Thoughts on living and campaigning

Some things really get my goat: being misrepresented, for example as being more or less concerned about issues than I really am; not being listened to, not even being able to get a word in edgeways, or otherwise not having a chance to get my actual point of view across; private conversations being published; having my concerns dismissed.

Apologies if I have done any of those things to anyone else – beams and specks in the eye, and all that. I realise I am fortunate that I can have a voice at all. Much of what follows is also a reminder to self.

The thoughts variously come from experience of being a member of grass-roots movements, working for the Met Office and the Diocese of Exeter, and observation of my own response to issues and campaigns.

The many already real symptoms of global warming and climate change, and the predictions of future climate change and impacts are terrifying. But it’s impossible and unhealthy to live with heightened anxiety over a long period of time. And scaring people and making them feel guilty are rubbish motivators of behavioural change.

Instead find a starting point for living with hope into the future. First ask yourself “what brings me joy?”. The next question is “what then can I best do?” bearing in mind your skills, time, energy, and Henry Ford*. The answer could be to be rather than do, address the causes through changing your own lifestyle, raise awareness (without scare-mongering), non-violent direct action, build community, invest in or start a green business, and so on.

This seems like a good place to interject a quote from Mona Siddiqui “If you are not optimistic about change, why be involved in the first place?”

Be clear about what you are trying to achieve in your campaign, and how you are going to achieve it. Are you addressing the effects or the underlying cause? What would mean that your work is done?

Be squeaky clean and do everything above board. Be the change you want to see. Don’t give anyone a stick to beat you with. Even, as far as possible, on direct actions that might involve trespass. No violence, no damage to property or commons, no swinging on the Cenotaph, no rudeness or intimidation, no violation of the right to privacy.

When conducting surveys, respect the word ‘no’. Make it clear up-front how the responses will be used. If they are to be published, where and how. If individual responses are to be published, even anonymously, get agreement. Attribution in a way that identifies the source is generally not a good idea. Ask ask ask for permission. Give the responder enough information and time to provide an informed response and say what they really think. Listen.

Private conversations are private conversations.

Approach people and organisations likely to be on your side constructively. Be creative, professional and understanding. Look for common causes and build partnerships. How can you help them, and help them help you? Show them you understand the issues and know what you are doing. Their people may be willing to help but have limited time. Respect their employment codes and contracts. Badgering and FOI inquiries (except as a last resort when approaching government organisations) are not helpful. Thank them.

Lots of the above also applies to organisations less likely to be on your side.

Listen to any reactions or feedback on your campaign goals or activities.

That’s probably enough to be getting on with!

* Henry Ford quotes:

  • Whether you think that you can, or that you can’t, you are usually right.
  • Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.
  • Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.
  • Don’t find fault, find a remedy.
  • Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it.