Cycles, yes, but see the broader context… #GroundhogDayOrEndOfDays

Groundhog Day or End of Days is a project I am doing to find out people’s thoughts on the cyclical nature of UK climate activism.

You can read more about it here. I’m interviewing various folks, some of whom I already know, and others I don’t. The first interview was with Alastair McIntosh, and you can read it here. The second interviewee was happy for their comments to be used in blogs/articles/etc, but not for their transcript to go up in toto. The third interviewee, well, you can read their whole interview here. Below are some teaser extracts…

To what extent, if any, do you buy this sense of a cyclical nature of UK climate activism?

Interviewee 03 2:21 

Yeah, I mean, I mean, I think like in a quantum sense, they can be both. It can be waves and photons. So it can be like, I think it’s definitely cyclical in nature, but there are institutions and things that aren’t even institutions – cultures – that kind of pervade behind them as well. So there definitely is a cyclicality to it. But there’s also yeah, there’s all sorts of stuff.

marc hudson 2:53 

Yeah, I mean, specifically on the protest side of things because I think what you’re alluding to,

Interviewee 03



 is the stuff that people do in between protest cycles, like social enterprises and so forth.

Interviewee 03 3:08 

I think that’s, that’s what I would call institutions like, and I think, yeah, social enterprise. I could name a few like Climate Outreach Carbon Coop. Others that kind of fit there. I think there’s culture as well. And I think like culture is like slower moving, but especially in the 2000s you saw the same cultures emerging within different cycles of the protest movement. You sort of saw like, yeah, let’s start naming it now. But like a broad environmentalist party culture emerged first and then Climate Camp and you know, some of the G8 stuff and then, but then sort of subsided over a broader period. And then these kinds of boom and bust cycles of protests. I mean, I have to say, I don’t disagree at all with your characterization of the boom and bust. But just to say that happens in a context.

marc hudson 4:10 

What is that broader context? Is it as simple as austerity, pushing everyone onto the back foot? Or is it deeper than that?

Interviewee 03 4:20 

Yeah, I mean, it’s, you know, there are yeah, the material conditions in which like these protests, like the action happens, you know. There’s a countercultural network, you know, and if there is an interplay with the protest movement, I do think that that protest movement actually draws from the counterculture that is around at the time, and if the counterculture is strong then there’s a bigger pool to draw, Earth First!, and anti roads protests, drew from a bigger pool of free parties and kind of traveler communities and all these sorts of things. So so yeah, that’s the sort of I mean, I think you’re right, there are politics, materialist politics, as well, where austerity, you know, like post-crash economics, all these things interplay definitely.


I remember you sending me something about how few people would ever consider going to an activist meeting. And that and that’s ahead of the logistics issues for them, of child care or bus fare. And, you know, that was before the austerity got completely insane. I think middle-class people don’t quite realize how much financial constraint there is on people. Or even if they have money, they’re just knackered because they’re doing shit shit jobs. Anyway.

Interviewee 03 14:21 

This is a thing where cultural things can play against, like sustaining. So like, culturally, within the movement I was involved with, it was a big thing around “DIY”, getting out to nature. You know, and so activist gatherings would happen and feel, you know, in tents and it’s like, how many people can physically, let alone all the other things we want to think about? Yeah.

marc hudson 14:49 

All the invisible filters. It’s funny, so. sorry , go on/

Interviewee 03 14:56 

“Where are the disabled people?”We need more disabled people involved?” they say, sitting in a tent in a field, only accessible by a car. You know.


what have you heard about, you know, other people’s sort of folk explanations of why that protest wave didn’t last or you know,

Interviewee 03 18:00 

Oh, God, well, there’s a lot of blame on the people themselves. Basically, you’ve talked a lot about information deficit model, you know, and a lot of people hold that. A lot of activists have that model in their head; that we just simply – this thing about stickers. “People just simply need to be aware. They’re just not aware that everything’s fucked, If they are only aware there’ll be a revolution.” So there’s a lot of yeah, and a lot of like, you know, why aren’t they coming to our meeting in the mud in a tent in the middle of Wales, you know “They’re stupid. They’re, you know, sheeple and they’ve taken the wrong colored pill and a lot of that”. 

I mean, there’s also, you know, People’s Front of Judea stuff, you know, it’s like, we hold and I think you’ve seen a lot of that in post-Corbyn stuff. We, you know, “we hold this view and those are the people when we’re not sufficiently working class or Stalinist or Leninist in their analysis, and that’s why there’s no one coming.” (Laughs) Because my minority ideological views are represented or broadly, which is quite a nice, cyclical kind of explanation. 

So yeah, we’re the people, blame the others you know.

And there is a strong idea, you know, yeah, here it is getting older. It’s like, there’s an explanation that people are getting older, they’re having kids, they’re buying a house. You know, the activists who were committed enough, they’re not committed because life has gotten in the way and, you know, I do actually, I think there’s, I would be more warm to that thing in terms, like not just that, but also austerity. 

You know, when I started activism, you could be unemployed, happily and working as a full time activist. There was no barrier to that. Or as I was, like, half employed. half on housing benefits and half time, like, you know. That was sustainable. That was fine. And it wasn’t after that, but that’s maybe that particular time and time more latterly, but I do think that, you know, people’s personal circumstances change, as well. But that’s the best part of the failing that you’re not able to sustain, you know, campaigns that would enable that participation. And it’s a failing that they’re not involved in the first place. You know, why does it have to be your able, energetic young people?

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