Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Order Your Activist Summer Reading Now

Want an alternative to ordering books from corporate giant

Well, this summer, I entered into an agreement with Powell's Books--a progressive, unionized, and family-owned online bookseller. Our mutual aim is to make it easy for you to order books on activism, social movements, environmentalism, politics, economic reform--or anything else that you might want to read. Powell's has hundreds of thousands of books on topics from American Studies to Zoology.

Even better, if you order books from any of the Powell's links on this blog, Powell's will pay 7.5% of your purchase price as a commision which will then be donated to the Environmental Advocacy and Organizing Program's Scholarship Fund--without any extra cost to you. So, help yourself to great books, support the EAOP's Scholarship Fund, and support a progressive alternative to online book ordering while you are at it.

You can access Powell's online bookstore through the link above, or by using the Powell's icon box or catagory links that are always at the bottom of this blog's Resources sidebar. Also, to directly go to a list of the over 900 books on activism that Powell's has in stock, you can click this link.

Enjoy your summer reading... and help support EAOP students at no extra cost to yourself!

Friday, July 21, 2006

Our Allies in Louisiana

Last year, from March 14 to 25, the two regular EAOP instructors and 13 master's students from Antioch University New England's Environmental Studies Department in Keene, NH visited Louisiana as part of a new ten-day field studies course entitled "Environmental Justice in the Mississippi Delta." During our visit, our class met with a diverse array of stakeholders, including elected officials, petrochemical industry executives, union leaders, scientists, EPA officials, environmental activists, and members of polluted communities along the stretch of the Mississippi River that many state officials call "the Chemical Corridor" and local people often call "Cancer Alley."

One of the most impressive activists we met on that trip was Marylee Orr, the executive director of the Louisiana Environmental Action Network, a coalition of over 100 grassroots environmental groups around the state that have been fighting for environmental justice and protection for years.

Since Hurricane Katrina last August, our faculty and staff have been practicing our fundraising skills and have helped raise thousands of dollars for LEAN's relief efforts. For more information on LEAN's efforts in this area, check out this interview with Marylee. Also, if you would like to financially contribute to LEAN's relief efforts and environmental organizing campaigns, check out their donation site.

We are currently working with Marylee in planning our upcoming March 2007 field studies trip to Louisiana, which will have an expanded focus because we'll also be exploring the ins and outs of how racial and class differences in power and social status badly mis-shaped both hurricane preparation and the governmental response after Katrina hit. We're also looking into how to build a strong service-learning component to our bi-annual trip to aid LEAN's hurricane relief/reconstruction efforts.

We already ended up doing an impromtu, after-the-fact, service-learning project last year when our faculty and students ended up leading a national campaign to support Willie Fontenot, another one of our Louisiana allies, after he was unfairly dismissed from his job as Environmental Liasion for the Louisiana Attorney General when all he did "wrong" was stand up for our legal rights against Exxon-Mobil's clumsy attempt to repress our study trip's research.

We are very eager to get back to Louisiana, learn more about environmental justice, and find ways to help our many allies there.

Friday, July 14, 2006

The Other "Inconvenient Truth"

This last Thursday night, I offered the following remarks to over 400 citizens in Keene as part of an Antioch University-sponsored panel discussion following a showing of Al Gore's new movie An Inconvenient Truth:


Watching Al Gore's new movie “An Inconvenient Truth” reminds me of a scene in a cheesy Hollywood blockbuster a few years back. It was a military courtroom drama called “A Few Good Men.” In one climactic scene, Tom Cruise turns to Jack Nicholson, who is on the witness stand, and shouts, “Just tell me the truth.” Nicholson’s character jumps up and shouts back, “The truth? The truth? You can’t handle the truth!”

I think that’s where we are today. How are we going to handle the hard truth shown in this documentary--that, because of our massive burning of fossil fuels over the last century, we are now in an accelerating and very dangerous period of global climate change. I'm not even sure the phrase global warming does justice to this situation, or even the term global climate change. What we are really talking about is worldwide local climate disruption, with increasingly severe and almost unimaginable consequences.

As Al Gore suggests in this movie, if we are really going to handle this hard truth, we are going to have to help our households, our businesses, our governments, and the international community adopt a hugely ambitious set of policy changes. First, we need to implement policies at the local, regional, national, and global level that will result in the highest levels of energy conservation. Second, we'll need to implement policies at all levels that will result in a rapid shift away from fossil fuels towards safe and renewable energy sources. Finally, we will need to implement a variety of policies that strengthen our emergency preparedness and redesign our public and private infrastructure in order to minimize the damage and death toll when severe weather events or other kinds of climate disruptions occur.

The magnitude of these changes is staggering and in many ways unprecedented. How are we possibly going to make this shift happen? It is at this point that I think Gore's documentary actually soft-peddles a very hard truth about what we need to do to end our industrial addiction to burning fossil fuels. I sensed this timidity especially in the closing credits. As much as I liked all the personal life style changes suggested at the end of the movie, I’m absolutely convinced that just switching to eco-friendly lightbulbs, buying local food more often, and walking and riding our bikes more is not going to get us all the way to where we need to go. Even the couple of suggestions the movie makes about voting regularly or writing letters to our elective officials is not going to be enough—especially when not all our votes are counted and thousands of people of color are repeatedly pushed off the voting rolls in states like Florida and Ohio.

The inconvenient truth not highlighted much in the movie is that we don’t just need a power shift away from fossil fuels to renewables. We also need a power shift away from a government that has become a corrupt, elitist, corpocracy toward one that is much more of, by, and for the people—and the common good. By the word “corpocracy,” I mean a government that is increasingly of, by, and for corporations, and especially dominated by Big Oil, Big Coal, and the Military-Industrial Complex that President Dwight Eisenhower warned us about 50 years ago. As long as corporate giants like Exxon-Mobil write our nation’s energy policy, bribe our elected officials, pay for their electoral campaigns, and spend millions in a cynical PR effort to make people doubt the factual case for climate change, we will be blocked from making many of the long-term reforms and policy changes needed to address global climate disruption.

We need to face the inconvenient truth that our government has been captured by powerful corporate interests, many of whom will do everything in their power to resist a positive policy approach to global climate change. Life style changes, voting every four years, and writing letters to our representatives are all very needed, but these basic acts of civic virtue are not enough. Many more of us also need to become intensely politically active, volunteer with progressive activist organizations, and build a social movement even more powerful than Gandhi’s Independence Movement in India, or the 1960s US Civil Rights Movement, or even the Polish Solidarity Movement that helped bring down the authoritarian Communist regimes in Eastern Europe. The task ahead is simply of this magnitude.

It may be an inconvenient truth, but I am convinced that we are going to have to draw on our country’s inspiring revolutionary tradition of intense citizen activism, sacrifice, and courage and go up against powerful corporate interests in the years ahead. We are going to have to learn to work together to take our country back and put it on a path towards sustainability, justice, and democracy. I think one of the key questions before us all then, is “Can we handle this inconvenient truth?”

Monday, July 10, 2006

A Nonviolent Strategy Computer Game?

Here's a computer-based activist training tool I am currently checking out for the EAOP's Fall class on Organizing Social Movements and Campaigns. The computer game is called "A FORCE MORE POWERFUL: THE GAME OF NONVIOLENT STRATEGY." It's focus is on helping activists to think more strategically, learn to devise winning campaigns, and better understand the dynamics of effective nonviolent action. I've read the manual and the game is very rich conceptually. Still, I'll post again after I've had a chance to load it up and really check it out.

For now, here's what it says on the game's website:

A Force More Powerful: The Game of Nonviolent Strategy is the first and only interactive teaching tool in the field of nonviolent conflict. Developed by the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC), media firm York Zimmerman Inc. and game designers at BreakAway Ltd., the game is built on nonviolent strategies and tactics used successfully in conflicts around the world.

Featuring ten scenarios inspired by history, A Force More Powerful simulates nonviolent struggles to win freedom and secure human rights against dictators, occupiers, colonizers, and corrupt regimes, as well as campaigns for political and human rights for minorities and women. The game models real-world experience, allowing players to devise strategies, apply tactics and see the results.

Nonviolent conflict is a way for ordinary people to fight for their rights using disruptive actions such as strikes, boycotts and mass protests. As people are mobilized to take action and withdraw their cooperation from the oppressor, the balance of power is shifted democratically to the people. And it works: in the last 33 years, nonviolent civic resistance has played a critical role in 50 of 67 transitions from authoritarianism.

The ICNC and York Zimmerman Inc. recognized the demand for an interactive teaching device when they saw the overwhelming response to their recent television documentaries, A Force More Powerful and Bringing Down a Dictator–films that tell stories of historical successes achieved by nonviolent action. Quickly embraced by activists, scholars and individuals throughout the world, the films revealed an unmet need for new educational materials in this field.

This game could be a very important training tool in a world where big money and corporations have come to dominate our system of government and the current administration is especially committed to eroding the effectiveness of democratic due process and civil rights.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Looking for Presenters on Sustainable Agriculture

Antioch University New England's Center for Tropical Ecology & Conservation is pleased to announce its 4th annual symposium, which will be held on October 28 and focus on "Banking on Biodiversity: The Ecological and Socio-Economic Dimensions of Sustainable Agriculture."

I'm mentioning this now because the Center is currently making a call for presentation proposals. It is posted below:

A Call for Presentation Proposals:

The purpose of this symposium is to bring together farmers, activists, educators and conservation biologists to discuss ways in which agricultural systems can benefit both human and non-human ecological communities while remaining economically viable for farmers.

The Center for Tropical Ecology and Conservation (CTEC) is currently accepting proposals for lecture, panel and poster presentations that address the following symposium goals:

I. Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of current agricultural practices in terms of 1) their ability to support ecological systems and ecosystem services (including soil and water conservation, nutrient cycling, carbon-sequestration, native species habitat, & riparian buffers) and 2) their economic viability.

II. Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of organizations or programs dedicated to bridging the Ecology-Economy interface on farms in New England and in the tropics.

III. Discuss the role that sustainable agriculture plays in community-building and land stewardship in New England and the tropics. Examples may include urban farming projects, CSA’s, farmers markets, community food cooperatives, and folk schools.

Submission Guidelines

For each submission (multiple submissions will be considered), please include:

* Your complete contact information (name, address, phone-number, affiliation(s), e-mail address, affiliation website—if available).

* The symposium goal you seek to address.

* The proposed format of your presentation (poster, panel, lecture).

* A 300 word (or less) abstract outlining your presentation goals.

* Two or three potential discussion questions related to your

The deadline for proposals is: August 10, 2006. All submissions should be sent electronically to the symposium coordinator, Christine Armiger, and use the subject line: “Submission: CTEC Fall Symposium.”

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Check Out Comments on Posts

I urge everybody who reads this blog to make sure to check for comments and the end of each posting. For example, there are already two comments on the "Broadcasting a Challenge to Empire" post from July 4th.

One is by Peter Alexander, an early Environmental Advocacy and Organizing Program alum who went on to be the Executive Director of New England Coalition Against Nuclear Pollution and is now the Executive Director of the Biodiversity Project, a group which also hosts a Great Lakes Town Hall interactive website. His comment is on the importance of paying attention to strategic communications and framing as the best way to move beyond "preaching to the choir."

The other comment is by Dave Morely, a current EAOP student who went to the West Coast this summer for his first 300 hour practicum field placement with the activist group CorpWatch, a great web resource on corporate power issues and campaigns. He writes about working on their soon-to-be weekly radio program that they are beginning to produce and distribute. (Click the Corpwatch Radio link here and you can listen to one of their shows!)

I also know that Ellen Hayes, the Advocacy Clinic student discussed in the July 2 post "EAOP Supports Community Radio," is planning on posting a comment next week further describing her leadership efforts to push community radio in the greater Keene area.

So, please read the main posts on this blog, but don't forget to scroll down and check for additional comments, and then click on them and read them too.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Broadcasting a Challenge to Empire

What are my personal reasons for broadcasting a challenge to empire every week?

Each Monday morning, I get up early and walk over to the student center at Keene State College. My destination is WKNH, the college radio station on the third floor. As mentioned in my last post, I am one of the community volunteers who sit at the station’s control panel one morning a week to broadcast the hour-long Democracy Now! news program with award-winning journalist Amy Goodman and then several other shows from the Pacifica Radio Network.

Now available on over 400 noncommercial radio stations across the country, Democracy Now! has become the fastest growing alternative media collaboration in community radio’s history. Each weekday morning, Democracy Now! provides hundreds of thousands of listeners around the country with access to people and perspectives rarely heard in the mass media. As its own website says, this maverick news program includes reports and interviews with independent journalists, ordinary people from around the world who are directly affected by U.S. foreign policy, grassroots leaders and activists, as well as progressive academics and independent analysts. In addition, Democracy Now! hosts real debates between people who substantially disagree, such as between White House or Pentagon spokespeople on the one hand, and grassroots peace activists on the other. And on Goodman’s show, these people talk, they don’t shout.

Those of us who help broadcast Democracy Now! around the country each have our own personal reasons for volunteering. For me, it is one of the ways I make a public witness to the moral vision at the heart of my Quaker faith. At its root, the way of Jesus is a profound challenge to the worldy way of empire, greed, lies, and violence. His is a prophetic conversion call to the way of peace, justice, truth-telling, and care for creation. As Paul wrote to Jesus’ followers who lived in the belly of the Roman Empire over 2000 years ago, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable, and perfect.”

