December 2012: Democracy Here, There, But Not Quite Everywhere

And so another year comes to an end. As each of us in our own way prepares to spend the holidays with our families and those we care for most, the Democracy Center wants to add our best wishes to you all, and share a little news (with no funding solicitation attached) about the past twelve months at The Democracy Center. 2012 was an eventful year for us, filled with new projects, global collaborations, and continued inspiration from people in all parts of the world who have dedicated themselves to the urgent work of citizen action.

Climate and Democracy

In our work on Climate Change and Democracy, one of the greatest citizen action challenges of our time, our focus has been on supporting the strategies that can make citizen action effective. Below is an article on the desperate search for an activist strategy on the climate crisis, which I published last week at YES! Magazine and on AlterNet.  I hope you will give it a look and share it with your friends via email, Facebook and Twitter. This year we launched our recent series of profiles of climate action campaigns from California to India, a new educational website based on our work in Bolivia, Climate Change is About…Water, and this video on climate from young people here in Cochabamba. We also participated in the UN’s Rio+20 conference, and introduced a host of other projects which you can have a look at here.

Corporate Power

In our work to challenge the mounting power of corporations over our democracy and our lives the Democracy Center continued to promote our popular citizen resource for anti-corporate campaigning, Beating Goliath, and worked closely with allies all over the world in our efforts to challenge the international investment rules that corporations are using globally to slash aside protections of public health and the environment.

Citizen Advocacy

Our global efforts to strengthen citizen advocacy took me all over the world this year, literally. I began the year in Vietnam and ended it in Senegal, with advocacy training stops in between in New York, California, Uganda, and elsewhere, working with UNICEF and our other friends across the world. I taught classes in person at UC Berkeley and with U.S. semester abroad students here in Bolivia, and taught via webinars with groups in Thailand and with students at the School for International Training in Vermont and American University in Washington. We also added to our popular advocacy library, which you can access here.

Thank Yous!

All of this work and more has been possible because of the great efforts of the whole Democracy Center team, so a special thank you to the staff and volunteers who have done so much this year: Shawn Arquiñego, Leny Olivera, Aldo Orellana, Maddy Ryle, Ben Castle, Ben Brouwer, Thomas McDonagh, Anders Vang Nielsen, Jorge Hurtado and Martha Nissen Stabler. They are a truly awesome group!

We also continued to publish contributions from various corners to thinking about strengthening the efficacy of citizen action, on our blog Getting Action. We would like to thank all our guest contributors from 2012: Michael Lipsky of Demos, Milica Begovic Radojevic of the UNDP, Destry Maria Sibley of ‘Springfield No-one Leaves’, Chloe Maxmin of First Here, Then Everywhere, Arthur Stamoulis of Citizens Trade Campaign and Bolivia-based analyst Nele Marien.

Coming in 2013

Working with our colleagues in UNICEF the Democracy Center will launch a new project in 2013 to focus global attention on climate change as one of the most fundamental children’s issues we face. This coming year the Democracy Center will also begin celebrations of our 20th anniversary!  I’ll be headed to the U.S. for a “Real Democracy” college tour and a set of events to say thank you to our friends and supporters in San Francisco, New York and elsewhere. We’ll have more news on all that coming up soon and if you’d like to get involved let us know!

What we have done this past year and for the past twenty years we have only been able to do with the help of our many friends all across the world. Stay tuned and I look forward to seeing many of you, in real life, next year.

Best holiday wishes to each of you!

Jim Shultz
The Democracy Center
Blog: My Restless Pen


The Desperate Search for a Strategy to Defeat Climate Change

The most significant and irreversible threat that our generation poses to the future is marked by an almost complete political incapacity to act.

December 10, 2012 | Jim Shultz

Photo: Paul K. Anderson

If you wanted to design a global crisis that the world’s political systems would be particularly incapable of solving, it would be hard to do better than climate change.

Unlike a meltdown of the banking system or an attack from the sky, climate change does not come upon us suddenly and command our sense of urgency. It creeps closer towards us year-by-year as record heat, decimating storms, and historic ice melt.  Most of the measures proposed in response bear the uncomfortable feel of sacrifice – paying more for gas or living less large in our material possessions – and sacrifice does not make for good politics. Add in the powerful corporate machinery engaged in protecting coal and oil interests and it is little wonder that the political process is frozen.

As a result, the most significant and irreversible threat that our generation poses to the future is marked by an almost complete political incapacity to act. The only force with any chance of getting the political process to move is citizen action. But what kind, applied where, and with what aim?

Much has been written about the grim consequences of the climate crisis and much has been written as well about what, in an ideal political world, we should do to prevent those consequences. But the question that lingers unanswered is this: What can we do in the political world in which we actually live that can make a significant difference while there is still time?  Read the rest of the article. 

More recent articles from the Democracy Center

  • Researcher Ben Castle has been investigating the context and debates around the adaptation agenda in Bolivia, with pieces published in Alternet and on the New Internationalist blog 
  • Communications Director Maddy Ryle was writing recently in Red Pepper magazine on the grassroots activism on climate that delivers results where negotiations are failing. 
  • Former climate negotiator Nele Marien was our most recent guest contributor on Getting Action, talking about the need to establish carbon budgets in order to really move the UNFCC agenda forward.
  • And three of our own Democracy Center staff looked back at their experience doing field research for our Climate Change is About… project in flood- and drought-afflicted areas of Bolivia.



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