Movement Generation Solutions Part I: Foundations of New Thought

Hey y’all

So a while ago I wrote a very long, very heavy and sad and scary report on the state of the earth and humans and all of that – the report back from my first weekend getting trained by Movement Generation (MG). MG is working to make it politically possible for us to implement the kind of change that is culturally and materially necessary, while increasing our ability to see past False Solutions. That first training was designed to redirect myself and the other participants (and any one else who hears/reads/learns it) towards real and viable solutions and changes we need to make in our lives right now.

I went through the second weekend a few weeks ago, and it was focused on the solutions and changes we need. Here are excerpts from my extensive notes – I left feeling very inspired and charged, and hope reading these notes moves you.

As a parallel process, I have been part of a Somatics and Social Justice Collaborative, learning about healing and trauma in the body, about wholeness, and how that same healing knowledge can be applied to communities, organizations and movements. I am grateful for those somatic tools when looking at these ecological realities. If you have a practice – meditation, martial arts, forward stance, deep breathing and centering, I recommend doing it before taking all this information in…it’s like a health assessment of the body we live on!

So. Here goes!

First, some reading recommendations:
– The Earth Knows My Name
– Agriculture in the City, Cuba
– Farm City – the Education of and Urban Farmer, Novella Carpenter
Principles of Earth Democracy, Vandana Shiva


Next, a few bad stats that are true now, to reground us in the crisis:

– the sea level will rise 4.5 ft by 2060 (that’s almost as tall as me…)
– 90% of languages will be lost in the next generation…with which goes much traditional knowledge
– global fisheries will be defunct of resources by 2050 – in 40 years
– Lake Mead, which feeds the Colorado River, will run dry by 2025 (this is the water source for Tuscon, Vegas, Phoenix, LA…!!)
– the U.S. spends more money on cosmetics and pet food than is needed to provide healthcare and education to all those who need it. 


First, we were given some clear categories for thinking of “The Work Ahead”:

1. We need to build Resilience (Remembrance): Hard Skills

– local food production
– water catchment 
– local decentralized energy creation

2. We need to maintain and increase Resistance: Systems Change & Building Power

– campaigns
– policy work
– governance

3. Then, we need to engage in Re-Imagining: Building the New Story
What is (The Left’s) New Transformative Narrative?

and if there were a 4, it would be that we need to grow and deepen our Relationships – we need to know how to actually be in community, how to be in relationship with the providers of the resources you need, to offer something in relationship with others…

{MY question heading into the weekend: is there a space on the web (in the vision) for our “opposition”, and do we reach a post oppositional space? Is oppositional thinking short-term or a fundamental aspect of humanity? And if we can conceive that no matter how right we are, we will likely only convince a small body of people ‘in time’ to practice new ways of being, then…then…?? Our current opposition will practice false solutions with us but still maintain the deeper economic practices that drive the ecological crises…and they are our families!}



What do/could economies of the commons {instead of economies of the individual in competition} look like…and at what scale can they operate?

Localization brings food production to a manageable scale. Also, there are large scale solutions that reorganize the way we understand production: restorative rather than extractive. How can we feel the soil and restore the fields instead of just taking, taking, taking?

This means a rethinking of who controls resources and production. Multinational corporations have continued the process of resource colonization, so many communities don’t have ownership of their local resources in order to produce food to meet their local need.

This also means in terms of priority, we have to ask ourselves if production is about attaining wealth, or about providing the needs? (This was a major recurring theme during the Opportunity Collaboration conference on Ending Poverty, as well. If we focus on meeting needs, instead of a dead heat to acquire wealth, it would be possible to imagine an end to poverty.)

How to shift our priorities? Joanna Macy’s Great Turning offers solution in three points…saying no (in action, to protect the resources we have), building alternative structures, and a paradigm shift to understanding ourselves as interconnected. 

Also need to consider: How do we align ourselves with people we usually disagree with…when racism (for instance) comes up. When is it strategic to agree…are we leaving our principles/ideology for a tactical move?


History of EJ and Enviro Movement

At the earliest documented human point, there were Indigenous Cultures and Ecosystems…The belief system was based on cosmologies, and a culture of thinking of decisions for the 7 generations to come. There were no domesticated food crops or animals.

