Re-Imagining Activism – Climate Campaigning and Race

Why so white? Climate activism and race…

Whilst I haven’t been raised in the confessional tradition (being Muslim and all), I do have a confession to make; I am a climate campaigner who hates meetings, marches, strikes, boycotts, hugging trees, joining groups and pretty much everything else you can relate to climate activism. I hate it – all of it.

It’s too white, it’s too cliquy and I don’t want to make more friends or risk arrest. I want to be useful, to help others feel useful and build effective political pressure that could enforce things we agree are important to us all in Manchester. So, I guess I don’t fit in to the climate movement as it stands in Manchester. The problem, and it’s a big one, is that judging by the complete failure of the movement to actually influence anything, not a lot of people feel they fit into it either.

Beyond the stuff I do in my own life and the work I do for Manchester Climate Monthly, I don’t see a place for me. A place that reflects me (in the basic sense of being a Muslim women) and reflects my desire to learn and make useful links with people across the city. So what do I do? I do the logical thing and stay at the periphery where I can invest my time in things I think will reward me in various ways and stop me from getting disillusioned.

Well, that’s what I have been doing for years. However, I have also finally come to the realisation that whilst that strategy does help protect me from muppets/burnout, it isn’t changing anything. And change is what the climate movement needs- more desperately than anything.

So, the MCFly editorial team have decided that instead of dedicating this page to educating people on a ecological phrases/theory, we are going to use it as a space to re-imagine activism in Manchester.To change it so that all those who are at the periphery or even further back are willing to take a step forward and shape a new kind of activism which not only includes them, but respects the time and energies they dedicate to making Manchester a better and more climate-safe place to live.

Please send your thoughts or comments to

About arwafreelance

Freelance journalist based in the UK with an interest in the Middle East, environmental issues, Islam-related topics and social issues such as regeneration.
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1 Response to Re-Imagining Activism – Climate Campaigning and Race

  1. Dave Bishop says:

    Well, Arwa, I often feel like you – and I’m a white male. I think the trouble is that there’s a lot inertia and just plain ignorance out there – and I’m not convinced that sex or ethnic background come in to it. I think that the inertia comes from the view that “you can’t change things” (I tried once and nothing changed!). We need to work out effective strategies and tactics and achieve a few small successes before we move on to the big ones. Ignorance, of course, needs to be overcome via education.
    I belong to a community, in Manchester, which is very knowledgeable about local biodiversity – but there are very few links between us and ‘mainstream’ environmentalism’ (I suspect that they see us as a bunch of ‘nerds’). At mainstream environmental meetings I get frustrated because biodiversity is hardly ever discussed and I often feel like a ‘fish-out-of-water’ . Yet isn’t biodiversity absolutely fundamental? At the Nagoya Biodiversity conference in 2010, Ahmed Djoghlaf, of the UN, made the point that biodiversity and climate change are inextricably linked. Any effective movement needs to bring together all relevant groups, pool all of that knowledge and experience, and develop strategies to overcome inertia and educate the membership.
    If you want my opinion, the modern environmental movement has ‘lost the plot’. It’s too hedonistic and silly – if anyone mentions tree planting or community orchards or green roofs (or face painting) to me once more I’ll scream!!! We need a thorough grasp of the big picture AND the detail – that’s why being an effective environmentalist isn’t easy.

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