Naomi Klein is currently promoting her excellent new book This Changes Everything. As part of this, she recently did a ‘Guardian Live’ event, chaired by Owen Jones and streamed on the web. You can now watch the event in full below, it’s fantastic and well worth watching. In one question, “could you talk a bit more about popular education?”, Klein discusses the Transition movement and the role that Inner Transition plays:
“The first Earth Day in 1970 which engaged millions of people in North America was really a series of Teach-Ins more than anything else. I think it’s a really necessary stage for building the kind of movement that we need. We have a film coming out on these same themes, and part of that has to do with popular education, because obviously film reaches a different constituency, it’s more accessible than books in many ways. Films are also really great at starting conversations, getting people into a room together and starting a conversation.
It’s one of the things that I think the Transition Town movement, which has been really important in this country, and spreading the idea that transition is something to be embraced, that there’s hope and joy and possibility in it, it’s not all fear. That’s something they do really really well. They just have film screenings, and there’s something really liberating about the way …. we don’t do very well, except for weird Lefties like us, of getting in rooms together and just talking. People need something to help them do it … it doesn’t even need to be a good film, any film! Just get people together, and then talk afterwards.
Part of it is that basic science education, just getting over the fear, “you know it’s as complicated as it seems, you can do this”. It can’t just be listening. It’s really important that people talk, and that it be people they relate to doing the talking … peer-on-peer teaching is really really important. We’re hearing this from a lot of community groups that we’re talking about the film with. “How can this be useful to your movement?” They say they don’t need a lot of it, but they do need some basic climate education to break that fear barrier.
The other thing that I think the Transition movement does really well is to create spaces for people to talk about the emotional side to this crisis. Maybe that’s not popular education, but I think that’s really important. Social media is a great tool, but I still think there’s something weird about the fact that people are alone in their cubicles or in their homes and they’re clicking on this video, one minute of these 2 cats and dogs making unlikely friendships, and then, you know, 35,000 walruses scampering onto the shore because ice is melting. How are you supposed to cope with this?
A lot of what we call apathy is just people not knowing how to deal with the overwhelming emotions. So you just push it away. The way in which our movements are now structured, particularly environmental movements, but many movements, is these NGOs – we communicate – it used to be with mailings, now it’s Tweets and emails – and it ends up being a lot of fear-based messaging, but then nothing about what to do with that fear. Scare you – click on this. The idea is you’re going to be scared so you’ll become an activist. But that’s not actually how humans behave. You get scared and you want to curl up in a ball right? So we need spaces to grieve, and to actually talk about how frightening this is.
One of the reasons why in the book I write more personally than I’ve written before, about this fear not just of reading the scientific reports, but the fear that comes with raising a child in a world that you’re told daily is dying. We need to address that emotional side. So when we create these spaces, and we must create more of these popular education spaces – I think the climate movement in the UK has been better at this – the Climate Camps do this really well, and the Transition Town movement has this part of it that they call “Inner Transition”, which is addressing this reality.
That it isn’t just an outer transition, but also we have to go through our own personal transformation, and that also involves expressing that grief. It’s something that the feminist movement has done well, and a lot of people in the Transition Town movement who are part of this Inner Transition piece of it, come out of the feminist movement, because there’s an understanding that if you’re going to collapse peoples’ world views, you have to stick around to pick up the pieces.