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Edition #2
Networks and Labyrinths
Elizabeth Rose
Edited by Shanti Lara Giovannetti-Singh

For better or worse everything is connected: An argument for the importance of networks to staying informed, optimistic, and inspired to agitate for a brighter future

Misogyny, gender normativity, homophobia, (institutionalised) racism, fatphobia. The fast fashion industry, education, policing, social welfare, fossil fuel usage. Ableism, healthcare, xenophobia, destruction of biodiversity, food supply, forced migration and Climate Change: everything is connected.

Paradoxically, the overwhelmingly labyrinthine interconnectedness of almost every factor in this globalised 21st-century society can make us feel powerless to affect change in such entrenched and inextricably linked systems. This, however, is not the case. Indeed, to paraphrase David Miliband, the greatest danger we face is not the scale of the problems at hand, but the paralysing fear that we can’t make a dent in them. I strongly believe that together we can (and will) dismantle the archaic patriarchal, racist, and sexist policies that endure. I believe that we will do-away with cishet norms and the (gender) binaries that define social perception. Together, we will create a world with less inequality and more kindness. And, crucially, I am convinced that we will halt (and reverse) the effects of the Climate Crisis. Not small goals exactly. But very achievable ones if we allow hope, curiosity, and optimism to guide our actions, rather than giving in to apathy, despondency or despair. With the help of one another, we can ensure that we are motivated by such principles, and slowly begin to tackle these pressing issues.  Our networks, local and global – of friends, family, advocates, volunteers, therapists, lovers, authors – are essential to providing hope, inspiring perseverance, and affecting change on a massive scale.

Why are networks important?

As Christian Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac have written:


     If you do not control the complex landscape of a challenge (and you rarely do) the most powerful thing you can do is               change how you behave in that landscape, using yourself as a catalyst for overall change (Figueres, Rivett-Carnac, 2020).

With every decision we make – ranging from what we eat, how (and whether) we vote, how (and how much) we travel, what media we consume, whether or not we protest, volunteer or sign petitions, what we buy, and who we learn from – we each make daily choices that affect the future. The last of these decisions is particularly important because our behaviour and lifestyle choices are inevitably influenced by the opinions and feedback of those we live with and listen to. Whether you want to get more involved in local politics, step back from fast-fashion or adopt a more plant-based diet, the difference between trying and succeeding is very often based upon the reactions of those who surround you. If, for example, friends and family aren’t supportive of (or are instead actively against) your choices, it’s very tempting to give up. If, however, you feel vindicated and encouraged by your networks, whether flatmates or online communities, persevering and committing to your cause will become both easier, and more enjoyable.

Since the labyrinth of (global) societies’ problems are well documented already, from the works of James Baldwin, to Christiana Figueres, and Gloria Steinem to Gil Scott-Heron, let’s consider instead:

How do networks provide solutions?

Inspiring Optimism

Possibly the strongest argument for the importance of networks is their ability to reassure us of the general benevolence of humanity. They remind us that we are not alone, and inspire us to stay resilient and motivated in our beliefs. Simply, by being part of something that feels connected to a larger community, and being aware that there are others who also care deeply about something important to you, the temptation to feel isolated, hopeless, or resigned is vastly reduced. For example, when government action, such as the proposed Nationality and Borders Bill and the inhumane suggestions of offshore processing and wave machines (Read, 2020; Payne, Hoffman, 2022) make me feel a deep dread for the future and doubt human decency; witnessing thousands of people march, agitate, sign and volunteer in opposition to the bill restores a vital sense of hope. Whatsmore, following the development of the Humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, in the last weeks alone we have witnessed that when the government and media rhetoric is one of compassion and solidarity rather than xenophobia and scaremongering, people are swift to rally in support. In just a few days, over 150,000 Brits registered their interest in hosting Ukrainian refugees (Bulman, 2022). Though, of course, it is frustrating to see the blatant hypocrisy of the government response, steeped as it is in barely disguised racism and Islamophobia, the public shift to reception of refugees with compassion and sympathy is vital. If we can harness and perpetuate this energy and expand the rehousing scheme to refugees from other global crises, forced migrants, and IDPs, such public enthusiasm to help others in need would dispel the government narrative of scarcity. To quote Migrants Organise, “People power is unlimited…state power is limited.”  This is a sure source of optimism.

