Folks on the Gulf Coast of the U.S. are going to need help

Hurricane Ida will hit Louisiana later today, and it seems like it’s going to hit New Orleans. It’s a smaller storm than Katrina was, but it’s also a stronger storm. A fair amount of money has gone into making New Orleans more storm-proof since 2005, but I have to admit I’m worried it won’t be enough. I’ll probably write more about this in the coming days, but in the mean time, I guess I have a diffuse call to action.

First, if you’re in the area and still trying to evacuate, check your routes – if the traffic is too bad, you could get caught out in your car when the storm hits, and that’s more likely to be bad than not. If you’re not out already, take shelter.

For everyone else, start making plans and gathering resources. Pitch in to efforts to get help to those affected, but more than that, make plans to push the federal government hard. Both Republicans and Democrats have a history of favoring austerity even in disasters, and I don’t generally have high hopes for Democratic leadership. Maybe they’ll see this as an opportunity to prove they could have done better on Katrina than Bush did, but I worry. Find your members of Congress and push them to call for ending their vacation early to deal with the crisis. If they refuse, ask them why their vacation is more important than human lives. Do it on camera if you can.

When it comes to things like donating goods, please pay close attention to what’s actually needed. Disasters like this turn everything upside down, and conditions on the ground can render some goods more or less useless.

Also bear in mind that we’re still in the middle of the pandemic, and there are plenty of people who still aren’t vaccinated. Many may be anti-vaxxers, but many have been unable to get time or access to the shots. That’s another thing that may be best solved through political action.

As always, I hope this post will be proven to be needlessly pessimistic, but with the hot conditions leading to a stronger storm, and the ongoing pandemic, I fear that every hour without action by the federal government will kill more people. Do what you can with the power you have, and take care of yourselves and each other.

Beyond local networking: Some thoughts on next steps for organizing

No matter how you look at it, those of us who want a better world are engaged in a struggle that has a decidedly asymmetrical arrangement of power. The capitalist class controls almost every aspect of our society, and even peaceful challenges to their power are met with brutal police violence, infiltration and espionage, rhetorical attacks from politicians, and even legislation that effectively legalizes the murder of activists. And remember – that’s just at the “imperial core”. When it comes to activism in the regions where the U.S. anti-Left war machine has influence, the story is often far, far darker. The U.S.-led war on any left-wing movement, no matter how democratic or nonviolent, has included terrorism, assassination, torture, sexual assault, disappearances, massacres, genocide, chemical warfare, and ecological destruction.

What I’m trying to say is that over the years, activists have learned that even the generally “acceptable” forms of resistance – marches and rallies – require planning, preparation, recruitment, protective equipment, defensive strategies, medical personnel, training, budgeting and fundraising, a press strategy, and more. That’s why I like the idea of mutual aid networks as an organizing tool. Even if the network itself never does anything beyond getting emergency help for those who need it, it can act as training for those involved. While I’ve engaged in a tiny amount of this kind of activism, most of what I know about this stuff comes from listening to those who’ve dedicated their lives to this important work, all over the world.

It seems to me that interest in organizing for political change outside of electoral politics is pretty widespread right now. To some degree it was always there – I knew many people growing up who were involved in activism around Palestine, the sanctions against Iraq, the SOA/WHINSEC, and so on – but in the last year I’ve seen more efforts at unionization, mutual aid groups, and discussions of alternatives to police, than at any point in my life. Along with that comes all of the knowledge-sharing that is part of those discussions. I’ve also seen a lot of people trying to feel their way through local organizing, even if it’s just making connections with other people who share that interest. That last category is who I’ve been thinking about as I’ve worked on my direct action post. I think many more people want change than know how to get it, and the concept of “local organizing” as the first step is pretty widespread. The concept of working with your community to improve that community is not new to anyone, but I think it’s hard for folks to see how that can lead to national change. You get your network of well-meaning folks, and then what?

This is my attempt to provide one answer to that question. This is not the only answer, just the path forward that seems best to me, based on what I currently understand about the world.

We’re facing an increasingly hostile climate, massive levels of waste and pollution all over the place, and a rise in fascism that feels sickeningly similar to the early 20th century. It’s not hard to see how a local – or even national – mutual aid network would make a huge difference in people’s lives, and maybe even counteract the way capitalism encourages mistrust and selfishness. What’s harder to see is how that can challenge the power of the ruling class, or push lawmakers to support legislation. In terms of activism other than protests, how do we go from group chats and local networks to coordinated national or multinational actions that attract attention, spread ideas, and maybe even bring some discomfort to the ruling class?

Flash mobs!

No, but seriously. Think about what you’re seeing in that video. Think about how those events came to happen. Think about the fact that many of those people were strangers to one another. Some of them may not have even known what they were going to be doing until shortly before they did it. Some of them had done flash mobs before, or had a pre-existing skill they used, but plenty of people may have participated in one flash mob, and never bothered to do it again. Some of those people organized that event, and some just showed up because they heard about it and it seemed fun.

Starting in 2003 a trend emerged in which a group of people would converge on a location, take some kind of pre-arranged action, and then disperse. A flash mob could be anything from suddenly filling an intersection with people wearing red shirts, or an unannounced theatrical performance, or even people all following instructions from their smartphones. Flash mobs happen without warning, and crucially they often happen without the participants knowing what they’ll be doing until they start. This last point is key, especially for doing things at malls, where security would try to prevent it if they had advance warning (people who control public gathering spaces like to either charge for events, or require an application). The people organizing flash mobs developed an approach to get around those obstacles by limiting who knew what, arranging events without visible leaders, and having immediate dispersal as a built-in part of the game. A core group designs and prepares for the activity, and then they put out a call, by word of mouth or by social media, for anyone who’s game to show up at a specific time and date. Tell them what to bring and where to be. Ideally, you want to have them gather somewhere “off stage” so you can go over the plan, hand out props, and do any rehearsing that’s needed. From there you can give the group the actual location of the action, and instructions for how and when to join in.

