The satisfACTION post on Dec 9th gave readers the opportunity to make a difference by attending a rally opposing the province’s inconsistent actions on coalbed methane, or by calling TV stations to ask for coverage of the government’s decision to put a moratorium on development in BC’s Sacred Headwaters while at the same time granting tenure to BP in the Elk Valley.
Out of the 36 participants who recorded their effort on Dogwood’s website, 2 people attended a rally, and all 36 of those people called the networks, making a total of 74 calls to Global and CBC to express their interest in the story being covered!
A Look at the Action in Fernie
Twitch Action vs. Slow Build
One of these days try looking through your email inbox, and filter out all of the ‘take action’ messages from your favorite charities or non-profits. My guess is that most of those messages are asking you to contribute to what I’ll call a ‘Slow Build’ action, where you write a letter, sign a petition, or do the equivalent towards building up a mass of people all wanting the same thing.
Dogwood’s NoTankers petition is an example (we are at ~28,000 names and counting); so is the ‘Save the Great Bear’ / ‘Keep the Promise’ campaign of the Rainforest Solutions Project; and Skeena Watershed’s impressive delivery of thousands of letters to Royal Dutch Shell earlier this year.
Slow Build actions have their place – especially in generating a list of people who are interested in an issue and smacking decision makers around with its heft. But the recent success of the collaborative Sacred Headwaters call-in, and our success in getting province-wide coverage of last week’s coalbed methane rallies suggests groups in BC should be organizing more ‘Twitch’ actions.
Two Types of Twitch Action
- Some Twitch actions arise spontaneously, aren’t timed to coincide with anything, and rather than producing specific results are more about exercising our need to ‘do something’. These actions basically get (or keep) an issue on public and political radar screens.
- Other Twitches aim to take advantage of small windows of opportunity to achieve a specific result, like getting TV coverage of last week’s coalbed methane rallies.
For organizers and participants, Twitch actions produce something akinto an exercise-stimulated endorphin rush – they’re energizing andrefreshing, like satisfying morning jogs. Whereas Slow Build actionsproduce something more akin to the mixed pleasure/pain of long haulmarathons for organizers, and a kind of malaise fromparticipants who often have to wait for months to see results.
The reality of Twitch actions is that the emails might not be polished, the strategy may not be part of a bulletproof masterplan, and the outcomes may be non-definitive, but:
- they exercise our action muscles and keep us engaged and alert (they feel good!)
- they’re flexible and take advantage of small windows of opportunity, and
- they have the potential to produce unexpected results
What You Can Do Today
So Twitch actions are great, but the only way they work is when you have a large pool of people to draw on at a moments notice. On the coalbed methane issue, a new province-wide coalition sprung up today (Citizens Concerned About Coalbed Methane). They need to build a list of people who agree with their 5 point action plan. You can go to their website and support the action plan by signing their ‘slow-build’ petition.
The satisfACTION sub-blog is about activism in BC – themethods, theories, and stories of how people are working together formore perfect communities . Ever felt a need to change things, but don’tknow where to start? I’ll showcase opportunities for personallysatisfying and meaningful actions. Read the intro to the blog here.