Why Hope Is Essential in Climate Movement

Jim Schulz of the Democracy Center of Cochabamba, Bolivia spoke tonight at a local church here in Park Slope, Brooklyn, hosted by a Jewish congregation that shares the space, introduced by Nancy Romer of the Brooklyn Food Coalition (who is generously providing Jaime and myself solidarity housing in the brownstone she shares with her husband Lew).  Jim Schulz’ message was extremely timely and interesting:  pessimism on the building climate crisis is not an option 1) because it assures our inactivity and the worst possible scenarios of climate crisis, and 2) there is a stronger case for the side of a measured optimism, given the history of social change.  Victories in social movements, he said, are like the unexpected miracles of meeting the person you fall in love with:  though social change victories are the product of struggle, they happen apparently out of nowhere, like the person you will fall in love with coming through a door for the first time.    Look at how just ten years, ago, he said, people saw little hope in the gay rights struggle for equality, yet today many politicians talk of their own “evolution” in favoring gay rights, the product of great organizing and struggle, but also the victories have come in a surprising and mysterious wave of change.  He said the climate justice movement and its historic gathering in New York, followed by that of Peru and then Paris, could usher in such change, if we focus on strategies that work.  Number one strategy:  make the climate justice struggle real to people by how we speak about it, connecting to real local issues like the asthma of children living near power plants.  Number two strategy:  go after the corporate structure and system that incentivizes the destruction of the planet.  Raise the cost of going along with the fossil fuel corporations and their agendas, until these corporations are shunned by one and all, divestment takes place and politicians who take money from extreme energy corporations carry it as a badge of dishonor.  The Democracy Center of Cochabamba interviewed climate activists to find out how they are winning in their struggles:  the fruit of that very interesting study is available in a report on their website:    http://democracyctr.org/featured/new-report-movement-strategies-for-moving-mountains/

Though it is 10 p.m. at night, I must return to JFK by subway and Air Train to meet the very late plane of my friend and AMI partner Jaime Mariqueo, whose last flight from San Salvador, a day late, is due to arrive at midnight.   I guess it still beats taking a boat from Chile.  There is an excitement in the air about Sunday’s march, from conversations I had with people attending the talk, despite the distinct worldliness of New Yorkers.

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