What elite actors learn from issue attention cycles #SocialMovementFailure #climate

I am brewing a piece (rant) on the last 3 years, from the end of 2018 to now. The gist is that the trajectory of the “climate movement” was entirely predictable in the round. Yes, specific idiocies like the XR tube action, and getting hit by a pandemic were not in anyone’s particular scenario, but the big picture – of a lot of sound and fury followed by the rattle before defeat – yeah, that was predictable.

We are, regardless of what happens (or doesn’t happen) around #CRAP26, headed for some kind of “abeyance.” Other desperate issues (fuel poverty, food poverty, poverty poverty) will force themselves further up the agenda. COVID is coming back at us, thanks to wilful neglect by decision-makers. Disaster Capitalism on Plague Island and all that…

But I want to put down a marker to myself, for that longer piece, and ask myself a question (and then answer it to my own satisfaction, obvs) that I’ve not asked before.

It’s this – what will the elite actors have learnt from the last 3 years of “climate” “activism”?

I think they have learnt (rightly, in my opinion) that the climate movement as (if) it exists in the UK is absolutely no threat to them.

They have learnt that it will, of its own accord, go up like a rocket and come down like a stick (I am sure there were undercovers dotted through, but am also pretty sure they don’t really matter that much, at the system-level, though their behaviour has awful consequences for individual people (usually women).

They have learnt that the support is a mile wide and an inch deep. They have learnt that the social movement “organisations” that (claim to) make up the climate movement have no absorptive capacity – they cannot absorb and retain people, ideas, enthusiasm, momentum, coherence – anything.

They have learnt that the social mobilisation organisations (to name them more accurately) are wilfully blind to questions of strategy, tactics, history.

They have learnt that such groups are lead by brittle, fragile narcissists with no clue of how to build movements, how to resist co-optation.

To paraphrase Gertrude Stein when she spoke of Oakland “there’s no there there.”

So, these elites have (re)learnt that they don’t have to sweat. It’s a lesson they probably learned after all the other issue attention cycles around “the environment” (1969-1972, 1986-1992, 2006-2009). They have relearnt that yesterday’s fire-breathing “rebels” are today’s lapdogs, who roll onto their backs and wriggle in exchange for a doggy biscuit and a chance to strut and fret upon stages.

What have the social movement/mobilisation orrganisations learnt? Half of nothing, I reckon.

Climate won’t disappear, it’s too late for that, it’s too embedded in the policy agenda now. But the latest last chance to do anything? Yeah, that is toast.

What a (doomed) species.

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