The paradox of the international youth climate movement: Youth are great at emotionately demanding change. But are they also great at forcing the change they know is necessary?
My answer is clear. The burden is on youth: the movement has to win, before it will be taken seriously. These need to be high-profile, high-visibility wins, as the KeystoneXL-decision, the carbon tax in Australia or the death of the third runway in Heathrow.
This movement really needs to very actively grab power und apply much more pressure than it has done so far. More in the way Abigail, Anjali, the Mic Check and lots of other actions did this week: This really changed the media atmosphere We are seeing a slow tide change: occupy wall street, the arabian spring, keystone xl, the interventions at COP add up. Powerful people are starting to see youth as a a force they have to take into account. but youth will have to be creative and smart in keeping this pressure up… (Thank you Neva and Sam who contributed to these thoughts on skype during the final hours of COP17!)
The UNFCCC process is great for getting attention and youth have learned to navigate skilfully within its contraints. christiana figueres has been practically begging to bring the youth passion and fire into the halls and plenary. it’s not good enough to just talk about it: No longer shouting on the outside but bringing a constructive, challenging voice into the inside.
This post comes out of a reflection that Casper ter Kuile started this week with his post on “5 things that surprised me about powerful people”. He wrote it “following a week of bizarre situations and meeting senior figures from business and government” at the World Economic Forum ‘Global Shapers’. (Yes that’s Davos). What struck me was Casper’s self-reflection of his own hope for “powerful people“. He wrote:
I realised that my own assumptions about the world still included the thought that these powerful people have a clear idea what they’re doing. Turns out, that ain’t so.
This reminded me of similar feelings, I posted on Facebook: “even though I spent 2,5 years researching, writing and now promoting a book on the youth climate movement I still hope the “powerful people” would solve the problem for us. And I think that is a feeling a lot of people within the movement struggle with – it is hard to trust the movement enough so that it can apply its strength on changing old/fossil structures.
Here is the discussion we had:
Daniel Boese: hey casper, my experiences from 4+ years of interviews with leading German politicians, scientists and some renewable-CEOs is that if one is lucky they get the planetary crisis. none of them GET movements and the kind of movement people like you, Deepa Gupta, Diana Ann Katrin Vogtel, Ole Seidenberg, Fiona Paz, Cornelia Bauer, Christian Schwarzer and tons of others are trying to build. Powerful People are powerful in existing structures, not very helpful in building new ones in the extremely short period we have.
Casper ter Kuile Daniel Boese – YES! And my friend Charlotte Millar keeps reminding me that ‘powerful’ as a word is much more complex than the way I used it here. People with passion, commitment and vision have an enormous power within the new structures you mention. Thanks for your comment, I really agree : )
Freitag um 00:31 ·
Casper ter Kuile “In all its might, power is less self-sufficient than passion; passion generates its own power. Passion is in itself a kind of power that is by its very nature a kinetic force.” Aung San Suu Kyi
Freitag um 00:34 ·
Daniel Boese Casper, I do agree as well – but even though I spent 2,5 years researching, writing and now promoting a book on this new kind of movement I still notice that I sometimes hope the “powerful people” would solve the problem for us. And I think that is a feeling a lot of people within the movement struggle with: it is hard to trust the movement enough so that it can apply its strength on changing old/fossil structures.
To sum things up:
Power is never given. Power is taken.
People who are “ready” give off a different vibe than people who aren’t. Animals can smell fear; maybe that’s it.
My thoughts also come out of the quite intense experience of promoting my book about the movement. A lot of people see this story with great excitement. But a certain kind of powerful establishment people dismiss it as not important, feel-good-treehugging-teenage-angst or so, I read between the lines here. Those happen to be the people profitting strongly from our fossil-economy. These are the forces the movement needs to reckon with – and they will not cede power when youth ask nicely.
What would that mean?
- Creating a high visibility climate-campaign in EUROPE akin to the KeystoneXL-protests of this year. Maybe keeping the tarsands out of Europe through the fuel directive would be a starting point: This decision was just pushed back til March and is being intensely lobbyed by the usual suspects: Canada, US, UK. The international tarsandsday has already created a model for action that is close in kind to the action days of 350 and tarsandsaction…
- Taking the success of passing ARTICLE 6 a lot further and actually use it to build youth-lead and youth-driven INSTITUTIONS: Maybe a couple of research/policy hubs (Think and Do tanks). Lead by people from inside the movement who know its culture, its power – and work to harness this in a way that is less confrontative but no less important than civil disobedience. We all know how this movement runs on a shoestring: with huge personal energy investments, but very little funding. No magic “Powerful People”-fairy will change this. Building instutions is one way to change that.
- What are YOUR answers?