350.org origin

We took 350.org for our name, reasoning that we wanted to work all over the world (they don’t call it global warming for nothing) and that Arabic numerals crossed linguistic boundaries. And then we took a leap of faith that in retrospect seems ludicrous — since there were seven continents, each of those seven young people working with me took a chunk of one and set to work: Kelly Blynn on South America, Jeremy Osborn in Europe, Phil Aroneanu in Africa, Will Bates on the Indian subcontinent, Jamie Henn in the rest of Asia, May Boeve at home in North America, and Jon Warnow on the antipodes (he also got the internet). Our success the year before meant that a couple of foundations (the Rockefellers, the Schumanns) were willing to help fund our work, and so the rest of the team was getting paid small salaries, and they had money to travel. But how do you just land in, say, Vietnam or Peru or Kazakhstan and start “organizing”? We found out.

McKibben, Bill. Oil and Honey: The Education of an Unlikely Activist. Times Books; New York. 2013. p. 12 (hardcover)

Contentiousness in climate activism

Charley Tilley has studied social movements overall and activism specifically as a set of “contentious performances”, in which organizers choose from a “repertoire” on the basis of who they want to influence and what opportunities exist for doing so.

Repertoires which are familiar can easily become stale and ineffective, as Micah White discusses in the context of big marches, and as was also widely discussed in the context of various cities sharing strategies to effectively shut down Occupy encampments. The fairly clear failure of the huge People’s Climate March and Toronto’s March for Jobs, Justice, and the Climate makes it frustrating that a group of Toronto activist organizations are preparing another march on the same model (with the same name!). Given the urgency of climate change, we can’t dedicate our energy to repeating failed tactics.

If actions like marches have become routine, and lost their ability to produce broad media coverage or political action, we should expect climate change activists to begin engaging in more contentious forms of activism like barricades. One risk – of course – is that with a complacent population that broadly tolerates the status quo such actions will reinforce rather than undermine support for the existing political and economic order.

Maternal visit concluded

I spent most of today working on the theoretical framework for my forthcoming proposal, but this morning I went with my mother and some of her friends to see Toronto’s Aga Khan Museum.

Also, I took a break in the evening to try yoga for the first time in Massey’s Upper Library. It was quite challenging, both because I lack the balance and flexibility and because my injured wrist cartilage had a tough time with all the ‘downward dogs’. Still, something worth trying again, especially if I can’t return to Judo.

Thesis update

I went into my thesis proposal presentation on Tuesday with the hope that it would meet with general approval and that I would soon be moving on to seeking ethical approval and beginning research.

Things have worked out dramatically differently, and I am now engaged in an intense effort to write an entirely new proposal on campus fossil fuel divestment — this time, fully structured around a particular theoretical framework from the literature on political science.