How We’re Working to Achieve 3.5%

Hi, all!

If you’ve read the “About On the Level” page on our website (if not, check it out here!), you may have noticed a reference to “other successful non-violent movements” and an accompanying link to a youtube video. I’m going to take today’s newsletter to give a little insight into that link and how our group of co-founders got inspired to start On the level. 

In 2011, Erica Chenoweth, a professor at Harvard, published research showing that, in the period from 1900 to 2006, non-violent movements with at least 3.5% of a population involved were invariably successful (now colloquially referred to as the “3.5% rule”). Since this was the early 2010s, she also (you guessed it) gave a Tedx talk about her groundbreaking research, which meant this statistic reached a far wider audience than it ever would have as an academic paper or book–an audience that included the future founder of Extinction Rebellion, Roger Hallam. 

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Extinction Rebellion, it is “a decentralised, international and politically non-partisan movement using non-violent direct action and civil disobedience to persuade governments to act justly on the Climate and Ecological Emergency.” It was founded in the UK in 2018 with the belief that with enough people taking direct, non-violent action, the government would be forced to pay attention and put climate change measures on the legislative agenda. 

We share that belief here at On the Level. As do many other climate groups, like the Sunrise Movement, 350, or Fridays for Future

One of the criticisms that groups like these receive when they reference the 3.5% rule is that 3.5% of a population can turn into a really large number. Take the US, for example: With a current population of about 330 million, that would mean at least 11.55 million Americans would need to be active participants in the movement to reach the 3.5% benchmark. That is a very big ask, considering the largest global climate strike attracted around 1.6 million people

And this is where we believe what we’re building at On the Level can make a difference. 

Though all of the above-mentioned groups can be united under the banner of the climate movement, they each have their own focuses; passing green legislation, bringing school-aged youth into the movement, and prioritizing clean energy sources over fossil fuels are just a few examples. Each of these goals and methods are valuable, and diversity within the climate movement is vital, but when these groups are seen as disconnected from each other (by the public, government, themselves, your grandparents, whomever), their potential impact is lessened. However, if we count climate actions happening under these all of the different banners (and others), the goal of 3.5% becomes a little less intimidating.

Our work at On the Level aims to do just that: create an umbrella for the various arms of the climate movement to gather under. We might show it in different ways, but all of us in the climate movement know there needs to be meaningful change for a livable future. This is truly a strength-in-numbers deal, so let’s make sure we’re counting everybody. Together, we will make political change. 

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Thanks for checking in today, and take a look at the links below for more info about the 3.5% rule and the climate movement. 

Further Reading:

If 3.5% of the US Gets on Board With Climate Protesting, Change Will Happen (Dembicki, Vox)

Why desperation could be the key to tackling climate change (Fenton, Waging Nonviolence)

The ‘3.5% rule’: How a small minority can change the world (Robson, BBC)

Now we know: conventional campaigning won’t prevent our extinction (Hallam, The Guardian)

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