Why I won’t run for Parliament

Lately a number of people have been suggesting that I should run for Parliament. Of course, climate activists should try every possible avenue that might make a difference, and I wish luck to all those who are taking the electoral route. But I have no plans to to do so.

I think it extremely unlikely that I could ever win any significant number of votes. I’m honest, I don’t particularly seek power for itself, I have no source of campaign finance, I have no friends in high places, I don’t have any “leadership qualities”, and I was one of the least popular kids in my school. When I look around, all evidence suggests that the politicians most likely to get elected have the opposite attributes (think of the Prime Minister). There are possible exceptions in Greens, minor party, and independent candidates, but they rarely attain much power.

Even if I could get elected, I don’t think I’m cut out for a political career. I doubt I could deal with the mountain of administration that politicians must face. My only advantageous skill in this cruel world is, in my opinion, that I have tended to think more clearly than others, and that is only because I’ve had an unusual amount of spare time in which to think. If I was in Parliament, I would no longer have time to think and I suspect I would implode.

But my issues with this strategy aren’t limited to the personal. Supposing I somehow got elected and managed to hold it together, how much could I actually achieve as one person against the majority of the Parliament? The Greens have tried for decades to make a difference by negotiating with the powerful. Their biggest achievement to date has been the carbon price, which wasn’t much to write home about and was soon repealed. At the end of the day, money and power almost always win in Parliament. Hung parliaments create a potential opportunity for the people to have a say, but they only come along every few decades and as I say, the previous one achieved little.

It’s true there are plenty of policies imposed on an unwilling (or unwitting) public by political elites – but only  policies that are in the interests of the powerful. Climate action is the opposite – in the public interest and against the immediate interests of the fossil fuel industry who pretty much run Australia and the world. It will not be imposed from above; it has to be demanded from below.

The environmental (and other progressive) reforms of the 1970s didn’t come about because people like Richard Nixon thought the issues warranted action. It happened because millions of people built a movement demanding action. And until we have such a movement on climate change, we will continue along our present course toward catastrophe.

So instead of trying to encourage individuals to run for Parliament, you might achieve more by getting involved yourself. Raise your voice. Be politically active in whatever way you can. We have a gargantuan propaganda machine against us – even when 100,000 Australians protest, the mainstream media doesn’t bother to devote much coverage to it. So we will only be heard if as many of us as possible shout about the truth, through the internet or word-of-mouth or any other form of communication where the truth stands a chance against corporate spin.

As for me, I will continue to do everything I can to explain our predicament to the public – that is what I see as my main role in climate activism. It is probably true that policy change must ultimately be made by politicians – as the saying goes, there is no magic wand – but that can’t happen until we have a mass movement in favor of action. And that movement doesn’t only need me – it needs all of you too.

The climate speech Tony Abbott should make

Australian PM Tony Abbott isn’t going to the Ban-Ki-Moon climate summit in New York City on 23 September. He should be, and these are the carefully scripted remarks that he should make there.

I humbly stand before you to seek forgiveness from the delegates present, and from all citizens of the Earth, for my thoughtless actions to date.

I have come to the realization that anthropogenic global warming is the greatest and most urgent threat to the future of humanity and life on Earth. Until recently, I had uncritically accepted the arguments made by many conservative thinkers that scientists were inflating their predictions and ignoring a pause in atmospheric warming. The latest climate observations have convinced me that the Earth system as a whole is gathering heat faster than ever; and far from exaggerating, the scientists significantly under-predicted the rate of global heating and its impacts. With horror, I came to understand that global warming is already costing lives around the world, including in Australia, through worsening heatwaves, floods, droughts, and fires, which scientists have found are extremely unlikely to have occurred naturally. Even Wikipedia says so.

Worse, I have come to realize that my government, and to a lesser degree Australian governments before mine, have obstructed climate action. Environment Minister Greg Hunt and I have actively promoted relentless expansion of the fossil fuel mining industries driving the problem, subsidizing them and approving over $800 billion worth of projects. We’ve promoted the dangerous new coal seam gas industry and promised to restore the profitability of coal-fired power plants. We’ve cut funding to environmental groups who run political campaigns, supported laws restricting the right to protest, and proposed outlawing environmental boycotts. We played an obstructive role in last year’s climate talks, backtracking from our conditional emissions targets and refusing to contribute to climate finance. We’ve left climate off the G20 agenda. We’ve zealously abolished most existing policies on climate, renewables, and energy efficiency, cutting total spending by three-quarters, and have recently been trying to finish off the former government’s Renewable Energy Target.

