Leila is fresh from 3 months in back-to-back productions of The Winter’s Tale and To Kill a Mockingbird. She characterises her colleagues as a group inclined to support progressive causes. But when I put it to her that the theatricality of direct activism might be part of the appeal she scolds me, “no, I hate that rubbish.” She is no more inclined to dress up for a staged piece of activism than anyone else, and campaigning for the climate is not a role one can step in and out of.
Instead, it’s clear that campaigning is a full time preoccupation. For Leila, the battle against climate change is just one frontier in a much bigger war, the antagonist of which is neoliberalism, a policy model which transfers power from the public to private sector in a bid to optimise economic outcomes. Beyond its mundane definition, neoliberalism is used by its critics as a catch-all term for the overconsumption of resources by corporations. Leila makes clear that neoliberalism is causally linked to a worsening climate: its policies promote corporate gluttony, which contributes directly to global warming.
Membership of the climate movement and a belief in neoliberalism, then, seem incompatible. Given that critics of the theory largely reside on the left of the political spectrum, is there not a risk that such a view politicises the climate debate, and might threaten the inclusivity Leila spoke of? That’s a challenge, she acknowledges, “there’s a risk that if we become more adamant then we sound dogmatic. But, particularly when there’s been such a decline in the importance of facts, it’s necessary to be strong and clear in your convictions.”
In any case, Leila insists, there is room for inclusivity. Indeed the climate movement is at its most effective when it brings together as broader coalition as possible. She cites the swelling campaign against a third runway at Heathrow as an example – it’s a cause that has united everyone from the Richmond resident whose “grandad is buried on the proposed site” to the Mayor of London and local and national climate campaigners.