#Interns blog: Reflections about the current climate crisis and its social movements

I am a sociology student at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) and conducting my internship in the LICCI project. My choice to apply for an internship at LICCI derived from my participation in a subject related to environmental sociology. In this course, we discussed about the relationship between social movements and current environmental problems, such as climate change. When I learned about the LICCI internship possibility that offered the opportunity to learn more about a global approach to climate issues, I did not hesitate a second.  With this post I try to give a historical perspective of social movements related to the environment.

Whenever societies had the need to reorganize itself to influence or change the state of affairs, a social movement emerged. For years, social movements have been the answer to many global social problems. The feminist or pacifist movement are only examples. The dynamics of social movements haves always managed to overcome national borders and become stronger through international organization.

In the field of social movements related to the environment, we find that over the years mainly three major movements have emerged. The first was the environmentalism of the workers, which arose as a reaction against the harmful effects of urbanization and industrialization, in the nineteenth century. The main motivation was to fight pollution that mainly affected working-class people. Later, conservationists appeared, whose aim was to protect nature and its biodiversity. Its origins go back to the first industrialization, when some parts of the elites were concerned about the degradation that the industry caused in the environment. Finally, environmental movements emerged in the 1960s and 1970s from transcendental circumstances such as the oil crisis or the nuclear danger. These movements emerged with the objective to overcome the capitalist model, that generates inequalities and environmental problems.  

From the history of all these movements, we can draw two important conclusions. The first is that social movements concerned with the environment were brewing in the big cities and not in the countryside. Second, they were local or national movements without a global impact. Currently, environmental social movements still have difficulties  in addressing global issues. Climate change movements like “Fridays for future” or “Extinction Rebellion” have not yet reached all spheres of society. The rural world is often left out of mobilizations and most of the events or protests take place in the big cities of the main developed countries. Second, there is little engagement in developing countries. The leading voices of the climate change movement come mostly from Western countries- the ones that contributed the most to climate change, damaging ecosystems for the extraction of natural resources, taking advantage of flexible policies to not respect the environment.

The most important advantage that current environmental movements have, compared to the past, is the capacity to share content through social media. Any action performed anywhere in the world can be seen in any corner of the planet almost instantly.  Thanks to social media, an isolated individual can feel part of the bigger environmental movement. This is a great opportunity for social movements fighting against climate change to achieve a global impact. However there´s the need that the benefits of social media reach everybody. In my opinion, it is also in that context that the LICCI project becomes relevant.  Not only to bring indigenous and local communities perceptions to the political debate; but also to sew links between researchers, practitioners and local people´s in different parts of the world through OpenTek, the citizen science platform and also through LICCI social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.).

By Guillem Ribó Roca, Dissemination intern at LICCI