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The Power of Grassroots Fundraising

Don’t let your cause suffer for lack of funds. Get the handbook.

The Power of Grassroots Fundraising is 32 pages of  knowledge gained from three decades of experience in all kinds of fundraising, from homegrown non-profits to radical resistance groups.


Place your order for an ADVANCE digital copy with a contribution here. Send a message for more info.

I had to write this book because so many grassroots groups are struggling to accomplish their goals. People are going into debt for the cause and it doesn’t have to be that way.

In my career, I’ve raised over a million dollars for humanitarian and environmental causes. The teams I hired and trained have raised millions more. Now I want to share these skills.

For the record, I’m living proof that anyone can do this work. I started with no plan and no training, just desperation. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to learn from some of the best fundraisers in North America, at places like Greenpeace, Citizen Action, and the Institute for Social Justice.

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Auntie Civ: How to bring it down and why


Meet Auntie Civ, the world’s first anti-civilization advice columnist!
April 18, 2009

Hi kids, it’s your Auntie Civ here. I want to say you all deserve a huge shout-out for your amazing efforts! It’s hard work, challenging the stifling conventions of this destructive society, not to mention preparing for the collapse of civilization (and even helping it along a bit!) I’m moved by the passion and resourcefulness and dedication of the happy bands of ruffians diving in dumpsters, hopping trains, and living in the woods. The sheer exuberance of these semi-feral young people puts a song in my cynical old heart.

Now, I can’t hop trains anymore because of the arthritis, but I can help in other ways. I’ve learned a few things over the decades and I’d like others to benefit from my experience. There’s a lot at stake, and I know the struggle can be overwhelming for even the bravest soul. Please, get it off your chest. Ask Auntie Civ anything — whether it’s free advice, anti-civilization insights, or funny stories from the bad old days, I’ll reply to everyone and post the best questions and answers here.

But first, a little note about common sense: don’t send Auntie Civ any details about actions you may be thinking of doing, or details about actions you already did, or theories about who might be doing what. (Here’s a nice little essay about security culture – very educational!) Also, my opinions are my own (unless I’m quoting an expert) and I expect those who disagree to follow the time-honored tradition of flaming my fat ass. So bring it on, you young whippersnappers!

Love, Auntie Civ

(Disclaimer: Advice given is for entertainment purposes only. Void where prohibited by law.)

Dear Auntie Civ,

How do you propose to bring down ‘civilization as we know it?’


Dear Remarcus,

Great question! It reminds me of a joke that’s been around since the Roman Empire. A soldier brags that he’s going to kill an elephant and eat the whole thing — by himself. The other soldiers scoff at him. “How can you eat an elephant?” one asks. “Simple,” says the first soldier. “One bite at a time.”

Rome didn’t fall in a day, and none of us can bring down civilization all at once. What we can do is help it along a bit by greasing the skids, fighting to preserve those parts of Mother Nature that are still intact, and monkeywrenching the forces of destruction.

I can hear you asking, “But how do you do that?” Well, here’s some examples.

  • Challenge timber sales
  • Blockade logging roads
  • Stop local governments from adopting development plans
  • Support First Nations land claims
  • Sabotage the careers of pro-development politicians
  • Take the bastards to court
  • Tear down flagging tape
  • Uproot survey stakes
  • Shoot out electrical transformers
  • Cut fibre-optic cables
  • Destroy earth-wrecking machines
  • Hack the computer systems of earth-wrecking companies

Years ago, when I ran around with a posse, we made a conscious decision that we were on side with anything that slowed down the destruction, or stopped it even for a minute, or cost the company money, or exposed it to public embarrassment and drove down its market share. As long as no one got hurt. And you know what? We won. It was like a death from a thousand cuts, and you better believe when Goliath hit the ground, the shock wave reached all the way to Ottawa.

Dear Auntie Civ,

Is it possible for the Earth to feed 6 billion people without civilization? I’m worried that if we all go live in the woods at once and use hunting or slash and burn farming to feed ourselves we’ll destroy nature.


Dear Bacchus,

It isn’t possible to feed 6 billion people right now, with civilization. That’s why millions of people are starving. That’s why more and more desperate, hungry people are resorting to slash-and-burn farming and destroying nature to feed themselves. Much of the best farmland has already been ruined by agricultural chemicals or paved over for subdivisions. Much of what’s left will be devastated by climate change and drought. This is happening now, because of civilization.

You see, we’ve exceeded the carrying capacity of the planet. It’s horrifying to contemplate a future in which hundreds of millions more will die for lack of food, clean water, medicine, transportation, heat, air conditioning, and so on. I’ve thought about it a great deal, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the fight to defend and restore the land and water is the only sane response to the crisis we face.

