Read this and weep.
Since long before that delayed “last chance to save the world” climate conference in Glasgow finally happened (see here and here and here)
I predicted that in the aftermath, climate change was gonna be far down almost everyone’s list. You don’t need to be freaking Nostradamus, you just need to know that issue attention cycles exist, and they apply to issues that matter/that you care about/are invested in.
And so it has come to pass. Yes, yes, the cost of living crisis (that is gonna start hitting people who voted for austerity, to punish people further down the totem pole than themselves). Yes, yes, that maniac’s war (he was a maniac we were fine with, for a long long time). There’s ALWAYS something that comes along and knocks climate off the “top” spot (truth be told, it’s never really the top spot – a lot of what passes for attention is pre-emptive PR froth).
And as in that fable about the ant and the grasshopper, in the “good” times, the grasshoppers with their placards and their smugospheric self-regard thought that they did not need to invest in the long-slow-hard difficult work of actual capacity building. No, repeated mobilisation would do, because the revolution of the Righteous was surely at hand.
And here we are, weaker than ever, having learnt nothing, having built nothing, with – and this is the kicker – seemingly no capacity for learning anything.
And the glossy relaunched rebooted “green media” outfits have been complicit in this, have never tried to do anything challenging or intellectually and strategically important – too busy fanboi-ing tedious academics and even more tedious councillors. That apparently is how they think they deserve their activist credibility tokens. It would be laughable if it were not so tragic.
To be clear, the climate problem, the climate issue, wont’ go away. But the opportunity to build something bigger, better, to cope with the abeyance that was always coming and is now here, that opportunity has sailed/sunk/left the building/been pulled down, whatever you want to say.
All entirely predictable (and predicted) and avoidable (but not avoided, because those “in charge” were too unskilled, unaware and – most of all – busy turning people into ego-fodder.
Most of the species on this planet – and most of the members of the “dominant” species – do not deserve what is coming, but they are going to get it nonetheless.
It is now over half a century since credible warnings of the consequences of the build-up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere began to circulate in “progressive” circles. And what is there to show for it? In countries where they don’t shoot you/jail you for having the wrong opinions (and where activists can therefore point to good reasons for failure), what have the social movements actually achieved? How many opportunities to have they usefully seized? How much have they learnt?
What a species.
I agree that we have bungled the chance to build proper capacity to counter climate catastrophe. I would be interested in your thoughts on what solid, long-term ‘capacity building’ would entail? Are you talking about dispersed community organisations that organise for the green transition or something else?
thanks for taking the time to comment. Capacity building, which is what we need to do, is really really hard, for multiple reasons
a) it is hard to learn new skills and hard to teach them, at the best of times (and we do not live in the best of times)
b) there are other opportunities for people to get “activist credibility tokens” more easily than the long slow difficult work of building their own individual capacity to act and that of the group(s) they are part of – it’s always easier/more comforting to keep doing something that everyone knows how to do, that has some adrenaline and attention attached to it (a march, a demonstration, gluing yourself to something)
c) there are bad faith actors (narcissists, arseholes, cops, spies, infiltrators etc)
d) there is no longer any hope/expectation that things can be different in any meaningful way (that died at least 30 years ago, I think).
But to answer your question – it starts at the level of a group of four or five people (who can federate, co-ordinate with others, of course). I contributed to some capacity building within Climate Emergency Manchester (I am no longer involved, for various reasons). It involves good old fashioned
a) skills and knowledge audits – what skills and knowledge (and relationships) we need to do a task/campaign, versus what exists.
b) making sure there are no absolute gaps, single points of failure, by mentoring, not just once, but repeatedly
c) doing one-to-one training etc etc
d) doing post-task/campaign reviews (hotwashes and after action reports etc) to make sure the same mistakes and gaps don’t persist.
e) encouraging those who have learned new skills to reflect on that and to teach other people those skills/new skills in turn.
IF we had started doing that forty or fifty years ago, and built up cultures where the “smugosphere” and the “emotacycle” were not tolerated, we would perhaps not be in this mess….
Also, at a basic level, holding meetings differently so people were not alienated at the outset, might also be good-
this might also be of interest – https://marchudson.net/2022/03/09/of-goldfish-bowls-being-kind-and-being-appreciated/comment-page-1/#comment-5494
Yeah that all seems pretty reasonable to me. I suppose I don’t really begrudge people who make emotional pleas through the form of protest but many organised groups zeroing in on specific issues/campaigns that could make a difference seems like it’s the more strenuous but effective way of getting stuff done. Well done for the time and effort it seems you have put into organising in Manchester. It’s a dispiriting time for sure as we appear to be being slow-walked to disaster by smiley greenwashers. Still, we have to go on.