Opinion: 350 Is Not a Boogie Man

1 Aug

Moderator’s note: Due to troubling issues raised by activists concerning the premises and inaccuracies in “Are Mainstream Environmental Groups Keeping Racism Alive?,” we published the following story on the EF! Newswire. The first post was originally published to spark discussion about and support for environmental justice campaigns that have always been isolated from the mainstream movement. It was not intended as an EF! attack on 350.org, although we have critiqued 350 since 2009, when we published an article clarifying our stance that 350 ppm is too high.

There is a critique of the article mentioned above here, which raises a number of serious problems; however, it does not address the crises of environmental justice which are too often white washed in the media frenzies over high-publicity, well-funded actions. Again, this is not sour grapes, it’s just the way that capitalism functions to isolate the poor and attract the public gaze to those closest to the people in power. The article’s untruths obviously triggered a defensive reaction—particularly from 350 supporters, although the Sierra Club and other groups were also mentioned—but this reaction, in itself, which totally ignored the points the article made about environmental justice, illustrate the need for the environmental and radical ecology movements to check our privilege and recognize that each one of us is equally important.

No cause is more important than the other in the big picture of deep ecology—if we do not all walk our intertwined paths to decolonization and liberation together, then we are only a bigger part of the oppressive machine. While we should not spread falsities about mainstream, well-funded movements, we should also refrain from dismissive quips telling those who care about the poor to go “join the marxist-leninists,” as the following “response” piece appears to do. Obviously, our movement needs to work on these issues: classism, racism, and all forms of oppression. But we need to do that inclusively, without the kind of defensiveness that has prevailed in this case.

So we are posting the following in the spirit of debate.

350 Is Not a Boogie Man

Tar Sands Blockade Road Show – Austin, TX 7/7/2012

Tar Sands Blockade Road Show – Austin, TX 7/7/2012

Cross Posted from ThinkingTSB

Over the past year I have gotten the chance to work with many great activists in Texas with the Tar Sands Blockade. As a founding member of the Tar Sands Blockade, I feel a need to break my usual public silence and respond to the recent article by Kat Stevens titled ‘Are Mainstream Environmental Groups Keeping Racism Alive?’ I am not a spokesperson for Tar Sands Blockade and only wish to contribute an understanding of the diverse opinions within our movement.

The short answer is yes, mainstream environmental groups are locked into the same institutional forces as the rest of our imperialist, racist and patriarchal society. That understanding of the root of the problem and taking action to confront it is supposedly what determines if someone is a ‘radical’ or not. But as many of us know, some of these same oppressive behaviors continue even within ‘radical’ communities including examples like Tar Sands Blockade, Occupy, Earth First!, Deep Green Resistance and most left-inspired organizations or associations.

I want a movement that grows and looks for more allies. If we can work within our own communities to confront oppressive behavior in a way that encourages reconciliation and growth, we should probably do the same with organizers for NGOs that we encounter during campaigns. Sorry if this isn’t revolutionary enough but I meet people where they are at and encourage them to think in terms of direct action and self-empowerment. I don’t write blogs about them to score easy points throwing rocks at windows.

I want it to be very clear that the early stages of the Tar Sands Blockade in Texas would not have been nearly as successful without the help of Greenpeace, 350.org, Rising Tide, Earth First! and Occupy. All contributed in different ways and made the first major action at Middle Earth (Winnsboro Tree Village) possible. As a founder of Tar Sands Blockade, I believe without 350.org the entire campaign would have looked totally different, smaller, and most likely would not have had any large impact on climate politics or the movement as a whole.

Tar Sands Blockade had two goals:

  1. Stop the southern section of the Keystone XL.
  2. Move big NGO’s closer to direct action tactics and a radical analysis.

On goal number two, it can be argued we have made great strides towards this. After over a century of policy, the Sierra Club participated in a civil disobedience action locking their higher ups to the White House Gate. A much better example is the recent action in Maine blockading a fracked oil rail line. The local chapter of 350 Maine worked with Earth First!ers and had a successful action that became even more important a few weeks later. 350 and Earth First! working together, oh my! And how about Rising Tide Portland organizing a beautiful Summer Heat action (350′s summer campaign), while the FBI comes down on them at the same time? Is it bad that these actions happened?

