Social Climate Tech News

Wed 01 2022

We need more angry and hard-working climate activists

by bernt & torsten

The planet Earth is burning up and politician wants to solve the problems with stricter penalties for climate activists. 

The thoughts go to the ancient era and the troublesome prophet Kassandra who began to preach that she could see the fall of Troy and something about a wooden horse. Oh what she screamed and gaped, that girl. Shut up, Kassandra, we’re on our way to work / war here. What kind of cute wooden horse is standing there on the beach by the way?

Yes, that’s the way it is. Troy perished. According to myth, Kassandra was first raped and then enslaved by Agamemnon. No one likes a truth teller.

What should an individual do when our civilization is now perishing? When millions of people are threatened with starvation, when the earth’s crops are drying up, the rainforests are being devastated and we are exterminating animal species after animal species? We who live in the rich world are all more or less part of the problem

To be civilized we have to believe in politics and democracy because that is all we have. However, politics and democracy are not synonymous with political parties or parliaments. Think of Martin Luther King. Climate activists use the only tool they feel they have. Tomorrow begins the big climate meeting +50 in Stockholm and we can wish for the activists to be heard and seen everywhere, that they are really noisy and difficult. We need more of them, more of us need to be them.

A political problem with the climate issue, in particular, is that it is difficult to identify a clear enemy. We who live in the rich world are all more or less part of the problem. We live, almost by definition, over our assets, in everyday life dependent on oil and gas. It creates guilt and shame, the cognitive dissonance that most people try to rationalize away. 

In the book Psychological roots of the climate crisis, psychoanalyst Sally Weintrobe writes that rich people in the West (we) are stuck in what she calls “exceptionalism”. It is a specific psychological state where we tell ourselves that we have the right to be rich and have a good time no matter what it costs. That we have deserved it.

Young people have not been involved for as long and are therefore not as complicit in the catastrophe we are now in. It is easier for them to see who the opponent is and whether it is the economic system, consumerism, and fossil capital. That is, the adult generation, that is, we. It is therefore not surprising that the climate movement in the world largely consists of teenagers and young adults.

Politicians on all the spectrum believe that young people should not take to the streets but join a trade union instead. What a simplified picture, a really cozy pacifier blanket for a weakened political movement. 

Young German climate activists in Fridays for Future who pushed the German Social Democrats and the trade union movement to the left, and the green politicians in the same country who are now forcing a faster transition to wind and sun, linked to a green foreign and security policy. 

And on the election campaign in Australia that a couple of weeks ago finally put an end to a decade of conservative, climate-mocking rule. It was an election campaign largely run by well-educated middle-class women who were tired of both conservative sexism and climate denial.

What unites the successes of green politics in Germany and Australia is not that the degree of trade unionism has risen. Last summer, Germany was hit by major floods. In the summer of 2019, large parts of Australia were on fire, and in February this year, tens of thousands of homes were destroyed as a result of extreme rainfall.

People have slowly taken up the climate issue, but it is only now when natural disasters came close and affected themselves, that people really woke up and began to look beyond their own, short-term economic interests. This also applies to the Australian labour movement, which has always balanced between metropolitan voters and the coal industry. 

Yes, maybe it’s only when disaster strikes that we really wake up, as in Kim Stanley Robinson‘s indispensable climate novel The Ministry for the Future which begins with a heatwave in India that kills tens of thousands of people in a scenario like soon – next year? – can become a reality. The disaster leads to political radicalization and widespread climate terrorism, but also to the world finally waking up. 

Another interesting controversial book by the human ecologist Andreas Malm is How to blow up a pipeline, which argues whether the climate movement needs to become more radical if it should go from demonstrations to sabotage. That may be a bit too extreme to bring out the point, it could harm more than it will wake people up.

In this context, it is still worth recalling that this time too it is not Kassandra who is the problem, but that it is fossil capital and our way of life that is responsible for the insane violence of our time against nature and humanity.