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Activism, Behaviour, Communication

The Human Climate Movement

by Margaret Klein

Fighting climate change should be the most unifying undertaking in human history

ClimatePsych.png


What’s in a Name?

I have been using the term Human Climate Movement in my writing for some time. I thought it would be good to clarify why I introduced this term, what it means, and why I think it is valuable strategically.

The short answer for why to introduce the phrase Human Climate Movement is that there was no appropriate word or phrase available to describe what I wanted to describe. 350.org, the most prominent group of the Human Climate Movement, doesn’t name the movement, but rather describes it:  “a global movement to solve the climate crisis”

There is, of course, the “Environmental movement” or various permutations of the term “Green.” However, I wanted a term that connotes a fight for the continuation of humanity, which relies on a stable climate, (as well as other environmental factors, such as freshwater). We need a Human Climate rather than, for example, the climate of Venus or Mars. Rockstrom and colleagues captured this idea in their major Nature paper, “A Safe Operating Space for Humanity.”

Speaking personally, though I care a great deal about nature qua nature, its destruction is not what gets me out of bed in the morning; it has not motivated me to dedicate myself to fighting climate change. Rather, I am motivated by my love and loyalty for my species, my human brothers and sisters.  I think that there are many people who feel similarly. That though they find the destruction of nature deeply disturbing, they are willing to dedicate much more and fight much harder for humanity than for “the environment.”

So that is the short answer. But I will elaborate a bit more on why I think the term is a good one.

I think that putting “Human” first in the name emphasizes the universality of the movement. Everyone is welcome, and the Movement fights for everyone. Fighting climate change, in my mind, should be the most unifying undertaking in human history.

When people work to spread the climate lie, or oppose the HCM in other ways, they stand on the side of human destruction. This indicates a deep inner deadness and an alienation from their human brethren. Ideally, even those people will soon awaken to the climate threat, and to their own sense of humanity, and join our ranks. But until then, we should make it clear that they are working against humanity, against you and me and my family and your family and their own family. They are killing our species for short-term, individual gain; they are traitors to their kind. This is much more powerful, psychologically, than saying they are damaging “the climate” or “the environment.”

Further, the name “Human Climate Movement” creates a distinction between this movement and other movements, such as the Civil Rights Movement. This is important, because, currently, groups like 350.org are relying heavily tactics from the Civil Rights Movement, such as protests and civil disobedience. This is a strategic mistake, and belies a misunderstanding of social movements. They do not all happen the same way! Each movement needs its own tactics, geared for its specific challenges and context. The Human Climate Movement must learn from history, but it should not attempt to repeat history. We need something new. Let’s find the best strategy for the HCM through open collaboration; let’s open-source Movement Strategy, proposing and discussing various strategy options.

I hope that “Human Climate Movement” calls to mind the best things about our species: our compassion, collaboration, ingenuity, and ability to change and grow. We are not static. We have accomplished great things together through movement, through moving forward.  150 years ago, Americans owned slaves, Chinese bound their young girl’s feet, and the British gentry used duels to settle honor disputes. Humans change. We grow. We move forward. We need to do it again, very quickly.  I hope you join me.


◊ Keep up to date with Margaret Klein's important contribution to the field at The Climate Psychologist. Publ. here 9.11.2013.



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