News flash

Videos of SAL/UER Climate Week events

Racism and the Collapsing Society, Barbara Love and Tim Jackins, June 7, 2020

RC Webinars listing through July 2021

New Online Workshop Guidelines Modifications


Organizing to Have a Decisive Impact

Dear people working on the climate emergency,

To end oppression, every group has to fight for their own liberation—pull together their constituency, identify and discharge on the oppression and internalized oppression, develop their program for liberation from oppression and put it out widely, organize people around it, win allies, go international. Harvey [Jackins] laid this out for us decades ago. RC has always had a strong commitment to ending oppression.


Now there is a global threat to the survival of every constituency—the climate emergency. We have about ten years to get major policy changes agreed upon globally and implemented. (Yikes!) The RC Community has goals and an initiative aimed at stopping it.

We’re not going to be able to end oppression in ten years, and we have to address the climate emergency now or we’re all cooked. Fortunately, our most effective organizing for the climate has happened when we also tackle oppression, and especially racism, genocide, and classism. This has been the approach of Sustaining All Life (SAL) and United to End Racism (UER) in our climate work (though we are stronger on race and genocide than class).

I think it is part of every constituency’s liberation to fight as that constituency for their survival. No constituency wants to leave their survival in the hands of their oppressors (or unaware allies) or have their future dictated by those patterns. It would seem to make sense that every constituency organize itself both for its own liberation and to solve the climate emergency, to ensure its own survival.

Many constituency-based climate organizations are doing great work in the United States (and more are forming): Climate Justice Alliance and People’s Climate Movement (People of the Global Majority), Indigenous Environmental Network and Idle No More (Native), Sunrise and Fridays for Future (young people), Ladauto Si’ (Catholics), Dayenu (Jews), Mothers Out Front, Labor for Sustainability. Other constituency groups have added strong environmental goals to their broader platforms: the Poor People’s Campaign, Black Lives Matter, some unions. Their organizing has been very important in the last period of time, inspiring many people from their constituencies to get involved in the climate emergency and giving direction to the rest of the climate movement.

Constituency organizing not only brings more people into working on the climate emergency but also their growth and the work we do together is pushing those of us in the predominantly white groups in the United States to work more deeply on our oppressor material [distress], thus strengthening our work. I think this is movement in a good direction: a base of constituencies organizing for their liberation and to solve climate change, and the white-led climate movement doing more solid work against oppression while following the lead of Native people and People of the Global Majority. It seems possible that this alliance can amass a large enough percentage of the population to turn this emergency around quickly enough to avert catastrophe. And at the same time, we will have built a solid foundation for a society committed to ending exploitation and oppression.


The history of racism, genocide, and classism in our societies and in the environmental movement in particular leaves Native people, People of the Global Majority, and working-class and poor people distrustful of the predominantly white-middle-class-led climate movement (I am involved in that movement) that is now seeking alliance with them. They are unsure that we won’t use their leadership and labor to win our battles to stop the climate emergency and then sell them out [abandon them and profit from them] to continue our comfortable lives, without our fighting on with them to challenge systemic oppression. We have a very bad track record on this front; the distrust is understandable. and the Sierra Club (the largest climate groups in the United States, both predominantly white and middle class) are the ones I am involved in. They continue to grow, continue to make important gains, and continue to struggle with racism, genocide, classism, sexism, and other oppressions. We acknowledge these struggles and are working hard to make this work central to our organizing. But our organizations are still dominated and limited by white, middle-class, male patterns. We need to move on the oppressor material [distress]faster than we are; this is the main work I do in these groups.

In talking to some of my Co-Counseling buddies who are Native, Global Majority, and working class, however, I can tell [see] that we white middle-class activists and groups still don’t understand the depths of the damage from genocide, racism, and classism and that we have to make a much bigger commitment to ending oppression and exploitation. We have to demonstrate that commitment much more than we have for a permanent alliance to form and grow. It was helpful for me to be told that before we ask Native people, People of the Global Majority, and working-class and poor people to work side by side with us to end the climate emergency, we need to make an explicit commitment that we will fight by their side until we have achieved a full transformation of our society that ends all exploitation and oppression.

I have been discharging on making this commitment. I want to do this. We have talked about and worked toward the transformation of society for a long time in RC, but how many of us make this our key work? Or we have it theoretically in our mind, but we don’t live the commitment or we can’t keep it in focus. I very much like the idea of making an explicit commitment and being held to it. I thought I had, but I don’t think I have faced what this would mean. And I don’t know how to build a movement with this commitment at the center. This is where I am discharging now.

What could we do in RC to make this a reality? Can we, as RCers, take this challenge on to build real unity internally toward this goal? Can we bring our wide-world organizations along with us? I’m starting to think of some of the steps I want to take soon in my wide-world climate work, including making sure of the following: 

  • That Native people and People of the Global Majority are reflected at every level of leadership
  • That we are talking openly about and doing more work on capitalism and classism along with more work on racism and genocide
  • That we are providing more support and resources to constituency groups (including supporting their work on oppression)

I am hopeful that moving the climate movement as a whole toward unity on these two goals can move us faster, as well as in a better direction.

Diane Shisk

Alternate International Reference Person for the Re-Evaluation Counseling Communities

International Commonality Reference
Person for the Care of the Environment

Shoreline, Washington, USA

Reprinted from the RC e-mail discussion list for leaders in 
the care of the environment

(Present Time 200, July 2020)

Last modified: 2021-06-01 12:29:59+00