1492 Explorers and Colonization spread “Invasive Species” –> People, Plants, Animals, Fungi, Bacteria affecting biodiversity and cultural diversity
1850-1890 Birth of Conservation Movements –> Humane Society, Henry David Thoreau. In the culture were Romantic painters (show huge natural landscapes with no people or animals – they planted idea that wilderness is separate from humans)
1890-1910 Conservationists vs Preservationists: Sierra Club founded, National Parks, national forests –> land of many uses came into being around 1905. The goals was to find space and preserve it. Conservationists are land without people, preservationists is land for our purposes. Roosevelt protected land as his outgoing act.
1960 Wilderness Act, environmental movement. beginning of regulatory “fix” way – the strategy was: limit the harm. Thing is, humans are part of the eco-system, so if you remove people from the system, you mess up the system.
1962 Rachel Carson “Silent Spring” – clarity around toxicity from oil
1968 “Population Bomb” – those in power saw this as ‘who is breeding the most people?’, and their ‘solutions’ to that false question set us back 50 yrs on reproductive rights – the truth is, its about footprint, not family size. Not how many, but how are you living? Friends of the Earth was founded by David Brower (his early anti-nuclear stance created rifts between him and other organizations he’d founded)
1969 Santa Barbara Oil Spill, Organic Farming movement starts (in Western world, as a named formal movement…obviously existed worldwide prior to this)
1970 Earth Day, Clean Air Act, National Environmental Quality Act and EPA founded, Anti-Nuke Power and and Weapons
1971 Greenpeace (Anti Nuke, CA) founded
1972 Clean Water Act, anti-toxins in late 70s
1978 Community for a Better Environment, biothermal movement
1979 Love Canal
1980s Earth First!, Superfund Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation + Liability ACT, the Big Ten Environmental Groups/Beltway Strategy: Sierra Club, Audobon Wilderness, Natural Resources Defense Council, Env Defense Fund, World Wildlife Fund, Conservation International, Nature Conservancy, Defenders of Wildlife, Friends of the Earth; anti-toxic, anti-nuke, rainforest, anti-industrial agriculture, anti-war, save the whales – grassroots environmental movements. Letter from EJ summit to white organizations said clearly: we noticed y’all are all white, what is up? native people and black people were having it out at the EJ summit. Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP) and the Environmental Justice Movement. Ahhh history.
1985 National Toxics Campaign – mostly people of color, 7 regional bodies. EJ movement led by people of color. kept falling apart due to internal struggles and issues with funders. Rainforest Action Network founded.
1990/91 Redwood Summer, Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) founded, International Rivers Network founded, First Nations POC Environmental Partnership Leadership Summit. movements – EJ, anti-corporate, localization, red/green attempts, anti-globalization…bank check, IFG
1993 APEN founded. movements gr – climate change, biodiversity, green energy, smart growth
1995 Ruckus Society founded
1999 – Seattle, WTO, Turtles + Teamsters Together…movements – farm to school, greenbelt, save the ___!, power down, transition towns. green cities, critical mass, urban food security, community gardens, watershed councils, anti-big box, eco-villages

some additions – there is an EJ movement that goes back to 1492. dorsita taylor and robert gottlieb have done good digging. the EJ movement includes worker struggles around safety and health. rachel carson had been working against chemical spraying during WWII. at one point sierra club and united farm workers were working on regulating pesticides in the field AND on the table, sierra club betrayed the demands of UFW. that is history, and there is a lot more of it on all sides, externally and internally. the more we name and grow this history, the more we can commit to trying learning and building on the work of our ancestors and elders.


Lessons from the Global South by Gopal Dayaneni

(this was one of the most exciting parts of the weekend for me!)

gopal started by showing a Ven Diagram – the three parts were Social, Environment, and Economic. Where Social meets Environment and it’s bearable,and Environment meets the Economic and it’s viable, and where economic meets social and its equitable, that’s where you can find: sustainable

images and words:

Zapatista Images
Zapatista Images

the global south movement is steadily rising up. start with zapatista uprising in mexico in 1994. the zapatistas represent something unique about the global south movements of today (vs the ones that pre-dated them)…
1) they aren’t concerned with the nation-state, but are deeply place based.
2) there’s an integration of indigenous and traditional knowledge and culture. (in fact, this could bump up against third world movements because nation-state borders crossed the zapatistas, and, not trying to be whole nation-state movement, are local).

