December 2014: Citizen Action on the Climate Crisis – The Democracy Center Needs Your Help

Dear Friends,

I checked the news from home in the U.S. recently to see what the popular media and Facebook have delivered up as the current obsessions. Topping the list seemed to be Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and a television show about walking zombies. I wish that the national obsession would be that 2014 is on track to be the hottest planetary year on record and that a new UN report says runaway climate change could become a threat to humanity’s survival in the lifespan of my children’s children.

As you read this I am in Lima, Peru with five other members of the Democracy Center team for the annual United Nations climate summit (COP20). We are here to join with thousands of others who have come to Peru to demand serious action from the world’s governments. Five years ago we took the decision to make citizen action on climate change a central focus of the Democracy Center’s work. We made that choice not just because the crisis we face is so profound, but because no issue before us is in greater need of effective citizen action. Today I am asking for your financial support to help us continue that work beyond Lima and into 2015.


Supporting effective citizen action is what the Democracy Center has been about since our founding almost 25 years ago – work we now carry out all across the world. Our efforts on climate change are rooted in three fundamental strategies that we believe are essential to winning serious action. Read on to find out how we will be advancing them in Lima this week and beyond:

One: Make Climate Activism as Powerful as it Can Be

cover_English_webWith a crisis so profound, every ounce of citizen action must be as effective as it can be. From grassroots youth activists in Bolivia to sympathetic leaders of the UN, the Democracy Center is engaged across the climate movement to support more strategic action. Earlier this year we published Movement Strategies for Moving Mountains, an enquiry into citizen action strategies aimed at the UN summit process; in Lima this week we will be leading strategy workshops for activists from around the world at the parallel People’s Assembly. We’ve published case studies from winning climate campaigns around the world to lift up what works. During the People’s Climate March and UN climate summit in New York in September I spoke to activists groups across the city about effective strategy as well as here on Democracy Now with Amy Goodman. I published this series on climate action strategy in YES magazine and in November spoke via video on climate strategy to California’s Bioneers environmental conference.

Two: Raise Up the Stories About What the Climate Crisis Means Up Close

04Here in the Andes the impacts of climate change are a disaster already unfolding and we are working to bring those stories to a global audience. We’ve documented on film the threat posed by melting glaciers and produced videos and articles about community resilience strategies. We’ve published a major website and educational resource on the impact of climate change on water. This week in Lima we will be presenting our powerful new photo journalism project, Climate Change is About…Women, introducing a women-led Bolivian community and exploring how the strategies they have developed to deal with daily challenges and violence in their lives also contribute to their capacity for climate resilience. Project producer Leny Olivera wrote about some of the themes explored in the work in this blog, published in the New Internationalist for the UN’s Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

Three: Take on the Corporate Giants Driving Climate Change

Corporate_Conquistadors English cover image-EN-coverAround the world, even as the impacts of climate change become more evident, a set of major corporations continues to relentlessly drive – and profit from – the crisis. In Lima the Democracy Center has just today launched another major new report, Corporate Conquistadors (jointly with the Corporate Europe Observatory and Transnational Institute), outlining how three major corporations are simultaneously driving the climate crisis on the ground in the Andes and Amazon while also wielding their political clout to stall progress on a meaningful global agreement. Case studies include that of Repsol, the Spanish oil giant which – in its relentless search for new oil – drives destruction of the rainforest and the decimation of indigenous lands in Peru. Read this new blog from my colleagues Thomas and Philippa – authors of the report and here with me in Lima – and check out this interview on Democracy Now! about it with Pascoe Sabido of Corporate Europe Observatory.

We Need Your Help Now


In the international movement for climate action the Democracy Center is an important bridge builder. We link the work of activists across the global North/South divide. We connect the strategies of those who work for change within the system and those who go into the streets demanding action. The Democracy Center team comes from three continents and activist backgrounds of every different kind. We bring together a collection of skills that includes top notch research, advocacy, activist networking and strengthening, journalism, design, communications and audiovisual production. We combine those with a passion for the causes we work on that is bone deep. And we do all this on an annual budget less than what some groups in the U.S. and Europe pay for a single staff position. We rarely ask our supporters for donations but at the moment, to continue moving all this work forward, the Democracy Center needs your financial support. Please consider making a donation today – $25, $50, $100, $500, whatever your economic circumstance allows – and send us to Lima knowing that we will have the resources necessary to carry our climate leadership efforts onward into 2015.

You can make an online donation to the Democracy Center here. Or you can donate by check to: The Democracy Center, P.O. Box 22157, San Francisco, CA 94122. The Democracy Center is a U.S. nonprofit under the fiscal sponsorship of Community Initiatives. All donations will be acknowledged and are tax deductible in the U.S. We thank you in advance for your support.

Follow the Democracy Center in Lima!

This week in Lima, all of us on the Democracy Center team (see who we are here) are reporting throughout each day from all corners of the UN summit, from the official meetings on the inside to the activist gatherings on the outside. If you are on Twitter, follow our reports @DemocracyCenter and @jimshultz, or subscribe to the full staff list. We have already been busy blogging the summit and the People’s Assembly on Getting Action, the Democracy Center’s activist blog. Please tune in and spread the word!

Finally, in case you missed them, we also have a series of Bolivia Climate Primers out which help explain the position and dynamics of Bolivia in relation to the discussions taking place in Lima this week.

Best wishes to everyone,

Jim Shultz

The Democracy Center

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