Climate Ground Zero Action Camp: Day 3

Climate Ground Zero Action CampAfter 3 days at camp here in Montana we have a heavy rain day. Some folks were unprepared for the wet and cold conditions here in the Big Belt Mountains of Montana and this weather has tested their patience and endurance, but overall people are dealing and in great spirits.

Anyone who is involved in direct action must deal with harsh elements and extreme physical and mental challenges. Actions push you out of your comfort zones and you must learn if you are going to be doing actions that you must be prepared to be mentally strong and totally prepared for elements the elements you will face.

One of my top mentors on how to run campaigns and actions once said “if action and campaigns were easy everyone would do it”. But conducting actions and running campaigns to confront corporations and governments on destructive policies and practices has never been easy.

I have learned over the years that actions demand top notch preparation, mental toughness, a high degree of flexibility & creativity, overcoming whatever challenges are thrown your way, and always maintaining a positive under adverse conditions. The Boy Scouts motto could certainly be the lesson of today “always be prepared”

Climate Ground Zero Action Camp: Day 2

Climate Ground Zero Action Camp 014I’m sitting in front of the Greenpeace communications van, the pride and joy of Richard “Sky King” Dillman. Despite our relatively remote location, can transmit live audio, video or text just about anywhere in the world using a combination of radio, satellite, or cellular networks.

I’m joining Richard and colleague Mike Johnson for “tactical communications” workshops all week. The session covers everything from basic equipment and techniques to advanced “field problems” where we’ll use what we’ve learned to role-play non-violent direct action and mass mobilization scenarios.

Climate Ground Zero Action Camp 013In front of me is a scaffolding the size of a three story building. Ingrid Gordon and her team of climb trainers built the structure yesterday, outfitting it with ropes and guy wires to simulate an action canvass (Coal-fired power plant? Oil Refinery? State Capitol?). The workshop starts with an extensive safety training then moves to basic knots, equipment and techniques. Like the other workshops, they’ll end the week by conducting a simulated action scenario developed by participants at the camp.

This afternoon, Celia Alario hosts a media skills workshop featuring message development, release writing and on-camera interviews. After dinner, it’s an open schedule–time for hikes, skill-shares and after sunset, a healthy dose of stories around campfire.

Climate Ground Zero Action Camp: Day 1

setting up the climbing scaffoldI’m in Montana at the bottom of the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. People are pouring into the “Climate Change Ground Zero Action Camp.” For the next week, we’ll be talking about how to answer the $200 Billion dollar question of how to beat the climate challenge.

The coal and oil industry and most of our country’s elected officials want to invest in oil pipelines, oil refineries and coal fired power plants. We think that looks a lot like what got us into this mess in the first place so we’re honing strategies to take back our future.

Why Montana? Two reasons. First, Montana is at the center of the oil and coal bonanza lurking just on the horizon of North America. We’re camped just outside of Helena, where the Governor is pushing plans to expand four oil refineries in the state mostly in order process cheap, dirty crude oil from the Canadian Tar Sands–part of a massive nationwide push to tap into one of the biggest and most destructive industrial projects on the planet. Montana also sits on top of more coal than just about anywhere on the planet. If the Governor and his industry backers get their way, most of that coal will pulverized, burned and pumped into the atmosphere–pollution and global warming be damned.

The second reason we’re in Montana is JR Roof. JR’s spent most of his life training activists in creative campaign strategies and non-violent direct action tactics with Greenpeace. Most of the people you’ve seen hanging banners from bridges and buildings over the last 20 years probably learned some of what they know from him (or someone he that trained with him). For the last two years, he’s been based in Montana and Alberta, organizing ranchers and farmers to oppose punching a power transmisison line through some of the continent’s most pristine wilderness just North of here. He’s pulled together some of the most experienced rabble-rousers on the continent pass on non-violent direct action skills to the climate movement and “make sure that this new generation of activists has an opportunity to learn from our mistakes”

So here we are, from Montana, Alberta, Ontario, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, California, New York and Washington, DC, passing on skills getting ready to take action for the climate. We’ll be blogging, posting interviews and photos all week.