by Ben Castle
Let’s face it- climate change is just too depressing. Hardly a week goes by without us hearing of new temperature records being set. This summer the US has suffered one of the worst droughts in living memory and just two weeks ago we were told that Arctic sea ice cover had reached a new record low. All the while our political leaders seem unable, or perhaps unwilling, to take the necessary actions to avoid disaster. The annual climate summits now follow an all too familiar pattern of encouraging rhetoric, followed by long rounds of finger-pointing, before agreement is reached to effectively put-off making any major commitments. This collective failure of our political leaders to get to grips with climate change recently led the IEA to warn that the world is now on course for at least 6° warming this century, a pace of change far greater and more dangerous than previously feared.
Given this outlook we could all be forgiven for reaching for a large drink (or three!), or worse: giving up on any thoughts of fighting to change the worsening status quo. However, while things may appear grim, there are reasons for optimism. Right now across the world there are thousands of inspirational true stories being created by citizens who are leading the fight against climate change from their villages, towns and cities. They are making a stand and delivering real action while refusing to wait for their political leaders to catch up.
The Democracy Centre today brings you seven in-depth profiles of such campaigns from across the globe. We don’t often get to hear the positive news, but climate activists are beating powerful oil companies on the ballot in California, halting fracking plans in Bulgaria and elsewhere, putting a stop to new coal-fired power plants in India and Kosovo, challenging coal export infrastructure in the US, pushing infrastructure creation for renewable alternatives in Thailand, and challenging Hollywood from the classroom. In many of these important fights decisive victories are being won. If our societies are to kick their deadly addiction to fossil fuels, it will be the cumulative result of these hundreds and thousands of local battles fought by normal, yet extraordinary, citizens.
These stories are helpful for putting to rest any creeping pessimism. They also offer vital lessons for those of us engaged in climate change campaigning. Paying careful attention to the experiences of fellow activists can teach us how to ensure that our efforts are as strategic and worthwhile as possible. After all, we don’t want to waste our own energy as well. We reached out to lead campaign organizers in five countries to get to the heart of their planning and pass on a detailed understanding of their objectives and targets, what alliances they formed, what messages they framed and what actions they took – and to find out what worked and why.
The series of profiles is designed to allow readers to trace the strategic thinking behind these important wins and see why and how it achieved results. They illustrate, for example, the importance of communication and messaging strategies which focus on the negative local impacts of climate-altering projects. While many campaigners will be rightly motivated by the threat of global climate change, highlighting the damage a project will cause to health or livelihoods in the immediate vicinity will, these profiles demonstrate, often be far more politically fruitful. In the fight for a better climate future sharing some smart action in the midst of bad news has never been more necessary.