Are Bigger Rallies What We Need?

Are Bigger Rallies What We Need?
By Grace Lee Boggs
Michigan Citizen, Oct 24, 2009

Bill McKibben has written countless articles and books about the climate crisis. He also walks his talk.

In April 2007 he organized the Step It Up National Day of Climate Action, calling for real leadership by our elected officials to address the environmental crisis. It was one of the largest global warming protests ever held in the U.S.A.

Recently he co-founded, an international grassroots campaign to warn people all over the world that 350 parts per million carbon dioxide is the most we can safely have in the atmosphere. We are already at 390 ppm and rising.

Now he has called upon people the world over to organize “thousands of rallies and events and demonstrations to demand that our leaders take tougher action heading to Copenhagen” and make Saturday, October 24, “the biggest day of action on climate change the world has ever seen.”

In a recent Huffington Post article, McKibben reports that he has reached people in every corner of the earth, and “they’ve responded with an unbelievable outpouring of art, of music, of commitment. There are big actions organized for almost every city on earth on the 24th, including 120 in China, at least that number in India–and even in tough places like Kabul, like the Sudan, like Iraq. Iranian organizers have set up a Farsi website to coordinate their demonstrations–on and on.”

McKibben’s energy and enthusiasm are contagious. But they also raise the question whether more and bigger rallies are the best way to grapple with what Martin Luther King, Jr. called “the fierce urgency of now.”

On February 15, 2003 ten million people in 600 cities all over the world demonstrated to stop the United States from going to war in Iraq. The next month the U. S. invaded Iraq, and eight years after 911 we are still mired in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Countless demonstrations by union members, nurses and physicians have not succeeded in forcing the White House and Congress to include single payer in their proposals for health care reform.

The reality we can no longer evade is that the White House and Congress have become so beholden to the Pentagon and corporate lobbyists that they now embody their values of Militarism and Materialism, values that are not only socially and ecologically unsustainable but suicidal. They represent an industrial civilization in collapse.

So it is futile to keep organizing ever-bigger demonstrations trying to force these dinosaurs to take tougher action on climate change and/or devise non-military solutions to foreign policy issues.

We ourselves must become the change we want to see in the world.

That is why the small groups coming together to plant community gardens, organize community security clubs, share tools, create local currencies, barter goods and services are so significant.

From a Newtonian perspective these local efforts may seem too small to matter. But, as Margaret Wheatley points out in Leadership and Modern Science, “a quantum view explains the success of small efforts quite differently.”

“Acting locally allows us to be inside the movement and flow of the system, participating in all those complex events occurring simultaneously. Changes in small places also affect the global system, not through incrementalism, but because every small system participates in an unbroken wholeness. We never know how our small activities will affect others through the invisible fabric of our connectedness.”

We can learn a lot from Ardipithecus whose reconstituted remains, scientists tell us, are evidence of our first human ancestor who evolved 4.5 million years ago.

Ardis did not appear all at once, en masse, like a school of fish. In the beginning there may have been only one or a few Ardis. But these few survived, multiplied and evolved through natural selection and/or “critical connections.”

In the 21st century this evolution continues.



  1. “small groups coming together to plant community gardens, organize community security clubs, share tools, create local currencies, barter goods and services are so significant.”

    Jct: Local currencies are a lot bigger than just local. With Africa trading with mobile-phone minutes, Arabia trading with mobile-phone card credits, with Hours being traded in Ithaca, with Greencredits being traded in LETS, the banks get no interest. And the movement to cut the middleman out of the usury is growing. With Facebook, Twitter, Graigslist, offering social currencies to their databases, the use of new social credits around the world is undergoing unheralded growth but the use of interest-free time-based currency is key.

  1. 1 Organizing in the Age of Obama « The Boggs Blog

    […] raised this question in my recent column about the thousands of rallies on Saturday, October 24, demanding that world leaders at the […]

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