One of the characteristics of the climate mobilisations is the use of cardboards, of individual messages from the protesters (also used in other mobilisations, and perhaps also massively in 15M). In this way they contribute their own messages and also express themselves individually as well as collectively.
These cardboards are more or less elaborate, artistic, but the slogans are always witty and accurate. Often replicas, use of existing slogans, or translations, which corroborate the adoption of certain messages already consolidated in the movement and the identification of the demonstrators with them.
The participation of citizens in demonstrations and calls indicates that there is a mass that agrees with these demands, and that they are not exclusive to a few organisations or a minority. Doing so with their placards means that although they do not belong to these organisations or to the organisers, they do want to participate on this occasion, and legitimises the official demands even more. It is a personal initiative that does not obey mandates, proposals or obligations. That makes them honest, genuine.
The posters created by the demonstrators add even more credibility, because they imply a previous effort to create them, a concern. Thus, the placards are also a more active form of participation, less passive than just marching in a demonstration. It can also be said that they demonstrate a freedom within the movement, because particular expressions are allowed without restrictions. Cardboards therefore represent a democratisation of mobilisation.
They add, of course, colour, originality, diversity. In short, they make it more attractive, which in turn has an impact on creating a mass movement.
As we say, they can be more or less elaborate, but they have managed to demystify creativity, to empower people to create and express themselves. It is what is known in English as D.I.Y. Culture, Do It Yourself. DIY is a culture deeply rooted in social movements and in the left. Above all we can associate it with cultural movements such as punk and its maximum expression would be the squatting movement. Although climate mobilisations are not characterised by rage or by a more confrontational image like punk, they do have in common the fact that they do not prioritise the perfection, but just doing it and saying it the way you can. In such a way that these rougher, less perfect formulas and forms also become a style, and an atractive style.
The cardboards are urgent, made the day or the night before the demonstration, and often without giving much importance to the result. They are made with what is at hand and with no need to spend. The most affordable thing? Cardboard, which is a good base for painting, is rigid and… doesn’t cost money. Because this is a personal initiative. The rest depends on the person. Maybe you have some paint lying around, or if not the remaining paint from some decoration, wall paint, or from painting the doors… and markers. It has to be something that covers and makes it possible for the tracing to be visible.
The base is also cardboard, which is a recycled material, which in addition to the economic value is also a good way of making the most of resources. Another maxim of the climate movement, because the more you use one thing, the less production (and transport, etc.) and therefore fewer emissions. Therefore, the cartons also give the movement coherence and credibility.
Carton creators are above all creators. The adoption of cartons as a form of expression manages to uninhibit people to create in a society massified by images and in which everything is created by computers and machines, in which creativity is swept out of the curriculum and education. Surely the people who decided to come with their cardboard had not picked up a paintbrush in a long time, and some perhaps never or not since pre-school education. It is not important to achieve the perfection to which computers and machines accustom us. Instead, the personal becomes attractive.
So it is also more natural, more human, which contributes to the climate movement’s demand to prioritise nature. The DIY culture underlines the desire for sustainability in the face of the waste of objects, resources and energy. All of this also adds to coherence.
It also has an influence on the making, in which, except for cases, they are only made for the occasion. They are ephemeral. So in many cases they only persist in photographs.
The fact is that without giving them the importance they should be given, the cartons are a very important expression of social creativity in the climate movement, beyond their particular message, although they are undervalued.