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Tag Archives: action on climate change

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

For Facebook users, The Political Sword has a Facebook page:
Putting politicians and commentators to the verbal sword

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Celebrity Protesters and Extinction Rebellion

Benedict Cumberbatch. Olivia Colman. Fine actors. They believe in Extinction Rebellion, or perhaps, rebelling against the prospect of extinction. The environment thing, humanity as a damnably scandalous, ecologically damaging species. But they also believe in taking sponsorship from the very same entities who are doing their best (or worst) to engage in matters of existential oblivion. So the circle of contradiction, even hypocrisy, is complete.

The matter has come to the fore over overt expressions of support for XR’s two-week effort of disruption in London by the entertainment set. Severable notable sites have received the attention of the climate change protest group. The Treasury building has been sprayed with fake blood. The London Underground train system has been disrupted. Protestors have glued themselves to trains, to floors and even mounted trains. Roads to Westminster were blocked, sit-ins staged at City Airport. Over 1,700 arrests have been made.

Phil Kingston was one such figure, not exactly a rabble rouser or hardened rioter. The 83-year-old glued his hand to the side of a carriage at Shadwell and was concerned for his grandchildren. “I’m also very concerned about what’s happening in the poorer parts of the world who are being hit hardest by climate breakdown.” Being Christian, he expressed concern about “God’s creation being wrecked across the world.” Kingston was also jointed by a rather eclectic sampling: a vicar, an ex-Buddhist instructor, and a former GP.

The incident, which involved aggressive scuffling between commuters and the protesters, was acknowledged in a statement from the movement as something divisive. “In light of today’s events, Extinction Rebellion will be looking at ways to bring people together rather than create an unnecessary division.” Others were keen to pick holes in the rationale of the protest: Why, for instance, get at an electric train? Within XR, things are far from uniform.

Such protestors were a rather humble lot, but it did not take long for the bigger fish to join the shoal. Cumberbatch added his voice of support, his grin flashing as it was snapped by cameras in front of the Extinction Rebellion hearse blocking traffic to Trafalgar Square. Behind him were the conspicuous words hovering with spectral, foreboding promise: “Our future.”

The criticism of this was not far behind. Cumberbatch is the very conspicuous “brand ambassador” for MG in India. (Previously, Jaguar counted him among their celebrity proponents). The MG GS sports a particularly thirsty engine, and the actor is featured in an advertisement doing rounds in one on, of all places, Trafalgar Square. MG India’s Hector SUV has also boasted Cumberbatch’s smooth persona.

Academy award winner Colman has also found herself at odd between protest and brand. Having openly expressed her support for the movement, questions were asked by some of the more barbed wings of the British press whether there might be a clash between being on a British Airways inflight video, and disrupting flights.

Over the summer, Oscar winning actress Dame Emma Thompson was also ribbed for flying from Los Angeles to London to participate in an Extinction Rebellion protest. Her explanation to BBC Radio 4 was that the objects of her job, and being a protester, might not always converge. “It’s very difficult to do my job without occasionally flying, although I do fly a lot less than I did.”

Those bastions of supposed establishment wisdom, such as The Spectator, were chortling and derisive. Toby Young was keen to highlight how purchasing vegan baguettes at Pret a Manger was inconsistent with anti-capitalist protest. He also expressed, at least initially, concern at how law enforcement authorities had, generally speaking, been models of restraint before XR enthusiasts. Had there been “a group of Catholic nuns protesting about changes to the Gender Recognition Act, the riot squad would have been straight with the tear gas.” For Young, it was good to laugh at these modern millenarians infused with the spirit of apocalyptic terror.

The issue of celebrity encrustation, however, was bound to come by and find voice. And the engine room of entertainment turns the moral message, however hypocritical, into entertainment. Bite the hand that feeds you and call it a show. Having anticipated the rage, the celebrity big wigs have turned vice into a virtue. An open letter with a hundred names or so, from Sir Bob Geldof to Sienna Miller, took to the barricades and distribution channels with an open letter of affected contrition.  “Dear journalists who have called us hypocrites. You’re right. We live high carbon lives and the industries that we are part of have huge carbon footprints.”

