reflecting on 2014 – social movements

soli2 soli

“We call it the Great Turning – and see it as the essential adventure of our time. It involves the transition of the doomed economy of industrial growth to a life sustaining society committed to the recovery of our world. The transition is already well underway.”  – Joanna Macy

This year I’ve found incredible inspiration in the work of activists, organisers and social movements around the world. I’ve been lucky enough that my work means paying attention to and connecting with movements so I’ve crossed paths with even more campaigns and organisers than usual. It’s been a year of remarkable victories and – from my vantage point – ever greater connection, sharper analysis and greater influence across movements.

I think we often underestimate the power of social movements – the mainstream as they are not always paying attention, the elite and the establishment because they don’t want to promote the power of organising and don’t tell the stories of social movement victories – and paradoxically – by social movements and activists themselves; perhaps because we don’t quite dare to believe our own power, are used to being marginal, or we swallow the establishment media line and don’t tell our own stories loudly enough?

Whatever the reason, I believe that social movements and the power of organising are often grossly underestimated – and I think acknowledging their influence and power is critical to building more power and contributing to the transition to justice and true sustainability that the world so desperately must make.

As I’ve travelled and paid attention this year I’ve noticed a palpable buzz as movements gain momentum, connect with each other and build power – particularly across critical issues such as racial justice, climate change, state surveillance, indigenous land rights and international trade deals. It’s not just me – other people are excited – they feel this moment growing…..

So in the spirit of paying attention to movements I wanted to mark the end of 2014 with some shout outs to campaigns that have made my heart swell;

frack nat

NORTHERN TERRITORY

Close to home the brilliant victory of the Traditional Owners of Muckaty against the proposed nuclear waste dump after a ten-year battle was a stand out win.

I am so inspired by the tenacity of the Beyond Nuclear Initiative and the Australian Nuclear Free Alliance ANFA; in particular a huge shout out to Nat for her strength and commitment to stand so solidly with Diane, Kylie and family. Thankyou. This victory is not just for Muckaty – but it creates a choke point for the expansion of the nuclear industry globally.

Sisters and Brothers NT are rocking it – from being an informal network to participating in tv programs, at national and international conferences, running trainings at the Alice Springs hospital the org now launched itself as a formal entity – mega  congratulations to everyone involved.

Also really amazing this year was the community organising around liquor restrictions and racialised policing in Alice Springs. Huge respect for everyone involved in the documentation of police and raising the issue publicly.

This year the Borroloola community stood up as part of the Global Frack Down day of action – fighting against both the existing mine and standing up against proposed pipeline and fracking on their country. (Also I can’t quite believe that there is still a zinc mining dump site that is on fire in Borroloola – it has been burning for months).

Another powerful campaign gaining traction in the NT is the Protect Arnhem Land movement opposed to the madness of offshore gas extraction in beautiful Arnhem Land. I’m looking forward to the Stingray Sisters doco series about some of the women involved in this campaign.

And lastly – after a few years break I am proud to have rejoined the board of the brilliant Arid Lands Environment Centre. With the huge federal and territory government cut backs to green groups and the ever expanding extractives industry we need ALEC more than ever – sign up to become a desert defender here.

The rise of Blockadia is, in many ways, simply the flip side of the carbon boom.

Blockadia is not a specific location on a map but rather a roving transnational conflict zone that is cropping up with increasing frequency and intensity wherever extractive projects are attempting to dig and drill, whether for open-pit mines, or gas fracking, or tar sands oil pipelines.

What unites these increasingly interconnected pockets of resistance is the sheer ambition of the mining and fossil fuel companies: the fact that in their quest for high-priced commodities and higher-risk “unconventional” fuels, they are pushing relentlessly into countless new territories, regardless of the impact on the local ecology (in particular, local water systems), as well as the fact that many of the industrial activities in question have neither been adequately tested nor regulated, yet have already shown themselves to be extraordinarily accident-prone.

What unites Blockadia too is the fact the people at the forefront— packing local council meetings, marching in capital cities, being hauled off in police vans, even putting their bodies between the earth-movers and earth—do not look much like your typical activist, nor do the people in one Blockadia site resemble those in another. Rather, they each look like the places where they live, and they look like everyone: the local shop owners, the university professors, the high school students, the grandmothers. – Naomi Klein This Changes Everything

gas lock

AUSTRALIA

Increasingly across Australia beautiful, powerful and successful expressions of #Blockadia can be found. Whilst the Abbott government is firmly in the grip of the fossil fuels industry the movement for action on climate change is growing stronger every day. The Lock The Gate Alliance is gaining momentum with deep community organising in regional communities across the country.

