5 January 2022

BEST OF 2021: Is stopping Canberrans from getting home really the best way to fight climate change?

| Genevieve Jacobs
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Man extinguishing burning pram outside Parliament House with protestor on ground

Parliament House security staff extinguish a burning pram during a recent Extinction Rebellion protest. Photo: Supplied.

Year in Review: Region Media is revisiting some of the best Opinion articles of 2021. Here’s what got you talking, got you angry and got you thinking in 2021. Today, Genevieve Jacobs queries the Extinction Rebellion approach.

“Grandfathers, youth and parents-to-be alike have spectacularly blocked Commonwealth Avenue Bridge in the national capital with trucks and tents, and have locked onto each other with bright yellow and pink pipes,” read the press release late last week.

“Happening now: Extinction Rebellion blockade Commonwealth Bridge in national capital as government commits future generations to climate collapse.”

I knew about it already: my phone was pinging with irritated Region Media staff members trying to get home to the Northside from Deakin, while I’d (just) managed to turn around at Parliament House for an alternative route.

The protest was part of a series of dramatic actions staged by members of the Extinction Rebellion group, who have glued themselves to the forecourt at Parliament House, set prams on fire in the interest of saving future generations, and dressed themselves as various politicians.

We live in a vibrant democracy where the right to protest is aligned with our right to free speech. Extinction Rebellion is deeply concerned by what commitments Prime Minister Scott Morrison will make at the COP 26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, that is currently being watched by the world.

The colourful, energetic Extinction Rebellion movement is deadly serious about the need for urgent action on climate change by our elected representatives. But is annoying a lot of people who fundamentally agree with them going to achieve that?

Here’s the rationale from the group’s press release:

“After peaceful climate protesters were, once again, arrested for protesting on Parliament lawns yesterday, and no members of parliament responded to Extinction Rebellion’s demand to meet with them, Extinction Rebellion activists were left with no choice but to set up camp on Commonwealth Bridge.”

So, nobody paid any attention at Parliament, therefore it was necessary to disrupt the lives of thousands of ordinary commuters making their way home instead? To leave those commuters idling in their fossil fuel-powered vehicles, strumming their fingers in irritation as they ran late to pick up their children and feed their families?

And the ACT is the most solidly progressive jurisdiction in Australia, where there was a Greens landslide at the last local election, and where the vast majority of our federal representatives are in Opposition anyway?

READ ALSO ‘Burning Pram Lady’ sentenced after spending 16 days in jail for climate change protest

A number of Extinction Rebellion members have appeared in ACT courts recently, and they received relatively short shrift from the bench.

Magistrate Robert Cook told Deanna Marie ‘Violet’ Coco that she might look to Gandhi’s model of passive, consistent, law-abiding protest to get something done, rather than leaving Parliament House staff with scorch marks to clean up after she incinerated a pram.

Protest has prompted social change in Australia’s past – the Vietnam moratorium marches in the 1970s come to mind – although the enormous protests against the Iraq War seemingly had no effect at all.

Think of other protests that have been powerfully effective: the Freedom Rides here and in the US where activists and minority groups challenged racism by exercising their ordinary rights as citizens, whether to take public transport or use a community swimming pool.

More recently, school students striking for the climate have created plenty of debate, often around their own kitchen tables.

The bridge blockade was just annoying – not dangerous, like the anti-lockdown protests in Melbourne and Sydney that risked creating COVID-19 super-spreader events.

But you have to ask whether those involved were mostly caught up in the thrill of their own actions, rather than, Gandhi-like, galvanising the masses to achieve real change.

Raise your voices to the heavens, rally your people, make yourselves heard in the corridors of power through the strength of your movement. Bring people on board. But show some courtesy to everyone else while you’re doing it.

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XR are pests!

