On my @our_yesterdays account I did a thread highlighting some of the previous episodes in UK government awareness of the (then long-term) threat of climate change, back in the 1970s. After the litany, came the homily –
So in this post I will (as briefly as I can, with hyperlinks to other places where I have written in greater depth) “unpack” that and then explain what I meant in that last sentence – what climate activism would “look like” in the coming months/years. It’s deliberately as/more blunt than I usually write.
This is not a new problem.
We have been warned by good science, for decades, that what we were doing was very very not sustainable. Fifty years of it (longer, really, but let’s be generous about this). Let’s have longer memories than 2015, which is yesterday as far as this is concerned. If you want more, check out allouryesterdays.info
This is not a problem of INFORMATION.
People get so hooked on giving out (doom-laden, and ‘scientific’) information, as if that will suddenly turn people into activists. They want to show how much research they’ve done, and it makes them feel powerful/in control to be speaking. But it does not work to recruit new people to the cause (I have written endlessly about this, and the class implications. For now, see here – “Just Stop Oil – anthropologically fascinating, politically terrifying.”
This is not just about carbon dioxide molecules.
One of the big problems (and I have been guilty of this) is a too-great focus on the “science” and “atmospheric metrics” to climate change. That instantly renders it a “scientific” problem, which scares/demoralises/intimidates people [it doesn’t have to, there are ways around that, but most activists don’t know or take them]. And it hides the politics of who put most of that carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and why (spoiler: rich people like you and me, sometimes because we had no choice (infrastructure decisions from decades ago) and sometimes for the lulz/convenience). But a focus on carbon dioxide can distract/detract from questions of justice and power.
This is abt humans’ ability to see the peril they’re in (have helped create) & to act w/ speed, intelligence, persistence, courage, now. #WeWereWarned
I had some snark here about each of these – I’ve cut it, because time is short.
So, what is to be done?
Accept that a lot of people currently freaking out on Twitter, because it is so damned hot, will not become “activists”, no matter HOW welcoming your group is, now matter how nurturing it is. “Ordinary” people have been taught that all activists are weirdo dangerous obsessives, and they don’t want to be like that. And “ordinary” people who have woken up will also probably realise they should really have woken up years ago, and carry guilt as a poison and not know how to cope, and other folks won’t know how to cope either.
The problem is, the “slow” work of movement-building, while probably appropriate in the 1980s and 1990s, didn’t really get done well enough (for good and bad reasons). Right now, in the beginning of the end, encouraging people to learn how to facilitate meetings, how to write Freedom of Information Act requests, how to run effective campaigns about this or that bypass/tunnel/concrete idiocy seems, well, futile.
BUT the skills you learn, of collaboration, cooperation, of decision-making under pressure, of mutual care, those (and other) skills are presumably the ones we need as the shit rains down on us.
Unless the food systems properly pack up, as they possibly will, and we are faced with the long-predicted Die Off from Overshoot (waves at William Catton and that 1982 book, cheerful little number that it was).
I don’t know. I really don’t think we’re strong enough
What is to be done in the coming months?
- Try to retain as many of those who turn up (if any do?), and teach them the ropes of how to do stuff?
- Try to “stay human” (the good qualities of human, that is, not the planet-trashing hubristic monkey qualities).
- Carpe the mo-fo diems?