6 – Performing Utopia: life as art on the Z.A.D.

By John Jordan

It’s raining, no, that’s not the right word. It’s more like drizzle, perhaps half way between drizzle and mist. Let’s call it mizzel, a beautiful in-between state, between liquid and wind, vapor and fluid. My hands are wet; they slide on the handrails. I’m nearly at the top; there is a last little steel ladder to climb. But I don’t want to get electrocuted. I should dry my hands before I flip the switch.

The lighthouse lamp begins to turn, caught by its bright beam the mizzel begins to dance, white ghostly clouds of light swirling in the night, around and around. The beam turns faster than most lighthouses, perhaps three times as fast. But we are not on a normal lighthouse. In fact we are 50km away from the sea, 20m above an old stone farmhouse in the middle of 4000 acres of fields, forests and wetlands, in a place that French government calls, “the territory lost to the Republic … the outlaw zone.”

Those of us who inhabit this land call it the Zone A Défendre, the “Zone to Defend”: the ZAD. Last week, much to our surprise, the tabloid-like 24-hour French news channel BFMTV called it “a utopia that might be being realised”! To me it is home, a territory where I finally understood the force that comes when you dissolve the gaps between art, politics and everyday life. When you realise that the more you inhabit a place, the more it inhabits you.1

In the 1980s I deserted the theatre world for live art, because I wanted something more dirty, messy and free, closer to everyday life. But by the mid-90s I had deserted live art too, because I realised that despite all its claims, the art world felt equally enclosed. Of course, it claims to be risky, edgy, radical, but this felt like a posture, tThe discourse was of revolution, rebellion, even insurrection, and yet the reality was that it felt like a zoo: a place where life was put on show for a few but not lived to the full. It was a place to show the world not to change it. Suzi Gablik called the art world a ‘prison’,2 but a zoo is worse: at least in a prison there is a chance of parole.

I had spent my youth enthralled by 1970s body art: Gina Pane sticking rose thorns into her arms; Chris Burden risking life lying down on the freeway wrapped in a tarpaulin; Valie Export offering up her breasts to strangers; the orgiastic mass therapy sessions of the Viennese Actionists. I loved the drama, the risk, the ritual. I loved the fluid boundaries between performance and everyday-life. But in a time of extreme ecological and social crisis, where the very foundations of life on this planet were being undone by the cancer like logic of capitalism and economic growth, it felt that to act in the world was to apply our creativity to changing forms of life rather than to changing art.

Rather than live art I chose the art of life. I did not give up art. I simply decided to let it free by breaking down the walls that separate it from worlds. I did not give up making the beautiful; it was simply realising that the most beautiful thing was trying to protect life itself. Art is so much wilder than the art world, and all of us who have been able to free the beast of art into the world know this. When you free it, it forgets its name. It becomes a force, not a thing; a means, not an end. It becomes a way of being in the world that erases the divisions between witness and actor, between spectator and performer. It re-injects sense into everyday life.

The avant-gardes of the 20th century had also been my teachers. DADA: ‘abolish art, individual genius, all limits and the audience’. Surrealism: ‘We believe that the supreme task of art in our epoch is to take part actively and consciously in the preparation of the revolution.’. Situationism: ‘the suppression of art is its only realisation, don’t feed the spectacle with culture but create playful participatory situations that spark insurrectionary desires.’ From the mid-90s onwards I began applying creativity as an organiser and action designer within direct action movements, from Reclaim the Streets to the Clown Army, from the Global Anticapitalism movements to Climate Camp, and it enabled me to begin to realise Lefebvre’s dream: ‘Let everyday life become a work of art! Let every technical means be employed for the transformation of everyday life!’3

I was living in London and it began to seem impossible to lead a revolutionary life within the metropolis, where we are all held captive by the commodification of everything. As artists we inevitably become part of a violent process of gentrification evicting the poor and destroying the unique cultures of neighbourhoods. Seven years ago I moved to rural France and eventually ended up living on the ZAD. It was here that I realised what a world could look like when art becomes an ethos to be acted out in society, not something commodified by a museum or a gallery. Not the expression of a single atomised individual, but a way of living beautifully together, of paying attention, of crafting existence as if we were already free.

The beam sweeps across the forest of Rohanne, caressing the winter oaks whose naked black veins spread into the sky, the thick coat of needles on the Douglas Pines shimmer dark green against a bed of stars. The light makes me think of ghosts and the ghosts that I have felt in my life. You never see them, they are invisible, you simply feel them, sense them. This forest, like most, is haunted – or rather let’s say inhabited – by two types of ghosts – or maybe spirits, presences. One that gives life. Another that tried to take it away.

Since 1965, the year I was born, handfuls of men in government buildings and skyscraper headquarters have imagined an airport runway exactly here. With their bulldozers they thought that they could destroy the complex relationships between the millions of beings that share the forest. The links between the crested newts and the pond plants whose leaves they use to wrap and camouflage their eggs, between the oak tree and the mushrooms that share their minerals, between the woodpecker and the wood worms that help it dig its nest, between the clouds and the trees that form their vapour. They wanted to replace all that with a lifeless strip of tarmac, three and a half kilometres long and 60 meters wide, just one of the two runways for the so-called ‘green’ airport for the city of Nantes. Another climate wrecking infrastructure, planned for a bygone age in which mobility was more important than inhabiting, for a world where people believed that existence was defined by identities rather than relationships.

But in January 2017, France’s prime minister appears on live TV and announces the abandonment of the airport project. As the news comes in, the lighthouse becomes an improvised stage for TV cameras with their satellite trucks waiting in the mud below for the ZAD’s reaction. Dozens of bodies light up bright red flares. Someone slices open a bottle of champagne with a machete and whilst dancing wildly they let a hand-painted banner unroll down side of the structure. It reads ET TOC!, which in French means BAM ! There you go! Put that in your pipe and smoke it. That night the prime minister is interviewed on the eight o’clock news: behind him is a huge picture of the banner on the lighthouse.

Now when I cycle through the forest, I breath in the deep damp fungal smell of the place and begin to sense the presences of the other ghosts, the life-giving ones who have come to remind me of the resistance that took place here, and that ultimately led to the PM’s announcement. In 2012, thousands of disobedient bodies put themselves in the way of the machines and the police who had come to build their airport. I sense the ghosts of the 40,000 people from all over France that returned to rebuild the farmhouses that were knocked down during the first days of eviction attempts. There are the ghosts of the bodies hanging in the trees to stop them being felled, of the farmers blocking the roads with their tractors, of the dozens of barricades each one built as a work of rebellious art.

Since that failed eviction attempt the ZAD had managed to exist without police for over six years. It has built a laboratory of commoning involving 80 different living collectives and over 300 people, all squatting the land and buildings, trying to live without domination – without bosses, gurus or leaders, and free from the dictatorship of the economy. With its bakeries, pirate radio station, tractor repair workshop, brewery, banqueting hall, medicinal herb gardens, a rap studio, dairy, screen-printing atelier, vegetable plots, weekly newspaper, blacksmiths, flour mill, library and even its lighthouse, the ZAD has become a concrete experiment in taking back control of everyday life. When you no longer outsource your problems and needs, everyday life goes from being unthinking behaviour to being a question of technique: of art. For example, because we refused to let the police enter the zone, we had to design from scratch a system of communal justice to deal with conflicts. Experimenting new forms of life together is a messy difficult process, never easy but compelling in its intensity.

We need a technique of life, an ‘art of living’, claimed philosopher-activist Michel Foucault. Rather than ‘something which is specialized or which is done by experts,’ he asked, ‘couldn’t everyone’s life become a work of art? Why should the lamp or the house be an art object, but not our life?’4 For Foucault this was not about trying to be some kind of authentic, atomised self, but about pushing the boundaries of what that self can become in its interconnectedness with each other and worlds. During one of the many assemblies that organises life on the ZAD, one of the half a dozen farmers who refused the compulsory purchase of his farm for the airport said: “Whether we like it or not we have become more than ourselves.”

But this kind of attitude requires a certain mindfulness and presence to worlds. It means learning to inhabit one’s territory as much as one’s body, knowing its stories, sensing the texture of things. This discipline of attention, this deep sensibility to doing and being, is in itself a form of care-giving. It requires presence, here and now, working with what is at hand rather than waiting for some moment of perfection. It means letting go of fixed ideologies in favour of sensing situations. Such presence means that we know where our food comes from, where the nearest spring erupts, what species of mushroom spreads beneath our feet. It senses the weather changing on our skin; it feels the tidal pull of the full moon on our bloodstream. A deep presence means that we notice when the local song birds fall silent, we mourn when butterflies no longer pepper the prairies, and we cannot just watch the bodies of migrants washing up on the shores of the Mediterranean. Paying attention is the essential ingredient of the art of life.5

There was always a ritualistic essence in live art that moved me, but what was missing was the shared language of the ritual. On the ZAD, ritual and carnival are tools we reclaim and redesign for our dark times.