Such examples, highlighting networks of advocates, campaigners and local communities working together in good faith to help those in need, in this case refugees, help inspire continued engagement in activism. Especially by countering concepts such as veneer theory – the idea that only a thin veil of civility separates man from a brutish and selfish inner nature – and the mean world syndrome. In short, this refers to the pessimistic worldview that results from intensely negative and misrepresentative media reporting, which can fuel the psychological phenomenon of negativity bias, which renders us more sensitive to bad news than good, and inclines us to believe people are inherently selfish and unkind. Examples like the public response to the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine proves this is not true – but, if this weren’t publicly reported, how would we know?  Good news is simply not reported on to the same extent as bad news by the mainstream media. Conversely, good news is often downplayed in favour of something inflammatory that will garner more reads. The ability of families, NGOs, and political groups to directly inform their members of small-scale successes and legal triumphs, either by word of mouth or through social media, is incredibly important therefore, since positive reinforcement vitalises hope. We need to shift the media focus to report truth, foster better, more representative visibility and reflect a proportional balance between good and bad news. By talking to and informing one another, be it by sharing a tweet or writing a book, we take a step in the right direction to shift this narrative.

Further to this, the belief that humans are inherently good, capable of change, and that things will improve as soon as we work together is implicit in any hopeful outlook of the future – and history shows us this is true. It is tempting to take for granted things that even two generations ago, if not completely illegal, were far from normal, gay marriage and representation for example. Through intergenerational (chosen) family networks, we can learn and pass on generational experience of the effects of collective action to bring about such social change as was achieved in the late 20th century – notably the decriminalisation of homosexuality, and Civil Rights Act among other victories against racial discrimination. Indeed, what seemed hopeless decades ago, is now normalised and we know about the effectiveness of sustained belief, and the fallibility of negativity bias through our networks with older generations.

When, however, considering (in the UK alone) the proposed Nationality and Borders Bill, the new Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill, the continued use of fossil fuels despite the Climate emergency, as well as the ongoing and repellent sexism and systemic racism that characterises our policing system – anger feels more justified than optimism. But looking to our networks of high-profile activists, authors, campaigners and politicians as inspiration, we can learn how to channel legitimate frustration and anger into ‘productive’ channels. As Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has written:

     We should all be angry. Anger has a long history of bringing about positive change. But I am also hopeful, because I believe       deeply in the ability of human beings to remake themselves for the better. (Ngozi Adichie, 2014)

This acknowledgment of the legitimacy of outrage, but equally the necessity of optimism, is a common theme in much contemporary social and climate justice literature. In their, appropriately named, podcast on the Climate Crisis, Outrage + Optimism, Rivett-Carnac and Figueres advocate that whilst outrage can be the fuel, optimism has to guide the direction of our global efforts to stop Climate emergency, though the adage is applicable in most social justice movements.

On one hand, I am constantly inspired by public figures like Figueres – who oversaw the foundational Paris Agreement on Climate Change, Greta Thunberg – who initiated the School/Youth Strike for Climate, Shon Faye who writes and campaigns for transgender justice. On the other hand, I am frequently amazed at the relentless selflessness and motivation of local volunteers and workers at Care4Calais, GND Rising and UOL, who often go uncelebrated, and who wouldn’t expect otherwise since they do what they do entirely altruistically. Through their tireless campaigning, rallying writing and everyday acts of kindness, these groups and individuals inspire me to keep on showing up for what I care about, secure in the knowledge I am not alone. They provide the kind of optimism that:

     empowers you; it drives your desire to engage, to contribute, to make a difference. It makes you jump out of bed in the                 morning because you feel challenged and hopeful at the same time. It calls you to that which is emerging and makes you           want to be an active part of change (Figueres, Rivett-Carnac, 2020).

