Climate change: any answers?

We all know we need to do something, but nobody knows what

September 22, 2008
3 min read

Today I sat through what must rate as one of the most depressing left-wing meetings I’ve ever been to. It was ‘planet day’ at the convention, and the evening session was based around a direct question: ‘How can we build a movement to stop climate change?’ The resounding answer, it seems, is: ‘We don’t know.’

Perhaps that’s unfair. Climate change is a huge, global issue that demands a huge, global response – you can’t expect a motley crew in a Manchester meeting hall to solve a problem like that. And there was no shortage of ideas in the room. It was just that each one came with a disclaimer: this will be difficult, and it won’t be enough.

No-one offered a tactic that seemed to hold any hope of success. We could launch a global mass movement, taking to the streets – but that didn’t work for anti-war protesters, did it? We could organise direct action, and spend a few nights in the cells for our trouble. We could take the issue to the unions, pretending that the workers’ movement isn’t timid and hamstrung by bureaucracy, and that we can somehow find new jobs for workers in ‘unsustainable’ industries. Or we could try for revolution … really, it’s even not much less likely.

Robbie Gillett of Plane Stupid made criticisms of our last mass movement, Stop the War, and called for a ‘diversity of tactics’ to tackle the climate crisis. He then proceeded to unveil his own idea: a flashmob outside Manchester town hall tomorrow that will see protesters suddenly reveal red T-shirts with ‘stop airport expansion’ written on them. (If only Lindsey German and friends had thought of this tactic, all those Iraqi kids might been saved.)

Tony Kearns of the Communication Workers’ Union made the fundamental point that ‘the destruction of the planet stems from capitalism’ – and that’s why all the media-savvy campaigning in the world ain’t going to get anywhere. Jonathan Neale, the author of Stop Global Warming, Change the World, took it further, albeit in somewhat coded language: we need ‘to force the governments of the world to act, or to replace them with governments that will act’. He also made an interesting comparison with the economic shift that took place when the second world war started, when ‘every economy reoriented itself to make weapons’. The technology is there to halt climate change, but the problem is taking control of the means of production – hmm, sounds familiar, that.

Towards the end of the meeting, Neale hit the nail on the head when he said that ‘it’s going to take a massive mobilisation in many different forms – some that have not yet been invented’. I hope someone gets around to inventing them soon, because I left that room feeling that our planet is more doomed than ever.


✹ Try our new pay-as-you-feel subscription — you choose how much to pay.

Civic strike paralyses Colombia’s principle pacific port
An alliance of community organisations are fighting ’to live with dignity’ in the face of military repression. Patrick Kane and Seb Ordoñez report.

Greece’s heavy load
While the UK left is divided over how to respond to Brexit, the people of Greece continue to groan under the burden of EU-backed austerity. Jane Shallice reports

On the narcissism of small differences
In an interview with the TNI's Nick Buxton, social scientist and activist Susan George reflects on the French Presidential Elections.

Why Corbyn’s ‘unpopularity’ is exaggerated: Polls show he’s more popular than most other parties’ leaders – and on the up
Headlines about Jeremy Corbyn’s poor approval ratings in polls don’t tell the whole story, writes Alex Nunns

The media wants to demoralise Corbyn’s supporters – don’t let them succeed
Michael Calderbank looks at the results of yesterday's local elections

In light of Dunkirk: What have we learned from the (lack of) response in Calais?
Amy Corcoran and Sam Walton ask who helps refugees when it matters – and who stands on the sidelines

Osborne’s first day at work – activists to pulp Evening Standards for renewable energy
This isn’t just a stunt. A new worker’s cooperative is set to employ people on a real living wage in a recycling scheme that is heavily trolling George Osborne. Jenny Nelson writes

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 24 May
On May 24th, we’ll be holding the third of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.

Our activism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit…
Reflecting on a year in the environmental and anti-racist movements, Plane Stupid activist, Ali Tamlit, calls for a renewed focus on the dangers of power and privilege and the means to overcome them.

West Yorkshire calls for devolution of politics
When communities feel that power is exercised by a remote elite, anger and alienation will grow. But genuine regional democracy offers a positive alternative, argue the Same Skies Collective

How to resist the exploitation of digital gig workers
For the first time in history, we have a mass migration of labour without an actual migration of workers. Mark Graham and Alex Wood explore the consequences

The Digital Liberties cross-party campaign
Access to the internet should be considered as vital as access to power and water writes Sophia Drakopoulou

#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part III: a discussion of power and privilege
In the final article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr gives a few pointers on how to be a good ally

Event: Take Back Control Croydon
Ken Loach, Dawn Foster & Soweto Kinch to speak in Croydon at the first event of a UK-wide series organised by The World Transformed and local activists

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 19 April
On April 19th, we’ll be holding the second of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.

Changing our attitude to Climate Change
Paul Allen of the Centre for Alternative Technology spells out what we need to do to break through the inaction over climate change

Introducing Trump’s Inner Circle
Donald Trump’s key allies are as alarming as the man himself

#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces

Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'

Confronting Brexit
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond

On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network

Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter

#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement

Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.

Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees

Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides

The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari

Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next

Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace