Prof. at the Faculty of Environmental Sciences at McGill and fellow climber, David Goodin Phd, will present and start a discussion on the topic of:
Next Generation Activism
“You can’t fight City Hall!” is an age old saying about the powerlessness of people in the face of a giant bureaucracy. It only gets worse when a person goes up against Provincial and Federal government agencies, international organizations, and giant multinational corporations. The only way to win, it is thought, is to organize a social movement that becomes a collective force: once your cause is powerful enough, the leaders and institutions just have to listen to the people, right? That is the old wisdom. But does it still hold true today?
As a professor, I often hear about the old examples of the US Civil Rights movement, Ghandi’s Salt March protest, Rosa Park and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and the like. No one really asks whether those tactics still work today. The People’s Climate March of 2015, for instance, mobilized hundreds of thousands of protesters through over 2500 global events, all on the same day of action. Online petitions generated over 2 million signatures too. By all measures, this was one of the greatest mass mobilizations of people ever achieved. But the proverbial “city hall” did not notice. It has been business as usual ever since. What is wrong here?
My presentation intends to bring out these questions for open discussion. We need to re-conceptualise activism for the unique challenges of 21st Century. While learning from the past, we don’t need the prior generation’s activism. We need an activism for the next generation, our generation. The roles of corporate and independent media need to be understood and engaged in new ways. The opportunities for online activism need to be explored—not just online petitions, but what of Twitter Revolutions, Wikileaks, and Anonymous Hack-tivism? What is to be done about the “war against science” being waged by political Think Tanks that influence political leaders? What of divestment strategies? What are the aims of social movement activism: who is to be swayed, and how?
All these questions and more are what we, collectively, need to think about so that me and you, individually, can know what we should be doing. My talk hopes to set the stage for what will need to be an ongoing, evolving, and adaptive discussion.
David K. Goodin, Sessional Lecturer
McGill School of Environment