Whether you want to draw attention to a message, carry out a last-minute counter-protest, or just make people’s day a little more interesting and fun, it seems to me that flash mobs – including ones that are either limited to a simple message, or are entirely frivolous – are a great way to develop a useful skillset for collective action, while lowering the barrier to involvement for those who want to help but don’t have time or energy for organizing work. There are some elements that are common to any other form of organizing, but flash mobs tend to focus on accomplishing a specific goal.

At this point I want to leave the theoretical and talk a bit about what’s already going on. As I mentioned earlier, people all over the world have been working out ways to resist their rulers for centuries. As the tools and tactics of governments have changed, resistances movements have changed in response. Folks involved in protest – particularly those who’ve taking part in Black Bloc actions – are likely to be familiar with some or all of this stuff. For the purposes of this particular piece, I don’t want to go too deep into specific actions that have been taken, but I do want to focus on this description from a conservative woman who joined in on some Black Bloc activities to see what it was like:

There are different types of bloc organization styles. The building block of antifa is what’s called an affinity group, people you live and work with and trust and know in real life. All the planning is done within that closed bloc, and they don’t let everyone know [what they’re going to do]. I didn’t know that they were going to burn the Portland Police Association when I joined. What they did was put a call out that said, “Anyone show up in black that night at this place, and you can join the action.”

That’s called a semi-open bloc. The planning is done within the closed group, but anyone who’s dressed in black can come join the action.

To be clear – I’m not suggesting that people should burn down buildings, this is just a real-world example of that “flash-mob” style of organizing in action, as described by someone opposed to the group’s goals. These tactics are a tool set, and as with any tool a great deal depends on who’s using it and why. A similar approach could be used to hand out leaflets in a particular location, or to generate buzz about a particular word or phrase, or to crash a politician’s event, or to attract attention to a particular problem. Regardless of what you’re doing, practice and training will increase your odds of a successful outcome.

Flash mobs done for fun or to spread a simple message, are a safe way of practicing logistics and helping people practice coordinated action.  In a lot of ways, it’s practicing martial arts – you might be doing it in case you need to used those skills, but it’s also a fun activity by itself, and largely devoid of any kind of ideological commitment. The same can be said of running, or any other form of exercise. The same can be said of the kinds of marches and rallies we’ve come to associate with political activism.

Generally, those of us interested in organizing are involved with at least one group of like-minded people (if you’re not, you might find help on finding or making such a group somewhere in here). What would it take for that group to get a flash mob together? What are the obstacles? How much notice is needed?

What about having two flash mobs do the same thing at the same time in two different cities? What about more than two?

What would it take to have a flash mob do something in Washington DC at noon, and another do the same thing in London at 5pm? How many people could you get to join in without knowing precisely what was going to happen?

There are already groups that organize events across large regions, but we want to build the capacity for mass coordinated action that – and this is important – is not being run by the political organizations that uphold the power structures and policies we want to change. What I want is for you, dear reader, to have the capacity to do this in pursuit of your own goals. I’ve heard a lot of people over the last year saying that the Left needs a new leader, and while I disagree, I would say that leaders worth following tend to emerge out of work that’s already being done. If you want a leader to follow, then work hard to create a movement that will build up the leaders it needs. Who knows, maybe you’ll find that the real leader was you all along!

Returning to the topic at hand, I listed various tasks involved in organizing an event to underline the need for training. None of us just naturally know how to go about doing any complex action. Even the stuff that seems more or less built in, like moving and talking – all of that requires practice. There’s no reason to think that the skills involved in building and maintaining a just and democratic system wouldn’t be the same. The good thing is that it’s not hard to find basic instructions for how to do this stuff, and it’s not hard to practice it safely and legally, and you can even have fun while you do it!

You will also be practicing field-tested tactics from protest movements around the world. I mentioned this earlier, with the Black Bloc example, but it goes beyond that. During the 2019 protests in Hong Kong, in addition to ingenious use of things like umbrellas and laser pointers, protesters used flash mob tactics to avoid arrest and continue their protests:

Hong Kong protesters have deployed a new strategy of popping up in small groups in multiple locations across the city in an effort to avoid arrest, during their ongoing campaign against police and the local government.
Small flashmobs of protesters demonstrated across a dozen districts after a call for protesters to “blossom everywhere” on Sunday, with many staying closer to home where they could evade police on foot or by bus.
[…]
“We are Pien Dei Hoi Fa[blossoming everywhere],” she said, while behind her a group of fellow protesters smashed up a traffic light.
Crystal, another 21-year-old protester, said: “The police do not allow us to have a big group of people gathering together. They block all the MTR stations, where the police have arrested [us] many times. The police also stop and search at the MTR stations.” She wore a mask, cap and sunglasses to disguise her identity during the demonstration.
She said: “People they just stay around this area. When something happens they can still go home at night without being searched in the tunnel.”

In Chile, where police are notorious for deliberately mutilating protesters, women gathered to sing “Un Violador En Tu Camino”/“El violador eres tú”, as part of their efforts to end the destructive reign of neoliberalism that began with Pinochet. This chant has been taken up, and used in the fight against oppressive governments and patriarchy in other parts of the world as well.

In the 2011 Egyptian revolution, a similar approach to Hong Kong was used, and in the description, we can see how they put their “home field” advantage to work in their favor:

Starting in the alleys was not a random decision. It makes tactical and strategic sense regardless of the technology used to coordinate this. Starting small and away from the main protests is a safe way to pool protesters together. It’s also about creating an iterative approach to a “strength in numbers” dynamic. As more people crowd the smaller the streets, this gives a sense of momentum and confidence. Starting in alley ways localizes the initiative. People are likely neighbors and join because they see their friend or sister out in the street.