As the Autumn leaves began to fall in 2016, then Prime Minister Manuel Valls declared every week in Parliament that he was coming to try again to evict us, threatening that up to two-thirds of the French Gendarmerie would be mobilised. Every night we would go to bed wondering if we’d be woken up by heavily armed anti-terror cops breaking down our doors, and we memorised the places in the forest where we have hidden caches of food, water, and gas masks.

We responded with a ritual, co-designed during our assemblies and disguised as a demonstration. Just when the threat of evictions peaked, 40,000 people responded by converging from three points in the zone. They brought with them walking sticks and staffs, which they stuck in the ground making a pledge that they would return to defend the ZAD. ‘We are here, we will be here!’ they promised. As the tens of thousands of sticks were thrust into the soil, a cathedral-like medieval style oak barn, built during the summer by 80 traditional carpenters, was raised. The festivities continued late into the night. The magic worked. The government never came.

I began this piece up the lighthouse, switching the light on to mark the holding of the Assembly of the Uses, the entity where we organise the land as a commons outside of private property and the state institutions. Made from an abandoned electricity pylon that we moved 20km by tractor in a highly illegal convoy, we built a full-scale functioning lighthouse right on the site where the airport’s control tower should have been. When we were building it, we did not know whether a few weeks later the bulldozers might come, making everything a ruin. Putting energy, time, and attention into building something when you know that it might soon be destroyed is a powerful experience, and perhaps the perfect metaphor for living in this strange end-time of the Capitalocene. You build as if you will be there for ever, but you face the possibility of losing everything tomorrow.

As I look out at the forest of Rohanne, tomorrow is uncertain again. The government cancelled the airport — but in the same breath said that the rule of law would return to the outlaw zone, that all expropriated farmers could get their land back, and that the illegal occupiers of the ZAD would have to leave before 31 March 2018 or be evicted.

At 3.20am on the 9th of April, we were woken by the gut ripping roar of the police helicopter and 2500 gendarmes attacking the zone with armoured vehicles (APCs), bulldozers, rubber bullets, drones, 200 cameras and 11,000 tear gas and stun grenades, injuring over 300 of us in under a week . It was France’s biggest police operation since May 1968, all because as anthropologist David Graeber wrote “ the French state could not let an example of a place run without police, via bottom up forms of organising, against captitalism and the ravages of our natural world, continue.”6 After destroying over 40 of our living spaces a cease fire was negotiated, and all inhabitants are now being forced to ‘legalise’ our farms and lives as private individual property, we continue to resist so as to keep the land as a commons. 7

But even if we lose that battle for the commons, the forest remains a forest. The airport will only be a ghost. The ZAD is becoming an international icon of a Utopia in resistance. Countless people hold its picture in their minds, like one might carry the image of a great work of art: an image of hope in dark times. Holding back the monoculture machine, decolonising a place from capital, opening it up as somewhere that enables forms of life to connect and differentiate: that is what is beautiful. That is the aim of an art of life.8

1 The Invisible Committee, To Our Friends (New York: Autonomedia, 2014).
2 Suzi Gablik, The Reenchantment of Art (New York: Thames and Hudson, 1991).
3Henri Lefebvre, Everyday Life in the Modern World, trans. by Sacha Rabinovitch (New York and London: Continuum, 2002), p. 204.
4 Michel Foucault, The Foucault Reader, ed. by Paul Rabinow (New York: Pantheon, 1984), p. 350.
5 “What if I were to think art was just paying attention?” Allan Kaprow, Essays on the Blurring of Art and Life, ed. by Jeff Kelley, expanded ed. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003), p. 202.
6Graeber David, in Éloge des mauvaises herbes, Ce que nous devons à la ZAD, Coordonated by Jade Lindgaard, (Paris, Les Liens qui Libérent, 2018)
7For updates in English on the situation at the ZAD see Zad for ever zadforever.blog.
8For a longer vision of the ZAD including writings by John Jordan, see Mauvaise Troupe and friends, LA ZAD / THE ZONE TO DEFEND: A Liberated Territory Against an Airport and Its World (Minneapolis: Canary Press, forthcoming).

5 – Looking Deeper – Why is Lake Tahoe clarity declining?

By Sage Alexander

Lake Tahoe is often referred to as the gem of California. It is North America’s largest alpine lake and is famed for beautifully clear waters. The geology of the basin provides a uniquely strong natural filtration system, which leads to a crystalline quality of waters unmatched in California. The clarity of the lake, however, has been declining for the last few decades. The water that runs off urban surfaces (roads, sidewalks, roofs, anything that water cannot soak into) collects tiny particles and pollutants that are delivered into the lake every time it rains. These tiny particles, mostly between 0.5 and 5 microns, are the reason clarity has dropped reached to a record low in 2017. How are particles too small to see with the naked eye having such a catastrophic impact on Lake Tahoe? Human development and urbanization, concentrated here out of attachment to the natural environment, is the source of clarity loss that threatens to change Tahoe as we know it. This is a common tale of wild places; smothered or tamed because of our innate desire to be surrounded by undeveloped land. As someone who grew up in South Tahoe, I see the particulars of this area trampled by overuse, and one is the steady decline in lake clarity and health. For those who come to the Lake on the weekends, I hope to instill some understanding of how a body of water can be so greatly impacted even with so many interested in protecting it.

As of now, stormwater is not treated in this basin. This is in a region of paranoia about algae growth; all treated sewage water is not introduced back into the local water cycle unlike most municipalities. We pump it over the hill to reduce the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus deposited into the lake. Stormwater, on the other hand, is usually directed into gutters and pipes and dumped right into the lake or one of its tributaries. The reason the tiny particles are so impactful is simply the light refracting. They stay in solution for decades, and can be resuspended quite easily. Clarity isn’t really a measure of the ecological health of a body of water, all it tells us is how far a white disk can be seen underwater. Stormwater includes not only those tiny particles of ground inorganic matter, but also pretty much everything that touches the streets. Runoff from lawns treated with pesticides and fertilizer, the various fluids that drip from cars, garbage, metals, salt and sand from road safety measures, all coming together to create a dark grey sludge that mixes with the otherwise unadulterated snow melt that makes up the streams. In order to measure the change in clarity, scientists use a white disk called a secchi. This disk is lowered off a boat using a rope, and is measured at the point you can no longer see it. When clarity began to be recorded in the sixties, light could be seen hitting the secchi at 100 feet. The lake during 2017, the worst year in recorded history, had a clarity of 59.7 feet. This number fluctuates with season; according to the U.C Davis State of the Lake Report, the gains in winter months are usually offset by the summer. Groups working to curb clarity loss often cite secchi measurements during a single winter to display successes, but long-term trends show that without drastic change in infrastructure clarity will continue declining.

Wetlands along the edges of the lake are crucial ecological filtration systems, cleaning the water before it is introduced into Tahoe. The slow-moving water must pass through miles of organic matter before it emerges in the lake sediment free. Plants stabilize soil and ensure a slower water flow. The destruction of these marshes has caused significant trauma to the natural water purification that is responsible for Tahoe’s transparency. Nearshore mouths such as the Upper Truckee River have been heavily impacted, replacing the meadows with new development that does little to halt the discharge of sediment into Lake Tahoe. Once a meandering river, the Upper Truckee’s mouth has been channeled into a straight line to allow for the ‘Tahoe Keys,’ a system of algae rich man-made channels that form a housing development. Birds in particular have lost a large portion of their habitat in these construction projects. The most visible change that comes as a result of urbanization is the recent uptick in algae. The majority of nitrogen is deposited in the lake from the air, and about 20 percent of the total phosphorus load comes from the urban environment (according to the 2017 State of the Lake report). The warming of the lake from climate change along with the disruption of the delicate balance of chemicals introduced through stormwater has caused significant algal growth. Beaches that were once common swimming areas are now too grimy for many to jump in; Lakeview commons looks more like a science experiment than a community beach. The aspect of this that is most essential is how these changes have impacted the ecological health of the lake. The Mysis shrimp, an invasive species that was introduced to Tahoe in the 60s, mysteriously disappeared from iconic Emerald bay in 2011. The clarity strangely increased by 40 feet, reversing as soon as the shrimp returned. The connection between clarity and ecological health of Tahoe is probably more apparent than what was once thought, but the extent is somewhat of a mystery.

