Social movement scholarship has failed to help us understand and address the most urgent crisis of our time.
We are currently watching the unfolding of a climate emergency. Despite the high degree of scientific consensus about the causes and consequences of global warming, governments have failed—over more than 20 years of negotiations—to take any meaningful steps to limit global warming or mitigate its impacts. In fact, as the scientific evidence about climate change has become more certain and substantial, governments remain polarized and paralyzed, failing to even curtail the growth of—much less reduce—greenhouse gas emissions. Intergovernmental negotiations resemble a re-arranging of the deck chairs on the Titanic, as governments remain deadlocked in debates over market-based mechanisms to limit emissions and mitigate impacts of warming, refusing to acknowledge that the market system itself drives climate change.
But social movement scholarship has little to add to what we know about why we’ve seen little change in regard to global climate policy. Why is this? I suggest that there are three reasons. Continue reading
Climate activism seems to be everywhere: from the wheat fields of Nebraska, to the halls of the United Nations, to university campuses all over the world. The massive People’s Climate March in November, 2014 brought more than 300,000 people to the streets of New York. Big events are also being planned for the next UN climate meeting in Paris, along with continued pressure in capitals, universities, cities, and corporations all over the world.
In my recent book on international climate activism, I argue that one of the big developments in climate activism has been a shift in the way that activists are framing the climate issue. 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.