Global Divestment Mobilization is an opportunity to showcase the rapid global spread of the divestment movement. Let’s take it to the next level in confronting the rogue fossil fuel industry driving the climate crisis.
There are countless ways to communicate your message, and creativity can help you reach people in new ways, and make sure you get the attention from local media and on social media. The important thing, is finding the right tactic for you.
Step 1: Asking the right questions
Sometimes the best way to support a group in making a decision is by asking clarifying questions. Co-creating answers to these questions can help a group come to agreement, or recognise places where there are different possible ways forward or differences of opinion. More than one answer is ok, but it is good to have those different views named. Here are a few suggestions of clarifying questions for groups to gain alignment before deciding on a tactic:
Tone: What feel do you want the action to have? Are you celebrating your power or mourning the loss of local traditions or species?
Audience: Who are you speaking to? Who are you trying to influence with your action? What are the best ways to reach that audience?
Location: What local sites are relevant or emblematic to this story?
Organizing Goal: What specific groups do you want to build alliances with? Are you trying to grow your numbers or deepen the commitment of existing members?
Campaigning Goal: What does success look like? How does this action fit into the long-term work you are engaged in?
Tactics Review: What tactics has your group used in the past? Which of these worked well? What worked about them? What didn’t work? Are you looking to escalate your tactics (towards more direct confrontation) or deepen the understanding of divestment?
As part of the Global Divestment Mobilisation, people around the world will be telling the story of how climate change has impacted something important to them. What is so important to you that you will not let it be destroyed for profit? Here are a few ideas on how you can show the links between your target and local fossil fuel impacts.
Hundreds of people gather with blue cardboard and fabrics in the dried-up riverbed of New Mexico. Photo: Michael Clark
With aerial photography the medium is the message. The presence of many people communicates that this is something important to many people, the image formed by the people communicates the message. What image could you form that shows a local impact? What location could you go to to show what is missing or what has changed because of climate change. Do you want people wearing colours? Getting this right requires some preparation: think about shadows and the position of the sun, if you’ll be shooting from an angle remember that the image will be foreshortened.
Show the faces of those being most impacted
Use photography to show the human face of local climate impacts and share local stories of climate impacts. Perhaps you want to organize a photo exhibition to inspire public debate, or hold up these portraits outside your target, or wheat-paste them onto the headquarters or advertisements of your target. Think about making them BIG, and invite people to tell their story besides their portrait. Images can be cheaply printed out on A4 paper and glued together to form huge images using the free programsPosteRazor or Rasterbator.
Impacts Teach-ins and Public Storytelling
Create a space to hear directly from those being impacted
Often, a single person’s story can move people more than facts and statistics. Think about organizing a public event where you can hear from locals and experts about how climate change is already impacting your local community. If certain groups are affected most, think about what uniforms or costumes can help show who they are – for example invite local firefighters to come in uniform. Considering inviting community elders, and asking them to speak about the changes they have seen in their own lifetimes. This can be part of a rally, or sit-in, used as a mobilizing tool towards a larger event or can be held on the steps, office, or lobby of your target.
Write your demands big enough for everyone to read them.
A piece of paper delivered to a target’s office is easy to ignore. A 5 meter petition hanging off a building is slightly harder to ignore. Make sure that your message comes out loud and clear by making it big. Find some big (orange) fabric (or dye bedsheets orange with latex housepaint and water) and write or project your message onto it and drop it from somewhere strategic or symbolic. Think about what is in the background or foreground of the picture. Be thoughtful about your target location – sometimes it can be inappropriate to drop banners off some buildings for cultural or historical reasons. Here’s an example.
Non-violently occupy space
This one is simple. Go somewhere and refuse to move. Sit-ins, office occupations and lobby takeovers can bring your message to the heart of the problem, and can force your target to make a decision about how to deal with you. This can be an effective way to escalate an existing divestment campaign and bring your demands directly to the top of the agenda if other tactics aren’t working.
By occupying a strategic space you can disrupt an institution’s normal operations, drawing attention to their investments in climate chaos. Commonly protesters will refuse to leave until their demands are met, but it’s important to note that sit-ins can also end with your physical removal or arrest. It takes careful planning and preparation, and we highly recommend joining a direct action training before taking part. Here’s an example: MIT Sit-In: 116 days of sit-ins.
Show your numbers on the streets
Artwork: People’s Collective Arts
Rallies and marches are a common tactic employed by many campaigners to push a message that can bring together large groups of people, and can show a movement (and the media) just how many people are involved. Think about location: where your march starts from and ends, or where your rally could be held. Use art and first-hand storytelling to lift up the main messages you hope to communicate.
Subvertising and Brandalism
Help Corporations say what they are really doing
Corporations use their advertising and logos to present an image of themselves as they want to appear. However, that’s often not the whole story. Is your target advertising in your community? What changes could you make to that advertisement to help tell a different side of the story? With just a few stickers, or a little wheatpaste or paint you can change the whole meaning of an advertisement or corporate logo.
There’s a handy online tool that lets you resize any artwork to print at any size, you can find it here.
Show the chainlinks between Investments and Impacts
Fossil fuels are chaining us to climate impacts
The science is clear: burning fossil fuels is linked to climate change. Show this relationship by chaining yourself to your target or a powerful symbol. Create a giant oil rig or a hurricane and organize a group to chain yourselves to it in a public or strategic location. Divestment is one of the “keys” to unlocking the chain of reactions of climate impacts. Such a tactic may result in arrest, so work with your group to understand the risks and develop a plan for how to react to different scenarios, or participate in a non-violent direct action training. More examples here.
The materials you use can tell half of the story, the image you form with them can tell the other half. Think about what the physical impacts of climate change are: dried crops, leftover debris from a flood, burnt wood from a forest fire or parched earth from a drought. Use these materials to form a powerful image in front of your target or in a public place.
As the climate changes so does culture
Photo: Seed Mob coordinator Amelia Telford leads the opening of the Pacific Climate Warriors canoe blockade of the world’s largest coal port, Newcastle, Australia
Many cultural traditions are intricately tied to the land, seasons and natural cycles. Think about local traditions that may be impacted by changing climate. Are there traditional holidays that involve regional harvests or welcome the rainy season? Are there traditional songs, dances or poems that speak about these natural cycles – perhaps these traditions could be changed (such as song lyrics) to reflect the reality of life in a changed climate.
Say what you want, where you want – without leaving a mark
Projection is a great tactic for connecting different parts of a story: consider projecting climate impacts onto your target. Think about images and video that can tell the story, not just words. And think carefully about location and how that can reflect or enhance your message. This action can be done at various scales, depending on the power of your projector.
Many institutions are doing huge amounts to impact our liveable planet – it is time the scale of those impacts were publicly acknowledged. Go to your target and bring them the present they were never expecting – an award for “Most impact on the local climate”. Print out a banner, or get them a medal, and go present an award to the company – this works especially well right before they announce their quarterly profits, or when they announce a new fossil fuel finding or project. Invite the press, and create a good photo for them – not everyone may be able to get inside.
With pieces of black cardboard and some battery-powered string lights you can make stunning illuminated message boards that will really draw attention to your message. It couldn’t be simpler, poke holes in the board in the shape of the letters you want to make (one letter per board) and then poke the lights through the holes. Find a strategic location for your message, line-up to spell it out, and presto, bright idea come to life. Make sure to get an experienced night photographer (and tripod) to make sure you get the shot you’re looking for.