All my love,

Auntie Civ

Send your questions to auntieciv (at)

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“Racist” Developer May Get the Torch

frankenstein mob

Halloween Uprising on Vancouver Island?

April 14, 2009

Victoria, BC – A local blog is reporting rumours that the controversial Bear Mountain Resort may host part of the 2010 Olympic Torch relay on Halloween.

WTF Langford? cites “insider gossip” as the source of this news, noting that municipalities recently sent their proposals for Torch venues to the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee (VANOC). An announcement is expected later this week, the blog says.

Conflict has dogged Bear Mountain Resort for over two years, with native protests and a ten-month-long treesit that blocked the route of a highway to the resort.

Last week, WTF Langford? named Bear Mountain owner Len Barrie Vancouver Island’s Most Racist Developer for desecrating native graves, blowing up SPAET Cave and willfully destroying a million-year-old geological formation.

The web site spells out a cozy relationship between Barrie and the BC Liberal Party, which is well-known for forging sleazy deals with developers. That relationship was consummated last year with a $10,000-a-plate Liberal fundraising dinner at Barrie’s sprawling estate at Bear Mountain.

If VANOC awards Bear Mountain “the endorsement of the world’s largest sporting event and a million-dollar-marketing advantage,” there will be consequences, the blog warns. However, the authors predict, “this little s#$%storm is not going to materialize. Why? Let’s just say we know people. People with morals and the power to use them.”

Read the whole post here.

Your comments are welcome!

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Why I Won’t Run for the Green Party


March 31, 2009

Clarification: I’m flattered the Greens would consider me as a candidate, and I respect the group — especially Jane Sterk, the provincial leader — but there’s no way I would put my name in as a candidate for any political party. For one thing, I wouldn’t survive the vetting process. As I mention below, a few minutes’ research would get me dumped off any self-respecting party’s slate. Also, I make a lousy servant. I suck at toeing the party line. I’m insubordinate, undisciplined, and disrespectful. And those are my good qualities.

Thank you, we now return to our regularly scheduled mockery.

Strange times! On a Sunday morning in February, out of nowhere, I get a note from the leader of the Green Party of British Columbia asking if I would consider running as a candidate for the Legislative Assembly in May.

Jane Sterk, Green Party of BC

When I stopped laughing, I called a few friends. One said the Greens seem to be flailing. “Not that you wouldn’t make a fine candidate, “ he added.

Sorry, but if they’re asking me, they must be desperate. I can see the headlines now. “Anarchist eco-terrorist riot-inciting cheerleader for the collapse of civilization is the Green Party candidate for southern Vancouver Island.” I guess Jane didn’t Google me or check out this blog before she sent me the message.

But never mind the embarrassment I could inflict on the Greens by accepting their invitation. This riding is held by a strong ally, John Horgan of the New Democratic Party, one of maybe two politicians in this province who I actually respect.

His challenger, Jody Twa, is an evil reptile backed by Stew Young, the mayor of Langford. Like Young, Twa apparently never met a developer he didn’t like, and he has an ego the size of Mt. Washington.

Evil clone Twa, backed by big money and the Liberal machine, has a fighting chance to beat Horgan and take over the riding. That could pave the way for an explosion of cancerous growth eating through the forests and hills around Goldstream Provincial Park. (Like we don’t have enough of that already.)

Worse, a strong Green candidate could split the enviro vote and hand the pro-development side an easy romp to victory. Personally, I would rather cut my fingers off with a dull knife than help elect Jody Twa.

So I called Jane with a proposal of my own. “I wonder if the Green Party would consider not running a candidate in this riding,” I said.

“We’re running candidates in every riding,” she snapped back.


I don’t remember her answer. It doesn’t matter.

So far, the Greens haven’t announced who’s taking on Twa and Horgan. With less than six weeks before the election, I’m thinking maybe they’ll just do the right thing and let it go. Jeezus.

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Please don’t call it the Bear Mtn Bailout

Bear Mountain resort, near Victoria, BC. Photo mosaic by Pete Rockwell.

March 18, 2009

The public hearing on March 16 was much more civil than other meetings I’ve seen at Langford City Hall, but I still had to lean over the podium and grab the microphone to be heard over all the people shouting at me – not just the audience, but also the chair of the hearing, deputy mayor Denise Blackwell. It’s not easy to deliver a simple five-minute presentation to Langford Council when the pro-development crowd doesn’t agree with you.

