Couldn’t watch this without squirming nor admiring. Jody McIntyre is a British blogger-activist. He has cerebral palsy and gets around by wheelchair. You can read his blog here, http://jodymcintyre.wordpress.com. Forewarned, he’s a ranty and I find his writing both off-putting and inspiring. Like most activists, he rails against a bent system, but offers little-to-nothing by way of realistic solutions.
To me, it is one thing to point out systemic governmental problems. But, it is quite another to change those policies. Does protest work today? I’m unsure if organized protest does much good. I witnessed this twice, once when I lived in Seattle, and again as delegate to the COP15 last year. Recall that in 1999, the WTO held an important meeting in Seattle to negotiate economic trade deals. There were violent protests and the city was locked down completely. We lived and worked downtown, (Belltown), and the place became a virtual war zone. Take a quick look here. The air was terrible. Tear gas, gunpowder, and that bitter plasticy smoke smell lingered like an eerie fog. It was gross and surreal.
Photo credit: Michael Cote. Frankly, naively, I didn’t understand what was happening. After walking around for a bit, the police escorted me to my front door. For two days I couldn’t leave my apartment, as the streets were filled thousands of cops dressed in intense gear of black uniforms and plastic visors. Stuff that I’ve never seen before outside of Hollywood. They were wielding huge black guns, bundles of wrist-zip-ties, and long black batons out in the open. Importantly, I didn’t understand what the protesters were trying to accomplish. I still don’t. Their message just wasn’t clear. Worse, the protesters “celebrate” the anniversary of the original 1999 WTO protest every year. It’s just weird to me.
When I attended the COP15 held in Copenhagen, Denmark last year, I witnessed the same volume of protesters. This time the marches were peaceful, and the message was uniform and clear - world leaders ought to buck up and extend Kyoto and sign Kyoto II.
I took some photos, here. I also published in Berkeley Planning Journal, here (forthcoming). In that piece, I show that in over 30 years, the most environmentally aggressive country, Denmark, has achieved very little. I then wonder if protests are the pinnacle of environmental change, or a big waste of time and tax payer money. If Denmark can’t do it, who can? When have governments changed their policies with respect to protecting the environment while balancing economic growth and development, as a result of public protest?? After all, neither problem will “go away.”
McIntyre’s a good kid, standing up for his convictions. In the video, he’s quite articulate and concise. I’m struck by his clear-minded responses. He makes a strong appeal against the government raising tuition by 300%. He, and others, claim the hike has serious implications for the poor. (I question it, too. Why not cut a few rusting, aircraft carriers and silly submarines from their naval fleet? The UK could achieve the same savings in both equipment and personnel cuts with far less social implications.) You can bounce around the UK coverage of the hike by clicking here.
Again, how to achieve climate policy changes in the U.S. without resorting to distasteful protest?
H/T to blogger unicornpancakes.tumblr.com. I couldn’t reblog because I disagree with the tone of the comments. I agree with the thrust of the case, that the journalist clearly was not neutral.