Political diversity in climate activism

Updated: Apr 20

Climate discussion and activism today is dominated by the left: there is little doubt about it. A large proportion of activists staunchly believe that capitalism and climate action are by their very nature incompatible, and for that very reason intertwine with their activism calls for fundamental system change.

This was stark when I attended a ‘Fridays4Future’ protest in the capital shortly before the pandemic, arguably one of the most mainstream climate movements in the UK, where I saw many a waving of Soviet flags, signs being given out reading ‘system change, not climate change’, and of course crowds chanting the much-loved ‘Ohhhh, Jeremy Corbyn’ mantra.

Let me make myself perfectly clear: I am in no way condemning expression of these left-wing viewpoints. Quite the contrary: they should and must be heard. But the dominance of a single side in any serious discussion is not conducive to true progress. I believe this is a truism that especially concerns discourse surrounding the climate crisis, simply because of the society-wide nature of policy decisions that will need to be taken to combat it.

Consider the UK government’s decision to legislate for net zero emissions by 2050, a climate policy close to home. A mammoth target such as this one will require the cooperation of all major emitters, so as to drive emissions down steadily in the most efficacious manner possible. Yet this may be simpler said than done, especially considering the range of stakeholders in this discussion. Consider, on the one hand, the transport sector, which contributed about 28% of all UK greenhouse gas emissions in 2018; consider too the agriculture sector, which accounted for about 10% of emissions in that very same year (ONS). These are very different sectors with very different demands.

I do not wish to paint too simplistic a picture here. There will of course be farmers and transport executives who do agree on certain issues: equally there will be farmers and corporate executives who disagree amongst themselves (take a look at the NFU for some lively and passionate debates!). I am simply trying to demonstrate the imminent necessary reconciliation between different sects of society, and thus show why climate policy ought to be the result of true political compromise – from the right and the left, across the sectors and everywhere in between. It is this that befits a truly society-wide issue such as this one.

This fundamentally is why I joined Worldward. We are strictly non-partisan, and mark ourselves out as a space of immense political diversity. If you ask the three people on the executive team for their personal political opinions, you’ll get four different viewpoints! That is a unique and rare thing, and just one of the reasons I am so proud to be a face for such a special initiative.

Now I am in no way undermining proudly partisan activist groups. They should exist; indeed, they need to exist. Essentially, my argument is twofold: that non-partisan and right-wing organisations need to start to seep into the mainstream activist arena and challenge the traditional dominance of the left; and, following on, that the government should consider the viewpoints of a range of organisations, pressure groups and Think Tanks when it formulates policy.

The climate crisis cares not for politics or geography, so we must not continue to allow ourselves to be solely defined by these facets of our characters. Let’s see an end to political adversity in the climate activist community and come together, facing up to the challenge with our common humanity, and prepare to work with one another by embracing our similarities, rather than highlighting our differences.

Out of our depths: myself and President Gideon Futerman at a Fridays4Future protest in 2019

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