Critical Approaches to Climate Change and Civic Action
In order to address climate change, much emphasis has been put on the need for individual behavioural change. However, as it is deeply embedded in political, social, and economic structures, climate change calls for collective action, and especially for transformative action aimed at the system level. Civic initiatives for climate change have proliferated in recent years. These movements have emerged in diverse locations, on a variety of scales, and are led by different types of actors, from ‘legacy’ non-governmental organizations, such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, to internet-platform projects, such as 350.org or Avaaz, to place-based protectors of water and land, such as the Standing Rock resistance.
Civic groups use diverse means and tactics, including demonstrations, sit-ins, climate camps, pipeline protests, and social media. Some groups are reclaiming structural changes in property and decision-making in energy systems, leading a wave of ‘energy democracy’ that brings together community groups, environmental organizations, and workers unions. Others are connecting climate change to questions of human security to address forced migration and refugee crises. Still others emphasize prefigurative politics to provoke imaginative and experimental forms of change. Whereas some civil society organizations pursue the dominant approach to ecological modernization, system-level alternatives have been developed, including degrowth, ‘buen vivir’ (inspired in indigenous movements from Central and South America), ecosocialism, ecofeminism, and climate justice. Numerous civic groups thus challenge technocratic and depoliticising discourses, and illustrate that there is no single option but multiple alternatives.