I made some enemies that night when I suggested to Blackwell that the best thing she could do to restore Langford Council’s integrity was resign. I added that Mayor Stew Young and Chief Planner Matthew Baldwin should also resign in response to increasing concerns about biased decision-making around Skirt Mountain.

It was the second public hearing for this development proposal. Skirt Mountain – known for thousands of years as Spaet Mountain, and more recently as the home of Bear Mountain Resort – is a bluffy knob rising 340 meters from a fault line next to Goldstream Provincial Park, fifteen kilometers west of Victoria, BC.

Thanks to Len Barrie, the former NHL player turned real estate developer, Skirt Mountain has been “terraformed by mountaintop removal,” according to local environmentalist Ingmar Lee. In April 2007, Lee set up a tree-sit camp to stop construction of the Spencer Road Interchange and protect the remaining garry oaks and arbutus bluffs on the mountainside below Bear Mountain Resort. I helped kick off the tree sit by spending a wet and stormy week camped on a platform high up in the limbs of a big old red cedar.

That cedar and all its neighbours are gone now. Last February, a contingent of more than sixty RCMP special forces arrested the tree sitters and closed the area for three days while machines clearcut the site. Soon after, the city borrowed $10 million from TD Bank on behalf of the developers, and construction on the new interchange lurched forward.

Today the interchange is almost complete, but it leads nowhere. A muddy, impassable track marks the future road up Skirt Mountain to Len Barrie’s house, the golf course, and all the unsold condos at Bear Mountain Resort.

That’s about to change, if the South Skirt Mountain Village developers get their way. They’re planning a mini-city on that rugged slope, with towers six stories high and higher and 2800 condos with a total value of $1.7 billion. Apparently the condos will sell for about $607,000 each. (I did the math.)

It’s bad news for garry oaks, songbirds, owls, woodpeckers, and eagles. Anyone who enjoys fresh air and fresh water or opposes urban sprawl has a stake in this project as well.

Predictably, Langford’s mayor and council are cheerleading the development. In February, local news broadcasts showed Mayor Young enthusing over the construction boom the project would create, followed by footage of Young at the public hearing berating a retired schoolteacher who lives on Florence Lake, next to Skirt Mountain. Local residents’ complaints centred around concerns about damage to the watershed at Florence Lake and loss of wildlife habitat. Their testimony was interrupted by Young’s frequent diatribes against “you people” making “the same complaints time after time.”

Joni Olsen, a band councillor for the Tsartlip First Nation, attended the February hearing to tell Langford Council that the graves of her ancestors are on Skirt Mountain and that development would destroy “this beautiful place.” The city and Bear Mountain Resort have already demolished two culturally-significant caves in the area.

“That’s 8,000 years of history that you guys are going to build on. That’s appalling,” Olsen said. Young let the remarks pass without comment.

The mayor’s bad behaviour is nothing new to city council observers. But the following month brought an unwelcome surprise. On March 12, Langford council voted to apply for federal stimulus money for the road from the interchange to Bear Mountain Resort. Naturally, I wanted to ask them if this was a bailout for Len Barrie.

But as soon as I brought up the subject at the public hearing on March 16, Denise Blackwell shut me down, insisting that I could not speak about the bailout or about Bear Mountain. She said the three projects – Bear Mountain, South Skirt Mountain and the Spencer Road interchange – are not connected. In fact, they are strung together like beads on a string by that muddy track of a road.

The developers of Bear Mountain Resort and South Skirt Mountain are partners in a user-pay Local Service agreement for the Spencer Road Interchange. Remember, back in 2008 Langford Council said the deal would fund the new interchange and taxpayers would pay nothing. Now Langford will try to force taxpayers to fork over millions of dollars for the project.

South Skirt Mountain has its own user-pay agreement. Staff reports say the developers will build the new subdivision’s roads and the interchange as part of a $28 million contribution to the city’s services and amenities. None of this jibes with Langord’s $24.5 million taxpayer-funded grant application. Furthermore, the Community Charter expressly forbids local governments from giving out grants to private companies.

I realize that Langford Council and the developers have compelling reasons for making this project a top priority, regardless of the cost to everyone else. They would be the first to tell us that the interchange and the parkway are crucial for Langford’s future, and taxpayers should be grateful for the opportunity to pay for them. Imagine the alternative – if the developers can’t afford to build the road, the interchange to nowhere would look pretty stupid, wouldn’t it?

But please, don’t call it the Bear Mountain bailout. Denise Blackwell will thank you to stop that kind of talk right now.

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Bear Mtn developer bailout? FAIL

Bear Mountain

March 14, 2009

Oh, how the mighty have fallen – and they haven’t hit bottom yet.

