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Future Hope

Making History in Atlanta
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Experience shows that history, like nature, does not move in a linear way, in a straight line. It is characterized by long periods of time when, on the surface, little seems to be changing. Then, all of a sudden, big changes can happen, much more quickly than anyone thought possible.

Image of Valero plant. Photo by Sarah van Gelder.
The Valero plant in Houston, Texas. People living in the neighborhood suffer from health issues related to the constant pollution.
Photo by Sarah van Gelder for YES! Magazine.

We are facing this reality in a negative sense with the transcendent issue of climate change. The hard truth of the matter is that we are in great danger of experiencing soon, within years, not decades, a “climate snap,” a shift from the general climate reality the world has been experiencing for the past 10,000 years, to one characterized by freakish, violent and persistent major storms, spreading drought and wildfires, extensive plant and animal species extinction, water scarcity and crop failures on a massive scale, and accelerated sea level rise.

This is what the world scientific community is telling us. The rapid heating up of our atmosphere, caused primarily by the burning of fossil fuels, is the evidence which leaves no room for doubt.

There is one thing and one thing only which will give us a chance of avoiding this climate hell: the emergence of a massive, grassroots popular movement the likes of which the world has never seen, one which forces the U.S. government and the governments of the world to enact a justice-based, clean energy revolution.

There are many signs that such a movement is being born. The most recent and most significant was what happened on April 14th when Step It Up day saw 150,000 or so people take part in actions in all 50 states, in over 1,400 localities, demanding that Congress move to legislate an 80 percent cut in carbon emissions.

Another sign is the coming together of 40 organizations so far behind a call for “No War, No Warming” actions this fall. From October 21-23, in Washington, D.C., thousands if not tens of thousands of people will converge. On Tuesday the 23rd, we will take nonviolent direct action in our nation's capital in a grassroots intervention to break our government's addiction to war and fossil fuels. A solid cross-section of experienced and younger activists has come together and is working hard to make this needed action a reality.

And then there is the U.S. Social Forum (USSF), beginning in a week and a half in Atlanta, Ga. on June 27.

The slogan of the USSF sums up the vision: “Another World Is Possible. Another U.S. Is Necessary.” 10,000 or more people will come together at the Atlanta Civic Center for many hundreds of workshops on a wide range of topics. There will be evening plenaries, a film festival, information tents and tables, cultural performances, art exhibits, poetry slams, rallies and actions, a soccer tournament, an all night carabet, parties and more.

It is truly an event not to be missed.

Great credit must be given to the heroic work of those who have labored so long and so hard to put this event together. There is much that we all have to learn from them about how they did so.

A document posted at the USSF website, www.ussf2007.org, “The Road to Atlanta,” by Michael Leon Guerrero, Tammy Bang Luu and Cindy Wiesner, explains the process which has made possible a successful social forum.

Hilton Kelley of Port Arthur, Texas, told of a victory over attempts to truck highly toxic chemicals into his town.Photo by Sarah van Gelder.
Hilton Kelley of Port Arthur, Texas, told of a victory over attempts to truck highly toxic chemicals into his town.
Photo by Sarah van Gelder for YES! Magazine.
The process prioritized three key approaches: basing the organizing upon grassroots groups rooted in communities of color; insuring that the forum consciously helped to build a popular movement and not just an event; and integrating an internationalist approach into the organizing.

Outreach and organizing has taken place around the country: the Southeast and the Southwest in particular, both of which held regional social forums last year, as well as the Midwest, the Northeast, the West, Northwest and the Rocky Mountains/Plains region. A successful D.C. Metro social forum was held this spring.

Outreach has also led to the inclusion of the AFL-CIO and the Service Employees International Union on the USSF National Planning Committee, and outreach has been taking place to faith-based organizations, to women's organizations, the peace movement, lgbt organizations and environmental groups.

A key aspect of how the USSF has drawn in such a wide range of constituencies is by allowing space for those who want to participate in the forum to self-organize. The heart of the event is the daytime workshops, 900 of them, and these are being put together by those groups which are attending and which want to conduct workshops.

Many groups have organized themselves to provide a space for like-minded people to meet and network. One example is the Democracy Track (www.democracytrack.org). Forty organizations have joined this initiative, groups working on independent politics, electoral reform, grassroots democracy, corporate power, the schools, the media, water rights and more.

And it all begins in 11 days.

The need for this event is profound. It is clear that the world needs what can only be called revolutionary change, not in a pejorative, narrow sense but in a very real sense. We need a revolutionary change in where we get our energy and how we use it. We need a revolutionary change in how we relate to our Mother, the Earth. We need a revolutionary change away from the imperialistic and militaristic methods of the U.S. government and to relations between peoples and nations characterized by justice, truth-telling and respect. We need fundamental changes in the way we do “democracy” so as to expand people's choices at the ballot box. We need to redistribute power and wealth to low-income and working class people, especially people of color, those who have historically had little of either one.

“Another World Is Possible. Another U.S. Is Necessary.” Let's make it so, and soon.


Ted Glick is the coordinator of the U.S. Climate Emergency Council and works with the Climate Crisis Coalition and the Independent Progressive Politics Network. His past Future Hope columns are archived at www.ippn.org.

 

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