Green Memes

We make memes to fuel and inspire the environmental justice movement.

Meme Slinger Profile: Jessica Lee

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First, I just wanna say: this meme slinger profile featuring Jessica Lee is BAD ASS. Check it out. Jessica leads the social media coordination in Utah for much of the work against tar sands, pipelines and refineries, and solidarity with Indigenous leaders, and also amplifies the local work against deportations. Utah climate justice organizers are known for pushing our whole movement forward, in terms of escalation, and more and more in terms of intersectionality and anti-oppression - connecting the dots of injustice and learning to lead from behind the frontlines. Jessica’s interview (and work), for me, is the real embodiment of this push, and of powerful leadership by example. 

Where are you based and how did you get there?

I’m currently based out of both Salt Lake City, Utah, because it’s home, and PR Springs, Utah, because it’s where my emergency heart lives.

What campaigns are you working on right now - what are you trying to accomplish?  

I’m incredibly lucky to be organizing with Peaceful Uprising, and also the Utah Tar Sands Resistance, as part of a coalition of communities working hard to stop tar sands and oil shale strip-mining projects in the Colorado Plateau area, specifically the Book Cliffs in so-called Eastern Utah. 32,000 acres of public lands now managed by a Utah agency, but which were traditionally Ute land, and which sit next to the Ute Ouray Reservation, have been leased to a Canadian company called US Oil Sands. This year, they started construction on one of the first tar sands mines in the U.S., with other tar sands projects also threatening Colorado, Wyoming, and Alabama. More tar sands and oil shale strip-mines are in the works in the Book Cliffs, as well as fracking wells, pipelines, an oil refinery, a nuclear power plant, and a two-line highway which will cut through beautiful wilderness, all of which will devastate the land, air, water, and people of the region, and would effectively turn the region into a sacrifice zone.

Tar sands would be brought by truck, rail, or pipeline to be refined in one of the five oil refineries in or near Salt Lake City. The racial dynamics in Salt Lake are very clear: the east side is predominantly white, and the west side is mainly comprised of communities of color. All of the oil refineries are located on the west side, and the refinery pollution (including pollution from Alberta tar sands already being refined there) is a major contributor to the horrific air quality here, air quality that has been the worst in the nation for several years, and which physicians have called a human health crisis—one that affects those living in the shadows of the refineries first, longest, and hardest.

My work includes not only stopping these extraction and refining projects from taking place, but also addressing the blatant environmental racism being enacted by the state.

What is it about the promise of social media and storytelling that excites you? What’s your greatest hope for using social media to support climate justice in Utah & beyond?

Climate Justice is all about working at the intersections of environmental degradation, and the oppressions and inequalities perpetuated by racism, patriarchy, and capitalism. What social media provides are places and platforms for traditionally marginalized voices, such as those of women, people of color, LGBTQ, and the disabled (namely those most harmed by inequalities), to speak their truth. Often we wait for someone else, a celebrity, the mainstream media, a politician, to give our story credibility, to speak out about injustices and oppressions, and yet instead our stories are pushed aside, ignored, and our voices silenced or co-opted. Social media allows us to create our own credibility, and to tell the stories that need to be told to those who most need to hear them. One of the most powerful things about social media is that by creating and promoting our own narratives, we are able to force those who wish us silenced to pay attention. I truly believe it is because of social media that we are now forced to pay attention and talk about indigenous sovereignty and resistance, about rape culture, about immigration, about tar sands, and numerous other issues that society at large would rather have remained invisible. Social media provides us with a lot of power, including the ability to connect our numerous communities and struggles, and grow into powerful movements. That being said, those in power are aware of this power and seek to use our most useful tools against us, so it’s often a fine line between speaking your truth and putting yourself at risk.

OK, so we’re calling this a “meme slinger profile” - but do you see yourself as more of a community organizer who can sling memes, or more as a meme slinger who can organize their community? How do YOU keep from being put into the “digital box” that many online organizers get put into?

I see myself first and foremost as as organizer, one who just happens to use social media as a tool in their organizing. Honestly, I fell into doing social media out of necessity, simply because I saw the need in campaigns I was working on, and taught myself the skills so that my work would be more effective. There are some very powerful things that can happen in an online forum, and yet we’re losing sight of the fact that Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and other platforms are simply tools we use in our work. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how many shares, likes, or re-tweets you get. What matters is if the mine gets shut down, if the deportation is stopped, if justice is found. I try not to get too caught up in the interwebs unless I need to, and I participate in a lot of the other tasks and support roles that are needed to run an effective campaign.

Utah Tar Sands Resistance and Peaceful Uprising both do an wonderful job at weaving in connected struggles into their climate justice narrative - like immigrant justice and supporting Los Canales. What advice would you give to fellow climate storytellers—especially those who came up through the environmental ranks—for incorporating the other facets of climate justice into their social media work?

The quick answer is that I can’t sit by and do nothing while my friends are being deported. They’re my friends, and I would do everything I can to keep them from harm. But I also think it’s deeper and more complex than that. Often times campaigns and organizations get very caught up in their immediate goals, and refuse to “dilute” or “pollute” their messaging by addressing intersecting issues. These same groups will often recreate the very systems we’re supposed to be fighting, such as racism, or sexism, by excluding frontline communities, or only allowing them to participate in very exploitative and tokenizing ways.

