“Activism” has become a dirty word. One associated with traffic jams, an affront on the innocent bystander, and a lot of orange glitter.
It’s a term that in the past few years has woven itself as a vibrant thread connecting even completely polarised ends of the spectrum—from those acting on their right for peaceful protest, to those climbing motorways gantries and ironically joining the forces of the French revolution on stage in a performance of Les Miserables.
Activism has long been a way to represent the voices of the marginalised, the oppressed, and those looking to address concerns close to their heart. Just as US civil rights protestors took to the streets and buses in the 50s and 60s, those concerned about the fate of our planet feel it is their duty and responsibility to do something about it.
From silent vigils and peaceful protests to the roar of social media campaigns, activism has evolved to reflect the changing dynamics of our interconnected world.
However, as the challenges we face grow more pressing, the need to transition from activism to tangible action becomes ever more urgent. Even eco-entrepreneur and green activist Dale Vince this past week said he is to stop funding direct action climate groups such as Just Stop Oil. You can read a recent spotlight from hussh magazine here.
And so we find ourselves at a crucial juncture—a moment where voicing concerns must be complemented by concrete solutions. Rhetoric may stand up in debating circles, but does little to inspire change.
There’s an increasing realisation that the conversation around the climate crisis must progress beyond the rallies, tweets, and op-eds. What we urgently need is a shift from mere awareness to accountability.
An old story with little change is exemplified in the numerous international pledges made in high-profile summits and conventions by the Global North, who is historically responsible for the lion’s share of greenhouse gas emissions. Its repeated pledges to support “developing” nations in their climate endeavours, promises of loss and damage funds, financial aid for green transitions, and sharing of sustainable technology are made amidst grandstanding and applause.
Fast forward a few years, however, and a significant portion of these commitments remain unfulfilled. The gulf between rhetoric and realisation remains.
This inertia isn’t limited to international pledges alone. Even at local levels, we witness a surfeit of promising but stagnation in delivering. Grassroots movements spark dialogue, community engagements lead to hopeful plans, but the next steps—the steps of action—are often mired in bureaucracy, lack of funds, or simple apathy.
So, where do we go from here? How do we ensure that our activism doesn’t just echo in the chambers of discussions, but translates into impactful action?
Activism is intersectional.
Being an activist shouldn’t only be about identifying problems but also about seeking, researching, and implementing solutions. This requires building bridges with experts in various fields—be they scientists, economists, educators, or policymakers. By combining the passion of activism with the precision of expertise, a roadmap to change can be effectively charted.
Activism embraces inclusivity.
The challenges of the 21st century are multifaceted, transcending borders, cultures, and ideologies. Solutions to these challenges require collaborative efforts. Climate change, for example, isn’t just an environmental issue; it’s an economic, social, and political one too. Thus, the activism surrounding it needs to involve a myriad of voices. An environmentalist’s concerns will be fortified by an economist’s strategies and a policymaker’s implementations—and the other way around. By fostering this holistic approach, activism can transition into definitive action.
Activism is communal.
Communities are the crucibles of change. Activism rooted in local collectives gains a tangible, relatable face. Environmental initiatives, for instance, are most effective when they resonate with the daily lives of the local people. By tailoring global goals to local realities and sensitivities, the journey from activism to action is both organic and sustainable.
Activism is rooted in education.
The edifice of change is built on the foundation of knowledge. For activism to morph into action, it needs the backing of informed, aware, and engaged individuals. The world over, there’s a pressing need to revamp our educational curricula, integrating subjects like environmental sciences, civic responsibilities, and community engagement as core components. When young minds are shaped by a blend of awareness and responsibility, the leap from voicing concerns to enacting solutions becomes a natural progression.
Activism is accountable.
But perhaps the most potent catalyst in this transition is accountability. For too long, promises have been made with little to no follow-through. It’s high time entities—be they nations, corporations, or individuals—are held accountable for their commitments. Mechanisms of regular checks, balances, and reports can no longer be the exception; they need to become the norm. By instilling a sense of responsibility and answerability, activism can push entities out of their complacency, ensuring that words translate into deeds.
In the final reckoning, the distinction between activism and action is one of dynamics.
While activism sets the wheels of change in motion, action ensures they keep moving, traversing the long, winding road towards a better future.
The next era will be defined by challenges of unprecedented magnitude, yet the need to meld these two forces has never been more crucial. In their synergy lies the promise of a world that’s not just vocal about its concerns, but also valiant in its solutions.