Confront or Collaborate?
One of the perennial questions about systemic change is whether it happens through confrontation or collaboration. Of course, there's no single answer. Some cases are obvious: I don't think we will prevent drilling in the Arctic or extractive mining in Indonesia without confrontation. At the same time, it's possible to end plastic bag use in Cambridge by passing an ordinance to that effect.
I was thinking about this issue during yesterday's "Gas Leak Allies" conference. Natural gas leaks account for about 10% of Massachusetts' carbon emissions and they cost the utilities money both in lost revenue and in repair. Seeing a win-win, Mothers Out Front, HEET and other activist organizations are pairing with Eversource and National Grid to identify and repair the major gas leaks. ClimateX was involved in the early stages of brainstorming a device that will help utility employees detect gas leaks worth fixing - an example of citizen science turning into climate action that's worth emulating wherever possible.
At the same time, the predominantly white & upper class audience at the workshop suggests there's a story behind the story. It's much easier to be a "stakeholder" when you or your class has power to start with, are part of the same personal or institutional networks as the CEOs of corporations and can threaten the bottom line of businesses that don't accept your demands. Inuit community protesting drilling in Alaska or First Nation communities protesting the Dakota access pipeline are treated differently.
As the existential stakes increase for the fossil fuel industry and the rest of us, so will the use of repression and violence. At the same time, thinking people everywhere know this system has to go. Sometimes it will have to be nudged; on other occassions it will have to be poked.
What do you think? Nudge or poke?