Stormwater management has been attempted in a variety of ways around the basin. Installing curb and gutter does not treat storm water before it is introduced into the lake, as it is not afforded the time and surface material to pass through layers of sediment to catch the tiny particles. Another method has been installation of filter systems. These will clog in extreme winter conditions and are quite expensive to install and maintain. In my view, filters are band-aid measures; no infrastructure changes other than something added onto the end of a broken system. When humans find ourselves lost over a problem caused by our meddling with nature, we must look again to natural processes to make things right. If natural water systems can retain clarity simply by allowing water to absorb into the ground, we can stop clarity loss by mimicking these systems and allowing processes to take place that have been halted for decades. BMPs, or Best Management Practices, are an example of allowing some natural filtration to take place. This works by letting water build up in depressions in the ground, and as the water soaks into the ground the sediment and fine pollutants are left behind. These structures can be as simple as a large open hole, or as complex as an underground chamber tucked away beneath a parking lot. The first priority in this is to give the water plenty of time to run along surfaces that allow percolation. The hurdle is finding urban spaces that can accommodate appropriate amounts of stormwater; as a rule, development is never curbed to allow for more natural spaces.

People are quite interested in keeping Tahoe blue. The Lake Tahoe Restoration Act is a source of funding for many projects around the basin; Senator Dianne Feinstein was especially instrumental in creating and extending the 2000 legislation that has provided over a billion dollars to improve the health of Tahoe. A portion of the storm water slice has ironically been spent on developing new curb and gutter. This unfortunate reality is the result of misunderstanding of science and agencies competing for limited funding to continue operations.

The League to Save Lake Tahoe developed a citizen science Pipe Keeper program to monitor the storm drain runoff pipes around the basin. People brave bone chilling rain and blackened water from pipes out of love for Tahoe; they collect samples of storm water and do the kind of ground work that is necessary when a natural feature is being threatened. This provides an updating status that compliments the research from U.C Davis for a greater understanding of Lake Tahoe. I visited the local Department of Transportation and learned about the salt and sand that is applied to the road to protect people from sliding on the seasonal ice. There are huge garages filled to the brim with salt and sand, and apparently there’s noticeable differences in which you choose to use. Russel Wigart works tirelessly to reduce the sediment load of these measures and to improve clarity in general. Since his employment, they have replaced the standard sanding material with local decomposed granite and salt with liquid brine, both of which have measurably improved what is deposited into the lake. In addition to this, the city recently bought up an area of development that was built up on a creek bed that saw catastrophic flooding seasonally and put into place stormwater treatment basins and a real creek for the water to flow through. Jason Burke, the South Tahoe Public Utilities District Stormwater program coordinator, is approaching the management of stormwater to match natural systems. There are more and more individuals learning how stormwater must be treated in this special basin to correct the mistakes of the past.

Lake Tahoe is still seeing a reduction in clarity, and it seems to me now this is what comes when humans want cars and roads and ski resorts and a functioning economy in a place that everyone wants to be. It’s not reasonable for me to nostalgically compare Crater Lake, OR, a basin that hasn’t seen development, to a place where thousands live full time. Tahoe was not federally protected and is fairly developed, but this doesn’t mean its fate is set. We can and are mitigating damage, and I am very proud to be in a community that contains people working hard to shift the balance.

4 – Nobody left behind – thoughts from a disable activist

By Revolt

Quality versus quantity, it’s one of those questions for the ages, isn’t it? Occasionally it’s something we take for granted, since our unconscious force of habit can steer us towards one or the other,hhssssh without us ever really thinking about it. But in the case of activism and philosophy this can mean life or death; inclusion or seclusion; progress or defeat.

Let me begin by coming clean with you: I use a wheelchair. It’s not something I brag about, especially when I have the luxury of hiding behind this keyboard to disguise my “secret identity.” For most people, being disabled is a real drag. People look at me at the supermarket like I’m a circus freak. My landlord is furious at my requests for access accommodations to get into my unit. And dating? Hah! I haven’t been on a date in years.

As one long time disability advocate told me, we (disabled people) are just a waste of resources. We take up space, money, and time. And what sane person would ever want to give any of those away?

We are seen as broken, useless, sick, and dependent. Under capitalism, we are especially loathed as non-workers who do not contribute to the production of commodities, progress, or exploitation for profit by the capitalist. We are hard to exploit, dammit! Instead, we require valuable resources that could be lining the cashmere pockets of industry fat cats. We are an extra few tanks of fuel for the private jet, down the drain. Another dinner soirée that was never to be. Taxes that could go towards another airbase for another ill-conceived occupation.

It’s no wonder why under most totalitarian regimes such as those of Mussolini and Hitler, we were the first to be executed, or, to put it more politely: cut from welfare and left to die. The crippled and disabled have no use in a fascist or even a capitalist state. President’s State of the Union speeches are quick to attack the so-called bloated and broken systems of Medicare and Medicaid while espousing our military’s prowess with the very next breath.

So…why are we here? Why wasn’t I killed off a long time ago? It’s an interesting question, and not one that I have all the answers to. From what I understand of history though, it has very much to do with one very important movement: The Humanist movement.

Prior to the Renaissance and the Enlightenment movement of the 19th century, humanism and moral philosophy barely existed in Europe. Most of the public delighted in the spectacle of public executions and the torture of the weird and different. They supported the Crusades, the Witch-hunts, the “conquests” of Alexander the not-so-great. And while there have always been revolts and protests to these horrific practices, for much of human history they were simply the status quo.

Living in the darkness of illiteracy, Europeans could only find brief glimpses of humanism through portions of the Judeo-Christian texts, most of which were reconfigured to the grotesque interests of the State. And just like today, the State had zero use for people like me – ineffectual, unemployed cripples. I would’ve been locked away and most likely tortured and starved.

Fortunately, changes would emerge from these bleak conditions. Influenced by Chinese revolving woodtype, the Guttenberg printing press swept through Europe in the middle of the 15th century. This revolutionary invention spread secular curiosity and, along with the changing political climate of the rising merchant class, new ideas began to seep into the collective consciousness of the people. Artists began to emerge with a greater mastery of the brush; Leonardos and Raphaels were to study and create the masterpieces we still know today. The great sculptures by Michelangelo chiseled into existence, spurred on by the Arabic translated texts of the Ancients. And from these bore the great moral and political philosophers like Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Karl Marx, and countless others who fed the increasingly voracious appetites for knowledge and different ways of thinking. The concept of courtly love – a love defined not by birthright and status, but by free will – emerged within the aristocracy as well. To love and be loved, to create art for the benefit of humanity, to question the order of the cosmos and the laws of States; these activities defined a population of reinvention and self-discovery.

We activists tend to place too much emphasis on revolutions of nations and production, while wholly forgetting the revolution of humanist thought. The revolutions that came about during and after the Renaissance were not just about ending the slavery of the Religious State – they were also about ending the slavery of the mindsets that despots imposed. It was about people beginning to think for themselves, to decide their own value system, their own purpose in the world (existentialism) and their commitments to one another.

As far as I understand it, this is exactly when disabled people started to “matter.” This is when we were seen as human beings for the first time, not as the helpless cursed property of the philanthropic churches, set out to save our souls. The humanist movement, as the name implies, is also the birth of human value; one that is dependent upon only one factor: being a member of the human race.

For the past three or four hundred years we have been fighting to exist in a society that struggles to see us as fully human, as fully deserving of life and happiness. We had a major victory in the USA in 1990 when we fought alongside AIDS activists for our right to ride on buses, enter businesses, access public bathrooms, and to have options outside of institutional living. National heroes like Ed Roberts and the Rolling Quads fought for visibility and self-worth amidst a sea of bigotry and abuse. Massive gains came through the passage of the American with Disabilities Act: the lifeblood of the contemporary American Disabilities movement. Without the brave work of our LGBTQ comrades, without their unfathomable sacrifice, courage, and loss in the wake of a devastating disease, Congress and the President would have never, ever, ever signed so many rights of disabled people into law. It was a wonderful example of the last generation coming together to work for a common goal.

But disability rights today are seen very differently in the activist community. For many radical activists fighting for systemic change, we are simply a burden. Can you phone bank? Can you come down to our [inaccessible] office to make flyers? Can you “bottom line” this event? That’s a no, no, and no. And so it becomes a question of Quantity over Quality. Activists are always calculating resources, and disabled people are bad use of those limited, precious resources.

