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Life After Copenhagen: Here's the Reason I'm Inspired to Keep Working Harder Than Ever

While Copenhagen resulted in zero meaningful progress on global emissions reductions, there was one source of inspiration I found there that keeps me going.

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The Old Guard Crumbles

Remember MoveOn.org? For about six months nearly a decade ago, it really mattered. It lives on, but as a part of the machinery it once railed against. More mature organizations, like the Sierra Club and the World Wildlife Fund, once served a truly radical purpose, but those days are years behind, their ranks and coffers swelled by members whose centrist positions, while absolutely reflective of the U.S. constituency, keep these NGOs from taking all but the most measured steps. Where they once fought with spirit and youthful passion, they now bring the might and weight of millions-strong memberships. Given that momentum equals mass times acceleration, they still pack quite a wallop, but possess very little speed. And while the George Foremans of the world are to be respected, they're built for protracted battles, not for the type of "win-now-or-die" fight we have on our hands. Too, their dedication to self-preservation seems to outweigh a commitment to world saving. This was evidenced quite clearly by the rapidity with which they fell all over themselves to kiss Obama's cheeks. Check out this extreme pucker job by Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope. Afraid of losing funding, Carl? You either threw up in your mouth a few times writing this, or somewhere along the way you lost your soul. A notable exception to this corporate NGO betrayal is Greenpeace, which continues to scream truth to power.

Next Step: Make it Personal

As an armchair activist, one who needn't be concerned with pragmatism or implementation, here's what I'd do: I would make it personal. I'd prove to every last U.S. politician that a burning planet is a top priority by organizing daily gatherings outside every one of their homes; from the smallest towns to Washington, DC. I'd weld the aggressive tactics of Eugene Debs, the Wobblies and early union agitators with the enormous, activated networks built by 350, TckTckTck and Avaaz. U.S. politicians can't be blamed for not getting behind powerful climate legislation. For all the activism to date, little of it has been focused on showing elected officials we mean business. We can do this by moving the fight to where these politicians live and not leaving their front lawns until they get the message thousands of times over, hand-delivered by their neighbors, their children's teachers, and their grocery clerks. Confronted by local resistance and faces they recognize, they will be moved to action. Can you picture it? Can you envision groups of relentless activists camped out all across the country? I can. I know the dedication is there. We need only provide the talking points and flip the switch.

I said "armchair activist" because I don't work for an activist organization. The work of the Fellows at Post Carbon Institute is to provide practical, replicable solutions to the intertwined challenges created by climate change, resource scarcity and irresponsible economic policy. Whenever possible, the Institute seeks to actually test its ideas within the global network of Transition Town -- communities who have taken it upon themselves to effect rapid change through relocalization efforts. Our work and the work of many other NGOs provide the meat of the activist's message. The activists make sure people are paying attention. We help formulate the plan with which to achieve a sustainable, resilient world. To get anywhere at all, we'll need to work with one another much more closely. And we'll need to learn a new language.

The Right Way?

In the States, the climate change community really enjoys talking to itself. We've honed our talking points in endless online forums, through millions of pages of blog posts and Op Eds. When we spot one another's words in the Huff Po, we're both thrilled and jealous (admit it!). We're hip to the lingo, we grok one another's content at a glance.

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