Businesses do not want to encourage people to fight their projects. They hide activists’ successes behind corporate nonsense and market-based reasoning on how they claim to achieve ‘net-positive’ environmental impacts and contribute to society’s wellbeing. They categorise us as a ‘business risk’ and spend lots of money on undermining, co-opting, oppressing, and creating division within the resistance. Companies do not want to admit that we have the power to stop their projects. In the face of ecological crises, it can be easy to feel disempowered.
Yet, we know that the overall situation would be even worse if many individuals had not come together to stop harmful and profit-oriented industrial and extractive projects.
When it feels like we are losing the battle, we should remember what would have happened if we had not fought. Uncontested, coal companies would have already destroyed many more of the areas we are currently protecting, without accountability. Many more areas would be destroyed, and many more people displaced.
Even when we lose part of the fight, we are making things harder and more expensive, slowing the pace of the capitalist machine which consumes everything in its path, finding joy with other people, and learning how we can save what is precious to us. Often victories come because of a range of factors and people working together. This sometimes makes direct victories feel hard to pin down.
Building stronger resistance culture
By standing in solidarity with the people at the various forefronts of the fight against extractivism, white supremacy, patriarchy, exploitation, and expropriation everywhere, we show that we can work with other people, we can learn from diverse life experiences, and we can share resources. This may not only enable other people to continue fighting, but can also facilitate lifelong friendships and literally save people’s lives. We can enact our philosophies and stand against unsustainable development.
People fighting for the environment and the communities in which they live may be shielded from harm that would otherwise be inflicted by coal companies through international solidarity. Using traditional and alternative media we can show that the eyes of the world are on abusive companies, that the reputation of the company and the country is at stake if death threats are made and carried out.
States protect powerful companies. Many multinational corporations are more powerful than many of the world’s governments. Identifying specific victories can often be hard, but we need to remember that this is because there are powerful organisations resisting change. Often, the points we can specifically identify are successes through legal methods. This is not because these strategies work in isolation. Governments legislate against successful tactics, criminalising descent. Campaigns that bring about change normally involve many different contributions. Many different steps can lead to the ultimate ecologically beneficial outcome, which is finally solidified into real change in a court room, but everyone who has worked on the issue has accomplished the result and should feel enlivened by the experience.
Living our politics
Those with power want us to feel that we are unable to live without them. By forming communities of joy and resistance we can live our true lives, with people we can rely on, and undermine capitalist drives for personal ownership and individualised lives. Montegomery and Bergman describe this feeling as “Joyful Militancy” and consider that key to this feeling is our ability to be changed by the struggles in which we engage. “Anyone who has been transformed through a struggle can attest to its power to open up more capacities for resistance, creativity, action and vision. This sense of collective power – the sense that things are different, that we are different, that a more capable ‘we’ is forming that didn’t exist before”.158 We can see that we are all linked fundamentally to the earth and each other. Fighting for real change is a uniting and positive experience, which is sorely needed by an overstretched planet.