A Year of CEM – Calum McFarlane

Calum McFarlane

Looking back at a year of Climate Emergency Manchester with a series of posts from the Core Group members.

I’m a corporate spreadsheet monkey and headset jockey, husband, father of two, living in Hazel Grove in Stockport. I was putting my kids to bed of a Tuesday night when I got an email from Marc, asking me to step away from the other bits and bobs of activism I’d been “dabbling” in and get involved with something he proposed to call “Climate Emergency Manchester”. I didn’t know what it would be, but the discussions we had after I wrote what we have come to call “activist vuvuzela”, meant I knew we agreed at some basic level on how we should go about it.

I had very little history of any sort of activism prior to this, and, I’m not proud to say, very little knowledge of a lot of social history, how local governments work (or don’t) – so it’s fair to say I’ve learnt a lot about all these things.  Probably more importantly, it’s also opened my eyes to very different ways of thinking about politics and more broadly, political and other forms of power structures, society and economics – it’s given me an interest in learning again that I thought had dried up after I left university and had to leave my first academic love (vertebrate palaeontology!) behind.

On a personal level, I’m proud to have been able to help one or two individuals at a very difficult time in their lives (coming to terms with the full severity of our climate and ecological predicament), as a result of my own experiences in dealing with this. It was this experience that helped me to pull together a collection of resources for people who are “freaking out”, which was surprisingly popular, and made me realise the need for an emotional, as well as a technical response, to where we are today.

My involvement in CEM is always constrained to some extent by my responsibilities as a parent, and bluntly, I have had to learn the hard way how much time I can realistically dedicate to it (and maintain over weeks and months). As the “token breeder” of the group, maybe the most help I can be is to help CEM “learn by doing” that “legitimate peripheral participation” can definitely be a thing.

What has it cost me? Some money, some time. But I’ve gained some new friends, and as I’ve written about elsewhere, choosing to give a damn and try your best to do something, is essential for your sanity.

As CEM matures, I am hoping to find time to help CEM’s work reach into some of the other boroughs of Greater Manchester, and to bring an additional emotional dimension to what we publish online.  It is hard to look the future in the face and remain clear-eyed, but I believe what CEM is trying to do is an essential part of the spectrum and diversity of activism, that is vital for any sane response to our predicament.

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