Looks like some prominent Vancouver Island developers can’t afford to pay for their massive condo projects. Langford Mayor Stew Young’s statement at the last public hearing turns out to be true — he’s lining up to demand a taxpayer bailout for the Bear Mountain Resort developers.

It takes a special kind of hypocrisy to brag (loudly and constantly) that the new highway interchange will be 100% paid for by developers, and then turn around and beg for a federal grant. Of course, the grant would have to be matched by municipal revenue, meaning taxpayers get soaked twice.

That would be enough for most public officials, but here Langford ups the ante and demands millions more for a parkway to service the posh but half-empty golf resort. That takes real gall.

I’m really offended that politicians want to give taxpayer money to rich developers, especially when they’re destroying rare ecosystems and demolishing native burial cairns and blasting sacred caves.

Bad karma, much?

Langford wants to bill taxpayers $21-million for its “100% developer-funded” projects.

On Monday, March 16, the city of Langford will apply for a federal and provincial bailout for construction on the Spencer Road Interchange and Bear Mountain Parkway. The application was approved by City Council in a special meeting March 12. On March 13, city engineer John Manson confirmed the city is applying for $21.5-million in infrastructure grant money for the interchange and road project. An additional $3-million would come from city revenues.

According to Manson, the city asserts that the interchange on-ramps are not part of the interchange agreement, and that the Bear Mountain Parkway – which lies completely within a Local Service Area on South Skirt Mountain – is not, in fact, part of that Local Service Area. The parkway connects the Spencer Interchange to Bear Mountain Resort.

The Community Charter defines a Local Area Service (LAS) as a municipal service that is to be paid for in whole or in part by a local service tax. In this case, council considers an LAS to be a service to provide particular benefit to a part of the municipality. It’s like a user-pay system – if a developer wants a highway interchange next to his property so he can build thousands of condos, he can pay for that construction himself and everyone’s happy, right?

Right, but in this case, the city borrowed $10 million on behalf of the developers, provoking cries of favouritism. Now everyone’s wondering what will happen if the developers default on the repayment.

Anyway, it may be true that the fine print on the interchange deal left out the two ramps in the southwest quadrant near Langford Lake Cave.

However, the parkway is an integral part of the Local Service area. A staff report notes:

“The subject propertles are located within a Local Service Area for road construction. Therefore, the owners will be paying for road construction instead of paying road DCCs [development cost charges – a tax on development]. Due to this, they are not also eligible for Road DCC amounts. The total amount contributed to the Local Service Area road construction is: $28,322,882. “

On December 27, 2007, Langford Council gave first, second and third reading to Bylaw 1147, which defined the Spencer Road Interchange (formerly known as the Bear Mountain Interchange), as a Local Area Service, and set out the boundaries of a Local Service Area (LSA) to fund the interchange. The Local Area Service bylaw was later adopted as Bylaw 1156 on April 7, 2008.

“Langford North Connector Road” was known, until now, as “Bear Mountain Parkway” and it is entirely within the LSA defined by Bylaw 1156. This bylaw is still in force and has not been rescinded. The road is to be funded by a proposed new development called “South Skirt Mountain Village,” which is also entirely within the LSA. Langford Council gave first reading to a bylaw for zoning for the project on February 23.

The zoning process for the South Skirt development is plagued by procedural problems, including non-disclosure of documents and improper conduct at public hearings. If the South Skirt Mountain re-zoning bylaw is adopted based on the current process, we’ve advised the City of Langford that it’s susceptible to a legal challenge under the Judicial Review Procedure Act.

Fewer than 400 people live in the area to be served by the interchange and the parkway.

LGB9 Corporation, owner of Bear Mountain Resort, holds title to over half of the land in the Skirt Mountain Local Service Area and has committed to 55% of the total LSA fees.

Section 25(1) of the Community Charter expressly forbids a municipality from providing “a grant, benefit, advantage or other form of assistance to a business” except for a few exceptions, none of which apply here.

This will all blow up at the public hearing Monday, March 16. Stay tuned for the next exciting chapter, in which our heroes annihilate the rezoning bylaw.

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Flack vs. Flack

Deirdre Campbell

A lesson in public relations ettiquette
January 23, 2009

An open letter to Deirdre Campbell, founding partner of Tartan Group public relations firm, after running into her at yet another presentation about a new mega-development on Vancouver Island. Can’t believe these guys are still planning new mega-developments on Vancouver Island – but oh well, here we go …

Dierdre Campbell
Tartan Group public relations

January 22, 2009

Dear Dierdre,

After speaking with you at the Open House in Langford last night, I feel I should address your confusion about my reasons for attending these open house meetings and so on.