South Korean farmers swim to the WTO ministerial
South Korean farmers swim to the WTO ministerial

World Trade Organization ministerial in Hong Kong has Korean farmers leaping into water to swim into the meeting. the WTO process never recovered from WTO 1999, where there were actions outside, while inside global south was able to block policies. last ministerial was in geneva switzerland. new replacement process is united nations convention on climate change. one important point – these are ACTUALLY korean farmers – not professional paid organizers! 

Farmers in Mozambique
Farmers in Mozambique

La Via Campesina – this is an international peasants movement – farmers, landless workers, sovereignty working – decentralized food production and decentralized supply chain. local and regional control – aka, a short supply chain. people’s food sovereignty – people get to make decisions about their food production, distribution, etc. 

Overall we need a better understanding of interrelation between land, water, air, people. 

In 2007 there was an international food crisis (stories included haitians eating mudcakes). the cause was the (corporate–driven) use of agricultural land to grow fuel instead of food. response included: jubilee movement (started about debt relief, now is taking on larger questions); groups like via campesina, oil watch international, climate justice now (the larger body) – as voice of indigenous peoples. leadership of indigenous ppls has been a critical driver in the global justice movement. Saw rise in actions such as weeding actions (A weeding action is: pulling genetically modified crops and burning them publicly) 

start seeing the emergence of a specific model: national alliances of super local people’s movements – in india, in south america.

localization has worked best when folks didn’t just localize the production, but localized the development, decisions and design. if we think about it at a community level, creativity can flow. development doesn’t have to be more oil platforms – it can be meeting energy needs in the local community. 

also changing the foundational assumptions worked in the bolivian fight to kick out bechtel – they turned around the frame that “privatization is good”; instead they said that water is the people’s resource and we need public systems.

currently external debt has global south owing global north money for investments…ecological debt – the global north owes the global south for years of destruction (a reparations approach) – and that is how we should deal with the transition needed for long-term ecological sustainability – the adaptation and mitigation.

it takes time. we know, for instance, we need no new exploration, and no new oil extraction in pristine lands. the campaign for this started a decade ago, but the idea of a moratorium is finally on the table 10 years later. AND now the entire african union is calling for ecological debt. 

another model: we have 20 years of participatory budgeting in puerto allegre, brazil. the people directly, democratically, decide how their budget should prioritize their funding. people all over the city prioritize healthcare, jobs, roads – collective needs. in this example, when left to their own devices, regardless of class, people act for the collective best. in carolla, india – there’s a direct level of getting the $ and being able to implement. in brazil, they prioritize but there’s still mediation that slows down the actual implementation. 

there’s many more examples, but overall we need to start to look at the global south as a space for solutions, as a place where folks have not lived in the bubble of material success that the global north has occupied for much of this century; that’s where we see what the future looks like when deeply rooted in the past.


Then we got heady talking about Core Concepts with Mateo

These are the Core Problems:

1. Privatization & Markets
2. Globalization & Multinational Production
3. Linear Toxics Material Flow
4. Imperial Ecocide
5. Monocropping/Mono-culture
6. Capitalism Externalizes Costs
7. Western Reductionism –> worldview
8. Eternal Growth

These are the Core Eco-Frames that correlate to those problems:

1. Sovereignty & “the commons” {this country was called the commonwealth, this idea embedded even in our history of imperialism)
2. Localism/BioRegionalism
3. Zero Waste & Sustainability
4. Earth Democracy (Shiva) & Revolutionary Ecology (Bari)
5. BioDiverse Land Tenure (polycultural)
6. Full Cost Pricing
7. Indigenous/Traditional Knowledge
8. Redefining Progress

in small groups, we discussed how each core frame points people towards solutions to each core problem, and then how we could apply the “solutions” from a racial and economic justice perspective?

here are some snippets from those conversations:

    imperial ecocide/earth democracy & revolutionary ecology

imperial ecocide –> like a pesticide, destroying the ecology. imperial – for the sake of empire, of capitalism. there is a power dynamic like we can blame someone else…we all support empire by participating in capitalism. 

earth democracy –> living with the earth, rather than using the earth as our supermarket (as consumers). seeing things grow in a mode that is sustainable. in a democratic process of taking in every point of view, it’s representing the voice of the earth in a democratic decision making process. 

revolutionary ecology –> based on the reading by judy bari it’s incorporating not only a socio-political analysis, but adding an ecology analysis to it. 