Creating safe spaces for self-expression and community support

Another way in which networks have and will continue to facilitate positive change, is by creating spaces in which individuals are able to comfortably and safely be themselves, without having to conform to prescriptive societal expectations at the risk of discrimination. This is especially important for queer, disabled, neurodivergent and BIPOC people as well as those at any and all intersections of these. Community networks can not only help people be themselves through direct action and crowdfunding too, for example raising funds for life-saving gender-affirming surgery, and essential financial aid for people escaping situations of domestic abuse or those injured unjustly by law enforcement officials. They can also help cheaply rebalance neighbourhood excesses and deficiencies, for example through apps like Olio and TooGoodToGo which enable local communities to redistribute according to necessity, and in a sustainable way. The effect of such direct community action is that by creating networks where people feel supported locally, they can make a greater difference globally.

Encouraging us to recognise our global interconnectedness and responsibility for one another, inducing accountability

I am not the Walrus, but it is true that “I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together”. (The Beatles, 1967) This is to say that we need to recognise that we are all part of a much larger global network(s) and we have a responsibility to one another.

This is true on local levels too, but it is increasingly imperative that we widen our perspective to acknowledge that our actions affect far more than local events. For example, it is currently estimated that

     Animal farming accounts for somewhere between 14.5 percent and 18 percent of total [carbon] emissions. This means that         animal farming is responsible for more emissions than the combined exhaust fumes produced by all global transportation           (Winters, 2022)

So, in our choice to support animal farming industries by buying meat and dairy products, we contribute to Climate Change. This, in turn, leads to global warming, which directly impacts food insecurity, water scarcity and extreme weather events in many climates. These are all factors which amplify political insecurity, exacerbate the number of forced migrants and IDPs, and, as discussed earlier, this often results in the mistreatment of those most in need by G7 countries. Adam Eli has argued that “Queer people anywhere are responsible for queer people everywhere” (Eli, 2020). I couldn’t agree more. In fact, I think that such global responsibility and solidarity should be extended to everyone, especially since historic factors such as colonialism have rendered several countries most vulnerable, though least responsible, to the effects of Climate Change.

Global networks and intergovernmental alliances, such as COP, acknowledge the necessity for international networks of responsibility and accountability – especially where the Climate Crisis is concerned. As Rivett-Carnac and Figueres have expounded:

     It is in the interest of every country to bring all its resources to bear on problems across the world. (Figueres, Rivett-Carnac,         2020).

When countries do make a statement on this global stage, it is incredibly important as it sets precedents for others to follow, and creates accountability through visibility; a good example being Theresa May’s 2019 announcement that the UK would achieve net zero by 2050 (Bootman, 2019 ). This legislation made the UK the first G7 country to legally implement a net zero policy, and several other countries have since followed suit (Wallach, 2021). Afterall:

     Our collective responsibility is to ensure that a better future is not only possible but probable, and then not only probably but       foreseeable. (Figueres, Rivett-Carnac, 2020)

Informing and organising

Finally, and crucially, networks are essential to spreading information, and organising action accordingly: this potential was recognised when the internet was first described as the world wide web and Facebook, the social network. As I have noted, mean world syndrome is not reality, people do care, they often just don’t know where to begin once they want to help. In this way social media has revolutionised social justice movements because NGOs, politicians and activists are able to share information directly with those who are interested, as well as detailing precisely what we can do to help. Several organisations even provide templates that you can email or post to your MP or conversation guides on how to tackle emotionally challenging conversations with loved ones or at work, as well as summarising long and complicated legal documents that most people don’t have time to read but massively impact our lives. In this way, vast amounts of energy and time can be saved by utilising shared resources, and the effects of that time amplified.

