Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Reclaiming Streets from Paris to the World, #D12, #COP21, Paris Blog Part Two of Three

Message from John Jordan before the COP21

how a planned disobedient street blockade during the state of emergency became a permitted protest and then turned into a playground, featuring the walking´s by Tools for Action Artur van Balen ‪#‎redlines‬‪#‎D12‬,‪#‎COP21  Friends! We are still astonished about what happened with the inflatable barricade on D12 in Paris. The inflatable cobblestones were thrown into the air and a spontaneous swarm movement occured and rolled over the crowd, going back and forth. Artúr // TfAcaption tools for action. 

Paris rocked.  As Peewee Nyob points out, i'm an apocalyptic optimist.   Sure the deal had its 
limitations, to state things mildly. We'd like to have something much better.  No doubt, 3.5 Celsius warming will usher in rising tides and chaos.  As George Appenzeller suggests, "A reduction to 1.5 degrees Celsius will require reaching zero emissions over the next 30 years and negative emissions thereafter.  By the time we reach between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius increase in temperature, some damage will be complete (for example the elimination of coral reefs).  For others measures such as reduction in vegetation and farmland, about 50% of the possible damage will be completed.   The Paris agreement is probably the best that can be obtained, but it is too little too late."  Still there is a counter narrative.  People took the street, defied the protest ban, found agency, and had the last word. And we pushed forward a framework offering a break with fossil fuels in much the same way the 1964 Surgeon General's report on smoking and health changed a generation's mind about cigarettes.  Part one of my week in Paris involved getting ready for D12, the day of direct action planned months before; the conversations, prop making and actions from the Louvre to Notre Dame and expanding social ties were part of what made Paris so special.

The whole event built up to the crescendo of D12.  One of my favorite moments of the day took place as we danced with marching bands performing the anthem Bello Ciao with bouncing inflatable barricades making their way through the crowd down making their way down the Avenue de Grand Armee pushing back against the French State of Emergency. "Goodbye my beautiful, goodbye my beautiful, goodbye my beautiful, goodbye." It was a beautiful moment.

We only heard the location for the action the day before.

The ice seems to tell the story of our fragile planet in ways few of us can see, yet the internal relations between the ice and its climate, between our activity and the ice, between its flux and our oceans, between islands, cities, and rising tides opens up a tension between those who see the apocalypse of rising oceans and those who see a space for a different kind of world, a problem to be solved; some favor revolution, others reform.  Many see these as the last days.  But debates about the end of our world are not new.  People have been hashing through them since the days of Herodotus and Hesiod.

Saturday, I woke up and strolled by past the Pompidou  Center to Notre Dame, where a ritual was taking place among indigenous people.

Walking past the ritual, I strolled over the Seine River, looking out at the majestic city.
People were walking in slow circles as I arrived at the Pantheone, strolling around the ice in a quiet circle. 

Eventually everyone circled up, holding hands, and meditating.

Christ Gerrard
“Oooommmm” we breathed. The ritual leader spoke of what he suggested was not a good day for the future of the human species. 

And he invited us to sing, cry or respond. Most were quiet. Some just stood and breathed, taking in the moment, as ice melts and our home experiences flux.

And some made the sounds of animals.
Like many times in the week, I started to laugh.  There is only so much earnestness, I can take.

I looked back at Billy with a smile.
“Turn around man with purple cap,” he whispered, starting to laugh himself. I have always been more drawn to the ludic dynamic of movements.   During the ritual, we participated in the tragicomic.  
A few of us started singing the old Odetta freedom song, “Oh Freedom, Oh Freedom…” clapping.
And the mood lightened.
We wound through a spiral dance just like it was Tompkins Square Park.

And Billy started preaching.
“We’ve got a church here. …. A church of stop shopping, where  we’re in recovery from our grandparents….
“We enter bank lobbies and businesses supporting climate change and sing until we are kicked out… We’ve traveled to Ferguson three times.  People chant ‘Hands Up! Don’t Shop! Hands Up! Don’t Shop!”
“I’ve adopted this costume.  I’m in recovery from Fundamentalism, from the Dutch Reform church where I was brought up, the group that lay the foundation that supported Apartheid.  We’re dealing with the same evil here….”
Referring to a workshop he’d attended the day before, he described a “feeling of a calling… It brought up feelings, a pursuit  of healing, all over Paris.  The Trip from the Pantheon to the Eiffel Tower, past the Arch de Triumph, with radical friends… The document we are talking about today does not have mysteries included.  It is reduced to data, not oceans…. Not an indigenous people story of Greenpeace. In the old days when a boat went out, they brought mystics, and threw the IChing.  Now they don’t and that’s a mistake. We must carry the mysteries in our bodies…. This must be a revolution, not a revision. We have to save our souls as we sing… As you trespass the arch, that person might open us… That might open things.  I know.  I remember.”
“In my childhood, there was an arrogance of the spiritual communities,” noted Billy in reference to the New Age Communities in California, who thought its best to pray and purity instead of act.  He could not stand that stance.  “But I’m calling to mind the complexity.  We are going to have people coming at us.  Where is our IChing? I’d like to lock arms and go to the earth.”
“I ask the earth to be with us.   Humans must change.  Reverse it.  Stop being predators.  We are from an unbroken line of ancestors.  Take responsibility.
“Get fossil fuels out of high art. Be at Argentina and the Ave of the Grand Armee at half past eleven!”
As Billy finished, a group started to sing to the earth.

