TH!NK post

Climate Caravans to CancĂșn Circus

Published 30th October 2010 - 0 comments - 651 views -

This is third in a series of posts exploring the challenges facing climate activism.

Some questions from my earlier post:

We’ve been looking for new or different ways of working:
  • Do we make community education and awareness the priority?
  • How do we reach out to a broader audience?
  • Should we become more involved in mainstream politics through political parties and elections?
  • Is direct action a better route?
  • How do we raise awareness and influence the decision-making processes?

The debate about climate change campaigning, especailly strategies and tactics has intensified since Copenhagen.

Direct Action

Th!nk4 blogger Richard White argues that we need to adopt a more Gandhian approach:

It’s obvious that the scientific and environmental communities have failed to educate people about climate change. The powerbrokers own the media and greatly outspend them in the information wars. This leaves us one conclusion, if humanity is to survive; we need to deal with the amoral powerbrokers with non-violent civil disobedience.
Do-or-Die Decade

Direct action politics are well tried and have had their successes. The anti-Vietnam moratorium movement was one. Yet filling the streets with anti-war protesters beforehand did not stop Bush, Blair and Howard with their invasion of Iraq. Greenpeace has gained lots of publicity with its stunts but hasn’t stopped Japanese whaling. Rallies and attempted occupations got few tangible results at Copenhagen. The potential of non-violence becoming violent and counterproductive is ever present. In fact there is little doubt that a small minority see violence itself as a legitimate tactic.

Certainly tree-sitting and people chained to or blocking bulldozers have saved forests. The 1980s No Dams campaign to stop the Franklin Dam in Tasmanian was a stunning victory. It was a classic example of non-violent resistance and broader political activity. (More on political action in later posts.)

In the 60s and 70s union action work bans and boycotts, dubbed green bans , helped preserve some of Australia’s historic buildings and open spaces.

Public Relations

Increasingly the climate change movement has used the techniques of public relations and advertising. My favourite manufactured event from last year was the Plan B: The Ark stunt.

This year it may be Via Campesina’s Caravans to Cancún:

Over a thousand women and men, farmers, indigenous people, urban and rural people affected by social and environmental destruction are planning to march in 5 caravans towards Cancun, Mexico, in protest against the indolence of the dominant countries and capitalists of the world gathering for the conference of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change from November 29 to December 10, 2010.
La Via Campesina Organizes International Caravans for Life, Resistance, and Environmental Justice in Mexico

TV ads have been a powerful tool for awareness raising. In Australia grass-roots community advocacy organisation GetUp! puts ads online and raise money from donations to put them on commercial television. It’s bound to be a borrowed idea but it gets real results including free publicity.

Online campaigning is currently a key medium for the movement. Organisations like tcktcktck and attract large followings. But is the apparent success of projects such as 10/10/10 Action Day real? In the cyber jargon, are we in danger of becoming ‘siloed’, simply preaching to the converted?

The future

With all this activity, you’d expect more progress from our world leaders. Perhaps we need to put more emphasis on strategies like intervening in the mainstream political processes, the building of alliances with business and the use of consumer power.

Category: Climate Politics, | Tags:


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