Environmental activism: look beyond the “usual subjects”

The last few months have seen environmental activism shoot back into the headlines. The actions of Plane Stupid at Heathrow Airport on Monday and the work of anti-fracking activists in the UK have helped propel the issues of airport expansion and shale gas back into public consciousness.

With the COP21 conference in Paris fast approaching, it’s an interesting time for environmental activists, as they begin to plan their actions for what promises to be an immensely high profile event, with the small matter of an international climate change agreement at stake. But in order to maximise their strength, climate activists must look to make allies within and beyond the world of environmentalism.

One of the primary problems in environmental activism is the fractured nature of the countless pressure groups and NGOs. Whilst the localisation of many groups reaps great benefits in being able to organise efficiently around a pressing local cause, this narrow perspective creates a danger of ignoring wider issues and implications. The same applies for single issue activist groups; in viewing fracking as an isolated case to be fought on its own, we ignore the opportunity to create a unified and collective campaign against the wider causes of this climate crisis.

Cooperation doesn’t have to occur under countless acronyms, coalitions and umbrella groups; it simply requires the identification of a common cause and an arm of friendship. Transition Heathrow embodies this as environmental campaigners aligned themselves with the residents of Sipson. They created a low-carbon, free space on derelict land that represents an alternative to the high carbon plans of a third runway. Local residents, under threat of having their homes demolished, and environmental activists, terrified by the impacts of even greater carbon dioxide emissions, formed an unlikely partnership that stands defiant against the lurking airport expansion.

I do not wish to diminish the achievements of fractivists and the like; last month’s critical victory of Lancashire County Council rejecting Cuadrilla’s latest fracking proposals could not have been achieved without the valiant efforts of Frack Free Lancashire.

However, with just over 4 months until Paris, I believe that it is time to rally around a greater call to halt the very driving forces of climate change and all the associated issues that activists fight so bravely against. Furthermore, we must look beyond the “usual suspects” of environmentalism and work with groups with values or goals similar to our own.

A strong, united climate movement should call for the end of fossil fuel extraction of all varieties, tackle over-consumption, and demand a fixed, ambitious cut in carbon emissions. Only then do we have a chance to avoid the disastrous impacts of a changing climate that are unfolding before our eyes.