COP21: Who will lead the movement?

In case you have had your head in the sand and missed it, it is soon going to be the COP21 Climate Conference in Paris, which is highly regarded as one of the most important climate conferences in the history of mankind. The question on everyone's lips is: can we build a strong enough movement to make a difference?

COP21: Who will lead the movement?

At the Do Nation we are working hard to do our bit and empower everyone to get involved. But building a movement isn’t easy, and despite most people agreeing that we must act on man-made climate change, there hasn’t yet been significant action.

When I think of great movements of the past (civil rights movement, Indian independence, anti-apartheid, women’s right to vote) my mind’s eye always invokes a leading figure – an inspirational leader that success is attributed to: Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst. But obviously one person can’t change things alone and behind these leaders were also large groups of engaged supporters.

Reflecting on this, I’m concerned that although there are many working towards sustainability, there are also lots of different goals and ambitions. Are we missing that inspirational figure, pulling all the fractious groups together into one powerful movement?

However, despite the history books attributing successful movements to individuals or groups, it seems things aren’t always as clear-cut. For instance sociologist Doug McAdam explains that “in King’s case, it would be inaccurate to say that he was the leader of the modern civil rights movement… but more importantly, there was no singular civil rights movement. The movement was, in fact, a coalition of thousands of local efforts nationwide, spanning several decades, hundreds of discrete groups, and all manner of strategies and tactics—legal, illegal, institutional, non-institutional, violent, non-violent. Without discounting King’s importance, it would be sheer fiction to call him the leader of what was fundamentally an amorphous, fluid, dispersed movement.”

The same can also be said about the other movements I mentioned. Although it’s obviously important to have inspiring leaders that drive change, we can’t wait and depend on them.  Instead, if enough of us lead and act in our own little ways, the inspiration will flow up to those in the position of power and influence, enabling them to be the leaders we need them to be.

This is our vision for COP21, helping lots of people to get involved in their own way: whether it be through taking to the streets and marching on 29th November; working on a revolutionary new PV technology; or inspiring your employees to change behaviours, actively engaging them in the issues. Personally, we’re cycling to Paris, asking friends and family to support us through simple, sustainable actions (fancy joining us?!).

The more of us that can act and show we care, the greater the chance we can get the leaders to listen. And you never know, maybe one leader will rise to the occasion and go down in the history books for instigating change. But we will all know that it was really down to us.

Richard Parker, commercial director, Do Nation

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