Our work should not, and cannot, be one-sided. Climate Justice is not about the conservation of land or the protection of wilderness. It is about how those things intersect with justice for those most impacted by degradation and inequality. Does a community being ripped apart by deportations have the resources to fight an oil refinery or a strip-mine? And if we in the climate movement do succeed in shutting down that oil refinery, but the community surrounded it has disappeared, or is suffering, is that really a success? Would we in the climate movement even have any hope of shutting down the refinery without the community’s involvement? The most powerful resistance comes from those who most suffer from oppressions, and if we have any hope of moving forward and surviving as a movement, or even a civilization, those are the folks we need to start taking leadership from, and do all we can to support.

Can you tell us a little bit about your process for when you sit down and make memes? What are a few of your favorite tools — both virtual and real? (i.e. - Do you sketch first on paper, and then bring to life in PicMonkey? - the more behind the scenes you can be, the better!)

I’m very lucky to have worked with some extraordinarily talented photographers and videographers over the last few years who have created some amazing images that I get to work with. Once I have an action to promote, or an article, and I have an image to start with, I’ll do a lot of brainstorming, experimenting, and adjusting as I go. I’ll usually use PicMonkey when I have internet access, and GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program—an open-source program available for free online) when I don’t. I really believe in social media being free and accessible to everyone, and I use, and train folks to use, tools that reflect that.

What are some things you get up to when you’re not busy meme-slinging?

Writing. Reading (a lot). Cooking. Cuddling with my cat. Holding my community. Surviving. Attempting to travel through time and space.

How can folks find you via facebook, twitter, instagram, etc?

  • Facebook: Private (sorry!)
  • Twitter: @ninsiana0

Some recent examples of Jessica Lee’s work:

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  • Education campaign on the proposed Uinta Express Pipeline, which would take waxy yellow and black crude from the Uinta Basin to the Salt Lake City oil refineries.

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  • Women of Action Against Violent Extraction (WAAVE) stop a bulldozer and shut down initial work at the site of US Oil Sands’ processing plant. 

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  • Los Canales: Fighting for Life in the Sewers of Tijuana 

Make sure to follow Peaceful Uprising and Utah Tar Sands Resistance to keep in touch with Jessica’s work, and click here for more meme slinger profiles (we’re up to 6 so far!).

Meme Slinger Profile: Brandon Hill

We’re continuing the Meme Slinger Profile series - and I’m very excited to present this interview with Brandon Hill. I met Brandon through Mountain Justice events in Appalachia, and we both hold dear connections to Vermont. Brandon currently lives among the most beautiful landscapes of Alaska, lending a key hand to stopping a wave of proposed coal strip mining there. Brandon is also a “Pollinator” with the Beehive Collective, bringing a rich perspective to making our movement look beautiful. 

(Editor’s Plug: Check out Brandon’s Kickstarter project happening right now to make short films about the threats of mega-dams in Borneo.)


Where would you say you spent your most formative years in life?

I grew up in Maine and will always be connected to that coastline and my family there. Home can be relative but I’m often able to find it wherever the loon calls or where waves break on basalt. Some of my most cherished formative years were with my mentors and peers in the grand Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, leaning into the anatomy of flora and the ecology of boreal and alpine landscapes.

What kind of work are you up to in Alaska? What kind of odds are you up against? Can you paint a brief picture of the struggle or situation there?

Alaska holds ⅛ of the world’s coal and has been targeted as the next large coal export state. With the effects of climate change run rampant and the burning of coal clearly identified as the largest contributor to CO2 emissions globally, it is imperative that we prevent the egregious exploitation of Alaska’s wild places for coal strip mines. Combined with blatantly corrupt politics as usual, including revolving doors between big oil, mining interests and government, we have an exceptionally dirty fight on our hands.

I work on power-building campaigns that support community and indigenous resistance to proposed coal strip mines. Largely for me that looks like digital organizing with e-mail and social media campaigns that hope to engage people online and move them offline, into volunteer events, organizing spaces and direct action opportunities.

What is it about the promise of social media and storytelling that excites you? What’s your greatest hope when it comes to utilizing social media—especially your hopes as they relate to the fights you’re in?

Storytelling is the foundation of our human-ness. It’s how we’ve built and shared traditions, religions, cultures and relationships with each other. Social media appears to be a tool in our most recent iteration of this culture in which we can use elements of storytelling in snapshots to hook and engage our audiences. Social media allows for us to begin the story, and for the audience to join us in it.

You are a member of the Beehive Design Collective. How has that work—the eye for detail, the intense listening and research, the anthropomorphism, or other facets - influenced your approach creating movement designs and memes?

There is a complete web of ways that the artists and educators of the collective have inspired my life and work. The use of plants and animals as characters in the stories remind us of the interconnectedness of our human struggles. That we are indeed a part of an enormous ecology in which we can find patterns, relationships, and cute metaphors with rabbits. Our brains are built to make comparisons, and I think it helps us to understand complex issues when we can get creative and visual about the tough stuff.

