Working together to create a climate-friendly society

1st August 2023


While what makes a good climate campaigner is debatable, we must work together to create a climate-friendly society, writes Tom Pashby

The acceleration of climate breakdown is drawing more people into the climate movement. I mean that in the broadest possible sense. That doesn’t just mean signing up to a climate campaign mailing list. It definitely does mean growing public consciousness of the link between human actions and the decreasing habitability of our planet.

As I write this, the top two stories about the climate movement in the UK in the past week have been a high-profile cricket match disrupted by Just Stop Oil protesters, and the veteran environmentalist Lord (Zac) Goldsmith resigning from the government as a minister, citing apathy towards climate policy.

Some may baulk at my inclusion of Lord Goldsmith as a member of the climate movement. He may prefer a less activist term, but I think it’s important to be open-minded about how we conceive of the community of people working to avert climate catastrophe.

There has never been a broader coalition of actors within the climate action movement. We face dichotomies of insider versus outsider, and violent versus non-violent. There’s little chance of us all agreeing on what makes a good climate campaigner. That shouldn’t stop us from being supportive of a wider variety of types of climate action beyond those we are personally comfortable with.

Most of us want the same thing – to deliver a healthy, safe environment within which we can all thrive. Today we live in a world that has been artificially heated 1.2°C above average temperatures since the Industrial Revolution by a relatively small number of people burning vast amounts of fossil fuels.

That heating has already wrought devastation in many parts of the Global South and increasingly in the Western world too. It will be disastrous if we don’t come together to work towards a less dangerous future now, and one way we can help the situation is by all of us being more receptive to forms of climate action that are alien to us.

Too often we fall into the politics of division. I’m not sure whether this is something that’s been around for a long time, or whether it’s a symptom of the post-Brexit political landscape or the result of rising levels of fascism around the world in recent years. People aren’t born with entrenched opinions and we don’t have time to wait for generational shifts in thinking, because we have years rather than decades to change the fate of the planet.

People engaged in clandestine direct action, those working for government ministers on climate policy, entrepreneurs taking risks to develop new types of cleantech and activists turning up on marches all have important parts to play in the process of creating a climate-friendly society.

I’m not saying that people involved in climate action can do no wrong. We should all hold ourselves responsible, including via both noisy protest and quiet diplomacy. In a perfect world, we would hold one another to account and be able to listen to and respond to criticism in a more sensitive way.

We should be most interested in the effectiveness of action, rather than the strategies and tactics we use to get there. That means we should all consider whether the way we’re trying to act on climate is the best for where we are individually and institutionally. It means assessing our relationships and our access to power.

The variety of types of climate action is likely to get broader as we see more extreme weather events, disruption to our daily lives, and more injuries and deaths related to the climate emergency. As more people join us, it’s important that the climate movement gives itself the space to experiment and innovate.

Tom Pashby AIEMA is a digital journalist at IEMA

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