I like Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now! program because she’s a journalist that refuses to conform to torture, wars of aggression, military occupation, illegal spying against citizens, or corporate rule, social injustice, the death penalty, and ecological degradation. Like all good muckraking journalists of the past, Goodman seeks to uncover the truth as a means to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”

Amy Goodman also has guts. She once was attacked and almost killed by the Indonesian military for daring to cover the US-backed Indonesian genocide against the East Timorese people. While my own media work at WKNH is not at all heroic, I still believe it is meaningful. Given that a real democracy requires educated and informed citizens who are not cowed or hoodwinked by people in power, I feel like I’m doing my small bit each Monday to help foster a more diverse and democratic media in a country where just six-to-eight corporations now own and control over 50 percent of the nation’s mass media outlets.

We will need to restructure the dominant corporate media system in the years ahead, and change the very undemocratic policies of the Federal Communications Commission, but I am still impressed when people start building a functional alternative media voice in the here and now.

Next post, I'll list some alternative community radio resources in case this type of media activism might appeal to you or someone you know.

Monday, July 03, 2006

EAOP Supports Community Radio

Two and a half years ago, there was no real outlet for progressive talk radio anywhere on the local FM dial and absolutely no Keene radio station was affiliated with the Pacifica Radio Network--the five-decades-old, independent, noncommercial radio network that allows close to 100 affiliated college, community, and public radio stations to broadcast a wide array of well-produced and nationally distributed public affairs programs focused on issues of peace, justice, and sustainablity.

Today, the Keene State College radio station is affiliated with Pacifica and every weekday morning from 8 to 9pm, a growing local audience is able to listen to Pacifica Radio Network’s award-winning news hour, Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman. On Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday mornings, volunteer DJ’s from the community also broadcast a total of ten additional hours of public affairs programs from the Pacifica Radio Network on WKNH (which is now live streaming its programs from its website so anyone can listen online).

These weekly programs include shows on the environmental movement, international women’s news, progressive Christian perspectives on global issues, visions and strategies for community revitalization, gay and lesbian issues, labor union concerns, media criticism, and alternative perspectives on 9/11. Sometimes, these volunteers also find the time to run additional specials, speeches, and radio documentaries from the Pacifica Radio Network during unscheduled blocks of time at the station--such as the two hour radio play written by Vermont author Greg Guma on the history of May Day and the struggle for the 40 hour work week, which WKNH broadcast on May 1st this year.

Besides broadcasting over 15 hours of news and public affairs programs not otherwise available on any local radio station every week, these same WKNH volunteers are also learning to produce their own local segments for broadcast. For starters, some of these broadcasting volunteers have begun reaching out to local nonprofit groups and are helping them make Public Service Announcements to broadcast on WKNH. The local production of PSA’s, commentaries, specials, and perhaps even local weekly news and public affairs shows may be the next wave of this community volunteer effort--as more volunteer DJs are recruited, trained, and become even more sophisticated in radio production techniques.

This community radio initiative all started when members of the Monadnock Freedom Forum approached EAOP faculty member Abi Abrash-Walton about wanting to expand the diversity of voices, news, and perspectives being broadcast by local radio stations. As director of the EAOP's Advocacy Clinic, Abi had the group write up a proposal for a clinic project to be undertaken by a student to help make their vision come true. Ellen Hayes was the first clinic student to take on the project and soon began negotiating with WKNH to allow community volunteers to start broadcasting Democracy Now! every weekday morning--which the station started doing in April 2004.

In January 2006, the growing group of trained Democracy Now DJ’s that Ellen has organized was authorized by WKNH to broadcast additional Pacifica programs on Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays right after Democracy Now. This summer, additional Pacifica programming has also recently also been extended to Tuesday mornings and the station has agreed to create a permenant WKNH Pacifica Programming Committee, which now includes Ellen, Abi, and myself, as well as several others from Antioch New England and the local community.

Today, the committee has four certified regular DJs, five certified subs, and three community trainees. We also have over a dozen local organizations and businesses that serve as underwriters, one major individual donor, and a slew of other local folks who contribute anywhere from $5 to $100 a year to support this effort in progressive community radio. Each semester since the first Pacifica broadcast on WKNH, the Environmental Advocacy and Organizing Program's Advocacy Clinic has also offered at least one student the opportunity to take on specific responsibilities for moving this alternative media project forward.

If you are interested in progressive community radio, your passion will be supported at Antioch's Environmental Advocacy and Organizing Program.