Yes, there were no minutes – and, far more seriously, no follow-up to the 2010 conference to keep potential supporters aware of what was going on. This was in contradiction of both the Terms of Reference of the group AND statements contained in a December 2010 progress report to councillors of Manchester City Council (click on the text box to read all about it).
Yes, there was no Annual Stakeholder Conference in 2011. (One will happen soon-ish). If we had a time machine we’d go back and Change That.(2)
Yes, no elections are planned. This is an appalling decision, and one that MCFly will campaign vigorously to overturn (not because we want to be on the Steering Group, but because the credibility lost by cancelling elections is enormous, and corrosive.)
But in several ways the current mess of Manchester’s climate “governance” is like climate change itself .
No-one planned to get us here – our dilemma is largely a by-product of Other Stuff happening (burning fossil fuels to get wealthy, dealing with the chaos of unprecedented budget cuts).
People have been aware of the problem but have felt powerless or scared to act. Everyone seems to be waiting for someone else to make the first move. Those who know the boat must be rocked fear for their short-term economic prospects.
Though it is clear – in broad terms – what is to be done, it’s unclear who should do what specific things when.
To get out of both these messes will need us to cultivate some virtues. First and foremost are courage and cleverness. Not physical courage, nor the cleverness of university-educated policy wonks (though they have their place). The courage to say “this isn’t working; we need to do things differently.” The courage to say “you are talking the talk, but you ain’t walking the walk.” The cleverness to find ways of bringing new and nervous people into a movement and keeping them there, energising them and being energised by them.
We will need intelligent dissent, immense amounts of hard (and underpaid and thankless) work, discipline, creativity, patience and a host of other qualities. These exist already, but must be nurtured and shared.
Steering Group 1.0 didn’t work. The post-mortems can be haggled over. This new, 30 member, version, may be a case of too many cooks spoiling the broth(3). Or it may be a case of “many hands make the low-energy lightbulbs work.” For the sake of Manchester, it better be the latter.
Environmental campaigners over-use the “last chance to save” meme, and it loses its power(4). But here we go again; if Steering Group 2.0 doesn’t work – if it doesn’t galvanise the existing community of concerned people, informing and inspiring and connecting them, and ALSO reach far beyond the comfortable green ghetto – then we may as well give up and go home. No other group in our opinion, will be able to do this job. It’s now or never, and do or die.
A final point, Manchester Climate Monthly is a journalistic project. But the actual journalist and the faker who run it aren’t (only) attention-seeking hacks. They are citizens of Greater Manchester. They desperately want to see their city rise to the challenge of climate change; at a speed and a scale and with an attention to social justice and democracy that – so far – have been absent. By asking awkward questions, by celebrating successes, and by helping people build webs of doing and making, we hope to make the future of Manchester – especially with those who have been on the shitty end of the stick for far too long – certain.
Marc Hudson and Arwa Aburawa
(1) Actual offer may vary. Always read the label. Consult medical practitioner before taking medication.
(2) But then, we’d probably go back further and beat up the clown who invented the internal combustion engine. Or, failing that, put an accumulator bet on United to win the treble in 1998/9, and use the money to a) pay the invoice from the inventor of the time machine and b) buy an island, machine gun nests and lots and lots of ammo and tins of baked beans…
(3) And we are in the soup quite enough already
(4) But the boy who cried wolf eventually met the wolf.