How do you practice a resolution?

On one point I disagree with Jedi Master Yoda. There is a try. I’m not saying that effort alone, without wisdom or strategy will win the day, but if you’re thinking of making a resolution this year, I’ll invite you to look at it a little differently. If we’re trying to change the culture of destruction, a good start could be getting the hang of changing ourselves.

For any behavioural change you’re looking at at least a year to make it habit, so the first thing to realise is your resolution doesn’t ‘fail’ the first time you don’t do it. That’s exactly what’s supposed to happen, it’s just the start. You don’t ‘keep’ a resolution, you practice it.

To help your resolution succeed here are some tips:

  • Understand the emotions behind why you want it
  • Make yourself accountable by telling others
  • Use role models, supportive people and positive peer pressure
  • Plan the details of how you will do it
  • Record and monitor your progress (we all love those little lies we tell ourselves)
  • Be positive and encouraging to yourself when you manage it AND when you don’t. The point is to keep trying
  • Don’t set unrealistic aims, no one is perfect, so plan for imperfection
  • Only do one big change at a time

persistentThe devil’s in the detail, but so is success. If you’re trying to do something you weren’t able to do before, there are probably some good reasons why it was hard. So how do we plan ways around these?

What are the trigger events that tend to make you slip? What are your detailed plans to deal with these? How are you going to get back on track? What motivational rewards can lie in store for you? What tips and plans could you share with others to help them?

To encourage us to help each other, if you share this post on Facebook with your resolution and a tip for how you’ll practice it, you could win a free copy of Pollinating Change. The people posting the five most interesting tips before the end of January 1st will each get a free book.

If plan and persist you do, succeed you will! Hmmm!

 

 

 

Ding dong climate defenders!

As New York City reached 22C three climate defenders entered their not guilty plea at Uxbridge Magistrates Court yesterday to climate carols and support from locals.

In late November the three people blocked the road to Heathrow Airport in protest of airport expansion and to highlight David Cameron’s promise of “No if’s no buts, no new runway”.  For blocking the road they are charged with breaking a local by-law and are pleading not-guilty as their actions were to prevent a greater harm.

The defenders will be told the date of their trial on the 6th of January. On the 18th of January the trial for the Heathrow 13 begins at Willesden Court.

 

Jingle bells, expansion smells, block it all the way.

Keep jingling those bells. Merry Solstice and Christmas to you all!

 

Doing what frightens you

Since the Buzz Tour I have run several workshops for groups and individuals about overcoming fear. We all feel fear differently at different situations depending upon our capabilities and previous experiences. There is useful fear which gives us fight or flight hormones to deal with emergencies but there is also unhelpful fear that we can develop techniques to overcome.

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  • Reducing risk
  • Using motivating emotions
  • Be inspired
  • Use habit and familiarity
  • Taking care of the physical
  • Courage together

Reducing risk

Risk is composed of probability and consequence. Simply doing something that frightens you will not reduce your fear of that thing unless it makes you more capable, increases your knowledge/familiarity or it goes well. Doing something badly and having your fears confirmed can be traumatising rather than helpful. The first stage to doing something frightening can be to reduce the probability and consequence of harm. Knowledge reduces the fear of the unknown. Finding a mentor, learning from others and practicing also reduces fear. By becoming more capable and managing the situation to the best of your ability you make the reality less frightening in real terms.

Using motivating emotions

When considering how to grow our courage we are exploring a behavioural change, which by necessity must involve motivating emotions. Develop and use your motivating emotions – gratitude, devotion, duty, love, anger, frustration. Why are you compelled to do this thing that frightens you? Explore and visualise your motivation so it can be recalled when you need courage.

Be inspired

Use the inspiration of others. Who can you use as role models to give you a template for your courage? Emotionally connect with what they did in order to normalise what you are about to do. Human like to follow and copy each other so use that to your advantage.

Use habit and familiarity

Humans have a useful ability to go on ‘autopilot’ and the more we are familiar with a situation the less stressed we are. If you are going to have to do something in a frightening situation can you do the activity hundreds of times so that you can use the habit to do it with little conscious effort? Can you bring familiarity and normality with you into the fearful situation in order to reduce stress levels?

Take care of the physical

Some physical situations will lead to more fear and stress so taking care of the physical needs makes courage easier. Eating (especially carbohydrates), sleeping, keeping warm, not abusing substances, resting and removing stress hormones from your body will all help reduce fear and anxiety.

Courage together

There are many factors that make it easier to have courage in a group. Our bodies release more reward hormones when we take risks with a peer group than alone. The immediacy of protecting our friends is motivating and you have someone to literally watch your back. The social pressure to perform and conform in front of others and group pride is also a useful tool. For these and many other reasons we must pick our peers with care, communicate our wants, limitations and fears, and take responsibility for each other.

When we have done all we can to reduce our fear, there may well still be a gap that remains, between our courage and what we need to do. Never give in to self pity. When there is nothing left for it, stop thinking, use your motivating emotions and just do it.Do-You-Have-The-Courage-to-Price-High

 

 

 

Arriving as yourself

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Everyone who came to Paris made some kind of sacrifice to be there, but how do we ensure that as we take leaps forward, that we are still ourselves when we arrive?  In this long distance relay run to save ourselves, we need to look after each other to reach the finish line.

