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What We're Fighting for Now Is Each Other: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Climate Justice

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An urgent, on-the-ground look at some of the “new American radicals” who have laid everything on the line to build a stronger climate justice movement The science is clear: catastrophic climate change, by any humane definition, is upon us. At the same time, the fossil-fuel industry has doubled down, economically and politically, on business as usual. We face an unprecedente An urgent, on-the-ground look at some of the “new American radicals” who have laid everything on the line to build a stronger climate justice movement The science is clear: catastrophic climate change, by any humane definition, is upon us. At the same time, the fossil-fuel industry has doubled down, economically and politically, on business as usual. We face an unprecedented situation—a radical situation. As an individual of conscience, how will you respond? In 2010, journalist Wen Stephenson woke up to the true scale and urgency of the catastrophe bearing down on humanity, starting with the poorest and most vulnerable everywhere, and confronted what he calls “the spiritual crisis at the heart of the climate crisis.” Inspired by others who refused to retreat into various forms of denial and fatalism, he walked away from his career in mainstream media and became an activist, joining those working to build a transformative movement for climate justice in America. In What We’re Fighting for Now Is Each Other, Stephenson tells his own story and offers an up-close, on-the-ground look at some of the remarkable and courageous people—those he calls “new American radicals”—who have laid everything on the line to build and inspire this fast-growing movement: old-school environmentalists and young climate-justice organizers, frontline community leaders and Texas tar-sands blockaders, Quakers and college students, evangelicals and Occupiers. Most important, Stephenson pushes beyond easy labels to understand who these people really are, what drives them, and what they’re ultimately fighting for. He argues that the movement is less like environmentalism as we know it and more like the great human-rights and social-justice struggles of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, from abolitionism to civil rights. It’s a movement for human solidarity. This is a fiercely urgent and profoundly spiritual journey into the climate-justice movement at a critical moment—in search of what climate justice, at this late hour, might yet mean. From the Hardcover edition.


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An urgent, on-the-ground look at some of the “new American radicals” who have laid everything on the line to build a stronger climate justice movement The science is clear: catastrophic climate change, by any humane definition, is upon us. At the same time, the fossil-fuel industry has doubled down, economically and politically, on business as usual. We face an unprecedente An urgent, on-the-ground look at some of the “new American radicals” who have laid everything on the line to build a stronger climate justice movement The science is clear: catastrophic climate change, by any humane definition, is upon us. At the same time, the fossil-fuel industry has doubled down, economically and politically, on business as usual. We face an unprecedented situation—a radical situation. As an individual of conscience, how will you respond? In 2010, journalist Wen Stephenson woke up to the true scale and urgency of the catastrophe bearing down on humanity, starting with the poorest and most vulnerable everywhere, and confronted what he calls “the spiritual crisis at the heart of the climate crisis.” Inspired by others who refused to retreat into various forms of denial and fatalism, he walked away from his career in mainstream media and became an activist, joining those working to build a transformative movement for climate justice in America. In What We’re Fighting for Now Is Each Other, Stephenson tells his own story and offers an up-close, on-the-ground look at some of the remarkable and courageous people—those he calls “new American radicals”—who have laid everything on the line to build and inspire this fast-growing movement: old-school environmentalists and young climate-justice organizers, frontline community leaders and Texas tar-sands blockaders, Quakers and college students, evangelicals and Occupiers. Most important, Stephenson pushes beyond easy labels to understand who these people really are, what drives them, and what they’re ultimately fighting for. He argues that the movement is less like environmentalism as we know it and more like the great human-rights and social-justice struggles of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, from abolitionism to civil rights. It’s a movement for human solidarity. This is a fiercely urgent and profoundly spiritual journey into the climate-justice movement at a critical moment—in search of what climate justice, at this late hour, might yet mean. From the Hardcover edition.

