Yall know we believe that linking the four Rs—reform, resist, re-imagine and re-create—is how our movement creates transformative change. That being said, we also know that there are times in the stages of movement building when it’s necessary for us to collectively focus our work in one R in order to achieve long term wins.
Bill Moyer’s eight stage Movement Action Plan is helpful in conceptualizing the ways various Rs come to the forefront at different times for social moments to achieve their aims. Our climate justice movement is now shifting toward Stage Six: Majority Public Support when we must engage in the “long process of eroding the social, political and economic supports that enable the powerholders to continue their policies.” If we fail to clearly name the ways various public institutions serve powerful elites, our movement dies in Stage Five where activists perceive “the powerholders are too strong, (our) movement has failed and (our) own efforts are futile.”
At this stage, the institutions that we organize to influence through Reform need to be called out for illegitimately shoring up the status quo. So if you’ve been rooted in Reform, it’s time to make common cause with people taking action through Resist, Re-imagine and Re-create strategies which are better at winning hearts and minds.
An example of what this looks like now in North Carolina is recognizing and naming the ways the Utilities Commission and Public Staff are colluding with the monopoly Duke Energy. Rather than politely making comments during their prescribed hearings—whether it’s about the abysmal Carbon Plan or another dangerous maneuver—we need to call out the process itself as inherently undemocratic and incapable of producing the transformative change we envision and desperately need.
Like the children’s story about how powerholders demand we ignore reality and instead believe their false narrative, Duke Energy is the Emperor parading around naked and its plans are the imaginary fine clothing we’re told to admire. It is time to end such delusional thinking; rapacious business as usual will never mitigate climate change to safeguard a livable future. It is time for our Utilities Commission to force Duke Energy to end its indecent and disgraceful behavior and it’s time for us to stop participating in our own demise.
To all our friends and colleagues cleaving to Reform, we’re asking you to consider this question at the center of climate justice: What has your incrementalism done for frontline and fenceline BIPOC communities who are first and worst impacted by your policy compromises?
If your activism does not examine who really benefits and who loses from your tactics, revisit your strategic focus. None of us is winning in the race to slow climate change as long as the polluters are not held to account. Reform strategies do not contribute to our movement when we simply “go along to get along.” Let’s stop kidding ourselves that maintaining access to powerholders is the same as having influence over their decision-making.
Connie Leeper & Jodi Lasseter