Support the Heathrow 13

Last month I sat expectantly in the courtroom and silently sent love and gestures of support to my friends as they sat in the dock. In a shock turnaround, the judge in the trial of the Heathrow 13 did not send them all to prison but instead gave a suspended prison sentence to all the defendants. However they also gave £10,000 costs and 120-150 hours each of community service. Over the next year the 13 will be doing their community service and whilst we can’t help them with that, we can help with costs. So if you would like to, you can donate to the crowdfunder and make things a little easier for them.

During the trial, the defendants were described variously as caring, talented, highly committed, passionate, selfless, with integrity and honesty, and even as ‘a shining light’. The many skills and achievements recounted left those in court with the lasting impression of an incredible collection of people. Sitting in the dock the defendants had been nervously joking and laughing together with excited smiles, some of them wearing Plane Stupid t-shirts with an air plane motif made to look like prison shirts. As the community service sentence was read out one voice in the public gallery was heard to quip “Well they do that already!”
The relief was clearly deeply felt by the parents, friends and families of the 13 as they left court. Despite warnings from court officials to leave quietly the 13 emerged to raucous cheering from the crowd. In a speech given outside, one of the defendants mothers spoke of her pride at the actions of her son and the inspiration she took from all of them. One of the defendants then urged those gathered to take direct action and help stop airport expansion. The 13 first celebrated their freedom with around 50 family and well wishers at a nearby pub, cheering the news reports as they appeared on the pub television.
In the months after a trial support can die down but we can support Heathrow 13 and show them we are in it for the long haul.

Donate to the crowdfunder

 

Five languages of love

Valentines hearts are everywhere, yet love is understood very differently throughout our culture. It’s not even just the fact that love is used as a verb, a noun AND an adjective. People understand love differently when it’s given. Whatever relationship you want to nurture, these five ideas could help.

lovelanguages

Relationship Counsellor Gary Chapman identified five love languages that people express love with:

  • Quality Time
  • Gifts
  • Words of Affirmation
  • Physical
  • Acts of Service

Depending upon your experience of receiving love you will have certain behaviours that you understand to be loving.

So let’s say for example you communicate primarily with gifts and acts of service but your partner is physical and quality time. Problems are likely to start to appear as soon as you have pressures on the relationship. You buy them flowers and presents and you do the cleaning and cooking for them. You do all this but they don’t seem to care. They complain that you don’t spend enough time together and your physical relationship isn’t what it used to be. To avoid feeling defensive a useful tool is to understand that they are asking for love in the way that they understand. You can buy all the gifts you want, but to them, that’s not love.

Learning to love in different languages can feel awkward at first, maybe giving lots of praise feels unnatural, but practice makes perfect, and the more you do it the more natural it will become. We’ve all come from different places and experienced love differently, but surely learning new ways to love and improving our relationships is one of the most beautiful things we can learn in life.

The Elderflower Project

A wonderful woman called Pat gave me a lift to the Green Gathering last summer and during the festival she came to one of my workshops. Afterwards, she was overflowing with suggestions for involving the older generations. I said “I think they’re all fantastic ideas, but I think you should do them.” Tomorrow, at age 66 Pat Smith will embark on The Elderflower Project, an eight month cycle ride round the British Isles to gather tales of wisdom and insight from older people she meets.

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Pat aims to travel around 8,000 miles, pedalling from the Shetlands to the Isles of Scilly, the Dingle Peninsula of Southern Ireland to Lowestoft in East Anglia, starting tomorrow in Ireland.

It’s the best way to travel. I have thermals and waterproofs so I’m prepared for most things. You go slowly enough to meet people – in my case, very slowly!

Two years ago Pat cycled the scenic route home from southern France, a journey of 1,000 miles. Her first long-distance cycle ride was through Romania in 1990, the year after the dictator Ceausescu was overthrown by the people. “Temperatures often soared to a hundred degrees and at times roads would simply disappear but the countryside was beautiful,” said Pat.

Pat has an extra ambition on this journey.  “Wherever I go I want to ask our elders to share a piece of wisdom and a story about why it matters. Older people can be sidelined in society but they have so much experience of life. I’d particularly like to visit people living in eco-friendly ways who want to make a difference to the way we see the world. They are actually doing what so many people simply talk about.”

