The Climate Psychologist

Fighting Climate Change is Different From Fighting for Civil Rights Part II, Strategy Proposal

(Return to Part 1: Strategy Analysis and Critique)

 

Introduction

In the previous section, I have delineated the ways in which the Human Climate Movement shares goals with the Civil Rights Movement, but differs in the barriers to those goals, and the technological context.  I argue that both movements must 1) empower their membership, 2) place the truth front and center, forcing Americans out of denial and destroying the illusion of neutrality and 3) create massive social and political pressure, especially among elites and policy makers, for change.

I showed that the movements are distinct, however, the fundamental barrier to the goals of the Civil Rights Movement was racism, while the fundamental barrier to the Human Climate Movement is anxiety. Civil disobedience fought racism but does not fight anxiety. Anxiety is best contained through the existence of a comprehensive plan that starts right now to and leads to victory and through human relationships. I also discuss the different technological contexts that these movements occurred in: while the Civil Rights Movement could capture the national attention through civil disobedience, in today’s oversaturated media environment, protests do this extremely rarely. I argued that, for these reasons, civil disobedience will not succeed as a primary strategy for the Human Climate Party.

In this section I will propose an alternative strategy for the Human Climate Movement that makes containing anxiety its central feature, and also responds to our current technological and media age.

A Comprehensive Plan to Contain Anxiety and Fight Climate Change

I discussed previously how a plan is a fundamental tool to contain anxiety. To effectively contain anxiety, a plan must be believable and comprehensive. It must lead from right now to victory. In the case of climate change, this means that it must have two distinct parts: 1) A plan to ignite a social and political movement powerful enough to fundamentally change the national approach to climate change and 2) A plan for how to actually fight climate change, once the social movement has succeeded in creating the social and political will necessary to impel legislative action.

Many social movements, including the Civil Rights Movement, move forward step-by-step, gaining momentum from every small victory. They do not have a comprehensive plan at the beginning, but rather plan as they go. The Human Climate Movement is attempting this currently—hoping that victories such as university divestment or stopping the Keystone pipeline will lead to a larger movement and ever-larger victories. The problem with this stepwise approach is that it doesn’t contain anxiety. It doesn’t offer a path to victory—to a planet safe for humanity. This means that, while building gradually has worked for other social movements, the Human Climate Movement must start with an all-encompassing plan for success.

Luckily, a plan to fight climate change, once we recognize the depths of the crisis and muster the social and political will to fight back, already exists. Paul Gilding and Jorgen Randers prepared a “ One Degree War Plan” which approaches fighting climate change with the same zeal and urgency of purpose that the Allies fought WWII.  It is a plan to prevent further emissions as much as possible and remove greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere, while also pursuing adaptation measures and low-risk, reversible geoengineering strategies. Their plan cuts emissions by 50% in the first 5 years, and to become entirely carbon neutral in 20 years. The next 80 years will be dedicated to recovering from the damage that has already been locked into the system. Their aggressive approach includes, during the first 5 years of the war:  closing 1000 coal plants, building wind farms and solar arrays in order to compensate for some of the lost energy and encouraging efficiency measures and electricity rationing for the rest of the energy losses; decreasing commercial flights by 10% a year; cutting deforestation by 50%; utilizing agricultural and forestry methods that bind 1 gigaton of carbon into the soil; and instituting a carbon tax of $20 a tonne, which increases by $20 a year until it reaches $100 per tonne of carbon. The entire plan is available here.

Gilding and Randers prepared their plan as an example of what could be accomplished with a war approach, the details were meant to be flexible, and should change according to cutting edge scientific understanding, technological breakthroughs, and new ideas I, for example, would advocate for the creation of a “Climate Corps” in which young people were drafted out of high school for 2 years of public service, fighting climate change. We could put the Climate Core to work on projects such as insulating homes, building sea walls and levies, and spreading agricultural techniques that bind carbon in the soil.

Though the details must continue to evolve, the point of the Gilding & Randers plan is that: if the United States came out of denial and waged a WWII Level War on Climate Change, civilization would have a good chance, a fighting chance, of continuation. We would need allies, of course, just like in any war. It wouldn’t be easy, or simple, or short. But it would be humanity’s chance to be active participants in our destiny, rather than sitting, passive victims, waiting for climate change to wreak its havoc. Thus, a WWII approach should be the plan with which the Human Climate Movement fights for.

But how do we get there? How can we possibly muster the political will to start fighting? Gilding believes that, once climate change gets bad enough, humanity will realize that we have to fight back. It will be a spontaneous, global awakening.

