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OccupySandy

This piece was originally posted on Waging Nonviolence.

They say the best defense is a good offense.

I Googled the hell out of this phrase but couldn’t find a definitive answer on where it comes from. It’s attributed to everyone from the football coach Vince Lombardi to Machiavelli, Mao, the boxer Jack Dempsey and probably every military strategist in history. Whatever the case may be, the point is a good one, and it’s one that Occupy Sandy — the movement’s ongoing disaster response effort — needs to learn as well.

Two weeks ago I was in my hometown of Hoboken, New Jersey, wading waist deep in a murky combination of floodwater, oil and sewage. More than a week later, after finally getting unstuck from New Jersey (even the deepest Jersey pride has its limits…), I found myself in a van full of Occupy Sandy activists delivering hot meals to housing-project high rises in Coney Island during a Nor’easter. We were taking cues from local leaders, and I was amazed at the way people were mobilizing by creating support structures and politicizing one another through practice. In the past few days I’ve helped facilitate trainings for hundreds of people who came to Occupy Sandy hubs as volunteers for relief work, and who left for the Rockaways or Staten Island well on their way to becoming community organizers or committed activists.

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This summer, Bill McKibben (from 350.org) wrote a powerful piece in Rolling Stone called Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math, and it quickly became one of the most widely shared and widely read articles in the history of Rolling Stone. Organizing Upgrade wanted to encourage everyone to read it because we believe that it clarifies just how serious the climate crisis is and - maybe even more importantly - because Bill McKibben makes a very clear strategic call in this piece: to start direct struggle against the fossil fuel companies as “public enemy number one” instead of trying to win them over to small changes. We believe that organizers in every sectors of the social justice movement in the United States need to take this strategic call very seriously and figure out how to integrate it into their existent work.    So, we encourage you to read the full article with your fellow organizers and to use the following discussion questions to talk about what this “terrifying new math” means for our organizing work.

Many of us have been inspired by the strong organizing by environmentalists and environmental justice forces that succeeded in blocking the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

To provide a little background on the Keystone XL campaign: The Keystone XL is a new oil pipeline that was proposed by the Canadian oil and gas company, TransCanada, that would carry tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada to Texas. The extraction of tar sands is massively polluting. Tar sands extraction sites in Canada have devastated the surrounding environment and communities, in particular in Native communities. The potential pipeline would expand that damage; it would add new risks to the ecosystems and communities along the proposed pipeline. According to leading climate scientist, James Hansen, the building of the Keystone XL pipeline and the commitment of the United States to exploiting the rest of the remaining Canadian tar sands would be "game over" for the climate.

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In December, a delegation of racial, economic, and environmental justice organizers went to Copenhagen for the UN Climate Negotiations. They were there fighting for real solutions to the crises that capitalism has created in poor communities around the world. The “Copenhagen moment” must now rapidly become the “people’s moment” if we are to win a just transition to a new world. Left values and vision will be essential in leading us out of the ecological crises we’re in. And taking on this mission can take the Left out of the defensive and reactive stance that we’ve been pushed into over the last few decades into a proactive and visionary approach towards leading the transition to a new world.

JASON NEGRÓN-GONZALES: Reports from Bolivia Last month in Cochabamba, the Bolivian government and social movements convened the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth (CMPCC).  The conference was ground-breaking, bringing together governments, NGO’s, indigenous communities, and social movements.  The goal of the conference was to re-ground and cohere the global forces that are working for climate justice in order to impact global climate negotiations.

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