Wednesday, January 30, 2019

The Sprawling Diversity of the Climate Protest Movement

People all around the world are standing up and calling for climate action. A wide diversity of different groups and demographics are organizing and they are demanding that we reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

A growing and increasingly united climate protest movement is being led by women and young people. Hundreds of thousands of people who have never protested before are taking up the fight.

We are seeing protests from indigenous people, faith groups, health workers, agricultural collectives and unions. There are protestors from all walks of life--both young and old, elite and working class--all striving towards a common aim.

Different groups have different objectives. Some like the fossil fuel divestment movement have a very specific goal while other organizations have broader more diffuse agendas. These cohorts range from small grassroots groups to behemoths like Climate Action Network that represents more than  1,300 NGOs around the globe.

There are also a large assortment of protest methods. This includes everything from street level protests like the yellow-vest demonstrations in France to sophisticated and well organized groups that practice highly coordinated acts of civil disobedience like the Extinction rebellion in the UK.

Women have assumed leadership positions in various protest movements around the world. Women are at the forefront of historic change and they are playing a major role in the environmental justice movement. It is no coincidence that this was a salient theme at the recent Women's March.

Even corporate leaderships are are coming to the realization that they cannot afford to sit on the sidelines and remain silent.  This is illustrated by the fact that the business community is getting involved in climate advocacy as never before. There are major forces driving unprecedented corporate activism and in the US much of this activism is being directed at President Trump.

Many in the agricultural sector are also demanding reforms including climate action. On January 19th, protests during the "Green Week" agricultural fair drew 35,000 people in Berlin, including 170 farmers driving tractors.  People were there to protest the government's agricultural policies. They were calling for agricultural reforms that support the welfare of the environment, animals and rural farmers. As explained in a Common Dreams article the protests centered around the "alleviation of climate change and species depletion". 

A growing number of seniors are coming to the realization that you are never too old to protest. During an Extinction Rebellion (XR) protest in the UK an elderly lady glued her hands to the railings of Buckingham Palace and at an action at the Department of Business, a grandfather participating in a street blockage. He told XRs Facebook Live feed, "Ive never done this before". One of the most dedicated senior citizens is a 72-year-old retired Australian grandmother who is a full-time climate activist.

Seniors are a large and powerful demographic that may prove to be a force to be reckoned with.  As reported by the Guardian, a growing number of older protesters are standing up and fighting for the environment.

"They come equipped with unprecedented amounts of time, money and motivation," A former Greens leader, Bob Brown, said. "This is a cauldron of untapped civil action from vote-changing to direct protest, and climate change is the major target."

Students have made great strides where others before them have failed. Young people all around the world are standing up and leading activist agendas.  Student led protests in the US have successfully challenged both the NRA and the GOP.

A number of youth climate actions took place in 2018 including the Youth Climate Lobby Day on July 19th and the March on July 21. At COP24 one of the most important protest speeches came from 16 year old Greta Thunberg. Every Friday Greta takes part in a school strike to raise awareness. Now hundreds of thousands of children are going on strike to demand climate action. This includes children from thousands of schools in hundreds of cities on almost every continent on earth. Some of the largest student protests took place in Australia, Belgium, Colombia, Germany, India, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, Uganda, United States. Students in many other countries also staged protests.

This is a large and growing movement and this diverse array of protestors are gearing up for a momentous 2019. As reported by the Guardian, climate change activists have vowed to step up protests around world this year.

May Boeve, the executive director of the climate change campaign group, said: "Hope now rests on the shoulders of the many people who are rising to take action: the inspiring children who started an unprecedented wave of strikes in schools to support a fossil-free future; the 1,000-plus institutions that committed to pull their money out of coal, oil, and gas, and the many communities worldwide who keep resisting fossil fuel development."

Working together is the key to the success of big tent climate protest. "We need now to work together to build an emergency coalition focused squarely on tackling climate devastation," Farhana Yamin said.

Patti Lynn, the executive director of the Corporate Accountability campaign group, said: "We will continue to build our movements at home and we will escalate global campaigns to hold big polluters accountable for their role in the climate crisis. The movement to demand climate justice has never been more united, organized or determined. Our day is coming and we will win."

The climate protest movement has never been stronger or more unified. Although the panoply of protest groups may appear to have  radically different agendas they share key objectives. Groups as dissimilar as the Extinction Rebellion and the Sunrise Movement share fundamental goals.

Even those that oppose climate action commonly share an interest in economic reforms. There are already practical efforts well underway that suggest a way forward. These efforts include Impact investors, B Corporation certified companies, CSR focused firms, sustainability driven companies and corporations with a social purpose. 

"The only way we make social change is when we stare down that fear and build community together," says Greenpeace staff attorney Maggie Ellinger-Locke. "Another world is possible."

Although 2019 can be expected to be marked by conflict, global protests give us reason to believe that this year will be a turning point for climate advocacy.

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