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Monday, May 18, 2009

Battle Plan for a Global Day of Action on Climate Change- a reply to Chris Trotter






Battle Plan for a Global Day of Action on Climate Change.

a response to Chris Trotter's critique of the Climate Camp gathering in Parihaka.
Joe Carolan

The latest photographs of accelerated melting of glaciers in Greenland, the increased feedback loops in Methane emanating from melting permafrost in Siberia and the opening of the Northwest passage through Arctic waters north of Canada, point to the frightening fact that Global Warming events predicted to be 30 or 50 years away, are now occurring. Many climate activists now insist that we have 100 months left to save the planet before mass species extinctions and millions of human lives are at stake. In this context, an increased urgency to create the beginnings of a mass movement to change our economic and industrial systems is required before an irreversible tipping point is crossed. The need to expand the climate movement beyond the eco-ghetto is a key requirement of any successful GDA.

STAGE ONE- BUILDING THE MOVEMENT

Coming from a background in the Anti War and Global Justice movements, one key aspect that I see lacking in the movements of Aotearoa is a serious commitment to pre-planning campaign events. From peace to union demonstrations, the same two or three hundred people can be relied on to turn up to Aotea Square, listen to the speeches, and then head off down the road to Britomart, completing their duty. Very little effort is put into trying to broaden the appeal of these events, with the notable exception of the SupersizeMyPay campaign that involved a few thousand people.

The first major task of the volunteering crew for a GDA is preparation, movement building and promotion. Movements can be built as a united front from above- in 2007 we had a core of Greenpeace, Oxfam and Forest and Bird, well supported NGOs with thousands of supporters in their databases. Movements can also be built from below- by the volunteers forming crews to spread the word about the event in different sections of NZ society. Such an approach is necessary so that, in the words of the original 2007 planner, the GDA does not become the exclusive property of “middle class liberals from Ponsonby”.

As such, the work for the GDA begins three months before the day itself, as the volunteers organises posters, leaflets, promotional material, badges, stickers and displays for action stalls that will recruit and build different groups of people to participate in the day. This requires disciplined time and space management- the movement would draw up a battle plan, complete with giant maps of both Auckland and Aotearoa, physically locating prime areas for GDA stalls that would compliment a roster of available crew on specific dates and times.

How would these action stalls operate? One approach is just to drive out to the Otara markets with our leaflets and stickers and dish it out to the people there. If that’s what has to be done, then we can do it. But how many people who get a leaflet or a sticker on a market day will show up later? Here, trying to organise outreach stalls with relevant community leaders in tandem is preferable. For example, rather than turning up to Manakau Institute of Technology uninvited, we would instead build an alliance with the Student Union there, involving them to co-host the stall with us, so that they take ownership of the event after the volunteer crew moves on. They promote it through their student magazine and website, and organise busses from Manakau into the city centre, if that’s where the GDA takes place.

This model is replicated when it comes to Pasifika outreach. Receiving a leaflet from a Pakeha-Irishman in Otara markets is one thing- but when its part of a Saturday event with respected community leaders like Reverend Mua, Che Fu, King Kapisi or the Bro Town crew, possibly with a little music :) then it takes on a different dimension. Auckland is now the capital of Pasifika, and this would be a key group that we should involve in any GDA- it’s the people of Tuvalu who are the world’s first eco-refugees, and they’re here now, living with us. As such, people such as Fala Hualangi, a Tuvaluan organiser with the Service and Food Workers Union and host of a flagship current affairs programme on Niu FM, could help us build the event with Pacific Island communities most threatened by rising tides. We might find the Volunteering crew doing stalls outside church services, or even being invited to speak after sermons inside the churches about the importance of the GDA- developing our volunteers as communicators and thought activists as well!

There is also huge potential within the trade union movement in Aotearoa for climate justice issues. Organisations such as the EPMU, NDU and Unite are some of the largest democratic organisations in NZ and have memberships in the tens of thousands that they regularly communicate with. Unionists already have a commitment to seeking change and equity, and as the effects of rising prices for fossil fuel and food impact their members, will seek collective solutions to these social problems. Volunteer crews can leaflet or speak to union conferences, stopwork meetings and Hui, as well as liaise with union organisers to mobilise for the GDA. Again, developing co-ownership of the event that sees allied organisations using their own resources to mobilise for the event after the volunteer crew leaves is a desired outcome. Public transport workers organised in the Tramways union would also be a key ally, as the need to create cheaper and more frequent public transport options for New Zealanders becomes more urgent as petrol becomes more expensive.

So, building the event through action stalls with allied organisations such as Student Unions, Trade Unions, Churches and Pasifika community groups would strengthen the volunteer base, as well as recruit more people to the organisation. These volunteer groups would also do CBD street stalls, postering runs, leaflet other progressive events and music gigs etc. A week before the GDA, our message should be in every student and union magazine and website, Bfm, Niu FM, C4, as well as on street posters. Budget permitting, this could be supplemented by corflute billboards at key traffic intersections and advertising on busses.

