Social Movements and Energy Transitions:Lessons for the Clean Energy Movement Bruce Podobnik Department of Sociology Lewis & Clark College email@example.com
Three Systemic FactorsDriving Global Energy Transitions • (See Global Energy Shifts, by Bruce Podobnik) • The dynamics of geopolitical rivalry (extensively examined in conventional analyses) • The dynamics of corporate competition (extensively examined in conventional analyses) • The dynamics of social conflict (not so extensively examined, but crucial and the focus of the rest of this talk)
Dynamics of Social Conflict and the First Global Energy Shift • Massive waves of labor unrest swept through established coal industries in the period 1890-1914, and then even larger disruptions occurred in 1940-1948. • Governments, companies, and consumers shifted toward oil and natural gas after these periods of labor unrest.
Social Movements and Coal • High level of danger in underground mines. • Positional power enjoyed by coal miners. • Mobilization of large numbers of people, into persistent campaigns. • Impacts: • Medium term: improvements for miners. • Longer term: shift to surface mining, oil.
Social Movements and Oil • De-Colonization in Middle East brought new generation of leaders into power. • Positional power held by nationalist leaders. • Mobilization of large numbers of people into persistent campaigns against oil companies. • Revolutionary movements (Iran in 1979). • Impacts: rapid nationalization of oil, embargo, price shocks, shift toward more diversified and efficient energy system.
Social Movements and Nuclear Power • From the outset of the nuclear power industries, protests took place. • No positional power, and little support from national leaders. • Mobilization of large numbers of people. • Use of multi-faceted tactics (legal, scientific, media strategies). • Impact: helped contain the growth of nuclear power.
Lessons for the Clean Energy Movement • History demonstrates the important impact that mass movements can have on global energy industries. • It is important to see what has worked in the past, so we do not become overly-focused on new tactics and forget strategies that worked in many contexts in the past.
Lesson #1 • The crucial importance of mass movements. • Mobilizations differ in terms of duration, size, intensity. • Coal: large protests, lasted a long time, intense. • Oil: large protests, lasted a moderate time. • Nuclear: modest protests, modest time. • Note, though, that in each case large numbers of people were mobilized over many days, weeks, or months, in physical campaigns.
Lesson #1 and the Clean Energy Movement • Protests so far have tended to be quite small and short in duration. • Tendency to focus on virtual campaigns. • Tendency to focus on media. • More mass mobilizations needed.
Lesson #2 • Groups that can develop strategic power around an energy industry increase their impact. • Coal: positional power derived from within mines. • Oil: positional power derived from within the state and societies where oil was located. • Nuclear: not much positional power.
Lesson #2 and the Clean Energy Movement • How to increase positional power in the Clean Energy Movement? • Identify where large energy facilities generate serious disruptions, and are vulnerable to local unrest (Nigeria, Alberta). • Capacity to mobilize coal miners in China? • Important for Clean Energy Movement to identify potential points of positional advantage, and organize there.
Lesson #3 • Citizens in the developing world have more transformative potential than has been realized. • Negative impacts of energy price volatility and climate change will hit global south most intensely. • If social unrest can be harnessed into large-scale mobilizations, then leaders of key countries can push for more aggressive action on global level (Brazil, South Africa, India).
Lesson #4 • Multi-faceted tactics do have a role. • The Clean Energy Movement has already proven capable of using innovative networking, media, coalition-building. • Connections to the ‘movement of movements’ may allow the Clean Energy Movement to grow more quickly than many expect.
Conclusion • Questions, critiques, suggestions are welcome! • Bruce Podobnik firstname.lastname@example.org