Designers and social media creators often get put into a “techno-box” - assigned to a kind of all-things-internet role, and sometimes are steered away from the action or other leadership roles. How do you push back against getting put into this box, and how do you define yourself as a movement contributor?  

I’m also pretty good at plugging in projectors. Or so they say.

This is a great question and I think applies to any skill set. How we identify ourselves and how we challenge ourselves. I know that typically I’m recognized as the guy with the camera, or the one clicking buttons on my computer machine - but I also make sure to participate in visioning conversations and jump into mentoring roles. For me, it’s being an understanding, empathetic and enthusiastic friend and team mate that comes first.

What’s a favorite recent campaign you worked on, and how did memes, social media, and/or storytelling play a powerful role?

In the last legislative session our foolish Governor introduced a House Bill that would have effectively removed the rights of citizens to participate in the permitting for extractive resource development.  We used social media and e-mail campaigns in tandem with field organizing to mobilize thousands of comments into the offices of our representatives. We re-branded the bill as the “Silencing Alaskans Act” and used infographics and memes to spread the word and engage Alaskans on an issue that would have otherwise flown under the radar. The bill stalled out in committee because of the overwhelming opposition. Huzzah!

Can you give us a glimpse into your process? What are a few of your favorite meme-slinging tools and do you use any unique tools to get prepped? What are the tools, apps, or steampunk charms you couldn’t do without?

I couldn’t do without Adobe Illustrator. I use it almost exclusively for every bit of digital design that I do and have probably only breached a fraction of the creative potential it offers. Vectors, vectors, vectors!

On some level, you could be seen as an artist turned meme-slinger. Someone who was first proficient in pen and ink, who now can whip things up in Photoshop or what have you. In any event, What advice would you give to meme-slingers who came at this work from a non-artist background per say, but want to hone and develop their artistic skills?

My advice is, don’t be afraid to copy somebody else’s style or imitate an image you like. All art is born from inspiration and borrowed ideas. I like to look through magazines and critique advertisement layouts and design. I try to identify the elements of designs I like and then replicate them. Over time my borrowed idea transforms into something of my own.

How can folks find you via facebook, twitter, instagram, etc.?

Some recent examples of Brandon Hill’s work:

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  • The top photo is of the Matanuska Valley in Palmer, AK where we are facing 20,000 acres of proposed open pit coal mines.

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  • This is one infographic that i created for a presentation about PacRim Coal’s proposal to mine through salmon streams on the Chuitna River near the native village of Tyonek, AK. This project would set a dangerous precedent and could start a domino effect of permitting for coal mines and collapse of salmon populations.

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  • This is another slide from a presentation to visualize how much coal is in Alaska.

Check out more Meme Slinger profiles here and check out Brandon’s latest Kickstarter project to support a video series about proposed Mega-Dams in Borneo.

Meme Slinger Profile: Nick Katkevich

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As part of the continuing Meme Slinger Profile Series we’ve been doing, I am truly delighted to have a chance to spotlight my friend and colleague Nick Katkevich. Nick’s work has been instrumental in lifting up much of the grassroots climate justice and anti-fracking movements over the last couple years - work that by its selfless nature often goes very unsung. In this interview, I’m especially grateful for Nick’s thoughts on why the fracked gas fight is so critical, why and when memes matter, and advice for staying outside ‘the social media box.’  

Where’s your home-home, and where you do you call home now? 

I’m originally from Bristol, Rhode Island - a town founded on land that was stolen from the Wampanoag’s through violent force. I currently reside in Providence.

What are the campaigns and all-out efforts for a brighter future that you’re working on right now? What’s going down in your home place of Rhode Island?

There are a lot of things happening. In Massachusetts with Mothers Out Front, we’re pressuring the Governor to sign an executive order that would ban any new fossil fuel infrastructure in the State. 

In Rhode Island with FANG, we are organizing in a rural community against the expansion of gas-compressor station that is part of a major pipeline expansion. We’re also trying to pull together a big national mobilization against the fracked-gas industry, more details about that soon.

Why would you say you’re drawn to fracking - both strategically and personally?

There is a massive coal plant near my parents house, after a long campaign, it was announced that the plant will close by 2017. Coal plants are closing across New England, but unfortunately fracked-gas is being used to replace coal in the energy system. The expansion of fracked-gas infrastructure is happening rapidly, we need to fight it now.

Nick, you’ve led or continue to lead the social media efforts for a number of diverse climate justice campaigns - from Fearless Summer, to the global TckTckTck alliance, to the national fracked-gas campaign FANG, to Mothers Out Front, and so on. What is it about the promise of social media and storytelling that excites you - that fuels you to fill this role? Why do you return to the meme slinging bat as often as you do? 

Meme slinging allows one to tell a story in a short, impactful way that can be seen by tens of thousands of people. Sharing these stories can inspire others to take action, let others freedom fighters know that they are not alone and allow us to bypass traditional media.

The powers that be want us to feel alone and isolated. Social media, despite it’s extreme limitations, can help create a sense of solidarity and comradeship. When you do an action and then the meme about it is shared 500 times, that feels good right?