Summary of Stage One

  • GDA seeks to broaden the coalition, identifying new potential allies, eg-

(a) Student Unions,

(b) Trade Unions

(c) Pasifika and island communities under threat from rising tides

(d) Religious and community groups

  • organise Action Stalls, properly equipped with badges, posters, stickers, displays and recruitment leaflets. Action stalls rostered day by day, run in tandem where possible with site specific allies. Action stalls recruit to the organisation, build the GDA and provide a focus for volunteer activity and team building in the run up to the GDA. Will run in the City Centre and busy markets closer to the day.

  • Volunteer crews also go on postering runs, advertise the GDA through student and union magazines, the blogosphere, a mass texting campaign, and outside other progressive events and musical gigs in a three month run up period.

STAGE TWO- THE ACTION ON THE DAY

A well planned event requires delegation and a division of responsibilities amongst our volunteer crew. Major fields of activity would be-

(a) Action

(b) Visuals- Setting up the street theatre , props and banners

(c) Music- stage management, site prep, set up and take down

(d) Recruitment- talking to people about the campaign and the organisation

(e) Power and Clean Up- ensuring the event is as carbon neutral as possible!

(a) Action

Depending on the theme of a GDA, different levels of action may be taking place in addition to the entertainment and educational aspects. For example, New Zealand has more than 9 million cattle and 40 million sheep, which account for about half its total greenhouse gas emissions - a higher percentage than any other country. A GDA based around Methane Denial and the disastrous effects of the Dairy Industry on Aotearoa might involve a street theatre protest with a huge Trojan Cow approaching Fonterra headquarters, being pulled on rope by hundreds of student ‘slaves’ from Auckland Uni’s Quad along Princes Street. A Global Day of Action should involve action that is inclusive, democratic and that has been pre-agreed by all allied sponsoring groups- from a banner drop to a mass sit down.

(b) Visuals and Street Theatre

Volunteers would also have been involved as part of a street theatre crew, manufacturing props using papier mache, chicken wire, paint etc. Banners that they would have painted should be pre-hung at visually arresting sites close to the location of the GDA. Tons of melting ice to symbolise a disappearing Arctic need to be transported. Exploding papier mache nuclear reactors need smoke bombs inside. A dedicated street crew needs to prepare, enact and clean up after these props are used.

(c) Music and Stage Management

Music is a great political tool to mobilise people, as witnessed from campaigns such as Love Music, Hate Racism to Live Earth. Music media such as C4 and Bfm have a progressive position on climate change, with C4 promoting the Live Earth event for weeks before 07/07/07. Many artists and musicians in Aotearoa’s creative community could lend their names and mana to a GDA event if the proper levels of stage management and equipment were provided, which could significantly boost the numbers in attendance on the day. Here, the campaign has to balance costs with outcomes, and decide how much they want to invest.

If the purpose of a musical event is to raise money for the organisation, then the most cost effective way is to have a few DJs. With bands come the added demands of equipment, amplification, transport and stages. There is also a huge amount of physical labour in setting all this up, as we discovered when we organised the Big Pay Out in Myers Park during the SupersizeMyPay campaign. But if the right artists support the GDA on the day, it could see numbers in the thousands rather than the hundreds, and if this is a desired goal, the investment could be worth it. This would have significant demands on our volunteer base to strike up and strike down the area, in addition to us having to provide toilets, liaise with police, and acquire proper consent from the City Council etc.

(d) Recruitment

Sometimes volunteers and activists can get lost in the excitement of the action in a GDA, perhaps sticking with their friends or peer group. If so much effort has gone into attracting a group of a thousand plus people, it is vital that we then try to involve these people as much as possible with future activities of the movement. Thus, we need volunteers to circulate as part of a recruitment team, already armed with leaflets about the next upcoming event or action, striking up relationships with people who have never been to a Climatecamp initiated event before. We need to collect a huge amount of mobile numbers and email addresses for the mass text outs and egroups of the future, as well as generate hundreds of new APs.

(e) Power and Clean Up

It shouldn’t be the role of the organisation to get involved in catering. However, in the key areas about how the event is powered and what kind of carbon footprint it leaves to be cleaned up, here the GDA can incorporate our approach to these facts of life to show desirable solutions as part of our process. For example, it would be great if power for the event was provided through renewable sources- solar, wind and pedal power! Volunteers may be required to help set this up on the site early morning hours before the GDA begins.

We should also leave the site in better nick than we originally found it. Clear up and recycling of all materials used in the event is a must.

Summary of Stage Two-

· Effective pre planning of the agreed Action on the GDA.

· Transportation set up and take down of Props, Street theatre and banner material.

· Music- Stage management, site prep, depending on budget and live music / DJs.

