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)
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.