Our identities evolve over time and encompass our behaviour and habits, which are highly influenced by the immediate culture we live in.  The environment movement learnt some painful lessons from the Copenhagen COP. This time discussions were about ‘beyond Paris’. Everyone was aware of the trap of pinning hopes on governments or burning yourself out for the sake of just a couple of weeks. But even with that awareness, some who were there for weeks or months still found they were not themselves by the end. An awareness of the global crisis, unheated squats, terrorist attacks, police raids, organisational crises, late night noisy parties, and no defined breaks were just some of the challenges.

Creating a sustainable culture of resistance involves prioritising the basic support infrastructure – food, shelter, sleep. It also involves organising ourselves to reduce the stress of situations and respecting other people’s needs and valuing rest. A tendancy I observed was for people to get sucked into a habit of not taking breaks. When there are no organised rest breaks and no ‘work free’ areas it’s hard to relax because around you other people are stressed and you feel guilty. The use of alcohol and other substances for stress relief is only effective in the very short term as the body becomes resistant and leads to further stress on the body the next day.

When people become stressed over a prolonged period of time, the hormone cortisol builds up in their bodies, causing harm. Decision making becomes impaired and further stress is caused by the resulting bad decisions. To avoid serious damage there must be periods of time where hormone levels return to normal. Dancing, shaking and laughing are good ways to remove cortisol from the body.

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Some tips for arriving as ourselves:

  • Take care of the basics – food, sleep, shelter, exercise and time in nature
  • Plan effectively. Anticipate things that may go wrong and arrange spare capacity
  • Learn to let go, to delegate and to put people and processes before outcomes
  • Never feel sorry for yourself. Embrace your power and do not regret
  • Celebrate, forgive and be grateful for yourself and each other
  • Value and make time to be kind and loving to each other
  • Avoid the use of substances for stress relief except for the very short term
  • Remind yourself of the broader long term perspective. It will pass
  • Practice resilience and self care when it is easy, so that when it is hard it has become habit
  • Take breaks with friends and reinforce a subculture of resilience
  • Invite and be grateful for the wider support of the community

Over the next ten years the tactics, work and results of the whole environment movement will evolve. It is my hope that as we take power of our global culture, as we succeed in creating the world we want to live in, that we will arrive there as the people we wish to be.

 

How do you draw a red line?

Where’s your red line? Is it when half the animals on earth have been killed? Is it when three quarters of the commercial fish stocks collapse?  Is it when the oceans acidify? Is it when only 15% of the world’s forests remain intact? Is it when record-breaking storms, fires, floods and droughts rage worldwide?

The closing ‘red lines’ protests against the COP21 climate deal had a message that the public would hold the global governments accountable and that they would have the last word. Governments have made a voluntary, non-binding agreement to begin to reduce emissions in 2020. Although negotiators agreed that warming should be limited to 1.5 degrees  and must be limited to 2 degrees there is currently no plan to make that happen. There are many times more reserves of fossil fuels than can be burnt and no governmental negotiations yet about who keeps what in the ground and who compensates who for climate change. So if we are to be responsible to each other and future generations how do we ‘keep it in the ground‘ and meet the COP21 target?

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As well as divestment, community initiatives and political campaigns, internationally plans are growing for 2016 to be a year of direct action, interrupting fossil fuels at the sites of extraction. This year German coal mines were repeatedly shut down, including the Ende Gelande 1500 person mass tresspass which resulted in the hundreds arrested being released. In contrast, just nine people in the UK temporarily closed a coal mine owned by climate denier Matt Ridley and eight of the group have now been sentenced to a total of £10,000 in fines for which they are crowdfunding for help.

A UK project called ‘Groundswell‘ is now emerging to increase the interruption of fossil fuel extraction in 2016 but as more people step up and step forward in defense of their red lines, the question emerges, how do we prepare now to make our movement sustainable and strong for the coming storms?

Performing the peace

December 12th’s ‘D12 Redlines’ mass mobilisations in Paris, were peaceful and from the outside this may appear to be good luck or an uncharacteristic kindness on the part of the police. I’d like to share with you the behind the scenes hard work of around 80 activists that lead to that peaceful protest and what we could learn from these techniques.