The guide also stressed the need to remain peaceful and not engage in sabotage. The discipline of remaining non-violent is instrumental in civil resistance. Engaging in violence provides government forces with the excuse they’re looking for to clamp down on protesters and delegitimize them in a public way. The guide also recommends that activists try to win over the police and army instead of attacking them. The protesters behind this guide were clearly well trained and knew what they were doing.

This brings up another reason I think forming strategy based on local conditions is crucial: trying to win over the enemy is not always a good idea. It’s definitely one of the tactics that’s been used by the BLM movement, but the opposition in the U.S. is not just agents of the State; it’s also the fascist movement. Fascism, as an ideology and strategy that relies on conspiracy theories and ethnic scapegoating, has mass extermination as its end goal. Fascists don’t want to get along, they want you to cease existing. Deradicalization is important work, but even if that’s something you want to do, it is not work that should be attempted in the setting of a public confrontation. In general, these are people who are more likely to be holding themselves back from violence that might get them in trouble, rather than forcing themselves to attack because of orders. Given that we know for certain that white supremacists have been deliberately infiltrating law enforcement in the United States, it’s worth considering whether the people you want to appeal to even consider you to be human. You and those around you are likely to have a better idea what you’re going to be facing in your city or your country than someone who doesn’t live there, so you can shape your tactics accordingly.

If you do a quick search for how to organize a flash mob, you’ll come up with a lot of sites with a basic guide. I definitely recommend looking at multiple guides, but the central theme is the process of recruiting people to show up at a designated time and place, and to join in. If you want to limit who knows about your action in advance, you can rely on personal networks – contact people you know and trust, and have them contact people they know, to find people who might be on board. If you want a larger group, and don’t care who sees, you can put out a recruitment call on social media. For the rest, success largely seems to depend on how much work you can do in advance. The less you need to teach the folks who join up, the easier the experience for everyone once things get rolling. Once you have some practice arranging things locally, you can try working with a group somewhere else to do the same thing in two locations, and get some practice coordinating events. As ever, be aware of what information you give out, and how you go about doing so. US law enforcement has been known to spy on some pretty innocuous groups when it comes to any activism left of center.

I said it before, but it bears repeating: when you’re first trying out this sort of thing, it’s probably better to aim fairly small, and err on the side of caution. Part of the point of using this form of political action is to maximize safety for the people involved, so they’re able to keep working. This approach to political change will be more effective if it can be done at a larger scale. “Blossom Everywhere” is going to make a bigger impact than “Blossom in a couple places”. That means that we want a growing number of people who know what they’re doing. Your wellbeing is a key part of that. There are times when putting yourself at risk is the right thing to do, but the risk is never the goal. So practice, have fun, and if I can impart a bit of wisdom from my brief stint in a youth circus, be willing to make a fool of yourself in pursuit of something worth achieving.


Thank you for reading, and if you found my work useful, please share it around! If you’re financially stable, please consider contributing to my patreon, to help me make ends meet. Due to my current immigration status, I’m not allowed to seek wage labor, so this is my only means of income. Fortunately, the nature of crowdfunding is such that even a dollar per month makes a difference!

As with other such pieces, I will probably update this over time to improve it. Suggestions or discussion in the comments can help a great deal with that process, so feel free to chime in. Thanks for reading, and take care of yourself.

A response to the IPCC report

In a lot of ways I feel like nothing has changed. The IPCC report confirms what we’ve known for a very long time, and I gave up on the world I know still existing when I’m old about a decade ago. We still need to eliminate fossil fuel use. Because the warming has gone so far, there’s also zero question in my mind that we need nuclear power – especially for industry, as one of my esteemed commenters has pointed out – as well as solar and wind power. The fact that the warming will continue for centuries or even millennia, unless we start pulling vast amounts of CO2 out of the atmosphere at a currently unattainable rate means that our survival as a species now depends entirely on our technology. All other tools of survival are dependent on the climate conditions under which we’ve evolved, and those are gone. For all practical purposes, they are gone forever. We may be able to re-terraform the planet and return the climate to a temperature that’s more optimal for humanity, but that’s at least a lifetime away, and in order to get there, we have to survive.

We also need to stop driving our entire society based on what generates profit for rich assholes. There is no way that the scale of change we need will be more profitable in the short term than a continuation of the trajectory we are on. That means that our ruling class, who got and maintain their power by sacrificing the lives and happiness of others and who clearly believe they are the best people in the world to decide our fates, will happily drive us to extinction while believing to their dying breaths that nobody could possibly have done better. We are out of time. In my view we have been for many years. If we leave it to those in power, our response to climate change will be increasingly authoritarian societies, mass murder, needless destruction of land and resources through warfare, and ultimately an extinction that may have been preventable. I know this sounds alarmist to some, but I’d like to point out that I got the same response a decade ago when I said people should start thinking about storing food against emergencies, for the sake of their communities. These days it’s getting harder to find someone who would call that alarmist. Capitalism is driving us to extinction, and fascism is on the rise on a global scale.

I also want to repeat that I think extinction may be preventable. Based on where our society is at, right now, I do not think the odds are in our favor. I do, however, believe we can change those odds. I still believe both survival and a better, more just world is possible, but the longer we rely on our current rulers (some of whom have been involved in politics for longer than I’ve been alive, and yet haven’t come close to dealing with this problem), the worse our chances will get. I also believe that we don’t have a lot of room to screw up, which is why I’ve been advocating that we start the process of building a better society right now from the ground up, as part of building the power to create the political change we need. We need that resilience no matter what’s coming, and taking that approach seems to me to be the best way to save lives through both climate change and political change.

