Exceptionally wicked? Dilemmas in climate activism and their implications for understanding the distinctiveness of climate politics
- Joost de Moor, Political Science at SciencesPo (CEE)
Seemingly reflecting the wicked nature of climate change itself, climate activism is riddled with strategic dilemmas. Should climate movements advance radical change now or more readily achievable reforms? Should it mobilize low hanging fruits to speed up change, or focus on being inclusive? Should it capitalize on the momentum generated by climate summits to act as a global actor, or stay local where more direct impacts can be won? Should it take matters into its own hands, or reject responsibilitization? And should it shift focus to adaptation while there is still time to prepare, or keep pushing for mitigation until now becomes never?
Such dilemmas are key to understanding the climate movement itself, and may shed light on the political environment in which it operates. When encountering strategic dilemmas, movements are forced to consider their priorities, thus illuminating obstacles presented by the political context, concretizing goals and ideologies in practice, offering nuclei around which new cleavages and alliances may form, and presenting moments of hyperprojectivity in which futures are imagined. Yet how distinctive are climate change, climate politics and climate movements in this regard? Climate change may be unique in its temporality, yet many socio-political challenges can be described as wicked, and strategic dilemmas can be found in all areas of politics and social movements. In this presentation, I will discuss several essential strategic dilemmas characterizing the climate movement that I have covered throughout various recent research projects, and reflect on what they may say about climate movements and climate politics, and their potentially exceptional nature.
Joost de Moor is Assistant Professor in Political Science at SciencesPo (CEE). His work focuses on the various ways in which citizens concerned about the environment become politically active - individually or collectively - to address their concerns. In particular, he focuses on the ways in which environmental activists navigate a political context marked by the apparent inability of states and international organizations to address crises like climate change, focusing on the dilemmas involved in that. He has published on these topics in journals across fields of political sciences, sociology and urban studies, including in Environmental Politics, Theory & Society, and International Journal of Urban and Regional Research.