Discussion Notes from 2014 Retreat

Richmond, California. December 7, 2014

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Involving local groups—Summer Heat Richmond
Environmental justice
Environment + union [?]
On the cusp, networking, spokes
September 21, People’s Climate Rally at Lake Merritt
Richmond election, helping candidates
Rodeo planning board, supervisors


Coordination between groups

  • Technical ability to understand EIRs
  • Research
  • Speakers
  • Write resolutions
  • Simplify technical information and clean solutions for community groups

Follow up with groups and individuals who come to activities
More emphasis on demand for solutions, don’t just say no to fossil fuels
Volunteers: talking points, practice in speaking
Affecting governmental organizations, more influence on regulatory and legislative agencies
Making clear connection of “other issues” to climate
Be proactive, not just reactive (fit actions, statements at hearings, into campaigns)
Better presentation, tabling—props, samples, dramatic demonstrations
In group structure    Not conv. Rules [?]
More small events
Diversity and justice
Power to the people (what does that mean in this context?)
Make better use of media; create events that media wants to cover
More connection to faith communities
Ongoing efforts, not just events
Connect to other justice groups

Education, opportunity to engage

  • Young
  • Regular, ongoing
  • Productive meetings How to take criticism in groups

Planning process issues
Money: planning for generating contributions
Emails—too many, sometimes rude
Connect issues!!
Frequency of general meetings: monthly instead of every 2 weeks?
More analysis of how we function as an alliance (important groups not represented today)
Need spokescouncil to encourage groups to come and make decisions and take responsibility
Need more fun—dance/music (also good fundraisers)
Identity questions? We need t-shirts

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Smaller groups offer greater support
Need more fun!
No guilt—stepping back (from overcommitment)
Boundaries, sustainable level of activism
Recognize the self-interest in activism; we’re not missionaries.
More social activities
More recognition
Exercise, yoga, self-care, get rest, good diet (fiber)
Embrace despair—fight from the heart
Digital detox (time off from electronics) to connect with core being
Get to know each other
Focus on what’s important
Compartmentalize—restrict your climate activism in order to fully live your life.
Support group meetings—time, space, econ [?]
Not every organization is the right space for each person.

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Coordinating and rapid response committees
Representatives of organizations or individual members or both
Structures to not limit capabilities: e.g. the Rose Foundation 501(s)3—hinder or enhance work?


  • What are the current committees
  • Affinity groups?
  • What being a member does [responsibilities of membership]
  • What SFA offers to members
  • How to network, encourage involvement (food, social activities, organizational help)
  • Membership dues? Voluntary dues?
  • Voting member or volunteer?

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Why “alliance”? What does that mean and how do we enact that meaning?

Jay Inslee: “We are the first generation to feel the sting of climate change, and we are the last generation that can do something about it.”
Make climate change personal--health and safety
Organize across race and class lines 
Climate Train
Reach out to faith communities
Languaging—clear and imaginative
Changing consumer culture
            Work with youth
            Alliances or [we’ll be] spread too thin
Sierra Club moved from wilderness-based to climate change
“Just transition” as understood by communities of color
SFA needs to show up where people are doing things

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“Exploitation of people and the environment go hand in hand.”
CBR (crude by rail) is ideal for organizing: it cuts across class/race/political lines
Attack fossil fuel head-on
Use media more intensively
Get big donations
We need democratic organization
Make the new economy visible; find and use its psychological and emotional triggers
Pressure public agencies to meet AB32 goals; agencies want to be pressured.
We need analysis, science and action plans
Richmond City Council member: “We must show that we can govern.”
City council members are receptive to our policy recommendations: we can be the ALEC on the left
Is our society moving toward a revolutionary climate?
If we do not or cannot turn the tide in climate, consider what artifacts you want to preserve for archaeologists of the future. What story can we tell them?
Improve our understanding of what we must do to help shape policy
More focus on lobbying regulatory agencies, city councils, etc.
Sunflower Alliance must “find its sweet spot”. An observant friend says our sweet spot is mobilizing large groups of people.
Fairfax is divesting: Presbyterian churches already on board, working on Marin County Retirement Board, will start pressuring Dominican College.
Help people innovate/develop alternatives in their own living units: hyperlocal organizing.

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We started with a quote from Governor Jay Inslee from Washington State: "We are the first generation to feel the impact of climate change and the last generation that can significantly alter it." Since time is of the essence we asked how can we continue to build alliances?

First topic: Language
What catchphrases can we use to capture people's attention today?
We need to recognize that too much discussion focusing on the term "capitalism" will turn many people away. (We have all had experience with this) So we need to ask ourselves how we can use language everyone can relate to when we emphasize the role our current government enjoys in blocking our work.
On the other hand one of our group members states that her experience has been that communities of color are very clear that a just transition off fossil fuels is going to mean a transition off capitalism and if we do not recognize this it may mean losing alliances with these communities.
Another issue: How to use language to promote alliances with specific populations: younger people are very clear about what they want to do and they may look at things differently.

Second topic: Movements in transition
What are the differences between different climate movements historically and today's movements?
Building alliances with organizations under transition: example: The Sierra Club which is undergoing a transition from focusing on wilderness based work to working on climate change issues. Michael Brune's work with this organization is now building alliances.
We need to take advantage of current social justice issues bringing people to the streets: the demonstrations about our growing police state, block the boat, ect., building alliances on the street and connecting the issues.

Question: How do we identify organizations more directly impacted by climate change and invite them to join us?

Some Ideas we discussed for such alliance building:
Outreach to religious based social justice organizations.
Outreach to public health organizations.
Outreach to organizations which are trying to promote regulation of our consumer culture and promote healthy alternatives to it.

Third topic: The failure of our current leadership
We need to seek out and endorse specific candidates and make our demands known. One opportunity: the Contra Costa conservative Democrats are now in a state of transition after their dramatic loss in Richmond. It presents a good opportunity to network with the progressives in that organization.
There is a need to identify and build alliances with current and future leadership in specific communities and build alliance with youth. One opportunity would be presentations in youth camp leadership conferences.

We did identify some concerns about all this:
At what point will we be spreading ourselves too thin?
Are we going to expand beyond our original mission statement?
After we form an alliance how do we insure we have a presence supporting their events/actions? How much of a presence?
How do we use the media effectively to promote our own actions/events?

Our first action plan: To organize a conference next year, finding some imaginative theme, and invite some of the different groups mentioned above to join us and make presentations about their work. Then the connections become obvious.

Lastly, to keep track of our many new alliances we could list them on our website including the main contacts for each group.

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Another retreat in January—4 hours, coinciding with day SFA generally meets
Planning group: Michael H, Steve N, Julie, Stephanie, Glenn, Ratha

Governance issues on hold—not at next retreat.  Planning group
David G, Jean, Michael B, Pamela, Kiara, Earl

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