The Planetary Crisis, Brexit and the Pandemic

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Like buses, crises (including the opportunities that can also accompany them) seem to come in threes. First, since June 2016 we have Brexit and now, July 2020, the real possibility of a no-deal Brexit since the landslide election of Boris Johnston’s Conservative party in December 2019. Second, the Covid-19 pandemic and the uneven manner in which governments, populations, businesses, trades unions etc. across the devolved administrations in Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland have responded, have devastated lives, communities and economies. And finally, looming above both of these in terms of urgency and negative impact potential, is the planetary crisis – climate breakdown and the erosion of the life supporting systems of the earth. But not only do we face all three, they are also interrelated in complex and unpredictable ways such that addressing one of them could have impacts on the others. This is the trilemma of the turbulent times we live in. And this list does not include another connected crisis: the rise of right wing populism, xenophobia and ‘post-truth’ politics and ‘fake news’
Lest you get too depressed too early in reading this, there is some good news. The good news is that we have seen some progress on green issues. The climate crisis in particular has crept up the political agenda. This can be observed in the rise of social mobilisations such as Extinction Rebellion and the Youth Strike for Climate movements which unexpectedly just emerged in the last year. We can also point to the ‘green wave’ which saw support for Green Parties across Europe increase in the 2019 European elections, and the rise in Green Party support in local and parliamentary elections in the Republic and Northern Ireland in 2019-20. In particular I want to draw attention to the rise and importance of non-state actors and action, issues and forms of cooperation (existing and potential) across these islands organised around responding to the planetary crisis at local and global scales. Too often the media, academia, think tanks and public discussion focus on the state, corporations/business, large organisations such as churches, trades unions to the neglect of civil society, localised political actors and agency. This article will provide some commentary on the ‘usual suspects and themes’ of how Brexit, the pandemic and the planetary crisis may impact governmental and policy coordination and cooperation across the different levels and dimensions of ‘big P politics’, inter alia, political parties, national and devolved governments, significant business sectors such as agriculture, tourism, ICT etc. However, I wish to mostly concentrate on more local, non-electoral, non-policy, often more confrontational, oppositional, decentralised and grassroots forms of ‘small p politics’ now discernible around our planetary calamity. But this is not to discount, undermine or ignore the importance of nation-state level and especially more local state/council level politics and initiatives. As the pandemic has demonstrated in times of crisis such state action is vital, but we need to reconnect state action with civil society and localised mobilisation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-111
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Cross Border Studies in Ireland
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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