The most important (as opposed to the most powerful) audience for my PhD dissertation


in PhD thesis, Writing

I have always intended my research to be of more interest and use to activists than to anyone else. Nonetheless, I think my tendency in academic writing to criticize weaknesses in the climate movement is ultimately motivated by a desperate determination to collectively take our best shot at avoiding climatic disaster.

Operating under those conditions, I contend that we cannot afford to be congratulatory or to prioritize making activists feel positive over what they have done over continuing to pursue the goals which motivated them. I got into CFFD activism already expecting climate change to be the main work for the rest of my life. My experiences with the Keystone XL protests in Washington in 2011, with between 2012 and 2017, with the first University of Toronto divestment campaign, and with conducting this research has shown me how many others share that sense of purpose and importance. When I criticize the work of activists it is because I think we cannot afford to fail and that learning is a critical skill and practice for us all, not because I don’t respect the thought and effort which they have put into it.

Plus, I don’t expect anyone to take what I say for granted. One advantage of academic-style writing is that there are clear standards of attribution, with an expectation of identifying where your supporting information comes from. One thing I would say confidently about volunteer-based environmental organizations is that we’re always muddling through and doing the best we can amid our limitations and constraints. Even if you end up fully disagreeing with an idea which I try to advance or defend, perhaps it will prompt you to rethink or refine your view on the topic. It’s through adjustments of perspective like that we can all become collectively better informed.

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