Our own proposed climate policy is, I must confess, not properly thought out because when my shadow cabinet designed it most of us were neither well-informed nor fully convinced about climate science. It is no more than a limited pot of money to pay polluting companies for voluntary efficiency improvements they probably would have made anyway, while allowing their total emissions to continue rising along with business-as-usual production growth. It will never achieve our target to cut emissions 5% by 2020, which I now see is a woefully inadequate target anyway. If Australia continues along its present course, our emissions will surely go up, not down. Though I used my daughters as props in my election campaign, my policies are destroying the world in which they will live. Continue reading

Bendigo People’s Climate speech: we need action now!

Human-caused global warming is the greatest threat facing humanity. Just this week I was reading up on the latest science. It makes pretty depressing reading.

Politicians are stuck on outdated advice that major impacts and feedbacks lie beyond two degrees of warming. But the science is telling us we’re already hitting some at just three-quarters of a degree.

Polar ice melt has passed tipping points threatening to set off a chain reaction of metres of sea level rise, carbon emissions from permafrost, and accelerating warming. Already heatwaves, floods, droughts, and fires are intensifying, costing lives and reducing crop yields. I can’t emphasize enough that these things are happening at the current temperature.

There’s much more warming in the pipeline. The last time CO2 was as high as today, global temperature was many degrees warmer, sea level tens of metres higher, and the Arctic warm enough to trigger massive carbon feedbacks.

So, we have already gone too far. The stable Earth that sustained us is gone, and we are entering an unfriendly, unstable climate spiralling out of our control.

Security agencies call climate change a threat multiplier. That means whatever issue you care about – whether it’s feeding your kids, preventing terrorism, or fighting injustice – global warming will make it harder. Continue reading

Global warming is already dangerous

“Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: ‘Too late.’”

Martin Luther King Jr.

I’ve been reading up on what the latest climate science says about where we are and where we’re heading, and decided the best way to present the information is in the following table. The table illustrates the warming, impacts, and feedbacks we can expect from various levels of CO2. While the politicians still talk of preventing dangerous climate change, this evidence shows that climate change is already dangerous and we are on track for unimaginable catastrophe.

Continue reading

Australian protest crackdowns ramp up

It’s been a bad week for activists in Queensland, with the Liberal National state government making rapid-fire attacks on their political rights.

Firstly, activists Aleta Tulk and Adam Brooker were handed a three-month good behaviour bond for chalking on a Cairns footpath: “G20 benefits the 1%”. Tulk has no criminal history and says she will continue to speak out. She says she did not intend to cause permanent damage to the path, hence her decision to use chalk: “I even tested it before on my own driveway to make sure it would wash off.” The local council has indeed washed away the message.

Secondly, police raided the home of sixty-year-old grandmother Myra Gold, who had also been questioned about the chalking incident. They arrived at 7am (when she was in bed) with a search warrant to arrest her for allegedly placing a small sticker on a pole at a shopping centre bearing the same slogan, “G20 benefits the 1%”, about which there was apparently a complaint. When she asked why she was being arrested, an officer told her: “You have to learn that you can’t keep putting up stickers.” They seized as evidence 5 pages of stickers, her phone, and several items of clothing. Gold, who has not confessed, says: “This is political – many businesses and companies use stickers and posters around town and they do not get arrested.”

Thirdly, Office Works has been instructed not to print any anti-G20 protest material.

Both state and federal governments have passed laws prohibiting any behaviour “capable of disrupting” the G20. 700 extra police will arrive in Cairns for the Finance Ministers’ meeting next week, with the big G20 summit to be held in Brisbane on 15-16 November. The conference will not discuss the most important issue of our time, climate change. Continue reading

Disruption: join global climate march on 21 September

Take an hour to watch this video, which explains why you should join your local People’s Climate March on 21 September:

The march is associated with this petition, already signed by 313,000 967,000 of the world’s citizens.

Tell all your friends!