I disagree. Denial is an incredibly strong force. When animals, including humans are in existential danger they generally do one of three things: fight, flight, or freeze (Schmitt et al., 2008).  They play dead and hope the danger passes them by. As a species, we are paralyzed by fear and disbelief (Hamilton 2010). As climate change worsens, we very well could become more frozen and more deeply in denial.  To switch gears into fight-for-our-life mode, we need a social movement. We need the Human Climate Movement to focus national attention, to fight denial, spread the truth, and usher in that awakening. And to do that, it needs a new strategy; one that is built around the goal of containing anxiety and that is responsive to our current technological situation.

A Person-to-Person, Pledge Based Approach

Imagine: Your phone rings. It’s your old friend. (Or your cousin, neighbor, or former roommate). He says he would like to talk with you about climate change. Can he send you a few articles and then meet you for lunch on Wednesday to talk? He is going to have a small gathering at his house next week.  You are invited to that, too. You know climate change is a problem, but you haven’t read anything about it for a few years. (Who wants to read that depressing stuff? Plus, you have been so busy.) But you care about your friend, you are intrigued by his offer, and you realize that you probably should be more current on what is happening with our planet, anyway.

You accept. You make time. You read the most current assessment of how our climate has already changed, and where it is going. You realize that civilization will not be able to withstand this. Your mind is buzzing with questions, “What is going to happen? How can I protect my family? What should I do?”

You can hardly wait Wednesday—to talk over what you have read with your friend, to talk about options. He tells you that he shares your feelings. Climate change is a massively destructive force, which will wipe out human civilization if we let it. But, he tells you; we don’t have to be helpless. We can fight back. Your friend describes his recent signing the Human Climate Pledge. The Human Climate Pledge has the following components:

An acknowledgement that:

  • Climate change threatens civilization.
  • Fighting climate change it is an issue of survival and of morality. It must be our top political priority.
  • To preserve civilization, we must fight climate change like we fought WWII: with a government led, society-wide mobilization.
  • We must dedicate approximately the same amount of resources to fighting climate change as we did to fight the Axis powers: 36% of our GDP.  Or 5.6 trillion dollars, per year.

A pledge to:

  • Only give time or money to political candidates who also sign this pledge.
  • Vote for candidates who have signed the pledge in local, state, and national elections, when they are running against a candidate who has not signed.
  •  Live in Climate truth—to forsake denial, and face the frightening truth of climate change.
  • To spread the truth of climate change to people you know and love, and encourage them to sign the pledge also.

Your friend tells you how he learned about the Pledge, and why he decided to sign it two months ago. He shows you the Human Climate Pledge App on his phone, which displays the total number of signatories, and how many signatories he has brought on; the number of people he has given the pledge to, how many they have given the pledge to, how many they have given the pledge to, and so forth. It shows that, in total, 20,000 people have signed so far. And your friend has thus far given it to 8 people: his wife, brothers, and a small group of friends, and that they has so far given the ledge to 20 other people, mainly their family and friends.

He tells you that he asked you to talk because he cares about you, and respects you and knows that there are many people who would find your opinion influential. He tells you he hopes you join this effort; that you sign the pledge and spread it to other people. That you will join him in living in climate truth, and fighting this war of wars. He asks if you want some more reading, and recommends a few further books and articles, and gives you a written copy of the pledge for you to consider. He invites you, Sunday at 8:00, to come to his house to talk more, and to take the pledge, if you are ready to. Bring someone, if you like. Five other people, some of whom you know, are planning to attend, some may take the pledge at that time.

You part ways, your head spinning. Your friend has always been mild mannered and reasonable. Someone you have respected, and viewed as similar to yourself. This is unlike anything he has ever been involved with. Maybe he is onto something. And the articles you read were certainly upsetting. And the weather has been so strange…

Over the next few days, you read more and more. You knew the climate was changing, but you didn’t realize all of the different things that this would impact: Rising sea levels, damaged agricultural yield, vector borne disease, resource wars, climate refugees.  The information is hard. The whole world is changing, and it is happening very fast.

On Sunday, you arrive at 8:00 with some snacks and a bottle of wine. The atmosphere is somber, but friendly. You are happy to see some people you haven’t seen in a while, and meet some of your friend’s neighbors. You discuss the material you have read, and what has been happening in your area. Your friend puts on a 20-minute video from the organizers of the Human Climate Pledge. It’s a summary of the impacts of climate change, and a discussion of the Pledge. It’s a call to arms, an invitation to join.

