Have you heard about the Billion People March? The March, created by AdBusters, is challenging people all over the world to gather on December 19th and present an ultimatum to “the powers that be” that could curb climate change.
Sound intimidating? It shouldn’t. Kalle Lasn, writer, activist, and founder of counterculture magazine, Adbusters, which is credited with kicking off the #OccupyWallStreet movement, wants to get the word about the Billion People March out so people like you and I can take action at the local level.
EcoSalon recently chatted with Lasn and found out what the Billion People March is all about, how this march differs from past marches, and what people can do to take action at home.
EcoSalon: What’s the goal the Billion People March is trying to reach?
Kalle Lasn: Ever since Occupy Wall Street, protest marches [and other forms of protest] haven’t really worked all that well. We have these big bang moments where 300,000 people march in New York, or whatever. Everybody gets excited and it’s something that comes and goes, and three days later, everybody’s forgotten about it, and no meaningful change has actually happened. It’s got to the point now where the people who really have the power — the corporations and the government — I don’t think they take us too seriously anymore.
So, this is something that we’ve been struggling with at AdBusters a long time: How do we create an activism that actually speaks truth to power in a very effective way? Of course, there also is [the fact that] we are at a very critical moment in human history; climate change is on the horizon and we are going to have this big, world meeting of world leaders in Paris in December. The feeling is that they are probably not going to tackle the problem head on and actually do anything meaningful. So, we thought we’d do something as grandiose as a Billion People March and then tried to come up with a strategy. Instead of making it a general march, let’s have one demand. The original posters of Occupy Wall Street asked, “What Is Our One Demand?” Occupy Wall Street unfolded all over the world, and we never really answered that question.
ES: How do you plan to keep people invested in the goal of the March (to make global change) after the date has passed?
KL: This time, we’re trying to attach this idea of a 1 percent tax for all stock market transactions and currency trades. We are trying to say that this will be our one demand on December the 19th.
Our strategy is to then have a follow-up massive march where we have a second big demand. And then, a few months later, when the moment is right, we can have another big globalized uprising where we have a carefully chosen third demand.
Basically, we need to come up with a strategy where people [all over] the world, which we estimate could be over a billion, somehow come up with a unified strategy of pushing through key systemic demands that are essential for us to eventually solve the climate change problem.
The other thing that is wrong with most protest marches is that they are centered around one big moment — they come and they go, and there is nothing else going on! This time, our Billion People March will be this big moment on December the 19th, and we want to build up momentum and make this march bigger than the march was to the lead up for the Iraq war, for example, which was the last time that very many people protested.
ES: How can people avoid burnout when trying to make change at home?
KL: It seems to me that we have a few bright moments, but we haven’t really achieved all that much. I think what’s missing is a narrative. Instead of getting into the streets for one wonderful day of solidarity with all of your friends, we need to have a story.
The world is in danger. Is there any strategy that will solve the problem? If we can’t trust our leaders to do it, then what are our other strategies? [If we can get people to buy into this narrative] and they aren’t just buying into a big bang moment, they are buying into a story of how they can be one in a billion. We want people to say ‘yes, I’ll be one in a billion.’ This is a beautiful story that has been missing from the political left for a couple generations now. We want to give people an ongoing story that goes on for a few years that people can buy into and do something about.
ES: What are some of the other ways people can get involved at the local level?
KL: The other thing is that we are trying to get this idea across that sure, we’re going to have a Billion People March, but at the same time, we will have maybe millions of what we call lone wolves. People like me — I don’t actually like marching! I enjoy doing lone wolf things on the side. I like the idea that between now and December 19th, that all these lone wolves will all start putting out messages on ATMs. We start putting posters up on bank windows. And somehow, we use the whole world almost like an art project. We build momentum by doing an increasing number of lone wolf actions.
There are many [other] things that people can do. You [could] become a lone wolf, or you may be one of the people who march on December the 19th, but you could also be just a person who moves your money out of a big bank to a co-op. Or could be one of the people who decides to opt out of the global casino and basically sells off all of their stuff and shares, and vows never to get into that game again. There are a bunch of things you can do.
To keep up to date on the March’s goings ons, sign up for the Billion People March’s tactical briefings. This is part one in a multi-part series EcoSalon is doing before the March.
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Image from the Billion People March‘s tactical briefings page