After the Paris attacks a major focus of the climate organisers of the D12 Redlines protest was to prevent further violence and trauma. An ‘action consensus’ was agreed and publicised that all those participating in the redlines action were agreeing to non-violence and non-escalation for that event, but simply stating it, does not make it so. Everyday the police would change the restrictions around protest meaning that day after day the plans would be redrawn. The largely muslim communities living around the conference center at Le Bourget were and are still suffering police repression and the decision was taken to move the protest elsewhere. Sometimes ten hour long meetings would be attended by activists from direct action groups and NGOs from around the world to decide the style, messaging and location of the civil disobedience. Eventually a commemoration of the climate dead and public commitment to defending the ecological ‘redlines’ was agreed.  2-590

On the day itself, there were around 60 people working on ‘de-escalating’ the police. Groups trained by Theater of the Oppressed had practiced emotional connection choreography kept themselves between the police and the crowd and kept the atmosphere one of peace through their hard work, even when the police started to get out the tear gas. Women dressed as climate angels kept a dignified solemnity and were prepared to resist police charges and tear gas. Some of my favourite memories were also from the clown groups. One pair of female clowns was blowing bubbles into each others face and then at the police. I saw one policeman restraining a smirk and dodging his head slightly so the bubbles did not burst on his face.

Another pair of clowns were following undercover police and identifying them to the crowd. The police looked very aggressive, were masked and wearing black. The clowns were mimicking and mocking them, pointing to them and telling people that they were police. After a time the police had no choice but to leave the crowd and their orange armbands saying ‘police’ were visible.

The day before, the police gave in to organiser demands and made the thousands participating in the protest around the Arc de Triomphe legal and therefore no longer civil disobedient. However, the need for participants and not just organisers to challenge the protest ban and make the conflict visible still existed, and without an outlet, violence may well have ensued. Groups led a push to march to the Eiffel Tower to join up with the legalised protests there, managing to block roads and take the space so that the crowd could march. One of the tools that helped keep the peace was the use of giant inflatable ‘cobblestones’ which were also simultaneously used in London and several other cities.

The inflatables bounced along the top of the crowd as they marched and made it quick to take a space without seeming threatening (although they would not have worked in windy weather).

At the Eiffel Tower I saw a military column of gendarmes (armed riot police) and you could see the crowd around becoming nervous. Then a troupe of clowns arrived and standing in front of the gendarmes, with their backs to them, began to pretend to be an incompetent military company, turning the wrong way, falling asleep and being disciplined. The crowd all turned to watch and the gendarmes quietly melted away. By clowning to the crowd, the performance was empowering without being directly confrontational to the police. An earlier clowning had included waving things in the police’s faces and more confrontational shaming which led to an escalation rather than de-escalation of tension. When choreographing emotions I think we need to be very careful how we use an emotion as powerful as shame, to avoid a defensive reaction of anger.

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From what I saw in Paris there are good skills already around emotional choreography that we can use to combat increasing repression and state violence but there is an open playing field awaiting innovation. There is a great deal we can learn from resistance movements operating under dictatorships. How can we make the social cost to the state of violence against it’s people too high for them to want to pay? How can we use the moral high ground that we already hold to the best advantage?

It seems increasingly to me that the line between artist, performer and activist are blending and disappearing. Some of the finest hours in this field of work and the finest performers are perhaps yet to join the fray. The mainstream media does not have the space to examine this work so I salute and celebrate those performing the peace. Thank you for all the essential work that you did to keep us safe. I look forward to what you come up with next!

Let the games begin!

The climate games have begun!

We are not fighting for nature. We are nature defending itself.

 

I asked one of the fabulous game makers about what we can expect.

“The climate games are a new breed of disobedience framework. Instead of a mass action with centralised planning, it’s up to teams creativity and initiative to create their actions. Actions are taking place both in Paris and across the world exposing manifestations of THE MESH.”

What is the MESH? “The mesh is the system which drives climate change, it’s capitalism, it’s authoritarianism, it’s a global system which puts profit before people.”

How did the games start? “In Amsterdam against coal plants multiple actions of different tactics were used at the same time and place as a game with teams. It demonstrated the diversity yet unity of the climate movement.”

What were your fondest memories of those games? “Absolutely the award ceremony, because that’s the moment when everyone comes together. We admire each other victories as well as failures. That’s the real movement building moment.”

Is it a security risk all coming together afterwards? “You don’t have to show yourself when presenting or receiving the awards, you can send a witness. It’s also not just for the players, there’s everyone watching and taking part in the awards process.”

Keep an eye on their facebook page for fantastic actions and if you feel inspired, you can still register a team of your own right up until December 12th when the games climax.

The sixteen award categories include the pissed myself cup and the insurrectionary innovation badge.

Insurrectionary Innovation

Pissed Myself

The creative juices are flowing around the world and players are gradually converging on Paris. I can’t wait to see what they come up with.

LET THE GAMES BEGIN!

Civil disobedience, from Paris with love

Civil disobedience is doing an activity which is illegal because you believe the law to be unjust. For example a black person sitting in a white-only bus seat, or a person protesting when protest is banned. Miranda and I took to the streets of Paris to march for love of humanity and our planet in defiance of the protest ban.

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During the first twenty minutes of the walk I was on the phone to Radio Woking and you will be able to listen to the interview online soon. Along the route of the march we saw the length of the human chain and had a range of responses, mostly very positive.

A brass band also later led a group of people into the streets to march. The police initially kept pushing us off the road and we kept returning but after a certain point they decided to leave us to it and we were able to complete the march. Ten minutes before the end, our spirits were further raised by seeing Brandalism posters still up along the street. And we kept walking…for love.

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