The climate justice movement is increasingly stressing the importance of building broad-based coalitions for addressing climate change. Two important elements in these coalitions are grassroots and grasstops organizations. The former bring creativity and flexibility to coalitions whereas the latter bring resources, staff, and specialized expertise. Drawing on 106 in-depth interviews and ethnographic fieldwork in Idaho and California, this chapter from the book Working Across Lines: Resisting Extreme Energy Extraction (University of California Press, 2022) analyzes how grassroots and grasstops organizations work to build effective coalitions. Contributing to emergent theory on social movement coalitions, I argue that organizational form, particularly nonprofit’s responsibilities to fulfill mission statements and secure funding, as well as strategic, tactical, and motivational divergences, challenge activists’ efforts to build coalitions between these elements of the movement. To bridge these divides, activists stress the importance of welcoming new ideas, giving attribution, and centering, rather than marginalizing uncompromising demands for radical systems-changing actions. Relationships of trust, which activists construct through “relational organizing,” facilitate these methods for creating a united front in the climate justice movement. In a context where climate science demands urgent and large-scale social change to avert catastrophic temperature rise, understanding the challenges that anti-extraction coalition builders face, and the ways they strive to overcome these challenges, advances social movements’ capacity for securing socially and environmentally just societies.
"Working Across Organizational Lines: Grassroots and Grasstops Tensions and Possibilities,"
The Journal of Social Encounters:
Available at: https://digitalcommons.csbsju.edu/social_encounters/vol7/iss1/7
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