What matters is the broad church of hypocrisy. “Like you – and everyone else – we are stuck in this fossil-fuel economy and without systemic change, our lifestyles will keep on causing climate and ecological harm.”

Those behind the letter stressed the speed of change as their concern. “Climate change is happening faster and more furiously than was predicted. Millions of people are suffering, leaving their homes and arriving on our border as refugees.” Children, through the voice of Greta Thunberg, had also called upon “the people with power and influence, to stand up and fight for their already devasted future.” (Rather cocksure are these celebrities, they, who wield such, as yet unmeasured influence).

Unlike those critical journalists, the signatories cannot help but be just a touch smug. There was “a more urgent story that our profiles and platforms can draw attention to. Life on earth is dying. We are living in the midst of the 6th mass extinction.”

Much, and in some cases too much, can be made about the celebrity activist who undercuts the argument. “None of us,” explained Sarah Lunnon of Extinction Rebellion, “is perfect.” The argument is still worth making, and publicity still worth having. Unfortunately for the likes of Cumberbatch, the gravity of such messages can be obscured by the person as label. In revolution, becoming a label is not only counterproductive but deadly. Protestors like Kingston can just hold their head that much higher.

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The Decent Protester: A Down Under Creation

The Decent Protester, appropriately capitalised and revered is, from the outset, one who does not protest. It is an important point: to protest in the visage of such a person is an urge best left to inner fantasy and feeling. You come late to the scene: the best work and revolt has been done; the people who made the change are either dead, in prison, or ostracised. Modest changes might be made to the legal system, if at all.

To actually protest, by which is meant screaming, hollering, and disrupting, with the occasional sign of public indignation, is something of a betrayal. A betrayal to your comfortable station; a betrayal to your happy state of affairs. Show disgust, but keep it regular, modest and contained. Add a dash of bitters that amount to hypocrisy.

This regularity is something that ensures the continuation of police states, apartheid regimes, and vicious rulers. It also perpetuates the status quo in liberal democracies. The cleverness of this is the idea of permissible revolt: As long as you operate within the acceptable boundaries of protest, your conscience is given its balm, and the regime can continue to hum to the tune of the tolerable. It is a principle that states of all political hues adopt, though the degree of that adoption is sometimes moderated by bills of rights and the like.

When Henry D. Thoreau was arrested and found himself spending a night in a Concord prison in 1846 for refusing to pay his poll tax, he was making a broader statement about breaking rules, albeit from a selfish perspective. His objects of disaffection were slavery and the Mexican War. To the individual exists a conscience that should not bow to majoritarian wishes.  If there is a law “of such a nature that it requires you to be an agent of injustice to another,” he writes in Civil Disobedience, “then, I say, break the law.” In Walden (1854), he elaborated on the point, claiming that no citizen “for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislation.”

This view has hardly gone unchallenged, suggesting that civil disobedience can be a slippery matter. Hannah Arendt cast more than a heavy stone at Thoreau in her own essay on the subject in The New Yorker in September 1970. Her proposal, instead, was the necessary need to institutionalise civil disobedience and render it a matter of recognised action, rather than individual abstention. Thoreau had, after all, suggested distance and the will of the individual, that it was “not a man’s duty, as a matter of course, to devote himself to the eradication of any, even to the most enormous wrong; he may still properly have other concerns to engage him; but it is his duty, at least, to wash his hands of it…”

To that end, Arendt felt that “it would be an event of great significance to find a constitutional niche for civil disobedience – of no less significance, perhaps, than the event of the founding of the constitutio liberatis, nearly two hundred years ago.” But she resists, curiously enough, the idea of legalising it, favouring a political approach akin to treating the protester as a registered lobbyist or special interest group. “These minorities of opinion would thus be able to establish themselves as a power that is not only ‘seen from afar’ during demonstrations and other dramatizations of their viewpoint, but is always present and to be reckoned with in the daily business of government.”

