Freedom Instead of Selfishness: The Climate Movement After the Pandemic

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Freedom Instead of Selfishness:
The Climate Movement After the Pandemic

Ulrich Brand

What applies to the pandemic also applies to the climate: the crisis is already happening. Hence, immediate and consistent action is needed.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the world is facing a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. While the dramatic consequences of the first wave have barely been processed in many countries, the number of cases is rising again significantly in many places. This threatens to put a much bigger crisis on the global political agenda for good: unchecked global warming. While the corona crisis and the fight against it are quite obviously an urgent problem of the present, the climate crisis is still perceived... by large sections of politics as a problem of the distant future. On the other hand, it is the lasting merit of movements such as the movement Ende Gelände or Fridays for Future to have increasingly anchored a certainty in the broader public: the ecological crisis is already happening. What applies to the pandemic also applies to the climate: immediate and consistent action is needed. In addition – and this is a remarkable parallel – the struggle of today’s climate movement as well as the efforts to overcome the pandemic are based on a fundamental demand on governments: listen to the science!

Despite these striking parallels, the climate crisis has clearly been marginalized during the corona crisis. The social awareness, which was still evident in parts of the establishment in 2019, and the willingness to make fundamental changes in production and lifestyles seems to have evaporated – despite the devastating forest fires in the USA. It is, therefore, unclear how ecological protest and change dynamics can be accelerated again, today and in the future.

The emancipatory fight against the climate crisis will only have a chance if, in addition to preserving the natural foundations of life, better living conditions become conceivable for many people. ‘Better’ does not mean ‘more and more’; accordingly, climate justice must be based on experiences and feelings of injustice and exploitation. And these must be translated into changed social conditions.

This is precisely where Fridays for Future had such great success in its appeal: individual and collective, i.e., state action is necessary and possible. And this action is not just about ‘green’ lifestyles and conscious shopping behaviour. Because even if the movement is more aimed at prevention – namely, radically reducing CO2 emissions – it is also de facto fighting for other futures.

In contrast to the globalization-critical movement from 2000 onwards, Fridays for Future had a strong everyday orientation from the very beginning: the everyday habits that urgently need to be changed are central to the climate movement and the system change it strives for. But as everyday routines are deeply rooted in the imperial mode of living, it is difficult to change them – this is shown not least by the corona crisis, in the course of which strong forces are pressing for the mere restoration of what was once commonplace, the supposedly ‘normal’ of our highly consumerist lifestyles.

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