Climate Upsurge: An Ethnography of the Climate Movement

Friday, July 18, 2014: 10:30 AM
Room: 418
Oral Presentation
Stuart ROSEWARNE , University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia
James GOODMAN , Social and Political Change Group, University of Technology, Sydney, NSW, Australia
Rebecca PEARCE , School of Social Sciences, University of NSW, Sydney, Australia
In this paper we report on a project analysing the emergence of a grassroots social movement dedicated to direct action against the root causes of climate change. The project investigates the dramatic turn in climate politics that occurred in the mid-2000s. Engendered by mounting evidence of climate change, and by the ongoing failure of international negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and rejecting the pragmatism of professionalised non-government environmental organisations, this grassroots-based political movement launched a radical programme for climate action from below. Through public protests, civil disobedience involving direct actions, counter summits, and deliberative events that created a sense of community, solidarity and personal political agency, climate activists sought to translate climate science into politics. The climate movement sought to build a political vision and the political capacity to challenge the elite politics of climate change, the 'climate pragmatism' that had dominated climate politics science the 1990s, and the legitimacy of the carbon-intensive economy. The paper explores this significant moment, when a radical climate politics introduced a new dynamic to the landscape. The authors are to publish this work in 2013 as an ethnography of the search for climate agency, based on the authors' involvements in the climate movement and in-depth interviews with climate activists from 2007 to 2010. Focusing particularly on the climate movement in Australia, a country reaping the economic benefits of the coal and gas boom, the book charts both the possibilities and pitfalls revealed by the upsurge, interpreting it as a pre-figurative moment for an anti-systemic climate agency.