As I told you last night, your assertion that I’m a public relations consultant is a rumour with no basis in fact. I’m a writer and an environmental advocate. I live in Langford and I go to open houses and council meetings as a volunteer. I spend hours studying the maps and doing the research and writing the press releases because I care deeply about what happens to Skirt Mountain. I do this all on my own time and I don’t get paid for any of it. I suppose the PR label is intended to discredit me or dismiss the legitimate environmental and heritage concerns I’m bringing forward. My adversaries’ reasoning seems to be that if I’m a public relations professional, nothing I say should be accepted as fact.

Hearing you parrot this statement was truly ironic, although I’m sure you didn’t mean it that way.

I should admit that I started this consultant rumour myself, by accident. About a year ago, I made a joke about being a “media consultant” for the tree sit in front of a couple young regional government staffers. They apparently repeated my joke as fact, because within weeks my exact words were thrown back at me by Highlands mayor Mark Cardinal and then by other local pro-development types.

It’s hilarious to consider that those who were so quick to accuse me of being a paid PR flack are now (apparently) paying genuine PR flacks like yourself to repeat the accusation.

I’m not sure why people like Cardinal are so interested in my motivations in the first place. My conversation with Cardinal began when I wrote about the work he was doing on the interchange site, his contract with Langford, and previous conflict of interest charges. Cardinal contacted me to clarify that he had been cleared of the conflict charges. Then he launched into this personal attack on my nonexistent PR career.

This incident provides a wonderful illustration of the difference between private and public interests. You see, I’m a private citizen. Even if I was funneling money directly from Greenpeace and the Rockefellers, this presents no ethical conflict because private citizens and groups can hire advocates and PR consultants to their hearts’ content. I’m sure you’ll agree that marketing and lobbying are standard practices for corporations, non-profits, and individuals with a cause to promote.

City mayors and councilors, on the other hand, are obligated to uphold certain ethical standards. If an elected official was paid by a private company to advocate for development, or profited directly from a development while making decisions favourable to the developers, those would be gross violations of the public trust, and definitely issues for public debate. I hope you can appreciate the distinction I am making between my private life and that of a public figure.

I’ve noticed that petty name-calling and smear campaigns often take the place of real discourse in local politics. Unfortunately, these tactics distract decision-makers from the important questions, such as: How can we protect Langford’s unique natural environment? And how can Langford residents have more input into planning and development decisions? Your clients face a constituency that is deeply divided on these and other crucial issues. I would suggest that leadership and integrity are called for, rather than divisive personal attacks.

When people call me names or spread lies about me, it does nothing to address the environmental and public process concerns. It only makes them look like bullies. In your position, you may have the opportunity to guide Langford toward building cooperation and consensus on public input and land-use decisions. That choice is certainly theirs to make.

I welcome your response, and wish you all the best in your endeavours.

Sincerely yours,

Zoe Blunt



Even if I was funneling money directly from Greenpeace and the Rockefellers, this presents no ethical conflict

Actually, that’s wrong. I’d have to resign as leader of the anarchists.

ZoeBlunt @ 01/23/09 02:01:19

Deirdre is quick to assure me she meant no disrespect, but she still doesn’t get the joke. She writes: “As a public relations professional, I am very proud of the profession as I believe we have a role to ensure all voices are heard and that we foster two way communications, consultation and understanding.” I wonder how much Langford is paying her?

ZoeBlunt @ 01/23/09 13:18:42

youre such a sweet smart-ass, zoe

remarcus @ 01/24/09 02:15:01

I’m just getting warmed up. I’m glad Deirdre was on hand so I could sharpen my claws a bit. We had a bit more back and forth, and now she claims she saw a TV news broadcast that identified me as a PR consultant. Never happened.

Go on, click it…

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The Five Stages of Collapse

Every collapse has a silver lining

I’ve been brooding about this article for weeks now. Dmitry Orlov, author of Closing the Collapse Gap and Reinventing Collapse, outlines how interrelated social and commercial failures lead to the fall of empires. Orlov notes that all empires eventually disintegrate, but in this case, he argues that total collapse is not inevitable and that cooler heads may avert a future Dark Age. Well, all right then.

Here’s a short excerpt, with links to the full story below.

Stages of Collapse

Stage 1: Financial collapse. Faith in “business as usual” is lost. The future is no longer assumed to resemble the past in any way that allows risk to be assessed and financial assets to be guaranteed. Financial institutions become insolvent; savings are wiped out, and access to capital is lost.

