How woke ideology is seizing the climate movement — a short note

Micha Narberhaus
3 min readNov 4, 2020

I’ve just come across the promotion of a new book on how to transform the climate movement. It says: “The inadequate and ineffective framing of climate change as a narrow, isolated, discrete problem to be “solved” by technical solutions is failing.” I was using similar phrases for many years. I was referring to the need to tackle climate change in a more systemic way which involves a deeper transformation of our economic system and our way of life as well as the need to address inequalities.

But it is now clear that what this phrase now really means is that intersectional (woke) ideology is increasingly seizing environmental organisations and the climate movement:

In Diversifying Power, energy expert Jennie Stephens argues that the key to effectively addressing the climate crisis is diversifying leadership so that antiracist, feminist priorities are central.

It seems like environmental NGOs like Friends of the Earth have already taken on board Jennie Stephens’ message. For example, the twitter profile picture of Friends of the Earth International focuses on support for Black Lives Matter and includes the hashtag #defundpolice.

I understand the logic of this: create a transversal movement that is more powerful and brings more people on board than a single-issue movement (on climate change). Fair enough.

However, I’m convinced that this is a short sighted and bad strategy, because it will continue to deepen the culture wars and polarisation in our societies. In the current climate, the more identity politics on one side, the more we will see on the other side.

Tackling climate change is not a special interest issue. It’s a question of the survival of our civilisation, and it should be of interest to all people regardless of how people think about other social issues. Tackling climate change ought to be a point of political consensus between the Right and Left.

So it doesn’t make sense to organise a movement for tackling climate change based on a narrow ideological basis, as is often the case with current climate justice activism. Instead, the big question has to be how to create a movement of enough people that support a political agenda that is radical enough to tackle the problems.

We will only be able to tackle climate change and successfully transition to an ecologically sustainable economy if we reach a broad societal consensus. It won’t be possible to enforce such significant change against the will of a considerable portion of our societies.

This is why with the Protopia Lab we will promote undogmatic dialogue about strategies that tackle polarisation and our most pressing ecological issues. To be ultimately successful, the climate movement has to become attractive to people across different parts of society. This requires reducing our moral certainty and learn to live with, rather than fight, people who hold values different to our own.



Micha Narberhaus

Micha Narberhaus is a researcher, writer and founder of The Protopia Lab. Twitter: @michanarberhaus