Climate and the Social Question

Organizational Opportunities and Obstacles

With Nora Räthzel (Prof. Umeå University, SE), Mark Bergfeld (UNI Europa, BE), Simon Pirani (Oxford Institute of Energy Studies) and activists from Ende Gelände, Deutsche Wohnen & Co. Enteignen, Fridays for Future, RWE & Co. Enteignen.

Image of Amazon warehouse in Illinois hit by Tornado, killing 6 workers who were not allowed to leave.


In the climate crisis, all politics become climate politics, and all climate politics touches on livelihoods and social justice. But how do organizations and movements face up to this fact? This online workshop-based course maps the climate dimensions of social struggles, and the social dimension of the climate struggle. It offers a space for discussing how we can articulate climate and social struggles against the defense of livelihoods premised on fossil capital and attempts to make the poor and workers pay for (non)transition. How can, for instance, housing movements and trade unions center the climate dimension of their struggles? And how can the climate movement enhance and reshape the fight for better lives and livelihoods?

This course aims to highlight organizational practices, concepts, and strategies that frontline emancipatory struggles are developing to move beyond the dichotomy between just transition and climate justice. It asks how organizations fighting for social causes tackle ecological objectives, and organizations fighting for ecological objectives tackle social problems. And it asks how such efforts are not simply promoting a post-carbon transition, but attempting to radically transform the dominant mode of living away from one premised on endless consumption and growth. 

Course Objectives

  • Clarify the dilemmas and contradictions faced by social and climate movements today 
  • Highlight lessons from activists who have found ways to deal with these dilemmas and contradictions
  • Develop a space for discussion, exchanges of experience, and mutual advice between activists trying to align social and climate issues within their movements and organizations


  1. The Labor Movement and the Climate Tension
    Wednesday 15 June @ 19.00 CET
    How are economic decline, ecological disasters, the necessity of fossil fuel abolition and climate transition reshaping the terrain of social movements? How can workers and activists in trade unions use their skills and knowledges to develop transformative strategies for environmental and social justice? How can activists in trade unions and housing movements seize moments of crisis to align their struggles with ecology?

    With: Nora Räthzel (Umeå University) and Mark Bergfeld (UNI Europa) and more

  2. The Climate Movement and Social Needs
    Thursday 23 June @ 19.00 CET
    Fights against carbon taxes and cuts to fuel subsidies from Iran over France to Ecuador have illustrated that climate politics have to align with people’s everyday needs in order to be feasible, democratic, and just. What tactics, strategies, alliances, and common notions are needed to combine rapid decarbonization with social justice? 

    With: Activists from Ende Gelände and RWE & Co. Enteignen and more

  3. Gas, Housing, and the Cost of Living
    Wednesday 29 June @ 19.00 CET
    Fossil gas is currently the most urgent example of the tension between social and climate issues. While climate scientists point out the use of methane gas must be phased out, millions of people are suffering from rising gas prices. How does Russia’s war on Ukraine and Germany’s suspension of the NordStream 2 pipeline from Russia change this terrain? How to transition away from gas without an explosion in energy poverty?

    With: Simon Pirani (Oxford Institute for Energy Studies), Kieran Pradeep (Right to Energy Coalition), and activists from Deutsche Wohnen & Co. Enteignen and more

  4. Concluding Hypotheses: Events, Alignments, and Synergies between Movements and Organizations
    Wednesday 6 July @ 19.00 CET
    Understanding the importance and reality of organizational pluralism and specialization (no single organization can/need do everything), this session asks how can currents within particular organizations use the affective and network potentials of “external” events to advance ecological positions within their own organizations and develop inter-organizational alignments.

Practical Info

  • Course location: Zoom
  • Four 2-hour sessions
  • Working language: English
  • Participation across all sessions is encouraged
  • Suggested audience: activists, organizers, and movement-builders in social and/or climate struggles.

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