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Insights to meet this climate moment: a recap of R+E9
Jack Zhou, Climate Advocacy Lab

Last week, the Climate Advocacy Lab held its ninth (and second all-virtual) Research + Experimentation convening. We want to thank all of the presenters, discussion group leaders, and participants who helped make it the energizing, inclusive, and thought-provoking event we dreamed of. I also want to give a special thanks to all of my colleagues at the Lab who stepped up so R+E9 ran without a hitch. You can find all of the presentations and recordings linked through the convening’s agenda page, but I’ll use this week’s newsletter to point out some specific highlights for me personally.

As I stated in my opening remarks to kick off R+E9, our movement has created a bright (but potentially brief*) window of opportunity to win big on climate action.

That will require a consolidated approach to power-building, which in turn necessitates strong leadership, durable relationships, and real empathy to form winning coalitions and hold them together. We need to build alignment with essential partners from environmental justice, organized labor, community organizations, and focus on long-term trust – grounded in true commitments to equity and justice – rather than short-sighted transactions. We need to make sure we’re connected with our grassroots base so that we have the flexibility to meet whatever the moment demands of us.
 
I wish I had come up with these insights myself, but I was just trying to set the stage for the broader R+E9 agenda, particularly the opening keynote session with Liz McKenna* and the closing keynote with Mijin Cha and Jeff Johnson*. The former session, which discussed Liz’s new book Prisms of the People: Power & Organizing in Twent-First-Century America (with Hahrie Han and Michelle Oyakawa), laid out a comparative case for what power really means in terms of social movement success and the ways advocates can build and exercise that power.

Mijin Cha sharing results from the Just Transition Listening Project

 

The latter keynote, featuring two members of the team behind Workers and Communities in Transition: Report of the Just Transition Listening Project, discussed how frontline communities and organized labor have been generating pathways to a just transition and how environmental justice, labor, and green groups can build alignment and engage in coalitions with each other.

Some quick hits from the panels:

  • State of the climate movement 2021 featured a set of great presentations from Jihan Gearon* and Marouh Hussein* on the 2019 landscape assessment of the environmental justice movement and how that research has developed into the EJ Movement Fellowship, a new leadership development program at the New School.

  • 2020 election debrief saw Brionté McCorkle* of Georgia Conservation Voters lay out how the “Stacey strategy” changed progressive voter mobilization in Georgia to prioritize young voters and voters and color, for whom issues like climate action and clean energy are key concerns.

  • Communications and narrative strategy included a talk from Ashley Fairbanks* on how promoting fear-based narratives for climate action inhibits political participation, and what 100% Minnesota is doing to “show the brownies” to keep folks interested and invested.

  • Advances in digital and social media advocacy contained the results of Potential Energy Coalition’s successful use of inoculation messages to counteract fossil fuel propaganda on social media, as presented by Jessica Lu*.

Dave Campbell regaling the R+E9 crowd on just transition organizing within the labor movement

 

  • The environmental justice-labor-climate nexus held a wonderful conversation on cross-movement coalition-building on just transition, including Dave Campbell* of USW Local 675’s reflections on the linkages between environmental justice and labor organizing.

  • Data tools for organizing showcased the work of Shelby Green* and Caroline Spears* from Climate Cabinet to build environmental justice visualization tools and state legislator scorecards for community activists.

  • Policymaker contact featured Geoff Henderson* from UC Santa Barbara and his research on “provoked petitioning,” or how policymaker engagement is a two-way street with legislative staffs canvassing opinions from advocacy organizations and other  civil society actors before they make decisions.

  • Organizational operations and engagement closed out R+E9 with Montana Burgess’* report on West Kootenay EcoSociety’s innovative climate deep canvassing campaign, including their work to engage with the citizens of a rural industrial company town.

Montana Burgess discussing how EcoSociety developed the scripts for their climate deep canvass program

And that’s not even including any of the great questions and conversations that popped up in each panel’s Q+A and in the Tuesday and Thursday discussion group sessions. A huge thanks once again to the panelists listed here, as well as those I did not have the space to include. Please check out all of the presentations and video recordings on the R+E9 event page.
 
And if you attended R+E9, whether for one panel or the whole way through, please fill out our feedback survey so that we can better understand what landed and what needs more work. Survey respondents will be entered into a random drawing for one of five copies of Prisms of the People: Power & Organizing in Twent-First-Century America once it’s published in July, so get to it!