A year in Abbott’s war on the environment

Yesterday the Australian Government released a pamphlet celebrating its first anniversary. Buried within its spin-filled list of “achievements” is “protecting our local environment” (apparently via planting a few trees). In reality, Tony Abbott’s Liberal/National Coalition government has waged a nonstop war on climate change and environment policies. For the record, I’ve compiled a comprehensive list of the Abbott government’s real first year in environment policy – and it isn’t pretty: Continue reading

Anti-protest laws come into effect

Here’s a video about Victoria’s anti-protest laws, which came into effect this week:

These laws have been introduced by the so-called “Liberal Party” whose ideology is supposed to be all about protecting our freedoms, including free speech. The laws prove that despite their rhetoric, the Liberals do not really care about political freedoms. They care only about the economic freedom of corporations, and protecting the operations of those corporations from dissidents. Neoliberal capitalism appears to be becoming the sort of totalitarian ideology it claimed to oppose: willing to protect economic liberalism even at the cost of political authoritarianism.

The Liberals see opposition to the economic system as a threat. Unfortunately, the truly greatest threat to public safety and security is what our present economic system is doing to the climate.

A year in Abbottland

12 months into the Abbott government, its misdeeds could fill an entire book. But here I’ll attempt to summarize them, as it’s important we remember them all to maintain the rage. If you think this article is too long, blame Tony Abbott.

Each claim is backed up by evidence with the links throughout – a version without links is available at The Political Sword if you’d prefer to read it that way.

For 28 months, they promised to reveal all their policies and budget cuts “in good time before the next election”. In reality, they walked away from unwanted questions, hid major policies and cuts until 36 hours before the election, hid others until after the WA by-election, and continue to hide behind a series of reviews stacked with hand-picked ideologues who anyone can see will recommend a radical right-wing agenda.

They promised to govern for all Australians, and not pick winners. In reality, their every decision makes the rich richer, the privileged more privileged, and the powerful more powerful, while finding ever more humiliating ways to bully the poor, disadvantaged, and powerless. Abbott (along with his unprecedentedly powerful chief of staff Peta Credlin) has appointed a Cabinet containing just one woman, no non-Christians, and no climate or science minister; surrounded himself with advisors who look, talk, and think like him (ie. old, male, conservative, climate-change-denying business lobbyists); sacked public servants perceived as disloyal; abolished multiple expert advisory bodies; reinstated knights and dames; and failed to condemn extreme views expressed by colleagues and advisors. Continue reading

Is Energy Australia lying to its customers?

My household recently switched energy companies. The main reason was that the one we left, Energy Australia, has been lobbying to sabotage the federal Renewable Energy Target (RET). When an employee asked us why we were leaving we told them so, to which they innocently responded that Energy Australia is a leader in renewable energy and couldn’t possibly be doing anything to oppose it. I’ve heard similar platitudes before from an Origin Energy employee.

One of the most frustrating things in politics is having to deal with professionals who assume they know more than I do, when it’s pretty clear to me that they are either misled or lying. Either that employee has naively bought into their corporation’s propaganda, or they are wilfully promoting it. Here I’ll expose the duplicity.

Energy Australia is one of the country’s big three “gentailers”, invested in both the generation and retailing of electricity, and the vast majority of its generation investments are in fossil fuels. Based on Energy Australia’s latest Sustainability Report, 96% of the company’s electricity generation assets are coal- or gas-fired, and if you also include gas storage and processing, an even greater proportion of the total energy generated by the company. In the last five years it has increased its fossil fuel capacity by 75%, making Energy Australia the third largest emitter in Australia’s electricity sector.

The other two gentailers, Origin and AGL, also continue to invest in fossil fuels; Greenpeace has just released a report describing them as the “Dirty Three”. Origin, betting on a gas boom, has increasingly invested in coal seam gas (increasing its fossil fuel capacity by 87% over five years) and moved away from renewables (which now produce a mere 0.5% of its electricity). AGL has more investments in renewables, but this week bought Macquarie Generation, more than doubling AGL’s fossil fuel investments and making it the biggest polluter of all (with over 90% of its profits to come from fossil fuels). All three do offer a “100% GreenPower” option, but that just places the responsibility to pay for climate action on individuals rather than corporations or governments.

Moreover I want to ask the gentailers’ defenders: If you think they are so great on renewable energy, then how do you explain the fact that they are campaigning against it? Continue reading