My social media feeds have been full of people taking direct action against the Maules Creek mine in NSW – having grown up in regional faming community the shots of farmers locking on hits a chord in me like nothing else.

The victory at the Bentley Blockade stopping Santos from setting up in gas drilling in Northern NSW was a critical win for bolstering the movement nationally.

Quit Coal Victoria had a great victory with the Victorian State Government announcing a moratorium on fracking on the eve of a planned horseback protest.

The recent Victorian election was practically a referendum on the proposed East West Link road – and the result is a resounding success for the people that opposed the unnecessary and stupidly expensive expansion.

Pacific Climate Warriors blocked the Newcastle coal port with hand carved canoes. These images of strong, proud, fierce activists blockading the seas, the ANZ corporate offices and visiting the Maules Creek blockade are simply brilliant.

Despite the continuation of appalling border policing policies there has been sustained resistance and solidarity with asylum seekers anti deportation actions, the expansion of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, occupations of government offices and persistent expression of solidarity in the face of the violent and illegal treatment of refugees.

Earthworker Co-operative – No jobs on a dead planet! – this year they ran a crowd funding campaign and opened a new solar factory in Melbourne – they are such legends.

The power of this ferocious love is what the resource companies and their advocates in government inevitably underestimate, precisely because no amount of money can extinguish it. When what is being fought for is an identity, a culture, a beloved place that people are determined to pass on to their grandchildren, and that their ancestors may have paid for with great sacrifice, there is nothing companies can offer as a bargaining chip.

 No safety pledge will assuage; no bribe will be big enough. And though this kind of connection to place is surely strongest in Indigenous communities where the ties to the land go back thousands of years, it is in fact Blockadia’s defining feature. – Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything

 That connection to this place and the love that people have for it, that’s what Arch Coal doesn’t get. They underestimate that. They don’t understand it so they disregard it. And that’s what in the end will save that place. Is not the hatred of the coal companies, or anger, but love will save that place. – Alexis Bonogofsky, This Changes Everything

flood  tate

AROUND THE WORLD

Globally there are far to many stories to give justice to in one blog post, but I’ll make a few quick shout outs here;

Podemos in Spain are tearing it up – emerging from the Indignados movement they’ve only existed as a formal party for mere months and they are already the second biggest political force in Spain.

Liberate Tate and Art Not Oil in the UK have continued to pressure institutions to break ties with the big oil companies through savvy installations and political performances and are making great headway on their campaign. See more at Platform‘s website.

No Dash for Gas in the UK are blocking and protesting the expanding gas industry in the UK at every turn.

There’s some amazing work being done in housing rights in the UK with the recent victory of the New Era Estate campaign and the visibility of the e15 mums.

One of the most inspiring people I had the opportunity to spend time with this year is the human rights lawyer Jacqueline Moudeina from Chad who is taking former dictator of Chad to trial in Senegal.

In North American #Blockadia is also cranking; the campaign against the Tar Sands and XL Pipeline and going strong; in Montana the fight against Arch Coal continues, resistance to Tar Sands is cranking in Utah and the movement for racial justice is gaining momentum see; Ferguson Action and BlacklivesMatter.

The People’s Climate March was a momentous moment and Flood Wall Street made clear the critical links between real climate action and capitalism.

Free West Papua seems to be finally getting more attention as more people around the world raised the West Papuan flag for a global day of action than ever before.

In the digital sphere many great organisers continue to push for justice and freedom as more and more evidence of the growth of the surveillance state comes to light.

This list doesn’t even scrape the surface and as I am completing it I am aware of how many many more things I want to mention and add in! (Like Rojava and Hong Kong and and and and…..!)

For many more inspiring campaigns check out this Environmental Justice Atlas and the ever growing gallery at Beautiful Solutions.

My goal for 2015 is to pay even more attention to the role and influence of social movements and encourage others to do the same.

In solidarity and with love, here’s to a transformative year.

 * pics all sourced from the internet without attribution as unable to verify – apologies to the photographers!

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