(the concepts are way more than the terms – the concepts equate human needs with earth needs)

do these concepts address the NEED people believe they have which drives empire? does this address the relationship aspect?

democracy has been sullied by our u.s. experience. there are many peoples who already approach things in this way.

how adaptive is it? if its born in 3rd world land based context – how adaptable is it to urban? 

what is the transitional term that speaks to communities about how we’re going to get there

these terms make me long for us to just say eco-justice. ecocide is clear, and the answer to me is ecojustice, the justice aspect…

how do you account for all that the earth has to offer and what’s best between different aspects of the ecology – what’s best for the water, land, air…where does overpopulation of animals fit in?

how to restore balance? how do we do this with balance, without victimizing and pity…we don’t see ourselves as victims or to be pitied. 

we say equal distribution of resources, self-determination of local resources. 

    sovereignty & the “commons”

if there’s a democratic process about distribution of resources, then there’s no room for the ownership of those things by a minority of folks

sovereignty means no one can take over, but doesn’t mean there is internal justice…sovereignty alone can really lead to really bad ends. we must ask ourselves: independence to what end?

linked with the concept of “the commons”, sovereignty can be very strong. 

the commons moves us past the idea of personal, private ownership, and puts forth the idea that there are certain things which should be the belongings of everyone – air, water, the internet.

the commons is great when looking at a watershed, that everyone along the same lake/river system has to work together to protect their common water source. the commons is a way of countering the effects of privatization.

helpful to think of sovereignty not just
in terms of land, but sovereignty in terms of economics and culture.
these are other ways of speaking the racial/economic justice concepts of self-determination and equal access
easier for cultural preservation.

self-determination could be used to describe the activities of the markets as well, if we pair it with sustainability (this is our vision at ruckus – self-determination AND sustainability for all communities), and this pulls off a similar impact to sovereignty and the commons.

if we could align ourselves to a concept of the “commons”, it would bring about racial and economic justice because there would be equal access.

we need tangible examples of this happening – what does it look like within an empire? what about in an urban context, with multiple cultures? 

also, how do we move past emphasis on independence rather than interdependence?

    globalization vs. bioregionalism and localism

also how can we deepen local culture without locking ourselves into monocultures?

where does immigration fit? does that mean we just assimilate to what exists where we are?

if resources are controlled by local groups and not all resources are equally available, staying totally local may not address all of our needs. how could fair trade actually work?

bioregionalism and localism will shorten supply chain, increase local economic flow, increase participation in our local communities, resonates with people, appeals to sense of community, has potential to connect people and build good local decision making structures.

    zero waste and sustainability

really great idea, but how to implement?

we should include zero waste in how we relate to each other socially. how could we get down to having no wasted energy – no gossip, no negativity, no small talk. think that there are no wasted people.

    indigenous/traditional knowledge

in some ways we need to go back to traditional, cultural values (family values, though that’s been perverted as a term).

part of our work should be giving folks a different view of their heritage, being proud of their culture and their traditional values and letting that impact their choices today.

people have sacrificed traditional knowledge to come to the U.S., those ways are considered backwards and old, not progress.

we have to be careful of commodification of our traditions and stories, they can become a source of exploitation.

how could we take this to our organizations? see how they react?

this knowledge helps us to look at root causes, and can bring generations together

some traditional knowledge doesn’t line up, or we don’t want to pass it down, and we need to be very honest about that.

precautionary principle is a way to discuss this.

    redefining progress

we have a consumption mentality. how can we learn to make do with what we have, live within our means? this would actually be healing, letting go of the concept of growth


On Day 2 we started off with a Liberation Cafe, where we worked in small groups to flesh out ideas including: restore & preserve bio-cultural diversity, self-determination (a world where many worlds fit – zapatista), and prosperity w/o growth. Here were some excerpts:

A Sustainable Worldview:

The Definition:
– everything is alive – respect the power of (living) beings
– interconnectedness and interdependent
– everything has the inherent value of existence, not just valued for its utility to us
– short-chain accountability – when you are in relationship to the source of your food/water/etc, you can’t “get away” with things
– valuing fairness (fair trade) and transparency
– everyone has a role, something to contribute. we have to make room for everyone’s wisdom
– seeing people as full/whole beings and meeting the needs of all our facets
– valuing creativity and innovation
– worldview based on being instead of having (having a cold/lover/friend) – challenging the materialist norm.
– need-based resource provision…valuing frugality
– small scale, at a global level
– restorative/transformative justice…HEALING