We don’t need this drama in our movement. Join the marxists-leninists if that’s your thing. You’re article has done nothing to confront institutional racism in the real world, and has only managed to stir up controversy with no goal in mind. Don’t blame NGO’s for not getting radical messages heard. If the radical point of view is not getting out there, its because we are not organizing effectively. It’s not 350.org and Greenpeace’s fault.

A few points:

  1. Six-figure salaries? That’s just ridiculous and bullshit. Sorry for the strong language, but if you’re trying to make a good argument, don’t just straight up pull numbers out of your ass.
  2. You make no argument why divestment is a totally ineffective strategy and link to an article that is written by another blogger that makes no references. The only point they made is the private sector will be thrilled to buy up divested public sector shares. That’s not a convincing point and you use it to bash all NGO divestment organizing. Look at your history. Divestment campaigns have worked in the past. If you want to disagree, don’t link to another radical blogger that doesn’t back up what they say with facts. Using your logic, the entire SHAC campaign was worthless and ineffective because they dared to use pressure to get large funds to divest.

I end by quoting a post by another Earth First! Journal Collective member:

Even if it annoys you, can you try not to be a prick about it? “

“I want civil disobedience to become more popular and widely practiced, even if it annoys me. Why? Because these actions make space for growing broader support of direct action in general, if we engage them as such.”

Signed,

Tang

EDIT: I would also like to include a link to this letter of solidarity with the Tar Sands Blockade signed by 50 organizations including Sierra Club, CREDO Action, 350.org, Rainforest Action Network, Energy Action Coalition, Indigenous Environmental Network, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Forest Ethics and many, many more.

14 Responses to “Opinion: 350 Is Not a Boogie Man”

  1. None of your damn buisness August 1, 2013 at 11:51 am #

    This shit is sooo RACIST. TALK ABOUT RACISM, Tang! This was already removed from the TSB Facebook page for being racist yesterday. Where are the editors?!!? Tang has created his own wordpress account just so he can propagate this shit on his own. He hasn’t gone through the efforts to to go through an editor and have this garbage article published on the web and haven’t other people link it to the blogs. HE’S DOING IT HIMSELF. The author that he’s commenting on was able to do that. WHY NOT YOU TANG!

    WHERE ARE THE EDITORS!?!? TAKE THIS SHIT DOWN!!!!

    • Ben Wiley August 1, 2013 at 1:27 pm #

      I mean it would have been nice if you could have explained how it’s being racist.. at least the first article sort of gave reasons.

      • Ben Wiley August 1, 2013 at 1:29 pm #

        I want to retract my implicit dismissal of the first article’s critique; I maintain that it was an important, but flawed criticism.

      • None of your damn business August 1, 2013 at 7:07 pm #

        I apologize for the confusion, Ben. I’m not going to write about all the histories surrounding this person. Tangs response is not a response to racism. It is a defense of people that work at 350.org and a slam on the author.

        My definition of Systemic Racism, which includes but is broader that Institutional Racism, is racism that actively creates and maintains privileges, superiority, and power of one race (with American Racism, white folks) through bureaucracies, cultural norms, and negligence of people outside of the privileged race.

        What Tang has done is slam the article, and the author of it. I feel he makes points that are sensationalized tangents (see “We don’t need this drama…” till the end) and is attempting to push the conversation away from racism and environmental justice to defense of the NGO’s, his friends that work for them, and himself by means of discrediting authors choices and making long,weak arguments about how he’s not satisfied with her argument (like it’s the author’s job to satisfy everyone).

        This is the most common retaliation of White Men who don’t understand racism/sexism/classism and how it effects people is to take it upon themselves to make a big damn scene about it. Articles that focus on everything else that is comfortable for them to talk about with substance except for racism/sexism/classism. I am a POC cisman. And this shit is so obvious to me after having lengthy conversations about it. And most of the time sexism/classism are more comfortable than talking about racism, which is how it is systemic racism is still a big part of radical spaces as well.

