3 min read

New: How the Crackdown on Pro-Palestine Protest will Hit Environmental Activists

Hello from retirementville, Florida! I just arrived to a freelancer-budget friendly vacation at my parents' retirement community. I'm planning to spend the next week going to the beach, looking for alligators, and enjoying the steady rhythm of treats that come out of my mom's kitchen. It's a strange to step into such a quiet place, after several months of working and organizing, and a week of absorbing news of severe crackdowns on pro-Palestine protests across the U.S. So before I fully check out of it all, I wanted to share two things that just published and are relevant to what's happening back in the real world. One is a story about how the crackdown on student protests will inevitably hit climate and Indigenous movements. The other is a campaign I just helped launch to raise freelance media worker rates. (If you're a freelancer, you can join it and learn more here and read even more about it here.)

  1. As a lot of you know, I've spent the last several years reporting on the criminalization of land and environmental defenders in the U.S. and worldwide. Many Palestinians are land defenders, too. For decades, they have been fighting for access to their land and against environmental destruction and transformation of the landscape by a colonial force. In the last decade alone, Israel has repeatedly responded with mass killings of civilians, culminating in the killing of more than 35,000 people since October 7. As people in the U.S. have increasingly risen up in protest of Israel's U.S. government-backed war, policymakers and police have responded with new anti-protest laws and mass arrests that have frequently been violent.

    This week for Drilled and the Center for Media and Democracy I wrote about how these crackdowns, including laws advanced under the guised of countering terrorism, will inevitably impact land and environmental defenders. I included some new public records showing how the private security company TigerSwan, which was hired to protect the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock in 2016, refocused surveillance resources on Palestinian activists, as soon as they noticed a single Palestinian was at the Standing Rock resistance camps. Back then, Palestinians absorbed the fossil fuel industry surveillance being aimed at Indigenous water protectors; now Indigenous and environmental defenders are absorbing the sweeping criminalization of the Palestinian liberation movement by advocates for Israel. You can read it here or here.

  2. When I was laid off by The Intercept in 2022, I was immediately struck by the fact that as a freelancer my work and time was suddenly valued to be worth dramatically less than when I was a staffer. Freelancer rates are very bad, and I think even kind and sympathetic editors don't realize that their "good" rates can amount to poverty pay, depending on the project. Over the past year, I've been planning and plotting with some friends at the Freelance Solidarity Project to do something about it. On May Day, we launched the Freelance Solidarity Challenge. We're asking all freelancers to commit to submitting all of their rates (and ideally the number of hours they spent on each project) to the Freelance Solidarity Project's rate-sharing database (which you can also use as a reference for negotiating rates). The idea is that in a year, we'll have way better data about what rates look like that we can then use to show our kindly editors how their rates compare to living wages and start to define what a fair rate actually should actually look like. My wonderful co-organizer Amy Littlefield wrote about the campaign for The Nation, and a week after her story published we have 99 freelancers signed up!! It would be so wonderful if you were number 100.

    Repeatedly in my career I've seen how labor organizing can bring up pay for media workers — I've directly reaped the benefit$ of this. I really encourage any freelancers that subscribe to sign up to the challenge (or just start submitting your rates), and consider joining the Freelance Solidarity Project. This is the closest thing to a traditional union that freelancers have got, and this project is just one of several ways FSP members are working to counteract the forces that are destroying journalism. This work is directly relevant to the issues I described in my story today. It's way easier to pass anti-democratic laws that seek to crush dissent if journalists can't afford to stay in the business.

When I'm back from vacation, I'm planning to get back in the rhythm of sending out this newsletter, including my neglected Eco-Roundups! See you all in a couple weeks!