Your friend asks if anyone is ready to take the pledge. 3 people say that they are. They stand. Your friend asks if they want to dedicate their pledge to anyone, or offer any comments to the group. A woman says she wants to dedicate her pledge to her children. She says she would do anything to protect them, and knows that fighting climate is something that we have to do, together. A man says his pledge is dedicated to his deceased mother, who always hated and feared pollution. After they have offered their comments, they stand and recite the pledge in unison. The rest of the group claps. People have tears in their eyes.

Your friend enters the new signatories information into the system, via his HCP App. The new signatories now download the HCP App themselves. They now have the capacity—and the responsibility—to give the pledge to others. To induct them into the Human Climate Movement. Your friend tells the new signatories that he has some buttons, armbands, and bumper stickers, if they want to broadcast their pledge visually.

He says he will be having people over to his house again in 2 weeks. All are invited back, and invited to bring others. Maybe people will feel ready to sign. People spend the rest of the evening eating and drinking together. There is a good atmosphere in the air. It feels like hope.

Specifics of a Person-to-Person, pledge based approach

As I have attempted to illustrate in the above narrative, this approach utilizes pledge-signing as a central tactic in the Human Climate Movement. The pledge specifies that the signer agrees that climate change is an immediate, existential threat to civilization, and that a WWII style response is called for. The signatory pledges only to donate money and time to candidates who have signed, and to vote for any candidate who has signed the pledge over any candidate who has not. In this way, the pledge functions as a reclamation of Democracy. The signatories recognize that the government is failing in its most important function: protecting its people. The signatories pledge to wield their power as citizens, and as humans, to push policy makers into action.

Signatories also pledge to “Live in Climate Truth,” meaning to actively commit to fighting their own tendencies to deny, minimize, and dissociate their knowledge and to share their knowledge with others. I have written elsewhere on the principle of Living in Climate Truth. The idea comes from Vaclav Havel, who noted that—when a system, such as the Soviet Union in the 1970s—was built on lies—that individual citizens disbelieved the regime’s lies, but acted compliant in order to avoid trouble. Havel saw revolutionary potential in this state of affairs. If a system is built on a lie, and people know it’s a lie but keep that opinion private, publicly demonstrating their allegiance to the system, then the system is ready to crumble. All it takes is for people to live in truth: to act on what they believe, to be open about it. This lessens the amount of pressure to conform other people feel, making it easier for them to live in truth, also. One of the ways we live within the Climate Lie is we don’t talk about it socially. Climate change makes people uncomfortable and anxious, so we don’t mention it. We may be depressed or terrified about the climate, but don’t want to be a downer or a drag. The Human Climate Pledge signatories promise to live in Climate Truth; to face the truth of climate change themselves, and to share their truth with others.

Specifically, signatories pledge to spread the Human Climate Pledge to others, especially people they know and love. One scenario for how signatories can recruit others was demonstrated in the narrative. But there are infinite ways that people can approach others with the Human Climate Pledge. They could give a special presentation in church or a community meeting; they can have informal conversations; they can invite friends to a recurring climate themed book-group; they can have conversations over the phone or through video-conferencing technology; they could convince existing environmental or political groups to take the pledge together. Getting people to sign the pledge will, in most cases, require a fair amount of education. Signatories can encourage friends and family to read books or articles about climate change, or attend presentations. Knowledge sharing and consciousness raising are central parts of a person-to-person approach.

Reaching out to people, personally, and sharing the reality of climate change, as well as the hope of the Human Climate Pledge, becomes the central organizing tactic of the Human Climate Movement; it becomes what civil disobedience was to civil rights. Pledge recruitment (like civil disobedience) allows activists to utilize their creativity, and adapt to specific situations. People are experts in their own networks. They know what might appeal to their family and friends. They speak their language, literally and metaphorically.

A mobile phone App should be developed to structure and track the progress of the Human Climate Pledge. The HCP App is received when someone takes the pledge, and it allows that person to give the pledge to others. This enforces a person-to-person structure. One cannot take the pledge online. (How many online pledges have you signed and then forgotten about?) They must receive the pledge from someone who has already taken it. They must take the pledge in person, ideally with others present. This reinforces the message that fighting climate change is a shared human endeavor; something we must pursue together and help each other with.