        Now on to things behind the scenes which you couldn’t be expected to know…

        Tang is a white cisman. He still takes advantage of those privileges – and it shows in how he writes as well. He posted this “response” under the name Tang, which doesn’t describe gender, and or his background. He has posted this article, trying to be anonymous, without disclosing anything else about him. The people that know him as Tang, know who his is.

      • None of your damn business August 1, 2013 at 7:44 pm #

        Continuing…

        He has source his “response” from a WordPress blog he started specifically for this. He doesn’t hasn’t disclosed he’s a white cisman, and has cut off all accountability that comes back to him, while the author of the article he is “responding” to is wide open about who they are and what they do.

        PolicyMic hosted the article that sponsored “Are Mainstream Environmental Groups Keeping Racism Alive?” They have editors that selected the submission to post and his been reposted on web outlets since then.

        Comparatively, Tang has posted only where he has connections and can get high viewership, the Tar Sands Blockade FB page and the Earth First! Newswire. Both have minimal guideline for submission.

        I’m not sure if he still has access the TSB FB page or if he has privileges to post on the Newswire, But I am suspicious that he may have posted his “response” without any mediator. If that is the case, I think he was avoiding it to so he could say all of the defecating things he wanted to say. I think he was afraid of someone saying “NO” to him.

        This article was posted on the TSB FB page and was taken down just over an hour later, YESTERDAY. Myself and others called out the racist context of the article he had written and I have been affirmed that it is not going back up.

        Imagine how very upset I was this morning to see it posted on the Newswire, unchanged from the day before. My response wasn’t the only one that brought attention to this for a mediator, from the very awesome Earth First! Journal Collective, to context how awful his article was, point out that his opinion was extremely off base, and addressed the very poor (white washed for racist) spirit this article was coming from.

        Systemic Racism is far harder to grasp and address that institutional racism is. It’s not on the surface, it has gone underground and is masked with negligence, best intentions, and deniablity.

        Is there anything else I can help explain?

  2. None of your damn buisness August 1, 2013 at 1:17 pm #

    THANK YOU!!! For the Mod Note!

  3. bow August 1, 2013 at 4:27 pm #

    You are essentially crying “race baiting!”

    You address none of the meat of their argument, only insignificant details. Also, you present TSB as if it was a wholly good thing. As someone that was on the ground at middle earth I can confidently say that TSB did a total of a few hours of blockading. Not to completely shit upon the valiant efforts of my comrades, but TSB did almost no blockading. TSB has parachuted into communities, abused friendships, used nationalistic and racist messaging that has alienated POC and indigenous people, silenced and tokenized POC, unnecessarily put communities of color at risk of heightened police harassment (not claiming that this is totally TSB’s responsibility), and overall spread the lie of “non-violent” resistance (which is a racist idea in itself). Just look at TSB’s racist account of herstory on their garbage non-violence page: selectively picking out the “reasonable” and “safe” POC from very tactically diverse struggles. I could level a lot more against TSB as someone that spent half a year working with them, but I don’t think this is the right place to go into detail.

    I know you’re right about 350.org funding the foundation of TSB as we know it, and I directly blame groups like 350.org for having a destructive influence in TSB’s inadequate actions and severely racist, classist, and tokenizing behavior.

    Treating it as if we all can agree that TSB was an all around great thing is a failed logical fallacy (appeal to common sense fallacy) that only shows how shallow your analysis and reflection of environmental struggle is.

    Of course, as always, the first person to even speak a negative word against the violent giant gets mud slung at them by all the giant’s apologists. Fuck off with your “I’m not being divisive, you’re being divisive,” bullshit.

    -Bow

    • Eamon Farrelly August 2, 2013 at 2:33 pm #

      Agree with everything except the “few hours” comment. Unless you have clarification on it, I feel that it is really underselling the positives of what was accomplished.

