Jeremy Brecher's Blog

A Strategy for Climate Insurgency— Excerpt

By Jeremy Brecher



Jeremy Brecher is the author of more than a dozen books on labour and social movements and has written and/or produced more than twenty video documentaries. A long time activist he has had three books published by PM Press regarding climate justice – Against Doom: A Climate Insurgency Manual (2017), Common Preservation: In a Time of Mutual Destruction (2020), and Save the Humans? Common Preservation in Action (2020). 

In the following extract from Against Doom, Brecher outlines the strategic components required to create a successful climate insurgency.

Climate insurgency is a strategy for using the power of the people to realize our common interest in protecting the climate. It uses mass, global, nonviolent action to challenge the legitimacy of the public officials in the U.S. and elsewhere who are perpetrating climate destruction.

Book Extract

To realize their objectives, the climate protection movement needs to weld the people of the world into an effective force capable of compelling corporations, governments, and institutions to shift from fossil fuels to clean energy. That requires creating understanding and determination in every community, geographical and virtual. It requires breaking down the invisible rules that currently discourage people from thinking and talking about the one thing that will most determine their future and that of their posterity. It means self-organization through which people move out of isolation and become part of a movement. It means creating ways for people to reach out and join with others. Conversely, it also means creating ways that those who are already organized can reach out and draw in those who are not. This underlying process of de-isolation and movement construction is the necessary condition for the ultimate success of the climate insurgency.

That process both depends on and contributes to a transformation of the public mind. People need a clear understanding that continuing to burn fossil fuels will destroy the climate system. They need to understand how fossil fuels can be rapidly replaced by renewable energy and energy efficiency. And they need to understand the power of the people to impose such a change. The strategy of the climate insurgency is designed to bring about that transformation of the public mind.

The climate insurgency will make two basic demands on every business, government, and institution. The first is to immediately halt all new fossil fuel infrastructure—a “fossil freeze.” The second is to create and immediately start to implement a Climate Action Plan that lays out a credible pathway for the elimination of fossil fuel use by 2050.

The climate insurgency will develop the power to impose these changes by:

  • Taking actions that change millions of people.
    The most important targets of the climate insurgency are the hearts and minds of our friends and neighbors locally, globally, and virtually. The goal is to encourage them to organize themselves and act to protect the climate.
  • Undermining fossil fuel’s “pillars of support.”
    The climate insurgency will inspire people to force the institutions in which they live to withdraw support from the fossil fuel agenda. They will fight within churches, unions, governments, and other organizations of all kinds to end complicity with the fossil fuel industry and to develop and implement plans to go fossil free.
  • Reducing dependence on fossil fuels by implementing alternatives.
    The greatest power of the fossil fuel forces is the fear that without their product we will all shiver to death in the dark while we watch jobs disappear and the economy collapse. The climate insurgency will counter this fear by proposing actionable plans for rapidly replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy and energy efficiency and forcing governments, businesses, and other institutions to implement them.
  • Discrediting the legitimacy of the climate destroyers.
    The climate insurgency will define the fossil fuel forces as criminals laying waste to the common heritage of humanity. It will challenge their right to use the property they claim to own and the authority they claim to hold as long as they use it for climate destruction. It will assert that it is the climate protectors who represent legitimate law and authority. It will make these claims on the basis of fundamental human and constitutional rights that require governments to protect the earth’s climate system as part of the public trust. It will call on all good citizens to exercise their right and duty to protect that public trust.
  • Increasing the negative consequences of continuing fossil fuel extraction and burning.
    The climate insurgency will directly “inconvenience” the fossil fuel industry and the governments that permit its climate destruction by occupations, blockades, mass picketing, and a wide range of other direct action tactics. It will challenge the process by which governments give private corporations permission to destroy the climate. It will turn the public against the fossil fuel industry in a way that threatens its future functioning and profitability. It will thereby force fossil fuel companies and their investors to retreat from their plans for continuing and expanding their fossil fuel operations.
  • Developing a “dual power.”
    If the forces of climate destruction do not voluntarily reverse their course in the face of popular and insurgent pressure, the insurgency will encourage the people to withdraw their support and cooperation from the established authorities and form their own tribunals and popular assemblies to authorize the fossil freeze and impose Climate Action Plans. The threat to established authority posed by the development of dual sovereignty and parallel government will provide the ultimate sanction against those governments that continue to authorize climate destruction.
  • Integrating a wide range of other popular needs and concerns into plans for climate protection.
    Human needs and concerns go far beyond climate protection. The climate insurgency will demand that Climate Action Plans provide protection for those they may adversely affect and greater justice for all.
  • Creating a global climate protection race.
    The insurgency will instigate a competitive bidding war among nations, businesses, and institutions to demonstrate their commitment to climate protection. It will help construct a “coalition of the willing”—those who are willing to halt all new fossil fuel infrastructure and implement adequate Climate Action Plans. And it will instigate governmental and popular sanctions against those who don’t.

These elements are mutually reinforcing, and they all need to happen all the time. Every climate insurgency action should be designed to strengthen one or several of these means.

They will be successful if they draw people out of isolation and despair into action; increase the number, unity, and power of participants in the movement; build understanding and support in the wider population; weaken the fossil fuel forces; undermine their pillars of support; give climate destroyers motivation to change; threaten loss of their legitimacy and authority if they don’t change; and lay the groundwork for further action. 

About the Author

Jeremy Brecher is the author of more than a dozen books on labor and social movements including Strike!, Brass Valley, History from Below, Building Bridges, Global Village or Global Pillage, and Globalization from Below. He was Humanities Scholar-in-Residence at Connecticut Public Television and Radio and received five regional Emmy Awards for his documentary film work. He helped found and currently works with the Labor Network for Sustainability. He holds a Ph.D. from the Union Graduate School. (Source About Author: PM Press)

Book Overview

Before the election of Donald Trump the world was already speeding toward climate catastrophe. Now President Trump has jammed his foot on the global warming accelerator. Is there any way for the rest of us to put on the brakes?

Climate insurgency is a strategy for using people power to realize our common interest in protecting the climate. It uses mass, global, nonviolent action to challenge the legitimacy of public and corporate officials who are perpetrating climate destruction.

A global climate insurgency has already begun. It has the potential to halt and roll back Trump’s fossil fuel agenda and the global thrust toward climate destruction.

Against Doom: A Climate Insurgency Manual tells how to put that strategy into action—and how it can succeed. It is a handbook for halting global warming and restoring our climate—a how-to for climate insurgents. (Source for Book Overview: PM Press)

Obtain a copy of the book Against Doom: A Climate Insurgency Manual from the publisher’s website. 

Explore Further

Explore Jeremy Brecher’s work.

Against Doom: A Climate Insurgency Manual
Common Preservation: In a Time of Mutual Destruction
Save the Humans?: Common Preservation in Action
Strike!— 50th Anniversary