Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Butler raises questions about strategies for social change

Have you seen The Butler, the movie about the man who served President Eisenhower through Reagan? He chose to work from within the system, using the minute power of his position to influence public policy. His son, on the other hand, was more militant, getting arrested repeatedly.

This movie raises the question, What advocacy approach works? Work within the system, fight it or both?

I won't spoil the story but the movie seems to come down on the side of fighting the establishment. This caught my attention, not only because it has always been my preference to work within, but also because of Naomi Klein's recent interview stating that Green Groups May be More Damaging than Climate Change Deniers. Ouch!

Klein, author of No Logo and The Shock Doctrine, states,

"I think if we look at the track record of Kyoto, of the UN Clean Development Mechanism, the European Union’s emissions trading scheme – we now have close to a decade that we can measure these schemes against, and it’s disastrous. Not only are emissions up, but you have no end of scams to point to, which gives fodder to the right."

Klein believes that by collaborating with business instead of suing them, many environmental organizations have undermined the capacity for progress.

In my view, there is a role for all approaches, those working from within and those fighting those inside. My preference is for a win-win, but that approach is taking a very long time to show any measurable reduction in greenhouse gases.

I encourage you to read her interview and let me know what you think? Do we need to be tougher about the outcomes and the moral imperative (think Martin Luther King Jr)?

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