Leaving, a few others screamed, “We are part of the re evolution.”
“We Are the Earth defending itself.”

This writer and the rev. Photo by Christ Gerrard

A few of us, including Chris and several other activists from BP not BP got a coffee after the ritual and we walked over to the subway, for the action.  Billy and I talked about his life and activism, our adventures together through the years, Billy’s mentors.  Billy recalled Sidney Lanier, who brought him to New York.  We talked about Spalding Gray, the iconic monologist who killed himself, hurling his body into the waters on the Staten Island Ferry. Lanier got Billy that job at St Clements. He always loved Richard Pryor and Holly Hughes. We talked about how powerful it was to be in Paris. 

This was going to be another one of those magnificent moments. We could all feel it on the subway.
Bodies flooded out of the subway, just as they had with the peoples climate march the year before.
A movement was growing everywhere, from New York to Paris and everywhere in between. 

What do we want – climate justice, people screamed, pouring into the Avenue of the Grand Armee.  People were everywhere I could see, bodies, like VE day, all red, drawing a line in the sand that the world cannot pass.  It was beautiful. Samba bands played.  And tears flew out of my eyes looking at the thousands and thousands of people who had defied the protest ban.  The police stood back.  What could they do?  They chose to let Paris be Paris, the color of red, of eros, of abundance everywhere. Play filled the streets. 

Yates McKee

“The red lines suggest a new aesthetics, a new color for our movement,” noted Yates McKee, standing on hand. Out of the dialectic of apocalypse and utopia, a new narrative for the environmental movement was taking shape, a new garden in the beauty of these bodies. “There’s a carnivalesque and a new urgency, within this clash, a new vocabulary, rejecting green washing, in favor of red. Between the state of emergency, we are seeing new tactics and old.” He described the red lines, highlighting this tension as a “militant uniformity.” 

The red lines represent a stark demarcation, the minimal necessity to prevent environmental collapse.   "The right to soil, the right to water, the right to a just transition," explains Labofii member John Jordan.  

“On the streets, we are feeling like we are a turning point,” noted Bill Talen, standing on the Avenue of the Grand Armee, with tens of thousands. “In terms of creative nonviolence, and in terms of whatever it takes to survive, in terms taking away the negotiations away from people who keep coming up with compromises that are really genocide, compromises for a just a small number of people who are all making money on the deal….” Looking around, Talen noted, “It’s a good moment and I’m nourished in my activism being here.”   

A group of inflatable barricades tumbled down the avenue, bouncing through the air into the distance.  Paris was the city that invented the barricade.  Bounding through the air, these toys seemed to carry that history and transcend it, to be of it and something out, the interplay between history and crisis, change and bodies, melting ice and rising temperatures, and shifting economies marking a shift.  

A group of kids started chanting, “A ati, anti capitalista…” dancing to the anti capitalist chant popular around the world.
“We are unstoppable, another work is possible,” the crowd roared.
“Does anyone want to save the planet?” noted a group of radical clowns. 

Pointing to human powered solutions, body power, the bike bloc was magnificent. 

A woman in a suit ran up to us and kissed us on the cheeks, part of the kissing wall.
“We are too separated from each other,” noted Billy, supporting the gesture. Paris was about eros, to save the world. 
“Are you having fun yet,” noted David Solnit, smiling, unfolding the epic red lines banner.
Around the world, people were doing the same.  The day was a testament to the art and abundance of an ever flowing social movement, social eros expanding around us, creating a repairable counter narrative, lead by movements. 

"The ecology that desperately needs repair is that of planetary governance itself. And that is precisely where artist-activists are directing their energies," noted TJ Demos, reflecting on the COP21 disobedience actions. 

I greeted Andrew and Greg. Andrew lept through the air in an abundant exhilarating greeting. 

We all knew the day was special.
“We’re not drowning. We’re not going anywhere..,” noted the crowd.
“99% stand for climate!”
“Whose planet, our planet?”
Making our way to the Eiffel Tower, we found ourselves walking with the Rhythms of Resistance, a pink block, playing drums, many with faces covered. And gradually, they all started to make their way into traffic, sprinting into distance against the cars.  We all ran along, into the streets with them, in exuberance, into the future toward what felt like a celebration and hope for a different kind of freedom as we looked at the Eiffel Tower in the distance.
“We want system change, not climate change,”  people screamed.
“No war! No Warming!”  they screamed. 


Scenes from an abundant day. 

Later in the day, the details of the COP21 were released, somewhere between 1.5 and probably closer to 3.7 Celsius warming.  But activists had made their point; they were going to take control of the conversation and policy, not waiting for delegates to decide.  They had already pushed the conversation far beyond Copenhagen. Through direct action, a movement extending around the globe was declaring another story had to take place, a narrative extending beyond fossil fuels to a different kind of future. 
It was a story heard around the world.   We can both condemn the limits of the COP21 and point to the framework as a tool for organizers to push forward. 
It will be up to people to hold governments accountable while turning the tide.

