!  Gawd!!!

Also, people think to do nonviolent struggle right, you need to be a saint, like Gandhi, or the Reverend Martin Luther King.  How many people are like THAT?!  Not bloody many!   We’ll be waitin’ forever for another guy like that to come around, and climate change needs to be dealt with NOW!

Take me, I’m a polar bear.  I sneak up on seals, maul them, and eat them.  Then with blood staining my face and dripping from my muzzle, I go out and try to seduce lady polar bears.  This disqualifies me from being Gandhi, who never ever mauled a seal or tried to seduce a lady polar bear!  But, hell!  My Arctic is melting!  I’m gonna do the smartest, fastest thing possible to stop that.  Just so happens that smartest, fastest thing is Nonviolent Struggle!

Here’s the main ingredient of nonviolent struggle:  Stubbornness.  “Massive stubbornness can have powerful political consequences”. Well, I, for one, am stubborn.  Once, I even fought off a pack of wolves who were trying to steal a narwhal kill.  You have any idea how hard it is to catch a narwhal?  It’s like wrestling a unicorn!  I wasn’t about to give that thing up.  And I’m not about to sit meekly by as my Arctic melts away and the rest of the world heats up to catastrophic levels, and neither should you!

No one knows how bad climate change’ll be, but if the permafrost melts it could trigger the sixth Mass Extinction Event EVER!  On the planet!  And the collapse of civilization.  Other than that, it’s not such a big deal!

Compromises and mild solutions aren’t gonna save us!  Nature is spinning out of control faster than anyone ever expected.  We need drastic solutions now! 

But the fossil fuel industry and their allies are gonna use every means at their disposal to keep things the way they are.  They don’t want to hurt their profit margins.  They don’t mind putting the entire world on the precipice, but nothing must touch their precious profit margins!

But ya know what?  As powerful as they are, they depend on lots and lots of people to supply them with lots and lots of things.  If we can make it uncool and unacceptable for those people to do that, we can strip away the power of the fossil fuel industry, and save the world from catastrophe.

Which, I would say, is even better than a nice, juicy narwhal.



Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Republicans Gonna Pressure Dem Senators, Let's Pressure BACK!

So the National Republican Senatorial Committee,  or NRSC, has wasted no time in trashing President Obama’s pledge to do something about climate disruption.

(I guess we’re supposed to call it that now, because the climate always changes, but it takes a lot to DISRUPT it, like humans are with your 761 metric tons of carbon emissions every single second!  So I’m going to try calling it climate DISRUPTION, even though it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.)

These NRSC dudes have decided that being against stopping the destruction of the world is a “winner”.


They’re gonna target Democratic Senators in four states: Louisiana, Alaska, Colorado, and Montana, because those states have a lot of fossil fuel sources, to see if they can scare the Senators from voting to save the climate.

Never mind that those four states have been clobbered by climate DISRUPTION already: Colorado’s been boiling hot and burning down, Louisiana has had it’s cities washed away by daily hurricanes (how many hurricanes are we gonna let those poor bastards get clobbered by?!), Alaska’s having all kinds of problems because the far North is heating up faster than anyone else, and don’t even get me started about Montana, Montana and Colorado both are having horrible problems with the bark beetles.

So, those Senators would be doing the right thing for their states by fighting climate DISRUPTION, and we gotta push them just as hard from our side to do the right thing!

And why stop there?!  The farm belt is getting clobbered by drought!  Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas have all been boiling hot for two years now and they all have Republican climate denier senators up for reelection in 2014.  These guys aren’t doing a very good job helping their states if they’re really just helping DESTROY their states!  Scientists are saying that by  2050 permanent dust bowls will extend from  California to Kansas!  Good lord, these people gotta start pushing their senators to do something about climate DISRUPTION, and we gotta help them!  We gotta go to those states and make it okay for people to want to do something about the climate!  

So, listen up NRSC, you’re not gonna gain Senators by fighting Obama on climate DISRUPTION, in fact, you’re gonna lose ‘em, NRSC losers!


Monday, January 21, 2013

Obama Intends to do Something About Climate Change! Climate Organizations Should Table What They're Doing and SEIZE THE MOMENT!

I’m all excited today, I don’t know if you saw President Obama’s inauguration speech, but, here’s  what he said about climate change. 

"We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries – we must claim its promise. That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure – our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared."