Even in our networks of family, friends, colleagues, and neighbours, when we read, hear or see something which makes us angry or inspired, we can share it. We can also look to the footnotes and bibliographies and see who and what inspired the writer, researcher, podcaster. The same is true on social media, once you follow one inspiring person, see who they follow and who inspires them, then follow these people, and repeat.

Offline, when you meet people who spark joy, and make you feel impassioned about a cause, listen, learn, and stick around, because chances are they will attract equally charismatic and inspirational people, allowing you too to meet exciting people and grow your network of support and hope exponentially.

Everything is connected, us included, and we are infinitely stronger when we recognise and relish this fact.


(and some bonus material!)

Songs and podcasts to listen to about how connected this silly little world is (and also because they’re straight up bops – it is random and very incomplete - please get in touch with your recommendations on this theme!):


     Outrage + Optimism with Christiana Figueres, Tom Rivett-Carnac and Paul Dickinson (honestly, all the episodes!) 

     IWeigh with Jameela Jamil (especially the episodes with Zarlasht Halaimzai, Owen Jones, Natalie Wynn, Shon Faye, Josie           Naughton, Adam Eli, ALOK, Jane Fonda) 

     How to Save a Planet, Gimlet 

     Blood and Money, The Orion Experience

     A Change is Gonna Come, Same Cooke

     Gee Officer Krupke, Sondheim

     Redesign your logo, Lemon Demon

     The Fine Print, Stupendium

     The Revolution will not be televised, Gil Scott-Heron 

     Rät, Penelope Scott 

     We Are the Ones, The Orion Experience 

     Purge the Poison, MARINA 

     I am the Walrus ,  The Beatles (? I don’t know lol) 

     Where is the Love?, Black Eyed Peas

Accounts to follow for more information and organising (including London specific ones)


     Freedom from Torture

     Refugee Council 

     Global Optimism 


     Lgsmigrants (Lesbians and Gays support Migrants)


     Unrefugeesuk (UK for UNHCR)

     Migrants organise 




     Greenpeace UK




     Youth Climate Swarm


London Specific:

     Collective Action London


     Ukscn_london (Young people for Climate Justice) (I have spoken about the inspirational nature of activists and older generations in this article, but most recently the most optimistic I have felt was listening to and learning from teenagers at UKSCN. They are so profoundly knowledgeable about all things Climate and intersectional and more importantly they're inclusive and inspirational. If you believe in a better future and are under 21 please consider joining them, and if you're older, look to them for hope)


     Gnduklondon (Green New Deal Rising)



     Adam Eli, The New Queer Consciousness, 2020.  

     Alok Vaid-Menon, Beyond the Gender Binary, 2020.

     Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, We should all be feminists, 2014

     Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac, The Future We Choose: The Stubborn Optimist’s Guide to the Climate Crisis, 2020.

     David Wallace-Wells, The Uninhabitable Earth, 2019 

     Dorothy Thompson, Over our dead bodies: Women against the bomb, 1983.

     Ed Winters, This is Vegan Propaganda, 2022

     Jonathon Porritt, Hope in Hell: A decade to confront the Climate Emergency, 2020

     Richard C. M. Mole, Fringe: Queer Migration and Asylum in Europe, 2021

     Rutger Bregman, Human Kind: A Hopeful History, 2020.

     Rutger Bregman, Utopia for Realists: And how we can get there. 2018

     Shon Fay, The Transgender Issue: An Argument for Justice, 2021

Links, online resources:

     Reports — IPCC

     Displaced podcast | David Miliband on politics, populism and the global refugee crisis (

     Race to Net Zero: Carbon Neutral Goals by Country (

     Theresa May declares UK to be net zero by 2050 - Climate Action

     Nationality and Borders Bill - Parliamentary Bills - UK Parliament

     Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill - Parliamentary Bills - UK Parliament

     What is a COP? - UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) at the SEC – Glasgow 2021 (

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