It’s not about the individuals, it’s about the structures. (Of polar bears and penguins)

We are encouraged to think about systemic problems as ones of individual choice, good/bad behaviour.

In part that is just how we are “wired”. We can see individuals, we can witness threatening behaviours. The structures and landscapes on which these behaviours happen, are encouraged, shaped etc, are much harder to see.

So, racism is reduced to bad manners or ignorance, instead of what is it, a systemic effort to extract value and subjugate.

In part though, it’s a deliberate effort by our Lords and Masters to prevent what is being done being named as that, to prevent us thinking “systemically”, “holistically” or in “joined-up” ways (whatever the buzzword du jour is – I admit I’ve stopped keeping track).

This “critical legal thinking” piece about the Sewell Report is excellent on this.

Meanwhile climate activists are reminding everyone that the idea of a personal carbon footprint was promulgated by BP, hoping to get people not to see them (best trick the devil ever played etc etc – one is reminded of the Far Side cartoon of the polar bear poorly disguised as a penguin…

I’m minded of this because I had a conversation recently with someone whom I have a lot of respect for. We however, find each other quite frustrating.

The nub (or one of the nubs?) is this. This person knows many councillors better than I do, has long experience with them. This person I think thinks that what matters most is who the individuals on a committee are.

I think that who is on the committee matters, (I am not, despite doubts to the contrary, a complete moron), but what matters more is the structure and especially the remit.

And this comes back to how big the remit is. And the remit of the old Environment committee, AND the new one is too big.

Climate Emergency Manchester fought the good fight for a dedicated climate committee, so that proper time and energy could be devoted to climate change. What we got, instead, because of council cowardice and unwillingness to be scrutinised, unwillingness to have difficult conversations with “partners” was the lightest possible rebranding of an existing committee (see this letter).

It doesn’t matter how individually “good” the councillors are, how determined they are, how dutiful and diligent they are, if the agenda is packed with a whole lot of OTHER items such as fly-tipping, pot holes, waste and recycling etc. Those ARE important issues, and councillors get the majority of their complaints about these.

But time and energy are finite, and nothing has been solved by the Council’s cynical rebranding. An enormous amount of dispiriting work awaits climate activists in Manchester.

Oh well. Just glad I didn’t spawn, I guess.


About manchesterclimatemonthly

Was print format from 2012 to 13. Now web only. All things climate and resilience in (Greater) Manchester.
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1 Response to It’s not about the individuals, it’s about the structures. (Of polar bears and penguins)

  1. fgsjr2015 says:

    Today’s laborers are simply too exhausted and preoccupied with just barely feeding and housing their families on a substandard, if not below the poverty line, income to criticize the biggest polluters for the great damage they’re doing to our planet’s natural environment and therefore our health, particularly when that damage may not be immediately observable.

    Although I very much want to be proven wrong, we, in short, are distracting ourselves from our own burning and heavily polluting of our sole spaceship (i.e. Earth). If it were not for environmentally conscious and active young people who are just reaching voting age, matters would be even bleaker than they are.

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