Wow!  That’s great.  So now we gotta make it easy for him to get all that done!  And it won’t be easy.  Republicans are gonna fight him all the way, but, the Republicans all come from states that are all gonna be effected by climate change, THIS YEAR!  So we should be able to get a lot of people to say “Ya know what, even though I’m a Republican, I agree that we gotta do something about this.”  Because that’s how we’re gonna get it DONE!  So, memo to the climate movement, whatever you were working on, set it aside!  We gotta do reality.  We got an opportunity here.  Let’s help the president get this done.  HE won’t be able to do it, unless WE create a groundswell.  So, hello, we’ll do it.  We’ll create a groundswell!


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Thursday, January 10, 2013


Apologies for not posting today. I'm launching into something that's VERY time-consuming and REALLY ambitious, but I hope completely worth it, considering the intent of this blog is to help SAVE THE WORLD.  Check in mid-day Friday!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Pete the Pissed-Off Polar Bear Chimes in on Nonviolent Openness vs. Secrecy

So I wanted to talk about Openness and Secrecy in Nonviolent Struggle. 

It basically boils down to this: Openness is smart, secrecy is dumb.  

Let me elaborate.

First of all, anything you write in an email, or say on the telephone, might be read by
government agents.  George W. Bush made sure of this with his so-called Patriot Act. 
 “Oh look at me I’m a patriot!  You now have no privacy, just like the founders intended!” 
That naked picture you sent to your boyfriend?  It’s made the rounds at Langley.

Also, if you really were to become a concern to anyone really powerful, like, say, the
richest companies in the history of the world, they would soon have people joining your
organization.  “Hello!  I want to help!  I have money, what would you do to the richest
company on earth if you could get away with it?  Shoot for the moon, dude!  Let’s do
something illegal.  Hee hee hee!  You can trust me, honest!”

So, you should expect spies.  If you’ve got secrets, then everyone would get all paranoid! 
“Is it you?  Are you the mole?”  “I think it’s him!”  “I think it’s you!”  “I trusted you, ratfink!” 
This is no way to run a popular uprising!  Just be open and honest, “Here’s what we’re
 doing?  Ya hear me, Koch Brothers?”  “Hey Glenn Beck, guess what we’re gonna do!”

Now of course if you lived in, say, Kas-beck-i-stan, you’d need to be secret or your
opponents would kill you!  But the U.S. and Canada, are free!  If you’re a human
anyway.  There are some places polar bears can’t go or they’d shoot us with
tranquilizer darts, which is worse than it sounds.  You don’t just fall asleep, when you’re
out they do anal probes and stuff like that, or put big collars on you.  Try sneaking up on
a seal with a big black collar around your neck! 

Anyway, here no one’s gonna kill you unless some crazy Tea Party dude with an arsenal
decides to take matters into his own hands, but that would really make their side look bad
so they’ll try and discourage that, prob’ly anyway.  It’s hard to figure out that kind of

Another thing that’s dumb about secrecy is only the inner circle knows what’s going on
next.  We Pissed-off Polar Bears wanted to help the climate movement with their protests
during the elections last year.  Turned out they had no protests planned.  They’re very
opaque, they don’t do a good job of laying out their strategy, so you don’t know if they
have it handled or not.  These are important things to know!
If you want a lot of people to help you demonstrate, you should be really visible!

The point is, Nonviolent struggle is based on bravery and discipline.  When you’re open
about what you’re doing, you become free from the fear of arrest.

In the Indian Independence Jawaharlal Nehru or whatever his name was, I actually
know a walrus named Jawalrus Nehru, anyway this guy Nehru said that once they got rid
of secrecy their feelings of oppression and frustration melted away.  They actually felt
sorry for the guys who were spying on them because they had no secrets to discover.

This movement needs to get rid of it’s feelings of frustration and start having fun!  Ya 
hear that ExxonMobil!  The party’s over!  Gruuumph!  More tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

What to Think About While Organizing Organizations

           Day 9 of my analysis of Gene Sharp’s The Politics of Nonviolent Action, Part Three: The Dynamics of Nonviolent Struggle, applied to the climate movement. Reading Sharp’s books are a prerequisite for anyone who is serious about stopping climate change. Please go to Dr. Sharp’s website, buy these books, and study them.

I have some experience with both well-run and poorly run climate organizations.

A little more than a year ago I was working for a climate organization where nothing worked.  Meetings and conferences never went off as planned, nothing got done on time, and no one was in the loop about what the executive director’s agenda was.  I certainly wasn’t, and there weren’t that many of us.

