Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Climate change: and 'environmental populism'

There have been all sorts of 'big-hitters' commenting on climate change over the years:
Futures Forum: The continuing politicisation of the climate change debate
Futures Forum: Climate change: the Stern Review eight years on ... "Climate change is the greatest market failure the world has ever seen."

The UN is meeting in New York next week to consider the issue:
Futures Forum: Climate change: tipping point

Should it be 'governments' that take action on climate change?
The Alliance For Jobs And Climate

Or should it be about 'bottom-up' activity?

Fighting, Not Drowning

The environmental movement needs to be nimble, not centralized.

May Boeve
June 18, 2014 | This article appeared in the July 7-14, 2014 edition of The Nation.
May Boeve is executive director of 350.org.

“We are not drowning—we are fighting” has become a rallying cry for people facing climate change from Fiji to the Solomon Islands. Forty-four percent of the world’s population lives within 150 kilometers of the sea—and as sea levels rise, so does their determination to confront the threat to their livelihoods and homes.

In New York City, the island where I live, Superstorm Sandy flooded Manhattan in the fall of 2012, transforming the area south of 23rd Street into a lake. One week after the storm, the cover of Bloomberg Businessweek read: “It’s Global Warming, Stupid.” A chorus of voices called on city government to rebuild for resilience against extreme weather and to help reduce climate change through energy-efficient buildings and stronger transit systems. Now, in the city of Occupy Wall Street and Mayor Bill de Blasio, a climate-responsive vision for the “next economy” is taking hold.

While an economic-populist position may not be a new thing in progressive circles, it is only now developing among environmentalists. As Naomi Klein has written, climate change research provides the scientific evidence to back up that agenda. When tied to climate change, economic populism benefits from enormous urgency, as rising carbon levels make billion-dollar disasters commonplace. To succeed, however, our movement cannot resemble what we’re trying to oppose: centralized, slow-to-adapt oil and coal corporations and electric utilities. Environmental populism should be as decentralized as solar panels, with local organizations connecting to one another and relying on each other’s strengths to encourage a diversity of tactics.

The fossil-fuel lobby is vulnerable because its reach is limited. Energy lobbyists occupy the nation’s capital, but the farther you get from Washington, the less power they hold over the imaginations of people making decisions. Take, for example, the organized opposition that is developing on campuses and focusing on fossil-fuel divestment. Consider local power stations, where equally local protests have the ability to disrupt the supply of fossil fuels. These disaggregated activities need to be complemented by mass demonstrations that illustrate our strength.

Fighting, Not Drowning | The Nation

After all, the Transition Town movement is about effective action at the local community level:
Welcome | Transition Network
Transition Towns (network) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Rob Hopkins's blog | Transition Network

This is from the magazine 'The Indypendent' - from New York, where the UN will be meeting in a week's time:

Occupy & The Climate March

SEPTEMBER 12, 2014
ISSUE #200

Climate change protests have traditionally been top-down affairs organized around a single demand such as stopping the Keystone XL pipeline or negotiating a better treaty at the United Nations. Big NGOs and unions have played an important role in preparations for the People’s Climate March as well. However, this time organizers for the climate march are relying much more on a decentralized “network” approach to mobilizing people that draws on the experience of the Occupy movement.

The centerpiece of this effort is the climate march’s roughly 100 autonomous working groups (or “hubs,” as they are called) that are self-organizing around visions of climate justice that reflect the priorities of their members.

The various hubs encompass a wide array of constituencies. Some hubs, like “Communications” and “Videographers,” will serve a particular function at the march. Others focus on environmental issues such as fracking and nuclear power, and still others on possible solutions — “Clean and Green Business,” for example. The largest number of hubs are based on local, regional or state geography (including one hub for each of the five boroughs) or identity: women, elders, immigrants, vegans, youth, scientists and LGBTQ and indigenous people, among others.

Some of the hubs, such as the labor and faith blocs, have been part of the organizing from very early on, while others received a boost after a large organizing meeting at the New School on July 1. Many of these hubs are currently focusing their efforts on how to build a meaningful and memorable presence at the march itself — the fracking hub, for instance, has been meeting, hosting conference calls and holding art builds with the intention of conveying fracking’s threat to the climate during the march itself. In doing so, however, alliances are being built and networks are being established for organizing together around longer-term goals.

Big Tent Organizing

Like Occupy Wall Street, the People’s Climate March has refused to issue a unified set of demands. It has, instead, favored “big tent” organizing. And like OWS, which took on the 1 percent’s power over the political process, this march is tackling an issue that many know is a serious problem but that still remains outside mainstream discourse

Given this, it makes sense that similar tactics would be adopted in both messaging and structure. Like OWS, the march’s greatest success may ultimately be both its impact on the larger conversation and the continuing activities of its constituent parts — just as many Occupy-inspired groups did important work after the Zuccotti Park encampment was destroyed by the NYPD.

However, the OWS analogy goes only so far. Unlike Occupy, this march was initiated by large NGOs such as Avaaz and 350.org. There are great disparities in money, influence and media access among the various groups working on the climate march. For this event to be a foundation for a new kind of movement, larger organizations will need to continue providing support to the grassroots groups that are giving so much of their time and energy to ensuring the march’s success.

This means supporting the work of environmental justice groups like The Point in the Bronx and UPROSE in Brooklyn and taking local infrastructure campaigns — such as the fight against Port Ambrose, the proposed liquefied natural gas terminal that could be built off the shore of Long Island — seriously. It also requires understanding that the climate movement must support larger struggles for social justice and understanding that the climate crisis is a crisis of capitalism.

One of Occupy’s greatest lessons was that organizers should not fear a radical critique. Radicalism facilitates a systemic analysis, and this larger analysis actually widens the constituency you are building as more and more people see their concerns voiced. It appears the climate justice movement is learning this lesson. But as significant as the march is, it’s what we do after it’s over that matters the most.

Patrick Robbins is a member of the People’s Climate March host committee and an activist with Sane Energy Project.

To learn more about the hubs organizing for the People’s Climate March, see peoplesclimate.org/organizing.

Occupy & The Climate March | The Indypendent

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