Ninety percent of war is having good intelligence; if you know where the enemy is and what he has, you can figure out how to deal with him.
—General Douglas MacArthur1
So what is intelligence? Quite simply, it is information about the enemy. Not just any old information, any scrap of gossip, or rumor, but relevant information which has been processed and made as accurate as it can be. […]
What then is the chief military function of intelligence, in peace as well as in war? […I]ts chief function is offensively to achieve and defensively to avert surprise.
—Donald McLachlan, World War II intelligence officer and journalist2
Good intelligence is the foundation of a successful guerrilla organization. The vast majority of intelligence work involves the gathering and organization of readily available pieces of information. Although this is mostly shit work, there is no way to overstate its importance.
—George Jackson Brigade, communist US urban guerrillas
Dedicated organizers raise funds, pressure policy makers, spread educational and inspirational messages, and bring people together for stirring events. Environmental warriors risk their physical safety and freedom in front line actions—from blockade confrontations with militarized police, to night attacks on critical infrastructure. The movement is rich in passion, bravery, hard work, and sacrifice.
Yet, decades of environmental activism have failed. Since the inaugural 1970 Earth Day, ecological destruction has only accelerated. Appealing to individuals and corporations to limit consumption and extraction, lobbying those in power to regulate development and pollution, and pushing investors and consumers towards somewhat less devastating forms of industrial activity have proved insufficient. The movement handicaps itself with sanctioned tactics and a reactionary strategy of attrition, defending threatened ecological communities one by one, responding to ecocidal projects one after another.
Tens of millions of people want the ravaging to end, but don’t know what to do—largely because the environmental movement has not seriously grappled with the question “What will it take to win?” Stop Fossil Fuels believes the answer includes civil disobedience, ecosabotage, and militancy. Since we advocate use of such illegal tactics when necessary and appropriate, we assume we’re under some level of surveillance, so we can’t ourselves carry out underground actions. Nor do we expect to grow large enough to contribute meaningfully to aboveground civil disobedience.
So what do we actually do? Are we merely armchair activists?
We do the unglamorous yet critical work of gathering, organizing, and synthesizing information for dissemination to front line activists. We explore principles of broad strategy with an emphasis on cascading failure, and analyze how different strategies and tactics have played out in specific goals such as anti-pipeline activism. We research historic and current resistance groups to identify what works and what doesn’t. We study the industrial systems and critical infrastructure on which fossil fuels depend.
Our primary work is research and dissemination of intelligence. But we also want to shift the cultural norms of activism away from dogmatism and defeatism, and instead to nimble, adaptive engagement with the question “What will it take for us to win?” We need fundamental, systemic change, but those in power outlaw anything which threatens their power. By dictating the rules of a rigged game, they’ve rendered the most effective tactics nearly unthinkable. And after years of grinding disappointment and despair-inducing losses, those long-time activists who haven’t burnt out altogether are often resigned to playing the same weak hand again and again, against a dealer shamelessly stacking the deck. The activists still fight because it’s the right thing to do, but with little expectation of winning.
Stop Fossil Fuels aims to normalize strategic resistance, commensurate with the scale of our ecological crises and rooted in a belief that we can win. Our intelligence work highlights examples of successful resistance and explores what might be possible with tactics not condoned by the system.