“We heard from the rail workers. We heard from the truckers. We’ve got the longshoremen in the house, too,” said Leonard Riley, a longshore worker with the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) Local 1422 and member of the SWA Coordinating Committee, addressing a packed house at the Teamsters Local 71 union hall during the opening program of the 2023 Southern Worker School. “The reason I bring that up is because of the power that’s in this room. We’ve got bus drivers over there, teachers over here. There’s power in this room. It’s going to take strategy, planning, coming together, and finding out where the power connectors are to mobilize and exercise it.”
Climate assemblies are increasingly being used across the world to help decide how we tackle the climate crisis. As they have become more common, so has interest in their impact. However very few studies have looked at the long-term impact of taking part on assembly members themselves. As one of the leads for Climate Assembly UK, my attention was therefore caught when assembly members began to talk about changes they had made in their own lives. These ranged from buying an electric car, to running for office for the first time, to setting-up a climate-friendly business. But were these the exception, or had lots of assembly members made similar changes. We teamed up with Stephen Elstub and Jayne Carrick from Newcastle University to find out, sending assembly members two additional research surveys – one in April 2021 roughly a year after the end of the assembly events, and the second in September 2022 two years after the launch of the assembly’s final report.
The assemblies started to happen in the times when there was a general feeling (in Europe) that everything was possible. After the economic crisis, municipalist movements came to life and older ideas of different political and economic systems (socialism, communism) became a possibility again. People suddenly realized that representative democracy really doesn’t work and that alternative ways of decision making closer to communities are needed. This new optimistic wave of democracy was extremely strong in Maribor, which meant that a lot of people wanted to be part of the change. This resulted in a really high level of participation at citizens’ assemblies at the beginning. However, it must be said that even then mostly older generations, who still remember how self-management (at the workplace and at the municipal/city districts level) worked in Yugoslavia participated.
London - People around the world will have a chance to deliberate about responses to climate change under plans to convene a "Global Citizens' Assembly" to inform U.N. talks in Glasgow next year, organisers said on Thursday. The project aims to build on similar initiatives in countries such as Ireland, France and Canada, where citizens' assemblies have given politicians space to act by generating ambitious proposals on divisive issues. "Young people are not just frustrated by rising temperatures and declining ecosystems. We're also frustrated by the constant recycling of outdated political solutions," said Susan Nakyung Lee, 19, a South Korean student working on the project.