We asked MCFly reader “shakkka” to tell us what she thought about the past, present and future of non-violent direct action on climate change. Here’s what she sent us. (We’re publishing this today to mark this.)
As Paul Mason said in his 2011 blog post, it’s “kicking off everywhere”[i], and that can be applied to virtually any scale; globally with the various ‘Springs’ (from the Arab spring has sprung – excuse the pun – numerous movements including the latest, ‘Maple’ Spring relating to student protests in Quebec); nationally with anti-austerity and anti-cuts campaigns as seen particularly last winter; and locally on a host of fronts.
Amongst all of this oppositionary, and often radical, clamour, it seems that climate activism has lost some of the voice it had gained over the past few years. People are focussing more on their immediate present, with economic hardship being top of most priority lists. The widespread resistance to government austerity measures and the riots last August perfectly demonstrate this, though in contrasting ways.
In the most recent generation of climate activism, it seems to me that the ‘Golden Era’ of a radical Climate Camp and a high profile, influential Plane Stupid has passed its peak. Several events stand out in my memory of the period; the 2007 Heathrow and 2008 Kingsnorth Climate Camps; Plane Stupid actions at Manchester in 2007, Stansted in 2008 and Aberdeen in 2009; the beginning of the No Third Runway campaign[ii] which has continued into the incredible project that is Grow Heathrow [iii].
Perhaps my view is guided by the fact that the start of this period coincided with my radicalisation and introduction to the activist world, as well as the fact that I have spent a lot of time in London, but I think the lull before the recession provided the perfect conditions for climate conditions to gain a footing in public awareness. Loath as I am to admit it, it is cool to be Green, especially amongst the readership of the Guardian, and although that doesn’t directly imply nor incite activism, it opens up new avenues of acceptance and support. Most climate demos attract publicity in sympathetic media outlets like Indymedia[iv] (which is a grassroots, independent and non-corporate network), though events such as the over-policing of the 2008 Climate Camp or G20 reached more mainstream news, thus upping the profile of climate activism.
Different things have changed since that peak; climate issues are still important but they hold less sway, particularly outside of the affluent, middle-class sectors of society. It is much to my disdain that the ‘scene’ remains hopelessly inaccessible to outsiders at times, as well as often being very white and middle-class. I think that is something that has to change if climate issues are to be linked up with other struggles – which has to happen – because without those connections, we are unlikely to succeed. The recession and slow realisation that the banking system and capitalism is flawed changed things, as every newspaper became clogged with dire economic forecasts and people put their hands back into their pockets. The resulting cuts enforced by the Coalition government diverted attention onto problems of student fees, cuts to EMA, the NHS and benefits. People have reason to be angry about a multitude of other things now.
It almost seems like climate activism, spurred by NVDA groups like Plane Stupid or Climate Rush, was big while we could afford to focus on it, because activism takes time, and time means money.
Climate change is inexorably linked to capitalism, and to economics, and to labour, and to development, and to politics, and to an infinite number of other things – ultimately there is huge scope for activism and particularly NVDA to be connected with whatever inspires and engages people. It’s easy to see how anti-airport expansion and anti-cuts movements are related for instance, but the link between climate and the concerns of the majority of people who aren’t involved needs to be dissected.
A fresh wave of anger and discontent looks set to tip the scales; Plane Stupid and Climate Rush recently occupied Southend Airport[v] and as Transition Heathrow faces eviction next month[vi], it appears as if NVDA and climate activism are creeping back up the agenda. Watch this space.
A note on the title of this blog post; it was chosen by a MCFly editor, not the author of the post.
We here at MCFly towers have been doing this climate change thing for a while. And we believe (cough cough) that we have developed some radar for denialist trolls. A chap called “Pete” has left this comment (minus the numbers – we added them) below the post.
1) see a) below in the challenge
2) while most people don’t join movements (too busy, free-riding, etc), you’re wrong when you imply that most people aren’t worried about climate change – they are, and continue to be. See here for info
3) You may be making the mistake of thinking that the UK is, um, the whole world. Most people on the planet are not white and middle class, obviously. There are millions (and soon to be billions) of people who are on the sharp end of climate change, and desperately worried. Maldives, much? And this is, of course, a total red-herring; I bet you don’t refuse to go to your hospital because the doctors and ahps are mostly white and middle class. It’s just not relevant to whether climate change is happening or not.
4) “us” – nice rhetorical positioning. Not.
5) spellcheck is your friend
6) “real environmental reasons.” See d) below in the challenge
So, Pete, here’s the challenge; using the same amount of words we gave shakkka, (plus some more, we’re in a generous mood), we’d like to see you;
a) Using peer-reviewed science (no Marc Morano, no “Wattsupwiththat, or anything else that’s been demolished by Skeptical Science or Peter Sinclair), explain to us why climate change – and a global average temperature rise of 4 to 6 degrees in the coming decades – is not apocalyptic
b) explain why such far left organisations as the Pentagon, the American multinationals (Chrysler, Alcoa etc), insurance companies and the Scientific Academies of so many industrialised countries (or this)are publicly worried about/preparing for climate change
c) explain how Via Campesina are white middle-class greens
d) Answer the following – are desertification, ocean acidification, loss of biodiversity, loss of top soil and the whole planetary boundaries thing problems? If they are, what are YOU doing about them?
Well, I guess at least yesterday taught me that eco activists are more diverse than the police – 3 female officers and one non-white out of 100+. It seems there’s little variety amongst the 1% and their defenders.
It was pretty good though – I haven’t been to a mass action like that in a while (there hasn’t really BEEN one) mainly because people have been off fighting their own battles. As I said, there are so many more at the moment. Resisting evictions, fighting cuts in local council, hospitals, libraries and schools, defending local enterprise and projects.. the list goes on.
Pete, I would invite you take the challenge, and hopefully to think about things a little more…
Pete declined the challenge, as I thought he might. Instead he just spewed more irrelevant ad hominems. Classic troll behavour. He has the honour of being first commenter on the straight-to-spam list.
So it goes.
Oh, and Pete; “ahps” stands for allied health professionals.
Grand. I do love a poorly-formed argument.
‘Loath as I am to admit it, it is cool to be Green, especially amongst the readership of the Guardian,’
Have you seen the Guardian’s circulation figures recently?
Do you know it is kept afloat by the income from a used car website?
It is cool to claim to be green. It’s cool to be anything if you are a member of a clique which believes itself to be cool.
Being green for most greens means recycling a few shopping bags, buying the kids a low emission car for ‘uni’, banking with the Co-op Bank (ignoring its car loans and car insurance business and dubious pension fund investments) and that’s about it.
My challenge to middle class greens (is there any other type?) is this.
If you really believe we are facing an eco-catastrophe then show us how to live simply by doing it yourselves. Don’t just preach to others.
By the way, manchesterclimatemonthly, since when was ‘ahps’ a word?
Should a stickler for correct spelling use such a word?
Or did you make a simple mistake?