Back home in Detroit, I find myself reflecting on some of the key themes evident in the policy talk surrounding the National Council for Science and the Environment’s 15th national conference, on Energy and Climate Change (See my earlier post looking forward to NCSE HERE). In particular, I find myself returning to THREE main implications for organizing broader collectives, social movements, and formal organizations — and the communicative elements that characterize these.
First; while the expected high-level speakers were in attendance (e.g., the EPA, White House, United Nations, and Government of France), the importance of civic level, municipal, and other local action networks was highlighted. The maxim of “think global, agitate local” was popular on Twitter, and the policy wonks spoke at length about how crucial municipal revitalization and urban sustainability were to climate change resilience efforts. Even as the expected tension of prevention-versus-adaptation was pervasive throughout the conference, local action was noted to be key to enacting meaningful climate resilience policies. This is heartening, given my own planned project next fall, on the connections between entrepreneurship development, urban revitalization, and environmental sustainability in Detroit, MI.
Second; there seems to be some impetus going into the COP21 climate talks in Paris later this year, and a very realistic understanding that high-level policy formulation is but the start of meaningful environmental change and organizing. In other words, there seem to be some lessons learned from the Copenhagen failures, or at least a recognition of the powerful and legitimate interests — both public and corporate — that are aligned in favor of effective policy. This is true especially with regard to particular areas: deliberating a price on carbon emissions, with or without an overarching “climate deal;” and enacting short-term but powerful measures like curtailing methane and CFCs, not just carbon.
Third; despite these promising themes, at least two aspects of sustainable organizing seemed neglected in the conference proceedings. The first was the importance of narratives of organizing, crucial both in driving the collection of data (given the paradox of both preponderance of climate data and uncertainty regarding what data counts!), and in reaching out to impacted stakeholders without alienating them. The second was the role played by unequal spreads of physical infrastructure (e.g., smart grids) and/or contexts (e.g., topography, culture), in the absence of which an overly simplistic “one size fits all” model of climate action is both elitist and unrealistic. Hopefully, with further attention to building resilience and the role of local action networks in the run-up to COP21, both organizing narratives and contexts will become centered more and more in these policy negotiations.
For a complete look at the Twitterverse’s discussion of #NCSE15, click HERE.