No 44 Posted by fw, August 16, 2010
Yesterday’s coordinated march by tens of thousands of Australians to protest government inaction on climate change was inspiring and captured my attention. But I wonder, are any Canadian environmental organizations out there paying attention to their Aussie cousins’ national day of action?
I first caught the story on Canadian Ian Angus’ blog, Climate and Capitalism. His post, News and Video: Australians Walk Against Warming, led with Peter Boyle’s great three-minute video of the march in Sydney. Boyle’s video is also accessible here on You Tube. Ian also included the full text of a report by the Sydney Morning Herald, excerpts of which I have copied and pasted below.
Selected excerpts of the Sydney Morning Herald’s report
Thousands protest on climate change by Isabel Hayes
Tens of thousands of protesters – and a few sceptics – have taken to the streets across Australia to urge the major political parties to take action on climate change.
Both Labor and the coalition have failed to take decisive action to cut Australia’s pollution levels in the run-up to the federal election. . . . Events held in Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Darwin, Hobart, Melbourne, Sydney and Perth attracted tens of thousands of people.
Sydney’s CBD [central business district] was filled with about 10,000 protesters who expressed their disappointment at the failure of politicians to stand up to the country’s “big polluters”. “It’s time for our political leaders to step up and take responsibility,” Pepe Clarke of the Nature Conservation Council of NSW [New South Wales] told AAP [Australian Associated Press]. Communities across Australia have proved they are making the changes needed to reduce the impact of global warming, Mr Clarke said. “We feel that climate change is going to be a key issue for people going to the polls next Saturday,” he said. “If our political leaders have failed to give (climate change) prominence during their campaign, it’s at their own risk. “We’ve had enough of the delays, enough of the false promises. What we want to see is real action to curb carbon pollution in Australia in the next term of government.”
In Adelaide, police were called to break up a scuffle between protesters after climate change sceptics tried to disrupt the rally. The sceptics, fewer than half a dozen, wore T-shirts bearing the words, CRAP (Carbon Really Ain’t Pollution). The rally, which attracted several hundred people, aimed to have 100,000 leaflets delivered throughout the state to alert South Australians to the issue of climate change.
A Walk Against Warming event in Brisbane attracted between 8,000 and 10,000 people, organisers said. “Despite growing cynicism about both major political parties since the Copenhagen summit (in December last year) and the failure of the emissions trading scheme, thousands of people have still turned out to voice their concerns about the future,” Toby Hutcheon, executive director of Queensland Conservation, said.
In Melbourne, thousands of protesters took to the streets to letterbox the key electorates of Melbourne, Deakin and Latrobe with a message for action on climate change. “Poll after poll shows that Australians want action on climate change yet just one week from the federal election, both major parties are still failing to produce plans that will reduce pollution,” Environment Victoria’s campaign director, Mark Wakeham, said. “So this year we’re changing tack and taking our message straight to the people who matter the most – the voters,” he said.
In Sydney, Al Gore’s Climate Project presenter, Nell Schofield, attracted huge cheers when she said Australia’s lack of political action on climate change was “not only embarrassing, it is morally reprehensible”. “As Al Gore says, politicians are also a renewable resource,” she said.
Why aren’t Canadians on the climate change march? Why aren’t our environmental organizations stepping up to the plate?
Australia proved that it is possible to organize and launch nation-wide protest rallies against government inaction on climate change. Yesterday’s rally was clearly a coordinated effort. And one presumes that environmental organizations took a leading role in the action.
If Australia can do it, why not Canada? The climate change threat is urgent and, at the very least, goes begging for a nation-wide public uprising. The federal government’s inaction is scandalous. Wikipedia lists 21 environmental organizations operating in Canada, including the big guns like Canadian Environmental Network, David Suzuki Foundation, Ecojustice Canada, Greenpeace Canada, Sierra Club of Canada. And there are undoubtedly more not included in this list. So what will it take to pull together a coalition of these organizations to fill the leadership vacuum on climate change in this country?
In a recent article, a clearly exasperated Bill McKibben proclaimed, “Making nice [with politicians] doesn’t work. . . . We have to ask for what we actually need.” And, most importantly, “If we’re going to get any of this done, we’re going to need a movement.”
A movement, yes. But what kind of a movement? I have my doubts that annual marches, however large, will be sufficient. There is the Transition Movement, with initiatives all over the world making 10- 20-year commitments to decarbonize local communities. Although this is a relatively new grassroots endeavour whose impact is yet to be determined, it does provide a potential base from which to grow a global movement.