You can follow Pat’s adventures on her blog and add your own stories. We will feature stories during her journey as well as supporting with an Elderflower Project facebook page. If you’d like to get in touch you can email Pat on pat2africa@yahoo.co.uk.

The Buzz Tour would not have been possible without all the kindness along the way so if Pat passes your way please do give her your support and love to help make the Elderflower Project a beautiful life changing journey.

 

Sama: I invited my mum to a protest

by Sama

As I look back on 2015, human connections and growth are the two elements that come to my mind. I feel that we are riding a new wave of positive change and this wave is getting bigger and stronger, pulling more and more water into it. It is happening across cultures, across struggles and even across generations.

Version 2

While I had been fed information about what life should be and how I should fit in it when I was a child, I then went through the turbulence of vomiting it all out as an adolescent, to finally find in my young adult years that I also had the possibility to feed.

Last spring, I revisited Palestine in solidarity with the population resisting the illegal Israeli occupation. This scared the people who loved me because the media bombards us with information that is selected and distorted. It dehumanizes populations and gives us the sense of being powerless to situations. It is always the unknown (or the “misknown”) and the feeling of powerlessness that respectively scares and prevents us from acting. So I asked if my mum would like to come and join me.

Sama suggested I join her in Palestine  – I thought of course I can’t – then 10 days later I was there! It was an extraordinary experience being in a country which I have only thought I would read about and being able to spend time with Sama following what she does. Roles were reversed and my daughter planned and directed the trip inspiring confidence and opening up to me a world of like minded people who are doing the things they believe in – fighting for equality.

A few months later, my mum joined a five-day cycle ride that I had co-organised. Heading to the climate negotiations in Paris, 125 of us were building a movement together to take action against climate injustice. On one of the days, we all took part in a mass consensus meeting to discuss how to react to the French state of emergency. On another, we were kettled on the Champs Elysée by riot cops. On the last day, we swarmed the streets of Paris with our bikes, surrounded by anti-capitalist chants and then danced under the Eiffel Tower.

bikeparis

I am so encouraged by grass roots activism and proud of Sama for her involvement.

Activism is a form of global breathing. If we are not active we are letting everything around us die. The more we are to breath, to be active, the more we are keeping this planet alive and staying connected on human level. Our identity in activism is defined by what we chose to focus on and the methods we use to go forward. For this reason, it is crucial for me to share it with the people around me, and most importantly, those who brought me into this world.

It has been an honour to have my mum come on board with some projects I was involved with. Not only did I feel understood and notice a balancing out of our relationship, but also felt I had built an ally in my fights.

None of the learning-teaching stages ever actually end. I am still learning from the elders, still battling to define what my own beliefs are and will still have something to offer back. It is this realization, which happened through practice, of the importance of intergenerational cooperation that has been one of my biggest learnings and joys of 2015. It may not be as simple and beautiful as it was for me to invite your mum to your next protest, but you don’t ask, you don’t get. Balancing out our family relationships can only help grow our solidarity in the world.

Deciding how to decide

The format of how a group makes a decision has an effect on the decision that is made with different methods being more suitable for different situations. So what are a few of the different approaches we could use?

groupdecide

Factors which influence the choice of decision making include: urgency, importance, future lifespan of the group, personalities in the group, group size and expertise. In any group some people will have more personal power than others and this can be beneficial or harmful. It can be managed with a facilitator or by having leaders with the consent of the group.

Chinese parliament

Useful for urgent but not instant decisions. A leader has been appointed and the rest of the group give their ideas and proposals and the leader makes the final decision.

Simply picking a leader does not give them authority on the ground. If the group is not disciplined or practised in following that person’s authority, when it comes to the crunch they may simply make their own choice or follow someone else. This was seem on the D12 Paris demonstration when people followed someone they knew or someone highly visible rather than the person that had been designated.

Hand score voting

Useful where urgent consent is wanted from all in a small group (less than ten). A few proposals are stated, then for each proposal on the count of three, everyone votes with their fingers. They vote on a scale from 0-5 – five fingers for agree completely, none for blocking the proposal. People feel pressurised to agree which can help get a quick decision but the bias is that the most dominant person will speak first with their proposal, so this is likely to be adopted. This is why it is important that several proposals are heard first, so that people know what their options are. The group decides in advance how many fingers is the minimum for consent depending upon the risks – three, four or five.

