Idle No More is an indigenous-led movement, but it is not a movement exclusive to indigenous people. As Clayton Thomas-Muller, an organizer with Defenders of the Land and Idle No More, states, “We understand that the rise of the native rights-based strategic framework as an effective legal strategy supported by a social movement strategic framework is the last best effort not just for Indigenous People but for all Canadians and Americans to protect the commons … from the for-profit agenda of the neoliberal free market strategists that have taken over our governments … and indigenous peoples have been thrust into the forefront of global social movements not just because of our connection to the sacredness of Mother Earth and our traditional ecological knowledge and understanding of how to take care of the Earth as part of that sacred circle of life but also because our ancestors … made sure we had the legal instruments to be able to confront the enemies of today and that is what Idle No More is doing in the US and Canada and across the world where Indigenous People continue to live under occupation and oppression.”
Two Cascadia Forest Defenders are occupying a banner dropped from the golden statue on top of the capitol building in Salem, Oregon. The banner proclaims “KITZHABER’S LEGACY: PRIVATIZING THE ELLIOTT – CLEARCUTTING FOR PROFIT.” These forest defenders were moved to action after the proposal to privatize more than 2,700 acres of public land in the Elliott State Forest. This privatization scheme follows suit with Kitzhaber’s attempts to move 1.6 million acres of O&C land into the timber baron trust where Oregon’s people would have little say in the management of these forests. “We are protesting because we think Oregonians deserve to know that their public land is being sold to private industry.”
This has been a #FearlessSummer: three hot months of nonviolent resistance to the fossil fuel industry in all its incarnations, from coal plants in Appalachia to oil refineries in California and fracking wells in Pennsylvania. Born of a potent mix of hope and desperation, #FearlessSummer represents a larger shift in the climate movement’s tactics: away from big-name organizations and electoral politics and toward decentralized, high-stakes direct actions led by those most at risk.
The summer of 2013 has seen some of the largest, most vocal mass protests around the world since 2011. When sparks flew out of Turkey’s struggle to save Istanbul’s last standing green space in Gezi Park, other parts of the world took note: people exercised power through occupations, strikes and blockades from Frankfurt, Germany to Sanford, Florida and beyond. While the demonstrations have shaken many people out of complacency, institutional powers have also sat up. An escalated war on whistleblowers, Orwellian surveillance state tactics and diminishing civil liberties have stacked up. But after a fearless summer of mass mobilizations, the world’s protesters are resisting more now than ever before.
We’re not surprised, and neither are we scared. The police were obvious in their machismo and the quality of their observations was laughable at best. In terms of inter-agency communications, we know that the history of anti-colonial, anti-imperialist, anti-extraction resistance movements is permeated with government repression. We acknowledge surveillance as a far-cry from the type of repression that other groups and individuals experience, and stand in solidarity with those who have been incarcerated on fabricated charges (Leonard Peltier, just one of many) or have been physically attacked by the United States government with military force (the MOVE bombing, and countless other incidents). Together we will build a movement that can weather any storm, but it starts right now with acknowledging that the roots of our struggle go back before “climate justice” was ever a term.
Returning to Utah after spending six months organizing in New York City, I had heard a lot of anticipation about July’s tar sands action camp. But the most important difference between this camp and other activist gatherings was its specific emphasis on approaching climate justice through the lens of indigenous and frontline-impacted communities. As Henia Belalia, the director of the national climate justice organization Peaceful Uprising and one of the lead organizers of the camp, explained, “We have been prioritizing frontline voices — either people from the frontline extraction communities, or people in the state of Utah who are already breathing the worst air in the nation.”
Environmental activists chained themselves to heavy equipment Monday to protest improvements to a road they say will open Utah’s rugged Book Cliffs area to tar sands and oil shale development. The protesters also held banners decrying plans by U.S. Oil Sands to develop the nation’s first commercial tar sands mine near PR Springs on the border of Grand and Uintah counties. “We’re here today as climate justice organizers to protect the land and the water system from companies like U.S. Oil Sands as well as any other interests that might try to develop the oil shale and tar sands reserves on this land,” said protester Lauren Wood, who described herself as “a third-generation river runner and a seventh-generation Utahn.”
On July 26, 2013, 54 activists blockaded the downtown DC offices of Environmental Resources Management (ERM) to protest the firm’s role in reviewing the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline. ERM was hired to write the State Department’s Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. But ERM failed to disclose business ties to TransCanada, the firm building Keystone XL, and over a dozen companies–including Exxon, Shell, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Total and Syncrude–with operating stakes in the Alberta tar sands. ERM is also a member of the American Petroleum Institute, the largest U.S. trade association for the fossil fuel industry
This much we know: The fossil fuels that power our economy take their toll, on workers, on the environment, and on those who live near areas of extraction, transportation, processing, and burning—which, these days, is a whole lot of people. We have all the science we need to know that the effects will be long-term. We’re locking ourselves into a future of climate changes that are shaping up to be catastrophic. Already we’re seeing increasing frequency and severity of extreme weather, including heat waves, floods, drought, and hurricanes. Dozens of grassroots groups have organized under the banner of Fearless Summer and 350.org’s Summer Heat, to stage protests in their communities calling for a national movement against extreme energy, like fracking, tar sands mining and mountaintop removal mining.
our RAMPS and Mountain Justice folks took a plea deal today from the May 24 blockade of Alpha Natural Resources/Massey’s headquarters near Bristol, Tenn. A video from the action is here. Emily Gillespie, Junior Walk, Jocelyn Sawyer and Andy pleaded to blocking a roadway in exchange for the prosecutor dropping obstruction of justice. Each was sentenced to five days in jail plus a $100 fine and $116 in court costs. Additionally, the entire group was ordered to pay $3,328.77 in restitution to the city of Bristol.
With every new pipeline, compressor station and export terminal proposed, new communities throughout the country are experiencing for the first time what communities on the front lines of extraction have lived with for generations – the forced sacrifice of their water, air and land for the profit of the extraction industry. And just as they’ve done in the past, our government officials are rolling out the red carpet in the form of regulatory loopholes, tax-payer handouts, and all the media and PR cover money can buy. While disheartening, this latest wave of extreme energy development also provides brand new opportunities to strengthen our movement. By building active solidarity among our diverse communities we can coordinate national resistance against all parts of the extreme energy production line.
In the week since Obama’s pro-gas climate speech (disguised as a climate change speech) people across the nation have been protesting hydro-fracking. Methane gas (it is not “natural” gas, that is a PR term) is bad for climate change and the extreme extraction approach of hydro-fracking causes environmental risks for water, air and soil. This is one of the radical energy sources that is part of Obama’s, indeed the “bi-partisans” in Washington’s, “all of the above” energy strategy. It is time to end extreme extraction for radical energy and focus on building a clean sustainable energy economy that stops waste or energy, increases efficiency and conservation, and builds a solar, wind, geothermal, wave clean energy economy. It is time for a carbon-free/nuclear-free energy economy.
We have been urging people to get involved with Fearless Summer since it was first announced. We love the solidarity shown by multiple groups across the country concerned about extreme extraction for radical energy. Fearless Summer promised “epic actions” and in their first week they have delivered. They are showing that: All around the country, all around the world, people are rising up to resist extreme energy. Get involved. Create a clean energy economy that is carbon-free and nuclear-free.