Each day of the month of April leading up to Earth Day (April 22), I will be offering a suggestion for how we can really honor the Earth this year. This list will go beyond the usual suggestions to change your light bulbs and take shorter showers. Instead, the focus is on collective action working toward radical social change.
One thing you can do to honor the Earth this Earth Day is to participate in direct action. Every effective political movement throughout history, from the struggle for the eight hour workday to the fight for women’s suffrage, has used some form of direct action.
Direct action refers to various forms of public protest which bypass the usual, institutional forms of communication. Examples of non-violent direct action include sit-ins, strikes, workplace occupations, and blockades. Direct action often includes acts of civil disobedience, in which a person intentionally breaks a law to place themselves in an “arrestable” situation in order to make a symbolic statement. Direct action can be used to complement other forms of political action.
While direct action is intended to achieve an immediate goal, like preventing the bulldozing of a green space with a blockade, it is also effective as a symbolic statement which can draw others’ attention to the need for change and cause them to question deeply held assumptions about the way society is organized.
If you’re new to direct action, then you need to educate yourself. Here are some resources for learning about and and planning to participate in direct action:
Anyone can participate in direct action. But those of us who enjoy certain privileges, like being able-bodied and being able to afford a legal defense, should consider that direct action is one of the ways can use our privileges to effect change. Other can provide support to those engaged in direct action, from providing food and water to organizing a legal defense. For every person getting arrested, there are many others working in the background to make the action successful.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” — attr. Margaret Mead