Marshall Ganz devoted 16 years to working for Cesar Chavez' United Farm Workers Union. He moved on from the farm worker struggle (as have thousands of others who carried its lessons to other fights) to systematize his understanding of organizing and movement building. Ganz is credited as the intellectual guru of the organizing in the 2008 Obama campaign. If you've had any exposure to community organizing in recent years, you've encountered his "Public Narrative" methodology which grounds action in participants' stories. (This can be inspiring and energizing -- or in pedestrian hands, it can be pedestrian.)
A few weeks ago on the Bill Moyers TV show, Ganz had some comments on how "environmental groups" somehow have not -- yet -- succeeded in turning broad concern about pollution and climate change into a powerful social movement.
Maybe it is just because I'm of the same generation and from some similar traditions of organizing, but like Ganz I've never quite felt that climate change activism has got hold of how political movements gain the power to win the victories they seek.
I know, many folks are trying, especially in opposition to the Keystone Pipeline and to fracking. And there's some people power, especially in poor communities, often of color, where steps to improve environmental quality looks like simple questions of justice.
But listen to Ganz: "marketing," even in the sophisticated form of raising scientific understanding, is not enough. "Palatable" measures won't cut it in a crisis created by our social system -- the capitalist "free market" -- that under-girds our technological wizardry and wealth as well as our, humans', destructive impacts on the planetary ecosystem. This is a fight for the lives of the majority. Our passions and our persons need to be engaged, but the appropriate hooks that would enable great masses of us to engage remain obscure.
My only consolation is that the hooks that will enable masses to engage are always invisible -- until they come to seem obvious. Experiments with climate organizing will continue; we can't know which initiative will finally strike a spark. Organizing for the good is like that.