While you’ve taken the lead on a number of digital fronts: you also keep your head above the social media waters with a number of real world organizing projects - building the FANG alliance (Fighting Against Natural Gas), leading Kingian Nonviolence workshops, etc. What advice would you give to organizers who have an aptitude for social media but also want to act and interact as full organizers in this work?

I think being a meme slinger and an on the ground organizer can be a great combination. One word of advice is to break through the box of being defined solely as an “online organizer”. This box can be a dangerous thing.

If you are great at social media, that means you are probably a good communicator, writer, artist, have a pulse of the movement and much more. Don’t get stuck in the “online organizer” box - and friends, if you want to bring a “meme slinger” onto your campaign, please ask how else they would like to help out beyond social media.

What’s a favorite recent campaign or event you worked on, and how did memes, social media, and/or storytelling interact to help turn people offline and into the streets? 

In May we did an online mobilization for Mothers Out Front as part of an effort to secure a meeting with Governor Deval Patrick. Using social media and email blasts, we were able to cause quite a bit of stir online and urged people to call the Governor’s office. Hundreds of people made phone calls, and the following Monday the Governor’s office called us and said they were ready to meet.  

What are some things you get up to when you’re not busy meme-slinging?

When I’m not meme-slinging, I’m almost always organizing. But, when I have free time I play basketball, try to be a buddhist, listen to hip-hop and spend time with my partner Sherrie’Anne Andre and Paz, my chihuahua-son.

Are you currently looking for freelance projects?

Sure!

How can folks find you via facebook, twitter, instagram, your website, etc?

Some recent examples of Nick Katkevich’s work:

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Having a good photographer friend can make meme slinging much easier - big shout out to Pia Ward for rolling with me so often!

imageI was standing there as the week long #RejectAndProtect mobilization was winding down in front of the White House. Casey Camp-Horinek made what was the last statement of the day, luckily I was able to caption a quick photo of what was a very powerful moment.

imageFANG Life!

Thanks Nick for an amazing interview! Check out more Meme Slinger Profiles in this series at GreenMemes.org and on WearePowerShift.org

Meme Slinger Profile: Ethan Nuss

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We’re continuing our Meme Slinger Profile Series, and I am more than delighted to present an interview with Texas-based organizer, Ethan Nuss. Ethan was the Field Director for the Energy Action Coalition and is currently an intern with t.e.j.a.s. Ethan originally moved to Texas to lend a hand with the Tar Sands Blockade, a campaign which completely escalated and continues to push the climate movement forward in solidarity and emboldenment. I’ve been a big fan of Ethan’s humble organizing, contagious excitement, and ability to give humanity and epicness to the story of extreme energy resistance. 

Where are you from and where do you and your laptop call home?

A mid-sized town, in the middle of Kansas
Houston’s East End
My laptop lives in “Lil Red” - my trusty knapsack

What brought you to Texas?

Join the Tar Sands Blockade and use direct action to stop the Keystone XL pipeline

What is it about the promise of social media and storytelling that excites you? What’s your greatest hope when you approach this work? Why bother?  

My greatest hope is that we can humanize the brave folks on the frontlines of the struggle, authentically tell their stories, and inspire others to action.

What’s your greatest fear when it comes to the world of online organizing?

That people will feel that by clicking LIKE they are doing enough.

What’s a favorite recent campaign you worked on, and how did memes, social media, and/or storytelling play a powerful role?

Supporting Owe Aku’s (Bring Back the Way) campaign to Protect SacredWater from more tar sands entering Lakota Treaty Territory via the northern segment of Keystone XL. I produced a series of memes with the participants in the Moccasins on the Ground training in the Red Shirt community. These memes helped humanize frontline leaders and propelled their words to a broader audience through social media.

What are a few of your favorite meme-slinging tools and do you use any auxiliary social media tools? Any special charms you keep nearby? 

PicMonkey. Tethering internet on my iPhone in the woods or the backseat of a random car near a direct action.

What kind of projects/campaigns are you looking to support? Can you give support from afar as well as on-site?

Frontline struggles to resist extreme extraction. Yep! thats the beauty of the internet.

What are some things you get up to when you’re not busy meme-slinging?

Organizing!, gardening, riding my bike, meditating, and writing poetry.

How can folks find you via facebook, twitter, instagram, your website, etc?

Some recent examples of Ethan Nuss’ work: 

Alberta tar sands mine

  • The tar sands were once bountiful forest lands & indigenous hunting grounds.  

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Protect SacredWater from Tar Sands - Moccasins on the Ground Direct Action Training

  • Owe Aku’s (Bring Back the Way) campaign to Protect SacredWater from more tar sands entering Lakota Treaty Territory via the northern segment of Keystone XL

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Tar Sands Blockade - Keystone XL Tree Blockade in East Texas

t.e.j.a.s. - Manchester Health Survey + Stop Keystone XL

  • Environmental justice leaders in the refinery community of Manchester on Houston’s East End organize to end environmental racism. The Keystone XL pipeline brings more tar sands to be refined in their predominately Latino/a community.
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Inspired by Ethan’s work? Get in touch! And check out other meme slinger profiles here

Meme Slinger Profile: Dylan Petrohilos

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As part of a new series profiling “meme slingers” in the environmental justice movement, we recently connected with Dylan Petrohilos. I had the chance to work with Dylan on Power Shift 2013—Dylan was the lead designer for PS ‘13—and it was amazing to work with such a fine, lightening quick designer, who is also a community organizer grounded in a place, and a commitment to justice for the most vulnerable. Dylan also helped lead a delegation to bring clean water to West Virginia from the DC-MD-VA area, as well as whipped up the logo that’s been used in a lot of water crisis work here.  

