Have just watched a good hour involving Kevin Anderson, Margaret Heffernan and Adam Chodzko, ably chaired by Bianca Manu. The youtube is here, and it is worth your time.
And yet, and yet…
Here’s what I (Marc Hudson) would have said. Other CEM core group members would have different takes (obvs – YMMV).
There’s usually a key word in any question, that helps unlock what is at stake. How can we adapt in the face of #climate uncertainty? For me, here, the key word here is “we.” Emotions are often/largely collective things. We don’t like to think that way. We are told to think of ourselves as captains of our destiny, that we are, or should aspire to be immune to other people’s moods. And it is important that we hold on to our autonomy, that we don’t get swept up in collective emotions, because they can go to very very bad places indeed.
But we ALSO need to think of our capacity to adapt, to survive as intimately tied up with -entangled, to use the mot du jour – with our relationships with other people.
As Bruce Springsteen says, “remember, nobody wins unless everybody wins.”
And SO MUCH of the way we are hailed as human beings is about atomising us. The ridiculous Greater Manchester Combined Authority “survey” about nature, for example.
You will go under if you do not find a network of support, where you are able to give and take support as needed. You will burn out, you will despair. You. Cannot. Do. This. Alone.
Admitting that is not about weakness, it’s about strength, realism.
That network will take you time, energy and serious skill to develop and maintain. You cannot – as I have seen – put virtual strangers together and say “there, that’s an affinity group.” That is worse than useless.
The skills needed to develop that network are about listening, compassion, honesty, intelligence (emotional as much/more than anything else). They tend to be more in the hands of women than men. They tend to be (therefore) devalued.
Alongside this, to sustain a group, you will need viable but worthwhile goals and some sort of theory of change. You will need excellent internal communication capacities, project management, facilitation, convening. You will need excellent capacity to absorb the energy and ideas of people who have very limited time. All of this is fantastically difficult. If this were easy, we would not be in this horrendous mess.
The network will remain fragile, vulnerable to egomaniacs, narcissists, martyrs, lunchouts, parasites (this is the bit where some of my core group colleagues will wince).
You will get this wrong. You will all of you need to trust each other, and be deserving of each other’s trust.
You will have to do a LOT of talking, thinking, writing. In Climate Emergency Manchester we spend serious energy on building up each other’s skills. We spend serious energy and time on negotiating and communicating who is going to be available to do what, when. We have blunt conversations sometimes.
You have to think about both individual morale and the collective morale (which is NOT simply the adding up of everyone’s individual morale. Functional groups simply do not work like that).
People who are scared of these conversations will try to curtail them, to say “comrade, we will have time for that touchy-feely bourgeois stuff after the Revolution.” Screw them, and the stale ideology they rode into town on.
You will get this wrong. Yes, I know I did this one already. But srsly.
The abyss is coming. It’s going to get into a staring contest with you, and it is probably going to win. If you are on your own, you won’t last five minutes. With your crew, you might get through (through to what, exactly, well, that’s for another day).
You can do ALL of this work, and STILL LOSE. Just because you support each other, build up your skills, your knowledge, your relationships, so what? The forces of darkness, of stupidity, of inertia are incredibly strong, and we have left this so very late. Everybody knows the war is over, everybody knows the good guys lost.
7 thoughts on “How can we adapt in the face of #climate uncertainty? A @ClimateEmergMcr core grouper rants… sorry “considers””
Please say what “puperal fevering” is. My Chambers English, Chambers Science, Oxford Medical, and Oxford Clinical dictionaries don’t say. I’m trying to catch up with you but eager to retain my cultural autonomy and not be swept away in communal emotionalism. KISS. Do you mean pupillage or even simpler, pupil?
My bad! This is what happens when you rant quicker than you spellcheck… It should be puerperal fever. I am absolutely awfully addicted around alliteration and asinine assonance. So when I was looking for a rhetorical flourish to end with, my landed on pueperal fever.
The connection is this – loads of women were dying about 72 hours after childbirth in one hospital in Vienna while basically across the road another hospital had much lower death rates. A doctor, Semmelweis, investigated and came to the conclusion that it might have something to do with the doctors delivering babies at the deadly one coming up straight from practicing dissection on horses (this was before germ theory was accepted – Koch was still 20 years away). The doctors were outraged, and Semmelweis was Jewish, and this was 19th century Vienna (not that 20th century UK or even 21st century is all THAT hot on these things, obvs). Semmelweis was hounded out, and died in an insane asylum. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ignaz_Semmelweis I am not setting myself up as a martyr here, simply making a (bad and badly spelt!) analogy with the way that what SHOULD be obvious (cutting up horses before delivering babies leads to demonstrably bad results: holding terrible format meetings leads to demonstrably bad results) is not always obvious because powerful people don’t want to (or simply can’t) admit they have been doing it wrong. The analogy isn’t perfect of course – the doctors derived no benefit from their patients dying, whereas the bureaucrats DO derive benefit from people not coming back to more meetings – they don’t have to engage with committed and intelligent people who would hold their (in)actions up to a microscope. So it may be that the de-motivating, demobilising outcome of a bad meeting is a feature not a bug. Does any of this help? Make sense? Let me know. Marc
Further to my comment a few moments ago, the link to Kevin Anderson on YouTube doesn’t work. Nor does a search for Kevin Anderson bring up last night’s video. More haste, less speed? More emotionalism, less signal?
Hi again John.
The link is to the Invisible Dust youtube channel. They are in control of if/when they put the footage up.
With regard to what you call emotioanlism: the post is clearly labelled, in the title, as a rant. As with all things, caveat emptor (or in this case, lector).
I was too eager to see that video but will look out for it. And puerperal is my new word of the day. My dictionary says that puerperal depression can lead to suicide which also seems appropriate for climate meetings. Many thanks.
This might be your most useful post ever in speaking to the realities of political agency, and *sustaining* political agency. Coming across your blog some 6 or 7 years ago was a somewhat happen-stance event, and life-changing. Still is. You somehow continue to get better at being helpful with your candid takes. You have my gratitude sir.