HiddenDragon8:20 pm 04 Nov 21

A sobering reality check for anyone who thinks that letting off a bit of anthropogenic steam in a regional city in Australia will make the slightest difference to the global trajectory of fossil fuel consumption –

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/chinas-timeline-to-ditch-coal-adopt-green-technology-may-be-too-slow-to-help-climate

Note particularly inconvenient truths such as this –

“In 2020 alone, the country brought 38.4 gigawatts of new coal-fired capacity into operation. That’s more than three times the amount built in the rest of the world over the same period, and enough to power about a fifth of the whole country.

Environmentalists like Li Shuo, who’s a carbon emissions and energy specialist for Greenpeace, say China’s insatiable demand for nonrenewable energy will make it difficult for it to meet its goal of net zero emissions by 2060.

Li Shuo, Greenpeace:

If you really end up peaking, let’s say, in 2030, the curve in between 2030 and 2060 is very steep, to the extent that many people will just think this is science fiction.”

Capital Retro11:26 am 05 Nov 21

Is it possible that the Chinese are smarter than we are?

Do they know that the claims made about man made carbon dioxide causing climate change are false so there is no problem in “making hay while the sun shines”. I mean, if the UN gives China a free kick every time these COP gabfests are held and no one bothers to demonstrate outside their embassy why wouldn’t they think that there isn’t a problem.

John Wurcker7:55 pm 04 Nov 21

Dear Genevieve, As a grandfather who was on one of the trucks, thank you for covering last week’s bridge blockade by XR. If you are interested in learning more about the motivation of the ordinary Canberrans doing extraordinary things who make up XR ACT, would be happy to put you in touch.

I also used to think XR’s actions and support in Canberra would be best served by avoiding inconvenience to the public. As you infer, Canberra is largely made up of well-educated and informed citizens, who know about the climate emergency and have voted in the most progressive, climate action focused government in the country. That’s great – but is it enough to rest on our laurels? The breadth, but lack of depth, of what would seem to be many Canberran’s commitment to the urgent and radical action required to avert the impending disaster was brought home by the response of one motorist saying – “get out of the road, I’ll be late for my gym session” – yes, they really said that. XR’s actions won’t please everyone – that is not our aim – awakening and energising other ordinary Canberrans prepared to do extraordinary things is.

So apt that reference is made to Gandhi at the end of your article. Like the suffragettes, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and so many others who have championed radical change to a broken system (and who were largely vilified at the time), a fundamental tactic of Gandhi’s non-violent civil disobedience (in India and South Africa) was non-compliance and breaking the law.

To those readers who do not resonate with this message, I am sorry for the inconvenience caused. For those ordinary Canberrans who want to connect about doing extraordinary things to reduce the suffering of future generations, go to https://www.xract.org/get-involved

John, irritating, disrupting and inconveniencing ordinary people, just going about their lives does not bring people around to your cause. It has the opposite effect. Ghandi promoted non violent peaceful process but what XR is doing is using tactics of intimidation, bullying, coercion and vandalism. Your tactics simply punish people, not persuade.

John, most people who are in a cult do not realise this, Extinction Rebellion is a cult.

XR have been prancing around the front of parliament for a few weeks, and very few have joined in. This is why XR then decided to go and block Commonwealth Avenue, to try and seek the attention they were not getting at parliament.

Please stop comparing Extinction Rebellion to Martin Luther King, Gandhi or Nelson Mandela. XR look like a mob of looney-tunes who are more comparable to Hare Krishna, Ananda Marga or the Moonies.

If you really want to make a difference, not just cause a disruption, join or form a political party, get involved in the election next year, setup a weekly information table in Garema Place where people can choose to stop and listen or just walk past and go about their business.

Ok nutter activists, if what Australia took to Scotland doesn’t measure up to your expectations, how do you feel about China, Russia and Saudia Arabia. They didn’t even go!

A cult, where on did people get that idea from?
And as for workable solutions, there are plenty of politicians, scientists, engineers and businesses with workable solutions solutions already, they have had 30+ years – what we are saying is that it is time for our leaders listen to them rather than destructive profiteering industries like the fossil fuel lobby who put their short term profit before people’s lives.
Extinction Rebellion does suggest a People’s Climate Assembly where everyone gets a say – from factory workers to scientists, to housewives, to tradies, to farmers, everyone. Leaving it to the politicians hasn’t worked.