Few countries better exemplify this dilemma than Australia, a country that has no formal constitutional protection of the right to protest yet insists on a collaborative model between protestor and state (protest permits, for instance, take precedence over any organic right; cooperating with police is encouraged, as laws are to be abided by). In some ways, an argument might well be made that civil disobedience, in anaemic form, has been institutionalised down under.

The result from brought forth in this coagulation is simple if compromising: the Decent Protester. Such a person is one very much at odds with the barebones definition of civil disobedience advanced by Robin Celikates, who describes it as “intentionally unlawful protest action, which is based on principles and aims at changing (as in preventing or enforcing) certain laws or political steps.” In other words, there can be no Australian Rosa Parks.

Each state has its own guidelines for the decent protester, offering a helpful hand for those braving a march or organising a gathering. An information booklet covering the right to protest in the Australian Capital Territory has a range of “guidelines”. It speaks of “many public places” in Canberra, the national capital, “where people can exercise their right to communicate their opinions and ideas through peaceful protests and demonstrations.” The authors of the booklet make the claim that Australian “democracy recognises this right which is subject to the general law and must be balanced against the rights and interests of others and of the community as a whole.”

The Commonwealth Attorney-General’s office gives the false impression that Australia has a clear right to peaceful assembly for people to meet and “engage in peaceful protest.” A list of international human rights treaties are suggested as relevant, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (articles 21 and 22) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (article 8(1)(a)). But being a party to a convention is not the same as incorporating it. Legislation needs to be passed and, for that reason, remains mediated through the organs of the state. The Fair Work Act 2009, for instance, protects freedom of association in the workplace but only in the context of being, or not being, members of industrial associations. Not exactly much to go on.

Other publications venture a much older right to protest, one that came to the Great Southern Land, paradoxically enough, with convict ships and manacles. “The origins of the common law right to assembly,” argues a briefing paper by Tom Gotsis for the NSW Parliamentary Research Service, “have been traced back 800 years to the signing of the Magna Carta.” This, in turn, finds modest recognition in state courts and the High Court of Australia, not least through the limited implied right of political communication. Ever eccentric in its conservatism, that right is not a private one to be exercised against the state, merely a control of hubristic parliaments who venture laws disproportionate to it. Not exactly a glorious, fit thing, is that implied right.

Such protest, measured, managed and tranquilised, makes the fundamental point that those who control the indignation control the argument. Much time has been spent in Australia embedding police within the protest structure, ensuring that order is maintained. Trains, buses and cars must still run on time. People need to get to work. Children need to be in school. The message is thereby defanged in the name of decency. It also means that genuine lawbreaking aimed at altering any policies will frowned upon as indecent. Good Australians would never do that.

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The Phone Call – Turnbull Is Assured Or So I’m Led To Believe By Someone Who Shall Remain Nameless!

From “The Sydney Morning Herald:

“Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has received Donald Trump’s personal assurance that a deal for the US to resettle refugees from Nauru and Manus Island will go ahead, despite the US President’s harsh immigration policies sending shockwaves around the world…

Mr Turnbull’s office declined to comment on the 25-minute phone call with Mr Trump. Fairfax Media has been told the President confirmed his administration would honour last year’s agreement, though it remains unclear how many of the roughly 2000 asylum-seekers held on Nauru and Manus Island will be resettled in the US.
Under the Obama deal, final details, including the number to be resettled, were not expected to be nailed down until the second half of this year, after US officials scrutinised applications and carried out security checks.”

Ok, now I really hope I’m wrong, but it does strike me that this is one of those ones where you say something’s happening and if we all go, “That’s good,” and forget about it then there’s really no problem. However, being a cynical sort of chap, I do have to wonder about three things in the SMH report.

1. Why, if the deal is going ahead, did Mr Turnbull’s office decline to comment?
2. “Fairfax media has been told that the President confirmed his administration would honour last year’s agreement…” BY WHOM? Turnbull’s office is declining to comment about the phone call, Trump’s press release merely said that they were happy that Australia is happy to do whatever the US wants in return for having its tummy-tickled while the President says, “Who’s a good boy then!”, so who was this anonymous person who told Fairfax about the agreement? Was it the same person who led the ABC and The Australian to “understand” that the deal was going ahead?
3. How on earth does it take the USA nearly a year to check out people who’ve had Australia checking them out for the past four years? Do they have to check everything again? And then check the people doing the checking?