  4. wildness returns August 1, 2013 at 4:28 pm #

    Not interested in allying with law enforcement-friendly groups like 350 or since you mention them, DGR.

  5. nolo August 1, 2013 at 5:11 pm #

    Good comments on this thread.

    My favorite 350 action was the one promoted on the newswire a week ago where 350 worked with the police to plan a protest:

    https://earthfirstnews.wordpress.com/2013/07/28/forty-four-protesters-arrested-at-mass-coal-fired-plant/

    That’s simply unacceptable.

    Folks would do well to think about how 350 and other similar environmental groups may (or may not, depending on the case) work to recuperate struggles by channeling them in safe and predictable directions (i.e. targeting elected officials, lobbying for legislation, scripted acts of civil disobedience, restrictive non-violence codes, etc).

    Also, the more debate the better. Differences in strategy and tactics, as well as critiques and criticisms are absolutely essential.

  6. Hayduke August 1, 2013 at 9:31 pm #

    I just don’t see it! Sound like squabbling rather than getting down to the real battle

  7. getguhgetdown! August 1, 2013 at 10:19 pm #

    Someone once told me, in ref to organizing direct actions, that “some of us will leave here with rap sheets, and others with resume’s.” uhhh, I wonder which of these two the organizers in the mainstream will have, and i have been wondering what some EF!ers strive to have when the dust settles. Which will a POC have?

  8. EF! J Collective Everglades Office August 2, 2013 at 11:17 am #

    Yes, important dialogue going here. Glad to see it happening. In response someone saying that the EF! Newswire has “minimal guidelines for submissions.” As editors, we don’t feel this to be the case, yes perhaps we are a bit looser about what gets published, but as the moderators note indicates, we don’t take these posts lightly. We discussed the Boogie Man post prior to publishing it, and we appreciate the feedback we got that encouraged one of the EF! Newswire editor/moderator to craft the clarification on why it was consciously posted.

    And not to split hairs, but i didn’t read the initial article’s reference to Marxists-Leninists to be about ignoring class analysis. Seemed to be implying that there is an undeniable history of endless acronyms and factions associated with lefty types. Avoiding that style of organizing is what lead me personally to Earth First!. In any case, thanks for the heartfelt comments. Lets stay open to each other. What feel like attacks at first glance can often turn out to growing pains…

    For the wild,
    -Panagioti
    EF! Journal & Newswire Collective

  9. Vandal August 2, 2013 at 8:11 pm #

    This is hilarious. After reading this a few times and later attempting to discuss what I find problematic in this, I realized this piece has so many nonsensical elements. The wording has a lot of thoughtlessness because it does not reflect the kind of sensitivity that comes from editing and prior discussion.

