Organizing Cultures of Resilience: Activism in the Anthropocene
By Yaz Brien 25th June 2019
The final in a series of blogs from Kevin Buckland, a Barcelona-based artivist, storyteller, facilitator and organizer who engages art as a tool for enabling change.
The collection of interviews conducted as part of the Guest Editor series for the Transition Network is an attempt to cast a wide glance at the different strains of organizing cultures that are emerging inside the global movement for climate justice. The intention of this project has been to look at how movements are enacting their politics through organizing cultures – to perhaps glance ahead at where movements are headed in this time of a rapidly deepening climate crisis. The diversity of actors studied was chosen to illustrate that, despite different tactical, strategic and campaigning focuses, global climate justice movements are developing organizing practices that allow for increased points of interface between movements. Across the globe, we are beginning to see alignment across movements in how they are organizing around ecological collapse, not just what they are organizing around.
From the reclaiming of ceremony as a place for
As a global movement charged with the not-so-easy task or timeline of redefining the base of the global economy in a single generation, it is easy to be overwhelmed by the range of powerful fronts that need to be radically transformed: the corporate capture of electoral politics, global transport and distribution systems, industrial agriculture, localized sites of ecocide, and many many more urgent problems. What these interviews have sought to do is cast a light onto the organizing framework behind the more visible “campaigns”, and propose that it is these cultural spaces where our global movements may be more aligned than we even realize. In these ambitious
This is just the beginning. In the most optimistic of
In the first interview on eco-feminist direct action, we saw how
Though varied, these projects were all selected because of their coherence between their organizing and campaigning – between their form and function.
Faced with the scale of the global climate crisis, the greatest danger we face is the limits to our own ambition. If we are truly imagining an unprecedented swell of engaged global citizens that can rise to transform our economies and restore resilience to our ecosystems – we must understand this as the largest organizing project of human history. If this organizing is not coming from an intersectional power analysis that seeks to radically confront racism, sexism, patriarchy,
, imperialism and a colonial world-view; then we risk alienating and increasing the vulnerability of huge sectors of society even as we “solve” the climate crisis. extractivism
As movements increasingly embody their own politics by inhabiting structures that align with political values, it is important also to identify structures where political values are divorced from organizing culture. As we have seen in these interviews, far from a logic of “ends justifies the means”, organizing in the
Let us be clear that the climate crisis leaves no innocent bystanders. As an intersectional struggle where class, race, gender, historic privilege and trauma, rural/urban and many other issues collide – it cannot be assumed that these longstanding injustices will continue “as normal” as the world leans harder into the collapse of its basic life-systems. Social injustices are to be either exacerbated or compounded in the exponential instability of the Anthropocene.
While the climate crisis cannot be avoided; disaster can be. With each passing year, it is the middle ground that is falling away. We have lost the luxury of a gentle transition; what is coming will be unpredictable, unimaginable, and unstoppable. And it is coming quicker than we think.
The main question regarding the severity of the Anthropocene will be how human beings organize in this unpredictable and hostile terrain and what processes have the structural integrity to survive constant destabilization. As climate justice movements across the globe demand “System Change, not Climate Change”, we should remember that “system change” may have to do more with how we organize, than what we organized. The cultures we practice inside our organizing is the daily work of our social transformation and not merely a means to an end. If our “movement of movements” is to withstand the coming waves, winds and wars, we need to be addressing our own incoherencies, lest they open fissures in our structures at every weak point. Across the world, bottom up processes are gaining force as the global climate justice movement begins to inhabit its politics, tilting from being diverse protest movements towards being a truly revolutionary global force that can rise to write the next chapter of human history.
About the author:
Kevin Buckland stumbled into the climate justice movement, somewhere between resisting the war on Iraq and realizing that there was a clear need in any movement for a guy who was good at painting banners.
As an arts organizer working inside the global climate justice movement, he has held a unique position for, as one colleague said, ‘You have no power, but everyone wants to work with you’. The past decade of activism has led him through many diverse and divergent spaces: from UN Summits to rural indigenous land occupations, from massive youth skill-shares to academic conferences, from mainstream NGO coalitions to squatted anarchist collectives. This has been a transformative time, both for Buckland and for the nascent Climate Justice movement – it often felt like they have been coming of age at the same time. As a cultural organizer, he became increasingly aware of the diversity of organizing cultures he was engaged in, and how those different structures affect the work he was able to do. What has struck him is how few mainstream movements take the time to intentionally cultivate divergent cultures or understand themselves as cultural actors. Inside these diverse movements, he has seen both glimpses of revolutionary equality and rigid militaristic patriarchal hierarchies. Slowly, he has begun to see his work differently, less as an artist and more as part of developing culture as an approach to organizing. This series of articles is intended to be useful to movements.