Category Archives: our doomedness

The Murray Andersen Syndrome – of #climate memory-holes, farces and doom (natch)

No, not that Murray Anderson. No, not that one either.
Let me describe it to you, and see if you can figure it out for yourself. Stuff embeds better that way anyhow.

In reverse order. (drum roll please)

Everybody secretly knows that the game is rigged, the war is over, that the fine words and fripperies and fineries describe – nothing, a phantasm. Unless you are a complete imbecilic coward (and they do exist), you have seen it and have to suppress it, for reasons of career/mortgage/the same old story.


That’s bad enough, that in this terminal phase of human history, we are too scared to break out and call it like it is.

But even worse. EVERY DAY WE WAKE UP AND IT IS THE SAME. We have seen this movie before. We saw this movie (the climate movie- it’s always about the climate these days) from 2006 (An Inconvenient Truth) through to the joke of Copenhagen. (2009) We saw it from Hansen to the Senate committee (1988) through to Rio (1992). We saw it (or read about other people seeing it from Santa Barbara (1969) through to Stockholm (1972). And now we are seeing it with Greta and the 1.5 (late 2018) through to… well, probably the Glasgow Shitshow (Nov 2020).

There’s preening, and promising and posturing. There’s hopium pipes being sucked, and a conga line of con artists, throwing out glossy reports, pathways, roadmaps.

We saw this movie. We know how it plays, how it ends. Over and over.

So, “can you tell what it is yet”, as I am no longer allowed to say?

It’s the horror of Groundhog Day (Bill Murray) where every day, instead of Punk-so- tawny Phil we are treated instead to the Freaking Naked Emperor (Hans Christian Andersen), with his zero carbon this and his sustainable that, as he parades through town and everyone looks at each other during the Two Minutes Love (yeah, mixing it up now) and … applauds wildly.  Nothing to see here… move along.

FFS.

This is not a comedy. Or a dramedy. This is a farce.  We could have been better than this.  Instead we’re just a bunch of planet-trashing shaved monkeys with opposable thumbs.

Explaining *that* video #AustralianFires #ScottyfromMarketing #fear #patriarchy

Earlier today the Australian Prime Minister released an astonishingly tone-deaf advert – branded as Liberal Party – spruiking the role of “Our Defence Forces”. As the Guardian noted, it met with derision from the Australian Defence Association and Piers Morgan.

In this short piece I want to explore what I think is going on, and what it tells us about what is coming

Firstly, this comes from a place of fear and desperation. It’s rare to see so many spectacular own goals, especially from an “expert” in marketing. From the secretive holiday to Hawaii, to the forced handshake, these are signs of a man just out of his depth, and flailing – trying all the repertoires he can think of to recover to a position of safety and predictability (1). The expert in marketing turns out to be, well, not very good at marketing. Oops. Seen.

What is left for him to reach for? Only the strong man, the purveyor military action. Recently Laura Tingle wrote a brilliant piece saying that these fires might be Morrison’s equivalent of Dubya’s Hurricane Katrina. There’s a connection here, to Dubya’s dad. When the Rodney King riots kicked off in 1992, and black bodies, usually containable if not ever particularly docile, threatened The Natural Order, Bush took relish in announcing that he was mobilising the military (2)

So far, so cod-Freudian.

But there is a deeper strand, beyond the Trumps of this world and their fascination for military parades (3).

As Amitav Ghosh notes in his magnificent The Great Derangement (seriously, you MUST read this book), a) climate change is a beast that simply can’t be contained within the bourgeois narratives of individual action (and so is terrifying to those who need to be In Control and b) States gonna use (indeed are using) their security forces to crack dissident heads.

What we are seeing here is the early-ish stages of this. The military as saviour, the military as protector (though protector of what is usually a good question).