On the other hand, in April of 2011 I attended the PowerShift conference in D.C.  It was the largest organizer training in history, and it was very well-organized.  Over the course of a weekend, people were able to meet other activists from their own regions, learn effective organizing techniques, brainstorm on solutions, and also have fun!  (The only thing they don’t do right is they don’t hold their conventions in election years, which would provide a great springboard for a summer of organizing and activism.  Instead, over a year passes between the conference and the next campaign season, by which time the conference is a distant memory and attendees have scattered to the winds.)

As PowerShift demonstrated, a good organization provides a framework to make people work more effectively.  Bad organization provides no framework and people end up leaving. 

Last Sunday 60 Minutes did an excellent segment on  IDEO’s David Kelly, who’s design company builds on the ideas of many people.  It could be a great model for a really powerful climate movement.  The movement needs to be creative and democratic, it needs to be outspoken and not secretive about it’s strategies, it needs to encourage initiative, and must have unwavering commitment to nonviolent principles.

That’s what PowerShift’s convention did.  Their framework created a place for ideas to form and grow.  Otpor did it in Serbia, allowing complete freedom for activists so long as they kept the focus on ending Milosevic’s reign and as long as it was nonviolent.  Earth Guardians is attempting to provide the creative structure for youth environmental activists in the U.S. and abroad.

But time and thought need to go into the organizational framework so that the organization will easily grow in the right direction.

In Waging Nonviolent Struggle, Sharp shows four categories where organization is necessary:

-       “The public: publicizing the facts and grievances; promoting sympathy; disseminating solid information about the nature and requirements of nonviolent struggle."

This is huge for us, not just publicizing how serious of a crisis climate change is, but also how effective nonviolent struggle can be!

-       "The volunteers: recruiting; training and incorporating participants into the movement; promoting commitment."

The CANVAS website gives more details on how to recruit and train.  Otpor had an action, recruit, train triangle, where street actions doubled as recruitment opportunities.  The new recruits would then be trained, and would often themselves be doing the next street actions.

-       "The leadership: preparing replacements for arrested leaders of the movement; setting the procedures for further selection of leadership; supplying information to the leaders."

Again, I personally think this movement would be stronger with many leaders empowered to lead fun groups in their towns.  It would make it very hard for the fossil fuel industry to effectively combat us.

-      "The movement in general: supporting morale and discipline; preparing participants to act without leaders in times of severe repression; maintaining communications.”

A big thing we need is simple morale, a belief that we can indeed save the day before it's too late.

In The Politics of Nonviolent Action, Sharp concludes: “Strong commitment of the volunteers to participation and adherence to the campaign’s plans and standards remain crucial...In preparing the volunteers and the general population for the struggle, extreme attention must be given to three closely related qualities of this technique: fearlessness, nonviolence, and…openness or nonsecrecy.”


Please muster up the $34.85 (plus shipping) and purchase The Politics of Nonviolent Action.  You can order it HERE.

Monday, January 7, 2013

We’ve Got 40 Million Supporters, Let’s Turn Them Into Quality Actionists

           Day 8 of my analysis of Gene Sharp’s The Politics of Nonviolent Action, Part Three: The Dynamics of Nonviolent Struggle, applied to the climate movement. Reading Sharp’s books are a prerequisite for anyone who is serious about stopping climate change. Please go to Dr. Sharp’s website, buy these books, and study them.

Anybody see Moyers and Company Friday night?  His guest was Anthony Leiserowitz from the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication.  In a fantastic interview, Leiserowitz identified “six Americas”, each with markedly different perceptions of global warming.   I want to look at one of those groups. 

“The first group that we’ve identified is a group we call alarmed.” Leiserowitz said.  “It’s about 16 percent of the public.  These are people who think it’s happening, it’s human caused, that it’s a serious and urgent problem and they’re really eager to get on with the solutions.

“But they don’t know what those solutions are.  They don’t know what they can do individually and they don’t know what we can do collectively as a society to deal with it…[they] feel relatively isolated and alone.  They say, ‘I feel this way, some of my friends and family feel this strongly.’  But they have no sense that they are part of over 40 million Americans that feel just as strongly as they do.”

“They’ve never been properly organized, mobilized and directed to demand change…that’s what the political system ultimately responds to.  If you basically have a vacuum of people who are demanding change…I mean, there are of course many great organizations that have been advocating for change for a long time.  But it hasn’t been a broad based citizens movement demanding change.  In that situation a relatively small but well-funded and vocal community that says no can absolutely win the day.”