· Recruitment teams circulating- building the movement on the day.

· Next event already to go- leaflets and advertising ready to be launched on the GDA.

· Carbon Neutrality- from powering the event to recycling our waste on the day. Creating an example of how to do it.

STAGE THREE- REAPING THE REWARDS

If all goes well, what will the outcome be for the organisation and our volunteers?

We should not underestimate a volunteer’s ability to give, create and communicate. A disciplined and dedicated volunteer is one who will stuff the envelopes until 2am every night the week before a key submission deadline is due. But there are many other kinds of potential volunteer that we will have recruited and engaged with if everything goes to plan.

Browning the Green movement is an important contribution in a multi cultural nation such as Aotearoa. Recruiting more activists from amongst Maori and Pasifika and maintaining our climate change campaign with both Tangata Whenua and Pacific Islanders on the rising tides frontline would be extremely important, as one of the consequences of Global Warming will see more eco refugees coming to these shores. Racism could rise in the future as a result, which is why a wide ethnic diversity of volunteers is crucial in the here and now.

Middle New Zealand is actually Working New Zealand, and as ordinary workers get more frustrated with rising fuel and food prices, the need for cheaper and more frequent public transport and localised food production solutions will increase. Building alliances with NZ’s largest democratic organisations, the Trade Unions, and winning their activists and leaderships to co-sponsor our campaigns is necessary to create a truly mass movement against climate change.

Repoliticising the Campus- every decade has seen the international student movement step up to the frontlines to push for progressive change- whether it was against war in the 60s, poverty in the 70s, racism in the 80s or globalisation in the 90s. There is a huge ideological gap in the present decade- the next hundred months requires a new movement on all the Universities, High Schools, Institutes of Technology, Wanangas and Academies to give this generation its most important cause. Here, the movement should help set up campus groups, tour high profile speakers, organise forums and screenings and win official support and mobilisation from student unions for Climatecamp actions in the future.

Creativity, Art and Music- we will not build a mass movement and recruit hundreds of new volunteers if our promotional material is drab and grey, or our events are lacklustre and pedestrian. We should involve local artists and musicians to lend their mana to our campaigns, and have action stalls at all major gigs and progressive events. Volunteers will be encouraged to use their creative skills, whether it is organising poetry/singer-songwriter/ nights, DJ-live music fundraisers, or as part of a street theatre design crew that enacts imaginative and visually memorable events for our Days of Action.

An Army of Greenwar- to make a beautiful statue, you need a functional hammer and chisel. The tool should not be confused with the work of art it creates. Through involving volunteers in events like a GDA, we should develop inter personal communication skills, the ability to effectively argue and debate ecological issues convincingly, and to recruit to the organisations financial and volunteering base. In house educations, film screenings and forums can help consolidate Volunteer’s knowledge and confidence on the important issues.

STAGE FOUR- BUILDING A NATIONAL CLIMATE JUSTICE MOVEMENT

Moving beyond the urban centres- for example- the ability to regularly service localised groups of volunteers and campaigners from an Auckland centre is achievable if they are based in Hamilton, Whangerai, Rotorua and Tauranga, but gets stretched if they are down in Wellington, Palmerston North or the South Island.

Thus, a plan to liase with groups autonomous and outside of Climatecamp nationally probably reflects this fact. A roadshow building up to a GDA is one option, but a screening / speaking tour organised in tandem with local political branches, iwi, student unions, trade union centres or other ecological and community groups, could also kickstart local Climate Justice alliances that could either organise people to come to a national event, or organise local action stalls to build a local demonstration / street happening that local media could be invited to.

When I lived in Hamilton I was always struck by how many people were in the broader progressive community, and how interlinked they were compared to people in larger cities. When we organised the Make Poverty History banner signing in Garden Place, for example, we were assisted by local trade union branches, Greens, Trade Aid, Waikato Student Union and the alternative rock community, and got extensive media in the Waikato Times, Tainui FM, the Htown website and Prime TV. Thus, getting heard and recruiting people to causes in a smaller goldfish bowl is probably easier than in a city drowned by white noise.

Building a national climate justice movement is a necessity, and I would look forward to exploring the strategic possibilities with other comrades.

WISHLIST BUDGET FOR A GDA- A very Rough Budget!

Having organised two Reclaim the Streets events with the Climaction coalition on a shoestring budget, here's the bare minimum needed for a successful street event.

· PA, music and amplification- $200

· Two tons of Ice- $200

· Banner material and paints- $100

· Polar bear suits, props, street theatre material- $200

· Paper leaflets, posters (nothing flash)- $200

· Bumper stickers and circle stickers- $200

· Badges- $200 (best for fundraising- less capital outlay than T shirts)

· Venue hire for apr├Ęs GDA fundraiser- $0 (a good deal from Tom Forde)

· Tin cans to collect koha and donations- $50 well spent

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