30 review for What We're Fighting for Now Is Each Other: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Climate Justice

  1. 5 out of 5

    Bob Schnell

    "What We're Fighting for Now..."is not about changing our lifestyles to help prevent climate change/global warming. No, that ship has apparently sailed and we are on the cusp of the next mass extinction. Wes Stephenson is not asking us to change our consumer habits. Instead he is asking us to change our way of thinking about our place in the global community. When the shit comes down, will we take on a "kill or be killed" attitude or will we work towards the common good and minimize the damage? "What We're Fighting for Now..."is not about changing our lifestyles to help prevent climate change/global warming. No, that ship has apparently sailed and we are on the cusp of the next mass extinction. Wes Stephenson is not asking us to change our consumer habits. Instead he is asking us to change our way of thinking about our place in the global community. When the shit comes down, will we take on a "kill or be killed" attitude or will we work towards the common good and minimize the damage? Are we willing to put our lives on the line to keep the situation from getting even worse? There is a lot of spiritual talk here. Thoreau to Gandhi and MLK, we are asked to put aside the things that divide us and concentrate on our shared humanity. At times the book reads like a recruitment tool for the Universal Unitarians, but the message goes beyond creed and simply asks us to confront the problem with climate justice. Many definitions and examples of climate justice are given, but the bottom line is the people most affected by climate change shouldn't just be thought of as cannon fodder in the war for mankind's survival. This book may take some readers out of their comfort zones to join the fight but I would have appreciated some concrete ideas about how a middle-aged suburban man with responsibilities (like me)can make a difference.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jamie

    This was too meandering and allusive for my taste. I wanted to get to the nitty-gritty and hear about what radical actions are being taken, not about the author's awakening at Walden Pond. This was too meandering and allusive for my taste. I wanted to get to the nitty-gritty and hear about what radical actions are being taken, not about the author's awakening at Walden Pond.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Andrea McDowell

    This is a surprisingly inspiring book; surprising because it faces a very grim science without flinching away or presenting it in any more polly-annaish or optimistic tones than is merited, which--given that the science in question has outcomes ranging from "things worsen for another century than stabilize in a degraded fashion for the conceivable future" to "99% of everything dies"--doesn't typically lead one to anticipate inspiration. And yet. Because it takes that science as a given, because i This is a surprisingly inspiring book; surprising because it faces a very grim science without flinching away or presenting it in any more polly-annaish or optimistic tones than is merited, which--given that the science in question has outcomes ranging from "things worsen for another century than stabilize in a degraded fashion for the conceivable future" to "99% of everything dies"--doesn't typically lead one to anticipate inspiration. And yet. Because it takes that science as a given, because it looks at our history of inaction and what Alex Steffen calls "predatory delay" without flinching, because it allows for and even encourages authentic mourning of what we've lost and stand to lose, it has a great deal of credibility and legitimacy in its calls to devote our energies to saving what we can and fighting for a more equitable distribution of the goods that will remain. p. xv: "one of the slogans for the [People's Climate March in 2014] was, 'To change everything, we need everyone.' And I couldn't agree more. That's what this book is about. But here's what would really change everything: first acknowledging that the Washington-focused environmental movement--and the mainstream, Big Green 'climate movement' that grew out of it--has failed. That we've already lost the 'climate fight,' if that means 'solving the climate crisis' and saving some semblance of the world we know. That it was lost before it began--because we started so late. That it's time now to fight like there's nothing left to lose but our humanity." Stephenson interviews climate justice workers and activists working in a wide range of different organizations and initiatives, which can be split into two opposing, equally correct camps: 1) That, given the inequitable impacts of climate change along racial, income, geographic, gender, and class divides, we have no choice but to organize in communities to build support for just transitions (a much more familiar phrase now, thanks to AOC & the Green New Deal), and 2) that we no longer have the time for building those coalitions and communities. It's depressing on the face of it, but everyone interviewed has found a way to continue on regardless. If you are trying to find a way and a reason to keep acting when the news is so bad, and keeps getting worse, their stories will have a lot to offer you. pp. 208-209: "...ours is now a fight for survival and a fight for justice--no for the survival of the possibility of justice and some legitimate hope for what King calls the 'beloved community.'... Is it too late? We know what the science says. What does your conscience say? What does 'too late' even mean? Too late for what? Even in the face of all we now know, will it ever be too late for some kind of faithin human decency; or to hold on to some kind of hope, however irrational it may seem, in our fellow human beings; or to love our brothers and sisters on this earth?" How could it be too late for that?

