Best advice for climate activists from a 350.org climate campaign coordinator

No 271 Posted by fw, September 9, 2011

Diana Vogtel

Show your political leaders that you are ready to move away from fossil fuels and that there’s strong support for a transition to a renewables powered future. That’s why 350 teamed up with over a hundred partner organizations from all around the world to stage a huge action day this month on September 24th called Moving Planet – a day to move beyond fossil fuels. There are over 1000 actions already planned – so one easy thing people can do this month is to go to our action map, find an event near you and come and join us on September 24th!Diana Vogtel, European coordinator of the international climate campaign group 350.org

That’s Diana Vogtel’s response to a question posed by Matilda Lee of UK’s hugely popular Ecologist magazine: “What’s the most important thing individuals could do this year?” Here’s a full transcript of that interview, including Lee’s questions. To access the original story, click on the linked title below.

CAMPAIGN HERO: Diana Vogtel 350.org interviewed by Matilda Lee for The Ecologist, September 7, 2011

The European coordinator of international climate campaign group 350.org talks to the Ecologist about civil disobedience outside the White House and why she’s gearing up for September 24th.

What has been your most successful campaign to date?

It’s always hard to say what makes a successful campaign. For me campaigns that are the starting point to build a strong movement and empower more people to take action are successful campaigns. One of our most successful campaigns in this regard has been obviously our 350 global action day in 2009 which was a tremendously powerful day with over 5000 actions being organized in over 180 countries by volunteer organizers world-wide to spread the word about the 350 ppm target (which stands for the safe upper limit of CO2 in our atmosphere). The moment we saw all those amazing pictures pouring in – all those people from all around the world uniting behind the call for climate action – was just great and felt like the starting point of something very special.

What has been your least successful campaign to date?

Just 6 weeks after I had been part of organizing what CNN called, ‘the most widespread day of political action in our planet’s history’ we went to Copenhagen. We obviously didn’t get what we wanted – a fair and ambitious international climate treaty that is in line with what science demands needs to happen to avoid dangerous climate change.

What gets you out of bed when you’re at your lowest?

The knowledge that all campaigns for social change have gone through some tough times, neither the civil rights movement nor the anti-Apartheid movements won their struggle in one go. The key is to be persistent and come back even more determined – especially when you feel low.

Corporations: work with them or against them?

Both. On the one hand there are many good reasons to start campaigns targeting certain corporations – we just have to look at the involvement of many globally operating corporations in exploiting dirty fossil fuels. There has been a lot of good work done in this area already and we need to keep the pressure up on holding corporations accountable for the negative impacts their operations have not only on the environment but also on the livelihoods of many people world-wide.

On the other hand corporations will have to play a central role in helping bring forward the massive transformation from a fossil fuel-dependent economy towards a more sustainable and renewables-powered economy, so we need to start looking out more for those corporations that will help us putting this transformation into place.

What is the best way to motivate people?

Empowerment. Making sure that people can not only support your cause but be transformed into active leaders of your cause. That’s why one part of my work I am particularly proud and excited about has nothing to do with public campaigns but with organizing youth leadership trainings for young people all around the world to empower a new generation of climate movement leaders.

What is the best way of reaching politicians?

Talk to them! The best way of bringing your message across is by making sure to talk to them and invite them to the activities and actions you are planning.

What is the most important thing to avoid when campaigning?

Assuming that everyone is on the same page when it comes to the issue you are campaigning on. People are different and are motivated by different things. Finding different angles to talk about an issue can be a great way to get more people involved.

Most important thing government could do this year?

We are really standing at a crossroads when it comes to political action on climate change. Saying that we will reduce our emissions by a certain amount over the next 40 years is not enough. Our political leaders need to develop a plan how to meet emission reduction targets and start putting measures into place to make sure we stay on a clear pathway. Such a plan needs to include a clear strategy how to decarbonize our economy, set strong renewable energy targets, phase out fossil fuel subsidies and invest in upgrading our energy grid.

Most important thing individuals could do this year?

Show your political leaders that you are ready to move away from fossil fuels and that there’s strong support for a transition to a renewables powered future. That’s why 350 teamed up with over a hundred partner organizations from all around the world to stage a huge action day this month on September 24th called Moving Planet – a day to move beyond fossil fuels. There are over 1000 actions already planned – so one easy thing people can do this months is to go to our action map, find an event near you and come and join us on September 24th!

What makes a good campaigner?

Being passionate about your campaigns, ready to work with others and not giving up too easily should be a good start.

What (other) campaign has caught your attention recently?

The Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline Action that just finished in D.C. really not only inspired many of my friends in the US (who attended the two week long action of civil disobedience in front of the White House) but also myself following the action mainly via social media updates. I think that was a great example of how powerful traditional tactics like civil disobedience can go hand in hand with the more modern tactics like social media.

Who is your campaign hero (past or present)?

I would have to say that I have thousands of campaign heroes – from Inna, a girl I just recently met who’s building the youth climate movement in Ukraine to Sarah who’s organizing one of the first huge cycling rallies for climate action in Egypt – all people I have been working with over the last two years really inspire me.

RELATED POST

For two somewhat contrarian pieces of advice to that offered by Diana, check out these two posts –

  • How far should climate and environmental activists go to stop Big Oil and Coal? In his Rolling Stone article, Goodell raises timely and important questions about the effectiveness of the environmental movement.
  • How to beat a powerful right-wing tribe of climate change deniers. In this provocative article, climate activist David Roberts argues passionately that “The typical strategies that the pro-climate science tribe have employed in dealing with the politically powerful conservative tribe of climate change deniers, have failed.” What is needed, he says, is for the left to “increase, not decrease, the intensity of the battle. The two sure ways to increase intensity – ORGANIZING, first and foremost, combined with CLEAR MESSAGES to inspire and motivate the tribe.”
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