Where are you from and where do you and your laptop call home?

Frederick, MD — a small city outside of the DC area. Love it there.

What is it about the promise of social media and storytelling that excites you? What’s your greatest hope when you approach this work? Why bother?  

I want to tell the stories of people struggling for good things in their lives. I want to tell the struggle of rural working class people, poor people, and people of color. I live in a rural area and for me lifting their voices up is in many ways lifting my own and my friends.

What’s your greatest fear when it comes to the world of online organizing?

I’m putting myself out there usually in semi-public ways, so for me, I want to stay honest with what I promote or say is gonna happen. I’m always afraid of being a person that cries wolf.

What’s a favorite recent campaign you worked on, and how did memes, social media, and/or storytelling play a powerful role?

I recently worked on the West Virginia Water Crisis solidarity. The way we told the story of the crisis and need for solidarity was beautiful and how we brought people together from DC, College park, Maryland and Frederick in a way that hasn’t happened in a few years.

Video by Jake Brooks. 

We used memes to spread the word about different water drop off points but also tell the story of failed us policies, that have turned Appalachian, Shale Fields, and many other places into energy extraction colonies.

What are a few of your favorite meme-slinging tools and do you use any auxiliary social media tools? Any special charms you keep nearby? 

Photoshop, Illustrator, Indesign. While a lot of meme slingers aren’t designers, I am. I’m a designer first, and excited to use those tools to create media that can help shape our movements and make them something to not mess with. Not to make my self or design self important, but I think design can produce something beautiful and more attractive, it’s more likely to go viral and more likely to change our world.

What kind of projects/campaigns are you looking to support? Are you looking for new projects? 

Currently, for the first time in a long time, I’m taking a mental break (gotta hold off burn out) but once I get out of that, yo you’ll be seeing my work all over the place :) I’ll 100 percent be coming back, and looking for new projects  - please get in touch!

What are some things you get up to when you’re not busy meme-slinging?

Freelance design work, I love punk rock, hiking and design. I LOVE making art and have actually found myself sketching for the first time in years. Nothing is quite right like paper and pencil.

How can folks find you via facebook, twitter, your website, etc?

Some recent examples of Dylan Petrohilos’ work:

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WVA Solidarity super cool traveling there and meeting new people, but also super stressful because it was a running around everywhere type of deal.

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Power Shift 2013, 10k youth leaders converging in Pittsburgh to plan the next stages of the environmental movement.

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Trying to get justice for ethan saylor and shame the Frederick Sheriff//ACAB//FTP. 

 
Make sure to follow Dylan’s facebook page to stay in touch, and check out other Meme Slinger Profiles here

Meme Slinger Profile: Lindsay Hughes

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Over at Green Memes, we’re big fans of “meme slingers” - folks who take the time to use their social media and design skills to tell powerful stories of people making hope and change possible.  We’re starting a new series of Meme Slinger Profiles to introduce you to more of our favorite slingers, and we’re kicking off the series with an interview of Lindsay Hughes - an organizer with the youth climate justice movement in Canada, and an incredibly talented and insightful social media storyteller. 

Where are you from and where do you and your laptop call home?

I was born and raised in Montreal, Quebec. I still call this incredible city home.

What is it about the promise of social media and storytelling that excites you? What’s your greatest hope when you approach this work? Why bother?

Social media has a unique ability to introduce new ideas to people. The rapid spreading of articles, memes, art, and other audiovisual pieces lend these networks the power of mass access — and, relatedly, social media is also an incredibly potent catalyst for organizing. In terms of stories, specifically — over the years, I have had the opportunity to hear some remarkably inspiring people speak about their experiences. When Crystal Lameman from Beaver Lake Cree Nation talks about her children, or when Cindy Spoon spoke last October in Montreal about being a part of the tree-sits with the Texas Tar Sands Blockade, their messages come across in ways simple facts cannot hope to imitate. Their stories, and many others, stay with me. Really, much of the motivation behind my work — and, I think, the power of social media more generally — is to give voice and space to these stories and hope that it propels others to take action in their own communities. It’s no longer a viable option to sit back and pretend we won’t all be affected by environmental issues currently being fought tooth and nail by those on the front lines. These are stories that have to be told. I feel I have a moral obligation as a human being to be involved.

What’s your greatest fear when it comes to the world of online organizing?

