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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Nonviolent tactics can still shape our world

opinion@dailylobo.com

There is a multitude of ways in which people can create change.

Many of these ways involve direct action, or putting ideas into motion and effecting change through action. Direct action is greatly effective when it is nonviolent and uses peaceful means to create change. Three important tactics of nonviolent direct action are boycotts, divestments and sanctions. These tactics have been used throughout history to make social change happen, and there are a number of groups today that are employing these tactics to fight for their causes.

These tactics have been utilized in many fights for social justice. In the 1960s, Cesar Chavez and the National Farm Workers Association used boycotts to improve working conditions for agricultural laborers. They urged boycotts of nonunion grapes to put pressure on the companies that could change working conditions, and eventually won better contracts.

In the 1980s, there was a push to use divestment to break down apartheid in South Africa. Many nations, universities and other large institutions took money out of the country to put economic pressure on South Africa. This divestment had a hand in changing the situation in South Africa. During this time, the United Nations also levied sanctions against the apartheid state. When used in the context of social justice, these tactics have been very useful for creating change.

There are a number of movements that are using these tactics today, some of them with chapters at UNM. Two notable groups are the environmental organization 350.org and the Palestine solidarity organization Students for Justice in Palestine. The first group, 350.org, which concerns itself with slowing and limiting the impacts of climate change, has the goal of lowering the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million. This is the level many scientists say is acceptable for climate preservation. According to CO2now.org, the level in December was 394.39 ppm.

One of the ways the group is working toward this goal is through a divestment campaign. The group has worked with students across the country to try to get universities to divest from fossil fuel companies. Unity College in Maine and Hampshire College in Massachusetts have already taken divestment action. Now, there are the beginnings of a 350.org campaign at UNM.

Students for Justice in Palestine, along with many other Palestine solidarity groups, has called for boycotts, divestments and sanctions against Israel for its treatment of Palestinians and its occupation of Palestinian land. Chapters of this organization around the country have called for boycotts of Israeli products and pushed their universities to divest from Israeli companies and companies that benefit from the occupation of Palestine.

The UNM Students for Justice in Palestine chapter is having an event Thursday at 6 p.m. in SUB Ballrooms A and B with one of the founders of this movement, Omar Barghouti, so you can go hear for yourself about the use of these tactics.

These methods of nonviolent direct action have at times come under criticism. But historically, when these tactics have been used for social justice, they have created positive change in the world. In addition, compared to some of the alternatives, such as violent aggression, these tactics seem to be a very reasonable and effective option.