I just returned from London and Scotland where I met some incredibly bold and creative activists. I am so grateful for the hospitality and solidarity I received in both London and Glasgow.
Sharing our stories and strategies reminded me that our two decades of work and struggle has delivered priceless lessons that we must continue to utilize and share with others as we journey forward.
In Scotland, I presented Backbone's experience with kayaktivism and shared our training curriculum. We got on the water for a #StopRosebank action to practice with these new skills. Our friends with Extinction Rebellion in London organized multiple opportunities for me to share about Backbone’s strategy, stories, and lessons learned.
The enthusiastic response to our Love Wins, Grand Strategy and the Art of War for Nonviolent Social Movements presentation reminded me of how essential this grand strategic framework is to Backbone's movement building work and our theory of change.
“In a nutshell” it can be summarized as such:
1. Change occurs when there is a shift in what becomes politically possible, acceptable and necessary. Some refer to this as political calculus. As we’ve seen, the politically possible can move in a negative or a positive direction. We don’t battle in the domain of conflict - referred to as attrition conflict, which relies on brute strength and coercion. Progressive change agents fight for hearts and minds in the domain of moral conflict. We win by enrolling popular support for a shared vision and societal goals that reflect people’s deepest aspirations, to values of dignity, community, and ecological well being. It is essential that these values and vision are reflected in our words, actions and imagery.
2. Simultaneously, we expose the mismatches between what our opponents say they are doing, say is real, and what they claim to be. We expose how their lies, corruption, and greed harm people, communities, and the natural systems that sustain us. In doing so, we instill doubt among their supporters and make continued support for those harms politically toxic, incompatible with sustaining positions of power or influence.
3. Lastly, we strive to win victories that do not sow the seeds of future conflict. Lasting victories therefore require a commitment to listening and enrolling former opponents and their supporters into a compelling vision within which they see themselves serving and thriving. This grand strategic framework informs how Backbone Campaign supports our social movement allies to make seemingly inevitable harms, impossible; and implausible visions, inevitable, such as the re-wilding of the lower Snake River to restore an abundance of wild salmon and steelhead, the foundation of NW indigenous cultures.
As we move through this summer and into the fall campaigns, I hope that you will recognize the central role that our theory of change plays in the work we do together.
I also hope this enhances your appreciation for Solutionary Rail (aka “SR”), a project initiated a decade ago to provide a positive, alternate vision as we worked together to help shut down the expansion of fossil fuel export terminals across the Pacific NW.
We were successful in those campaigns and the SR vision continues to evolve, capture imaginations, and inspire new actions and alliances. This is why we refer to it as "a grand strategic project."
Below are some of the ways Backbone will continue to use SR to inform and influence local, regional and national visions for transportation infrastructure that serves public interests and solves 21st Century problems:
• Backbone is working with a growing set of allies to champion the implementation of the Amtrak Cascades Long Range Plan (LRP). The LRP is a just, equitable and achievable climate solution - in stark contrast to the "ultra" high speed rail boondoggle that has been recently exposed by the WA Joint Transportation Committee for misleading the public on cost, ridership and timeline for implementation.
• In July, we’ll be joining our EJ and labor allies to make the case to the US Senate that electrification of rail yards is a first and essential step to harnessing rail as a climate solution. In January, we are bringing together labor, environmental justice, climate, anti-monopoly and other allies to produce a Solutionary Rail symposium in DC.
• Our effort to spur on a rural rail renaissance in SE Washington continues to grow. Resurrecting and modernizing a robust rail system in that region will be the focus of a “design huddle” this fall. Only rail can replace the current destructive dam and lock system in order to save salmon and indigenous culture, and simultaneously improve life for rural communities and farmers in SE WA.
• And as always, Backbone continues to organize and support creative actions, train and tool up change agents and grassroots groups across the US and beyond.
The opportunity to connect with XR activists in the UK not only allowed me to share our stories, but also to hear theirs and learn from them. Visiting the XR Art Factory in London was deeply inspiring. I am excited to share some of their vibrant techniques with Team Backbone so we can integrate them into future actions.
To continue to do our work, we rely on donations from people like you. If you’re able to make a mid-year contribution, we will use it to fight for climate solutions, equitable transportation and mobility justice, salmon and orca, and showing up for those in frontline communities with boldness and beauty.
You can count on Backbone to continue our support of the progressive issues that you care about and that make a material difference in people’s lives. And we count on YOU!
Thank you for being with us on this journey, shifting what is possible and making space for beauty, justice, and beloved community.
With gratitude & solidarity,
PS When you donate HERE, we transform your contribution into beauty and action, to support the causes that are important to you. If you prefer to designate your contribution for Solutionary Rail, please donate on our SR page. You can also call 206.408.8058 to make your donation over the phone. We even accept stock donations. We are grateful for the many ways you make this work happen!