How do we mobilize support and build grassroots movement into public policy?
[From Stephen Cleghorn]:
It’s an important plan, but how do we get the plan made into public policy? That’s the part that keeps so many of us wondering whether our species has gone insane and suicidal. We can figure out what to do, but then we don’t do it. The energy spent doing this plan and discussing it as a grassroots offering can feel wasted from the outset. Has any of this plan’s assessment and policy proposals any chance at all of being discussed at a cabinet meeting in the White House in the near future?
I am having an interesting dialectic that I need to parse out. As someone who came from the Northeast but has lived in the far corner of the continental U.S. most of my life, I have developed and practiced a regionalist approach. I have been a bioregionalist with a strong Cascadian identity, and that crosses the border into BC. That grew out of a set of thinkers who strongly influenced the 70s and 80s, E.F. Schumacher, Kirkpatrick Sale, and their predecessors, including Leopold Kohr and Lewis Mumford. I am a decentralist at heart, believing significant innovation always starts from the bottom up. I was early into the sustainable cities movement, there by the late 1980s. The group I helped found in 1998, Climate Solutions, had as its original vision to make the Northwest a global warming solutions model. Acting at the local and state level on climate was an outlier idea when we started. But when Bush came in, it became quite the vogue. Our group even had a little to do with warming the waters for California AB32. That idea, modeling solutions at the local and regional levels, has driven my work. Even now, my practical organizing through 350 Seattle is about hatching a Community Solutions campaign that builds community power and climate justice through rebuilding the commons – community-owned energy and housing, much improved and more accessible transit.
So there is a natural tension with the federally-oriented, dirigiste approach of the Victory Plan. Not tension in the sense of opposition, but in the sense of coming at the challenge -from different directions. At this point, we are so far beyond the danger point in climate that we need the kind of actions contemplated in the Victory Plan. At the same time, it is those kind of centralized actions at the federal level that draw the most resistance and are most politically difficult to achieve. Are there ways to launch the actual mobilization from the ground up, actions that can be taken by state and local governments, by individuals, enlightened businesses and the nonprofit sector? The increases in renewable electricity goals recently enacted in California, Hawaii and Oregon might be one example, though only Hawaii goes 100%, and that by 2045. In Washington state, the forces associated with the Our Children’s Trust lawsuit here are pushing legislation to have the state adopt carbon limits indicated by the Jim Hansen science team backing them, admittedly less ambitious than the TCM 10-year goal.
Ultimately, getting down to the practicalities of actually ramping up mobilization scale efforts in Washington state and Seattle, it’s about the money. Most state and local governments are fiscally limited. So ultimately a big federal pull is required. Could we push state energy planners and regulators to begin doing Jacobson-style plans for fossil fuel phase out with a 2025 parameter? Could we push legislation and initiatives to do this? I know we’ll be thinking about it out here. So the need to begin action at local and state levels would be my main comment and challenge to the Victory Plan so far. What does that look like? I would not want to divert to half-measures and gradualism at state and local levels. Actions would have to be consonant with the science. But it seems that this approach broadens organizing opportunities when it is placed in the context of pushing national and global action. Again, an interesting dialectic.
How will you get the folks in “flyover country” to agree to this? They will see it as rich city liberals confiscating their land and way of life. And they will be as bitter about it as any other group whose land and livelihood have been taken from them. It is politically naive to think that the inhabitants of Wyoming or Texas will be thrilled to sell off their ranches and cap their oil wells. So what you are probably looking at is Civil war round 2, as Texas, the deep south, Alaska, and the Great Plains states attempt to secede from the Union. Whoever wins this war, it will make achieving the stated goals difficult to impossible. What is your plan for this? Or will you wait until 100% of the American people back this?
Great plan but outreach to all America is essential for the plan to work. Great job Ezra. First I would hope in the spirit of collaboration with TCM members and supporters that you respond to the suggestions and questions raised in these comments.
Reading the Victory Plan and Margaret’s essays it seems to me it would be really enhance the plan to integrate your work with Margaret’s.
While the political strategy is the biggest gap in the plan (obviously an intentional one) a communications strategy to inform folks as the victory plan unfolds is essential and is only briefly alluded to in the plan.
The president needs to communicate regularly with the nation on the rationale, mechanics, cost, goals and benefits of the Victory Plan.
There needs to be a way to engage the American people in this process without negating progress – not an easy balancing act but a necessary one.
One approach would be creating what might be called National Climate Conversations. These conversations would involve millions of people and should be initiated with the support and financing of foundations and other non governmental entities.
They would cover the whole range of issues and concerns that such a revolutionary plan would raise.
Specific outreach to major associations and interest groups also need to be organized and included in the Victory Plan.
The plan should also incorporate the creation of new Climate Universities throughout the country to educate a new generation of students, undertake cutting edge climate research, and provide outreach services by a dedicated corps of people. What I would call Climate Extension Agents.
I also believe it is essential to reach out to the mega billionaires in this country. The plan should incorporate a strategy to gain their political, economic, moral and financial support.
I believe that many wealthy Americans if skillfully approached with appeals to their patriotism, egos and financial and personal futures will choose to provide invaluable support.
I eagerly await the next iteration of the plan, with the goal of getting one step closer to implementation after this election.