2011 saw more people power than I could have dared to hope. Last New Year's Eve, who could have predicted that the protests in Tunisia, just then making the news, would lead to the ousting of its president of 23 years not two weeks later; that this would inspire citizens throughout the Arab World to pour into the streets demanding change in their own countries; that this in turn would kindle popular resistance in cities and Occupy encampments spanning the U.S., from Oakland to Wall Street; that corporate power and income inequality would become fodder for conversation at the dinner table?
And now here we are, at the dawn of another new year. Who knows what we can do?
Now is the time for change, but the question becomes: How can we keep this momentum going? As we head into 2012, I invite you to think about what you can do to shake things up, make your voice heard, and make 2012 another banner year for people power. Here are five of my favorites, in no particular order:
- Shrink oversized banks
At RAN, we've been campaigning against banks with outsized influence since 2001, and have never felt such a window for deep, lasting change as we do right now. What can you do to make sure that the biggest banks know that the days of reaping enormous sums from bankrupting our economy, foreclosing on our homes, and polluting our air are over? Take action in your area to begin dismantling the systems that allow the wealthiest citizens to control the rules of the game. Send a message that we will not accept one more dollar invested in dirty energy. Take the pledge to boycott Bank of America — the nation's leading funder of coal projects — unless the bank cleans up its act, then join the over 50,000 customers who have already closed their Bank of America accounts and invest in your local economy by moving your money to a local bank or credit union.
- Occupy Our Food Supply
No less than our financial system, our food system is in dangerous shape, controlled by corporate interests at the expense of small producers, our health, and the future of the planet. Occupy Our Food Supply to help bring an end to corporate exploitations of our food system. Join the fight for a just Farm Bill in 2012. Boycott Cargill, the US agribusiness giant that is bulldozing rainforests and razing entire communities in Indonesia and Malaysia in pursuit of profits.
- End Corporate Personhood
This is the year I hope to see an end to the choke hold that corporate power has on our democratic system. On January 21st, the second anniversary of the devastating Citizens United ruling, I invite you to join the swelling movement to demand an end corporate personhood — the egregious legal principle that gives corporations the same rights as individuals, with few of the same limits. Join with RAN and our allies to Occupy the Courts in a city near you on January 20th and Occupy the Corporations on January 21st. Then, gear up for an exciting Spring packed full of actions as we work to force corporate and political leaders to recognize corporate accountability as a key issue this election cycle, and finally let those companies who are buying our democracy know that democracy is by the people and for the people.
- Keep the Keystone XL Pipeline Off the Map
We all cheered last fall when the decision on the Keystone XL pipeline was delayed, but with political maneuvers forcing Obama to make a choice by mid-February, the fight is far from over. Now more than ever, it is crucial to stay committed to the fight to keep the Canadian Tar Sands in the ground. Keep up on the ongoing Tar Sands Actions and continue to speak out until President Obama understands that we will not accept this toxic pipeline full of crude oil for export to snake through America's heartland.
- Learn, Organize, Lead!
Rainforest Action Network would be nothing without the committed organizers and activists who participate in our campaigns and form one part of the broader movement challenging corporate power around the globe. It's a great time to rise to the growing demands of our world and take your activism to the next level. Take steps to educate yourself about issues that matter to you. Get involved in events in your area. Give what you can to help keep RAN's campaigns running, and subscribe to our newsletters to keep up to date with the work of RAN's campaigns and hear about opportunities to take action online or plan an event in your area.
Follow Rebecca Tarbotton on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@beckytarbotton