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
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:
- Stop the southern section of the Keystone XL.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.”
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.