Of course, if someone connected to the government was briefing journalists “off the record”, then why is it off the record? And if it’s on the record, why not say a spokesman for Mr Turnbull or the Minister for Information and Newspeak told us the Mr Trump said such and such. Surely, journalists would ask why they’re being briefed off the record, why this isn’t official statement! Surely, they wouldn’t just report someone saying, “Look, I can’t tell you this officially but Mr Trump said that he was totally ok with the deal, but we just have to say nothing for now, but you can report that it’s on. Trust me, I’m saying this on behalf of the people who are declining to comment. Yes, the deal is going ahead and the US will take some of the people on Manus and Nauru. No, we don’t know how many. No, we don’t know when. But it’s definite. No problem. Rock solid guarantee. Trump said he’ll take any that fit the criteria. What criteria is that? Not sure, it was a quick phone call and Malcolm only had time to ask how he was doing and to make a couple of jokes and to say that he was hoping that the TPP wasn’t dead yet, but if it is, well, that’s ok, because the USA has no truer friend than Australia even if, Mr President, I had to spend the first five minutes on of the call waiting while you found it on a map. We still love you, even if you love another more. Well, the criteria might be that they’re not Muslims. Or from Syria or Iran. Or any one of a number of other countries. And, of course, they can’t be law-breakers. No, being an “illegal immigrant” doesn’t count. Why not? Um, look, I’m just speaking of the record here so I don’t have any actual information, but you can just write that it’s going ahead, ok, and we can all get back to worrying about Jobs and Growth… Sorry, don’t mention growth. Jobs and innovation.”

For the sake of those on Manus and Nauru, I really hope I’m wrong. I really hope we see something official in the next few days, but given this government’s lack of follow-through with even the things they’ve announced, I have to wonder when Turnbull’s office is declining to comment. But hey, Mr Turnbull is probably preparing a press release as I write this and there’ll be a big announcement and a timetable for when the people on Nauru will be re-settled. And even a timetable for the ones on Manus who were found to be being held “illegally”. Yeah, all ok now. We can go back to sleep.

P.S. I’ve started tagging a lot of my posts “climate change” in order to waste the time of paid climate change deniers who’ll read the whole thing and then wonder why there’s nothing they can be commenting on. Alternatively, they may comment anyway, which’ll just prove that they’re not really interested in “discussing the science”. My apologies if you read it because you feel that you desperately needed to be informed about the topic and haven’t realised that you’ve probably read enough things that should prompt you to actually start doing something to counter the misinformation out there!

Excellent Work, Mr Abbott, Now Let’s Apply The Same Logic To A Few Other Areas

Photo: shutterstock

Photo: shutterstock

“Good evening, Ladies and Gentlemen. As you may remember, the Government went to the last election with a policy of reducing accidental deaths in the workplace by twenty percent. We’re pleased to say that, not only are we on target to achieve this, the current indication is that we should exceed this target by a third. Obviously, this means that we can now announce that safety equipment should be considered optional and no new money should be spent on workplace safety.”

Mm, doesn’t sound plausible? What about:

“Good evening, Ladies and Gentlemen. As you may remember, the Government went to the last election with a policy of reducing government waste  by twenty percent. We’re pleased to say that, not only are we on target to achieve this, the current indication is that we should exceed this target by a third. Obviously, this means that we must now embark on a spending spree so that we don’t exceed this target. Please send us your suggestions as to how we can spend frivolously to ensure that we only just meet our aim because to exceed it would be silly.”

All right then, so why does the Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane think that it’s fine to reduce the amount of energy produced by renewable energy projects by 2020 from 41,000 gigawatt hours to about 26,000?

“It won’t be a 27 per cent renewable energy target, it will be 20 per cent renewable energy target.”