There’s this idea that activists were once defined by their causes and now are defined by their tools. I don’t know if I necessarily agree with that statement. There still has to be something that resonates at a deeply personal level for people to fight for their beliefs. Personal connections — the feeling that we are directly affected, or that our close friends are at our sides — continue to play a huge role in activist involvement. Still, in an era where we’re essentially more connected than ever, we run the risk of becoming more disengaged and detached from those around us. Of course social media can be crucially instrumental in raising awareness, distributing information, and organizing actions — but in my opinion, change still requires mobilization and cannot be done exclusively online. The fact is, social media doesn’t require people to get involved in a significant way, and ultimately asks for little more than a ‘like,’ ‘share,’ or virtual signature. There are certain fights that can only be won by taking a concerted stand..or sit-in, for that matter. That said, online organizing has a powerful ability to bolster support, and can provide those involved (or looking to be) with encouragement to continue — a key element for sustainable social activism. As long as real action is not replaced with reaction, hopefully social media will continue to support social activist goals.

What’s a favorite recent campaign you worked on, and how did memes, social media, and/or storytelling play a powerful role?

I worked on Powershift Atlantic in Halifax, just over a month ago. The Energy East project was one of the main focuses, as the proposed pipeline is set to be one of the largest in the world — spanning just over twice the length of KeystoneXL. It was exhilarating to see so many people congregate from across six provinces to make sure that doesn’t happen. I had created a number of pieces leading up to the convergence; though in this case I was mostly tasked with graphic design (such as creating the programme), I also converted the information into online-friendly infographics and visuals. I was then asked to be a part of the storytelling team — and being able to document the weekend as it was happening was really exciting. There were countless moments worth capturing over the course of three days. But, I think what storytelling really does in general is provide a collective voice. I, and others, helped frame a cohesive narrative that we were all a part of that weekend. The desire to pass that narrative on comes not only from the collective pride of what we’d accomplished, but of our passion to strengthen the movement.

What are a few of your favorite meme-slinging tools and do you use any auxiliary social media tools? Any special charms you keep nearby? 

Apart from my camera, I build images almost exclusively using Adobe Suites. It allows me to create visuals really easily with every editing feature I could possibly need right at hand. I don’t know if I have a particular charm, although I consider myself extremely lucky because of the people I’ve had the opportunity to work with and learn from along the way. My partner, my friends and my family are what make me feel supported and allow me to do this work to the best of my ability.

What kind of projects/campaigns are you looking to support? Can you give support from afar as well as on-site?

My focus thus far has been on social and environmental justice issues, particularly climate justice. Every other issue stems from the fact that we have a planet on which to fight — so fighting for a healthy environment tends to be my central concern. I think I’d be happiest continuing in that vein, helping in whatever — and wherever — I am most needed. Most of the projects I’ve been involved with allow me to work as a satellite operation. I enjoy being on site for certain things, such as Powershift, as it’s easier to get a sense of the community and the type of energy I should translate into the work. Personally speaking, I prefer to be around that energy whenever possible. When the National Energy Board hearings on Line9B were happening in Montreal last October, I felt it was vital to be present, not only as an observer but as a participant in the action taking place. I felt it was important to bring attention to the suffocatingly strict observances which excluded a lot of voices that would inevitably be affected by the decision. I love what I do, in both content and process, so it doesn’t actually feel like work most of the time!

What are some things you get up to when you’re not busy meme-slinging?

Recently, I’ve been working on graphic design focused projects for various campaigns and events, as well as creating other types of visual communications based materials. Though, when I’m not glued to my trusty computer, I can usually be found outside running, at the climbing gym, or sharing a beer or two with friends.

How can folks find you via facebook, twitter, instagram, your website, etc?

Check out some recent examples of Lindsay Hughes’ work:

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  • Powershift Atlantic 2014. Meme of Keynote speaker, Sean Devlin taking the stage in Halifax; photo by the incredibly talented Robert Van Waarden.

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  • Fossil Fool’s Day Canada, 2014 Campaign. One in a series created for April 1st, a day of action to oppose fossil fuel extraction.

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  • Powershift British Columbia. One in a series to promote Powershift BC 2013, that took place in Victoria, Coast Salish Territory, last fall.

Stay tuned for more “meme slinger profiles" later this Spring - and do drop us a note if you’re interested in being featured! 

11 Tips For Breaking Through the Facebook Noise Barrier!

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This post is an excerpted chapter from “The Most Amazing Online Organizing Guide Ever" This chapter is by Megan Kelley & Joe Solomon. 

Facebook is as much a tool for promoting social change as it is a puzzle. How do you figure out how to use the arsenal of tools Facebook offers (and often changes on a whim) to break through the noise, reach the most people, and sometimes inspire folks to do stuff. Below are 11 well- worn tips online organizers use to do all those things.

1) Create a sudden burst of community recruitment

There’s no reason your campaign should have a small Facebook page—or if you already have a few hundred or a few thousand fans, why you can’t grow significantly.

These days, anyone can access the feature to invite friends to “like” a page. So, why not encourage all your staff and core volunteers to invite all their friends? Host an “invite your friends” pizza party! If ten of your core staff and volunteers invite all their friends, and on average you have 300 friends each, you will have invited 3,0000 friends in one fell swoop. If just 10% say yes, that could be 300 new fans for your page!

Bigger communities don’t just let you reach more people, they let your current supporters see they’re part of something much bigger. And that kind of realization can be key to encouraging folks to check out what you’re up to and share your stuff. Nobody wants to be all alone “liking” and “sharing” your stuff, you know? Sometimes, this secret code can help.

