October 27, 2010 § Leave a comment
Last week I met with Sam Menefee-Libey from Campus Progress, which is part of the center-left think tank Center of American Progress. It’s a relatively new national advocacy organisation, working with young people on progressive issues from LGBTQ and immigration rights, to climate and environmental justice. They do the usual training and fellowship work – but also focus on journalism, organising an annual conference on progressive media. They give micro-grants to campus publications, train the student editorial team, and give a platform to aspiring progressive journalists – again, building that infrastructure…
Sam described his biggest challenge as moving students from a consumer frame (of news, of politics, of their own daily experience), which is passive, and powerless – to seeing themselves as citizens within a structure that they can influence. This relates to the ‘analysis paralysis’ he encounters in academic centers where there’s plenty of mouthing-off about the portrayal of women in the media, but not enough people volunteering at the women’s refuge or organising on the ground.
Students and the wider world
We talked about how best to bring students from campus universities into working with local communities, as their visibility in the media/popular imagination is high – yet their political power low. Perhaps that’s not altogether an unfair reflection on our student organising through the NUS either.
He shared some examples of where this crossing-communities had worked well (see Witness For Peace), and explained that one of the central roles he plays is to connect student activity with the larger movements.
Suggested reading (warning: academic content ahead!)
- Empire by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri
- A piece on Neoliberalism Wendy Brown (attached)
- The Midwest Academy ‘Organizing For Change‘ manual
smenefeelibey [at] gmail [dot] com
October 26, 2010 § Leave a comment
I’m coming to the end of my time in NYC, and one of the highlights has been meeting Jaimie Cloud, the founder of the Cloud Institute.
Education for Sustainability
The Cloud Institute is designing and implementing education for sustainability – essentially teaching a new way to understand our place in the world. They describe it as, ‘inspiring young people to think about the world, their relationships to it, and their ability to influence it in an entirely new way.’ Jaimie likened it to Copernicus’ discovery that the earth revolves around the sun, and not the other way round. In the same way, we have to adapt to the knowledge that;
- healthy systems that have limits
- our diversity makes life possible
- we are all in this together (interdependence)
To have a good sense of what her work is about, watch her TEDx talk, and have a go at the fish game. The game is an example of some of the fun and practical tools they have developed, and that schools are now actually teaching in schools across New Jersey, Washington and Vermont.
Much of the work we’ll need to do is to re-teach our brains to see the world through a different frame/mental map. I’ve foolishly never really considered education as a big change-making opportunity, but Jaimie made the point that as children, we not only handle new ides better, but we’re also in a structured learning environment for 13 years – we’d be crazy not to make use of this time!
Coincidentally, one of my principle reasons to visit the US this month has been to look at graduate public policy programs. Speaking with Jaimie made me realise to what an extent our academic system constantly teaches us that the world is a zero-sum game, that to succeed in life means controlling as many scarce resources as possible. It was so refreshing, and sometimes really difficult, to see the world through the lense of abundance, and to find mutually beneficial relationships – for myself, for our wider community, and for the natural systems of the planet.
Imagine if we built that into policy decision-making processes…
jaimie [at] cloudinstitute [dot] org
October 26, 2010 § Leave a comment
This is how you talk about difference and diversity. Absolutely fantastic.
October 24, 2010 § Leave a comment
I hadn’t belly-laughed in a while. Until I read The God of Cake.
October 18, 2010 § Leave a comment
‘The room is adrift in flip-chart paper – clouds of lists, issues, schedules, plans, accountabilities crudely taped to the wall. They crack and rustle, fall loose, and, finally, are pulled off the walls, tightly rolled, and transported to some innocent secretary, who will litter the floor around her desk and peering down from her keyboard, will transcribe them and email them to us. They will appear on our desktops hours or days later, faint specters of commitments and plans, devoid of even the little energy and clarity that sent the original clouds – poof! – up onto the wall. They will drift onto our day planners, and onto individual to-do lists, lists already fogged with confusion and inertia. Whether they get done or not, they will not solve the problem.’ Margaret Wheatley.
October 11, 2010 § Leave a comment
Beautiful words and beautiful drawings.
October 10, 2010 § Leave a comment
This weekend was the 350.org/10:10 Global Work Party – with over 7000 events in just about every country except for San Marino, Equatorial Guinea and North Korea. (Although it looks like there was plenty of fun to be had in Pyonyang over the last couple of days..) Bill McKibben is the author and co-founder of 350 – along with a great team who you’ll meet in another update soon. He’s both extremely tall and surprisingly frank – so it was great to spend some time with him as I took him from one TV studio to the other as we criss-crossed the media outlets of Washington DC.
Bill co-authored a recent article calling for more civil disobedience in the US as it became clear that the climate bill wasn’t going to pass through the Senate. It’s been interesting to see how little direct action takes place in the US at the moment – especially compared to the lively NVDA culture in Blighty. (I hope you’re all excited about the Crude Awakening action on Saturday by the way…) We talked about what could be learnt from previous social movements that used civil disobedience, and he pointed out that who takes part and how they are presented has an enormous influence in how the action is perceived. Priests and nuns getting arrested in their professional garb as they demonstrated against the Vietnam war, women and men (and particularly elderly people) who marched for civil rights – always in their Sunday best; these images convey not only dignity in struggle, but also gravitas and a certain self-confidence. Perhaps this is why being part of Climate Rush is such an emotive experience – and definitely something I think we can learn from.
What we’re up against
Understanding the political reality that US environmentalists are facing is enormously depressing. Most people just can’t see how the necessary policy is going to be implemented in the short necessary time-frame. I commented to Bill on how quickly the Tea Party here had managed to build power, and asked whether we could somehow copy that. I was put to rights when he pointed out that it’s pretty easy to gain political power when your agenda is to help the powerful. Ouch.
The fossil fuel industry’s business model – their enormous profits – rely on our efforts failing. Bill made it clear that he thinks that they will stop at nothing to beat us. And hearing the questions interviewers put to him today (some scientists say global warming isn’t happening etc), it’s clear that there’s a lot of fighting to do.
He doesn’t know yet. But he + 350.org crew are thinking of focusing on the US – where a breakthrough would have an disproportionate impact on the global UN process. I have to say, part of me is relieved to come back to the UK where our political debate is somewhat measured, and where we have national legislation that approaches the scientific reality.
bill [at] 350.org
October 7, 2010 § Leave a comment
I wish this had existed when I was 13.
The It Gets Better Project follows the wave of gay teen suicides in the States over the last couple of months, and the continued harassment and bullying of LGBT kids in school.
All sorts of people are now submitting their videos to show young gay people that life gets better. Check out the YouTube channel to get a sense of all the wonderful stories that are coming through.
One of my favourites comes from Michelle and Sophia –