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Lately, our 350 network has been breaking a lot of rules.
Last Sunday, here in the US, we marched right into the place where the fossil fuel industry didn’t want us — into the Ohio state capitol, for a “people’s assembly” in the middle of the state-house, to protest the dangerous practice of fracking. It was a beautiful sight to behold: 1000 passionate activists bravely standing up for their rights to free assembly, clean water, and a future worth fighting for.
And on Thursday we marched right out of the place that we were supposed to be: the Rio Earth Summit in Brazil. World leaders had gathered yet again to forge a plan to address our planetary challenges – but they ended up failing us by producing another weak, non-binding agreement. So when youth leaders asked us to join a walk-out in protest of the summit’s disappointing outcomes, we were proud to join them — even if that meant breaking the UN’s rules.
The point is, if we play by the rules that corporations have set for our political life, we’re going to lose. Corporate polluters channelled $350,000 to Ohio’s governor to make sure he was pushing fracking, and they made sure that the official text in Rio was a mush of weasel words and toothless promises.
So we’re going to have to find the places we can have a people-powered edge. Some of those places will be in the streets, of course — but we’ll also be ramping up our work on the web, where hundreds of thousands of people around the world launched a “Twitter Storm” on fossil fuel subsidies last week. Those subsidies ended up being one of the issues that drew the most attention at Rio – meaning that hundreds of thousands of people around the world managed to take this arcane topic and thrust it into the global spotlight. In the weeks ahead, we’ll continue to ramp up the pressure on fossil fuel subsidies with a sustained, strategic campaign in key areas around the world.
Governments failed us in Rio — and if we don’t shake things up, there’s no reason to think that they are likely to change. Fortunately for the planet, this movement already has some big plans under way.
In India and in South Africa, 350 leaders and allies are developing plans for national level mobilization to shift development plans more towards low carbon solutions. In the US state of Texas, some of our friends are preparing a bold action called the Tar Sands Blockade. They’re planning a very direct action that will literally stand in the way of the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline.
And all around the world local groups continue to pop up in new places — 350 Tehran is the newest group up on the map! — and climate leadership workshops continue to train and strengthen our network of activists and organizers building this movement. In fact, just now we’re starting to talk with youth allies around the world about possibly organizing a mass workshop — a global series of movement trainings in the months ahead. Our movement is already achieving great things, but we know we need to step it up even further.
It’s not always easy to be doing such hard work in trying times. But if we have a hope to beat this crisis, it’s in our collective bravery and strength.
Bill McKibben for the 350.org Team