Traditional methods for fighting global warming have proven fruitless.
By Ted Hamilton
September 7, 2014
The politics of climate change are shifting. After decades of halfhearted government efforts to stop global warming, and the failure of the “Big Green” NGOs to do much of anything about it, new voices — and new strategies — have taken the lead in the war against fossil fuels.
Jeremy Brecher, a freelance writer, historian, organizer and radio host based in Connecticut, has documented the environmental movement’s turn toward direct action and grass-roots activism. A scholar of American workers’ movements and author of the acclaimed labor history “Strike!,” Brecher argues that it’s time for green activists to address the social and economic impacts of climate change and for unions to start taking global warming seriously.
His latest book, “Climate Insurgency: A Strategy Against Doom,” which will be released early next year by Paradigm Publishers, examines the structural causes of our climate conundrum and calls for a “global nonviolent constitutional insurgency” to force environmental action from below. Brecher spoke to Salon about his vision for dealing with global warming, the changing face of environmental activism, and why he thinks the People’s Climate March in New York on Sep. 21 is so important.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
First, let’s unpack the book’s key term: What is a “global nonviolent constitutional insurgency”?
Around the world, we’re familiar with insurgencies where an armed group resists the government and says that it does not legitimately have the authority to make law and govern some area or some group of people. And the characteristic of an insurgency is that it denies the legitimacy or legal right of those who claim to be the legitimate authorities to rule.
The concept of nonviolent insurgency is of a kind of social movement where the same basic claim is made: that those who claim the right to rule actually don’t have the right to rule, but where the means of challenging their power is not an armed insurgency but is rather what’s come to be called “people’s power,” or mass civil disobedience or civil resistance. And so a nonviolent insurgency may sound paradoxical, but in fact it is quite a common thing around the world and happens a lot and has happened a lot in the past.