Majority rule

Used in democratic voting so most people are familiar with this. Suitable when less broad consent is needed because decisions do not infringe greatly on the minority. How you prepare and decide which proposals to vote on will determine a lot of the outcome.

Working groups

Creation is most effective as individuals or small groups. Working groups are a useful model where a small number of people are given authority by the group to come up with proposals. These are then questioned and altered by the main group. The choice of people for the working group is obviously very important for their expertise and breadth of opinion. It is not advisable that everyone in a group should be ‘an expert’ as they will have a similar narrow worldview on the topic that could make the decision less robust.

Consensus

For long term decisions as the process is time consuming. Can be used for large groups as long as the group has a shared purpose and a level of trust. Proposals best prepared by smaller working groups. Useful when decisions affect everyone and the power and personal choice of all people needs to be respected. Proposals are discussed and then voted on. Skilled facilitation is required to ensure that different voices are heard. Points are not repeated, if others agree with points raised, then they wave their hands/fingers. If anyone in the group feels the proposal is against the ethics of the group or would cause them to leave the group, they can ‘block’ it. If someone does not wish to be part of the proposal but is willing for it to happen, they can ‘stand aside’. If there are significant stand asides then the proposal should be discussed further.

Taking a step back and looking at how we make our decisions is essential for us to understand their influence on the outcome and to work with others. As the environment movement joins with equality movements we need to make group decisions with people who have different decision making cultures. Great social shifts are preceded by a coming together of previously unrelated social movements and now is one of those times in history. So when you’re in yet another meeting, with a room full of frustrated people struggling to work together, remember to decide how you decide, and to appreciate the wonder that these passionate people from diverse movements are finally coming together.

Climate Games continue!

FIRST WE HAVE THE LAST WORD, THEN WE HAVE THE LAST DANCE

Attending the climate games award ceremony in Paris was not your standard awards do. What it was however, was undeniably cool. The awards were laser-cut stencils and spray paint, many of the award winners had to disguise themselves or send a delegate to collect the award. The hip band Filistine brought their wireless instruments down into the crowd. And throughout the night the crowd would break into chant. “Ah-A! Anti, anticapitalist-ah-A! Anti, anticapitalist-ah-A!” “What do we want? CLIMATE JUSTICE! When do we want it? NOW!”

Over 120 teams registered their actions in the climate games and the incredible array of team actions made it feel like a historic night to be a part of. Rather than individually acting to the mainstream media we played with each other and to the crowd. Hacking into the FM broadcaster on the Eiffel tower, replacing hundreds of advertising boards, storming a VW showroom dressed as animals, were all great winners. A highlight amongst the runner ups was the group that had the IPCC report printed onto 150 rolls of toilet paper and smuggled into the COP21 so that as delegates formed the inadequate agreement they were literally shitting on the science of the IPCC.

And it’s not all over yet… The Climate Games website will continue in 2016 for groups to enter their actions. Whether you’re planning and action or just want to cheer up your day you can visit the Climate Games website to see what others around the world have been up to.

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

 

 

 

 

Around 400

Solidarity with the UK’s first climate prisoners

This week the 13 people who blocked Heathrow’s northern runway last July were found guilty of aggravated trespass and being airside without permission and the judge told them all to expect to receive prison sentences. Amongst those facing up to three months in prison are Buzz Tour’s Mel and Kara.

verdict

As their trial began last week, a solidarity demonstration of over 60 people including Green Party leader Natalie Bennett, was held outside Willesden court. With banners, giant inflatable cobble stones and solidarity songs we created “the best atmosphere at a court demo I’ve ever seen” according to one participant. The 30 seat public gallery at the court could not hold all those who wanted to observe. And as the guilty verdict was given on Monday people again gathered to show their support. But why am I telling you all this? Why does solidarity matter?

Building up your capabilities and overcoming your fears to take action is sometimes just the beginning. To know that your work is supported and that people will stand by you will make everything that comes next easier. After their arrest, the 13 have travelled back and forth to court, prepared their defence, been through the court system and been cross examined. If they are imprisoned they will become the UK’s first climate prisoners. But there will be many more over the coming years. With climate changing emissions still rising, direct action from the public (for example Groundswell) is also on the up, with increased numbers of people risking prison sentences.

