The fifth meeting of the DGR Santa Barbara book club was held on Sunday, September 10th at the Santa Barbara Eastside Library. We discussed chapters 7 through 11 of Deep Green Resistance: Strategy to Save the Planet.
The discussion began by investigating approaches to unite environmentalists in effective action. The corporate PR campaign for “green” energy has co-opted the environmental movement; instead of fighting to save the planet and its inhabitants, many environmentalists with good intentions have been seduced into lobbying for industrial technologies that perpetuate a global system of extraction and exploitation. One person presented the idea that we might be more efficient in forming coalitions if we focus on organizing around anti-fossil fuel efforts because most people can agree on that. In the long run, anti-fossil fuel actions will be anti-industry (i.e. wind energy, solar energy, etc.) as industry depends on fossil fuels for extraction, global shipping, manufacturing, and construction.
We also talked about increasing the effectiveness of local movements. A long-time Santa Barbara activist explained that although Santa Barbara might appear progressive to outsiders, the city is actually governed by powerful real-estate and oil production corporate interests. Although these institutions have way more money and influence than any grassroots organization, locals have been able to make an impact through several tactics:
1) Crowds of people in the streets scares those in power.
2) Hounding politicians at City Council meetings and other settings where working-class interests are not properly represented disrupts business as usual in favor of our community.
3) Bad publicity for and spotlighting questionable behavior of local politicians influences them to act like decent human beings.
Contemporary media outlets have transformed the public’s view of “radical” politics to be extremist, but this simply isn’t the case. The true definition of the word radical is simply getting to the root of the issue. In practice, this means it is not enough to treat the symptoms; we need to identify and target the source of power for oppressive systems. As we discussed at the meeting, this almost always means that dismantling systems of exploitation will be uphill battles because the disparity in social power between intersecting social classes of people is enormous, and it is only growing. Therefore, we must use a variety of tactics that best suit our situation. The dogmatic belief that actions in and of themselves are good or bad is crippling to political movements.
The meeting concluded with sharing stories about horizontal hostility (when those within the same social class waste energy fighting each other instead of their common oppressor class). This is a widespread problem in the Santa Barbara area. A few attendees shared their firsthand experiences with backbiting during their years in Santa Barbara. Whatever the exact cause for such hostilities, whether it be competing egos, defensive posturing, or quick tempers, the effects are detrimental to activists who work to create material change in their communities.