In June 2019, the Great Transition Initiative (GTI) organization sponsored a major forum The Climate Movement: What’s Next? which “takes stock [of] and debates strategy for a vital new phase in the struggle for a livable, resilient planet.” From my perspective, the organization is highly reputable, and I believe the contributions to be very valuable, worth repeating at least in brief précis form.
The contributors were asked to “weigh in on three core questions”:
- What is the climate movement’s state of play?
What has worked, and where has the movement fallen short?
- System change, not climate change?
Does defusing the crisis require deep structural and value changes, or can “green capitalism” get us there?
- Do we need a meta-movement?
Does the climate movement need to build overarching alliances with environmental, peace, and justice movements?
Although they are all available on the single website, I have decided to list them individually to highlight the scope of the discussion.
The Climate Movement: What’s Next?
Opening Reflections, Bill McKibben
A good summary of the shift from naiveté to the strong emergence of the climate justice focus of modern environmentalists. If we are to survive as a species, major changes are needed.
The Larger Struggle: Mitigating Capitalism, Hans Baer
A discussion of the complexity of many players at the table, with a major emphasis on the need for a new type of socialism offering true reform of the huge issues facing our civilization.
Charting how we get there, Guy Dauncey
A very good summary of the many steps (via a developmental model) that will be required for us to move to a healthy outcome, recognizing how grim the situation actually is and yet focused on solutions rather than despair.
Life-affirming carbon capture, Neva Goodwin
A response to the growing consensus of the need to remove massive amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, some methods very positive (mainly orientated to soil restoration), others very dubious and dangerous (mainly promoted by the fossil fuel industry).
Report from the European front, Virág Kaufer
The climate debate in most European countries is at a crossroads, caught between progressives and political agendas, many of which are “hostage to the corrupted and corporate-captured national governments.”
Bringing the force of the law, Hermann Ott
A hard look at the need for strong assertion against those who “suffocate new developments and prevent them from growing,” implementing compliance with existing regulations together with writing new and better laws for climate protection.
Being the change, change the world, Karl-Ludwig Schibel
“[T]he only way to win is to act on the changes we want to see in the world.”
The dramaturgy of transformation, Mimi Stokes
A fascinating description of how we, as well the ancient Greeks, have failed to address our hubris, and how our cultural hopes of colonialism, capitalism and technology have reversed into tragedy, for all, including elites and deniers. Using the modern theory of tragic fates, we need to turn our wounds into gifts, creating a new global culture and planetary civilization.
Planetizing the movement, Tom Athanasiou
“I have been asking people what they think has changed in the last year, and why. Most seem to agree that something has definitely shifted. . . . We are in very serious trouble, and there is no way forward unless we admit it.” Yet, we need a meta-movement — we need to get serious about transitional justice, a truly international justice system.
The movement enters a new phase, Jeremy Brecher
“The climate movement in the US and around the world has gone through two main phases and is entering a third: . . . [first] the confirmation of man-made global warming. . . . [and second] a direct action movement . . . using civil disobedience targeting fossil fuel infrastructure to mobilize opposition.” The third “represent[s] a shift to using direct action techniques against governments and politicians, and expresses the massive activity around the Green New Deal (GND) in the US and Leap Manifesto in Canada. The article explores the strengths and weaknesses of the GND, the possibility of a meta-movement that will unite the various disparate parties.
A caring economy is key, Riane Eisler
“[T]o bring about systems change and effectively address climate change requires a closer look at the question of change from precisely what kind of system to what kind of system. . . . Through today’s technologies of destruction and exploitation, traditions of domination may lead to our species’ extinction. But we can change our course and bring about a Great Transition if we focus on root causes rather than symptoms.”
Renewables are not enough, Kerryn Higgs
“The biggest obstacles to success in limiting global warming to 2°C above pre-industrial (or, even more hopefully, 1.5°C) are the vested interests that oppose this endeavor. The problem is political. . . . No real solution can be established while corporate capitalism remains the dominant economic system almost everywhere on earth. It’s a system that demands consumption for the sake of expansion rather than serving actual human needs.”
On personal and political agency, Karen O’Brien
A brief yet comprehensive description of the nature of system change.
Moving from resistance to repair, Vicki Robin
“The climate movement has excelled at resistance but is missing a crucial, essential element: a focus on repair. It is clear about what it is against, but largely mum on a restoration project equal to the scale of climate change damage. . . . we humans act upon the earth for our benefit, but we do not act with the earth for healing all life. What is the earth healing path?” We need a justice movement that repairs for future generations.
Imploding the carbon economy, Gus Speth
“[S]omething is happening here today. The level of public, media and political attention is not nearly where it should be, but there some hopeful signs of movement in the right directions.” We need “an induced implosion of the carbon economy. , , , Our job is to make it happen, using all the tools we have.”
A climate emergency plan, Anders Wijkman
“While the tone of the debate has changed, people in general—here I include most policymakers—do not fully understand the difference between “incrementalism” (the weak mitigation policies so far pursued) and “transformation” (the deeper mitigation we desperately need).” Major actions in multiple domains are needed.