On Oct 24, 2010, over 8 years ago, Grist published an Open letter to 1Sky from the grassroots, written by Joshua Kahn Russell.
I was asked to post the letter below, written by grassroots organizations across the United States (Grassroots Global Justice, Movement Generation, Indigenous Environmental Network, Global Alliance for Incineration Alternatives — full list at the end). We are at a critical moment for reflection on movement strategy. Perspectives from the front-lines are illuminating. – JKR
Lessons from the Beltway strategy
Our analysis of mainstream climate advocacy’s failure to win in the federal arena echoes yours, but differs in key areas. We agree there was insufficient investment in movement building, and a “Beltway strategy” was prioritized without clarity on what the bottom lines were. “Anything is better than nothing,” will always lead to nothing, because it is a declaration of our intention to compromise. As a result, a decade of advocacy work, however well intentioned, migrated towards false solutions that hurt communities and compromised on key issues such as carbon markets and giveaways to polluters. These compromises sold out poor communities in exchange for weak targets and more smokestacks that actually prevent us from getting anywhere close to what the science — and common sense — tells us is required. We encapsulate the lessons learned as follows:
- Access was confused for influence
- Density was confused for depth; and mobilizing for organizing
- Targets were confused for solutions
Flipping the script: leading with the grassroots
Given the significant gains we have had with community-led strategies for climate justice, and the failure of resource-intensive, Beltway policy campaigns, we need to re-prioritize building power from the bottom up. The strategy we emphasize includes:
1) Investing in grassroots action at frontline struggles to win the victories that build our power, improve our communities and stop the corporations causing climate disruption;
2) Prioritizing local organizing to build the resilient communities, economic alternatives, and political infrastructure that we need to weather the climate crisis; and,
3) Supporting solidarity with grassroots movements around the world, to link our struggles, and to craft policies and structures we need internationally to support solutions determined locally.Joshua Kahn Russell on Oct 24, 2010
The Climate Justice Alliance also stresses the need to build grassroots power. A Green New Deal Must Be Rooted in a Just Transition for Workers and Communities Most Impacted by Climate Change. Press release, Dec 10, 2018
Support for the initiative is growing among members of the U.S. House of Representatives. However, signing on to the project will require elected representatives to think outside of the normally accepted economic, social, industrial, and commercial parameters. If the midterm election has demonstrated anything, it is that grassroots organizing is at the root of successful policy initiatives and there is still much to learn from local and municipal power-building strategies. For Indigenous-Native grassroots members of CJA, it is the strengthening of community-based and tribal leadership, and Indigenous, place-based strategies, that are critical for the foundations of such a large-scale initiative. CJA welcomes the GND as an opportunity to work creatively with many sectors and communities within CJA that have been transitioning to a regenerative economy using community-led strategies such as zero-waste, sustainable agriculture, energy democracy, land and water stewardship, affordable housing, and localized clean energy. All of which work to center the creation of local jobs and support for the families of workers and communities most impacted.https://climatejusticealliance.org/green-new-deal-must-rooted-just-transition-workers-communities-impacted-climate-change/
Leading with the grassroots is precisely what the Sunrise Movement is doing. https://www.sunrisemovement.org/gnd-strategy
- Build our movement in every corner of the country so we can reach the millions of young people who are scared about climate and keep building support for a Green New Deal.
- Launch the “Road to a Green New Deal Tour” to reach tens of thousands people around the country, and give them to tools to get their politicians signed on.
- Join with other movements for change to elect a President and a Congress that will stand up to fossil fuel CEOs and pass a Green New Deal to transform our economy within the coming decade and offer a job to every single American who wants one — no matter the color of your skin, where you live or where your parents are from.
This web page shows ways you can get involved in the Sunrise Movement and our work to get a Green New Deal: https://www.sunrisemovement.org/volunteer/