It’s a lot. It’s too much, really. There is no justice to what’s happening. Those responsible still wield unimaginable wealth and power, and the people suffering and dying the most are the poorest among us, not just in those nations kept in poverty by the rich nations, but also within the rich nations. Add in the pandemic, and there’s a burden of grief upon everyone who understands what’s going on. It’s hard to see any hope at all sometimes. We’re stuck in a fog bank, and not only can we not see a way out, we know there’s a very real possibility that the fog now envelops the entire world. Insofar as the temperature is going to keep rising, we may be stuck in that “fog” for the rest of our lives. Our best hope to get out is to build new spaces that are fog-proof, so that we can actually see each other and be whole again. In the meantime, we do what people always do when stuck in the fog. We call to each other, so we know we’re not alone. We feel our way forward, and guide those around us to better footing. We build fog horns to call those beyond reach of our voices, and warn them of rocks, or direct them to harbor.

I’m planning to post science fiction much more often here, and more regularly to my patrons, because I think a lot of people have trouble imagining how human society could exist on such a strange and hostile world. Storytelling – narrative of one form or another – is a method of communicating information and ideas that seems to be universal within our species. Hopefully I can find ways of doing it that can help at least some of you in that regard. I also decided, based on comments, to engage a little more directly with bad news and the darker end of things. Beyond that, I’ll keep trying to make content that will help people figure out their role in all this, and I’ll at least consider requests if there are particular things someone wants me to look into.

On that note, I think I’ll leave you with Rebecca Watson’s video about the IPCC report, because I like the tone:

 

Morbid Monday: High temperatures are devastating wheat crops in the United States

I’m working on a fairly long and involved piece on organizing and how to move beyond the local efforts I will continue to promote (remember – direct action both makes a better future more likely, and tends to improve your own outlook and personal mental health). Because I want to add the new piece to my “guidebook”, I want to do it justice if I’m able. In the meantime, the need for action continues to grow, and paying attention to what’s happening now can help us to think about how to act, and to imagine life on the chaotic, hostile planet on which we find ourselves.

For decades now fossil fuel propagandists have used, among many other talking points, the claim that rising CO2 levels is actually a good thing, because “CO2 is plant food”. The problem is that it’s not the only factor affecting the growth of any plant. As with humans, high temperatures dehydrates plants, and as with humans, there are limits to the heat a plant can take. I suppose it’s understandable that people might not know that, since we’ve only been dealing with heat-related crop failures from time to time for a few thousand years. Regardless, the predictable is occurring, and this summers brutal North American heatwaves have been wreaking havoc on our wheat farms:

Sun-baked U.S. spring wheat fields have been so badly hurt by drought this year that some farmers are expecting to harvest what they’re dubbing a “half a crop.”
Plants are visibly stunted. So much so that when crop scouts toured the fields of top-producing state North Dakota this week they kept having to get close to the ground to inspect crops that were about 10 inches (25 centimeters) or shorter — about a third of the normal size for this time of year. Large patches of dry soil could be seen in between rows. In better seasons, the ground isn’t even visible.

All told, the harsh conditions will send yields for spring wheat in the state plunging to 29.1 bushels an acre this year, according to final assessment of estimates following the Wheat Quality Council’s crop tour. While that’s slightly higher than the most-recent estimate from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it would still mean a drop of 41% from last year’s harvest.

Spring wheat is highly prized worldwide for giving foods like pizza crust and bagels their chewiness. This season’s expected shortfall hits as neighboring Canada contends with extreme heat and dryness as well, putting those crops at risk. North American baking and milling companies may end up having to look overseas for imports. Some farmers, after battling shriveled crops and damaging grasshoppers, have already opted to bale up plants for hay or consider the entire field a loss.

The fact that so much of the food we grow goes to waste means that those of us accustomed to reliable access to food are unlikely to starve because of this, but it wouldn’t surprise me if wheat products became more expensive, absent some form of price control or subsidies. This kind of problem is only going to get worse. Various places will still have good years, but those will become fewer in number as the temperature rises, and with the temperatures we’ve seen in Canada this year, I hope it’s clear to everyone that no part of the planet is going to be safe from these problems. As I’ve said before, I think our response to climate change needs to include a massive increase in indoor farming, even if it’s mostly stuff like algae or edible bacterial cultures.

I hope you grew up wanting to live in some kind of science fiction setting where we use advanced technology to survive on a hostile planet, because while we can take steps to mitigate that hostility, I don’t expect the warming to end in my lifetime.


Life costs money and I’m currently in a situation where I’m unable to get conventional wage labor. If you find my work useful or interesting, please consider supporting me at patreon.com/oceanoxia. You can sign up for as little as $1 per month (that’s just 25 cents a week!), and every little bit really does add up. If you can’t afford that – and I know that many can’t right now – please consider sharing my work with anyone you think might appreciate it. Beyond that, take care of yourselves and each other.

The way the United States treats people with disabilities is deliberately cruel, and beyond unacceptable.

I’m working on a longer piece about disability, accessability, and some trends we should be working to change, but in the meantime, check out this interview, and pressure your legislators to support legislation that move to deal with at least some of this. You can text SIGN SSINOW to 50409 to push Schumer to include improvements to Supplemental Security Income, and move away from a deliberately cruel system that traps disabled folks in poverty and isolation. This is also something worth pressing your senators and representative on. There is no justification for this.

Mutual aid, 6th edition

Updated on the 1st of August, 2021

With the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, joblessness is increasing, and people are in need of help. This is particularly a problem in the US, but many others in other countries are also struggling, and it’s likely the number of people needing help will be increasing as the crisis continues. This isn’t going to be over any time soon, and the economic impacts are going to last even after vaccines have been widely distributed.

