I live in Texas ( I know- Yeehaw, ride horses, gun-carrying, bible-thumpin’, Rick Perry, Texas). More specifically, I live outside of the Capitol city of Austin- the political and liberal hub of this otherwise very conservative state.
Recently, I attended the #ForwardOnClimate rally in Washington D.C. and marched on the Capitol with 50,000+ activists from around North America. We demanded “CLIMATE JUSTICE NOW” and sang our cries of “Show me what Democracy looks like,” replying, “This is what Democracy looks like”. Shortly after the rally, a picture of myself from during the march was featured on 350.org’s Flikr account. Not long after the picture was posted, it went viral in the activist community.
I had gone to D.C. as a representative of Texas- hoping to spread the word about the land grab occurring in the state that my family has been living on and cultivating for the past century. My sign was my attempt to draw national media attention to voices that are being consistently ignored by the mainstream media (a.k.a. The Tar Sands Blockade).
I was shocked (and not too surprised, I might add) that my sign had sparked conversation about the inadequacy of my activism. “It’s not enough” were the resounding cries from commenters. “If I lived anyhere near Texas TransCanada would be spending money fixing their machines,” one commenter stated. While I am someone who prefers to stick to non-violent means of protest and political dialogues as sources of change, I recognize the validity in other tactics. Don’t get me wrong- if I weren’t a broke college-student who depended upon loans and scholarships contingent upon my clean record, I’d be direct-actioning all over the place. (For now I will just wait until I retire. I will be the grandma who chains herself to bulldozers by day and bakes cookies by night).
Personally, I believe in what Mahatma Gandhi says “Victory attained by violence is tantamount to a defeat, for it is momentary.” With the largest and dirtiest energy project knocking on people’s door steps, I understand that sometimes talking is not enough and that action is needed. I personally agree with non-violence, but I will not invalidate others based upon what they believe. What I found to be saddening about the aforementioned online dialogue was not so much the negativity aimed at my own activism, but a lack of understanding that when everyone completes their own tactic it strengthens our movements and unifies our voice.
In a perfect world, I envision activists validating each other’s different tactics and using our alliances with one another to apply the strongest force possible when pressuring our policy-makers, decision-makers, and the perspectives of members within our community.
If we want “Climate Justice Now” we can’t put down our coalition members, we have to act and think in solidarity.
“Honest differences are often a healthy sign of progress.”- Mahatma Gandhi