‘Momentum vs Perfection’ in the climate movement

by Hugh Richards

28 March 2023

If you haven’t already discovered the Outrage and Optimism podcast series hosted by Christiana Figueres and her colleagues who enabled the Paris Agreement, why not give it a try?
Even if the series as a whole doesn’t seem to be for you, I can’t recommend highly enough their recent two-part ‘mini-series’ that explores the tensions and complementarity between the virtues of ‘momentum’ (practical progress) and ‘perfection’ (pushing for the ideal) within the global climate movement. Co-hosts Tom Rivett-Carnac and Fiona McRaith interview a very diverse range of climate leaders ranging from Extinction Rebellion co-founder Gail Bradbrook to the CEO of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, Peter Bakker.
For me, perhaps the most compelling illustration of the complementarity of these two necessary virtues is given by the successive interviews in Part 2 with two people whose journeys (over more than a decade) have gone in seemingly opposite directions. Justin Forsyth started out in radical activism, moved into high level political work and then chose to focus on what he calls the ‘moveable middle’ of broad public opinion by co-founding the ‘Count Us In’ initiative. By contrast, Farhana Yamin was for many years a high-flying environmental lawyer and policy specialist, for a time operating within the UN climate process, who had a sort of breakdown over the ineffectiveness of that process, then chose to participate in Extinction Rebellion non-violent direct actions.
My take-away messages were to feel and express gratitude for everyone who is engaged with the climate issue, including those whose approaches differ greatly from mine, to have the humility to accept that it’s impossible to predict which approaches (including my own) will prove to be the most effective, and nevertheless try to follow Helen Pankhurst’s advice to ‘find your purpose and have fun’. May laughing with each other prevail over shouting at each other in the years ahead.

(Please note: posts on these blog pages are the personal views of the authors only and are not intended to represent any agreed or general view on the part of GlosCAN.org.)

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