Stage 2: Commercial collapse. Faith that “the market shall provide” is lost. Money is devalued and/or becomes scarce, commodities are hoarded, import and retail chains break down, and widespread shortages of survival necessities become the norm.

Stage 3: Political collapse. Faith that “the government will take care of you” is lost. As official attempts to mitigate widespread loss of access to commercial sources of survival necessities fail to make a difference, the political establishment loses legitimacy and relevance.

Stage 4: Social collapse. Faith that “your people will take care of you” is lost, as local social institutions, be they charities or other groups that rush in to fill the power vacuum run out of resources or fail through internal conflict.

Stage 5: Cultural collapse. Faith in the goodness of humanity is lost. People lose their capacity for “kindness, generosity, consideration, affection, honesty, hospitality, compassion, charity” (Turnbull, The Mountain People). Families disband and compete as individuals for scarce resources. The new motto becomes “May you die today so that I die tomorrow.” (Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago)

Orlov’s PowerPoint presentation is here.

The original article is here including a comparison with the five stages of grief.

Elizabeth Kübler-Ross defined the five stages of coming to terms with grief and tragedy as denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, and applied it quite successfully to various forms of catastrophic personal loss, such as death of a loved one, sudden end to one’s career, and so forth. Several thinkers, notably James Howard Kunstler and, more recently John Michael Greer, have pointed out that the Kübler-Ross model is also quite terrifyingly accurate in reflecting the process by which society as a whole (or at least the informed and thinking parts of it) is reconciling itself to the inevitability of a discontinuous future, with our institutions and life support systems undermined by a combination of resource depletion, catastrophic climate change, and political impotence. But so far, little has been said specifically about the finer structure of these discontinuities. Instead, there is to be found a continuum of subjective judgments, ranging from “a severe and prolonged recession” (the prediction we most often read in the financial press), to Kunstler’s “Long Emergency,” to the ever-popular “Collapse of Western Civilization,” painted with an ever-wider brush-stroke.

Sally Erickson over at What a Way to Go says Orlov does a great job of laying out the economic and social factors, but the situation we’re facing will be even worse when the we begin to feel the impact of global climate fluctuations.

To me those forces, as well as global fossil fuel shortages, are likely to hasten the movement through the stages he describes, to accelerate the process. It’s rather sobering to consider crop failures, serious interruptions or losses of basic fuel imports, and likely power grid disruptions from weather events, in additon to the economic and financial failures already in motion.

Cheerful thoughts for a happy new year!

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2010 Riot: It will be my fault

Photo by E Wayne in NowPublic.

“Inside the Olympics” reacts to “After the 2010 Riot”
December 20, 2008

Jeff Lee is an opinion writer over at the Vancouver Sun, and he’s all upset by that After the 2010 Riot article.

Lee writes:

It’s Friday, Dec. 19, 2008, right?

We’ll all agree this blog item was posted at that time, around 7:30 a.m.?
That’s good, because I’m sitting here early in the morning nursing a cup of coffee and starting a few days off for the holidays, and an interesting piece of fiction has just popped up on the net.

It’s one of those pieces where you surely must think one of two things: either I am seriously off my meds or the other person is lost in the Twilight Zone and will never find their way back.

I’m talking about the post this morning on Guerilla (sic) News Network by someone called Zoe Blunt. …

(Damn, I’m sorry I confused Jeff about what year it is. I had intended to include a disclaimer in the article pointing out that it’s creative non-fiction, not a news report. Note to self: next time, dumb it down for the dim bulbs.)

It’s Blunt’s wish list for what she’d like to have happen in 2010, I suspect, since after all the Games haven’t been held and to my knowledge “armed troops” haven’t been unleashed on society since the October crisis nearly 40 years ago.

Well …

Thousands of Canadian troops are committed to security for the Games – as Jeff may have heard, since he’s an award-winning journalist and all. The exact number is classified, but it will be up to 16,000 troops, according to the linked report. Plus 12,350 police, RCMP, and private security. (Blackwater? Who knows? Maybe Jeff can tell us, since he’s Mr. Inside the Olympics.) I’m pretty sure the soldiers and police will be armed with real weapons. But maybe Jeff knows something we don’t? Maybe the troops will be carrying Olympic mascot dolls and balloons for the kiddies. Or maybe they will all be hiding in underground caverns and not in the street at all.

Of course, I have to point out that the 2010 Riot article isn’t a “wish list” – it’s one of many possible scenarios, based on recent events, news reports, and leaks about Olympic security budgets. What I describe is a police riot against peaceful protestors, not people attacking the police.