This person-to-person structure, and the utilization of a HCP App also allows for detailed tracking of pledges. It can track, and display: 1) How many people, total, have taken the pledge to date; 2) How many people you have given the pledge to 3) How many people those people have given the pledge to, how many those people have given the pledge to, and so on. In other words, the App will track a person’s total impact in terms of spreading the pledge. If I give it to 10 people, who each give it to 10 people, who each give it to 10 people, my actions have helped spread the pledge to 1000 people. This number will be continually available.

The use of an App also allows for coordination between individuals and the central Human Climate Pledge organizing committee. Potential uses include: HCP central can communicate with signatories via the App, for example, about political candidates who have signed the pledge; members could use their App to request buttons/ bumper stickers, other visuals that indicate support for the HCP; members can donate funds to HCP central through their app; HCP central can track Pledge progress and identify people who are particularly effective in spreading the message of Climate Change and the Human Climate Pledge, and ask them to share their best practices, or give trainings to teach others their techniques.

Recruiting people, including politicians, to sign the Human Climate Pledge should be the central tactic of the Human Climate Movement. But it does not necessarily have to be the only tactic. Indeed, a concerted recruitment effort that creates both community-level connections, and connections with a centralized Human Climate organization will make it easier to mobilize signatories for other types of action, all which share the same focus: raising awareness so that the United States can wake up to the threat of climate change, and respond with a WWII level approach.

Benefits of this approach

A person-to-person, pledge based approach offers myriad benefits as the central plank of the Human Climate Movement. Most importantly, it helps people contain their anxiety and channel it into action. By structuring the movement around existing human relationships, it allows people to support each other through their fear. An approach that unifies people allows them to gain strength from each other. The advocacy of a comprehensive plan contains anxiety further, and the recruitment-focus allows people to see their own role in the movements.  This is quite empowering, and the software that tracks how many people a member has given the pledge to, and how many people those individuals have given the pledge to serves as a constant, concrete reminder of a persons’ efficacy.

A person-to-person pledge based approach is an approach that is responsive to our current technological context. The Internet, social media, and ubiquitous smart phones are changing human behavior faster than politics can keep up with. The Obama campaign utilized the internet for coordinating meet-ups and volunteers in innovative ways and was richly rewarded for it. It should probably go without saying that a successful Human Climate Movement will have to use social media and technology in an innovative way if we are to find success. Social movements must leverage the technologies of their day; novel ways of using technology for and organizing and message-spreading provide a strategic advantage to movements, because the entrenched powers and vested interests do not have a counter-strategy available. (During the Civil Rights Movement, The Right did not have Fox News available to broadcast propaganda undermining the movement.)

A person-to-person approach utilizes technology in a novel way, but, perhaps more importantly, it is also built in response to a culture that is over saturated with media and technology. A 2009 Nielson study showed that Americans spend 8.5 hours per day looking at some type of screen. On those screens, we are bombarded by every type of information: news, advertisements, political messaging, infotainment, and updates on strangers lives. It is impossible to rationally process and filter this information; much of it is simply disregarded. Because of the cacophony, vested interests such as fossil fuel companies are easily able to warp the conversation by ginning up controversies and promoting phone “doubt” among scientists. Their arguments are paper thin, but because 1) the truth inspires anxiety and 2) most Americans don’t focus on the issue in a concerted way, but rather experience it as part of an over-stimulating barrage of information, they are effective.

A person-to-person approach cuts through the noise. It treats climate change as it should be treated: as critically important, deeply personal, yet inherently political. When a friend calls to talk about something important to them—a crisis they are facing— most people stop what they are doing and pay attention.

A person-to-person approach allows the medium to be a major part of the message. This approach emphasizes unity, learning, cooperation, and human relationships; some of the best aspects of humanity. It frames fighting climate change as a shared project, rather than a divisive protest. It recognizes that we are all in this together; climate change is bigger than any of us. Our best hope is to utilize thoughtful, coordinated, courageous action.

Conclusion

In the first section of this paper, I described ways that the Human Climate Movement is psychologically similar to, and different from, the Civil Rights Movement. I argue that, while the goals of fighting denial are the same, the fundamental barrier to fighting the Civil Rights Movement was racism, while the fundamental barrier to fighting climate change is anxiety.

In the second section of this paper, I applied this analysis by offering an organizing strategy that makes anxiety-containment the central goal. It is the best strategy that I can think of.  Perhaps a more effective strategy exists in someone else’s mind; certainly this approach can be improved and refined though collaboration with others. I encourage and welcome disagreement and constructive criticism, both on the psychological forces at play in the Civil Rights Movement, or the Human Climate Movement, and regarding the optimal strategy for organizing the Movement. Perhaps we can crowd-source strategy for the Human Climate Movement.

