Teaching RC to Climate Activists

In February 2014, in Los Angeles (California, USA), I helped train three dozen climate activists as they prepared to walk across the United States, from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., to call attention to the threat of climate change. The training included a basic RC introductory lecture, topic-group discussions, Wygelian leaders’ meetings,1 and an hour on racism (all but two of the marchers were white). I ended it with a panel of two local environmental justice leaders and a marcher of the global majority.

As the march progressed across country, I used telephone and Internet for three briefings and to help organize a local environmental-justice demonstration outside Chicago (Illinois). I was also able to meet the march in Colorado and do two hour-long follow-up sessions, on Co-Counseling and on racism.

The march succeeded. Over thirty of the original group made it all the way to D.C., having been joined at times along the way by several hundred other marchers. They spoke with thousands and brought attention to climate change in dozens of small and large communities. Many of them got arrested multiple times while protesting extreme forms of fossil-fuel extraction. These folks have made a major commitment to stopping climate change. On the march they developed strong personal connections that will sustain them in this work.

I debriefed a few of them here in D.C. at the end of the march on the impact of the initial training. They emphasized the importance of addressing environmental justice and racism at the start of the march and persisting with that in follow-up events. (Before the training most of them had not been exposed to the idea of environmental justice.) An eliminating-white-racism support group had met several times along the way.

The introductory lectures had set a tone of simply listening to each other rather than giving advice. Support groups had met for the first month and a half, and many supportive one-on-one listening relationships had persisted throughout the march. The women had met frequently as a group.

The impact of the different parts of the training reflected the amount of time I had devoted to them. Demonstrating topic-group discussions and Wygelian leaders’ meetings only once had not led to their continued use, though they had lent support to participatory discussions and decision making. In general, the marchers thought that all the practices I’d presented needed more follow-up during the march.

As I regularly comment, the older I get, the smarter Harvey2 gets. I’m seeing that the best way to spread RC ideas is one-on-one, in ongoing, committed personal relationships. This was hard to do with the marchers, given that they were always tired from walking twenty-plus miles a day and were often without cell-phone or Internet connection. It is easier for me to maintain one-on-one relationships with the activists I teach here in D.C. Indeed, I am more and more focusing locally.

Jim Driscoll
Washington, D.C., USA
Reprinted from the RC e-mail
discussion list for leaders in
the care of the environment

1 A Wygelian leaders’ meeting is a meeting of a group of leaders and potential leaders of a particular constituency in which each person takes a turn doing the following: (1) reporting on what he or she has been doing in the last period, with regard to the constituency, (2) saying what he or she thinks is the current situation facing the constituency, from his or her viewpoint, (3) sharing what he or she proposes to do as a leader in the next period, and (4) discharging on what is getting in the way of his or her leadership.
2 Harvey Jackins


Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00