As warmth and sunshine return to the Northwest, many of us make plans to spend as much time as possible out in the wild. In the coming months, concerned Oregonians will have the chance to not only enjoy the natural world, but learn how to do their part in protecting it.
Action camps are live-in activism workshops, hosted in gorgeous wilderness locations across the region. Cascadia is home to a strong and storied environmental movement, and this spring and summer there are plenty of opportunities to learn directly from those on the front lines of the climate fight.
There are camps for total beginners searching for a pathway into activism, experienced campaigners looking to swap strategies and refine their skills, and all levels of expertise in between. They offer a unique opportunity to meet passionate activists from all over the Northwest, while learning how to organize, build coalitions, educate the public, and start making a direct impact on global climate change.
Elliott Climb Camp
When: 4/19 – 4/25
Where: Elliott State Forest, near Reedsport, OR.
Cost: $30-100 donation
Deadline: Already fully booked.
This independent workshop, put together by members of Oregon Rising Tide, Earth First!, and other respected groups, proved so popular that organizers were forced to accept double the number of campers they’d planned on. Even then, all slots were filled over a month before the camp’s start date. In a few weeks, 60 trainees will be dangling dozens of feet up in the Elliott State Forest, learning the ropes of protesting from the trees.
“Tree sitting” as civil disobedience goes back decades; just by hoisting themselves up a tree and refusing to come down, activists have stalled logging efforts and spared untouched wilderness all over the world. The Elliott camp is intended for complete beginners as well as more experienced activists, and over the course of the week, the staff (made up of professional climbers alongside tree-sitting veterans) will teach campers all the skills they need to take action on their own.
The location, in 93,000 acres of pristine temperate rainforest, was selected with purpose. Last fall, Oregon’s State Land Board announced plans to sell off the entire forest, and it hopes to select a buyer before the end of this year. In May, some of the over 300 interested potential buyers will begin touring the forest – and Climb Camp-trained activists and their allies intend to be there as well.
But organizers envision Climb Camp attendees impacting areas far beyond Elliott State Forest. “It’s not just Elliott,” says outreach coordinator Grace Warner. “This is to help people get more confident in their own campaigns, wherever they are. (Attendees) will be able to get themselves up and take action, without any outside parties helping out.” And forests everywhere will be better for it.
When: 7/12 – 7/19
Where: Apserkaha Park at Howard Prairie Lake, 40 minutes east of Ashland.
Cost: $150. Full and partial scholarships are available, along with transportation assistance.
Open to: attendees 14-18 years old
This is the third year running for Next Generation, put on by the Eugene-based Civil Liberties Defense Center. The CLDC provides legal education and representation to climate and social-justice activists, and Next Generation sprang from their desire to help foster new waves of smart, engaged climate advocates.
“There’s a lot of training opportunities out there for adults, in more radical spaces which aren’t always as safe or accessible for young people. We wanted to create a space with age-appropriate content,” says outreach coordinator Grace Warner. (Yes, Grace is the outreach coordinator for both Next Generation and Climb Camp!) The camp is a comprehensive movement-building package, covering hands-on skills such as demonstration planning, media outreach, and artistic protest as well as cross-cultural competencies and know-your-rights training.
Each year’s camp culminates in a youth-designed and-led protest. Last year’s action targeted the headquarters of the Pacific Connector pipeline project, which was recently stopped in its tracks by a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission decision to deny permitting.
Next Generation hopes to attract 40-50 teens to the shores of Howard Prairie Lake this July. Warner emphasizes that campers are in good hands; the site is well-supervised, substance-free, and all health and safety concerns have been triple checked because, with the CLDC in charge, “we’re basically run by lawyers.”
Access is a major priority. Financial aid is available to help cover the $150 registration fee, and no camper will be turned away for a lack of funds. Carpools are being formed from Portland, Eugene, and Northern California, and other transit will be arranged as needed.
“We’re trying to fight ageism,” Warner says, “really empowering youth and giving them agency. …Kids come up with things you never could have.”
When: 6/21 – 6/27
Where: Vashon Island, WA (in Puget Sound, just southwest of Seattle)
Cost: $200-400 (sliding scale), or $50/day
Deadline: No hard deadline; ASAP preferred
The group behind Localize This!, the Backbone Campaign, is best known as a pioneer of “kayakitivism.” The Seattle-area group drew national attention with its flotilla of protesters in Puget Sound last year, standing against the same Shell icebreakers that Portland knows so well.
But Backbone has over a decade of creative, effective action in its history. LT! is a prime example, a comprehensive action camp celebrating its eighth year this summer.
“Localize This! is powerful across the board,” says camp organizer Bill Wilkinson. “Though we work on many causes, Backbone frames it all as a battle between paradigms. The paradigm we fight for is one in which people, communities, and nature are considered sacred, and clearly NOT for sale.” The camper-designed action that ends each camp reflects this; past camps have struck against homophobia and defended the land rights of native people, while last year culminated in an interactive public art installation, designed to open dialogues about racism in largely-white Seattle.
And LT!’s longevity has allowed it to attract serious talent. Trainers and camp leaders include veterans of organizations like Greenpeace, Earth First!, Rising Tide, and Move to Amend, armed with firsthand victory stories and battle-tested tactics. They’ll offer trainings and activities on everything from anti-eviction actions to human rights to puppetry, coaching as many as 150 attendees.
The camp is targeted at activists with at least some experience, but all ages and experience levels are welcome, and Wilkerson is confident that it’s “an accessible experience for newly activated people.” Those under 18 must be accompanied by an adult, but the substance-free policy and sociable campfires keep the atmosphere safe and welcoming. Fundraising options are available to cover the camp fee; no one will be turned away for lack of funds.
As the oldest and possibly largest action camp in the Northwest, Localize This! offers an incredible assembly of progressive experience and expertise in a single location. Even after five years at LT!, Wilkinson is “still learning new things and refreshing important skills every year.”
“You will meet some really amazing, passionate, experienced people.”
When: 8/8 – 8/16
Open to: everyone except cis-men (people with male anatomy whom also identify as male)
Contact: twaccascadia [at] riseup [dot] net
While not many details about this year’s camp have been released, the Cascadia TWAC Collective focuses on direct action skills, disability justice, critical anti-oppression, and environmental justice. TWAC aims to be a safe(r), empowering, educational, fun, and kick-ass experience co-created by organizers and participants alike.
Check out this action by TWAC that replaced a bilboard message with “Transgender Health NOT Fossil Fuel Wealth!”
by Will Lambeth