I AND FAMILY members joined the student strike on 20 September. I wore a tee-shirt, left over from the NSW state campaign, that said Mothers for Environment, Wildlife, Climate Action! It got a lot of smiles.
The 15,000-strong crowd, including many mothers, that marched and chanted through central Canberra on that day was a rousing, heartening sight. Citizens were having a say to politicians who have had their hands over eyes and ears.
My tee-shirt is likely to get good usage for some time to come. This won’t be the last action led by young people who have the energy and the urgency to organise. They see clearly what is happening to our planet — along with most people now. Excepted are a few die-hard sceptics who troll websites like the Bulletin’s and too many politicians whom we as a country elected. Heaven help us!
Teen activist Greta Thunberg and veteran naturalist David Attenborough (see this week’s news feature) coming from both ends of the age spectrum, have stated it again, clearly, and galvanising headlines and media support. Life as we know it is in peril. It is finally getting to the point that if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem and that is long overdue.
In 2012 I wrote a book (still available via ANU Press) that outlined what Australia and the rest of the world knew three decades ago about the risks of climate change, down to the levels of risk to our coastal communities, our biodiversity and our agriculture. Through IPCC reports and otherwise, the vast majority of climate scientists were agreed on issuing serious warnings.
I also documented how this knowledge was buried under a deliberate stoking of debate and scepticism by fossil-fuel industries (while other businesses remained silent), the Murdoch press and by Australian governments (after the Hawke era).
In the 1990s governments were rushing full tilt to embrace a globalised ‘the-market-rules-everything’ economic religion. Any brakes on the status quo were pretty inconvenient and seen as interfering with the markets. Technology would always save us (if any of this was actually true) was also the thinking.
Well here we are a scant few years later. Some elements of political parties and industry have still not changed. But the latest IPCC report and related headlines (see some in our ‘Around the Web’ lineup) tell a pretty scary story of what lies ahead for our children and grandchildren, much more so than what confronts us Baby Boomers and Gen X.
In fact, the analogy to staring down the barrel of a world war is not misplaced. Disbelief and anxiety (sorry PM Morrison) that this could be happening to turn our world upside down are natural reactions. Rational people might want to act to prevent it.
Fortunately, with this latest global student strike the penny has dropped. In Australia and elsewhere businesses, unions, faith groups and other organisations supported time-off the job to go out and have a voice in support of the young people and a sane policy stance.
A new coalition of Australian businesses supported workers joining the school strikers rapidly grew to 1,000 companies. Thirty unions got involved. Faith groups marched.
What happened to Labor’s backbone?
Last week I noted that the Coalition under Morrison and McCormack were dismally predictable in their climate irresponsibility. But I wondered where the federal and state Labor caucuses had parked their collective environmental and animal welfare backbone following the last federal election.
Along with ‘me too’ votes to criminalise protesters documenting animal cruelty in intensive meat production facilities and abattoirs, and Albo telling the media “vegans are not our people” (really?) the party rushed to help unsavoury foreign commercial interests in coal production (Adani). Simultaneously, the federal party appeared to drop its previous responsible stances on climate action. The post-election ‘stock-take’ was taking some dismaying turns (losing them more support than they hoped to gain in rural Queensland?) Until the strike.
We were happy to see Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy Mark Butler, about the time of the mass rallies, come out of the back room. In an interview with The Guardian’s Katherine Murphy, he reaffirmed Labor’s commitment to most of its election policies, keeping in mind they couldn’t do much until the next federal election.
Where there are jobs in a win-win
They could, in fact, play up the job creating potential of the renewable energy boom that has sprung up despite the federal Coalition. This is the market at work in a good way. Or there are other good ideas out there that need a champion. Butler had been one on the transport sector and electric cars, pre-election (see ‘Win Win ideas’ in the environment section this week).
Media has stopped being neutral and debating on this issue. It’s a fact not a debate. It’s vital to keep the pressure on. It’s about our childrens’ future and that of all living creatures. See you with the young people at the next climate action.
IMAGES: Supplied by author.