It’s a way of coping with short-term political problems, and longer-term security problems. It will probably not “succeed” in helping Morrison, and it will certainly not succeed in helping this species unfuck the world. For that we need democracy, avivocracy, the people who have the privilege of freedom of speech, assembly and information to get up on their hindlegs and refuse to back down. Also, we’re gonna need hella lot luck, around climate sensitivity and ecosystems fraying but not snapping. If I were a betting man…

Help me (and everyone else) out – if there are other thinkers you think have particularly important things to say about the links between white patriarchy, contempt for nature/women/people of colour and especially ‘what is to be done?’ add them in the comments. I have failed, for example, to weave Cynthia Enloe’s great work into this blog…

Footnotes

(1) At the end of Terminator 2 (spoilers, obvs, but it’s been 30 years) the T1000 desperately runs through all previous disguises as it boils alive. I overuse this image, but damn that is an amazing movie to think with.

(2) To be fair, Bush Snr had lied about his age to join the war effort, and was shot down over the Pacific.

(3) Samuel Johnson wrote “Every man thinks meanly of himself for not having been a soldier, or not having been at sea.” Trump, at least superficially, cannot think meanly of himself. But what might be going on below that surface?

Looting the Ivory Tower “The work after ‘it’s too late’ to prevent dangerous #climate change

lootingivorytower(Blog posts about academic articles and what value they might have for activists.)

Article

Moser SC. The work after “It’s too late” (to prevent dangerous climate change). WIREs Climate Change. 2020;11:e606. https://doi.org/10.1002/wcc.606

The TL;DR

If you have read much on social and psychological responses to climate change you will have come across the work of Susanne Moser http://www.susannemoser.com/about.php

In this paper, part of a special issue on whether it’s too late to avoid 1.5 degree of warming she says (sort of – I paraphrase)

“We may or may not be toast (probs yes – but that the question is now legitimate is an interesting thing), but there’s stuff to be learnt from previous and ‘smaller’ endings. Meanwhile, we gotta do mitigation as if every degree mattered, and that means resilience building, “transformational adaptation” and “inner work.”

The argument in a tweet: (220ish characters)

It may be “too late”, but we gotta mitigate, adapt, do mitigation as if every degree mattered, end separation + ‘inner work’. #lootingivorytower

Should activists pay attention?  

Yes, this is a good pointer to recent literature and a contribution in its own right
The stuff on psychological responses to endings (section 3) is particularly neatly done. Also this-

4.3 | Resilience-building and transformational adaptation

With costly and deadly flooding in many countries, droughts expanding in time and space, wildfires consuming entire cities, and real-world adaptation limits increasingly recognized (IPCC, 2014), endings have become palpable. Calls for stepped-up resilience-building efforts and transformational adaptation are gaining in urgency because many adaptive efforts continue to be stalled by persistent barriers and most still aim at maintaining the status quo (Atteridge & Remling, 2018; IPCC, 2018; Juhola, Glaas, Linnér, & Neset, 2016; Moser, Coffee, & Seville, 2017). The work after “too late” requires serious grappling with what resilience actually means, conceptually and in practice (Moser, Meerow, Arnott, & Jack-Scott, 2019). It demands that meanings of resilience and desirable outcomes of resilience building are negotiated (Harris, Chu, & Ziervogel, 2018; Ziervogel et al., 2017). It means that the deep drivers of vulnerability, social injustice and environmental destruction must be challenged (Gillard, Gouldson, Paavola, & Van Alstine, 2016; Moser et al., 2017; Patterson et al., 2018).

How convincing is their methodology?

Moser has read heaps, cites lots of the recent stuff

What else could they have said?
Re: scientists and display of emotions –

  1. The self-censorship by scientists – well, there’s Orwell’s (ironically suppressed) introduction to Animal Farm
  2. And more recently/on point is Brysse et al. 2013 on scientists erring on the side of less drama.
  3. Though it is dubious, the whole ‘Spiral of Silence’ stuff too
  4. Hope versus courage – Kate Marvel
  5. Joanna Macey, especially the early stuff on ‘despair and empowerment in the Nuclear Age’
  6. Oh, and Nevil Shute’s “On the Beach” about how to face The End.

What else would a critic say?

Doesn’t engage with the long history of people saying ‘there may be trouble ahead’ on climate (see Lydia Dotto’s Thinking the Unthinkable from 1987) (but space is limited!)
Doesn’t really go into what we have been doing WRONG these last thirty years.