I encourage all who approach these questions to do so with a theoretical orientation guided by the history and theory of social movements, psychology, or anthropology rather than (just) an understanding of the current political situation. Aggressive action on climate change is not possible in today’s political climate. But social movements transform the political climate. They make us look at the past and ask, “How could things have ever been that way? How could we have been so ignorant?” They realign the stars. This is exactly the level of change that we need to fight Climate Change.  It’s a tall order, but the other option is passive suicide. Let’s put our heads together and get to work solving this. I hope you join me.

 

 

 

References:

Alford, C. (2001). Leadership by Interpretation and Holding.Organisational and Social Dynamics, 1, 153-173.

Cohen, S. (2001). States of denial: Knowing about atrocities and suffering. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

Hamilton, C. (2010). Requiem for a species: Why we resist the truth about climate change. London: Earthscan.

Leiserowitz, A., Maibach, E., Roser-Renouf, C., Feinberg, G. & Howe, P. (2013) Global Warming’s Six Americas. Yale University and George Mason University. New Haven, CT: Yale Project on Climate Change Communication. http://environment.yale.edu/climate/publications/Six-Americas-September-2012

Lertzman, 2013. The Myth of Apathy. In (S. Weintrobe) Engaging with climate change: Psychoanalytic and interdisciplinary perspectives. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

Morris, A. D. (1999). A Retrospective on the Civil Rights Movement: Political and Intellectual Landmarks. Annual Review of Sociology, 25, 517.

Romm, J., (2012) Hug the Monster: Why so many climate scientists have stopped downplaying the climate threat. Think Progres. http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/05/07/478984/hug-the-monster-why-so-many-climate-scientists-have-stopped-downplaying-the-climate-threat/

Schmidt, N. B., Richey, J. A., Zvolensky, M. J., & Maner, J. K. (2008).Exploring human freeze responses to a threat stressor. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 39, 3, 292-304.

Thomas, 2004. Southern Spaces. Television News and the Civil Rights Struggle: The Views in Virginia and Mississippi. http://southernspaces.org/2004/television-news-and-civil-rights-struggle-views-virginia-and-mississippi#section10

 

14 thoughts on “Fighting Climate Change is Different From Fighting for Civil Rights Part II, Strategy Proposal

  1. Will

    This is a wonderful plan! I will see about making such an android app. Am a novice web developer, but I will marshal a team from my university to make an android app with the specs you require

  2. Margaret Klein Post author

    Wow, tech help! That would be amazing. You will be the climate technologist! (haha)
    But seriously, having a working App would be wonderful. A prototype would make explaining the plan much easier. Thanks for the offer, Will, and thanks for reading.

  3. Lennart van der Linde

    Margaret,

    Thanks for this very valuable strategy proposal. I also believe something like the One Degree War Plan by Gilding & Randers is what we need, but it still seems to be a plan that does not necessarily help people overcome their anxiety. Many people seem to be as afraid of the implications of this plan as they are of the implications of continuing rapid climate warming. How can we cope with or overcome this anxiety, in your view?

    Another point is about the role of anxiety in the struggle for civil rights. Why did it take a century for this struggle to come from the Emancipation Proclamation by Lincoln to the ‘I Have a Dream’-speech by Martin Luther King? During this century was there not also a lot of anxiety, both among blacks and whites, about being discriminated and violated among blacks, and about losing a priviliged position or being attacked in revenge among whites? How was this anxiety different in your opinion from our anxiety today about rapid climate warming?

    And how do we deal with the active resistance of vested interests who try to defend those interests by spreading disinformation, doubt, false solutions and by buying politicians? Could civil disobediance maybe still be a valuable tactic in fighting this resistance, I wonder?

    By the way: I came to your site from Holland by reading a comment, referring to your site, on Joe Romm’s blog on Naomi Klein’s piece on denial within the environmental movement 🙂

  4. Lennart van der Linde

    You’re welcome, and see my further comments on your other excellent posts.

    Just one short addition to my earlier comment above: how about consumerism being like an addiction, which may be harder to get rid off than if it weren’t an addiction? I ask the same question at your open-source strategy post and am curious to hear how you view this comparison with (other) addictions.

