System change not climate change – Workshop about activism

Today many are aware of human inflicted climate change and there is a will to change. It is important to remember that a large part of the emissions in the world cannot be influenced as a consumer. It is good to save electricity, consume less, buy eco-labelled and shop for locally produced goods because it makes ourselves and people around us aware of how much energy and natural resources our lifestyle requires. But we must also realize that we live in a society that does not encourage us to make sustainable choices.

Why, for example, do we have to pay extra for eco-labelled electricity and food? Why is it cheaper to fly than to travel by train? Why is it easier to buy new electronic gadgets than to repair old ones that break? There is nothing that says that it must be that way. The politicians have the power to change it. We have the power to change it. We can create debate to influence social development. We often hear that change is impossible, but the fact is that society is constantly changing and we can by encouraging engagement be part of changing society.

During a joint workshop in Stockholm in March a group of activists joined together to share knowledge about encouraging activism and how to reach out with this message. FOE Sweden facilitated the workshop that was also a training for trainers where FOE Sweden would share their methods on working with popular education to engage people we meet. The workshop discussed how we can use activism to change society. By activism we mean to work to influence society in a certain direction. Two facilitators helped us and guided us in finding out different ways to reach others with our message in an engaging way. Madis Vasser from Estonia describes one of the exercises.

– For example, we were first asked to rate different continents on how hard we think they will suffer under climate change. Next we were asked to assess the same continents on how much they themselves contribute to the problem. The final results were clear – those hit the hardest are the ones least responsible. Many people might not have thought about this injustice, so the exercise could be a great tool.

How can we create a constructive engagement for the climate? For starters we learned to give examples of positive solutions, adapt our arguments to the target group and find out what interests them. Matilda from Sweden says:

– I enjoyed the exercises where we were to come up with our own solutions to different scenarios. By using your creativity freely I find it easier to grapple with any problem, and I also think it is a fun way to discuss topics with other interested people!

We also discussed what to avoid while expressing big environmental problems facing the entire planet without placing a sense of guilt. It is a balance between talking about this serious matter in a way that is not causing depression but motivation. The feeling of desperation can come, especially when we are feeling alone in a endless battle. Then it is important to remember that we can change society and we can replace depression when we as a community come together and get involved. We have seen it before and we will see it again, people power is the solution. As Sabine from Latvia emphasizes:

– Besides the engaging exercises and tools that we learned, I got inspired by stories. When we shared what brought each of us to this project, I realised that activism is available for everyone, no matter educational or work experience. The sense of common goal gives confidence and motivation to be an activist and keep going. Even more, I believe that we, as young activists, can show a perspective of activism which may fade away certain myths and stereotypes about “green people”.

Sofie Persson

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