Terra Verde

Why Young Activists are Resorting to Disruptive Climate Action – June 30, 2023

Four persons holding up a banner that says "Jody Freeman: Stop Willow." The Bay Bridge and SF Bay is visible in the background
Climate activists, including Khrizia Velacruz (center) of Oil & Gas Action Network, disrupt a June event in San Francisco featuring Jody Freeman, a board member of ConocoPhillips, the company behind the massive Willow Project oil drilling venture in Alaska. Photo by Erick Parker, courtesy of Climate Defiance.

Over the past year, there have been a growing number of non-violent disruptive actions by climate activists across the US and beyond against politicians, business leaders, lawyers, etc who are linked to, or seen as, supporters of fossil fuel projects. We’ve seen activists shut down highways, throw soup and mashed potatoes at works of art, glue themselves to museum walls, blockade the White House Correspondents dinner, shut down Senator Joe Manchin’s keynote address, and more. Direct action, of course, isn’t a new thing. It has been around for as long movements for justice have been around. But what’s new here is that in the climate arena at least, these actions are increasingly being led by young activists, many of whom are frustrated with the slow pace of climate action and are willing to put their bodies on the line in defense of the living world and their future.

But are these disruptive tactics actually working? What role do they play within the greater environmental movement? To discuss these questions and more, Earth Island Journal editor and Terra Verde host Maureen Nandini Mitra talks with Khrizia Velacruz, a climate activist and an organizer with Oil & Gas Action Network, a group that focuses on strengthening alliances across the climate and environmental justice movement and building grassroots power. (Our other guest, Rylee Haught, the West Virginia-based cofounder of the youth-led direct action group, Climate Defiance, was, unfortunately, unable to connect during the live recording of this show.)