NVDA / Civil Disobedience

N V D A  /  C I V I L   D I S O B E D I E N C E 

Non-Violent Direct Action and Civil Disobedience are proven methods of resistance that must be re-incorporated into our modern narrative if we are to rise above Corporate Power and Greed.

The climate movement has long been stuck in a model of objection rather than resistance.  Like a lawyer in a courtroom, the movement occasionally stands up and shouts "Objection" to fossil fuels, but if the objection is overruled, the movement sits back down to wait for the next time.  Resistance to injustice means a refusal to allow the system to continue until justice is achieved.  The climate movement needs genuine resistance against the injustice of fossil fuels.  

Obedience and conformity are the dominant modes of thinking for the mass of our society, but those are learned behaviors.  Resistance thinking can also be learned through practice and community.  The massive and powerful forces that encourage people to be obedient to injustice must be countered with a powerful and loving community that practices and teaches resistance.

Peaceful Uprising came together based on the mutual recognition that Tim DeChristopher's creative act of civil disobedience, disruption an oil and gas lease auction, was a leap in the right direction. Non-violent direct action as a tactic was made salient and popular by Ghandi in the late 1800's, to be later adopted by resisters in the 1960's Civil Rights Movement. As Martin Luther King describes, “the purpose of direct action is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation.” The definitions for Civil Disobedience have been intellectually and emotionally debated extensively since Henry David Thoreau’s 1848 essay, the first reference of it as an act of protest appeared in Sophocoles' play "Antigone" in 497 BC, in which the heroine stood willing to sacrifice her life, committed to following her moral conscience rather than a law she believed to be unjust.  

For years now, our “radical” actions in the name of Climate Justice have been largely symbolic and short-lived: well choreographed one-day actions with predictable outcomes. Truth is if we're serious about ending our global economy’s addiction to fossil fuels, we need empowered communities planning and executing acts of massive sustained resistance. Like the tree sitters in West Virginia, the Occupiers reclaiming common spaces nationwide, the mega-load resisters in Idaho, Larry Gibson understands that it's time to “connect the dots” as “this is not a one-day thing,” In these dire times, it will take emulating the strategy and the vision of the Freedom Riders and the Women Suffragists, recognizing that their power lay in knowing that day after day another wave would follow, another wave of human beings ready and willing to put their bodies on the line.

As Tim stated in his PowerShift speech to 10,000 youth last April, “We’re the generation that has the task of steering our c
ivilization through the greatest period of change humanity has ever experienced in the most rapid time. And that’s a huge challenge; and we’re not going to meet it in a convenient way.  It’s going to take some real sacrifices.  But we’ve never as a movement taken a stand.  If we look around this room today, to the 10,000 people that are in this room, with these people just right here, without recruiting another person, we can send 30 people to a mountain top removal site, shut it down temporarily, cost them a lot of money, start to clog up the court systems of West Virginia, and we could send another 30 people the day after that, and the day after that for a year! And I don’t think we would ever get to that year point because mountain top removal would end before that.

Climate Change is complex and multi-faceted, a challenge for which a single solution will not suffice. As we embrace the need for a complete paradigm shift, in how we live our lives and how we relate to one another, the space opens for our radical, bold and creative solutions. Because the current path we're on will only lead to more war and famine, growing inequalities and gut-wrenching injustices. The first step is recognizing our own responsibility in this -- historically speaking, the US has been the largest consumer and polluter, thereby condemning the future of millions worldwide. And then comes the acceptance the severity of our most probable future -- the utter collapse of civilization as we know it. What will be built on the ashes of this one?

Looking back to the Nashville lunch counter sit-ins, it’s hard to remember exact faces and numbers, but the spirit lingers-- of conviction, bravery, and love. We say that standing up for what you believe in, pushing boundaries and making sacrifices is what real love looks like. As Tim recently said, “We should be honest about the fact that really loving the world, or loving anyone, means our hearts will be broken, but it's worth it.  A movement powered by love must first deal with the painful grief of our loss and the outrage toward those who perpetuated it.  Young people will be living in an ugly and desperate world, and I fear they will not last long with a safe and sterile notion of love.”
Peaceful Uprising has been traveling the country offering our workshop: “The History of Civil Disobedience: Drawing Lessons from the Past." If you are interested in leading a workshop, or in having someone from Peaceful Uprising come to your community and run a workshop, please contact us.  


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