Beyond the Capitol Climate Action


I spent the past few months (the last two weeks in Washington D.C.) working with an incredible group of organizers, trainers and activists on the Capitol Climate Action.  On Monday, after a greatly successful weekend of outreach and training (our buildup trained almost 2,000 people in non-violence action tactics) at Power Shift, we turned out 3,000+ students, environmentalists, people of faith, front line community members and many others to risk arrest at the Capitol Power Plant.

While the police made no arrests as we overwhelmed every entrance to that plant and they barricaded themselves in it, I am without a doubt that we took the No Coal/Climate Justice movement to another level.

The previous week, our mass organizing led to Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Reid to try and pre-empt our action by calling for a removal of coal from fuel mix of the plant (NOT good enough, natural gas is still a fossil fuel harming communities around the country).  But this action wasn’t about that one plant (something that Pelosi, Reid, the media, some allies on the left and foes on the right didn’t quite get), it’s about ALL the coal plants, the coal mines, the natural gas terminals, the oil refineries and the rest of the fossil fuel infrastructure.

Leaving the Capitol Climate Action, as my good friend and comrade Joshua Kahn Russell says, we need to return to our communities and become organizers in our own right. And not just organizers to get politicians elected or write letters for non-profits, but community organizers skilled and motivated to use direct action strategically to begin an unraveling of the fossil fuel industry’s tentacles in our everyday lives.

Changing light bulbs and lobbying ain’t gonna do it.  We need more.  We need to take risks and realize it’s not all going to be easy, glamorous or even, at times, effective.  We need some experimentation with creative direct action.  We need to create what writer-organizer David Solnit calls a “labratory of resistance.”  In the last month, we’ve seen movements in Latvia and Iceland challenge and overturn their governments using direct action tactics and strategies.  Now it’s our turn.

And it’s already happening and can be as easy as plugging into the Capitol Climate Action.  In the next two months, direct actions are being planned in east Tennessee, North Carolina and West Virginia.

If you want to get involved check out:

Also, in December, groups under an umbrella called the Mobilization for Climate Justice will be organizing a mass action in the U.S. to stand in solidarity with anti-corporate climate justice movements in Europe at COP15.

The Capitol Climate Action is merely prologue to a long struggle for climate justice.

15 Responses to “Beyond the Capitol Climate Action”

  1. 1 AnnaK Mar 5th, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    I am *so* excited by the Mobilisation For Climate Justice website (

    Lets get this happening all around the planet!

    Thanks for posting!

  2. 2 danawv Mar 5th, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    Can’t help but note those awesome actions he is highlighting are all in the south — because the south rocks.

    What’s going on in the rest of the US?

  3. 3 Ethan Mar 6th, 2009 at 4:18 am

    interesting how the capitol climate action website has no pictures of the gate with the anti-natural gas banners (especially since it was one of the two front gates)? There has been very little talk in this action about how awful natural gas truly is besides short one sentence blurbs. I personally felt awful when I read in Time that we were “demanding that the plant switch from coal to natural gas power”. Am I wrong in assuming this is not completely the fault of Time? If I knew this was going to be the way the action was portrayed I wouldn’t of risked arrest.
    Very disappointing from an action in the name of “climate justice”.

  4. 4 Ethan Mar 6th, 2009 at 4:35 am

    Actually there is one photo, only visible once you move your mouse away from the flickr player. But there certainly wasn’t enough focus on gas. Especailly since power shift dropped it from lobby day.

  5. 5 sparki Mar 6th, 2009 at 11:32 am

    those are the immediate events coming up, but i’d be happy to know about and promote other climate related direct actions on the horizon.

  6. 6 sparki Mar 6th, 2009 at 8:53 pm

    we put out statements to the media, including Time magazine, saying that we wanted an end to fossil fuels. in all of our meetings, panels and trainings (including above in my post) the organizers spoke very directly about how changing the fuel mix from partial coal/partial natural gas to all natural gas was not the solution. the other thing to remember is that this action was not just about this one plant, but all the plants, mines, gas terminals, oil refineries. the politicians and the media tried to reframe it as such. if you have pictures with the anti-NG signs please send them to and we’ll make sure they get up.

  7. 7 Deb Arnason Mar 11th, 2009 at 9:28 am

    I attended a 2-day workshop from, Carbon-Free, Nuclear-Free, A Roadmap For US energy Policy, which outlines a common-sense alternative to new (and old) coal plants, nukes, or any other form of hazardous energy. One mainstay of the plan is to cover EXISTING parking lots with solar photovoltaic panels (as has been done by the US Naval Base in San Diego since 2002). This powers the building, can be tied into the existing grid for backup, allows employees to park underneath out of the weather and plug-in when they get their hybrid cars! Not a tree to remove. This could be done on the parking lot of every business, public building, university, shopping mall, apartment complex, even in your own driveway. See the book for more and please promote this alternative rather than fighting so hard against what we don’t want. Its insane to use more coal or nukes, so let’s not waste our energy or give the sick people credibility by fighting them. If every one of us called our congress and energy companies promoting this simple plan, we’d have a solution. Love, Deb

  8. 8 Deb Arnason Mar 11th, 2009 at 9:44 am

    This was a great action. Now, I believe we need to get into the solutions. Look up, Carbon-Free, Nuclear-Free, A Roadmap for US Energy Policy. Then contact our elected reps, local energy companies, mayors, commissioners and provide them with this simple alternative to dirty coal and hazardous, costly nuclear – Cover existing parking lots with solar photovoltaic panels as has been done by the US Naval Base in San Diego since 2002. We could power every business, university, shopping mall, tie into the grid for backup, keep cars out of the weather and eventually allow plug in hybrids. Let’s use our positive energy for what we DO want! Hugs, Deb

  1. 1 Our Movement is Beautiful: Images from CCA « It’s Getting Hot In Here Trackback on Mar 6th, 2009 at 4:47 pm
  2. 2 The Understory » Our Movement is Beautiful: Images from CCA Trackback on Mar 6th, 2009 at 4:52 pm
  3. 3 Our Movement is Beautiful: Images from CCA « praxis makes perfect. Trackback on Mar 6th, 2009 at 4:56 pm
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Scott Parkin is a Senior Campaigner with Rainforest Action Network and organizes with Rising Tide North America. He has worked on a variety of campaigns around climate change, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, mountaintop removal, labor issues and anti-corporate globalization. Originally from Texas, he now lives in San Francisco.

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