Here’s the thing – we are running out of time. If transformational social change & the end of fossil fuel dependence doesn’t happen across the next handful of years, human civilisation itself will not endure.

Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Really crazy and impossible to get your head around, yet this is what the science is telling us, whether we want to believe in it or not.

You’re damn right – blocking a bridge full of traffic is horribly inconvenient, yet as stunts go, it pales in comparison to a government that’s willing to risk the future health and safety of its citizens in exchange for a few more years of dirty money as the fossil fuel industry enters a global death spiral.

Australia’s leaders are not doing their jobs and by standing idly by, we are letting them get away with murder. Literally. Got a suggestion for alternatives to non-violent civil disobedience as a response to the global climate crisis? Something that will make the Morrison Government wake up to embrace new and equitable green energy futures? Great – let’s hear it. I’m all ears.

In the meantime, here’s a story to help put things in perspective:

https://www.vice.com/en/article/xwvgeq/an-incomplete-timeline-of-what-we-tried

“Think of other protests that have been powerfully effective: the Freedom Rides here and in the US where activists and minority groups challenged racism by exercising their ordinary rights as citizens, whether to take public transport or use a community swimming pool.” You are deluded if you think these were ordinary citizens “exercising their ordinary rights”. That was the point; these people didn’t have those rights and by nonviolent social disobedience things changed. They certainly weren’t changed by speaking with the local member or signing a petition.

Peta Swarbrick3:25 pm 04 Nov 21

100% – civil disobedience is disruptive by nature – and if ordinary Canberrans did mobilise peacefully on the streets XR would not need to exist! Focus on the truly illegal fossil fuel climate criminals – not those willing to face anger violence and arrest to do what’s right

Firstly,
civil disobedience by it’s nature is a form of violence. You are breaking the law and the rights of other citizens in an attempt to impose your will on them.

It’s an attempt to subvert democracy to wield power in excess from what you can gain through diplomacy and debate.

Those who promote it are admitting that they cannot engage with others to convince them of their righteousness and are attempting to gain their way by force.

They are no better than the people they claim to oppose.

Capital Retro5:40 pm 04 Nov 21

I’m relieved to hear you declare there are worse people that me, chewy.

Capital Retro,
You may be consistently wrong on many issues but I’d defend your right to express that wrongness with an equal voice to everyone else.

Our democracy is broken, that is why we have to do this
Read Scott Ludlam Full Circle

Catada,
Yes you can rationalise your support of illegal behaviour however you want.

But what it really comes down to is your unwillingness to admit that other people might not agree with you.

XR is a cult. If they do have workable solutions, they should form a party, write a coherent set of policies, run in the election, then the voters can decide, without being trapped in a blockade, without being berated by megaphone.

The fable of the Extinction Rebellion and the Diesel Mechanic (aka The Scorpion and The Frog)

A small town has a medical clinic servicing a regional population of 2000 people. The Chinese solar panels installed 18 months ago are starting to crack and the battery backup has also failed, with a recall notice having been issued for leakage and potential explosive hazard. A local mechanic has no use for a diesel generator and offers to give it to the clinic for free. He’ll even connect it.

After a lightning strike destroys a nearby substation, the generator kicks in and provides power to the clinic. The local doctor is happy as he is assured that the Pfizer vaccine temperature threshold has not been affected as the generator failover was seamless.

Hearing that Fossil fuel was keeping the clinic operational, the local chapter of Extinction Rebellion sabotages the generator, rendering it inoperable and unrepairable. A nurse at the clinic calls the mechanic, who responds to the call immediately. When he arrives, he is confronted by protest and finds out what the protestors did. He asks why they did it. They chant, ‘it’s in our nature.’

Obviously a work of fiction. Extinction Rebellion advocate non violent action and would not condone sabotage.

