is the biggest challenge humanity has ever faced, with civilisational an increasingly realistic outcome.
To avoid the worst we need not only a fast, large-scale transition to net carbon neutral Technology, but also a radical reduction of consumption in general and of animal agriculture in particular – and, in the long run, a.
It has become increasingly clear that these changes are not happening fast enough, with political actors and institutions unable to escape an incentive system created by short election cycles and monumental lobbying efforts, and consumers and citizens in the grip of the pervasive, but mostly invisible Ideology of consumerism.
The main obstacle to effective climate action are therefore economic actors who have accumulated enormous capital and thus Power, and act in an effectively unregulated space. Their strategies undermine climate action on the concrete level of policy making and implementation as well as on a societal level as an entrenched socio-economic System of power.
This system and these actors are responsible for more aspects aspects of the current polycrisis, from political polarisation to rising prices and stagnant wages. They also hold in place and profit from a neo-colonial system of wealth transfer from the Global South to the Global North, and the ongoing exploitation of people in low-wage countries and our ecological.
Therefore effective climate action requires fundamental system change for three different, but related reasons:
- to remove effective political veto power from economic actors, particularly the fossil fuel and animal agriculture industries;
- to enable the transition to less consumption and a steady-state economy;
- to end exploitation and the plunder of the commons.
To achieve system change against the apparent will of the economic and political establishment, three conditions need to be created by:
- sustained material and symbolic disruption of key economic actors and the political institutions they have captured;
- widespread popular support for system change, the agents promoting it, and their actions;
- ideas for and working examples of alternative social, economic and political institutions, e.g. a Universal Basic Income.
Disruption can, if supported by a majority of the population, exert enough political pressure that key components of the system can be changed – if alternatives are ready to be implemented or scaled. If these alternatives change enough ways in which the system works on a deep enough level, the whole system will be transformed. This forms the core of any promising strategy to achieve system change.
That the system to be changed is based on exploitation and extraction is not only a socio-economic reality, but also an opportunity for building political power to create these conditions: If everyone who is being exploited or disadvantaged in or by the current system recognises their struggle as a shared and political one, collective action becomes possible.
Hence our most important tasks as activists are the following:
- Identify, understand and connect to the issues and grievances of marginalised as well as mainstream social groups.
- Support and connect existing struggles to create a shared consciousness and thus the condition for collective action.
- Forge coalitions and alliances between groups to amplify their respective power in coordinated action.
- Build, grow and adapt the organisational infrastructure for collective action and alternative socio-economic institutions.
- Expose and undermine consumerist ideology and its expression in policies and institutions.
- Craft an accessible and attractive narrative that unifies struggles and inspires people to act.
Building on the results of these tasks, collective action can create the disruption, popular support, and alternative institutions we need to change the system.