May 2014

The 3rd Extreme Energy Extraction Summit was held May 2nd-5th at the beautiful Bosque Center in the Rio Grande Urban Forest in Albuquerque, NM.  Over 70 organizers from all across the continent and spectrum gathered, with 40 new participants representing 17 new organizations.  We were particularly excited to be hosted by the Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment (MASE) and to see so many more groups working on uranium mining and from the Southwest.  Our 3rd Summit was facilitated by Training for Change.

Much of this summit explored questions about how to build collaboration across difference: difference in race, culture and class; difference in issues and geographic location; difference in organizational type, size and power. There was a lot of reflection about past experiences with collaboration, (when have collaborations in our struggles been successful and strategic and why?) which informed conversations about how we can work together effectively moving forward.  We also took some time to celebrate the successful collaborations that have emerged from the Collaborative process so far.

Once again we tackled thorny issues of imbalances of resources and power between grassroots groups and "Big Greens" head on.  A powerful and at times heated dialogue was sparked by Cherri Foytlin's story of the successful "Frontline Holiday" project that she initiated out of the 2nd Summit.  A wide-ranging, frank conversation between numerous frontline organizers, an NRDC board member and staff from Sierra Club, 350, Food and Water Watch and NRDC yielded some real learning, commitments from "Big Green" representatives to work for change within their organizations, and project proposals to address communication issues and resource poverty in small grassroots groups.  The uniquely intimate environment of the Summit allowed for a conversation that is often just divisive to be highly productive.

A highlight of the weekend was the impacted-communities tour of the Grants Uranium Belt organized by MASE the day before the Summit.  Dozens of organizers from across the country were able to meet community organizers impacted by uranium strip-mining, contaminated groundwater from uranium tailings, and toxic waste from mining and learn first hand about fights to clean up the mess and stop in situ leech mining from moving in.  Connections were sparked between local organizers and other frontline folks impacted by extraction leading to a plan for a community exchange.  The Summit also provide space for folks to work on a Western regional strategy to address uranium mining.

Most of all, people came to this summit more “ready to roll” than ever before.  Folks were full of ideas about the conversations they needed to have and the collaborations they wanted to create.  The small groups that are the heart and soul of the summits included: strategies to fight fuel-by-rail; how to communicate broader movement narratives to directly-impacted communities; national tactical coordination on actions; white allies practicing anti-racism, indigenous and non-indigenous groups working together; social media strategy on fracking; alternative economics and more.

As always we left time to play and build our friendships, including a late night trip through the bosque to the banks of the Rio Grande.  Many folks took time to explore beautiful cottonwood forest near by.  It was a real treat to spot roadrunners and coyotes despite being in the middle of the city.  Full notes from the 3rd Summit can be found here.

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