    The second and third paragraph jumps from how mainstream environmental groups and radical communities have oppressive behaviors in common to the solution that implies our own communities confront and reconcile oppressive behaviors well enough to be able to do the same (relationship wise) with NGO organizers. This is just LACKING. Our communities at large are working hard to hold folks accountable for oppressive behaviors (for starters, like dismissing needs of people of color WHICH does manifest into more harsh treatment of people of color in organizing spaces like physical or sexual violence). This does not AT ALL conclude that we should put ANY of that energy, which is exhaustive by the way, towards the encouragement of “reconciliation” and growth of the radical and NGO relationship. Reconcile what? Grow what? It has already been stated that those organizations (and their INFLUENCE on our movement) are inherently racism. This is my description of NGOs and its influence on us:
    • It encourages campaign hopping. This, at times, is mostly a culture of thoughtlessness. The scripts learned strip passion from the spokesperson the more scripts or “raps” are learned. Their slogans invisiblize histories (esp of the peoples who once lived on lands or labored on lands). An example is “Our Land, Our Water.” Sierra Club champions for folks to explore, enjoy and protect the planet through their organization. There are many other generic slogans about “our” environmental values that visibly do not encompass all kinds of peoples and backgrounds.
    • Declares ENTITLEMENT to enter different communities without understanding any of the current or historical PAINS occurring there. It includes not listening to the diverse narratives of oppressed groups because they are statistically the groups who donate money. Gotta do what the donors want! It discourages doing privilege checks by flaunting the false model that true resistance are through those who can donate, are educated, have lives flexible enough to travel to campaigns to do organizing. Thus, shaping its employees/activists/radicals’ productivity through structures that encourage social inequity
    • SO YES, this NGO and radical-land harmony isn’t revolutionary enough! I don’t work with 350.org, Sierra Club, Environment America, US PIRG, etc because they are structurally racist, classist, capitalist and sexist. They are these things in their:
    ⁃ director trainings
    ⁃ in their hiring process
    ⁃ in their canvassing ideology
    ⁃ in their fundraising around middle class stress over the environment
    ⁃ in their DOMINATION over and monopolization of solving environmental problems–which their POSITION is to negotiate with politicians/corporations (a position that means they believe that our political system isn’t “all” bad and one that will take YET ANOTHER apology from corporations about the accidental deaths and irreversible environmental degradation from their industry)
    ⁃ in being the puppets of corporations. Many, not all, rely heavily on corporate donors more than government funds, private donors and other institutions. Meaning that they can go BUT SO FAR before they compromise their existence. Hear about any Fracking companies donating to anti-coal environmental groups lately?
    ⁃ in its manipulation to keep its “stable image and membership base.” The NGOs that highjack campaigns that people of color are organizing in order to tokenize them while casting them as “background” in order to maintain their familiarity of white, middle class’s sense of “our land [that we stole], our water [that we stole] and our open landscapes [that we want houses on or only want specific demographics to visit]. A
    ⁃ in a macroscopic, international sense: the industrial NGO complex that is PART OF GLOBALIZATION (constantly putting a Eurocentric, Western-culture spin on restructuring the problems different culture experience because of Eurocentrism and Westernization)

    This piece congratulates that we exist in a world where our movements are larger if NGOs assist us (without acknowledging how negative it is to have NGOs monopolization of the environmental movement- you know, that ongoing struggle). The mentioned NGOs have a lot of people who get paid to do media/membership drives/PR/etc. Meaning they will indefinitely have conflicts of interests with those who do not want to tailor this movement by further commodifying the experience of getting our species out of this globalized-one civilization-clusterfuck disaster. That statement just overlooks why their “help” allows movements to impact climate “politics.” It overlooks that the development of NGOs is similar to the development of governmental assistance programs–how maintain the same economy that upholds the same hierarchies and perpetuates the same oppressions by ONLY shifting around the who, what, when and where of exploitation and environmental degradation.

    PLUS, look at the overhead costs (the offices expenses, bookkeeping costs, lawyers to squash employee unions, salaries, annual director vacations to Aspen or a resort, banking, etc) that MEANS that the actual projects and programs go poorly funded. I worked for a large NGO that had the job of training staff for some of the largest NGOs in America. So I feel just in saying:

    -When you cannot fulfill your mission/project/program
    -when your job is swapping membership contact information to spread the wealth to other corrupt NGOs
    -when you focus on hiring organizations to implement capitalistic, dehumanizing membership drives as a priority
    -when at the end of the year all you did was make your employees and members feel a bit less guilty (despite the high turn-over rate and membership cancellation that creates the department of folks who get paid to act like bill collectors drilling through college student information and member information to squeeze JUST ONE MORE employee or donation)
    -when you only have goals to “protect” or represent a demographic that often is similar to the demographic of folks that are systemically and culturally privileged in our society.

    YOU ARE A PROBLEM.

    This refuses to see the legitimacy of Environmental Racism being perpetuated in NGOs like 350.org. You seriously need to back off using DERAILING and obvious BULLYING language of “Join the marxists-leninists if that’s your thing.” Whoa, wow, geez! Looks like someone is openly hostile and uncomfortable about our movement acknowledging oppressed groups continuous concern that NGOs do not represent or protect them but rather sabotage and invisibilize them further in movements.

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