The Wins/Steps needed to shift to this worldview:
– popularization…the transformative narrative that helps us reach some agreement/understanding of interdependence
– requiring environmentally aware review of all kinds of projects (clothes), making sure folks understand and pay the true cost
– reaching international awareness and agreement on these new values, using existing international spaces to move this
– having communities take stewardship to a new level – adopting creeks, trees, really caring for their community
– bringing storytelling back, institutionalizing with little ones, connecting elders and children
– just immigration laws
– community based accountability
– reintegration mechanisms

Organizing Strategies to shift worldview:
– organizing on a local level, around watersheds, skillshares.
– crosspollinating groups like international labor and via campesina
– institutionalize ethnic studies
– media, art, culture to spread respect analysis and grow base/belief

Living within Ecological Limits

The Definition:
water conservation –> no green lawns in deserts, golf courses, swimming pools, producing based on need (not profit), sharing resources more, neighborhoods determined what is needed (swimming pools, libraries), zero waste and a closed loop waste process, reduce reuse recycle, nature in your neighborhood where you can interact with it, limit on what you take, seasonal food. in terms of transit –> reduce cars, stay local, reduce/limit travel; in agriculture we should poly crop, cover crops, organic farming…no more suburbs – we transform them. applying the precautionary principle, limiting travel, regulation around disposal, shift to more leasing/rental (not selling), jobs are in community, local hiring.

the kind of wins we need:
some things need to stop immediately – like oil extraction, repeal prop 13 (incentives). media (tv/radio/movies) that show how we are doing things differently. a pricing regulation agency that shows us the true cost of things.

no peeing or pooping in drinkable water. this sounds crazy, and it may the hardest one to implement, but most toilets are pumping potable water – a little more filter and it would be drinkable. and we pee in it, poop in it, and pump it underground to waste processing centers.

the solution to this is grey water systems (using waste water from shower and sink to flush toilet), and composting toilets which process waste close to home.

in 5 years it would be a success if there was no waste exported; in 10 years it would be a success if there were grey water systems in home and the public, and we’d ended subsidies of agri-business (growing for fuel instead of food), had a priority public transit $$
in 15 years it would be a success if we had a cultural shift around neighborhood planning, and were able to significantly slow down corporations

organizing strategies:

culture shift
making what we talk about more visible
making in community level
neighborhood planning 
moratorium on housing development – lofts, transition towns
local strategies to meet local needs

Restore and Protect the Commons

definition: public ownership and access and participation in: water, food, education, health, housing, public  space, transportation, energy, and jobs will follow

wins needed:

urban land reform – challenge the notion of private property!, local models

local energy systems – local/neighborhood-scale grids

water – get on water boards and public voice, pass policies that justly favor communities over industry, changing mindset around greywater, rain water catchment (eg local policy requiring builders and retrofitters to install these systems, train builders), reteach water conservation practices (make golf courses illegal, no/limited lawns), public participation models.

organizing strategy:
– legally shift hierarchy between corporations and people so that people/communities are valued legally over corporations. 
– popular education to make people more ecoliterate, visioning and planning and getting folks excited. think of media as a space for popular education. to challenge/change hegemony we have to capture people’s worldview…(you can get a channel if you have a market, org strategies around the FCC)
– guerilla implementation + education (for instance, ruckus drops folks into a permacultured world as much as we can) of grey water systems, collective responsibility. some organizing strategies must push, not just invite/educate. look at places the system is already failing – like turning off heat, water, foreclosing on folks – housing alternatives (collectivized homes) – let’s have solutions that pivot people to a new way of life. 
– venezuelan oil to heat us up. 🙂
– create real relationships/internationalism
– practices that engage mind/body/spirit-soul connection with our folks
– public art, murals, dance – other ways of knowing and being. art in action, youth spaces.
– organizing those who are doing electoral organizing to understand this worldview, educating how they do their policy development
– getting our organizations to practice “the commons” – collective decision making, budgeting, etc. 
– sister communities to trade with and provide things that don’t grow locally. food/relationships/trade
– watershed…bringing racial justice, cross community with folks who share values but may not share analysis. 


Local Living Economies – practical, empowering, local, restorative and relational – justice.

Helping our communities get ecological literacy, and economic literacy, in order to be up for the changes we need to make

general planning ordinances as mechanisms to have our goals arrive – the general plan would encode into the constitution of the town/city stuff on local hiring, buying, living wage, etc.

we need to not just be outsiders trying to lobby for power, we need to step into governance. 

Need a break?