To that end, I’ve put together a list of different resources for people who are struggling to make ends meet. This is a mix of both ways to seek help, and ways to give help to those in need. I will update and re-post this at least once a week while the pandemic and associated economic fallout continue. This is currently mostly focused on the U.S., with some UK resources, but I want to expand it to cover anyone needing help anywhere if possible. There’s a lot here, and it’s currently not particularly organized, because I don’t currently have a system for doing so. I also haven’t included much about things like PPE crafting or distribution – this is mostly focused on aid relating to  food, housing, and other things that currently require money.

Because of the duration of the pandemic, and the lack of help from the US government, many of these may be running out of resources, so please help if you can! Supporting each other in times of need is how humanity has gotten this far, and for those who have more than they need, now’s the time to give back to the society that made that wealth possible. If you want to start a mutual aid network in your area, here’s a guide on how to do that.

I think it’s worth mentioning that if you’re doing OK, and you want to help, contributing to mutual aid efforts is one way to do that. Actually contributing your time and labor, in whatever capacity you’re able, is also likely to be valuable. Many of the initial projects to help people survive the combination of a pandemic and the cruelty of a capitalist system were short-term efforts to deal with what most expected to be a short-term problem. The pandemic continues, and in case you missed it, climate change isn’t going to give us any breathing room. Mutual aid can’t solve all our problems, but it can help people survive, and it can be a tool for networking and organizing. That’s something YOU will need going forward, dear reader, unless you want to be entirely at the mercy of the billionaires and their endless greed.

If anyone has corrections or resources I’ve missed, please include them in the comments and I’ll add them in to the next round. 

Twitter thread on resources for people facing eviction – share it around, and add to it if you have anything to add. 

  • From Bigdoorbrigade.com, who have done a great job pulling this stuff together. Look at this stuff, but check them out too, because they’ve got more on how to help, how to organize, and so on:

https://www.mutualaidhub.org/ – a map of mutual aid projects and requests around the United States. FYI, McAffee flagged this site as somehow worrisome. I’m not sure why.

https://mutualaiddisasterrelief.org/ – Mutual Aid Disaster Relief – solidarity, not charity. This is an opportunity to help, and by doing so you increase the odds that you’ll have help when the next climate disaster hits your region

It’s Going Down  is a digital community center for anarchist, anti-fascist, autonomous anti-capitalist and anti-colonial movements. They have a list of mutual aid efforts focusing on the COVID-19 pandemic across the United States as well as some in Canada.

This is a US-based google doc with a huge amount of resources linked, from guides, to counter-propaganda, to existing aid efforts. Tactics and info are relevant across the board, most of the linked aid efforts are centered in the US.

Coronavirus resource list “This kit is a collectivized document that will be updated as more mutual aid projects and resources appear online. Recognizing that not everyone will have access to great internet to access some of these, I encourage you to apply these offline as well as online.”

COVID-19 Mutual Aid UK – Mutual aid resources in the United Kingdom

For those interested, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now did an interview with Dean Spade, who created Big Door Brigade.

The Human Network Initiative is a collaboration between Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. They have put together this collation of local and state resources

The Asian American Resource Workshop has created a wider ranging sheet of resources and mutual aid groups. It includes a lot of information on how to combat prejudice and xenophobia in this unprecedented situation

The folks behind the news site Boston.org have set up the Boston Helps network

A neighborhood group has been organized for Jamaica Plain and Roxbury, with similar groups in many Boston neighborhoods

Just outside of the city, communities like Cambridge have also seen mutual aid groups being set up

Wildcats want to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone who has supported us so far! With your solidarity, we have raised just enough to take care of the basic needs of all 80 graduate student workers who were recently fired for grade withholding. Thanks to you, we have been able to rest assured that our rent, food, and other needs will be covered. Your donations also fed thousands of strikers and our allies on our month-long picket line and covered medical and legal expenses of those who were violently arrested by University of California police. This fund continues to be the foundation for our ongoing fight for a cost of living adjustment (COLA).

MAP staff are already doing all we can to support local medical services who are serving Palestinian communities living under occupation and as refugees. We have already provided emergency hygiene supplies to 1,200 vulnerable Palestinians living in Gaza. We anticipate further need for an emergency medical response in the weeks and months ahead. Please help us be there for Palestinians during this crisis with a donation today.

Your donation can help pay for:

  • Hygiene Kits
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The chancellor’s announcement now helps millions of hospitality workers, but sadly still so many are not protected by this as they don’t have contracts, were paid off pay roll or dismissed by employers before the announcement. We decided to take action to help those that are still hurting. We have the technology, contacts & understanding to make a difference quickly.

We have created ‘The Hospitality Workers Emergency Fund’ to allow the kind hearted, altruistic & caring UK public to donate to an emergency fund to help the most vulnerable & in need in our sector during this time. Our mission was always to champion hourly paid tipped workers, we never imagined in this way…

  • This journalist furlough fund is trying to help journalists who’ve seen their pay stopped for one reason or another. You can donate here, or follow a link to request aid

Here are just a few other places to donate that I’ve seen floating around. There are likely more local efforts where you live.
Nationwide: UNITE HERE’s fund for impacted workers

I’ll keep updating this as I find new stuff, and as always, let me know if you come across things I’ve missed, and please consider donating to my patreon, as I’m barely making ends meet myself!

The US is facing an eviction crisis. Here’s a list of resources that you should share

Update: There are more dead links in the last mutual aid post than I was expecting, so I’m taking a little extra time to go through those and find what new resources I can. The new edition will be up on Sunday.

I’ll be updating my mutual aid post tomorrow, and this will be on it, but it merits its own post as well. Share this twitter thread as widely as you can to increase the odds of useful information getting to someone who needs it. It includes resources by state as well as federal resources. Congress continues to fail in their duties to the American people, and some may even thing that mass evictions will be “good for business”, as it’s likely to create a whole bunch of desperate people who’re more likely to agree to bad pay and bad working conditions. Some state legislatures may help, many will not. Also please keep in mind that, as a rule, you can’t trust landlords. They’ll make up cleaning bills to keep your deposit, and they’ll lie to you about your rights as a tenant if you let them. There are good people who are landlords out there, but they’re not who a majority of renters have to deal with. Know your rights, share information widely, and look for ways to help those around you.