  4. 4 out of 5

    Anne Ipsen

    As Wen Stephenson makes clear in the title of his compelling book, climate change is happening now and will affect everyone. With a reporter’s skill, he documents the actions and passions of the climate activists fighting on the front lines, but he does so with a personal dedication and compassion that goes beyond the usual objective journalistic style. He argues that the scientific evidence is definitive and now is the time for action. Only united can we hope to ameliorate the threat to life an As Wen Stephenson makes clear in the title of his compelling book, climate change is happening now and will affect everyone. With a reporter’s skill, he documents the actions and passions of the climate activists fighting on the front lines, but he does so with a personal dedication and compassion that goes beyond the usual objective journalistic style. He argues that the scientific evidence is definitive and now is the time for action. Only united can we hope to ameliorate the threat to life and civilization. To Wen, climate change is a moral issue of justice as the burden of the looming disasters will fall most heavily and unjustly on the least among us.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Megan Janicki

    Important work that strikes a balances between an urgent call to action and a beautiful reflection on humanity, spirituality, and community in a changing climate. I was moved by the call to solidarity and the beautiful reflections of all the environmental leaders that Stephenson introduces us to, who put this justice movement into a framework to better understand God, economics, and the beloved community that we were meant for. I will be thinking about this one for a long time.

  6. 4 out of 5

    wade

    I really had high hopes that this book would open up areas of knowledge to the current environmental crises that are new and innovative. The book is instead a series of mini biographies of grassroots activists in the environmental movement. The book begins with a look at Henry David Thoreau and the beginnings of peaceful protest and uses him to springboard into other activism in more recent times. Two major themes that emerge are 1. We are beyond the point of no return with regard to climate ch I really had high hopes that this book would open up areas of knowledge to the current environmental crises that are new and innovative. The book is instead a series of mini biographies of grassroots activists in the environmental movement. The book begins with a look at Henry David Thoreau and the beginnings of peaceful protest and uses him to springboard into other activism in more recent times. Two major themes that emerge are 1. We are beyond the point of no return with regard to climate change and 2. Poor people suffer more now and will continue to in the future in this crisis.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    Had a good feeling going into this book but was disappointed to find relentless bible references. It was cringe inducing, then it was groan inducing then it was infuriating. I make this warning for other secular people who will no doubt be irritated by this. I know it's impossible to disentangle ones strongly held beliefs from ones writing but it wound up feeling like a dubious sales pitch for Christianity. And when you try to spin the story of Job in a positive light you lose all credibility. T Had a good feeling going into this book but was disappointed to find relentless bible references. It was cringe inducing, then it was groan inducing then it was infuriating. I make this warning for other secular people who will no doubt be irritated by this. I know it's impossible to disentangle ones strongly held beliefs from ones writing but it wound up feeling like a dubious sales pitch for Christianity. And when you try to spin the story of Job in a positive light you lose all credibility. The writing at least is fairly good as Stephenson takes us on a troubling journey along the front-lines of climate justice. I would also add that this is an incredibly depressing read. Sure, when you get to the end, there's some semblance of hope but unless you read the whole thing in one night you should probably break up your reading sessions so as to not fall into despair. However, when you come to the end, you'll hopefully feel encouraged to standup and fight for the future of this fragile blue rock, hurtling through space.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sue Merrell

