Time to Form an Affinity Group: Direct Action on Climate Change and Preparing for Frankenstorms
By Chuck Collins / localcircles.org

Imagine six months from now a social movement that no longer waits for elected politicians to lead and engages in direct action against the fossil fuel industry and their lobbying power. ~ By Chuck Collins

It is time to form affinity groups.

We need to come together to form small groups of friends and neighbors that can engage in creative nonviolent action and lean on each other in the months and years to come.

It is obvious that our current political system is incapable of responding to the urgent problems facing our country.

An affinity group is a group of 10 to 20 people, often neighbors or people who mostly know each other. They support one another through mutual aid and to engage in bold nonviolent actions they are called to do.

I was in an affinity group between 1977 and 1979 affiliated with the Clamshell Alliance for the purpose of keeping the Seabrook nuclear power station from being built. I was trained in MLK-style nonviolent civil disobedience and participated in a variety of protests. While we didn’t succeed in stopping Seabrook, thousands of us got schooled in principled direct action and democratic decision-making.

In 1983, I joined another affinity group to “pledge to resist” a possible U.S. invasion of Nicaragua. This effort engaged thousands of people in the country – and had a direct impact on containing the Reagan administration’s interventionist impulses. Our affinity group of 15 people, called the Five Rivers Organizing Group, remained together for years, as both a source of personal support and mutual aid –but also as a place where I could join others to think strategically about how to take action.

Inspired by the urgency of climate change, I’ve joined with a dozen others to form an affinity group in Boston. We view our purpose as keeping our spirits up, singing more, and engaging in creative actions around the climate crisis.  We have begun to reach out to other affinity groups in the Boston area to learn from their efforts.

I just watched the PBS Frontline documentary “Climate of Doubt” with four members of my affinity group last night. It gave me a better understanding how the “organized climate deniers” worked to kill “cap and trade” legislation and shift public attitudes about climate change. Watching it alone, it may have just added to my despair about climate change. But watching it with others allowed me to think proactively about its implications for us individually and as organizers.

The fossil fuel industry is using its political clout to block urgent reforms for their own short-term gains. As Bill McKibben writes in Rolling Stone, in an article called “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math,” If people come to understand the cold mathematical truth – that the fossil-fuel industry is systematically undermining the planet’s physical systems – it might weaken it enough to matter politically. Exxon and their ilk might drop their opposition to a fee-dividend solution.”

After the election, the environmental group 350.org and McKibben are launching a “Do The Math” campaign that includes a call to colleges, individuals and religious institutions to “divest from fossil fuels.”

But we’re clearly at a moment when we need to organize ourselves – whether it’s to convince an institution we’re part of to divest from fossil fuels, or to prepare our community for a “Frankenstorm” that is most likely part of climate change’s weird weather.

In Boston, there are efforts to convene affinity group “meet ups” and support new affinity groups. See some examples of upcoming training events at www.localcircles.org/affinitygroups.

Imagine six months from now a social movement that no longer waits for elected politicians to lead and engages in direct action against the fossil fuel industry and their lobbying power. Imagine college students and religious congregations organizing to divest from fossil fuel companies and reinvest in the new economy. All these efforts lead Congress to separate “oil and politics” and find real climate solutions.

The tinder is dry and ready to be ignited. As throughout history, change will start when a critical mass of people makes the personal decision that “enough is enough” and form small action groups to engage in sustained organizing.

Click here to read more and get involved.

Chuck Collins is a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies and author of 99 to 1: How Wealth Inequality is Wrecking the World and What We Can Do About It. He is coeditor of inequality.org.

RESOURCES

Editors Note: As an alternative, we also encourage you to create a Films For Action chapter in your city, which can be used with the same goals in mind.

