Opinion: After the fireworks, the real work starts

Nick Cater is a consultant and writer: catercharity@yahoo.co.uk

When I first wrote about global warming some 20 years ago, it was an enjoyable task, involving chatting to researchers not yet famous about their tentative theories and models of how hot life might become.

Tomorrow's launch of the new campaign against 'climate chaos' proves what great strides (in the science of predicting the future) and small, stumbling steps (in protecting our world from ourselves) we have made since then.

The charities and pressure groups working together on climate issues no doubt hope to emulate the headline-grabbing achievements of the Make Poverty History campaign, and will have worked through the problems waiting to trip those creating and sustaining these crusading coalitions.

First, there are the usual left/right, hard/soft internal divisions to overcome in creating a common platform. Then there are the inevitable compromises over the primary message that will grab the media hacks and the punters. And if you campaign on poverty, you have to cope with motormouth Geldof and his Live8 rollercoaster.

Behind an easy-to-recall slogan and tough-to-make choice of wristband - "Cerise has gone, what about polkadots?" - sit the complex politics that most ordinary supporters just ignore. This includes the debate on what is really required to end poverty or slow global warming, especially the kind of life changes and costs that millions will find hard to accept, or on whether making poor people wealthier might actually worsen global warming.

That remains the toughest test for any protest or movement - how to honestly and effectively communicate the means and the ends, so that those attracted merely by the buzz or the bands begin to understand and support the full implications of their stand.

Like the global coalitions on landmines and debt, the poverty and climate campaigns mean years of tough work with no guarantee of securing all the demands. The charities involved must also consider their own priorities - direct assistance against political impact - while avoiding negative publicity or Charity Commission disapproval.

Sometimes, the grim grind of fundraising must seem comforting, way less stressful than getting on the megaphone to demand a better world. As Sir Bob might reflect on his increasingly political role, it was so much easier to simply demand: "Give us yer ******* money!"

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