The Nuclear Freeze campaign prevented an apocalypse, so can the climate movement – Duncan Meisel

2014 was the hottest year in recorded history. 2015 is on track to be even hotter — and yet, before the most important international climate talks of the decade, even the most ambitious promises of action will fall short of what science demands.

At the same time, the movement to stop climate change is also making history — last year the United States saw the biggest climate march in history, as well as the growth of a fossil fuel divestment movement (the fastest growing divestment campaign ever), and a steady drumbeat of local victories against the fossil fuel industry.

In short, the climate movement, and humanity, is up against an existential wall: Find ways to organize for decisive action, or face the end of life as we know it. This is scary stuff, but if you think no movement has ever faced apocalyptic challenges before, and won, then it’s time you learned about the Nuclear Freeze campaign.

Following Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980, the global anti-nuclear movement also stood up to a global existential crisis — one that was also driven by a wealthy power elite, backed by faulty science and a feckless liberal establishment that failed to mobilize against a massive threat. The movement responded with new ideas and unprecedented numbers to help lead the world towards de-escalation and an end to the Cold War.

Under the banner of the Nuclear Freeze, millions of people helped pull the planet from the brink of nuclear war, setting off the most decisive political changes of the past half century. The freeze provides key lessons for the climate movement today; and as we face up to our own existential challenges, it’s worth reflecting on both the successes and failures of the freeze campaign, as one possible path towards the kind of political action we need.

A short history of the Nuclear Freeze campaign

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