So what does the result of this thinking look like? The major anarchist hub in my city is up two flights of stairs (oh well!). The radical punk store can’t stand my request to turn down the jams because my body is writhing in pain. And the marches always happen without me (as do the banner making parties, up those flights of steps). Our inclusivity is not important; it never makes the cut for “safe space” guidelines and it’s extremely rare to find it in the vocabulary of oppression or demands for equality in radical or progressive communities. Ableism is the only “ism” I have to explain to people on a daily basis. It’s not just that we don’t exist, the very word available to describe the bigotry oppressing us isn’t used or understood to explain what’s happening! And if it ever is there, it’s a token word at best, never to be taken up with serious purpose for actual changes in organizing.

That’s a significant problem, because the disability movement is one of the only movements that struggles to be visible for itself. If you can’t move out of bed, how are you supposed to protest? If you’re eating all of your meals through a tube and you’re having seizures each day, how are you supposed to write letters or phone bank? The simple truth is, at the end of the day, we need able-bodied people to defend us as well. We need our comrades to be there for us, to value the qualityover the quantity. To help us feel welcomed and feel that our lives matter.

If you decide to engage with us, you might be surprised at what you find in return. Because disabled people have a no-bullshit realism that is critical for organizing, and we can offer things that the ableists could never dream of. The creativity and artwork of the disabled community is beautifully vulnerable and unique, and our ability to help with survival in “domestic” struggles of air quality, injuries, stress, mental health, burnout, depression, nutrition, medicines, and more is staggeringly effective. We are also more visible when we can protest and, if you help us get there, our powerchairs make a damn good blockade 😉

But the disability movement isn’t just segregated physically. It is also segregated politically into the tepid waters of reformist policy making. And while we need changes in policy now for our immediate survival, we also reside there because radical activist communities shun us as ineffective dead weight. It can be a strange, almost twilight zone experience sometimes, seeing Republicans speak up for my survival more than the freedom-loving, oppression-smashing Anarchist collective down the street. But it goes to show that human value doesn’t know a party line, and meaningless catch-phrases can be espoused by anyone.

The question for us now is – Quality or Quantity? Inclusivity or Productivity? For those of us in the disability movement, it may be a matter of both. One of our common expressions is “no body left behind,” spelled in such a way as to remind us that all physical beings have value and are worthy of resources. And while you might be calculating just how many flyers you can get out to how many bicyclists that will post how many tweets to get how many bodies at how many marches, you might consider taking a deep breath, a step back, and a new approach. Because a “march” of ten rolling crips can be worth a hundred running pickets. A one-hour brainstorm of ten normies can miss what a neurodivergent person spots in a minute. A 20-year-old can repeat a hundred mistakes that an 80-year-old could’ve prevented with one conversation.

Wisdom and effectiveness can come in many forms and even if they didn’t, wouldn’t it be nice to try and find out? We may just surprise you 😉

2 – 3 – Save the biosphere on Forest at a time – a Mattole action update

By Carol

In September young people all over the world took to the streets, striking, rallying, and demanding that politicians acknowledge and address the climate catastrophe that we are facing. And their demands are real: yes, we need those in power to make change – but they aren’t moving fast enough, and meanwhile species are going extinct every day. What do we do in the meantime? We go to the climate frontlines. And the frontlines are everywhere: there are pipeline and forest struggles going on right now all over Amerikkka. One such frontline exists in Northern California, where the notorious timber wars of the 90s are flaring up once again. Here, on the Lost Coast, a chance encounter brought me into an environmental struggle that has since become central in my life.

I was groggy, still tangled in my sleeping bag, when I heard my comrade Embers’ shout. “They sent up a climber!” We woke everyone in camp and hurried north, towards phone reception. At first, we thought our comrade Rook, who had been aloft in a tree sit for seven days, was being extracted. But instead, the climber, armed with a chainsaw, cut down the buckets and jugs that held Rook’s water, food and gear, dropping heavy items just past their head and then leaving them without enough supplies to survive. Humboldt Redwood Company (HRC), the corporation that had taken over the timberlands of the notorious Pacific Lumber after PL’s bankruptcy, was trying to save face. They wanted Rook down, but instead of doing it by force, they were trying to manipulate them down through hunger and thirst.

For 20 years, forest defenders have put their bodies on the line to protect the Mattole watershed place, the ancestral home of the people now known as the Mattole and one of the last remaining areas of unlogged, mixed hardwood and Douglas fir forest in the bioregion.

The Mattole river winds through some of the most rugged terrain on the west coast, meeting the Pacific Ocean just south of Cape Mendocino, the westernmost point in California. Just offshore lies the convergence of three tectonic plates, making the area incredibly geologically unstable. Landslides dot the steep hillsides, and the crests of the ridges are painted with natural open prairies, a legacy of traditional fire management.

The state water board lists this as an impaired watershed, attributing the Mattole’s heightened temperatures and sediment loads to logging and road building upstream. Four decades ago, Mattole Valley residents recognized the declining salmon populations and began salmon monitoring and habitat restoration, and now, salmon populations are finally growing. Since HRC took over PL’s holdings in 2006, the forested ridges of the Mattole headwaters have seen four summers of aerial road blockades, tree sits, lockdowns and work disruption in opposition to HRC’s logging and herbiciding.

In 2014, when HRC began logging in the first of two contentious timber harvest plans (THPs) on Long Ridge, forest rebels began a several-month-long road blockade that prevented them from working there for the rest of the year. In response to broad local opposition to the plans, HRC cancelled hundreds of acres slated to be cut. Hell yeah!

In 2017, forest defenders discovered that HRC was killing native tanoaks and madrones with herbicides on Long Ridge, and blockaded the road again, preventing access for the rest of the dry season. HRC had to file extensions on their logging plans, admitting that the resistance had kept them from getting work done.

During the fall of 2017, with only two years left to complete work under their plan, HRC got desperate. They submitted a plan to build a new road – literally just to get around the blockade site. The road would have destroyed a sensitive wetland and beautiful grove of ancient Bay laurel trees, but a flurry of public comments and the threat of direct action forced them to cancel the road proposal in the spring.

The summer of 2018 saw a third blockade, and this time HRC escalated. They sent in private security guards from Mendocino county-based Lear Asset Management, who raided the blockade, threatening forest defenders with tasers, harassing blockaders and messing with aerial lifelines. Three folks were arrested. Curiously, HRC didn’t begin logging after the blockade was down, instead paying the security guards to sit around on the ridge for several months doing nothing. Avoiding the goons proved to be an entertaining diversion for forest defenders scouting during that period.

In November, the guards finally packed up and left, and promptly afterward, Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI), another multi-death corporation, showed up to log their slice of the pie, clear cutting dozens of acres that they “own” on the north side of Long Ridge. Forest defenders scrambled to respond, setting a tree sit and slash piles, and engaging with workers on the ground. They were able to stall SPI contractors, who fled the coming rain, leaving marketable logs behind.

This spring, forest defenders discovered the security guards had returned, once again desecrating a historic indigenous village site on Rainbow Ridge by parking their camper trailers, port-a-potties, and ATVs there. Then, on June 6, 2019, HRC contractors started falling trees. Because HRC and CalFire have repeatedly failed to publish necessary documents on time, the community only knew that work had begun because of forest rebels’ diligent monitoring.

And HRC was disregarding stakeholder concerns outright. During the summer of 2018, a year prior, Mattole valley residents had filed a grievance with the “sustainable” timber certifiers Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), contesting HRC’s FSC certification, and HRC had yet to address the demands required by that grievance process. The community was outraged, and the next Monday morning, security guards showed up to the main gate before dawn to find four septuagenarian residents of the Mattole valley, the same folks who had filed the FSC grievance the year before, blocking the gate with their bodies – and an accordion! They refused to stand down and were arrested.

Meanwhile, in the backwoods, a plucky forest defender, Rook, had climbed into the canopy on Long Ridge, weaving a net between the branches of an ancient Douglas fir slated to be cut as part of a road construction project. The guards immediately set up camp under the massive fir, watching Rook at all hours. It was only a week into the tree sit when the guards sent their climber up to steal Rook’s supplies. When we heard, we stormed HRC’s office.

The following Monday, we were ready. Again, before dawn, forest defenders had arrived, and the goons found a 30 foot ladder blocking the main gate, with a forest defender dangling at the top. This must have been a bit much for them, because they called the Humboldt County Sheriff. The sheriffs showed up and immediately ordered those on the ground to move, contradicting the property lines that the goons had pointed out. When folks started to move, the two deputies lunged at and arrested three folks, the first two of which had cameras and were documenting the action. The deputies fractured one person’s rib and bloodied their face.

Rook remained aloft for two months all in all, witnessing from the canopy as the road building crew worked right up to their tree, then constructed the road around them and continued down the hill. They watched the trees downhill from them get hauled out. A Sonoma red tree vole, a tiny rodent that is an indicator species for old growth Douglas fir, moved into their bedding. They watched the goons, who maintained a 24 hour presence under the tree. On two separate occasions, forest rebels brought food and water, and the security guards chased them, arresting one, to prevent resupply. Finally, one rascal was able to sneak past guards and deliver supplies and a tarp just before rain. Eventually, because of mounting community pressure, HRC told their goons to give Rook small amounts of processed food and water.

While all this was going on, another forest rebel, Pascal, climbed a threatened ancient Douglas fir on the other side of the ridge. Pascal endured similar treatment – goons harassing them and keeping a close watch to prevent ground support from coming close, and chasing and arresting them when they finally did descend.

Over the course of the summer, four forest defenders were arrested in the woods, nine in town, and three received citations during roughly two dozen actions. Forest defenders ranging in age from 24 to 87 locked their bodies to cattle grates, to gates, to bicycles and to each other. A forest defender locked themselves to the machinery being used to build the road around Rook’s tree. Elders, veterans of the Headwaters struggle, came out and put their bodies on the line, turning away log trucks. Forest defenders disrupted work in the woods. Many dozens of people rallied at gates into the area, performing theatre, playing music, and speaking out. Folks took over CalFire’s office, stormed HRC’s office on multiple occasions and kept returning to block the road to the Long Ridge timberlands and the entrance into HRC’s sawmill.

When Rook descended on August 5, HRC execs mentioned that the tree they had occupied would remain – until HRC’s next round of logging in the area. At this time, the beautiful grove that Pascal defended also stands. In early September, HRC filed completion on their THPs, meaning that no more work will happen within these plans. But they have already pushed the next THP through the approval process – this one in the headwaters of the upper north forks of the Mattole. Meanwhile, on the neighboring Monument and Bear River ridges, a greenwashed company is pushing a massive wind farm that will threaten wildlife habitat and sacred sites of the indigenous Wiyot people. This is yet another false solution to climate change, and Wiyot officials, local residents, and environmental groups have already come out in opposition to the project.

Recently a veteran forest defender mused to me that in this work, all our victories are temporary and our losses are permanent. That certainly feels to be the case on Long Ridge, where the entire south side of the ridge is marred by fresh slash piles, skid trails and stumps, still fragrant with the sap the Doug firs exude to heal their wounds. Mattole defenders are mourning as we gather ourselves for the next battle. As we humbly continue this struggle now in its third generation, continuing to fight for what was left out of the 1998 Headwaters Agreement, we have to recognize that this is a different time.

People all over the world are rising up to call attention to this climate crisis. The science dictates our priorities: the carbon sequestration value and biodiversity of late seral forests makes their protection an imperative. At the same time, the emotionality of it – to fall in love with a ridge and a river so deeply that you are compelled to put yourself in the path of those who seek to destroy it – is powerful. What a joy to be small on a big, beautiful thing called Earth, and to dedicate oneself in service to keeping intact ecosystems whole, and healing those that are broken.

In a little box:

Earth First! Humboldt, which supports forest defense in the Mattole watershed, needs your support! Come to Humboldt and join us in the woods, donate to help us cover campaign and legal expenses, or plan a solidarity action or benefit event in your area!

Contact us to plug in: efhum@riseup.net

Stay in the loop: Instagram @blockade.babes and savethemattolesancientforest.com

2 – Michael Diehl 1955-2019

Michael Diehl — a proud Berkeley wingnut in the finest way — was hit by a car and killed September 29. His death leaves a huge gap in the world and hundreds of friends in tears. Michael lived life totally on his own terms devoted to freedom, art, music and the underdog. He had a unique style which he applied in a variety of counter-cultural contexts — the Berkeley Free Clinic, 924 Gilman Street, People’s Park, OTO temple / Thelema Lodge where he was a priest, as a DJ at Free Radio Berkeley and Berkeley Liberation Radio, as a wise and calming street-level mental heath healer, an artist, a resident of several alternative households including Oz house, stalwart of Berkeley Mardi Gras and a most remarkable dancer. He wrote and did art for Slingshot and he was a frequent presence at the Long Haul where Slingshot has its office. In 2006 Slingshot awarded Michael the Golden Wingnut award for Lifetime Achievement. (see Issue#90) When asked why he deserved it he quipped “Because i’m crazy.”

Around Berkeley the term wingnut applies to odd people and it can be both loving and a putdown. Michael was the good kind of wingnut. He was humble and giving to others and the community. Born in Massachusetts in 1955 where he was too young to be a Hippy but felt the sea change. He had a short stint at Antioch College where he was a part of a Gestlat Group and earned the nick name “Dancing Bear.” He moved to the Bay in 1977 during what he calls “The Summer of Hate.” He self-described himself about that time as being “Berkeley’s first Crusty punk. I had spikey hair and a sleeping bag and was living on the streets.” Michael was homeless on-and off throughout his life but largely lived collectively.

Michael was an activist and founder or core-member of several community projects that directly address the damage created by capitalism. He started the Peer Counseling Collective which provides alternative mental health services through the Berkeley Free Clinic. He was an early proponent of Radical Mental Health. He was a compassionate listener not only during office hours but on all fronts. A lot of his street-level activism was for the poor, homeless and those with mental issues and in the throes of a crisis. He was good at it because those on the streets related to him as one of their own.

Michael lived in a complex stew of opposites. Spiritual yet intellectual. Anarchist yet civicly involved. His deep fascination with Tibetan Buddism, WICCA, Paganism was tempered by a daily reading of the NY Times.

In the late 1980’s he joined the all-ages, volunteer run punk club 924 Gilman when it first opened. He joined the art committee painting murals on the blank walls but quickly found himself as the Head coordinator for a two year stint. He worked to make it a space more than just for entertaining people. He helped make it a collective and a non-profit. He fought off abuse from Nazi Skinheads and when YUPPIE neighbors and the city wanted to close Gilman down, Michael helped organize 150 punks to show up to the city zoning commission meeting. He also brought his gentle touch to the club making it welcoming to people who didn’t fit in. He would put on art shows and book unusual music and he constantly made iconic cut & paste fliers that were plastered all over town. The club was under financial hardships at the time of his watch so he responded by holding a magic ritual to make the club solvent. Not only is Gilman still here today but “100 clubs bloomed” globally as Michael proposed in one his manifesto fliers.

Michael did a series of benefit shows in support of People’s Park activists facing a frivolous lawsuit by University of California and never stopped defending the Park against development. He worked with Copwatch as well to try to limit the police abuse he saw on the streets that he knew so well.

Michael was a DJ for unlicensed Free Radio Berkeley 104.1 FM in 1995, and continued as a DJ when FRB became Berkeley Liberation Radio where he was known as DJ Adversary.

“Michael was a man with a big heart who had few earthly possessions yet gave constantly of his time and effort to help others. He was a soulful socialist who lived his life in an uncompromising way true to a heartfelt revolutionary joy.

2 – Introduction to Slingshot issue #130

Slingshot is an independent radical newspaper published in Berkeley since 1988.

It’s hard to not see life as an uphill battle, especially when your peers are all pushing a similar boulder up their neighboring hills.

Creating this issue has been a particularly interesting struggle for the few members of the Slingshot collective. Many of us spent the last few weeks involved in the global climate strike. Out on the streets we protested business as usual, demanding an immediate just transition from fossil fuels, and aimed to call attention to the climate emergency. We pushed the deadline back in an attempt to cover all that, but the mix of disappointment and joy we felt during the strikes is hard to understand fully or convey.

At the midnight hour, burnt out on articles not addressing the state of emergency, facing our own entanglement in the climate disaster, we are still left wondering if this issue is even worth it’s carbon footprint. Questions like:

• “How good does it have to be to justify using resources like trees and fuel during production?”

• “Are there other things that Slingshot could set its mind to that would be more useful in the long run?”

• Lastly, “What is Slingshot worth to people outside our bubble?”

The stuckness rippled when a collective member suggested to focus not just on the result but also on the possibilities to learn in the process.

Slingshot has, for awhile now, also been struggling with quality of content — wishing we could publish articles that offer exceptional clarity and insight. In this age of information overload, adding to the white noise will not help. Is it ridiculous to presume that Slingshot truly makes a difference? Reading radical lit has been transformative for many of us. We dream of publishing issues full of articulate, thoughtful pieces, but we can hardly get out of bed each day. Meanwhile, massive demonstrations are gripping the world on every continent.

Making the issue creates a unique context for people to meet, hangout and create together. Which sometimes feels sufficient justification to keep the project going. It is fun a well as exhausting and frustrating — but for sure different than regular life.

Even if you don’t think of yourself of a writer, consider authoring a piece for Slingshot. The best articles are about a subject the author is directly engaged in.

Slingshot is always looking for new writers, artists, editors, photographers, translators, distributors, and critical thinkers to make this paper. If you send an article, please be open to editing.

We’re a collective, but not all the articles reflect the opinions of all collective members. We welcome debate and constructive criticism.

Thanks to the people who made this: Alina, Dov, eggplant, Elke, Fern, Hannah, Isabel, Jesse, Jules, Kat, Nyx, Rachelle, Star, Sylvia, Talia, Tybalt, and all the authors and artists!

Slingshot New Volunteer Meeting

Volunteers interested in getting involved with Slingshot can come to the new volunteer meeting on Sunday, December 8th, 2019 at 7 pm at the Long Haul in Berkeley (see below.)

Article Deadline & Next Issue Date

Submit your articles for issue 131 by January 1st, 2020 at 3 pm.

Volume 1, Number 130, Circulation 22,000

Printed October 11, 2019

Slingshot Newspaper

A publication of Long Haul

Office: 3124 Shattuck Avenue Berkeley CA 94705

Mailing: PO Box 3051, Berkeley, CA 94703

510-540-0751 slingshotcollective@protonmail.com

slingshotcollective.org • twitter @slingshotnews

Slingshot free stuff

We’ll send you a random assortment of back issues for the cost of postage. Send $4 for 2 lbs. Free if you’re an infoshop or library. slingshotcollective.org

Circulation information

Subscriptions to Slingshot are free to prisoners, low income, or anyone in the USA with a Slingshot Organizer, or $1 per issue. International $3 per issue. Outside the Bay Area we’ll mail you a free stack of copies if you give them out for free. Say how many copies and how long you’ll be at your address. In the Bay Area pick up copies at Long Haul and Bound Together books, SF.

Slingshot free stuff

We’ll send you a random assortment of back issues for the cost of postage. Send $4 for 2 lbs. Free if you’re an infoshop or library. slingshotcollective.org

Subscriptions to Slingshot are free to prisoners, low income, or anyone in the USA with a Slingshot Organizer, or $1 per issue. International $3 per issue. Outside the Bay Area we’ll mail you a free stack of copies if you give them out for free. Say how many copies and how long you’ll be at your address. In the Bay Area pick up copies at Long Haul and Bound Together books, SF.

1 – Decriminalize Nature – entheogen measure passes in Oakland

By Alex Star

On Tuesday, June 4th, 2019, after fifty years of federal prohibition, the Oakland City Council unanimously voted to decriminalize all plants and fungi currently listed on the FDA Schedule 1 list. This list includes literally hundreds of species of plants and fungi known to have, either alone or in combination, profound spiritual and visionary effects when ingested by homo sapiens. This list includes the best known and most powerful substances: Ayahuasca, DMT, Psilocybin Mushrooms, Iboga, and Peyote Cactus.

All the plants and fungi included in the decriminalization measure passed by Oakland City Council, are what we in the activist community, have termed “entheogens”, a word which shares the same root as the word “enthusiasm” and essentially means “that which insights divinity or the divine experience”. You may already be aware of the sacred medicines Ayahuasca and Psilocybin Mushrooms, and but are probably more familiar with the more commonly used word “psychedelics”. “Psychedelic” is a catch-all term describing substances with profoundly expansionary impacts on human consciousness. However, we activists responsible for the measure passed on June 4th, felt the word “entheogen” to be more correct and also more palatable to the common person.

The power of the word “entheogen” is that it is a clear slate from which to have the conversation regarding their use.

Q: What is an entheogen, and what does it mean to decriminalize?

A: An entheogen, for the purposes of this article, is any plant or fungal body, and the derivatives thereof, with the ability to bring about profound spiritual experiences and mind-expanding perceptions when consumed by humans.

“Decriminalization” effectively means that, while entheogenic plants and fungi are still federally illegal, the City of Oakland has decided that the City itself, including the police department, will expend zero time, money, or resources in the prosecution of people for possessing, distributing, or growing any of the above listed plants and fungi.

We live in a society which seems utterly intent on destroying our own planetary ecosystems to the extent that human life can no longer be supported. The dominant human culture has forgotten the intrinsic connection we share with all life, and recklessly destroys millions of lives and the fragile systems supporting in order for the controlling members of our society to enjoy a few more years of limitless consumption and growth.

Entheogenic plants and fungal life forms, reconnect our consciousness to our own fundamental place as singular organisms within a much larger planetary system. At the same time as our society accelerates full-steam towards our own destruction, these mushrooms and plants, with the ability to heal the profound sickness of the human soul, have been declared illegal by the systems controlling our society.Few things in the world are more important than getting the power of entheogenic plants and fungi out to the masses. Sacred plants, fungi, and medicines, which we now call “entheogens” are, the most powerful method for reintegrating sanity into our mainstream culture. It was for this reason that an amazing group of activists, from all walks of life, including Nobel Peace Prize Nominee Susana Valadez, came together to tell the story of the power of sacred entheogens and the need to decriminalize before the Oakland City Council. In testament to the potential and power of this cause, in healing wounds and bridging social divides, every single council member present voted “yes” that night.

Full credit to the bravery of the Oakland City Council, they did not have to pass this measure, and certainly did not have to pass it unanimously, one or two council members could have easily said “nay” or even abstained from voting altogether. It is thanks to the unanimous decision by the Oakland City Council, that the Decriminalize Nature Measure, has now spread to almost one hundred cities across the United States.

This whole movement started when a few people came together around a small garden dedicated to entheogenic plants in Oakland, and has very quickly spread to a national movement.

The Decriminalize Nature team is made up of people from every demographic and walks of life, which really demonstrates the universal nature of the need to reconnect and the power entheogenic practice to inspire, heal, and empower people and communities.

Entheogenic mushrooms and plants are the very spirit of our Mother Earth reaching out to us, to heal our collective consciousness and help us to bring our existence into alignment with the greater planetary systems in which we are intrinsically a part.

This connection, if we reach out with all our strength, might just save us all.

1 – to put Sand in the gears – climate strike!

By Jesse D. Palmer

The Global Climate Strikes by millions of people have been amazing — yet they are really just a start. Business as usual cannot continue — we’re on a suicide course. To achieve change equal to the scale of the unprecedented ecological emergency we are facing requires sustained organizing, unrelenting social pressure, collective creativity and openness to dramatic systemic and culture change.

No matter who you are, its time to get over your despair, paralysis, blame-shifting, self-doubt and instead focus on the overwhelming task at hand. Big protests are fine but we need to rapidly translate them into real changes to cut fossil fuel emissions to zero — which is overwhelming because everything about our lives involves burning fossil fuels.

The strikes were youth-led and it is key that the youth were asking for everyone to strike — they know it is past the time for just raising consciousness and symbolic actions. Yet most adults didn’t strike, which was a missed opportunity to really disrupt the system and change direction. At some point, we have to decide that at least attempting to save ourselves is worth a shot and that we need to stop worrying about short-term consequences.

Striking is a radical tactic — risky, difficult and for those up against the wall. The reason strikes were called is that strikes work. Without workers, those in power are fucked. When a strike is called, it means “don’t go to work” — and it may ruin your day, be scary, cause you to lose pay, and disappoint or piss off your bosses, students, clients, customers, co-workers and family.

But is it more reasonable to just keep doing your work? If human society goes extinct, your bank account won’t matter. We won’t get a second chance.

Ecological collapse — of the oceans, the birds, the bugs, the crops, the forests — is in progress and it eclipses everything. All our social justice goals are are on the verge of becoming impossible as we slide towards crop-failure, famine, mass-migration, scarcity wars, and other social consequences of climate collapse.

We desperately need new terminology. “Climate change” is far too passive and lacks urgency. Climate change implies that the climate just happens to be changing. But the real issue is that by digging up and burning billions of tons of fossil fuels — emitting 100 million tons of CO2 every day1 — human beings are actively, intentionally and on a corporate/industrial level committing mass social suicide, not to mention ecocide against millions of other species.

During the Global Climate Strike march in San Francisco, I kept noticing irreconcilable realities — concern about climate change has gone mainstream, yet actually reducing fossil fuel combustion is still considered radical. People either want someone else to make reductions, or they are looking for another magic solution that doesn’t require reorganizing the world very much. Can’t we just plant one trillion trees or something? We need to stay focused on how we can stop burning fossil fuels — the science and the numbers are crystal clear that combustion is the main activity that has to stop. Humans are harming the earth many ways which allneed to be addressed from plastics, to pesticides, to land use, etc. — but it is a mistake to get too distracted from combustion.

The CO2 released when you start a car or turn on a gas stove takes 20-200 years to be reabsorbed into the environment.2 That means casual acts are making very long-term commitments. In many contexts, we don’t have a choice — our system only gives us a fossil fuel option for living our lives.