  5. Leif Erik Knutsen

    “Slavery” is alive and well right here in the USA. Please give me another word for a capitalistic system that pays a minimum wage lower than average living costs to millions of it’s citizens. About 80% women. ? Is not poor access to food, health care and housing torture in every sense of the word? How about a government that taxes me to provide profits to others directly working to destroy Earth’s Life Support Systems? The GOP do not fund abortion. Fine. A precedent. Why must progressives fund the ecocide of the planet via subsidies to the Fossil Barons? Corporations, “Corpro/People”, are people now. How come the special treatment? “We the People” will be fined for throwing a paper cup out the car window. ($1,000 in AK.) Yet Corpro/People dump 19 pounds of toxins per gallon of fossil fuel consumed out the exhaust of commerce and get rich! Privatized profits and socialized loses are a failed paradigm.

    This is “Slavery” in every sense of the word IMO. When one segment of society is in a life and death bondage to another which prevents escape of the first? When one segment of society annually spends hundreds of millions of $$$ each year promoting status quo policies that lead to degraded health, agriculture losses, intensified storms and acidified oceans, disrupted climate expectations and more? These policies lead to the yearly death of 10s of thousands of Earth’s citizens, whole segments of climate refugees, (soon to number in the millions), and even lose of species. Still Corpro/People refuses to accept scientific culpability there of by accepting a lower profit margin working for the betterment of the whole, what would you call it?

    1. Margaret Klein Post author

      Hi Erik– sorry this reply is a little late. You make very heady comments that I usually need some time to respond to 🙂

      Basically, I agree that capitalism and particularly the growth-obsession is at the heart of the problem. But what I have a hard time conceptualizing is how we could transform our economic system while aggressively fighting climate change. It seems like so many changes at once. Maybe I am wrong– I am certainly open to the possibility!

      Gilding, who is still the most influential writer to me, and whose “1 degree war” plan I emphasize, is a short term war approach (which transforms capitalism on its own– during WWII the US spend 36% of GDP on the war effort and the top tax bracket was 94% Gas, sugar, nylons, tires, and other goods were rationed. Luxury was basically considered unpatriotic in a time of shared struggle) But Gilding also advocates, during the later stages of the war, the transition to a steady- state economy, much less based on consumption and more based on fairness. He does not specify exactly how this transformation should take place, which is the ultimate question. I am very open to hearing your thoughts on HOW to transition to a different economic system. I think boat-builders may have much to contribute to these questions 🙂

      As always, thank you for reading and for your thoughtful comments.

      1. Leif Erik Knutsen

        Been busy myself Margaret: Building a 27″ First Nations motif developed surface canoe for the Chief of the Skokomish Nation here in the Pacific NW.

        IMO it is clear that as long as “We the People” tolerate subsidizing BIG MOMEY to pollute the commons for their personal tax sheltered profits they happily will do so. After all, it is legal from their point of view. If there are associated costs to pay off lobbyist, congress folks, lawyers, a judge or two, mass media, Tea Baggers, elections, an oil spill hither and yon, etc, well that is just how the game is played. That small percentage of tax free profits is nothing more than the cost of doing business and does contribute to the GDP.

        The part that I cannot understand is why Progressives are such panty waists when it comes to the rebellion of this atrocity. After all there is precedent. The GOP do not fund abortion. Are functioning Planetary life support systems for the kidders less deserving than a rapist fetus? Stop profits from the pollution of the commons. Stop the madness. All we are asking is give GREEN a chance.

        IMO the problem is that both parties share the same fundamental flaw to varying degrees. That is both are beholden to the “socially enabled capitalism” paradigm that allows, even encourages, the few to profit from the exploitation and pollution of the commons. One will only be allowed to profit as well if YOU accept the paradigm via investment in the fallacy, stocks, bonds, Wall Street, war, ecocide fossil extraction supported with tax dollars, etc. Obviously this paradigm leads directly to the “haves” and “have not’s” that must continually fight for a piece of the action as the the resources of the planet and the life support systems that we all depend upon are rapped and pillaged, leaving only destitution in the wake. (Tar sands, acidified oceans, disrupted climate, etc.) A new paradigm is needed and it is one that has arisen from time to time in the past, usually in outlying cultures but those become quickly plundered by the more aggressive exploiters. The fallacy that those exploiters refuse to recognize is that exponential growth is not allowed in a closed system and Nature bats last. Nature is at bat and she has a strong line up. She will prevail. Respect and healing support for Earth’s fragile life support systems with our tail between our legs, that is humanities only recourse. It is sink or swim Folks. Survival of the species, one and all, or profits to the polluters. Your call!

