This is an introduction to organizing for Deep Green Resistance in your community. The article is adapted from training for DGR organizers in Europe. For more on DGR organizing, read Deep Green Resistance: A Strategy to Save the Planet.
By Sue Breen and Aimee Wild
As we write this, the world is in a precarious position. She needs more protectors, warriors, and healers—more care and compassion—than ever before. At no time in history has the systematic abuse of this beautiful planet and it’s inhabitants (human and nonhuman) been more obvious.
This Is An Offering To You
If you have wondered how to help. If you have wanted to do something to ease the suffering. This is your chance to step up, to speak out. You must be prepared to work with nothing, be adaptable and creative with whatever resources you have. This work is centered around Deep Green Resistance analysis but the methods can be used to generate general community resilience and resistance for any campaign.
How to Get Started
Look for opportunities to plant seeds of information. Use any platform available to you, chatting with your neighbours, discussions in your work place, the bloke walking his dog who always says hello. Building trust; developing human relationships is fundamental to creating a community. We have more in common with most people than we have differences; find those common grounds. Avoid rising to divisions so the seeds you offer are met with space for the growth of more radical thought.
Most people long for community and a sense of belonging, take responsibility for making them welcome if they have trusted you with their time and support. Most activists are seeking a direct path to action and tangible results. Always illustrate the big picture in concrete steps: why we are doing this, what the issues are, where they come from, how they directly relate to us, and what we are doing to address them. Offer training and express trust by delegating tasks. Create platforms to support them in sharing relevant knowledge and skills.
Mostly unconsciously, people bring their emotion history with them into groups, often generating strong dynamics. Even one disruptive individual can create substantial damage in a group. Holding a zero tolerance approach to in-fighting, gossiping and power struggles will help create a healthier group. Lead by example and refuse to allow toxic behaviour permeate your group. There will be disagreements, but never allow anyone be “called out” in front of the group, this is unfair and likely to cause defensiveness and further polarisation. If problems arise address them one to one or with a mediator. It can be healing and help others grow if you model forgiveness and understanding for those who have chosen to work alongside you. This can provide balance, and help to smooth interpersonal relationships.
Look After Yourself
Personal boundaries are vital so you do not burn out. It is okay to say no. Avoid over committing by honouring your limitations but never shy away from stretching your comfort zone to allow yourself to develop your skills. This is a long haul, so make it fun, enjoy the people you work with and show appreciation.
When building a local campaign or mutual aid group, you can build a social media presence with little effort, invite other local activists onto your page once it has a respectable following rather than a small number. Do not let someone who is unclear of your purpose moderate. Offer them a different task.
If any local journalists are connected to specific community or environmental issues do keep in touch. Keep abreast of local campaigns and issues, and support on the ground as much as possible. This will show others that you are committed.
We Are Stronger Together
If you are in contact with other organisations, work out the similarities and potential divisive issues. Plan how you are going to address them in advance. Work out group dynamics and gain the respect of leaders. This will automatically give credence amongst the others. Identify those who are more radical and work towards potential allies rather than wasting time in circular conversations with those of a fixed mindset. If you are joining local campaigns, always be respectful of the work done before you became involved. Be supportive of that work and other organisers.
If you are contributing to public events such as talks, training, film nights, or fundraisers, it will help to find current topics that hold local relevance and build your messaging around this. People have more interest if there is even a vague local connection. If possible offer webinars/trainings tailored to your audience (e.g. increasing council tax, destruction/development of a local area).
Be Visible in Your Community
For instance create or join mutual aid groups. Your positive work will draw interest. It is okay to use your work as a reference point in general conversation with positive examples. It may be that people have not thought about or been exposed to radical ideas. Some may have limited education and experience rather than a genuine unwillingness to broaden their horizons. If you have the opportunity, join working groups to have input into policy and/or foundational documents.
If presenting/speaking, incorporate as much helpful material as possible: slides, pamphlets, quote’s etc. The DGR analysis is not palatable for a broad audience. The majority of people have not thought about radical ideas. Often because there is a lack of education and experience rather than genuine unwillingness to think outside the box.
There are 3 main contentious issues in DGR analysis. You do not have to tackle these issues head-on if it risks alienating your audience. Using specific examples can help others connect to your view. Asking others questions is also helpful; it shows an interest in their views and illustrates aspects they may need to think through.
1. We Are Anti-Civilization
We deeply support resilient communities, mutual aid, health and wellbeing of the planet, for human and non-human life. We do not support industrial technology, the creation of which is destructive. We are fundamentally opposed to the toxic culture of patriarchy and capitalism. How can we have infinite growth on a finite planet? Do you believe that there will be a voluntary shift to a sane and sustainable way of life?
2. We Oppose Bright Green Solutions
We are deeply supportive of systems that generate health and well-being to all life. The creation, maintenance and life cycle of so-called “green technology” is harmful to our planet and perpetuates the capitalist/destructive system in place. Ask about the life cycle of products, supply chains, ask how they can ethically endorse it without educating themselves of the true impact, especially in the Global South.
3. We Are a Radical Feminist Organization
Society is fundamentally patriarchal. Men as a class dominate and oppress women. Ask questions around the prevalence of violence towards women and girls. As hard as it is, offering concrete examples demonstrates the pandemic of violence against women. Offer a real life example of women’s sex-based protections being eroded. Talk about inequality, poor legal and social remedies for women in all contexts.
Compassionate, Clean Communication
Familiarise yourself with specific examples so you can offer clarity on your position. Do resist being drawn into an argument, ask carefully considered questions so their answer (or inability to do so) will affirm your point, or at least force them to think about it. Dealing with others righteousness, apathy and/or cognitive dissonance can be disheartening. Keep going, keep building relationships within your community. Many people are still in a comfortable enough position that they can pretend the systematic destruction of our planet is not happening. As things deteriorate, when they are personally impacted, they will no longer have that option. We need to be ready for this, trained in necessary skills with strong grassroots networks. This is what we are working towards.
If you find yourself with no audience or one that is inhospitable, think about the hurdles, the jarring point between your audience and our analysis. Introduce questions, illuminate the gaps in their perception of the issue. Keep gradually reinforcing your points. Direct people towards writing, leave books in workplace libraries, share links to DGR articles on social media.
DGR are not aiming for a mass movement, it is not about branding, if people sign up great, but by consistently sharing grains of our analysis whenever, possible we are sowing the seeds for a culture of resistance.
Keep Focused, Stay Grounded
The revolution can be boring. Interpersonal issues, paperwork, screen-time, phone calls . . . the resistance hinges on some seriously laborious and dreary tasks. Find what grounds you—something that always brings home the gravity of what we are facing. It could be an image, a story, a sound e.g. the soundscape of extinct birdcalls or sprawling development clearing feeding grounds and habitat for our non-human kin.
When you feel frustrated or lose focus, stay grounded, centre yourself. Remember what we are doing could not be more important. Make the most of the people around you. Draw support from our community, never be afraid to ask for help or advice, to reach out for support, when you do it gives others permission to do the same.
These are strange days – we all need support to stay strong so we can keep fighting the good fight.
Susan Breen is a political campaigner, feminist and cadre for DGR Ireland. Aimee Wild is an advocate for social change, educator, Feminist and DGR organizer in The U.K.
Click here to get involved with Deep Green Resistance.