But what about when we can choose? If you are able-bodied, you get to decide whether to drive 2 miles or walk or bike. Only you decide whether to hang your clothes in the sun or put them in the drier. Of course none of us can solve climate collapse just with our personal actions — we need system chance first and foremost which can only be achieved by collective action. But it is factually incorrect to say that fossil fuels burned by individuals during our day-to-day lives are irrelevant.

We need to focus on the difference between culture shifts and individual change. A single individual changing isn’t up to the scale of the changes needed. Culture shifts are different and more powerful – they involve millions of people changing the things we want, the pace of our lives, and what we consider normal, desirable and reasonable.

For cultural change to take root, we need to realize that cutting emissions isn’t giving something up, but rather it’s about getting back aspects of our lives we have lost, and that we miss.

Fossil fuel use makes the world faster, more homogenous, more centralized and less participatory as machines and companies do things people used to do for ourselves. A cultural move away from fossil fuel emissions will help recapture the grace, magic and attentiveness people had before industrial capitalism used fossil fuels to speed up our lives. Biking around is slower than driving and flying but you enjoy what’s along the way and you revive connections with the landscapes, people and creatures around you — smelling trees, hearing birds and spotting mushrooms.

In the US, 28.9% of greenhouse gas emissions are from transportation, and 59% of that is “cars and light duty vehicles.” 28% is from electrical generation, 22% industry, 9% agricultural, 6% commercial and 5% residential. (2017 figures;3 greenhouse gas emissions are measured in C02 equivalents — 82% of emission equivalents are actually CO2, i.e. burning fossil fuels.)

Some emissions can only be addressed on a systemic level. For instance, the 28% of emissions from electrical generation result from decisions made by a very few companies and governments. Emissions-free wind and solar electrical generation are now cheaper than fossil fuels in some areas4 — so for those emissions pressure on elites is spot on. It is possible to imagine zero emissions from electrical generation in 5 years if WWII-type efforts were applied. Looking at the numbers, agriculture contributes emissions, but not as much as other activities nor as much as many people think.

As more protests and rebellions roll out from Sunrise Movement, Youth vs. Apocalypse, and Extinction Rebellion, etc. please do something. You’ll feel better — you’ll meet new people — the loveliness of our lives on this lush world are worth long-shot, last ditch attempts at survival.

Leading up to the Climate Strike in September, I went to a swarming training in a park. Swarming is a tactic used recently by Extinction Rebellion in England where a tiny group of people create brief (under 7 minute) traffic blockades. It is “lower risk” and in fact if police arrive the idea at least at the training I went to was to quickly melt away.

As I biked away from the training, I felt better than I had in months — a light went on and I realized “this is exactly what I have been looking for.” Because I have been feeling depressed, hopeless, tired, discouraged, sad and fearful. It is a cliché but being a dad for my seven year old daughter makes me feel especially bad, because I can’t protect her — I can only offer her only a future filled with problems that my generation hasn’t been able to fix. All the animals in all the kids books are going extinct.

Going to the training brought me back to my activist roots as a teenager. Taking action outside my regular day-to-day life brought clarity and focus. Thinking and talking about solving problems isn’t nearly as meaningful as actually doing something directly to try to make a difference.

The day we swarmed in San Francisco, I was a drone. I went to each car caught in the blockade, waved to the driver and tried to engage them in a conversation. I tried to give them a flier. One flipped me off and a few ignored me and wouldn’t roll down their windows, but a surprising number spoke with me, took my flier and understood why I was there. A few even thanked me. I told trapped drivers that what we’ve been doing hasn’t been working and we need to increase the pressure by putting some sand into the gears.

Only a handful of people turned out for swarming — it was a sobering contrast to the thousands who turned out 3 days before for the Climate Strike and told me that most people aren’t ready for disruptive tactics yet.

People are stuck around the enormity of climate change because we feel like anything we try won’t be enough.

Maybe we should stop worrying about results so much. Perhaps we can re-focus on our feelings. It feels better to try rather than to curl up and repress our fear. We may have to trust that if we do what feels good, it might not be enough — it might not save us — but at least we can die feeling good and knowing that in the Sixth Extinction, we did something. We did everything we could do.

Or really, whatever works for you to get out and do something while you still can. If the 5 stages of grief make sense and you need to go through denial, anger, depression, bargaining, that’s fine but please hurry up. Al Gore’s movie came out in fucking 2006 so for at least that long it has been crystal clear that unless humans change most of our technology and systems, our society is doomed. How could it be that we are roughly at the same place we were 15 years ago?!?

This is a crisis of business as usual — doing things the way we’ve always done them so far will be deadly. Self-defense lies in disrupting and shutting down the system however and wherever possible.

Action in the streets, in the political realm — working on system change not climate change — is exhilarating. The best moments of my life have been in the middle of chaos and resistance — seizing Seattle through thick clouds of tear gas during the WTO 20 years ago or climbing on top of a semi-truck during Occupy Oakland’s port take-over.

Intense actions can be terrifying — I recall the first time I was arrested when I was 16 years old I was almost shaking — but even more confronting power and injustice is transformational. Once the cuffs go on, you’ll never be a spectator again.

Being in a direct action movement engages you with those around you. You never feel as close to other people as when you’re together occupying a building, seizing a street or evading a police line. Direct action involves a constant learning and training which we’re missing as we work repetitive jobs and live repetitive, predictable lives. So while there’s a lot to be lost to the climate emergency, might we regain lives that matter in the struggle to survive?

There is a purity in not compromising – not succumbing to what is realistic – but rather holding out for how things should be.

A general theory of disruption is to go after the most fragile and vulnerable points in the system where a small delay or obstruction by a small number of people can have large impacts. The system has numerous inviting choke points: pipelines, power lines, ports, railroads, airports — places where things have to operate just-so and minor problems can ripple outward.

So many people focus on why we can’t survive rather than how we can rise up against fossil fuel corporations and our own human sloppiness. Doom-fetishism amongst pampered people in the USA — “why do anything because we’re all fucked” — is the height of 1%-ish privilege because as climate change gets worse, the hardships will fall first and worst on the poorest people who are least responsible. Meanwhile the doomers living in the US will be protected by machine gun toting police while they eat the last food.

Climate crisis is not a movie with black and white outcomes — either we are doomed or we survive. Rather — while it is already too late to avoid mass species extinction and vast human suffering and displacement — getting to zero emissions faster will reduce future famines, floods and suffering. There’s no way to know if we’re already facing total social breakdown or if climate change will just make the current systems of injustice and oppression worse. Reducing emissions is harm reduction. If we know what is causing harm, we need to reduce the harm as much as we can, as fast as we can.

The reason I included the percentage breakdown of emissions sources in this article is because it makes sense to focus on the largest emissions sources first to avoid spending too much time on symbolic changes. 60% of US emissions are from transportation and electrical generation so those areas are top priorities. Air travel is just 3% of total US emissions. The number is growing fast — air travel has increased ten-fold in the last 50 years5 — but anti-flying campaigns alone won’t reduce emissions nearly as much as getting people to drive less or switch to electric cars.

Last year about 3 percent of the world’s population flew on a plane. Because most Americans routinely fly and think nothing of it, flying seems “normal”, but from a global and historical perspectively, flying is very unusual. Corporations offer air travel and many other fossil fuel intensive options, but we don’t have to buy what they are selling.

Nevertheless, we need to stop thinking we can just focus on fixing one thing or blaming corporations or big consumers or someone else. Shifting blame is taking up energy we need to use on actually changing stuff.

A big problem with the idea that we have to change everything is that the pace of capitalist / technology change is already overwhelming — we are tired of all this constant change — yet the only way out of this mess is even more and widespread change.

This is what makes me really pessimistic and filled with despair. People do what feels right and it is comfortable to cling to the things we’re used to. But doing so will surely kill us.

During the Climate Strike march in San Francisco marching with so many thousands, at certain moments I felt a surge of hope: “maybe we can all get together and do something.” But as soon as I left the crowd, I was back in a sea of car and business as usual.

What keeps me going is how lovely the world still is — and people with their complex consciousness and diverse cultures are a part of the loveliness even if we’re also like a cancer. We need to hold these contradictions in our hearts, avoid distraction and division, and focus on what we can do rather than what seems impossible.



