This article introduces four articles authored by Luke Kemp, looking at how the environmental movement could and should reform to learn from their enemies and achieve environmental justice. The first two articles look at the problems surrounding the current approaches of activism and advocacy, and the final articles look at the lessons that can be learned from the very organisations the movement works against.

Read all of the articles by clicking on one of the links below:


“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle”

– Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Current environmentalism is a tale of two movements.  It is a time of activism and a time of advocacy, marches in the streets and deals in the corridors, a time of growing support and a time of internal conflict, a time for divestment and of skyrocketing emissions, a time of victories and a time when the war is being lost.

Our tale is made up of the climate justice movement (CJM), which combines extreme humanitarian concern with an activist approach geared towards of mass-mobilisation.  For the CJM climate change is one part of a larger agenda for governance and societal change.  The other half, which I will term the “middle green”, is more concerned with the direct task of decreasing emissions and addressing climate change as a more discrete issue.  Their approach often prioritises feasibility over ideology (although this varies) and focuses upon policy and working within existing power structures to create change.

The two sides of our movement have never completely seen eye-to-eye, which has been problematic to say the least.  Particularly since we face opponents which are not only defending the status quo and have greater capacity than us; they are simply more cohesive and effective than we are.

Neither side of the movement is right, nor can either movement succeed alone.  Even combined it may not be enough without a change of tact.   The battles we fight now are ultimately struggles in vain.  Activism is smothered by the “Velvet Glove” while lobbying has been battered aside by the “Golden Fist“.

But there is another way.  It rests upon unifying our movement and creating a new way forward.  It’s a bold path founded upon a single radical notion- that we can take lessons from those who are winning the war for hearts and minds as well as for power.   We must swallow our pride and learn from our right-wing enemies.  Our movements must combine and adopt a new culture that prioritises unity and outcomes over all else.  We must develop a new strategy focused upon leverage and unity and add a third movement to our arsenal- a movement of leaders who supplant themselves into positions of power.

The task is momentous and I suspect the reader may be left wondering ‘where to from here?”  I think the transformation may very well start with youth.  It may be naivety or wishful thinking, but I believe that a critical mass from the youth movement could blaze a new path forward for others to follow.   Of course, that will require all those who are willing to go beyond reading and supporting this through social media (although that is lovely as well) and stepping forward to lead this change.

It may seem daunting, but progress is not as distant as it seems.  Salvation lies behind the mirror and beneath the face of our nemesis.


Read all of my articles by clicking on one of the links below:


Featured Image Credit: justmeans.com

Written by Luke Kemp

Luke Kemp

Luke is a PhD Candidate at the Australian National University and Research Fellow with the Earth System Governance Project. His current research focuses upon institutional reform of international environmental governance.When not criticizing consensus or writing his thesis he enjoys meditation and plotting world domination.