…was written by Sunny Hundal in last weeks Guardian. I won’t post a link, because the Guardian doesn’t need the juice, but just type, ‘The climate change message is not being heard. Here’s how to change tack”‘ into google.
Here Sunny fluently explains what the green movement has been doing wrong about getting across the message to act on climate change. I’ve read one or two other blog posts a year or two back that said basically the same thing, but was extremely pleased to see that this message had made it onto a large newspaper in the UK.
If you’ve been following the climate change issue then you’ll have noticed that success hasn’t exactly been forthcoming. There are some massive obstacles in the way of progress. Big oil, big business, a system that won’t tolerate anything other than an increase in GDP per capita. There’s another one too – the environmental movement.
Look at one example. How many marchers were there in London just before the COP 15 at Copenhagen 2009? It was 50,000. 400,000 marched against the fox hunting ban in 2002. There’s a 7 year gap between the two, but it’s clear to see where the strength of public opinion truly lies when it comes to climate change, and other issues. To a city dweller such as me, that 400,000 could protest against a ban on a medieval practice of animal hunting seems absurd, but clearly this issue was extremely important to the people who live in the countryside and others.
So why doesn’t climate change – supposedly a threat to global prosperity and security – provoke the same sort of feeling? One reason is the environmental movement itself, besides the other challenges mentioned, and Mr. Hundal presents a few reasons why:
1) Doom-mongering – we don’t concentrate on solutions, we just bang on about how the world’s going to end. A crass generalisation about environmentalists from me, but the point would ring true for many I believe. Let’s be more positive and offer solutions rather than catastrophe.
2) Anti-capitalist – as Mr. Hundal rightly points out, we’ve been preaching to the converted. It’s left-wing people that are largely behind the message to act on clmate change, but we’re losing the right, who are just as, if not even more, important than the left. Activists with dreadlocks threatening to smash capitalism isn’t the best way to win supporters from the right-leaning people.
3) Failure to address the economic argument – the right-wing tabloids continue to insist that green projects will cost the economy. Whether you believe in economic growth or not is irrelevant. Stopping climate change is one of the most important challenges the world faces – along with eradicating hunger and poverty. To do that there needs to be a broad concensus, or at the very least, a strong majority amongst the population on the need to act. We’re not there yet, and we should have been there years ago. Greens need to show how economic and environmental improvement can go hand in hand. Referring to arguments such as Potocnik’s here is a good example of this http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/dec/29/eu-environmental-resources-new-recession (ok I said I wouldn’t link to the guardian but never mind)
The UK government is largely committed, at least in legislation, to slashing it’s consmption of emissions. This was achieved largely because of the dedicated work of a number of brave and industrious activists and NGOs. But we can go further and we need to, as do our friends in the US and Canada. We would all do well to learn from Mr. Hundal’s article.