Climate Emergency Backstory with Paul Gilding

By Paul Gilding

I remember with crystal clarity my response when I first heard about the work of Margaret and The Climate Mobilisation. I thought “Is this it?”

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Ten years earlier, 2005, I had written a paper titled Scream Crash Boom that expressed my grief at the inevitability of the crash and global crisis that was coming. I also argued that when the crash was in full flight, we would panic and respond, that we would wake up and recognise the crisis as existential and respond with a mobilization that was incomprehensible at that time. And it would most likely be successful.

Then I sat and waited. For 10 years.

Of course, I continued my advocacy work around the world, arguing that the crisis was inevitable and we should act ahead of it - because there was a huge opportunity in doing so. I wrote more papers including the One Degree War Plan which detailed what a Climate Emergency Plan could mean in practice. I wrote my book The Great Disruption which went to the central issue of our economic system. I kept at it, because I was hoping I was wrong – that we would act before the crisis took hold.

But in my heart, I knew I was right, that people weren’t going to - and therefore I was really just filling in time.

Then Margaret contacted me after forming The Climate Mobilization (TCM) and asked me to join the Advisory Board. And I thought “Is this it?” Are we ready to wake up? I dared to hope it was and so I was delighted to accept - and since then to endorse and support the work of Margaret and TCM in whatever small ways I could.

The way TCM saw the world was really difficult for the climate movement. Margaret beautifully illustrated just how difficult in her 2016 article Leading the Public into to Emergency Mode. The article deeply challenged pretty much the entire strategy of 20 years of climate activism. It argued for the truth. That we faced an existential crisis and nothing short of shifting urgently to emergency mode would be enough. But the truth of course can be deeply challenging.

For two more years, it was still a lonely idea. Luckily for all of us, TCM threw themselves against the wall of resistance, screaming and shouting at anyone who would listen. Tell the truth! We face an existential crisis! The house is on fire!

Then it happened. To the rest of the world, unexpectedly and out of nowhere. To those of us who knew this was coming, it was never unexpected. But it was certainly welcome.  Margaret’s updated paper, Leading the Public Into Emergency Mode: Introducing the Climate Movement gives the backstory, both theoretically and historically, of how the world started to wake up in late 2018, and what comes next.

Marina Mails