I have an article
coming out that has come out on The Conversation (yes Sarah, yes Matt, you are both right) that may cause some fur to fly. This post is for readers of that who want/demand to know where I stand. I will keep it brief and try to keep the glibsnark to tolerable levels
Are you some kind of climate denier/lukewarmis/eqivocator?
I had a vasectomy in 2004 (pre-breeding) because anthropogenic global warming is all-too real. I have thought since mid-1991 that the human response to its self-created problem would be too slow. In that I was wrong – the response has been virtually non-existent, if like Greta you don’t count empty words and emissions trading schemes
But you aren’t a full-throated supporter of XR, so you presumably think there are technological fixes, or that we can adapt to temperature rises?
Technological fixes? Er, no. Even before I started studying the intricacies of how innovation works, how social and political change are in a waltz/tango/rumba with those, I didn’t believe in that particular soothing fairy tale (and remember, fairy tales don’t always have a happy ending, do they?). As for adapting. Yeah, right. Because we’re doing so well at 1 degree, the 4 degrees we are probably gonna get this century will be a doddle. Er, no. My hunch is that the second half of the twenty first century is going to make the first half of the twentieth look like a golden age of peace, love and understanding.
So in that case, why aren’t you involved in XR, with all your obvious talents – well, opinions? After all, it’s the only show in town.
If I were glibsnarking, I’d say because I am a Marxist- a Groucho Marxist – “never be the member of any club that would have you as a member.” But I am not, so I won’t.
There are two ways of looking at this…
But first an important disclaimer – nothing below is aimed at the brave and committed individuals who have been putting their bodies on the line, who have been treated shamefully most of the media, by the Met etc.
One on the basis of what XR’s demands are, and whether I could explain them to an interested potential ally with a straight face and two, my thoughts on XR’s likely success and longevity. Then I will address your Thatcherite ‘there is no alternative’ line.
One. XR’s demands are both necessary but also simultaneously bat-shit crazy.
Zero-carbon by 2025. Yeah, I say to people, I can deliver that. Just give me a week and a phial of smallpox and we will all be on our way. Twelve Monkeys redux (fun fact – that is based on a great short story by a ,gasp, female author. #butIdigress). I have yet to meet a single XRer who thinks this is doable. I totes get the need for stretch targets, but there has to be a modicum of plausibility. The group I am in, we’ve put 2030 as our target for Manchester, which is that-bit-less unimaginable. And don’t even start me on zero carbon.
Tell the truth. Look, there are two people in the UK who are trusted. Queenie, principally for longevity and keeping her mouth shut, and David Attenborough. Well, Dave, at long long last, finally told the truth about climate change. And yeah, that has meant (checks notes), everyone has stopped flying, reduced their meat intake, stopped buying gas-guzzling tanks, sneering at the eco-freaks. No, wait. The ‘tell the truth’ thing is again one of those propositional demands, non-reformist reforms (yes I’ve read my social movement theory stuff), but wtaf, it also betrays this hypodermic informational-deficit model nonsense that the greenies have been doing for (checks notes again) like, foreva.
Citizens Assembly. Yeah, because it absolutely would not be captured by elite interests who, and would absolutely not produce a shopping list of wouldn’t it be nice claims that would then absolutely not be watered down and not implemented by – God, Bless the Civil Service, the nation’s saving grace Because that’s what’s been lacking all these years. We just needed a bunch of good ideas so our leaders could implement them. Just like Australia with its Ecologically Sustainable Development process in … 1991…
And don’t even start me on this “capital S science proves – proves I tell you! – that 3.5 percent means the government falls”. FFS.
But, of course, maybe we should take XR seriously if not literally? Which brings us to two.
I have seen this movie before, I know how it ends. I was involved (very heavily) in Climate Camp in 2006, and for the first half of 2007. I saw the same psycho-social dynamics at play. I have even read Jo Freeman’s ‘The Tyranny of Structurelessness’ and knew that it applied. Sure, this is a sequel, so the body count is higher, the protests are more elaborate. But, I saw this movie before y’all.
XR, at least what I have seen, lacks the skills in meeting design, meeting facilitation, absorptive capacity, you name it. It has oodles of bonding capital, which is doubtless strengthened by the latest rebellion, but as for it’s bridging capital is, yeah, well.
I have said this before, but it bears repeating – I am not dismissing the energy, concern, intelligence and courage – physical, emotional you name it – of participants in XR. I just doubt their prospects for success, and wish they would use their energy, concern, intelligence and courage to take a close look at what they are doing, how they are doing , and do some innovating (maybe this is happening, but I do not see it where I live).
Holy crap you can waffle. So what you are saying is XR is irredeemably shit and we should all dance and drink and screw because there’s nothing else to do. Thanks, I will do that.
Er, you interrupted before I got to your Thatcheshite ‘TINA’ argument. XR is not the only part of the ecosystem, it’s just the gaudiest…
So we should join Friends of the Earth?!
Stop interrupting. And god no. GOD no. Why waste the few good years before nemesis kisses us on the apocalypse getting people to sign colourful postcards. No, I am saying that as well as the School Strikes (I am a bit long in tooth) there ARE other groups, or at least the possibility of them. Smaller groups, trying to keep it radical, keep it local, and keep it long-term, for after this moment- and it is a moment- passes. Groups like Climate Emergency Manchester (full disclosure, I co-founded it) which are trying to take a movement-building rather than mobilising approach, building up skills, knowledge, relationships, confidence, in as structured but simultaneously urgent and radical (that word again) as possible. See the blog post “The January 4th 2023 problem“.
Yeah, it’s getting late, I should be at the gym, and then be doing some of that research and thinking they are paying me for. And if you want to hear about the why and how of Climate Emergency Manchester, well, for now you can look at this. I may come back to the gritty details later. And you can point out the racism, colonialism, sexism and classism (tube blocking, much?) of environmental social movements. I will not argue with you about those critiques- they are almost always entirely valid. The more interesting question is how to make things less awful. But that sound you hear is the gym saying ‘where the hell are you, fat arse?” I’m off…