By Ruud Wouters & Michiel De Vydt
All across the globe, youngsters are staging protest, demanding politicians to take the climate crisis seriously. What started with a lonely, striking Swedish schoolgirl giving an inspiring speech at the COP24 Climate Conference in Poland, quickly became an international movement and culminated in a global day of action on March 15th. On that single day, no less than 1.6 million people in more than 125 countries at 2000 different locations walked the streets and demanded better climate policies.
In this contribution, we focus on one of the more noteworthy national protest waves within this larger international cycle of protest. Our focus is on the case of Belgium, which—we believe—both in terms of mobilization and in terms of its subsequent public and political consequences, deserves to be on the radar of activists and scholars alike. Many elements of the protest wave we will describe in the following paragraphs resonate strongly with theories of social movements (political process, opportunity, framing, resource mobilization, etc). Here, however, we put the case up front and stick to a detailed description of the events that captivated Belgium between December 2018 and April 2019. What made so many youngsters skip school for so many weeks in a row? And what were the consequences of their protest actions? Continue reading
By Pablo Lapegna
“Together we can cool the planet.” With this phrase (explained in an accessible 15-minute clip), the global social movement Via Campesina launched a campaign in 2015 to draw attention to the role of industrial or corporate agriculture in global warming and to advocate for solutions that promote agroecology and social justice.
Recently, ExxonMobile made headline news for agreeing to shareholder requests for greater transparency regarding risks associated with its fossil fuel assets and shale gas activities. In late March, the company agreed to publish information about the risks that stricter limits on carbon emissions would have for its current portfolio and for future development of its deep-water oil reserves. This was quickly followed by a move to address growing concerns over the environmental impacts of fracking. In a major turnaround, ExxonMobile agreed to report how it manages risks associated with fracking such as those related to air quality and the use of water and chemicals. These concessions are the result of sustained mobilization by shareholder organizations including Arjuna Capital, a wealth management firm that focuses on sustainability, and As You Sow, an advocacy group for social corporate responsibility. Similarly, the electrical company, FirstEnergy recently agreed to release information about the effects of changing climate policy on its business model. These events signal that corporate actors increasingly view shareholder activist organizations as legitimate claims makers. It also points to new directions for social movement research. Continue reading
Recently, an environmental youth summit called Power Shift was held in Pittsburgh, PA. The event is held every two years and brings together youth leaders and other activists to mobilize around issues related to clean energy and climate change. 7,000 people registered to attend the four-day summit, which entailed an environmental conference held at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center and direct actions (e.g., marches and other demonstrations) throughout the city.
The Energy Action Coalition (EAC) sponsors Power Shift. The EAC was founded in 2004 to build a youth clean energy and climate movement and is composed of 50 youth-led environmental and social justice groups from across the country. The EAC also maintains a professional staff located in Washington, D.C. where the first Power Shift conference was held in 2007. This conference drew over 5,000 attendees and subsequent summits, also held in the capital have garnered increasing numbers and high profile speakers such as Al Gore, Nancy Pelosi, Bill McKibben and Ralph Nader. Continue reading
In 2012, 87 years after its first famous Monkey Law, Tennessee passed a law attacking evolution, labeling that foundation of modern biology “controversial” and purporting to grant public school teachers and students “academic freedom” to challenge it in class. Unlike 1925’s Butler Act, 2012’s Monkey Law broadened its scope beyond evolution, also sweeping in the similarly scientifically uncontroversial but socially contentious topic of climate change. Continue reading
1. If only political activists would stay out of science, scientific ideas could be used to make the right political decisions.
Whether conceived of as a field of action, as an institution, or as a component of elite power, science is not, and has never been since its formation in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries, separate from questions of power. Who pays for science, how nature should be manipulated, who can participate in it, what counts as fact, and what questions are worth asking are shaped by political relationships. Africans and women, for example, were excluded from its ranks for centuries, and biological ideas about these groups’ inferiority were built into science as a result. These very same ideas are still used today to explain women’s underrepresentation in science.