To be fair, old Jeff is a CanWest Global corporate Olympic sponsor’s cheerleader champion of truth, completely independent of his employer’s revenue-based affiliations,* so it’s understandable he would be unhinged by my imaginative description of the 2010 bread-and-circuses-and-riot-squads-festival.

Jeff notes that I’m “associated with Earth First!” and suggests that people like me “spend their lives looking for confrontations.” He asks, “when people get hurt, who will she blame? The rest of us?”

No, Jeff, I will blame myself. I confess: I created the 2010 Riot meme that’s peppered the city with graffiti, stickers, and posters for the last three years. I engineered the social conditions that pissed off so many citizens. It’s my fault.

Please, don’t bother your readers with issues like police violence, greedy developers, economic pressure, homelessness, poverty, racism and the failures of capitalism. Those things don’t cause social unrest. No, just blame me and a “small but radicalized group” for pointing out the elephants in the room.

Only Magazine’s (defunct) Riot Vancouver 2010 Countdown Clock

Or you could blame Only Magazine. After all, they did!

Riot 2010

it will be our fault.

To celebrate, and to make absolutely clear where the blame will rest should anything go wrong during the 2010 Winter Olympics, Only Magazine has officially named our Olympic Clock, the 2010 Riot Clock.

But Only Magazine’s Riot Clock is offline, and the country needs a scapegoat. Well, here we go! And while we’re at it, let me admit responsibility for the global economic collapse and Vancouver’s 1994 Stanley Cup riot. (I caused the Canucks to lose. Sorry about that.)

A commenter on Jeff’s blog suggests it’s not too late for me to “get inspired by the Olympic spirit.” True enough. It’s never too late for redemption! Perhaps I’ll be visited by an Olympic Spirit on Christmas Eve — the Ghost of Olympics Past. Brrrr.

In the meantime, let’s all focus on the positive!

(*edited after Jeff complained about being called a cheerleader.)

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After the 2010 Riot

Report back from the Olympic resistance in Vancouver

A letter from the future

The 2010 Olympics are over, and we’re told that everything is back to normal. Wrong. Vancouver will never be the same.

Never mind what the news jockeys said about the thrilling celebration of our nation’s proud heritage, showcasing our city, hosting the admiring elite of the world, promoting our youth, and attracting new business and tourism. It’s all bullshit. For us here at ground zero, the Olympics turned the Lower Mainland into a nightmare landscape of security zones, armed troops, and police traps. And guess what? The nightmare didn’t end when the circus left town.

The past two months have seen chaos and repression so secret that we’re still trying to piece together the whole story. It’s ironic, because we’ve been trying to expose this sort of abuse for years – part of the campaign to keep our city livable, support human rights and end police persecution of everyone who’s poor, native, or critical of government priorities. When we witnessed what was happening with the latest round of evictions and brutality, we felt compelled to get the story out. Then, of course, we became targets too.

Even after all the discussions and predictions, we weren’t prepared for the scale of the crackdown. It went like this: dozens of arrests the week before the Games started, forced removal of homeless people for the duration, indigenous people targeted and independent journalists singled out – as many as they could get their hands on, anyway. Before the Olympics even started, a bunch of us were pre-emptively – arbitrarily, illegally – detained under the new security orders. Doors were kicked in, cameras, videos, and computers were seized, and people were taken away and disappeared. Without so much as a peep from the major newspapers, TV, and radio stations.

And yet, we pulled ourselves together and carried on. That’s what we need to do now – seize the moment, hang on to our experiences and analyze what happened, if only to bring some perspective to the chaos. Let’s start with the successes.

The huge throngs of people at the public protests in and around the “free speech cage” were amazing to behold. Apparently the Homes Not Games message hit a nerve. That nerve was pretty sore already after the bank collapses and thousands of layoffs, plus the revelations about secret budgets, high-profile scandals, more evictions, and, of course, the ever-swelling Olympic deficit that our children will still be paying off in thirty years. Then came the massive, never-ending traffic gridlock and the troops in the streets. The hubris of it all added up to a whole lot of pissed-off citizens. So naturally, the protests spilled over into the streets.

Not just protests, either. Months of planning focused on empowering people to start building the kind of society we need. Like Food Not Bombs, the Homes Not Games actions were organized by people who found ways to fill those needs themselves, rather than waiting around hoping the authorities would give a hand-out. These decentralized non-organizations stymied the police – with no headquarters for them to raid and no leaders to arrest, they didn’t know how to stop the movement. Several individuals in the network got busted the week before the Games, but they had the good sense to keep their mouths shut about their fellow activists.

The affinity groups were also tight – people took their safety and security very seriously. The scene was so heavy that anyone who was not 100% committed to the goal stayed home. After the first wave of raids and arrests, no one needed a reminder of what was at stake.

