“Renewal” needed in climate movement
The Guardian has published an interesting editorial by climate change activist and direct action campaigner Bradley Day. In his editorial, Day describes how the jury in a recent court case found him and a group of 19 other defendants guilty for the crime of “conspiring to shut down the Ratcliffe-on-Soar coal power station.”
Day and his fellow defendants did not deny their roles in plotting “direct action” attacks against the coal station. In fact they appeared to be quite proud of their planned actions and pursued a defense tactic of justification; actually defending their plans to illegally disrupt and disable the plant as a means of stopping greenhouse gas emissions (and by extension, climate change).
Throughout the trial, the group “presented … a wealth of evidence” from “the world’s leading climate change experts,” attempting to sway jury members into adopting their beliefs on potential climate change impacts. They believed that an in-depth 3-week long indoctrination session could not help but exculpate them in the eyes of the jury.
Day reported however that, despite their best efforts, “the jury went on to deliver a unanimous guilty verdict.”
Day laments that the more extreme climate movement has failed to convince society at large that climate change is a present and mounting danger, or that direct action is an acceptable response to that perceived danger. After several years of effort only a small portion of our culture is – in his opinion – properly motivated on the issue, while “huge swaths” of society have refused to become acceptably “engaged.” Instead, the majority of people have reached a point of profound climate fatigue and Day admits that climate change is increasingly “an issue of the past.”
Undeterred by this fact, or by the lesson the jury so clearly tried to offer, Day moves from the guilty verdict to fomenting for a “renewal” in the movement. Rather than taking a step back and questioning his motivations, or his “facts,” he calls for climate campaigners to “do more than lobby … MPs” and more than “shut down coal-fired power stations.” Far from taking the verdict as a learning opportunity, Day calls for the creation of an entirely new and “comprehensive grassroots engagement project.
Sadly, this attitude highlights the solipsism infecting the extreme climate and environmental movement. Many in that movement honestly believe that anyone not actively involved in direct, or extreme, political action against industry and utilities simply could not have grasped the ‘true’ picture. They perceive the dissenting public as ignorant, unenlightened, somehow failing humanity and Gaia Mother Earth. They do not appear to understand that direct action is not an effective educational tool, or that it is a wholly inappropriate response to dealing with policy disagreements. They appear to miss the fact that threatening violent reprisals if one does not get their way does not win support for his cause in civilized society.
The reality is that if his group – relying on three solid weeks of sworn testimony from the world’s premiere climate thinkers – could not convince twelve jury members of the righteousness of their cause, then they may indeed be in need of a serious renewal. Day’s problem is that the renewal he seeks is likely 180 degrees out of phase with the renewal they actually need.