First off, that’s a clickbait headline. Sorry. Anyone who knows this website, or my perspective, knows what is coming.
COP26 means absolutely nothing. It never did, and anyone who told you it did, who told you that it was somehow going to put a fire under the Labour Group (which has 94 or the 96 Councillors), or convert the elected and unelected leadership to an understanding that their economic model of endless growth was “sustainable”, OR that COP26 was somehow going to create a climate “movement” in Manchester was either an idiot or a liar OR BOTH.
COP26 was always going to be a corporate-friendly shitshow with real politik watering everything down, and a massive spin effort to make the next one (Egypt, since you ask) seem like the place where Glasgow’s “success” will be ratified. It was always going to end this way, the clue is in the name (twice) COP. And 26.
The task for locally-focussed activists was always, regardless of “triumph” or “disaster” or some in-between imposter, about having the stomach, spine and muscles to do something about the local realities.
Manchester City Council will have spent a lot of money (how much is the subject of a FOIA) attending and trying to do what they ALWAYS do – turn the fate of the planet into an inward-investment marketing exercise. They’ve been doing that since 1992.
Various well-meaning activists will have exhausted themselves and others, and taken up bandwidth with stories to tell about their own importance and martyrdom.
To quote a former Prime Minister, “nothing has changed.”
Manchester, as a city, has still burnt through 6 million tonnes of its 15 million tonne for-the-rest-of-the-21st-century budget in the last 3 years.
The Manchester Climate Change “Partnership” is still made up of organisations treating it like a circular fig-leaf/stabvest, and not saying boo to the goose that is the City Council and the so-called “Agency”.
Manchester City Council is still made up almost entirely of craven, (self-)whipped ignorant councillors, some of whom can even quote Gramsci (so smart, so effective). There is a tiny handful of councillors who understand what is at stake and who haven’t offered up their brains and their spines in supplication.
Manchester’s activist scene (not a movement) is still made up of well-meaning people who have unexamined “information-deficit” models of social change, who continue to confuse access with influence, thinking that the latter relies on the former, who tell them stories of changing the system from within, who are swimming in the smugosphere, and keep riding the emotacycle. Manchester’s activist scene, with a tiny handful of exceptions, fail to understand what is at stake, and have offered up their brains and spines for … well, I’m not sure what.
What is to be done?
Oh, the usual –
- building organisations that can sustain themselves, by recruiting and retaining individuals.
- building organisations that resist co-optation, capture and repression
- building organisations that can link with other organisations to do meaningful movement-building work.
Without these, all the other necessary stuff –
- drawing the links between climate catastrophe and the endless yet escalating assault on ordinary working people (welfare cuts, worsening wages, terms and conditions),
- drawing links between the ideologies of control and extractivism that have given us spiralling carbon emissions and patriarchy and racial capital, and all the other social, environmental, economic, political and spiritual ills that ail “us”
is just a woke parlour game and virtue-signalling exercise.
And if we don’t examine the failures of the last three years, in meaningful and astringent terms, then we will continue to fail.
Future generations will pay an enormous price for our past failures. Let’s at least have the common courtesy to make them not pay a price for our current failures.
Over the coming days and weeks you’ll find on this site
a) some links to decent analysis of COP26 (but you shouldn’t bother to read it – it really does not matter)
b) a comparison of the activist scene in May 2019 and now
c) what I think is coming in the coming year (but I am probably wrong)
d) reflections on 14 years of local climate activism from someone who is bugging out.
You can (and frankly, probably will) ignore it if it hurts your feelings. I genuinely do not care.
As individual consumers, far too many of us still recklessly behave as though throwing non-biodegradable garbage down a dark chute, or pollutants flushed down toilet/sink drainage pipes or emitted out of elevated exhaust pipes or spewed from sky-high jet engines and very tall smoke stacks — even the largest toxic-contaminant spills in rarely visited wilderness — can somehow be safely absorbed into the air, water, and land (i.e. out of sight, out of mind); like we’re inconsequentially dispensing of that waste into a black-hole singularity, in which it’s compressed into nothing. (Admittedly, I notice every time I discard of trash, I receive a reactive Spring-cleaning sense of disposal satisfaction. I even feel it, albeit far more innocently, when deleting and especially double-deleting email.)
Mass addiction to fossil fuel products by the larger public undoubtedly helps keep the average consumer quiet about the planet’s greatest polluter, lest they feel and/or be publicly deemed hypocritical. Meanwhile, neoliberals and conservatives everywhere remain willfully preoccupied with vocally criticizing one another for their relatively trivial politics and diverting attention away from some of the planet’s greatest polluters, where it should and needs to be sharply focused.
Industry and fossil-fuel friendly governments can tell when a very large portion of the populace is too tired and worried about feeding/housing themselves or their family, and the virus-variant devastation still being left in COVID-19’s wake — all while on insufficient income — to criticize them for whatever environmental damage their policies cause/allow, particularly when not immediately observable.
Furthermore, here in the virtual corp-ocracy West, if the universal availability of green-energy alternatives would come at the expense of the traditional energy production companies, one can expect obstacles, including the political and regulatory sort. If something notably conflicts with corporate big-profit interests, even very progressive motions are greatly resisted, often enough successfully. And, of course, there will be those who will rebut the concept altogether, perhaps solely on the illogic that if it was possible, it definitely would have been patented and produced already and made a few people very wealthy. …
While we nonetheless need to keep doing our very best to correct our collective consumptive (mis)behavior ASAP, humankind is still distracting itself/ourselves from our own burning and heavily polluting spaceship, Earth. … Thus, humankind desperately needs environmentally conscious and active young people, especially those approaching or reaching voting age. In contrast, the dinosaur electorate who have been voting into high office consecutive mass-pollution promoting or complicit/complacent governments for many decades are gradually dying off thus making way for voters who fully support a healthy Earth thus populace.