So the good news is there are 40 million of us!  If this movement can stand up as one with 40 million people, we’ll be able to save the world.  The bad news is the movement’s leaders haven’t been doing it right.  We have to change that, and we have to demand that these organizations actually do it right, or they don’t deserve our time or our money.

This crisis cannot be seen as just another political cause.  The organizations of the movement, when they got started, must have looked around at the political landscape and decided to model their strategies after what all the other advocacy groups were doing.  This wasn’t an inherently bad idea, but after a couple decades now with no results I’d say it’s time to try something else.

Enter Nonviolent Struggle.  If we are committed to doing it right, and really learn how it works, we can do great things here.

Gene Sharp makes the case that, as much as you need to have many activists to make noncooperation effective, nothing is more important than the maintenance of high quality in those activists.  “Quality would be contagious and multiply; the number of nonviolent actionists enrolled under Gandhi’s leadership in South Africa, for example, rose from sixteen to sixty thousand.  In contrast, undisciplined numbers would fade away…Even if it were possible for a single individual or a few nonviolent actionists by their own actions to achieve the desired change, it would be wiser, Gandhi felt, for them to use their abilities to educate the masses of the people in the means by which they themselves could right their wrongs…Large numbers not able to maintain the nonviolent discipline, the fearlessness, and other necessary standards of behavior could only weaken the movement, but large numbers capable of maintaining the necessary standards and discipline become ‘irresistable’.”

So if you’re one of the 40 million, understand that there is indeed hope and we can do this.  But also understand that the climate movement as we’ve known it hasn’t known how to go about it.  Don’t just assume they’ll be able to pull this off.  Instead, educate yourself first, become knowledgeable about nonviolent struggle and devoted to its principles.  Become yourself a “quality” actionist, and demand it of others.  That way you’ll much better able to help whichever group you engage with, or you’ll be able to lead your own group in a way that will be more effective than what this movement has yet seen.

It all starts with you buying Gene Sharp’s books and reading them.


Please muster up the $34.85 (plus shipping) and purchase The Politics of Nonviolent Action.  You can order it HERE.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Need for a Phased Strategy and Cause Consciousness

        Day 6 of my analysis of Gene Sharp’s The Politics of Nonviolent Action, Part Three: The Dynamics of Nonviolent Struggle, applied to the climate movement. Reading Sharp’s books are a prerequisite for anyone who is serious about stopping climate change. Please go to Dr. Sharp’s website, buy these books, and study them.

Sharp:  “Nonviolent action…participants are able to advance their cause in proportion to the degree that the opponent’s desire and ability to maintain the objectionable policy are weakened, and that the nonviolent group is able to generate the will and power to give it the internal strength  to effect the change.  The skillful choice of the point of attack is important in this connection.”

         We Pissed-Off Polar Bears saw the 2012 election, on the heels of this disastrously hot summer, as a breathtaking opportunity to get a lot of people talking about climate change and demanding action.  We considered an international treaty to be the best, fastest framework for change (still do), so we wanted to elect as many climate-friendly senators as possible to ratify such a treaty.  The rest of the movement did not show up for the fall campaigns at all, so our strategic thinking was for naught.

         Bill McKibben, in fact, started his Do the Math campaign the day after the election.  As best as I can tell, the divestment campaign he’s calling for are designed to hurt industry’s bottom line (although some doubt that it will have that effect), and to attack a key fossil fuel weakness: they’re jeopardizing young people’s entire futures.  This could, in fact, weaken industry’s ability to maintain the objectionable policy by rousing a lot of protest on campuses across the country.

Sharp:  “The planners choose the point of attack…which symbolizes the “evil” which is least defensible by the opponent and which is capable of arousing the greatest strength against it.  Success in such limited campaigns will in turn increase the self-confidence of the actionists and their ability to move effectively toward the fuller achievement of their larger objectives as they gain experience.”

         We Pissed-Off Polar Bears had a “staged campaign” in mind, but we couldn’t get past the first hurdle, getting the movement on it’s feet, so we’re back to square one:  How to get a movement up and at ‘em.  Whether McKibben or Gore or any other organization in the movement has a staged campaign in mind is unknown to me.  It would actually help the movement quite a bit if they could come out with an overall plan.  I, for one, am not comfortable just assuming that they are with the fate of the world at stake.  They haven’t had one before now, why should we assume they’ve got one now?