    This is a very tough book to read about climate change because it's not about driving a smaller car or biking to work. From the point of view of Wen Stephenson and the movement leaders quoted in this book, our carbon footprint is already too large. The damage is done, it's only a question of postponing or moderating the inevitable. They want all use of fossil fuels to end NOW. Stephenson sees this as a moral imperative. He compares it to Abolition. Yes, freeing the slaves destroyed the economy o This is a very tough book to read about climate change because it's not about driving a smaller car or biking to work. From the point of view of Wen Stephenson and the movement leaders quoted in this book, our carbon footprint is already too large. The damage is done, it's only a question of postponing or moderating the inevitable. They want all use of fossil fuels to end NOW. Stephenson sees this as a moral imperative. He compares it to Abolition. Yes, freeing the slaves destroyed the economy of the south, much like abandoning fossil fuels will upset the world economy, but it is the right thing to do. Although I agree with the goals, I think the book's expectations are unrealistic, to say the least. And that approach does little to make his arguments convincing.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Siobhan

    First half a bit slow , heavier on the story of the writer himself than the climate activists. Second hand, where we get to meet Jay OHara, the Tar Sands Blockade folks, and more of Tim DeChristopher, is fantastic: great insights into the thoughtfulness and organization of climate justice activists.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jindřich Mynarz

    Never once this book names what it is about using this fancy word: interdependence! Ranging from practical to spiritual, it argues that we need social relationships as a safety net to accept the penalties for acts of civil disobedience. This direct and nonviolent action is required to confront the power that "concedes nothing without a demand." Never once this book names what it is about using this fancy word: interdependence! Ranging from practical to spiritual, it argues that we need social relationships as a safety net to accept the penalties for acts of civil disobedience. This direct and nonviolent action is required to confront the power that "concedes nothing without a demand."

  11. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    It's not meant to be a book about the science of the climate crisis - rather a larger existential ask of why bother fighting if it's too late, through the eyes of activists. Helpful if you're drowning in pools of despair. It's not meant to be a book about the science of the climate crisis - rather a larger existential ask of why bother fighting if it's too late, through the eyes of activists. Helpful if you're drowning in pools of despair.

  12. 4 out of 5

    JulieG

    So you don't really consider yourself an 'activist', but you understand and are concerned about climate change and its likely consequences, and struggle with what you could or should do to engage? Maybe you're more comfortable supporting mainstream efforts from within the system, and have even wondered if resistance 'movements' may hurt the cause. If this strikes a chord with you, this book could be a thought-provoking read for you. It was for me. This book is going to stick with me. It's not a cl So you don't really consider yourself an 'activist', but you understand and are concerned about climate change and its likely consequences, and struggle with what you could or should do to engage? Maybe you're more comfortable supporting mainstream efforts from within the system, and have even wondered if resistance 'movements' may hurt the cause. If this strikes a chord with you, this book could be a thought-provoking read for you. It was for me. This book is going to stick with me. It's not a climate science book ~ this book is something different. While it conveys information about a scientific topic, it primarily shares stories about the motivations of real people involved in the climate justice movement with, it seems to me, the intention of ‘broadening the tent’ to bring more of the rest of us to an understanding of the urgency of the situation and the need for potentially radical (non-violent) action. This book accepts scientific consensus about man-made climate change and spends little time restating the case. In fact, the preface is focused on "acknowledging the science and the sheer lateness of the hour...", and strongly asserts that the time for taking action to prevent many of the worst consequences of climate change has passed, and that rapid change and chaos are now inevitable. However, Stephenson contends this does not mean it's ‘too late’. Even if you personally aren't convinced about the science, or doubt the consequences will be as dire as feared, this book may still be for you. I'd encourage you not let that deter you from reading this book, because it's enlightening as an account of the special value of ‘movements’ of non-violent, civil disobedience. It increased my understanding of the types of people who are involved in activism, and their motivations, sacrifices, struggles, and significant impact. And it challenged me to reconsider my moral obligation, and how I've chosen to engage. It’s surprisingly heavy on the spiritual lives of those in social justice and climate justice movements, and the importance of that in sustaining involvement for the long haul in efforts that may never have a clear ending. Some will feel there's a bit too much focus early in the book on Thoreau and the process of personal awaking of the author, but I came away feeling that it was context that supported the story arc of awakening to a moral obligation, taking inspiration from history, leading and organizing in solidarity to resist an existential threat, and finding the moral or spiritual strength to persevere. This call-to-action informs and maintains interest through a variety of conversations with organizers in the US, and stories of their actions, including 350.org, the Tar Sands Blockade, Keystone XL, and other more locally-focused social and political justice efforts that align and find common ground with climate justice (and some tension as well). Stephenson takes the position that, while it's likely too late to avoid many of the consequences of climate change due to our delayed action, building a strong movement and community of support is essential, and is still worth it. What's the goal? He contends that the planet will be fine, but civilization, and our humanity, is at stake. “Our fight is against chaos – and for community. And it cannot wait”. "What We're Fighting For Now Is Each Other" is not a how-to book that tells you what to think or what to do, and it's definitely not a climate science book. Rather, this is a book about waking up to the reality that we’re collectively not taking the actions needed to address what is probably the greatest challenge the human race has faced. It’s a big, heavy message. Other books focus on the necessary technological and policy innovations and implementation efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change, and those efforts are obviously essential. This book adds an important perspective about the need to be honest about our failure to act soon enough, and the obligation to force the issue. I come away from it with a better appreciation for the importance of activism as a driving force for the serious changes needed, and I feel much more supportive and grateful for the courageous individuals of the climate justice movement.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Na

