Conferences, 4Rs 2008

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'What did you do in the War against Climate Change?' Climate change, direct action and inter-generational responsibility
James Goodman, Rick Flowers, Rebecca Pearce

Last modified: 2008-08-31


Climate change poses profound challenges for society, requiring nothing short of a paradigm shift if it is to be addressed in any meaningful way. That challenge has been characterised by at least one observer - Nicholas Stern - as putting society on a war footing. Social mobilisation to force governments to address the issue has only recently begun to attract mass participation. The yearly international day of action on climate change has been mounted simultaneously across several countries for more than three years. Framed in Australia as a 'walk against warming', a demonstration of concern about climate change, the event now attracts several hundreds of thousands people internationally. Climate action also manifests in local struggles against specific projects, and events, in both Northern and Southern contexts. The 2007 Bali conference of Climate Change Convention signatories, for instance, attracted a large contingent of climate change campaigners from Indonesia and from
elsewhere in Asia. In Northern countries campaigners assert a special responsibility, and this is reflected in the increasing intensity of climate action protest. The continuing inaction of Northern Governments, in the face of evidence of large-scale climate change, despite clear historic and continuing responsibility, creates fertile ground for the emergence of a new direct action movement. Linking personal responsibility to global emergency, embedded in an overwhelming sense of special responsibility, climate action resonates with many, if not a majority, of Northern over-consumers. Direct action is focused on specific carbon hotspots - from airports, to coal-fired power stations - that are recognised as unsustainable yet are defended as necessary. in doing so it forces question-mark into public view. This paper explores these themes through interview material gathered from direct action climate campaigners involved in the 2008 Climate Camps held in the UK and in Austr
lia. Climate Camp is a model of strategic direct action geared to movement learning and building, first put into play in the UK in 2006. It is now taken up in a number of countries around the world, including in Australia, and holds the promise of becoming a transformative and widespread social movement. The paper explores the imperatives for direct action, for a world at war with the causes and culprits of climate change. It explores the meaning of climate responsibility for those who, as one campaigner put it, want to look their children in the eye and say 'yes, I was on that barricade, for your future'.

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