The Avaaz Action Factory took up residence in Washington, D.C., in June, and it's making its mark with a unique brand of climate activism. Its latest attention-getter: a birthday party for the president.
The activist group assembled outside the northwest gate of the White House and celebrated Obama's 48th year, singing songs and dancing for a good two hours with party hats and noisemakers and some unusual trimmings.
Like the cake: breakfast Danishes, stuck with birthday candles.
And the president's birthday present: a larger than life plane ticket — on Air Force One — to the UN climate meetings in Copenhagen in December.
"The clock is ticking for fighting climate change, and Copenhagen is the crucial moment for global action," said Julie Erickson, one of the birthday party attendees. "If Obama goes, it will set a different tone, dramatically raise the stakes for other countries, and ultimately result in a better deal."
This stunt was not the first and will not be the last to emerge from the Avaaz Action Factory — 17 climate activists who share a house in D.C. and live and work together to push the international climate change process into the awareness of the nation's leaders. A sister Action Factory is working in Berlin.
Avaaz is an international advocacy organization of more than 3.5 million members, including over 300,000 in the United States. The number one issue of concern among its members is to secure a a strong global climate treaty in Copenhagen.
"We're representing grassroots society all over the world," Morgan Goodwin, a member of the DC Avaaz Action Factory told SolveClimate. "We want to see the U.S. make funding available for technology transfer of clean energy solutions and for international adaptation. There's no U.S. constituency for those vital issues."
Rather than invest in an ad campaign or lobbyists, Avaaz decided to try something different: It launched the Action Factories. The organization provides the funding for food and housing for the climate activists.
They've already staged a number of actions: The Tar Sands Monster took up a post outside the State Department to urge Secretary Clinton to block a new pipeline into the U.S. from Canada that would carry the dirty, unconventional fuel; and in the Senate, activists sported muscleman costumes with shirts that read "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" — urging a better climate bill.
The fellows have brainstorming sessions at night, sitting around with a "beverage of choice," Goodwin said. "And there's one rule: no criticism of any kind."
In the morning, when the action planning gets underway, the ideas from the night before are examined in the clear light of day. Goodwin says the group has developed quite a long list of ideas.
"We've been working together all summer and we've built up a lot of trust and we run with it," he said. "It's a great way to spend the summer."
They have plans for the September G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh and a line-up of other actions for the fall. But today, it was a birthday party for the president. He didn't make it, but that didn't slow down the Action Factory. A larger than life cut-out of the president, inhabited by an activist, was giving mock media interviews.
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