Emissions from Transportation:

Cars and light duty vehicles – 59%

Medium and heavy duty trucks – 23%

Airplanes 9%

Trains 2%

Ships and boats 3%

Other 4%


1. www.scientificamerican.com/article/co2-emissions-reached-an-all-time-high-in-2018

2. www.ipcc.ch/report/ar4/wg1/

3. epa.gov/ghgemissions/sources-green house-gas-emissions

4. irena.org/newsroom/pressreleases/2019/ May/ Falling-Renewable-Power-Costs-Open-Door-to-Greater-Climate-Ambition

5. data.worldbank.org/indicator/IS.AIR.PSGR

1 – Being Water in Hong Kong artist perspectives from a people’s uprising

By Michael Leung

In mid-September I met friends at Lok Fu metro station at 7:30 pm, and together with thousands of other people, we started a 495-metre (1624-foot) ascent up Lion Rock — a lion-shaped mountain that overlooks Hong Kong. Due to the narrow paths, some of which only allowed one person to enter at a time, for most of the evening we were queuing up chatting with new friends, shouting slogans, singing songs and wondering how much further we had to go. We arrived at the peak at 3 am, to an atmosphere of celebration, body odour and fatigue.

I rested somewhere on the Lion’s back and looked at the lasers beaming from those people on top of the Lion’s head. It brought me back to August 7 when an impromptu party was organized in response to off-duty police officers arresting a Student Union member for purchasing ten laser pointers a day before. Lasers have played a key part in the anti-extradition movement: identifying police and agitators, obscuring CCTV and police cameras, and for entertainment—often illuminating government buildings.

In February 2019 the Hong Kong government proposed amending the Extradition Bill to include China, Macau and Taiwan (at present it includes 20 countries). The murder of a Hong Kong pregnant woman named Poon Hiu-wing, by her boyfriend Chan Tong-kai in Taiwan, was used to justify the government’s proposed amendment (their “Trojan Horse”) because Hong Kong does not currently have extradition agreements with Taiwan.

The proposed bill amendment alarmed people in Hong Kong people because it allows extraditees to bypass public inspections by the Legislative Council (Hong Kong’s parliamentary chamber that questions the government). This could result in Hong Kong citizens facing unfair trials in China where unjust inprisonment and attacks on freedom of expression are common and enforced with structural violence under China’s authoritarian regime. Hong Kong — home to 7.4 million people — was as a British colony from 1841 until it was transferred to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1997. It maintains a separate government and economic system from the PRC under the Hong Kong Basic Law, which is supposed to permit a legal system, legislative system, and people’s rights and freedom for fifty years. The Basic Law is in stark contrast to the authoritarian surveillance state right next to Hong Kong in the PRC.

The Anti-Extradition Bill movement in Hong Kong began with demonstrations against the bill in March and turned into a continuing mass movement involving thousands of people in June As of September, calendars of upcoming protests arrive weekly via Telegram in Chinese and English.

This article shares some of my personal observations and thoughts from the past weeks on how artists and designers have engaged the movement. These interventions are shared chronologically to help communicate how the protests are evolving, in parallel to the increased police violence, government’s inaction and participation from triad gang members and spycops.

The third anti-extradition bill protest was on Sunday 9th June 2019 and saw over one million people march from Victoria Park to the government headquarters. In the following days it became obvious that the protests would take on a different form compared to the Umbrella Movement five years ago which was a static 79-day occupation in four locations. On 12th June protesters climbed tall road signs and reappropriated them as watchtowers, at times adding their own signage to communicate which roadblocks had police presence and required more protesters (要人, ‘need people’ in English).

In an online article, cartoonist and designer Jason Li documented memes and art featured on placards that adapted popular images from Marvel’s Avengers series, Game of Thrones and Godzilla. Metahaven’s 2013 book Can Jokes Bring Down Governments?: Memes, Design and Politics remains timeless, and is now visible in the placards distributed by illustrators Joanne and Ah Li (known as All Things Bright and Beautiful), and in the surprising reincarnation of American alt-right icon Pepe the Frog — who is no longer a racist mascot but now wears a yellow hardhat and is part of the anti-extradition bill resistance. Unfortunately the “heartbreaking irony” of Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom screened in 29 locations across Hong Kong may have fueled some nationalistic thought in the form of a new Hong Kong “national anthem” called Glory to Hong Kong, as well as street art that oddly incorporates the Celtic cross — a symbol reappropriated by Neo-Nazis.

Photojournalists documenting the protests have become more active on Instagram, especially one from Japan with the handle @kodama.jp. Kodama captures the protests using 35mm film with short descriptions. His beautiful and thought provoking photos remind me of Takashi Hamaguchi who photographed Sanrizuka, the Tokyo Narita Airport struggle in the 1960s and 70s. In a different part of Japan, graphic design duo ITWST showed their solidarity with Hong Kong and condemned police violence in their yellow and black poster, which was on display during the three-day Hong Kong International Airport demonstration (9-11th July 2019).

The anarchist monogram in the poster nods towards the multiple anarchist threads that exist and thrive within the anti-extradition bill movement: those abroad (Out of Control – Hong Kong’s Rebellious Movement and the Left by Ralf Ruckus), those in Hong Kong (Hong Kong: Anarchists in the Resistance to the Extradition Bill on CrimethInc.) and those becoming.

Those becoming are the anonymous and determined protesters that we see in the media, who have been part of this leaderless and decentralised movement — always in black bloc and unaware/unfamiliar with anarchism. At each rally, bilingual insurrectionary graffiti appears on different surfaces. The graffiti also shows solidarity with other struggles such as the squats in Exarchia, and the anti-pipeline movement in North Dakota, where ‘Water is Life’ was spray painted on the roadside — intentionally merging both movements together (“Be Water” being the formless and flashmob strategy of the movement, inspired by martial artist and philosopher Bruce Lee).

The Hong Kong Artist Union, who advocate for artists’ rights and have over 300 members, organized a long list of cultural workers, artists and artist groups to strike on 12th June, the second day of the bill reading. The union later gathered artist objects and printed matter at an exhibition called Bicycle Thieves curated by Hanlu Zhang at Para Site, an independent art institution in Hong Kong (29th June to 1st September). One of the exhibits was a zine titled Documents of a Movementmade by 12 contributors that include artists, designers, teachers, craftspeople and cultural workers. The second zine is in progress and will include 17+ contributors, some of which travelled to Hong Kong to support the movement with small interventions, such as bringing supplies and decorating the streets. The zine will include anti-capitalist feminist perspectives that resonate with Cinzia Arruzza, Tithi Bhattacharya and Nancy Fraser’s book Feminism for the 99%: A Manifesto, further problematising the aforementioned “Trojan Horse,” taunts at police and their partners (predominantly towards policemen’s wives) and the 46+ reported cases of sexual violence towards protesters (41 against women and five against men).

Anti-extradition bill-related artworks could be seen simultaneously elsewhere. Alexander Wong’s Masters in Visual Arts graduation work titled Archive Extradition Bill, gathers videos from the 9th, 12th and 16th of June and places them into a digital sphere for the audience to navigate, watch and learn more about the movement. The work was part of the coincidentally named graduation show ‘Flow’ at the Hong Kong Baptist University (6-20th July 2019), which aligns with the strategy of the movement, “Be Water.” Being water for the past 14 weeks makes me recall the critiques towards the ‘feet-dragging’ zombie-like marches in the book Now by The Invisible Committee and the Theory of the Dérive by Guy Debord, where protesters are writing their own psychogeography and reclaiming (public) space all over Hong Kong — from sterile but welcoming shopping malls to Hong Kong’s only international airport, which surprisingly resulted in more than 160 flights being cancelled on 11th August 2019 (An Extinction Rebellion Hong Kong?).

Owing to the guerrilla and ephemeral nature of the protests, design objects such as “Buddhist barricades” blocking the Hong Kong Police Headquarters in Wan Chai and the interactive airport trolleys equipped with laptops and printed matter only exist in documentation — unless they manifest again in future protests. One unique and impromptu “design object” was the three-person slingshot, which involved two people holding a rubber cord whilst one person launched a projectile towards the government headquarters. Independent curator, writer and university lecturer Yeung Yang wrote in her open letter that, ‘We [artists] need to become not only protesting bodies, but also supple and sensuous ones: drawing, painting, dancing, moving, jumping, touching, laughing, whistling, dreaming, day-dreaming, questioning, thinking… All these that we have been doing enrich our capacities to rule ourselves better’ (Facebook, 14th June 2019). As the anti-extradition bill protests continue all over Hong Kong, I know that we will see more creative forms of resistance from those protesting bodies — learning, sharing and flowing towards a better future for Hong Kong.

Editor’s note: as Slingshot goes to press, police are using live rounds, rubber bullets, beanbags, water cannons and tear gas against protesters. When the Hong Kong government tried to ban masks on Oct 4, protesters instead turned out en mass wearing masks, which are not just for anonymity but also protection against tear gas.