Momentum is a funny thing. You know when you’ve got it, holding onto it is difficult, creating it is hard and pinning down the moment it swung your way is almost impossible.
For me, I think it comes down to what an Aussie rules football coach would call the “one percenters.” The small things that each person does – the extra little bit of effort that seems inconsequential at the time, but when added together creates unstoppable momentum. You can be six goals down at half time, when victory seems impossible, but a second attack at the ball wins a turnover, gritty determination gets a sneaky goal, six goals becomes four or three and the next thing the opposition knows, the ground has shifted out from underneath them and their momentum is gone.
Teams that have momentum play positive football. When the ball is bouncing your way, you’re more likely to take risks, be more creative, and pass to teammates. Teams that lack momentum play not to lose – they tighten up, become more hesitant in their choices, become more fearful.
In the epic and dramatic theatre that is Aussie rules football, the shifts are visible and the victors declared in four quarters. For those of us working to create action on climate change, the game is longer and the wins sometimes not as visible.
That’s why I think it’s just as important to talk about “momentum building” as it is to talk about movement building.
The popular groundswell that is required to decarbonize the global economy will change our systems, processes and habits. In order for this kind of change to happen, we’re going to need momentum and lots of it so that when we look back at the work of these decades it will seem inevitable that eventually the world would decarbonize.
The momentum of the climate movement will come from all corners, not just traditional environmentalists because climate change is something that affects everyone and everything. It’s a financial risk issue because of the carbon bubble of unburnable assets, a human rights issue because of migration and displacement, an agricultural issue because of climate land use changes, a political issue because of global impacts, an industrial issue because of linear manufacturing processes and supply chains and more.
This means it’s time to start celebrating the one percenters, being creative, taking risks and passing to teammates. You never see a tipping point until you’ve gone past it, which is as true for the physical climate system as the climate movement. You don’t have to be a divestment specialist to start talking about (or doing) divestment. You might not be able to yourself, but there may be someone you know who wants to “Put Solar on it” this year that you can cheer on.
You may have a different idea for how we can start having conversations about climate wins and what a post-carbon world will look like – it could be working with new and different allies or “strange bedfellows,” or including a segment on climate art at your organization’s next event. It could be something totally different again. It will create new and different voices in the climate movement and bring out climate leaders from unexpected places.
The main thing is that it all counts. It’s all part of building momentum towards creating a world that no longer burns carbon. Let’s start chalking up those wins, and I’m pretty sure we’d be surprised at how many are already there.
image: Aussie rules football in Melbourne, Australia. via Amy Huva (cc)