You are here

Getting Past Trump, Part 3: The Futility of "Big Green" Activism: A Conversation with Tim DeChristopher

Richard Heinberg

I really don’t think that most mainstream climate environmental organizations are operating with any kind of intentional strategy in which they think that what they are doing will lead to positive change. When groups are mobilizing their members to “send a message” or “make their voices heard” to [US Secretary of the Interior Ryan] Zinke, [Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott] Pruitt or Trump, I doubt any staffers in those groups actually think that what they are doing has any potential of working. I think they are hemmed-in by the norms of social movement organizing. Those norms demand relentless optimism and positivity, so there is very little room for open reflection on our mistakes, changing direction or acknowledging that certain goals are no longer possible. Those norms also define leadership around knowing what to do and giving people tangible and immediate things to do.

I think most organizations and leaders would feel extremely nervous about saying to their community, “I don’t know what needs to be done in this unprecedented situation.” There is a mainstream assumption that they would no longer be justified in their leadership position if they expressed that uncertainty. But I think one of our most critical needs for a future of climate chaos is to develop a model of uncertain leadership.