Why has climate action in the UK been so cyclical? There have been various periods of boom – Rising Tide in early 2000s, then the “Climate Camp/Stop Climate Chaos” wave (2006-9) then the “Thunberg/XR” wave (2018-2021).
What do long-term climate activists think of this cyclical nature – its causes, its consequences, what could be done to overcome it, or cope with it better? The project “Groundhog Day or End of Days” involves interviewing 15 people about these questoins, hoping to produce useful knowledge for movement participants (and ex-participants and would -be participants).
To quote from the abstract of the paper I’ve had accepted.
“Much academic and non-academic work on the grand societal challenge of climate change follows a discernible pattern. After laying out the scale of the problem and the inadequacy of the current policy and technological fixes, the notion of a “societal transformation” – and the crucial involvement of “civil society” – is invoked. Much less commonly is the very intermittent and cyclical nature of “civil society involvement” conceded, let alone studied.
“This is important, because there is a basic capacity issue here; state and corporate groups have the resources to fund stable organisations which can retain an institutional memory. Social movement organisations either become official bodies (charities, pressure groups) or rely on (usually short-lived) enthusiasm and discretionary energy of their founders.
“This research project seeks to begin to help to plug the gap: What are the “folk understandings” of climate activists in the UK on the temporally-uneven nature of public protest/engagement on climate policy over the last 35 years? More specifically, what do experienced (> 5 years) environmental activists think about the cyclical “boom and bust” nature of environmental (climate) campaigning? Do they perceive it as a “problem”? If not, why not? If they do perceive it as a problem, what do they think the causes are? If they have tried to change their actions to deal with or overcome it, what have been the outcomes? What do they believe can be done by state and non-state actors to ameliorate it? “
CRUCIALLY, I am not aiming to just publish another paper, behind a paywall and in language hardly anyone can understand.
So, from now until June, when I present the paper, I will be blogging, vlogging and tweeting about what I am doing, what I learn from the people I speak to…
Where possible, I will be posting transcripts (edited for confidentiality) of the interviews I conduct(see the page here) .This will, I hope, create a kind of iterative conversation. If I can get BROADER conversations going, all the better….