Rain in Dubai: How climate change and dangerous technologies demand an end to nationalism

Rain on Roke may be drought in Osskil
-Master Summoner, Wizard of Earthsea (Ursula K. Le Guin)

One of the most common tropes in discussions of the natural world is that of “balance”. When approaching the topic of using magic to control the weather, most decent fantasy authors include at least some discussion of how meddling with a system that’s “in balance” can have unpredictable, and sometimes catastrophic side effects. When it comes to dealing with the ways in which humans affect our surroundings, there’s a clear history of “cures” causing a great deal of damage all by themselves. One clear example of this was the misguided effort to combat an invasive cane beetle problem by introducing cane toads to Australia. You can learn more about that particular debacle by watching Cane Toads: An Unnatural History. I recommend watching it with friends and intoxicants if that’s your thing. There’s real knowledge to be gained from this film, but the entertainment value is what made the documentary something of a cult classic. Back to the main topic.

Throughout most of human history, we have been largely at the mercy of whatever weather the planet tries to throw at us, and so the notion of using technology to control the weather has long been both a goal eagerly sought, and the source of many cautionary tales. The notion of the world being in some perfect natural harmony has always been more of a romantic fantasy than anything else, but even if one was inclined to put stock in the idea, I think it’s clear that that “balance” has been broken. If nothing else, this entire crisis is being caused by an imbalance between energy entering the planet from the sun, and radiating from the planet into space. Everything is being thrown into chaos, so… what’s the reason to avoid trying to modify the weather again?

Well, there are still some reasons; chemical cloud seeding, for example, can trigger rain by altering atmospheric chemistry, but there are downsides, especially if it were to be done as often as would be needed to keep hot places habitable. Even so, the ability to turn ambient humidity into rain could be extremely useful for emergency disaster relief – like cooling a city if the power goes out during a heat wave. That means getting better at figuring out both what’s effective in triggering rainfall, and what the side effects may be. It’s probably because of the worries surrounding chemical cloud seeding techniques that The UAE has taken an energy-based approach:

Footage recently released by the UAE weather agency shows heavy rain falling in the desert. The fat droplets falling were reportedly the result of a pilot test of the drones. Using unmanned drones that discharge electricity may sound a little foolhardy in the midst of storm clouds, but that electricity could be a key ingredient in getting rain to fall.
Clouds are made up water droplets, which are too tiny to fall out of the sky (hence, clouds exist). The electrical charges essentially encourage those small droplets to collide and condense into bigger ones that do eventually get heavy enough to fall as rain. In a country like the UAE, however, even drops that are big enough to fall as rain can often evaporate before reaching the ground owing to the very low humidity. The electrical charging technique could help fatten those droplets up enough to reach the desert floor and replenish a water table that’s been sinking due the region’s rapacious growth.

 

This is nice for as far as it goes. It’s a way for a dry region to catch moisture that might otherwise pass it over, and using electricity as the catalyst avoids the issues of doing it with chemicals. I think it’s also worth noting that with higher temperatures will come faster evaporation and more water in the air in general, which means this may actually become an increasingly viable technique. I think it could also be extremely useful for supporting or altering ecosystems. That said, I don’t believe that this will be anything close to a solution to the problems that come with extreme heat. There’s a limit to how much a rainstorm can cool a place, and I worry about the dangers of increasing ground-level humidity. I think this is an important tool to have available to us, and I’m glad that it’s being tried, but by itself it’s the proverbial band-aid on a bullet wound. What matters most is how and why it’s used.

Air conditioning, for example, will likely save all of our lives before too long, but it doesn’t just make heat go away – it displaces it. It moves energy from one location (the inside of a building) to another location (outside the building). That’s why an A/C unit only works if it can vent to the outside.

Spending energy on relocating heat within our climate system can, without question, save countless lives, but without addressing the larger crisis, not only will any form of artificial cooling be inadequate, it will cost more and more energy to get the same results as the temperature rises. As I’ve said before, we’re going to need to rely on air conditioning, but the more efficiently we can do it, and the more we can rely on “passive” temperature control like shade, reflection, and insulation, the better our long-term results will be.

Cloud seeding, as with more conventional air conditioning, moves heat around. Most of us learned about the water cycle as being how water moves around the world, but every stage of that cycle also moves energy. In order to stay in the air as vapor, water requires a ratio of pressure and temperature. If you take the time, you can watch clouds form and dissipate on a clear day. That’s not water fading in and out of existence – the same amount of water is there regardless. What’s happening is that the water is moving in and out of pockets of cooler, or lower pressure air. For this discussion, I’m going to focus on temperature. As the cloud forms, heat is transferred from the water vapor to the cooler air, condensing the water into droplets. If a cloud hits warmer air, it absorbs that heat, turning from a cloud of droplets into invisible vapor.

That heat transfer is also going to be happening, to some degree, as we use technology to create clouds and rainstorms, and in a climate that’s already too hot and chaotic for comfortable living, it’s hard to know what side effects we might get from widespread use of this sort of weather modification. I’m really not sure, but it seems like extensive use of this technology in one location could create an artificial heat wave nearby. The UAE, or the United States, or any other country could well make local conditions better through weather modification, but even with the climate thrown into chaos, moving heat around like that could worsen conditions in other areas. If the world is still operating as a collection of nations in competition with each other, then it’s almost guaranteed that countries with the power to do so will improve their own conditions at the expense of populations who’re unable to protect themselves.

It always seems to come back to this, but the risk/reward analysis is always going to be different depending on who’s calling the shots. As the planet becomes more dangerous, and the actions taken to survive become more drastic, I think nationalism and nationalistic tendencies will become also much more dangerous.

