Otesha goes to Malmo – and learns about communicating climate change

13 Jan

This is cross-posted from The Otesha Project UK blog

One sunny morning in mid-September, we packed up ourselves, the flowery palais (aka our tent) and a hula hoop, and bundled ourselves onto a train from London to Malmo, Sweden to learn stuff at the European Social Forum. Here’s what we learned about ….

How to communicate climate change (let’s make it sexy)….

At Otesha, you might have noticed that we can get a little warm and fuzzy (a little too warm and fuzzy, some might say).  So you can understand how, cocooned in an Otesha-style security blanket as I was, I got the be-jeesus scared out of me at the European Social Forum.There we were frolicking with the Swedish farmers (who all look like models, by the way – we think that they have been hired by the Swedish agricultural board to lure people into permaculture) at our camp at Holma Farm. This was Otesha’s spiritual home – there was consensus decision-making, porridge, bonfires, an audit on how many musical instruments we had collectively brought and a few too many uses of the word ‘energy’…

Then the Social Forum began. Most of the seminars we went to were brilliantly educational – Jo and I learnt a lot about EU Climate Policy, which will be invaluable in our preparation for the UN Climate Change Negotiation, in Poznan, in December 2008. Some seminars were a little less educational, and a little more terrifying.  I looked down at my notes after one and all that was written was ‘climate catastrophe’.

If that wasn’t alarming enough, the end of the week saw the ‘Another Europe is Possible’ march where we encountered the ‘Black Bloc ‘ – hundreds of anarchists wearing black balaclavas marching along to German techno, one hand forming a fist in the air, the other waving a red and black flag. Blimey.

I’m not one to deny that climate change is pretty scary (read ‘incomprehensibly frightening’), or to praise our governments as doing all that they possibly can to combat it. But, I don’t think donning a black balaclava and prophesying doom will necessarily get us that far.

The catalyst that led to me hopping on the climate change train was Forum for the Future’s Low Carbon Living 2022 project. Here was the first thing I had read which, instead of focusing on the impending apocalypse and all the sacrifices that would have to be made to avoid it, made sustainable living sound like a downright appealing prospect. Stronger communities, a cleaner environment, healthier lifestyles. It was enough to get me onboard.

So here’s my proposal. Let’s make communicating climate change sexy! Yes, climate change is scary, but it’s also a great opportunity to create the kind of world we want to live in. Here are my tips:

1: Less bandying about of the words ‘catastrophe’, ‘chaos’, ‘disaster of unimaginable proportions’. If we are going to change the world, we are going to have to be able to get out of bed in the morning.

2: More fun! That’s right – leisurely cycle rides, seasonal food feasts, tetrapak wallets, bicycle burlesque – there’s a whole world of sustainable frolics awaiting us.

3: Ever noticed how if someone shouts at you, you tend to think they’re mean/scary/unhinged? Instead of getting angry (or preachy) about climate change, get active – lead by example and others will follow.

They will, just wait and see!

One Response to “Otesha goes to Malmo – and learns about communicating climate change”


  1. Reflections on Climate Camp… oh, and capitalism. « hannamade - September 7, 2010

    […] have identified with an anti-capitalist or anarchist label. I remember going on a march at the European Social Forum back in 2008 and I was truly intimidated by the anarchist “Black Bloc”, all wearing […]

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