    With climate change tangibly manipulating the environment, here stands another book with an author yelling in the dark corner to turn on the lights. Wes Stephenson is not calling simply for an environmental shift in policy, but for a loud call for social justice. Defending non-violent activism, What We’re Fighting For, saves no punches. Writing on the testimonies of current and past activists and advocacy groups, Stephenson attempts to light a fire under those on the fence about activism. The pro With climate change tangibly manipulating the environment, here stands another book with an author yelling in the dark corner to turn on the lights. Wes Stephenson is not calling simply for an environmental shift in policy, but for a loud call for social justice. Defending non-violent activism, What We’re Fighting For, saves no punches. Writing on the testimonies of current and past activists and advocacy groups, Stephenson attempts to light a fire under those on the fence about activism. The problem is that Stephenson defines the climate-justice movement, but does not reach to those “unbelievers” of climate change. What Stephenson did right, however, is excite the environmental base. The energy he brings is clearly contagious throughout his stories. Especially in this political climate, it is an important call for action.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Valorie Hallinan

    I read this book straight through. I think it is so important; if you are interested in the climate justice movement and where it's at, and where you might fit in, here is a realistic, sometimes depressing, but also inspiring book. My Books Can Save a Life blog post is here, because I think this book could save lives. http://wp.me/p28JYl-2fn I read this book straight through. I think it is so important; if you are interested in the climate justice movement and where it's at, and where you might fit in, here is a realistic, sometimes depressing, but also inspiring book. My Books Can Save a Life blog post is here, because I think this book could save lives. http://wp.me/p28JYl-2fn

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ruah Swennerfelt

    This is an exceptional and very moving book. It's a whole different take on environmental issues, including climate change and climate justice. Stephenson's interviews with a broad spectrum of activists are so fascinating. And at the core, it's a book about faith and spirituality without being about religion. I highly recommend it to everyone! This is an exceptional and very moving book. It's a whole different take on environmental issues, including climate change and climate justice. Stephenson's interviews with a broad spectrum of activists are so fascinating. And at the core, it's a book about faith and spirituality without being about religion. I highly recommend it to everyone!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Cara Pattullo

  17. 4 out of 5

    Laura

  18. 4 out of 5

    Eilish Drought

  19. 4 out of 5

    Scotty D

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jim Stehlin

  21. 4 out of 5

    Laura

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sue Pursell

  23. 4 out of 5

    Tom Coffeen

  24. 4 out of 5

    Tim O'Donnell

  25. 4 out of 5

    Adrienne Ognibene

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jill

  27. 4 out of 5

    Alissa Zimmer

  28. 5 out of 5

    Si Bersalam

  29. 4 out of 5

    Rob

  30. 5 out of 5

    Carol Harley

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