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Interrogating the post-political: the case of radical climate and climate justice movements

Russell, Bertie Thomas (2012) Interrogating the post-political: the case of radical climate and climate justice movements. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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Between mid-2006 and late-2010 the UK experienced a parabola of spectacular protests relating to climate change, ranging from the occupation of airport taxiways through to the blockade of coal power stations. Mobilizing thousands of people, this ‘radical climate movement’ was distinguished from a popular concern with climate change by its general commitment to direct action, widely-held anti-capitalist and antiauthoritarian beliefs, and a stated focus of tackling the ‘root causes’ of climate change. Written from within this ‘radical climate movement’, this thesis is an investigation into the praxis of the movement, exploring the extent to which participants contributed to the emergence of a ‘radical’ knowledge of climate change, and thus assessing the appropriateness (and effectiveness) of the movement’s methodologies. Driven by an internal debate regarding the movement’s tendency to depart from its radical political roots, the theoretical core of this thesis draws upon the concept of the ‘post-political condition’, a condition of the liberal consciousness that forecloses the very possibility of a political praxis on the climate. It is contended that a specific postpolitical discourse of ‘dangerous climate change’ emerged in the late-1980s which, defined by an apocalyptic discourse that placed a ‘carbon fetishism’ at the core of its rationale, evacuated the space for political discourse in favour of a general humanitarian effort to forestall “the greatest danger we’ve ever faced”. It is suggested that despite the efforts of many to confront the problem, the UK’s ‘radical climate movement’ broadly failed to escape this liberal discourse. The research thus turns to the international mobilizations around the COP15 in 2009, concluding that the emergence of a discourse of ‘climate justice’ was a partial attempt to overcome this post-political discourse. From the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth (CMPCC) in Bolivia, to the continued organization of the Climate Justice Action (CJA) network, it is suggested that ‘climate justice’ diverged according to two separate discourses - one around ‘climate debt’ and another around anti-capitalist critique. It is finally concluded that a true politicization necessitates celebrating the death of the environmental movement, instead placing our socialreproduction at the core of any claim to an ecological politics.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
ISBN: 978-0-85731-264-8
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Environment (Leeds) > School of Geography (Leeds)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.566328
Depositing User: Repository Administrator
Date Deposited: 08 Feb 2013 09:48
Last Modified: 25 Jul 2018 09:47
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/3348

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