Sharp:  “It is necessary to publicize the facts, the issues and the arguments advanced by the nonviolent group…The need for such a period of motivational preparation has been long recognized as important to a well-supported and sustained nonviolent movement.  For example, in 1769, in correspondence with George Washington…his neighbor James Mason argued it would be necessary to publish ‘something…to warn the people of the impending danger and to induce them to the more readily and cheerfully to concur in the proper measures to avert it.'”

         Here’s where Bill McKibben and Al Gore have done a better job than anyone else in the movement.  Still, though, as a society we’re a long way away from completely coming to grips with how bad climate change could be. It’s very important that this movement does a much better job of publicizing the worst-case scenarios, which most Americans are completely unaware of (because they get no air-play), and which happen to be highly plausible, by the way.

Sharp:  “Inform the public in general of the grievances, encouraging people to feel that nonviolent action is needed to correct them, and finally to enlisting participants for the coming struggle.  A very important part of this activity is aimed at arousing the feeling that something can and ought to be done.”

         People who think that the president will handle it don’t understand how little political will there is to implement something on a scale that will be necessary to really make a dent in the advance of climate change. Nonviolent action, in the streets on a massive scale, is the only thing that will create that kind of political will. 

Sharp:  “A properly conducted journal can be of immense help in such a campaign…’Cause consciousness’ must be placed on quality rather than speed or quantity, and strict efforts must be made to avoid exaggerations, distortions, or falsehoods.  Neither should feelings of hatred or intolerance be aroused…’Many people are only looking for an excuse not to support the movement.’”

         With the need for action on climate change being so urgent, it’s tempting not to put anything before speed, but nonviolent action is most effective because it can work so quickly.  Remember what Ivan Marovic of Otpor said, “If it is carefully planned, by the time they start, everything is over in a matter of weeks”.  


Please muster up the $34.85 (plus shipping) and purchase The Politics of Nonviolent Action.  You can order it HERE.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Homework for a Movement: Know the Science, Know the Worst-Case Scenarios, and Know Your Demands

         Day 5 of my analysis of Gene Sharp’s The Politics of Nonviolent Action, Part Three: The Dynamics of Nonviolent Struggle, applied to the climate movement. Reading Sharp’s books are a prerequisite for anyone who is serious about stopping climate change. Please go to Dr. Sharp’s website, buy these books, and study them.

Sharp:  “Careful planning and preparations are essential.  Gandhi’s careful attention to detail in laying plans for satyagraha and in solving organizational problems has been acknowledged as one of the reasons for his effectiveness.”

         Satyagraha was what he preferred to call his particular brand on nonviolence, instead of passive resistance.  “Passive resistance,” he wrote, “does not necessarily involve complete adherence to truth under every circumstance. Therefore it is different from satyagraha in three essentials: Satyagraha is a weapon of the strong; it admits of no violence under any circumstance whatsoever; and it ever insists upon truth. I think I have now made the distinction perfectly clear."

Sharp:  “Few things can weaken such a movement as much as the revelation that the actionists did not really know the facts nor have accurate information on the situation they were complaining about.”

         This has become the prized tactic of the climate deniers.   As long as there is a shred of doubt about what’s causing climate change, whether it’s responsible for any particular weather event, or how bad global warming can be, they will throw that in the activists’ faces to make us look bad.  It’s a real quandary for us because no one knows how bad climate change will be or when exactly it will really kick in, there are too many variables for anyone to know.

         The activist must be as informed as she can be (the climateprogress website has a good overview here), but she also can’t let the scientific uncertainties keep her from being active.  That’s what they want us do to.  To me, we need to know the worst-case scenarios and stick resolutely to them.  Because, again, no one knows. 

The Japanese built the Fukushima reactor to withstand an 8.3 earthquake, the one that hit was 9.0.  The sea walls were built to hold back 30 feet of water, but the quake dropped coastal sea level by 6 feet, so the walls were too short.  If you don’t prepare for the worst-case scenario, nature will overwhelm you in a hurry.

         So, admit that no one knows, but be adamant that its foolish to underestimate just how bad climate change can be.

Sharp:  “After the information has been gathered by investigation or other means, the widest possible publicity is to be given to the facts of the case, the grievances, and the aims of the nonviolent group.”