What are the implications for (Manchester-based/climate) activism?
Not so much specifically, but all grist for the mill.

What papers/books to do these people refer to that looks (or is) interesting?

Heaps – these leapt out at me

O’Brien, K., Selboe, E., & Hayward, B. M. (2018). Exploring youth activism on climate change: Dutiful, disruptive, and dangerous dissent. Ecology and Society, 23, 42

Patterson, J. J., Thaler, T., Hoffmann, M., Hughes, S., Oels, A., Chu, E., … Jordan, A. (2018). Political feasibility of 1.5 C societal transformations: The role of social justice. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 31, 1–9

Sawin, E. (2018). The magic of “multisolving.” Stanford social innovation review, 16. Retrieved from https://ssir.org/articles/entry/the_magic_of_multisolving

Scheffer,  M.  (2016).  Anticipating  societal  collapse:  Hints  from  the  stone  age. Proceedings  of  the  National  Academy  of  Sciences, 113(39), 10733–10735.

Woodbury, Z. (2019). Climate trauma: Toward a new taxonomy of trauma. Ecopsychology, 11(1), 1–8. https://doi.org/10.1089/eco.2018.0021   (sadly, paywalled)

Who should read this?
Pointy headed academics Yes
Activists wanting to get beyond the smugosphere Maybe
The (mythical?) generally curious and concerned citizens maybe

Looter: Dr Marc Hudson.

Depending on how relevant they are, these lootings may be posted on one or more of the following sites –

marchudson.net, manchesterclimatemonthly.net, climateemergencymanchester.net

A year from now… aka The Glasgow Shitshow #COP26 #socialmovements

Right now there’s a lot of politicians flapping their meat in Madrid, at the 25th “Conference of the Parties” to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.  Late next year they will be flapping their meat in Glasgow. It will be the first COP to be held in the UK (though there was 1994’s “Global Forum – of that, more later).

And what will the build-up to the Glasgow COP allow (or “afford” if you do all that ANT hand-wavy stuff)?  It will allow groups to forget their differences (internal, external), their failures, their inability to do local capacity-building, their aimlessness.  It will allow them to put on a series of feeder events for the mother of all emotacycles – a big set-piece climate conference in the UK (I’m assuming indyref2 can’t happen by next November).

The whole thing is deja vu all over again, for those of us with memories stretching back to 2009.  Then – after 3 exhausting years – climate groups decided that a “big” march in London with some bumbling on to the COP in Copenhagen (“last chance to save the world, TM”)  would “build a mass movement… international this… solidarity that”  (my memory may be playing tricks, but I don’t think the words “decolonising” and “inter-sectional” were thrown around so much).

So, I have made a graphic, and there are other things afoot.

glasgow shitshow

 

Not because I expect to change a single soul’s mind, but so I can say “I told you so” in March 2021, when the fallout is at its most clearly radioactive.  Schadenfreude is a dish best served… in advance…

 

 

 

 

Excruciatingly obvious advice following excruciating event. Innovate4GodsSake

Tell your attendees what it is that they are going to be asked to solve.

Tell them that in a preliminary email Or two.

Tell them that when they arrive

In writing.  In big letters. Maybe with some cartoons/graphics. (Perhaps not in rubbish videos with awful sound quality. #justsaying)

Respect their intelligence and their time by keeping the self-serving, boring, pointless introductions to 15 seconds instead of 15 plus minutes.

When the pizzas arrive, let people eat them before they get cold and cardboardy

Have icebreakers that connect to the challenge(s) that are being set (“your favourite toy when you were 10″? Seriously?  FFS)

Give them time to chew over which challenge(s) they might like to try to tackle, and what skills  they might need.  So that they’re not being asked to pitch while ice-cold.

Run the meeting on decent facilitation principles (pro-tip, top-down talking at people is not facilitation. Nor is a horse’s arse. Sorry, “shoe”.)

Sorting  by birthday is fine if you’re trying to getpeopel to talk to someone they don’t already know, but not if it is just a pretext to re-arrange people who wil l then address the whole group.  FFS.

Still, G&Ts were liberated, so not all is lost.

Oh god, oh god, it was so diabolically bad. Heart-breakingly so, when the issue is so important.  People were defo voting with their feet before me, and by tmrw afternoon, fuggedaboudit – judges will outnumber punters.

 

(This was LA/Quango bad. For real appalling you need to get progressive social movement organisations from the smugosphere together. That, that shit is epic, and topic of next blog post.)

 

Sequential Consensual Autophagous Meetings

First I will treat you as ego-fodder.  You will sit in rows, or in a circle,and you will listen to me drone on and on about my hobby-horse du jour.

I don’t care what you know about the topic.

I don’t want to take time away from hearing my own voice to hear your perspectives.

I don’t care about you getting to know the other people in the room

I don’t want to take time away from hearing my own voice for you to build networks

Why do I want this?  Because I am Important, dammit.  I may not have had all the adulation and obedience that I should have had. But that is because I am a Dissident, and a Rebel.

But I have you all here now, and You. Will. Listen. To. Me.  In this “workshop.” That’s a new definition, by the way, of “workshop.” Do you like it? Say yes. If you don’t, well, I don’t care.

But I am not a monster. Of course I am not a monster.  Am I? I understand that having used you all, you – well, one or two of you perhaps – might then expect to use me and the rest of you in a similar way. Without my insight, my brilliance, it’s true. So the most of us, and even me-  because I am not a monster, am I – will sit in rows or in a circle and we will listen to one or two you drone on and on about your hobby-horse du jour. Fair is fair, after all.

Not all of you, that would be impossible. No, just perhaps three or five or so other people who are also FOTO-genic.   Friends Of The Organisers, that is. We will run the day as a series of sequential “consensual” autophagous meetings. Just don’t think too hard about the acronym there, okay?

You don’t know what autophagous means? Oh dear. Perhaps you didn’t go to a good school? Perhaps you did not take your own education in hand, as I have? Perhaps you could reflect on how this might mean that rather than being one of the important people, who talks, you are merely one of those who is allowed to listen. But fear not, they also serve who only sit and listen. But since you’re not very well-educated, you probably don’t even get that particular bon mot? I should not cast my pearls of wisdom before such swine.

You see, by sitting there, by OBEY-ing, provide proof to the important people, like me, that we are important, that our hobby-horses are not old nags, but thoroughbreds.


Where was I? Autophagous….  It means an entity that eats itself.  Self-cannibalism. It’s like that Stephen King short story – Survivor Type.

And in order to do the important things – namely for me to feel important – we have to perpetuate social movement failure. We have to keep doing meetings where new – or actually often old, half-baked –  ideas come from the front. From the FOTO-genics. And we will not do good meeting design. And we will not do facilitation in any meaningful way. For if that were to be done, well, it would detract from my opportunities to use you to boost, albeit fleetingly, my self-importance. 

That new people are bored, so what? That they don’t come back and they tell other potential members that at the meeting they went to they were bored, patronised, their input neither sought nor welcome? So what. That after a while the meetings, conferences get smaller and wink out of existence? That the campaign has in effect eaten itself, to meet the insatiable appetites for attention by the FOTO-genics?  That when the issue next exercises the public, new “organisations”, bereft of experience, competence, innovation, repeat the same ghastly repertoires? So so what?

For, you see, this is a balance, a difficult decision.  All of those minor, even trivial downsides, compared to me feeling important for 55 minutes. As Madeleine Albright said when asked about the sanctions on Iraq costing the lives of half a million children – “This is a very hard choice, but we think the price is worth it.”

Oh god, how hard IS IT, really? Meetings that don’t suck. #oldfartclimateadvice

Hi everyone,

there’s a lot of us in this room, and the tables aren’t really helping. I know it is gonna take a minute, and the “Elf and Safety” types may be upset, but I want to spend one of our precious 57 remaining minutes stacking the tables against the wall and making a circle of the chairs for us to fit in.  While you are doing that

a) introduce yourself to someone

b) come up with a way we can build a densely linked, long-lasting movement for climate justice on this campus, and beyond this campus.

(Once in a circle)

Great, thanks, I am x (yes, introducing yourself by name is a good thing). I am from y, which is one of the organisations which called this meeting. It is fantastic to see so many people here on such short notice.  Hands up if you’re an undergrad? Hands up if you’re a Masters Student.  PhDs?  Academics? Staff? Other – you are all welcome.

We are here for two reasons. One is that there is a climate strike at the end of this month.  But if we only focus on building for that, we’re idiots, trapped in the emotacycle.  We have to have the longer vision of a real climate movement on campus. That’s the second reason we are here.  Every minute of speeches from the front is a minute less for those tasks. So, no speeches. Okay, that’s a lie. I want to say this:

What IS a climate movement on campus? It’s not a bunch of organisations, each small, secretly fighting over recruiting undergrads. It’s not a bunch of organisations doing that while occasionally co-ordinating over a date – a climate strike – or an issue – like divestment. It is this – it is dense webs of people who know each other a little bit at least, or maybe a lot. A dense web of people who can collaborate, who can support each other to learn new skills, new knowledge, put new and ever-more pressure on the decision-makers on campus and beyond. A dense and denser web of more and more people who win victories, find new things to improve.

Sounds great, doesn’t it?  How does it start? It starts with me shutting up, and you – you, talking in groups of two or three – no more.

Find out the other person’s name, find out what course they study or teach. Find out what their idea for building a climate movement is.  Three minutes.

[three minutes]

Right.  We are going to do exactly that same thing later, but first, we have to make some progress to the climate strike that’s coming up.  It mustn’t be a damp squib, and it can be a great way for us to show ourselves, our allies and our opponents that we are serious and capable.

So, there are flipcharts and marker pens. As individuals, or ideally in the groups you just formed, I want you to add – legibly – the following

  • On these flipcharts, upcoming events between now and the strike where we might be able to publicise the strike
  • On these flipcharts, ideas for things that could be done on campus to publicise the strike
  • On these flip charts, ideas for things that could be done off-campus to publicise the strike
  • On these flipcharts, ideas for longer term action on campus.
  • On these flipcharts, the names of groups we should be talking with.

If you run out of ideas, that’s fine. PLEASE go and talk to someone new. Introduce your new acquaintance to them. This is how networks grow, and movements are stronger if the underlying network is stronger.

BUT, before we do that.  I want us to go round the room.  We want three things. Your name, the course you study or teach, and if you are a member of a group, the name of that group, or at most, two groups. No group, no problem! We WILL have time at the end for groups to advertise what they are doing – come speak to me about –  but for now, just those three things

(Name go round)

Right, ten minutes on the flipcharts, and discussing, then we reconvene!

[ten minutes]

Thanks everyone.  Before we close, I want you to get into new groups of three and do the same. Find out the other person’s name, find out what course they study or teach. Find out what their idea for building a climate movement is.  Three minutes.

[three mintues]

Thanks everyone, we now have a really long list of upcoming events before the strike. This will be typed up and circulated.

We also have a huge number of ideas and thoughts about the short term and, crucially, the longer-term. These too will be typed up.

There is an email list going around.  We promise not to spam you, or let the list get taken over by other issues.  Please write your email address on it, legibly.

 

Now, I’ve had six people want to advertise their groups and upcoming events. Any others?

So, the rule is this. You have forty-five seconds. At the end of that, I am going to start to applaud you, and everyone else will join in.

[Announcements from various groups.  If they do it badly, that teaches them a lesson for next time.  And they’ve only taken up 45 seconds. Meanwhile, each round of applause boosts spirits, even if some of the applauding is ironic].

Right, great. Thank you so much for coming. A final plea. These new people you’ve met – stay in touch with them. Swap e-mails, or Twitter, or Grindr or whatever.  A movement is built on a network, not on an event or even a series of events.

We will announce our next meeting with more notice. It will almost certainly be next week, venue to be confirmed, but probably in this building.

One last round of applause for all of you and your ideas, energy. We can win this – we must win this.

(Applause)