Any lessons from Keystone for IMM?

I’m wondering if there are any parts of the national Keystone Pledge of Resistance campaign that a number of us are involved with, that could be applied at the Indiana state level.

I think we were at a similar point in the environmental struggle nationally almost three years ago, when the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) and CREDO saw an opportunity, and launched the national Keystone Pledge of Resistance.

For anyone interested who doesn’t already know, I’ll try to briefly explain.

This (IMM environment) group knows very well the difficulties we had (have) getting anyone outside the environmental movement to pay any attention. A big factor was that environmental issues can be complex enough to make the average person not even try to understand. And it’s difficult to isolate specific targets when everything is so interrelated. So when the Keystone XL Pipeline was announced, RAN and CREDO saw a clear and simple symbol for what is bad for the environment, while at the same time providing a tool to educate the public about all of the tar sands problems. Think back to how no one was aware of tar sands 3 or 4 years ago. I think the Keystone campaign has been highly successful in changing that.

The second part of this campaign relates to the very specific decision to be made (yes or no to approve crossing an international border) by a very specific person, the President (though Congress is trying to usurp that authority).   That gives us a very specific goal and a clearly defined decision making process.

The question then became how to get our message to the President. We began by putting the Pledge on the Internet for people to sign:  “I pledge, if necessary, to join others in my community, and engage in acts of dignified, peaceful civil disobedience that could result in my arrest in order to send the message to President Obama and his administration that they must reject the Keystone XL pipeline.” From <http://act.credoaction.com/sign/kxl_pledge>

We began to build a database of activists. To date 97,126 activists have signed the Pledge.

The next step would be the training for nonviolent civil disobedience. A call went out to those who were signing the Pledge, asking who would like to be trained as trainers. These newly trained trainers would return to their home communities to train local activists in nonviolence.   Similar to the nonviolence training during the civil rights struggle. RAN staff traveled to 25 cities a cross the US in the summer of 2013, eventually training over400 trainers, who in turn trained nearly 4,000 activists across the US.

RAN then continued to support this network with monthly conference calls with all of the action leaders nationwide. They also support us with training material, and help maintaining records of activists, as well as the information about each potential arrestee, so they can be a central location for coordinating things if the actions are launched. They have also provided additional training for the local people responsible for dealing with the media, and training for the local legal team.

I’m not sure exactly how he feels about it, but we know the President is aware of us. Whether we ultimately win or lose on the actual Keystone decision, I think we have been successful in raising public awareness about tar sands, and we have built a national nonviolent activist network.

Maybe some of you could see how some of this might work in Indiana. I think the Beyond Coal campaign is similar in having a very specific message. I haven’t heard a defining issue raised in this group, yet, I don’t think. It seems to me that is one of the first next steps we need. But others might not think such a focus is the right approach.

As I’ve mentioned, I would really like to see how we can get renewable energy to disadvantaged neighborhoods, especially.