Why I wasn’t at the Vancouver Climate Strike

It was fun,
It was slacktivism.

A strike should have concrete goals and actionable items. There should be a way to quantify its success. It should take a narrative of this form: “We are marching because we want these things to happen. The purpose of this large march is to show how strong public sentiment is on this cause. We all agree on having these things happening, so government/company/whoever, please do them.”

“Showing you care” is not an actionable item. It is virtue signalling.

How to make your strike useful: Pick something concrete. I don’t care what. Americans want back in to the Paris agreement? Sure. Increased carbon tax? Why not. Do them both for all I care. But have something. Maybe even draft your own bill and send it to Ottawa. THEN you can strike. And then I will be there.

There are a lot of real and important strikes and protests going on around the world.
The Climate Strike was not one of them.

Sincerely,

Someone who cares about the environment (but also doesn’t want class to be cancelled for no good reason).

3 thoughts on “Why I wasn’t at the Vancouver Climate Strike

  1. For political and business leaders, a demonstration of passion and concern by the public is a definitely an actionable item. This strike demonstrated, in the run up to a general election, that climate change is hugely important to hundreds of thousands of potential voters and consumers, and that is a show of power that hasn’t been ignored by politicians. In the lead-up to and aftermath of these global protests, climate change dominated media coverage and numerous economies (including Canada, the UK, and the EU) pledged targets of carbon neutrality by 2050.

    Most people aren’t policy makers, but they can and do still care. Insisting that a protest be built around concrete policy obstructs consensus building, and it neglects the enormous influence that movements can have without it.

    Does that mean that protesters shouldn’t make specific demands? Of course not. But those who are concerned about climate change should be able to get involved, even if they don’t understand the best strategies to address it. They can still pressure those who do, and I was thrilled to see those ‘virtue signalers’ marching.

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    1. I think your strongest point is here, so I will make this response to deconstruct it: “Insisting that a protest be built around concrete policy obstructs consensus building, and it neglects the enormous influence that movements can have without it.”

      I would say to the contraire: I can’t put my finger on what kind of influence this event had, aside from cancelling class and probably increasing the number of traffic jams in Vancouver. How do you measure the impact the climate strike had on the signing of these carbon targets, especially when these targets were NOT mentioned in any news article I read surrounding the strike?

      Look, I’m not calling the strike attendees stupid or ignorant. They believe in something and I think that’s great. Here’s where I take issue: we have a mass of people showing off their easy, popular, and non-controversial opinion through a strike, and then feeling good about their “contribution”, thinking that their actions helped save this planet. They didn’t. They show that you are embracing the popular opinion, and the Government of Canada already knows that Vancouverites and Canadians care about the environment. Canada has always been a leader in this front and I am happy that we continue to be one. Because of this, showing up to your fun event is not doing anything except for boosting your own ego.

      The most important movements I know of all had actionable items attached to them. Three come to mind immediately (and, mind you, the protesters were against enormous pressure and participation was far from fun):
      1. Suffragettes protesting for their right to vote
      2. Great March on Washington (also known as literally “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom”, where their goal is clearly seen in the title and emphasized in the recordings)
      3. The Hong Kong protests. This one is ongoing but the Hong Kong protesters clearly want one thing: freedom from the Chinese and the same rights they have been used to.

      These all have a target (government in these cases, but it could also be corporation(s)), and they all have a metric for measuring their success, which would be in the form of some sort of legislation or concession from the target.

      Even the UBC transit strike was FOR an action. Regardless of your opinion on the strike, you must agree that the movement was effective due to its clear goals and objectives.

      Lastly, you seem to mention that having no concrete policy can actually be a good thing because it allows for inclusivity of opinion. I want to outline that this is not a valid strength and is still a weakness:

      If a movement stands for everything, it stands for nothing. Protests are not about diversity of morals or opinion. Protests are, by their nature, about coming together as a society to prove that the subject in question is of great importance and is agreed upon by the protesters in the manner of social proof.

      I will end by reiterating my argument above:
      Who was the climate strike targeting? What were its goals? How do you measure its success?
      A proper movement has to be for an action, not for a sentiment. Because of this, I would rather see some legislation with a petition at the end. The climate strike was just a way for people to make so much noise that their signal was lost (a trend I have become more aware of recently).

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