        “War becomes perpetual when used as a rational for peace,” Norman Solomon. “Peace becomes perpetual when used as a rational for survival.” Yours truly. Socially enabled capitalism is a failed paradigm. War is a prime example. So to EXXON et. al., Wall Street, etc. Stop profits from the exploitation and pollution of the commons. Give PEACE a chance.

    1. Margaret Klein Post author

      Thanks for reading, and for the generous offer. I have been ambivalent about whether to develop the app now, or to wait for more collaboration from others on the idea. But I think that it would be possible to build a platform in the app for strategy proposals to be submitted and considered! So I do want to go ahead and develop it. I will write a long post about my strategy, plans, and ideas for the blog in the next couple of days that will address this more. But basically, lets do it 🙂

  6. Brian Mitchell

    Your person-to-person pledge strategy reminds me of the time I spent in a Greenpeace local group during the 1980s. Although the activities were nearly all low-level efforts at fund-raising, with a bit of consciousness-raising every now and then, having a local group which regularly functioned in public did humanise Greenpeace and its environmental message. Members of the general public responded warmly to others just like them who were taking some responsibility for making a difference.

    However, at some point Greenpeace decided that the network of local groups wasn’t having the effect they wanted. Perhaps they’d hoped that a “global awakening” would rise from the bottom, and also that it would happen quickly, and neither did. I’m not party to their policy discussions, but it seems they felt it would be more effective to attempt to form relationships with government and corporate leaders and operate more like a recognised NGO and “work from within.” How well that has worked out is debatable; one rarely hears of them these days.

    I fully agree with your diagnosis of anxiety but perhaps what I’m saying is that the person-to-person approach seems just as capable of absorbing and stifling the necessary truth as do vested interests. Greenpeace was apparently most effective as a consciousness-raiser when it performed heroic direct action which shocked and intrigued, so I don’t think that approach should be ruled out entirely.

    1. Margaret Klein Post author

      Hi Brian– thanks for your thoughts. I definitely agree that direct action should not be off the table. But to my mind, it is not attractive as a central tactic, at least not at this stage. To put it in military terms, you have to muster and train your army before you go into battle! Though I am very, very open to alternative proposals (please make a proposal!) . Its an important question: how can direct action be incorporated into a comprehensive strategy that effectively fights climate change? David Graeber’s “Direct Action: An Ethnography” is on my reading list… that might give me some ideas.

  7. Leif Erik Knutsen

    Solutions? This is my pony:

    The original “Tea Party” was a rebellion of taxation without representation. Today it is far worse. This is taxation in support of the ecocide of the Planet.

    The fundamental flaw with western capitalism, IMO is the failure to place a value on the Planets life support systems. We all pay to dump our garbage, ($120/ton here), waste, even rain water fees for storm water run off in many areas. ($5/month here.) Corporations are “people” now. Corpro/People deserve a bulk rate of “Free” plus subsidies for toxins? They piddle all over themselves at the suggestion of $25/ton for toxins. Even as society, (you and I are fined for throwing a paper cup out the car window), are on the hook for far more in mitigation costs. The latest government numbers I have seen are ~ $50/ton and that is surely low ball.

    “Socially enabled capitalism” has run its course and the cat is out of the bag. Look around, who has all the money? Stop profits from the pollution of the commons.

    GO GREEN. Resistance is fatal to earth’s life support systems.

    Not any job, only Green Jobs can start to move the economies of the world out of the morass. As long as capitalism has the ability to profit, handily I would add, from polluting the commons, every “Black” job just digs the hole deeper. Only green jobs ADD VALUE to the economy and start to rejuvenate Earth’s life support systems as well as the economy via energy from the renewable sector.
    Corporations are “People” now for better or worse. Speaking as a “Real People”, if I throw a paper cup out the car window, bingo, ~$100 fine. ($1,000 in Alaska.) Corpro/People can pollute the air, water, dirt, and oceans with Toxins and the dirtiest Corpro/People have become richest Corpro/People in the world and the foundation of Western Capitalism. Still Corpro/People get rich and even subsidized with YOURS & MY TAX MONEY. I cannot stop it but “We the People can!. GOP don’t fund abortion. Fine. A precedent. How come I must fund the Ecocide of Earth’s life support systems? Go figure. Please help! Stop profits from the exploitation and pollution of the commons…. PLEASE…

    The only “just war” is a war of the survival of humanity and Earth’s Life Support systems. Both under threat by our socially enabled capitalistic paradigm and the ability of the few to profit from the pollution and exploitation of the commons. That “We All Win War,” WAWW, can, and in fact, must be fought on all fronts with the mantra of minimal death and maximum good to all life, starting with the poorest of the poor or closest to extinction receiving the most attention. The military ethic needs to transform itself from a killing machine to a sustainable greening machine. (Who would not want to serve?) Doing that would take the wind out of the sails of terrorists the world over. Post traumatic stress and physical carnage would be all but abolished. Finally there would be at least some justification for the trillion dollar ++ traditional war spending the world over. Distributed energy to the masses brings profits to the people not the polluters who have prospered enough. Greed vermin will get buy just fine. It is the rest of us in peril.

