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Protest tactics matter

By 2353NM

Those that demonstrated around the world for ‘Extinction Rebellion’ recently have certainly been making headlines. Pity it is for the wrong reasons. On an intellectual level, their point is sound — unless there is meaningful and urgent efforts across the world to mitigate climate change, there is an environmental (and by inference economic) disaster just around the corner. All you have to do to see the evidence of unprecedented change in climatic conditions is to recall that a considerable part of Binna Burra Resort in South East Queensland burnt to the ground in September. Binna Burra’s claim to fame was its location in an unspoilt rainforest. Typically, rainforests don’t have bushfires.

A lot of the Extinction Rebellion activities are based on protest actions in the past such as the anti-Vietnam War movement in the 1970s. In reality, as the politicians of the 1950s retired there would have been the gradual de-escalation of tension between the Communists and Capitalists of this world in any event. It’s probably also fair to suggest that the only lasting effect of the protest marches of the Vietnam War era has been the lack of acceptance that those who served overseas in the Vietnam War endured when they returned home when compared to those that served in World War 2 and other conflicts. It really wasn’t the conscripted soldier’s fault that they were sent to Vietnam.

Certainly, those that are concerned about the future of the world in a potential climate disaster have the right to their opinion and to protest the lack of apparent action to correct the perceived wrong. Those that choose not to join the ‘rebellion’ also have the right to their opinion and the right to get to where they need to be without delay from ongoing protests in our big cities. However people that do marketing for a living will tell you the days of the over-hyped advertising screaming at you (as the protesters are doing) to buy a particular product are long gone. Most have realised it doesn’t work, except those that inhabit the wastelands of shopping channels on third rate digital television stations. Even then, they have to give you two items for the price of one to convince you to call ‘in the next 20 minutes’. So, blocking roads, gluing themselves to infrastructure and so on may get a few cheap headlines but it doesn’t answer the relevant question; what exactly do they believe should happen and how exactly do we get there?

This blogsite published a piece after the last federal election suggesting that the ‘anti-Adani’ caravan from Melbourne to Clermont in Central Queensland was a disincentive for people to support political action on climate change. The article suggested

They rolled into towns that are certainly not in ‘boom times’, having weathered a lot of economic changes in recent times due in part to drought and the cyclical nature of mining to tell everyone that their jobs and lifestyle should immediately and irrevocably change. Not subtle or conciliatory, is it?

Extinction Rebellion are using the same tactic. Demanding instant and immediate change without offering a preferred solution or a practical method of getting there is not realistic. It is the same problem the Greens suffered in 2009 when the Rudd Government was prepared to legislate for an emissions trading scheme. As we noted in the same article

The scary thing is that it’s not the first time Brown and the Greens have not seen the forest because of the trees. They voted on principle against former PM Rudd’s emissions reduction scheme in 2009 because the target range of 5 to 20% reduction didn’t go far enough. A 5 to 20% reduction was politically achievable and would have reduced emissions. Voting against the legislation meant a 0% reduction in emissions, which is what has occurred. ‘Principles’ don’t reduce emissions; legislation is far more effective.

As a result, the last 10 years of Australia fiddling while the earth burned is largely due to the Greens lofty principles overruling logic and understanding what can be achieved, together with absolutely no idea of how or when to compromise and gain part of what they want instead of nothing.

On the Nine Media news websites, Madonna King recently discussed how Extinction Rebellion is failing to achieve its aims. Unlike the demonstrators, King identifies the problem and offers a solution.

Just imagine if they tried something else — like getting every year 9 student in the state to write to the Premier, and plead for a hearing, for example.

Imagine how the media headlines might be different. Voters — aka mums and dads — would be helping out with Facebook posts, and Twitter feeds, posting letters and making banners.

As King argues, the Same Sex Marriage debate wasn’t won by people gluing themselves to roads in peak hour or other headline grabbing stunts, it was won by consistent, targeted consensus building and facilitating change in the attitude of the community, not only in Australia but around the world. Twenty years ago, love between consenting adults of the same gender was still illegal in some states of Australia and there was discussion on the need to protect the environment from climate change. Today people are free to love and marry whoever they like, regardless of gender and we’re still having the argument on climate change.

It’s pretty obvious which action group has the better tactics.

What do you think?

This article was originally published on The Political Sword

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  1. Brad Black

    I take your points, but various scientific groups have been warning of a climate calamity for 30 years. And where has has it got them? Incrementally we’re moving at a snails pace! Greta Thunberg and her fellow students have had more of an effect in 2 years than everyone else in 3 decades – marching on the street, disrupting traffic.
    What else can be done in the limited time we have left before we trash the joint? Reason, science, the economic realities of a rapidly warming world haven’t worked for most politicians, certainly not ours.

  2. Phil Pryor

    I’d like to see the return of the guillotine, the block and axe, the pistol to the rear of the head, the quiet elimination by any means, the selective removal, permanently, of obnoxious conservative greedites, profiteers, overbearing petty dictators, by any means. There should be exile by popular need arising out of action by the robbed, dispossessed, scorned and victimised, of arseholes, by any means.

  3. David Bruce

    If reducing the carbon dioxide emissions would solve the climate problem, I would agree. Reducing the emissions will not solve the radiation contamination from Fukushima which looms larger every day. It will not solve the problems of the plastic particles in our oceans. It will not stop the deforestation of Borneo and the Amazon, and it will not stop the contamination caused by the gulf oil spill.

    If people seriously are concerned about carbon emissions, we should be planting a million trees a month, as this would help to turn the carbon dioxide into cellulose as the trees convert carbon dioxide by photosynthesis and expire Oxygen as a by product.

    On the matter of summary executions PP, you may recall the photo from the Vietnam War era, where a Vietnamese government official (maybe military) held a pistol to a young man’s ear and pulled the trigger. Perhaps that is what we will see here unless there is a profound change in direction the world is currently heading?

  4. wam

    I have long contended that bppby’s decision put the rabbott in and climate change 9 years wasted. His deliberately timed caravan achieved a $3m boost and cost narrownose any influence in the senate (as a bonus gave phon a top dog status)
    One labor woman could not understand that climate change is lloonngg, natural and complex. so, if you want to get support of the 50% below average intelligence stick with greenhouse gases and greenhouse effect.
    The balance of the earth is upset when we return gas so fast???

  5. Matters Not


    that do marketing for a living will tell you

    Almost anything! And if you’re a client tell me what you want to hear as quickly as possible so you can save some money and I can save some time.

    Watch Gruen (ABC Wednesday @ 8.30 pm) to view one expert tell the viewers what a particular AD means only to have the next expert rationalise why an opposite meaning should be given. What makes the show hilarious (for me at least) is that those who do marketing for a living pretend to know what meanings the customers will give. As though marketing is a hard science (like mathematics) and not a social one – with heaps more variables.

    Witness the number of very expensive campaigns that not only failed but were counter-productive, Try ‘New Coke’ as a classic (pun intended) example.

    Must admit when it comes to the Extinction Rebellion protests, I’m in two minds. Historically, I am well aware that Emily Davison, ran in front of the king’s horse at the 1913 Epsom Derby, and it’s still remembered and often referred to. Don’t think much will stand out historically speaking apart from Greta. (And the responses she’s provoking,)

    Can’t decide! Yea or nay. But then again, I don’t travel to the City on a daily basis any more. Way back when, I would have been thoroughly pissed off as was an offspring who recently missed an important appointment. Also not sure whether it’s a good/bad strategy with deficient tactics or even vice versa. So overall – I would give it a thumbs down (but not in the Roman sense.)

  6. Alpo


    Brilliant article!… I have been also arguing similar points since the disappointing federal election, including an invitation to the readers to compare the reasons for the success of the Marriage Equality campaign and the repeated failures of so many Climate Change campaigns.

    However, let’s not forget that there is a big difference between those two issues that plays in favour of the Marriage Equality campaign: Marriage Equality was an topic that went to the core of the sense of justice but also morality. On the issue of morality the Coalition split, between the religious nuts (strongly Conservative, Christian) and the culturally more progressives. So, the politically left-wing remained united plus they enjoyed the support of the culturally progressive Liberals….

    With the climate change issue there is a big economic factor prevailing. Here both major sides of politics are split and there is only a group of centrists to be won over that could tip the balance. So far, the Coalition have been far better at winning the swinging voters over. Murdoch does play a role, but the ALP may counter-balance the effect of Murdoch by better focusing on jobs, salaries, work conditions.

  7. New England Cocky

    Uhm ….. Menzies put Australia into Vietnam as early as 1961 as “Training Forces”, with public resistance starting before 1963 as a small group of dedicated protestors declined “the war for our generation” with cogent argument to anybody who would listen. Throughout the 60s many conscripts by lottery went to jail in protest rather than serve in the imperialist war of the USA (United States of Apartheid).

    The post service treatment of Vietnam Veterans was disgraceful, disgusting and deliberate policy by both governments and the RSL. Too many good persons were screwed up and screws over by lack of medical support for Agent Orange poisoning, psychological conditions now known as PTSD and emotional disorders.

    Now we have a repeat of the same scenario called Iraq and Afghanistan … with the same consequences.

  8. Keitha Granville

    so the answer is what? Do nothing?

    The problem with trying to effect change in a slow and steady manner is that we don’t have tome. We’ve been trying for 30 years, nothing has changed. Every political generation puts it off, procrastinates, hedges bets, fights elections and starts again.

    Some people are tired of waiting and ready to explode.

    The planet is tired of waiting. Perhaps when the first Pacific nations sink beneath the waves, we might do something?? Or not.

  9. RomeoCharlie29

    So, some people areinconvenienced by the XR protests, maybe even lots of people. But don’t they realise they are, potentially, going to be a great deal more inconvenienced by climate change? Focusing on the inconvenience and disruption is low-hanging fruit for gutless politicians and the pathetic mainstream media. Given the shit they have to put up with I think the XR protesters are heroes for drawing real attention to a problem our leaders have ignored or actively worked against for decades.
    Maybe the screams of the wealthy when their waterfront mansions start slipping into the sea will finally provoke some action but I would like to think the message of the XR protesters might have resonated before then. We do have one weapon in our arsenal, consign the LNP to the dustbin of history next time.

  10. guest

    It is interesting that this article begins with the loss of Binna Burra in the Lamington National Park, an early national park declared by a Labor government in 1915.

    It is a rainforest area of the ancient Gondwana kind which once covered Australia. The presence of remnant stands of Antarctic Beech (Nothofagus moorei) is a clue to the origins of Australia, once attached to Antarctica.

    There are many rare plants and animals which exist in the Park, which encloses several kinds of rainforest, cool and warm.

    That Binna Burra has been lost is a terrible event for those who have known and loved it. It has been promised that it will be reborn in a safer place.

    But what has happened? As Oz moves north, and with Climate Change increasing, Oz is drying out further, so that the rainforest does burn!

    People are seeing the need to plant trees, as pointed out on this thread, but there are others who a keen to maximise profits by clearing forests, even remnants on broad acre farms. The result is a monoculture which helps to destroy the landscape. First Nation people tell us trees make rain.

    On Q&A last night, Julian Cribb mentioned “regenerative agriculture” which employs a diversive and inclusive method of farming, more in line with the ideas of permaculture.

    Charles Massy has written a large discourse on regenerative farming and he would agree that we must not scare the horses, but asks regenerative farmers to do it well and let it be seen. Then others will follow when they see the benefits.

    But the author of this article would prefer that children write to politicians. Well, that might work. But who would know this had happened?

    If one goes to the original article in the Brisbane Times, respondents have many things to say, and many are in favour of speaking up, even if people think it is “childish”.

    Massy (p. 500) quotes Milton Friedman (“Capitalism and Freedom” ):

    “Only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change…When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until politically impossible becomes politically inevitable.”

    Massy goes on”

    “I believe the key to this is telling stories or narratives that are meaningful, substantive and relevant depictions of a new reality.”

    Perhaps the burning of Binna Burra and of 70 houses recently in NSW, and the loss of water, the loss of farm land, rising temperatures and no rain…so many stories…are telling us something very relevant.

    Massy would say: “Listen to the land”.

  11. DrakeN

    In the almost total absense of the provision of accurate information to the public by a commercially incentivised and partisan media, shock tactics may be the only way of awakening an often soporific voting public.
    The last Federal Election illustrated the futility of providing the general population with reasoned propositions in the face of empty rhetoric, a partisan media and massive, deceptive advertising.

    People, confronted by minor inconveniences resulting from activities of campaigners are confused that the selfish “me” generation are debating not only their own futures but those of subsequent generations and of the planet as a whole.
    The addition of numbers from the ever deprecated ‘Baby Boomers’ generation weighs heavily on those who condemn them for their “generational greed”.

    The “powers-that-be” are discombubulated by the fragility of their own positions in the face of popular discourse undermining the stutus quo upon which they depend for their power and prosperity; inclined as they are to gleefully engage in the ‘burning of the witches’ who dare to commit heresy by speaking to the truth.

    The “divide and conquer” tactics of succesive governments around the world which have been used to sustain the unrestrained capitalism which is now destroying the very environments on which is dependent, may have won many political battles but they are now in danger of losing the war.

    If the likes of the childrens’ school ‘strikes’ and Extinction Rebellion fail, then we will all lose ultimately.

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