         Quick, what exactly is the worst-case scenario for climate change?  When could it kick in?  We need to put together and widely distribute a look at those worst-case scenarios.  Until we do, no one will understand what we’re so worked up about.

Sharp:  “Representatives of the nonviolent group will make clear their minimum demands…Once the demands are set, it is generally recommended that they be kept unchanged during the struggle.”

         I think the movement needs to agree to a uniform set of demands, so we all know exactly what we’re demanding.  James Hansen, the scientist with longest-running visibility about climate change, has recommended a world-wide six percent reduction of CO2 each and every year.  Sounds good.  He also says we need to initiate massive campaigns to re-forest the planet and plant new grasslands, so that needs to be a part of it too.  But it’s tough to find his prescription easily online.  It shouldn’t be.  It mustn’t be if we’re going to do this.  What are we demanding of our president and world leaders?  This should be easy for every activist to find.

        And there can’t be any wiggle room here.  In his excellent book Eaarth, Bill McKibben talks about the oft-cited notion that "you can’t let perfect be the enemy of good”, then makes the point that when it comes to solving the climate catastrophe, perfect is the only solution that will be strong enough to save us.

Please muster up the $34.85 (plus shipping) and purchase The Politics of Nonviolent Action.  You can order it HERE.

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Climate Movement, In Order to Lead, You’ve GOT to Read!

         Day 4 of my analysis of Gene Sharp’s The Politics of Nonviolent Action, Part Three: The Dynamics of Nonviolent Struggle, applied to the climate movement. Reading Sharp’s books are a prerequisite for anyone who is serious about stopping climate change. Please go to Dr. Sharp’s website, buy these books, and study them.

         Today we’re looking at “Leadership in Nonviolent Struggle”.  The book we’ve been examining came out in 1973,  For this topic I want to start by skipping ahead to another Sharp masterwork, Waging Nonviolent Struggle, which came out 32 years later, in 2005.  I feel his analysis of the requirements of leadership had developed by over time, and the updated version is a little more appropriate to the needs of the climate movement.

Sharp:  “Leaders need to become experts on nonviolent struggle.  Knowledge about nonviolent struggle also needs to be spread widely.  Greater knowledge and understanding of the nonviolent technique throughout the population will increase the difficulty for the opponents to “behead” the movement by imprisoning or killing the leaders.  Leaders serve as spokespeople and offer, organize, and can implement solutions to problems.  Leadership can be by group, committee, individual, or a combination of these.”

         A big reason why I’m blogging everyday about Sharp is I’m convinced that the climate movement needs him.  The leaders of the climate movement, and every impassioned activist, need to immerse themselves in his books.  I’m hoping that, by blogging on that, it will resonate with people, or at least impress upon someone with a louder megaphone than my own that this needs to be universally studied.

         The leaders of the movement need to push their followers to read this stuff too.  Everyone needs to know this!  We want a democratic movement, right?  Our movement will be so much more effective if we’re a multi-headed hydra popping up here, there and everywhere.  If people read these books, then our leaders need not worry about people doing something to embarrass the movement.  That won’t happen if people know how nonviolent action works.  It’s frustrating for me, knowing that the leaders of the movement aren’t taking the time to study this.  They could be so much more dynamic and effective!

         Okay, back to The Dynamics of Nonviolent Action.

Sharp:  “Socially significant nonviolent action does not just happen,,,Frustration at the blocking of conventional channels of change, or at least their uselessness in certain situations, may finally have led people to think of unorthodox ways of acting.  The situation itself may have become unbearable or threatening, thus requiring radical action…An example of nonviolent action in some other place or time may suddenly be seen as relevant.”

         Orthodox methods to get action on climate change have gone nowhere, so we do need to take it to another level.   Why not study movements that have accomplished the impossible?

         But you really need to immerse yourself in the stuff.  Reading a list of the 198 methods Sharp has identified has all the impact of a really long grocery list.  But reading his 326 page book that describes those methods in detail is inspiring (The Politics of Nonviolent Action, Part Two: The Methods of Nonviolent Action). 

         Sharp also has pointed out that you can’t do this with one guy who’s an expert on nonviolence, another who’s an expert on climate science, etc.  The leaders all need to be experts on all of it.  There’s no easy way out. But, hey, it’s to save the world.  Qualify yourself to help lead!  Buy and read the books. 


Please muster up the $34.85 (plus shipping) and purchase The Politics of Nonviolent Action.  You can order it HERE.