There’s already a long-standing problem of more powerful nations using those with less power not just for cheap labor (or slave labor) but also as dumping grounds. When we’re dealing with any form of artificial cooling, heat is what is extracted and discarded. With much of the world coming ever-closer to the limits of human heat tolerance, for at least some parts of the year, I think that the concept of heat as a waste product is going to become much more familiar.

If we’re going to avoid the same old pattern of enriching a minority by making huge parts of the planet worse, then we need to view nationalism (and fascism in particular) as an immediate existential threat to the entire species. If we’re going to get through climate change, it will be by helping each other on a global scale as various parts of the world become uninhabitable, or suffer crop failures or unexpected disasters. The way the United States responded to the COVID-19 pandemic may give you some insight into how well that “cooperation” thing will work out under a nationalist framework.

This is my worry for virtually every aspect of climate change. The Pentagon rightly describes global warming as a “threat multiplier,” and I would say that includes the threats of nationalism, capitalism, and fascism. Economic and political philosophies that view parts of the population as either expendable or as targets for mass murder already actively hinder international cooperation, and cause massive amounts of death and misery. Many of the refugees at our southern border are fleeing the combination of US-generated political instability and the warming climate. There is zero question in my mind that Guatemala, for example, would have been far more able to cope with its climate disasters had the US not deliberately plunged the country into decades of brutal civil war and genocide. The same goes for Nicaragua, El Salvador, and numerous other countries in Central America, South America, Africa, Asia, the Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, and we’re kinda running out of parts of the planet. At the same time, U.S. officials involved in those atrocities still hold influence in the United States – go through this tiny list of indictments for the Iran-Contra Affair and see who, of those still alive, still have sway on corporate boards, political campaigns, and administrations. And remember – those are just the ones who got indicted, in a country now famous for protecting its war criminals.

In the coming decades, we will need to make a planetary effort unlike anything in the history of our species. We need to work together for the benefit of all humanity, and of every other species on the planet that we can save. We will need weather modification technology for cooling, or watering entire forests, or helping to grow crops. We will need nuclear power. We will need to build new infrastructure. We will need to develop the means to relocate large amounts of goods and large populations without using fossil fuels. We will need to radically increase the efficiency of the technology we use, and we will need to end profit-driven overproduction.

The politics of nations and national borders are an impediment to all of that, and will increasingly undermine our ability to do anything as the situation gets worse. Everything I just listed can be used or misused to harm people, if used for that purpose. It can also harm people if used neglectfully. I like the anarchist approach to political change not because I necessarily think that we’ll achieve an anarchist society in my lifetime, or because I think such a society would have an easy time dealing with global warming, but because I see it as the best means for people to build collective power and resilience to take collective control of decisions that affect all of us.

Our ability to influence the weather isn’t magic, but I see no reason why the precautions that might be taken by a responsible wizard would not also apply to weather manipulation via technology. In either case, the consequences of doing it for the benefit of a tiny ruling class could be as disastrous as the results of doing it for the benefit (and with the consent) of all humanity could be wondrous.


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We’ve known for decades that a climate refugee crisis was coming. Now it’s here, and we aren’t ready.

About a decade ago, I was part of a Quaker climate action group that was trying to get New England Quakers to take a leadership position – both in political activism and in direct action – to deal with the problems of climate change. We started with putting together a presentation that we’d do at various Quaker Meetings around the region. I don’t remember the exact format, but the basic approach was to simultaneously try to drive home the scale of the horrors we face, and then follow that shock up with discussion of constructive action that could be taken at the community level. We showed a video, and then the 3-5 of us there (it was a small group) would give our own presentations/perspectives on the issue. Mine centered around a discussion of the iguanas I got to help study in college, the dangers presented to them by sea level rise, for example. The video we used, called Wake up, Freak out, then Get a Grip, and I think it’s still worth watching now. The animations are well done, and I expect most of you will be able to see where we’re at in the series of events they forecast:

I think we have passed that point of no return. We can slow the warming, and maybe we can reverse it, but even if we do manage to end fossil fuel use by 2030, I think the temperature is going to keep rising, absent any new actions by humanity. In fact, as we stop using fossil fuels, the corresponding drop in particles in the atmosphere is going to cause a brief increase in temperature, as less sunlight will be reflected back into space before it can heat up the planet. There are proposals to deliberately increase particulate pollution to cool the planet, but they are likely to have bad side effects, and will really only kick the can down the road.

As I’ve said, we’re at a point where we need to work out how to live on this hostile new planet, while we work to make its conditions more hospitable to us and the ecosystems of which we are a part. That means infrastructure that’s either extremely resilient, or that’s designed to be very, very easy to relocate.

It also means finding new homes for billions of people, because where they currently live is fast becoming uninhabitable.

Apparently this hasn’t been clear to all of my readers, so I’ll say it outright – my goal is for humanity to thrive. That obviously requires survival, but more than that it requires that we keep fighting for a more equitable, democratic system. There’s little chance that this struggle will be over at any point in the next couple centuries, and if people try to set aside any issues of social, environmental, or economic justice “until we get climate change dealt with”, then not only will that mean billions will die never seeing justice – even if they all die of old age, which they won’t – it will also undermine or even destroy our efforts to deal with climate change. People who are oppressed will always fight their oppression. The more that work has to be done to deal with immediate survival, then less we will be able to pull together for the good of the species. Likewise, we need to take care of the ecosystems around us, and take action to reduce the scale of the mass extinction we’re currently causing.

As with slavery and genocide, simply ceasing is not enough. Reparations are needed.

