Essay Contest runner up

Current problems

The main problem is we’ve gone backward in numbers and energy in the last 18 months. The opportunities to get new people engaged and involved when climate change was a ‘hot’ issue have been wasted. Several groups that held regular meetings/had websites exist in name only nowadays. Others have folded altogether. (That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Crap groups do the ‘movement’ no favours.)

There’s various causes for all this:

  • Cliquy behaviour: if you don’t wear the right clothes, the right opinions, you’re not really welcome

  • Tired old formats of meetings. Either dominated by unthinking dogmatic macho schmucks or- worse – terribly facilitated by people who claim to be non-hierarchical.

  • Tired old formats of ‘action’ (petitions, marches etc)

  • No accountability, so when some people’s hard work is rendered useless by others’ laziness, it’s not discussed and (re)solved.

  • The lack of anything from the Council to respond to throughout 2008.

  • The lack of a social space. There is a “Basement” shaped hole in Manchester’s activism.

Lousy and depressing meetings
One-off meetings and “actions” that don’t lead to any further action, partly because they are organised in such a way that all attention goes towards the front of the room (speakers, organisers) and links between those attending are not nurtured. Feeds the egos of those organising, but doesn’t grow the movement.

First time tragedy, second time farce
An unwillingness, or even inability, to reflect on previous failures and learn from those mistakes.

The focus is elsewhere
The focus of Mancunian climate activism has often been a march in London, a camp in Kent or a summit in Copenhagen. “Think global”, fine, but what about “act local”?

The focus is limited to the “sexy” stuff.
Aviation matters. But so does domestic power use, transport, food. Where are the systematic analyses, drawing upon the work of the Tyndall Centre etc? The focus on the Airport lets everything else off the hook.

Haphazard internal communications in and between groups. Email bulletins that ramble, or don’t appear as scheduled. No systematic linking between groups, to communicate and maybe occasionally co-ordinate.

How many of the campaigning groups/parties/social movements have made serious systematic efforts to educate themselves and each other about climate science, national climate policy, local political realities? How many produced policy documents regularly, hosted on their own websites?

Lousy external communications
Look at the various groups’ websites. They’re boring, they’re out-of-date, they don’t link through to useful information about what they are campaigning on. They don’t link to other campaigning groups!

How many use social media tools like Facebook or Twitter effectively- or at all?

How many are blogging regularly and systematically about things that matter?

How many produce short, attractive bulletins of what they are doing?

How many use YouTube video regularly?

Future Opportunities

Fixing the problems named above would be a start.

A monthly meeting, well-facilitated, for all groups and unaffiliated individuals to network, listen and share experiences. Skills-share and training could be organised.

Make sure new people are welcomed, but not overwhelmed. Find out what they can do, what they want to know.

The comic terribleness of the Council’s “Call to Action” is actually a gift to climate campaigners.

If we can’t propose better than that, in writing, by the end of March, then we should all just pack up, go home, and start booking weekend breaks in Barcelona and Prague.

Maybe we should anyway.


About dwighttowers

Below the surface...
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