 

But we all know that renewable energy costs more, right? Well, it does for the moment but according to the Murdoch Government’s own review, it should be cheaper by 2020, so we don’t want too much of that renewable stuff floating round. I mean, don’t wind farms slow down the wind which’d make the planet hotter? Doesn’t using too much solar risk us having less sunshine in winter? Not to mention those “unsightly wind farms” that so disturb Joe Hockey.

You know, Joe Hockey who assured the British that we have the “cleanest coal in the world”. After all, we have lots of brown coal and that must surely be cleaner than black coal, in spite of what the scientists say. Scientists, as we all know, would say anything if it suited their agenda of turning the world into a place where research was valued as much as the winner of the Melbourne Cup. (Personally, I like Guest of Honour and Side Glance for the Cox Plate, even though they’re both foreign horses!)

The Warburton Review found that this change to renewables would have the effect of redistributing wealth. From the fossil fuel industry to the renewable sector. And it might even lead to lower prices, which would mean that they were paying less tax and that’d mean that there’d be less money to spend on schools, hospitals, jet fighters, Middle Eastern Crusades, public information campaigns, shifting tables to the G20 and paying ASIO to troll the internet and change websites from what people had actually written to what they were actually thinking so that we didn’t have to wait until they’d actually done something before arresting them.

*                  *                  *

Can’t finish without paying tribute to Gough. It’s all been said, so all can do is add my “Vale Mr Whitlam”.

Of course, Mr Pyne thought it appropriate to mention that the news of the dismissal occurred while he was watching “Adventure Island” and that his mother was crying tears of joy while she was doing the ironing. I guess she was just one those lucky women who got a lot of pleasure out of ironing…

Oh so predictable

In December last year, before the government released MYEFO or the budget giving credence to the agenda we all anticipated with dread, before we repealed the mining and carbon taxes, before we went to war or started selling everything we own to lay thousands of kilometres of bitumen, when I was much more scared of Abbott than anyone in a burqa (still am..by far), I wrote an article about the role of government.  It was largely based on an essay that I had read titled Responsibilities of Government.

After twelve months of an Abbott government, and considering where we are at now, I would like to revisit what I considered important at the time.

“The government of a democracy is accountable to the people. It must fulfil its end of the social contract. And, in a practical sense, government must be accountable because of the severe consequences that may result from its failure. As the outcomes of fighting unjust wars and inadequately responding to critical threats such as global warming illustrate, great power implies great responsibility.”

“The central purpose of government in a democracy is to be the role model for, and protector of, equality and freedom and our associated human rights. For the first, government leaders are social servants, since through completing their specific responsibilities they serve society and the people. But above and beyond this they must set an ethical standard, for the people to emulate. For the second, the legal system and associated regulation are the basic means to such protection, along with the institutions of the military, for defence against foreign threats, and the police.”

“Government economic responsibility is also linked to protection from the negative consequences of free markets. The government must defend us against unscrupulous merchants and employers, and the extreme class structure that results from their exploitation.

Governments argue that people need to be assisted with the economic competition that now dominates the world. But the real intent of this position is to justify helping corporate interests . . . siding against local workers, consumers and the environment.”

“Another general role, related to the need for efficiency, is the organization of large-scale projects. It is for this benefit that we accept government involvement in the construction of society’s infrastructure, including roads, posts and telecommunications, and water, sewage and energy utilities. Further, giving government charge over these utilities guarantees that they remain in public hands, and solely dedicated to the common good. If such services are privatized, the owners have a selfish motivation, which could negatively affect the quality of the services.

That such assets should have public ownership is expressed in the idea of the “commons.” They should be owned by and shared between the members of the current population, and preserved for future generations.”

“Indeed, while we of course still need a means of defence, including against both external and internal (criminal) aggressors, it seems clear that our greatest need for protection is from other institutions and from the abuses of government itself, particularly its collusion with these other institutions. (Many of the needs that we now have for government are actually to solve the problems that it creates.)”

It didn’t really need a crystal ball to predict our demise. Is there any hope to inform the electorate in time to avoid repeating the mistake of 2013?

 

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