We have published a collective statement that outlines our individual perspectives on COP and our lines of inquiry into an alternative movement against climate catastrophe. We invite you to contribute your response to COP and your own provocations by attending an online Post-COP sensemaking session on at 5 pm on the 17th of November. Register to attend the session here.
The conversation on our collective survival is utterly alienating and disempowering for the vast majority of people. This disempowerment is sown by interwoven threads. The portrayal of COP plays to a familiar trope that victory happens in one big event, the do-or-die moment, the protagonists heroically battling for the last-minute win. This is nice fiction, though the reality is that events are only decisive because of all that goes before and after. Telling the story this way excludes many from feeling they have a part to play – it’s someone else’s battle.
The ‘one big moment’ narrative of COP26 completely and intentionally dislocates most people from the process. The sense of ‘but what can I do?’ belies the fact that our chances to respond to climate breakdown don’t come in a cycle of big events. They come every day, every time we encounter the corrosive logic of growth at work, every planning decision, every procurement policy, every community facility condemned to closure, every worker striking for what they deserve.
While the people of Glasgow find that a part of their city is momentarily subject to different laws and a visiting police force, the enormity of it all almost makes it feel like change is impossible – where do you even begin? The climate movement’s most significant task is helping all people see that they have a role to play.
Capitalism can feel like a totality. It can also be seen as a systemic pattern emerging from the repetition of actions, structures and decisions underpinned by logics of accumulation, extraction and expansion. We must recognise that the tangible places to get to work are everywhere and belong to everyone. It is the power of all people reclaiming their agency over what most impacts their lives and connecting these struggles to climate breakdown – this is what has transformative potential.
This document comes from the movement perspective that we must go beyond fatalism to imagine what we can achieve with meaningful collective political action. While acknowledging that there are no ‘good governments’ to host a critical climate change summit in a rigged growth-oriented machine, we still believe that COP represents an opportunity to do something, to nudge along the path, that any small wins are wins we need. The following provocations are the result of observing, wondering, listening to and learning from others.
We look forward to hearing the discussions that bloom in the following weeks.
- How do we divest our faith in institutions and instruments of power that have yet to demonstrate the political imagination to respond effectively? Are forms of campaigning and protest another way of investing energy in structures built for questionable purposes? How do we stop ourselves from reproducing these structures?
- What lenses are helpful in understanding some of the deeper issues underlying COP inaction, institutionalised delusion or incapacitation?
- What are we learning about how protests at COP and beyond are being reported and framed by the media?
- If the UK stands in front of the world as an Emperor with No Clothes, a failed state hosting a rigged summit, how can we expose this while building alternatives through a frame of degrowth and decolonisation?
- What narratives are keeping us stuck? Where do our assumptions limit what we can do in response to the unprecedented challenges presented by climate catastrophe? How do we use this collective experience to wake up and wise up?
- What real role do the police have at COP? We can’t ignore how increased policing endangers and excludes Glaswegians with precarious citizenship, young people, and anyone whom the state or police have never protected. Questioning where power and legitimacy lie, how do we dream and bring into being new forms of activism or bring about a change of the order called for?
- What needs to break down for us to break through the decades of inaction and reorganise human life around a bearable future? What are we learning about what we need to let go of when responding to climate breakdown?
- What are we learning around how change happens? Are we experiencing another layer of decolonising that needs to take place within activism and change work?
- How can we find ways to demonstrate solidarity as a collective? Why does so much protest seem futile? How can we find new forms of expression?
- What does COP mean for and mean to people who are not in the ‘climate movement? What does that help illuminate about where to go from here?
- If COP is a fractal (a microcosm) of the bigger whole, what is it reflecting back to us?
- What is fermenting that offers potential? Where were the seeds of radical newness sown? What are the whispers and echoes of possibility you are hearing?