If imprisoned for more than a few weeks you may be unable to maintain payments on your accommodation or fulfil your obligations to your job. As a result many people lose their home and job when they go to prison. Amongst the Heathrow 13 are a lawyer, a environmental scientist and an atmospheric physicist, who all risked their jobs to defend our future and life on this planet. Whether you send an email of support, write a letter to your newspaper, attend court, bake cake, donate money or offer work to those who lose jobs, the support of the environment movement is essential and deserved by those who take risks for the sake of us all.

The defence case was based on the premise that the 13 were defending life with their actions. The judge however refused to allow them to call expert witnesses on climate change, saying that she accepted the threat of climate change but that she did not accept that their actions were to save lives, and were instead symbolic.

As she gave her guilty verdict, the judge called the 13 “principled people”. History is made by principled people taking action. All it will take for a collapse of the ecosystems of this planet is for good people to do nothing. We live in an unprecedented generation of information and choice, where we can no longer avoid responsibility. Although the system we live within makes denial easy and action hard, we can take inspiration from those who do act, and we can give them our full support and solidarity when they do.

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.

shipharbour

  • 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

how_to_better_yourself

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.

resilience-cartoon

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.

Climate-500x330

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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The journey from protest to riot

It feels like the script for yesterday’s violence in Paris was in many ways written over a week ago. Buzz Tour’s Eve, Sama and Miranda witnessed a lot of the events in Place de la Republique yesterday and we have since spoken with others in different parts of the square to hear their stories.

12310424_10154358208153222_7187090291990779079_nThe Place de la Republique was the planned march start location and contains a shrine of flowers, candles and messages of sorrow for the victims of the attacks. In place of the official march, Avaaz arranged for people to be able to place their shoes in the square to represent them, however the shoes then had to all be cleared away by twelve and when I arrived they were bagging up seemingly hundreds of shoes. A ‘human chain’ was formed along the march route which the police permitted as long as they remained spread out and on the pavement.

We defied the protest ban and walked the march route (more on that story later) and saw a range of attitudes from those in the human chain. Some stretches were sombre and back against the wall, others happy and at the edge of the road. All sorts of banners and decorations were showing support for climate action. After the human chain dispersed, the square gradually refilled with people.

Many of those who later filled the square might not have attended a legal march, but attended now to reclaim the right to protest. Following the Paris murders, anger seems to keep growing, feeding itself in a spiral. Speaking with French protesters there is a great deal of history of French police abusing protesters and many have become battle hardened. When a large number of angry and frustrated people gather and are confronted by a large number of police, violence is going to happen. It seems the more police, the more likely that violence will occur. Anger at capitalism as the root cause of inequality and environmental degradation has to be expressed. When unfairness builds, people are going to want to challenge and confront it and will look for opportunities to do so. To reclaim their power and respect in the face of unfairness, people seek action.

People have been taken from their homes without warrant, forbidden from travel, the COP21 protest legal team are under house arrest, even we are followed and Miranda’s accommodation was raided by armed police, just to get everyone’s ID.

Yesterday a few people began to throw the shoes representing the march at the police. The police tear gassed the crowd, and blocked the exits to the square. Miranda was one of the last people able to leave before the metro too was closed. Some people continued to throw things, anything that was to hand, including candles from the shrine. Police began to kettle protesters into a smaller area, sometimes slowly, sometimes with charges. In the process of kettling the crowd, the police trampled and broke many of the candles of the shrine. The police violently charged the few hundred strong crowd, including areas where nothing had been thrown from. One woman in her fifties told me, “We weren’t being violent, they kept charging us. They beat people with batons and then they would take someone and arrest them, it seemed random.” Over three hundred people were arrested, most of which are still in prison now.

Repressing protest and violent policing will not reduce violence. Throwing shrine candles at police will not help address capitalism. This script is currently scheduled for a number of replays. If we don’t want repeat performances, we have to do things differently…

Bike convoy

There are bike convoys to the Paris climate summit both from within France but also from other countries, yet as a group of people with a political message they are in breach of the law against protest. I met up with the Belgium Climate Express group as they continued on after they were forbidden from entering Paris. Their banner reads “We continue”.

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The 300 strong group from Belgium IMG_0631found themselves without accommodation or food after the police pressurized their accommodation into not letting them stay. The group ranged in age from 18 to 56 and many people had not been involved in a long distance ride or public political expression before. 130 people decided to return to Belgium whilst 170 continued on, doing an epic two days worth of cycling in one day, splitting into small groups to make it into Paris. Sama and I joined their contact in France as he took food out to the group and we met them en route along the canal.

Bike convoys are a great way for people to express their passion on an issue, travel low carbon, challenge themselves and get together with other allies. The bike convoy from the UK Time to Cycle will be leaving next week and we can expect similar challenges for them to enter the country and make it to Paris.

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Brandalism

As the climate talks began yesterday over 600 posters had been put up around Paris to challenge the corporate advertising messages and allow environmental messages around the COP21 to be heard. Everything from beautiful images of nature and cartoons to fake company adverts admitting deceit.

The posters received national press coverage in France, Germany and the UK and raised issues of corporate sponsorship of the climate talks, social justice and the global economy. 130 artists from all over the world submitted hundreds of designs in English and French to the organisation Brandalism for illegal distribution by about 50 volunteers. I’ve been really impressed with the effect of this project to create discussion and change, and the power of seeing these messages in a normally commercial space. If this tactic interests you there is a wealth of information on the Brandalism website. Here are just a few of my personal poster favourites to put a smile on your face.

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Paris protest and mass participation

So far the state of emergency in France means that the government has forbidden public mass gatherings like the climate march, they no longer require warrants for searches, can forbid the movement of people and vehicles at certain times and places and can censor communications believed to facilitate terrorism. What might this mean for climate activists in Paris and what are some of the tools available to us? legogatheringOn the metro the other day I was passed by about thirty soldiers with guns walking in line and glaring sternly at everyone. Yesterday I had my backpack checked going into the supermarket. The people I meet have not been deterred by the threat of terrorism from living their lives as normal and we remain in a western country where protest is very low risk compared to much of the world. As legal restrictions increase there is a lot we can learn from protest strategy elsewhere in the world to allow the maximum number of people to participate.

Positive change can come from our constructive actions to create a new reality, but it also comes out of resolving conflict and stopping harm and abuse. Those with power who benefit from inaction on climate change are in conflict with those suffering because of climate change, and indeed the rest of life on earth. The behaviour of vested interests such as Esso has shown that they will not change unless forced to. These points of conflict can be worked on in a wide range of ways but some tactics are especially suited to mass participation in times of reduced public freedom.

Protesters brandishing shoes during a demonstration to demand the resignation of Tunisian Minister of Women's Affairs, Sihem Badi on March 29, 2013 in Tunis. Badi is highly criticized for months for her good relations with the Islamist ruling party Ennahda and recently for her support to a kindergarten where a three-year-old girl has been raped. AFP PHOTO / FETHI BELAID In a ‘virtual march’ shoes, pictures, footprints, banners and toys may be used to represent the dead or those not able to march. Those marching elsewhere can carry pictures in solidarity. When mass gatherings are forbidden a distributed action is one which happens simultaneously at a large number of locations.

If public spacescafe are forbidden, privates ones such as shops, cafes, theatres etc may be used. For those accepting of a greater level of risk, ‘forbidden’ actions are available. Civil disobedience is the deliberate non-compliance with a law believed to be unjust.

Where organised protest is forbidden, other signals can be used which are hard to classify as a protest. For example, gathering and all wearing a symbol, using a certain ringtone, making public noise at an arranged time… Humans are endlessly inventive in our communication and if the risks outweigh the benefits for one form, others may be devised.

There is of course also a huge range of disruptions which can be directly used for those causing harm. Over the next month hundreds of thousands of people are considering how they will make climate conflict visible and work to resolve it. Behind choices of tactics they will be considering who are the targets we want to change, and what are the levers we are seeking to influence to make that happen?

If you’d like further reading about strategic non-violence try Blueprint for Revolution and for tactics and strategy you might enjoy Beautiful Trouble.