Blockadia May Not Be a Place, but Could be a Tactic Everywhere

action to block Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos from being deported

New Orleans   I read Naomi Klein’s book, This Changes Everything, in November 2014, but had forgotten her notion of “blockadia” until I was listening recently to the Bioneers broadcast on KABF following our new public affairs show last week. She was giving a speech to their convention along with other Canadian activists. She was trying to coin a phrase to brand what she hoped would be a movement. Going back to her book, she offered a definition:

Blockadia is not a specific location on a map but rather a roving transnational conflict zone that is cropping up with increasing frequency and intensity wherever extractive projects are attempting to dig and drill, whether for open-pit mines, or gas fracking, or tar sands oil pipelines.

Given what we have seen in the fight over the Keystone Pipeline and other pipelines in Canada and the dramatic and temporarily successful fight by the Standing Rock Sioux and their allies over the Dakota Access Pipeline, Klein seems prescient on the effectiveness of this tactics around environmental issues. Certainly, we have seen it elsewhere around Shell Oil’s Artic drilling plans, which we can expect to see soon once again.

The story of the deportation of a more than twenty year resident of Arizona and mother of two children from Arizona recently, after she dutifully reported to immigration authorities for her annual visit for the terrible crime in 2008 of having been caught using a fake social security number was also the story of a different call for an application of “blockadia.” Puente Arizona, the well-known and effective immigrant advocacy organization in Phoenix, and many of her family and friends from long experience knew the way ICE used decoy buses to thwart protests, so while one group engaged the decoy, other protests ran around the back of the ICE facility and managed to surround the van that contained the woman and others being driven to Mexico. They didn’t ultimately stop it, but their actions and this one woman’s story was a national event, publicized in newspapers, television, and radio everywhere. In that way, it stood out in a time when we know in our hearts and minds, and this same story is being repeated hundreds, and probably thousands of times throughout the country today.

Just as all of the spinning stories and alternative facts, could not disguise the conflation of anguish, heartache, and then joy as refugee families and others with green cards and visas arrived at airports around the country during the respite in the Trump travel ban, thereby creating a political and public relations disaster for the White House, a blockade movement might have the same impact from community to community to raise the status of resident immigrants without status, but with friends, family, and positions in the community. If the resistance, blockades, and protests of such deportations can be public acts, rather than private moments, the price of the policy may also prove more than the White House can handle. Even immigration lawyers are no longer advising their clients to report for these interviews, so the forcible extraction of law abiding men and women who have spent their whole lives here needs to be met with the same kind of preparation, protest, and civil disobedience that in fact makes Blockadia a place where all of us live, until we win.


Big Environmental Groups Play Transactional Politics with Climate Change

thischangesNew Orleans    I’ve read Toronto-based author, researcher, and activist Naomi Klein’s books No Logo and Shock Doctrine with interest. Unquestionably, Klein has established herself as one of the premier corporate critics among the progressive forces, and that’s a good thing. Wading into her latest book, This Changes Everything, in which she addresses climate change, I was finding it boring and pretty much of a slog in the first few chapters, and was debating putting it aside until I got a second wind when I hit the parts where she starts peeling off the clothes of the big environmental emperors like The Nature Conservancy, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and others for being in bed with the oil, gas, coal, and other extraction industries and corporations that are causing much of the climate change catastrophe.

These are the really scary parts in this horror story, when our defenders turn out to be a fifth column for our enemies. Yikes!

The $3 billion Nature Conservancy turns out to have played a shell game with land given it by an oil company near Galveston, Texas for the protection of an endangered bird species. Darned if they didn’t allow drilling of new wells even more threatening to the breeding area of the birds they were sworn to protect and profit from the royalties of the wells while doing so. Furthermore Klein stumbled onto this just checking to make sure that their oft repeated promises to stop doing so had been met to then surprisingly find out that they had just head faked and kept profiting from the drilling they were allowing.

One story after another follows this pattern. The Environmental Defense Fund loudly embraces corporate partnerships and seems to be producing studies for some of the oil companies, while both accepting their million dollar donations, and claiming to be fighting for climate change the entire time. The Sierra Club ends up with a change of leadership when it comes out that they had made a deal with a big energy company.

It’s not just energy companies either. Klein repeats the well-known stories with less painful details than those of us who still bear the scars of how the big environmental groups have cozied up to Walmart, often the global poster child for an environmentally destructive, supply chain business model, claiming not to take their money while feeding hugely at the trough of its foundation and putting family members on their boards.

Without Klein saying so explicitly, this is what happens when transactional politics supplants transformational politics. Though a similar notion of “consensus” organizing as opposed to what they claimed was the conflict organizing practiced by ACORN and other in community organizing has largely fallen off the public radar, as authors connected with Virginia Organizing argued in Social Policy in an lead article called, “Leadership Development is Not a Deliverable,” this “transaction” virus is also infecting a lot of the resource development challenges in community organizing as well.

I can’t say yet how Klein’s book will end, but these couple of chapters where she exposes the contradictions that are hobbling our self-proclaimed protectors in the environmental movement and her equally effective evisceration of the conflicts crippling the notion that billionaires from Richard Branson to Michael Bloomberg to Bill Gates and Tom Steyer will save us as well, is already worth the price of the book on my Kindle reader.


Please enjoy The Decemberists’ Make You Better

and Home Again by the Working Class Band

Thanks to KABF.