2) Focus on photos.

Facebook is at heart a photo-sharing network (remember, it’s ‘Facebook’, not ‘TEXTbook’). People relate to pictures of other people and can quickly find meaning in a visual. And more than that: it seems clear the Facebook feed prioritizes showing images over showing articles. So try it: from now on, just post photos to your Facebook feed. And when you want to post an article, that’s cool. Just upload a photo that relates to the article, and when Facebook asks you to “say something about this photo” - write a blurb about the article, and post a link to it. Often you can use the photo that’s featured in the article. Just remember to give credit to the photographer!

Photos can also play a special role when communicating progressive victories. The story of any social movement is that people are at the heart of making social change. So when you’re sharing especially good news that you know was due to people power, consider uploading a picture of a protest, rally, or hearing that was part of making that change possible. Then write more about the victory in the blurb section. Often mainstream media fails to connect progressive victories to the ordinary people who fought hard for that change. In some small way, we can try to amend that via social media.

Posting photos of your team and volunteers can also help your followers put a face on who is behind your work, and in general make things more real and relatable. Look for moments to take pictures of you and your team at work (or even at play), and through doing so humanize your feed a bit. Remember, it’s Facebook.

3) Make memes too (it’s easier than you think)!

The only thing sexier than photos for the Facebook universe are “memes”. Memes, for the purposes of using Facebook, are photos that have words layered over them. You see them all over Facebook, right? (e.g. an inspiring quote above a cloud or something) Well, you don’t have to be a pro-designer to make your own memes. Currently, our favorite tool for making quick and dirty memes is a website called PicMonkey.com

It makes sense to make a meme if you have some punchy, compelling, exciting news you really want to share (and see shared). Making a meme can be as simple as layering a headline over or below an image. A good meme is essentially a vehicle for carrying a clear message within a compelling visual medium, and so people are more likely to see it, get it, share it, and some of their friends may do the same, and so on, and so on, potentially creating a big outreach wave.

Seriously, don’t be intimidated by making your own memes. We’ve helped break the process down in a dedicated meme-making chapter in the online organizing guide. Memes will take a little longer to craft - but a good meme can reach as many people as posting dozens of articles and photos.

4) Important: Always post a message with your content.

Try not to become one of those pages that just posts links. If people just wanted to see headlines, they’d go to the NYTimes.com. People go to Facebook to connect, and they want to hear why you want them to check out a particular link.

Whenever you post anything to Facebook, whether it’s an article or a photo, include a message about why folks should check it out. Express some excitement, include a compelling quote from the article, a summary, shout-out who was featured in the article, etc. Even if it’s just a few words (e.g. “Check this out - this is great news”), that will go a much longer way towards encouraging folks to check out what you posted.

This also applies with sharing other people’s content on Facebook (e.g. an ally’s meme). Take a quick moment to write out a unique blurb for why you shared it/what’s inspiring or important about it, and chances are more people will have a look.

5) Write for one degree out from your core.

When writing updates, write for the friends of your friends. Why? Because your followers should already get what you’re up to - and you want your followers to share your updates with their friends. So who better to write for than the friends of your friends? Your followers will appreciate this, and show it by sharing your stuff more often. Here’s what we mean: explain your acronyms and niche lexicon, use clear and engaging language, and write updates that even your mom would grock and get behind.

If you’re having trouble writing a great update, sign out of your page, and just start writing an update about whatever news to your friends. If you can write an update that you think would hook your friends, chances are you have an all-star update you can use for your campaign.

6) Show social evidence of support (don’t be shy about asking people to ‘click LIKE + SHARE!’).

We’re building “social movements”, right? You heard us say this before: people want to see they’re a part of something bigger. So, when you’re posting things you want to see go popular, spike it with some activity. Ask people to “Click LIKE & SHARE” on occasion to quickly generate some buzz, and make it more likely more people will want to join in and spread the word too. When you’re promoting an event, make a ‘Facebook event’ (and invite all your relevant friends) and link to it often to show your community that lots of folks are already on board. Whenever you have a chance, make visible the surge of support that already exists (or is rising) for your cause. Refrain from asking your online supporters to be the first to step up. Use email and more traditional organizing tactics to inspire the first wave of action (e.g. when gathering petitions, RSVPs, etc.)

When you can show there’s a decent upswell of support, you’re more likely to inspire an actual groundswell.

7) Create a Facebook storm.

A Facebook storm is when a whole bunch of pages and people post about the same thing at roughly the same time. If you want something to really break through on Facebook, you might want to plan a “Facebook storm”. Get in touch with colleagues at related pages and invite them to post whatever it is on the same day, at say noon. Memes are really good for this. For example, if you post a meme and then a bunch of related Facebook pages cross-post your meme at roughly the same time, it will greatly increase the chances that it shows up in many of the Facebook feeds of people who care about your issue.

It’s also just good to be in touch with colleagues who administer sister Facebook pages on a regular basis. That way you can ask for promo help, and you can make impromptu storms, and so on. Just be ready to give some solidarity back!

Check out a more thorough chapter on organizing a “facebook storm” in the online organizing guide!

8) Seize newsie moments.

The arc of a traditional narrative for a campaign goes like this: outreach - protest - rest - outreach - protest - rest - etc. With social media, you can spice up this narrative. Check the news on a fairly regular basis, and look for moments to frame your campaign in the context of what’s the hot news of the day. For example, just recently the Obama Administration responded to a Star Wars petition, saying that they did not support blowing up planets. That made an opening for us to make a meme for CRMW asking, “So, why does Obama condone blowing up our planet?” But forget Obama, maybe you can connect the latest Justin Bieber drama to why stopping rhino poaching is so imperative?

9) You are a storyteller - not a news reporter.

As a Facebook communicator, you are now a storyteller for what’s likely one of the greatest sagas of our time. Don’t forget that: you’re not just a machine for pumping out news. People can find their own news—especially bad news. Don’t worry about posting every article under the sun. You’re a saga-writer. Ordinary people are often your heroes, the spectrum of civil society activism are your main mediums for showing modern heroism. And even when you’re not winning (which is most days), things tend to move forward. Bit by bit. And more often than not, it’s because of community organizers and public sentiment shifting the conversation. Always aspire to weave the over-arching story of people power into your updates. It’s the truth, and it’s validating and inspiring to boot.

10) Don’t be seduced by the “FaceCrack.”

Facebook is just a tool, as part of a larger toolbox for building movements. And it’s far from the sharpest or most effective tool in the toolbox. Don’t be seduced by the impression you can build power or turn out mad crowds by simply hitting all the Facebook bells and whistles. Tighten your time on Facebook. And use it smartly in conjunction with other outreach tactics, like coffee shop meetings, door-knocking, phone-banking, letter-writing, pamphleting, tabling, etc. And even if you get all this, communicate this theory of change to your followers too. When asking them to “like” or “share” something, give them something more meaningful to do too. Remind folks that showing up will always mean so much more than clicking Like. No revolution was won by folks who showed up in spirit. By building a culture of valuing offline/deep activism, you’ll be primed to turn people out when it’s go time.

The best online organizing generally arises from amazing offline organizing and actions whose stories are communicated well online, and in turn inspire more people to get involved, inspiring more powerful digital media, which in turn inspire even more people, and so on.

And if you are already addicted to Facebook (and if you use a Mac), try out the app “Self Control,” which lets you set times on your computer in which you can block any given website.

11) Take risks.

This seems obvious—but it’s important. All the Facebook tips in the world won’t get you terribly far unless you’re willing to take some risks. Facebook is just a tool, and you can use it in myriad ways. Try looking at the tool sets in new ways. What are ways you can encourage a conversation in, say, the comments of a post? What are ways you can rally your Facebook supporters to storm a malignant corporation’s Facebook page? How far can you go in using an honest, personal voice when writing updates? Push the boundaries and you’ll see those boundaries turn into your most effective ventures. Value your mistakes—you’ll make plenty of them—it means you’re expanding your potential. 

Green Memes Goes to DC - Reaches 400,000 People for Appalachia Rising!

Last week Megan Kelley of the Green Memes team went to Washington DC to support a “Week in Washington” - an annual event in which a delegation of Appalachians travel to DC for a week of lobbying and meeting with policymakers, to make the (sadly, obvious) case for ending the incredibly destructive practice of mountaintop removal.  The week culminated in a public “Appalachia Rising” action at the EPA headquarters. 

We made a number of memes during the week to build buzz for the big action, as well as made memes immediately following the events, to help tell the story of what happened. Megan also helped photograph the event. 

According to facebook statistics, we helped reach over 400,000 people that week. Which is a lot of people! 

Check out some of the memes we made below: 

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(1,206 shares, Josh=Internet Celebrity.


image(297 shares, We <3 Teri Blanton!) 

image(255 shares, Nick Mullens is a former coal miner — his (and his family’s) 
acts of bravery speaking up against the industry inspired many, and brought tears to no small few.) 

image(172 sharesTeri holding court outside the EPA’s entrance, demanding that the EPA accept the dirty water we brought from Appalachia, and then do their job at protecting our waterways.) 

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(493 shares. Our friend Greta Neubauer made this meme to highlight a powerful truth from Dustin White, a 11th generation Appalachian, delivered at the rally. All those gallons of dirty war: that’s all Appalachian stream and tap water, thanks to the coal industry. In case you’re reading this Greta - we consider you an honorary Green Memes member!) 

Helping to megaphone the voices of Appalachia was a ton of fun. Many thanks to Katey Lauer and The Alliance for Appalachia for the opportunity. 

Joe Risks Arrest, Megan Makes a Meme.

We kinda had to post this. We don’t just make memes, sometimes we swing into action.


Pictured here: Joe and David interrupted a coal-funded “science” symposium, intended to spread doubt on the need for strong regulations. Joe and David sat down in front of the plenary, and offered to leave if only one local Appalachian who was impacted by the coal industry was allowed to speak. This simple offer was denied. As a result, the plenary was shut down, and Joe & David were rolled outside on a luggage cart and then sent rolling in a paddy wagon. 

We hear this event made many ripples throughout the rest of the conference, and a journalist even reminded attendees that no citizens impacted by coal were invited to speak.