Please watch Planet of the Humans. See how Green causes are just cash cows for lining the pockets of Globalists. You have been duped by carpetbaggers masquerading as environmentalists.
COP26 was just a Summernats for Private jets

Stephen Saunders11:04 am 04 Nov 21

With UN “net zero”, a generation has now been conditioned to agitate on nothing but the climate vector of environmental depletion – not the 8b humans, land clearing, forest and species crashes, land use conflict, water insecurity, and so on.

This narrow focus nicely serves the market interests of the old and the rich, not social interests of the young and the poor.

Capital Retro12:26 pm 04 Nov 21

Being one of the “old” you refer to and having many colleagues in the “old and rich” category I take issue with you suggesting that only our “market interests” (not sure what you mean by that) are being served with the current narrative on “climate change” which is a perceived condition that means different things to different people. We care probably more about the environment than generations coming after us do and we have acquired the wisdom that comes with seeing the outcomes of population expansion and social changes over the last 50+ years which isn’t even a blink of the eye in the history of our evolution.

The Climate Extinction ratbags are just as deluded about lack of action about “climate change” as our Prime Minister who said a few days a go that “technology yet to be discovered would solve climate change”.

The facts are that “climate change” is an ongoing process and speculation about what causes it doesn’t matter because nothing mankind does can stop it. The best we can do is adapt to it without fear that the products of processes that enrich our standard of living are killing us. Indeed, technologies will help us adapt as they have over the last 200 years.

The problem is not “climate change”, it is too many people and maybe the UN could focus on that for a change.

“We care probably more about the environment than generations coming after us do and we have acquired the wisdom that comes with seeing the outcomes of population expansion and social changes over the last 50+ years which isn’t even a blink of the eye in the history of our evolution.”

Bahahaha.

This is some of your best comedy CR.

“I care about the environment” , whilst actively opposing any change that would actually benefit the environment. LOL.

Capital Retro1:39 pm 04 Nov 21

The benefit to the environment that I cited was population control (last sentence) but you couldn’t be bothered to read that far, could you.

Action on climate change is the overarching goal, and “population control” a strategy to address it. You are confusing goals with strategies. Other strategies include limiting deforestation, reducing production of methane, moving to renewable energy for example.

Capital Retro,
I read your comment in full and quoted you directly.

You claimed that your generation(s) cares more about the environment whilst at the same time you constantly oppose any action that would help the environment.

Simply now trying to say that population growth is the main issue is meaningless.

Because if you truly cared about the environment you wouldn’t oppose other actions that would benefit the environment even with a higher population.

It’s not an either/or situation, you can do and promote both action on climate change and other environmental issues whilst also advocating for lower populations.

But we know you’d never do that because you aren’t actually interested in caring for the environment at all.

Capital Retro4:06 pm 04 Nov 21

If you think that people (population) do not impact on the environment you must have been thoroughly brainwashed or you have never been outside Canberra.

If we had sustainable size populations we wouldn’t need to to do anything else like “action on climate change” which you haven’t described what that may be, anyhow.

Your next question is?

Capital Retro5:50 pm 04 Nov 21

And stuffing people around is a tactic in your strategy.

Can’t you see that if we limit population we will also reduce deforestation , production of methane etc.?

“If you think that people (population) do not impact on the environment”

Can’t see where I said that, you must not have read my comment again.

The one where I specifically said that it’s not an either/or situation. You can use a reduction in population (or population growth) as one measure to limit environmental harm. But it would only be part of a number of actions if it were in fact possible.

So your comment is meaningless. You are basically saying If humans didn’t exist, then the environment would be fine.

Well OK, but back here in reality, we recognise that this isn’t likely, so multiple other actions and strategies are needed to ensure we limit environmental harm in other ways.

You know, like reducing reliance on Coal power, promoting the future of electric vehicles and creating more sustainably growing cities. All things you’ve expressly opposed here.

Your next whataboutism is?

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