The folks who set up the legal defense fund in advance of the Olympics deserve a huge shout-out, along with the lawyers who are working for free or for reduced rates. Hundreds of people are facing charges – anti-poverty activists, indigenous people, tree huggers, indy journalists, and dozens more who were probably just in the wrong place at the wrong time. The people who went missing have been found, some of them in jails fifty or a hundred miles away. Some might get time served or a few weeks if convicted, others are looking at “terrorism enhancements” of many years behind bars, even though there was clearly no intention to hurt anyone.

The civil liberties advocates are hoping to push back the trend of police brutality and Charter rights violations. The criminal trials will be going on for months, and believe me, they’re educational (and open to the public!)

The media collectives and solo journalists deserve awards for extreme bravery in documenting dozens of cases of police attacks and human rights abuses with hundreds of hours of video – and getting away with the footage! Of course, the major media didn’t run those videos, but the web streams went around the world to millions of viewers. And the hot new “instant documentary” is coming any day now – the video posse is working round the clock putting it together. There’s dozens of clips online already, and a whole pile of new material that the cops are really going to hate – especially when the lawyers show the evidence to the judge and get our friends’ charges dropped.

We learned some things about playing to our strengths and their weaknesses. We outwitted the enemy a couple times. We outran them too. We are quicker, smarter, and more versatile than the crowd-control units. We know the terrain. We can switch to Plan B in an instant. They need orders. They’re weighed down by riot shields and command structures. Except when they get wound up in their adrenaline and testosterone frenzy, and start beating on people at random. All I can say is thank god for the street medics.

The street medics are fucking heroes. They waded into clouds of tear gas to help people who were blinded and panicked and disoriented and walked them out of there. They patched people up in the middle of the night and kept it quiet. Of course, a lot of people who were near the front lines – including the medics! – are still nursing injuries and pepper-spray after-effects. Plus, we are all suffering from “post traumatic activist stress disorder” – weeks later, some folks are still traumatized and in shock. No one expects this shit to happen to them. But people are taking care of each other and reaching out to each other.

The extreme level of police coercion stunned everyone. Even long-time activists who felt psychologically prepared for police violence told me how surreal it felt, suddenly finding themselves looking down a line of automatic weapons aimed at their heads and robocops barking incomprehensible orders. Everything slows way down and gets very bright and sharp. Impossible to forget, even if you want to. Many of our comrades from the past few weeks won’t be returning to the movement – they’re burned out.

Our public events were infiltrated by police informants and many of us were monitored for months before the Games. The cops pulled all kinds of petty stunts – faking people’s identities online, sending messages to try and start conflicts, playing on the divisions within the group like race and class and gender. Fortunately, it seems like the various affinity groups were quick to catch on, although a few out there are probably still figuring it out.

Surveillance cameras and face-recognition software made it easy for the cops to look out for possible “domestic threats.” (Threats to what? We’d like to know!) They watched for certain individuals and pounced on them when they approached the security perimeters. Obviously, you can fool the software with a bandanna, but they also arrested anyone with their face covered.

We weren’t expecting the total blackout on dissent for the duration of the Games, or the crushing media backlash after the party ended and the guests went home. Obviously we didn’t think corporate Olympic sponsors would give indy journalists free air time – but we thought at least we’d have access to our own blogs and independent media sites! A lot of those sites suddenly went off-line (or off-limits) in early February. A lot of cell phones stopped working, and some folks swore they were being recorded. We had to keep figuring out ways to work around these obstacles.

The radicals were isolated, thanks in part to intimidation and pressure on our more moderate allies. That was no surprise – we figured the mainstream groups would cave if the authorities leaned on them, and that’s what happened. They cooperated with the detectives and cut their ties with us. So we were basically left out in the cold, surrounded by hostile forces. Several of our demonstrations were outnumbered by the pro-Olympics cheerleaders and sports fans; there were lots of vocal threats and even a few violent incidents as they lashed out at the groups of peaceful protestors.

By the time it was over, there was a backlash from all sides against the people who were trying, against all odds, to get a message out to the world, to speak to the conscience of a nation against racism and brutality and homelessness and injustice.

And we won. We got the message out, and we all came together, and that was what they really feared, above all. Not just that we would loudly and publicly dissent for the world to see, but that we might actually join forces and work for common goals, like hastening the fall of this corrupt and unjust system.

It started for me when one of us asked – what sort of position do we want to be in, after the Games? How do we survive, evade, and resist the occupation? The TV cameras have packed up and left. The soldiers are back at their bases. We’re still here. What next?

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