Two climate videos, one glaring silence (spoilers – it’s social movements)

Thanks to Twitter, I saw two videos yesterday – one which is very recent, about the so-called “activist industrial complex” and the other from three years ago by the Financial Times, presented by the actress Nicola Walker. Both, in their ways, are good to think with, but perhaps not for the reasons their creators think.

Here they are.


What they share is an earnestness and determination to tell people the truth and very high production values. What’s fascinating about both is that they’re silent on the questions of what is actually to be done. So the activist industrial complex one, posits the existence of an activist industrial complex, never really supplies any examples beyond a few tacit ones, (I suspect they don’t like Extinction Rebellion, and see that being funded by people who got money from the Rockefeller or whatever. It’s a sign that that is somehow corrupt and a false flag operation or whatever the lingo is these days. And it basically says that the state has a hermetically sealed game.) 

The FT one as you would expect. steers clear of saying words like capitalism or growth or “corporate domination of the polity,” – don’t look behind the curtain! – and basically implies that the blame is on individuals for their lack of imagination, compassion, empathy, whatever. This is implicit rather than explicit.

But neither of them cares to suggest that individuals join pre-existing organizations and make them better, or set up their own organizations and invite friends, colleagues, fellow concerned people to learn. Neither has a vision that thes organizations might get in touch with other organizations, try and support each other, learn from what’s going on, learn from past mistakes and use their combined power

Neither sees this vision – of a grassroots (in both positive and negative sense) civil society as relevant, or a even as a possibility. Both see the future as essentially inevitable, unavoidable, (though the FT one likes to muck around with the idea of possible different futures.) And both, if they had been made in 2008 would be condemned as unduly negative. But we’ve come a long way in the last 15 years or rather, we’ve realized that we haven’t.

And we’re now in that tunnel that Leo Murray warned about (1).

So finally, what would a video look like? Well, I don’t have the skills to make it, yet. But the message of it would be along these lines – “Yes, it seems hopeless. Yes, you feel disempowered? You’re right to feel disempowered, because you on your own have no power. The job has always been find other people, get together with them, and then do useful stuff. The job is always to

  • Avoid co optation (being absorbed by the state and used as a figleaf).
  • Avoid zombie repertoires (where you just keep doing stuff that once ‘worked’ because it’s what you know, and it makes you feel good.

So seems too difficult. Yes, it is very, very difficult. It all seems to futile. Yes, it is very, very few tough. But it’s better than sitting around whining.

And I would close out with this cartoon from Marc Roberts, who’s a genius, about looking for groups to be part of.

That would be a video that I’d watch. 

Do I have the skills to make it? No, not yet.

If and when I do have the skills to make it will I make it? Almost certainly not. 

Why not? Because there is not an audience for it. People want to complain. People want to wallow in the helplessness and I understand that. I mean, goddamn, I’m wallowing in mine right now!

But let’s stop pretending to ourselves that nothing else was possible – because it was we did in that period from 1988 to 2020 whatever – we had freedom of speech freedom of assembly freedom of information. 

What we didn’t have was the intelligence, the courage, the spine, the incentive structures to use those freedoms to build tough organisations, coalitions, a movement, or “movement of movements” to make the nice things happen.

We just didn’t and here come the consequences. So it goes


(1) In a March 2007 google chat, Leo wrote this –  “I’m working on an ‘golden opportunity’ argument to try to persuade people. ‘Once in an epoch’ sort of thing. The dinosaurs couldn’t choose not to be struck by a giant meteorite. But the opportunity that is busily passing us by right now will still be visible in a few years time – visible, but out of reach. I’m thinking of evoking the idea that we are just about to plunge humanity into a dark tunnel from which there is no return; we’re still in the sunshine now, with amazing views all round, and a whole lot of different paths to choose from. the trouble is powerful momentum is speeding us along a track that leads into the mouth of that dark tunnel. Other pathways zip past on both sides as we gather speed. Once in the tunnel, we will be looking over our shoulders at the light of that opportunity as it swiftly recedes into the distance behind us. then we will have only the darkness, and a single narrow path which we must travel to our final destination.

2 thoughts on “Two climate videos, one glaring silence (spoilers – it’s social movements)

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  1. Marc, this just supports my comment of some weeks ago. Just “what is actually to be done”? I think we all know what is required, but most are to scared to talk about it. GROWTH is an insidious thing, it slowly but surely creeps up and takes society over. Wars are fought in the hope of increasing GROWTH, $millions are spent in the hope of increasing GROWTH and millions of people suffer as a result.
    Building a few windmills or pumping water uphill, to generate power as it runs down again, is not the answer. We need to face reality and address GROWTH.

    1. Sure. We need social movement organisations, and social movements that can persistently and persuasively make the case for de-growth. We do not have those. We are stuffed, completely and utterly stuffed.

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