Billy would describe the scene as “the most propulsive earth activist street demo I've ever been blessed to march in and the only time I was with earth-lovers where had the energy that could compare with Black Lives Matter..."  He also commented on the New York red lines action in Times Square.  "THE FUTURE OF DIRECT ACTION. In New York City, the militarized police have it in mind to eradicate activism that they do not agree with, whether it is the homeless, earth activists, or the memorial for cop-murdered citizens. And yet the First Amendment is persistent. It is not forgotten. Activism founded this country and you almost have to be as extreme as an an apocalyptic right wing Christian with a gun to forget. The First Amendment was remembered by a great mix of activists at Times Square on Saturday, on the same day that the COP21 climate talks concluded and Paris protesters-- including a certain televangelist-with-no-patriarchial-god--were marching from the Arc de Triomphe to the Eiffel Tour, led by indigenous people. In Times Square, singers from the Stop Shopping Church joined MayDay Space and folks in surrounding the institution that pours more CO2 into the air than any other: The Pentagon. You can see the recruitment center for this carbon-intense job of defending American oil interests in the background. Thank you especially to our director Savitri D for getting the chaotic ball rolling... ---rev

People had lots and lots of opinions about the deal.   
“The Paris accord is a trade agreement, nothing more. It promises to privatize, commodify and sell forested lands as carbon offsets in fraudulent schemes such as REDD+ projects,” argued Alberto Saldamando, Human Rights Expert & Attorney. “These offset schemes provide a financial laundering mechanism for developed countries to launder their carbon pollution on the backs of the global south. Case-in-point, the United States’ climate change plan includes 250 million megatons to be absorbed by oceans and forest offset markets. Essentially, those responsible for the climate crisis not only get to buy their way out of compliance but they also get to profit from it as well.” 

But as Naomi Klein tweeted after the agreement, this gives the world something to work with. No accord would have been far worse.

On the streets of Paris, direct action and disobedience had the day, beating back the state of emergency.   And for this, we should celebrate.

As John Jordan
Fucking hell gettting this all done was hard work but watching this makes tears come to my eyes and it all becomes worth it ... Thank you all those comrades who stuck to it through thick and thin... We pushed the French govt into a corner with our defiance, we forced them not to repress us and despite their state of emergency we took to the streets with dignified stop is shutting down the fossil fuel industry with our bodies....As Alice Walker says RESISTANCE IS THE SECRET OF JOY...

Via John Jordan "Alternatiba asked for permission to do their dumb human chain under the eiffel tower and govt said no and put them in a boring militarised sheep pen at the end of the champ de mars. Redlines never asked permission and the joyfully wild unauthorised march that left the arc de triomphe ended up bang under the Eiffel tower....thats the power of disobedience for you..." BIM dans ta Gueule

Sent: Saturday, December 12, 2015 2:31 PM
Subject: BREAKING: Paris

Today is a historic day: as tens of thousands of people filled the streets of Paris, politicians finalized a major new global climate agreement.
The deal in Paris includes an agreement to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius, with an aim of 1.5 degrees, and achieve climate 'neutrality' that will require phasing out fossil fuels soon after mid-century. That’s not what we hoped for, but it’s still a deal that sends a signal that it’s time to keep fossil fuels in the ground, and for investors to cut their ties with coal, oil and gas by divesting.
This deal represents important progress -- but progress alone is not our goal. Our goal is a just and livable planet.
If followed to the letter, the agreement leaves far too many people exposed to the violence of rising seas, stronger storms and deeper drought. It leaves too many loopholes to avoid serious action -- despite the heroic efforts from leaders of vulnerable nations and communities who fought for a deal in line with science.
But the coal, oil and gas corporations of the world should take little comfort. That 2 degree pledge would require keeping 80% of the world’s remaining fossil fuels underground, a 1.5 degree target even more -- and countries are required to come back to the table every 5 years to increase their ambition in reaching those goals.
Paris isn’t the end of the story, but a conclusion of a particular chapter. Now, it’s up to us to strengthen these promises, make sure they are kept, and then accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels and towards 100% renewable energy.
They were joined by hundreds of solidarity actions around the world, all echoing the same message: it’s up to us to keep fossil fuels in the ground.
Standing together, flowers in hand, we formed red lines in the street -- because lines have to be drawn in this fight for justice, and it’s up to all of us to stand on the side of those on the front lines of this crisis.
More lines are being drawn everywhere against the true villain of the last two weeks: the fossil fuel industry, which has done everything possible to weaken even this late, late deal.
Without pressure from ordinary people, world leaders would have gladly ignored this problem entirely. It’s pressure from people that will close the gap between what was signed today and the action we need.
This begins the next chapter. Please watch this space for the announcement of something big in the coming days!
If you are reading this, you’ve been part of the work that got us all to this point, and for that, we say thank you. 2015 was a historic year for us -- because we worked together to build a more powerful and hopeful climate movement.
With gratitude, and as always, hope,
May and the whole team

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