The violence of (in)action: communities, climate and business-as-usual

Gradon Diprose, Sophie Bond, Amanda C Thomas, Jule Barth, Heather Urquhart

Climate change is creating challenges and opportunities for community development. The challenges arise from declining biophysical conditions and the socio-political and economic barriers that delay, delegitimize or co-opt genuine community responses. Opportunities are arising from global climate change activism networks that provide new resources and discourses for activists and community organizers. These challenges and opportunities are unevenly shaped by the possibility for genuine democratic contestation in different contexts. In this article we draw on recent climate justice mobilizations in Aotearoa New Zealand. These mobilizations called for divestment from fossil fuel activities by blocking access to major banks around the country that directly support the industry. While most actions in the campaign were peaceful and effective in closing down business-as-usual for the day at specific bank branches, one in particular provoked police and implicit state-sanctioned violence against the activists, pitting bank customers against climate activists. We use this case study to illustrate the complexity of contemporary climate activism and tactics within communities, and draw on the work of Judith Butler to show how violence and stigma are used to discipline certain bodies who contest more dominant development trajectories and investment.

Suggested citation

Diprose, G., Bond, S., Thomas, A.C., Barth, J., Urquhart, H. 2017. "The violence of (in)action: communities, climate and business-as-usual." Community Development Journal, 52(3): 488-505.