    I can go on but I have posted too much already. Thank you for your indulgence.

  8. Peter M.

    I’m all for grassroots climate action. That being said, I have a few comments/reservations about your post.

    First off, climate change is about race just as much as the civil rights movement was: it’s no secret that the poorer populations of the Global South (a predominantly non-white population) will bear the brunt of the impact of global climate change. The recent devastation of Typhoon Haiyan makes this readily apparent: the (non-white) people of the Philippines suffer due to the actions of (predominantly white) businesspeople, policy makers, and consumers in the West.

    In addition, I have some questions about your claim that anxiety plays a unique role in the global climate movement, thus differentiating it from earlier movement. Isn’t racism, after all, a form of anxiety? Hate stems from a fear of difference, from an anxiety directed towards the other and what that other represents. Unwillingness on the part of white citizens to take action to fight for civil rights until the mid-20th century (and only then due to the geopolitical advantages it would grant them) was a manifestation of this anxiety of the other, the public face of which was racism. Racism, after all, is more than just bigoted actions on the part of individuals: it is institutionalized discrimination that is unchallenged and unquestioned. Ultimately, the civil rights movement and the global climate movement seem to be focused on combating the same issue: the tacit endorsement of the current situation due to anxiety about possible change. What the civil rights movement did was bring the injustice of the existing situation to the forefront, make it impossible to ignore. As far as I can tell, your movement would aim to accomplish the same thing.

    Changing gears a bit, I also have some misgivings about terminology. Climate change certainly lacks historical precedent as far as scope is concerned; however, I think using terms like “humanity” and “civilization,” as you and many other climate change activists do, obscures the messiness of the particulars involved. “Civilization” is a term with a massive amount of baggage—historically, it’s been used by the West to distinguish themselves from, and consequently construct, the savage, barbaric, or otherwise uncivilized—simply put, to justify colonialism. The call to defend civilization has all too often been used to sanction heinous acts of state or institutional violence. I’m not saying that you or Gilding are advocating for this kind of violence—indeed, climate action will almost certainly help prevent future resource wars. But I do think that a particular group (in this case, predominantly, white, educated, and well-off climate activists) pledging to take action for the sake of an undifferentiated multitude hews far too close for comfort to the colonialist “white man’s burden” paradigm. In creating this total plan for victory, whose voices are included? Whose are being left out? When a Western, predominantly white group of people make decisions that will disproportionately impact subaltern populations across the globe without the input of said populations—not shutting out their voices but instead speaking for them, grouping them in with a uniform “humanity” whose future must be safeguarded, even if this future is divergent from or even antithetical to the wishes of subaltern populations—the power dynamics at play must be addressed. Case in point: an app can obviously only reach those who have smartphones, tablets, or other expensive electronic devices. This leaves out the poor and marginalized, populations which, as I mentioned earlier, will be disproportionately impacted by global climate change. One might argue that an app will specifically target those with political clout, making it a more efficient way to combat climate change. But is efficiency ultimately worth the cost?

    Furthermore, if combating climate change is framed as the goal that matters above all others, one that impacts not just various identity groups but “humanity” as a whole, what becomes of the other struggles happening across the globe? Contrary to what many in the US would like to believe, racism, sexism, and other forms of institutional oppression are still defining traits of our country. The predation, paternalism, and violence endemic to global capitalism—which bears the brunt of the responsibility for climate change in the first place—continue to proliferate. Putting these struggles on the backburner for the sake of an incontestable greater good amounts not only to a tacit endorsement of the status quo, but, in the case of anti-capitalism, action that is counterproductive. Climate change, as an issue, does not exist in isolation—as Bruno Latour wrote in Politics of Nature, it is a natural/cultural amalgamation, consisting of innumerable issues and contestations mixed together. Personally, I think that a mobilization effort that seeks to combat climate change cannot be effective if it is not intersectional. Only a One Degree War that is simultaneously anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist will be able to bring about the structural change in the world that needs to happen if the impact of anthropogenic climate change is to be mitigated.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *