When will the next Greta Thunberg hit the stage?
I know I am a stuck record, but (I think) this is important.
a)”We” are leaving/have left a period where climate change was relatively high up the political agenda
b) We are leaving/have left a period where small (but non-trivial) numbers of people were willing to try to protest the trajectory of our species
c) We are entering/have entered a period where other issues – energy prices, food prices, economic depression, war, authoritarianism – will drown out the climate “issue” (1)
It will become harder and harder for those organisations that came into existence during the last wave to sustain themselves. Some individuals will burn out. Others got involved in groups to cope with their emotional trauma. Now that they’ve got a solution, and the “heat” has gone out of the climate issue, it becomes harder and harder for them – and others – to keep within “functioning” groups, especially if those functioning groups are getting nowhere near the traction they used to in the media, nowhere near the same number of potential new recruits. As numbers shrink, it becomes harder to innovate, to invest in new repertoires. As old repertoires get boring, the feeling of pointlessness rises. Morale decreases, the smugosphere beckons. I’ve seen it so often… Groups struggle on, then implode, either publicly or else just don’t come back from an announced “break” (looking at you, Youth Strike Manchester).
It’s unclear to me what new organisations that will sustain themselves have been born during the last wave of activity. It is unclear to me if the big NGOs got any sustained boost – in membership, morale, ideas or credibility – from the last wave.
When will the climate “movement” begin again?
It is very unclear to me if and when and how “the climate issue” will return to prominence. Will it be after a couple more disasters where important people (middle-class white people who speak English) suffer consequences? Or will it be in response to proposals for/first steps in geo-engineering (my hunch is that most people would, if they were even made aware of it, actually just shrug and say ‘well, maybe it will work – what have we got to lose?’) Or will it be in response to some direct action gone wrong?
What are “we” supposed to do in the meantime?
On one level, the answer is quite simple – using such talents/skills/time/energy as we have in trying to slow the acceleration towards various concatenating end points for our species (and other species).
How much of that, though, is martyristic busywork that enforces the existing grooves?
Is it possible to use this period of abeyance to learn from the last wave(s) and to make it less rather than more likely that the “next time” – with the next combination of Greta, a hot summer, an IPCC report – whatever combination of factors that “we” do a better job of creating opportunities for real change, instead of feeble self-regarding spasms?
Seems like more trouble than it is worth, tbh, and beyond my skillset, attention, stamina etc, and – more sadly – that of any constellation of actors I could imagine existing/being part of.
Simon Kuper closed out his column in today’s Financial Times magazine today (26th March 2022) -“Living in an era of global fragility” with the following
“But other global threats haven’t gone away since this war began. We’re just ignoring them. In an age of constant crisis, the urgent shoves aside the important, which in our case is climate change. I don’t see how we fix this.”
Yeah – I don’t see either. Rather than being disillusioned (a good thing, happened to me decades ago), I am now disvisioned (and have been, truth be told for a long time.)
“We” are smart enough to cause all these problems, but not, it seems, at the level of selection that makes sense – of groups small and big – able to stop ourselves from acting against our own medium – or even short-term – interests.
(1) As if climate were not linked to those, as if it did not have thousands of ramifications.