And as with those other issues, reparations are not – and never have been – about punishing people for doing bad things. One can argue whether or not there’s a place for that, but it’s a separate issue. The point of reparations is not to harm the perpetrator, but to heal the victim. Material harm has been done, and that requires a material response. Simply apologizing for stabbing someone will not solve the problem – the wound must be cleaned, the damage repaired, and the attacker must be prevented from harming others. There are a whole host of actions that need to be taken before anything can be considered “resolved”.

For the rest of our lives, the fastest growing human crisis is going to be that of those killed by climate change, and those fleeing lethal conditions. To stick with the earlier metaphor, the wounds caused over the centuries by colonialism and capitalism never received treatment, and are now badly infected.

The way we have dealt with refugees historically is not acceptable. It has never been acceptable, and on a rapidly heating planet, incompetent and inhumane management will turn into outright extermination.

If you’ve paid attention to the current fascist movement in the United States, you will have gotten a taste of this already. Refugees are fleeing north from Central America. They’ve been forced out of their ancestral homes by colonialism and the neoliberal atrocities it birthed, but also by the changing climate. The response by American fascists has been not just a closed border, but an impenetrable wall (or the fantasy of one), with proposals to electrify the wall, shoot people who approach it, or even lay down landmines. In reality, all of that “active” violence is secondary and in service to the “passive” violence of an impenetrable border wall.

The goal is a desert full of the bones of those who reached the wall and died unable to cross it.

That’s also why they’ve been caught destroying supply drops meant to help refugees survive the already brutal conditions; in keeping with the long history of governments using the elements as a tool of mass murder, and the tradition of treating refugees as undeserving of life, they want anyone trying to flee to the US to die in the effort.

Even if we ended fossil fuel use tomorrow, that problem would not go away. No approach to this problem will succeed without simultaneously working to keep as much of the world habitable as possible, through the use of technology and through land management, but also to ensure refuge for those living in areas that are no longer habitable.

And more than refuge, we need to ensure that they have a say in decisions that affect their lives. The top-down approach has been a consistent failure, and in this new world, things like refugee camps, concentration camps, and “detention facilities” will all become death camps. Refugees need to be able to control their own lives, same as anyone else, especially because it’s a virtual guarantee that anyone in the position of being classified as a “refugee” was not responsible either for the warming climate, or for the decades of misinformation and obstruction that brought us to this point.

Those who are responsible should be held accountable, stripped of all power to harm others, and their resources should be used to help humanity, but that is a secondary concern to ensuring that their victims are made whole to the greatest degree possible. If we are fighting for a better world for humanity, then we must also be fighting for better a better world for those in it right now, not just for those in the future. That’s not to say that no sacrifices will be made. I don’t think that the ruling class will give up their power willingly, and cutting off access to vital resources has always been a favorite weapon of theirs.

I agree that we absolutely need immigration and refugee policies that value human life, but I’m pessimistic about our chances of getting that from the political systems we currently have, not just in the United States, but in many other places around the world. We need to take matters into our own hands, and work to aid and empower people all around the world. The one silver lining is that there’s so much work to be done, that there’s guaranteed to be a role that’s well-suited for just about everyone.


If you like my work, please share it with others who might find it interesting. If you’re willing, please also consider contributing as little as one dollar per month to my patreon. For various reasons, this is my only source of income right now, and it’s less than we need to break even. Doing so will get you access to some extra content (science fiction and some nonfiction), and give you some influence on what topics I write about.

Privatization of food, water, shelter, and power kills people. We need to take back the world.

I sometimes feel like a bit of a broken record when it comes to climate change and capitalism. It’s clear to me that dealing with climate change in a way that tries to reduce suffering and needless death will be impossible under a capitalist system. Everything about the way our economy is designed pushes the rich to keep accumulating wealth, and to keep hurting other people to do it. With the ubiquity of the internet in our everyday lives, the ways in which capitalists (or any other rulers for that matter) can directly interfere in our lives are ever-growing. I’ve posted recently about the dangers of heat, and I think it’s clear to most people that some form of artificial cooling is becoming as necessary as heat is in the winter. Under those circumstances, a privatized power grid can turn into a sci-fi nightmare:

Apparently this is a shocking statement in some circles, but I do not believe anyone should have the power to play with people’s lives like that. This is a big reason why I favor solar and wind power – they can be decentralized and integrated throughout the areas -in which humans use power, which makes it more difficult for anyone to control access to electricity.

It’s important to understand that this is not limited to electricity, or even technology in general. It has been done with the housing market for ages, creating and maintaining a large homeless population. Homeless people have always been killed by exposure to the elements, but by now it should be clear to you that those numbers are going to start climbing rapidly. People are already willing to accept worsening labor conditions and debt in an effort to keep a roof over their heads. How much more will we put up with in a world where being denied shelter almost guarantees death?

Corporations (most famously Nestle, but there are others) are also in the process of creating a similar circumstance with access to water around the world. As with the question of shelter, access to potable water is going to become increasingly important as exposure to higher temperatures puts both people and crops at risk of dehydration and overheating. I hope it doesn’t need to be said, but if your access to water depends on being able to pay, then you do not have a right to stay alive in any functional sense.

In a similar vein, it should alarm you that Bill Gates, who has killed a lot of people for money by insisting on corporate control over vaccines, has been buying up vast amounts of farmland.

There is a very real, very immediate danger posed to humanity, not just by climate change, but by the combination of climate change and capitalist hegemony. I don’t know whether it’s malice or pathology, but it seems pretty clear that the capitalists of the world are happy to consume all of humanity, and they should no more be allowed to do that than a serial killer should be allowed to murder at will.

We need to organize, protect and empower each other, and take all power away from those whose “leadership” has brought us to this point.


If you like my work, please share it with others who might find it interesting. If you’re willing, please also consider contributing as little as one dollar per month to my patreon. For various reasons, this is my only source of income right now, and it’s less than we need to break even. Doing so will get you access to some extra content (science fiction and some nonfiction), and give you some influence on what topics I write about.