Load Comments
You Might Be Interested In
54 min · IF YOU'RE EXPERIENCING PROBLEMS WITH THE VIDEO ABOVE, YOU CAN WATCH THE FILM AT THE OFFICIAL PBS FRONTLINE WEBSITE. If you think Mitt Romney’s recent threats against PBS were actually about budgets or Big Bird, think again. The reason the right hates PBS is that sometimes it...
28 min · Michael Brownlee didn't stop after creating the Boulder Valley Relocalization group. He's catalyzing Boulder County's Going Local! campaign, encouraging residents to buy local first, eat and grow local food, create local energy and local currency. The community will celebrate...
15 min · This beautifully animated short video argues that grassroots efforts to deal with climate change can be more effective if they adopt the tactics of open source technology, using databases and social networks to "tap into our collective genius" to tackle the toughest of global...
28 min · Smart municipalities are planning and preparing for energy vulnerability and climate change. Daniel Lerch, manager of the Post Carbon Cities project, has prepared a guidebook including case studies of cities large and small planning how to maintain essential services in the...
18 min · An excerpt from What A Way To Go: Life At The End Of Empire (Part 3: The Locomotive Power). A middle class white guy comes to grips with Peak Oil, Climate Change, Mass Extinction, Population Overshoot and the demise of the American Lifestyle.Featuring interviews with...
6 min · Political performance artists, The Yes Men, have taken credit for today's prank, in which they posed as Chamber of Commerce officials pushing for comprehensive climate change legislation. In a statement from the group offered hours after a fake press conference was held at...
11 min · 350 is the most important number in the world--it's what scientists say is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Two years ago, after leading climatologists observed rapid ice melt in the Arctic and other frightening signs of climate change, they issued...
31 min · Permaculturist and watershed wizard Brock Dolman shows how the future lifeboat we'll need is shaped exactly like our local watershed. He wields his dazzling poetics to tell us how we can engage with the spirit of Planet Water, create water literate human settlement patterns...
28 min · Cal Broomhead and Melissa Capria of the Energy & Climate Program discuss the rationale, aggressive plans, and activities for city-wide energy self-reliance and greenhouse gas reduction. Tools include energy efficiency in buildings, transit alternatives, alternative vehicle...
2 min · "Greedy Lying Bastards" investigates the reason behind stalled efforts to tackle climate change despite consensus in the scientific community that it is not only a reality but also a growing problem that is placing us on the brink of disaster. The film details the people...
6 min · "I looked outside, and it was snowing, therefore, there is no climate change." If that's what passes for rational thought in your social group, you owe it to yourself to watch this edition of Climate Denial Crock of the Week.
27 min · After summarizing the facts of deepening global climate chaos, Australian Kelly Tudhope notes that our psychological response is often overlooked. Feeling powerless, many people stay in denial. But if we acknowledge our feelings, we can find empowerment arising from our...
Derek Wall · When Professor Elinor Ostrom became the first women to win a Nobel Prize for economics in 2009, or to be precise, the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences that she shared with Richard Williamson, most economists probably sighed with surprise and said something along...
Eric Moll · Do you agonize over the little venial eco-sins of everyday life? Every gallon of gas, every extra minute of a hot shower, each flush? I was the same way. Yet somehow, despite constantly policing myself, I was never satisfied. Instead of feeling like I was doing anything to...
Alberto · Sandy has blown climate change back on the agenda – and many believe the White House was wrong when it decided in 2009 that climate change was not a winning political message [as opposed to the opportunity of the clean energy economy]. Barack Obama: a 2009...
Yotam Marom · Photo: A mural by the artist Banksy along Regent’s Canal in London. (Flickr/Matt Brown) I suppose it wasn’t really until I was standing on the west side of Hoboken, N.J., in water and oil up to my thigh, that climate change really made sense. And it wasn’t until I was out...
Charles Eisenstein · Charles Eisenstein challenges our obsession with climate change at the expense of all other values. I’ve noticed some parallels among three defining institutions of our civilisation: money, war, and mainstream religion. All three demand, in one way or another, the sacrifice...
Suzanne Goldenberg · Conservative billionaires used a secretive funding route to channel nearly $120m (£77m) to more than 100 groups casting doubt about the science behind 
Libcom · The problem: We wake up every day to go to work, taking orders from a manager. We sit at work counting down the minutes until we go home, counting down the days until the weekend, counting down the weeks until our next holiday, wishing our lives away. Or worse, we can't find...
Tim Hjersted · Regularly watching the news over the years, and getting my news from a variety of sources, I’ve noticed that the mainstream news media does a pretty bad job of covering certain issues. A story about Paris Hilton takes the lead over a story about the Afghanistan war or a piece...
Like us on Facebook?