Manne on climate change

What follows is a severely condensed version of an essay, Diabolical, by Robert Manne in The Monthly for December 2015. It makes so many important points that I have overcome my reluctance to recycle others’ work here, but I do apologise to Manne and The Monthly for doing so and encourage my readers to read the original here. I have added the links and a few [words] of explanation but that’s all. Now, over to Manne:

Unless by some miracle almost every climate scientist is wrong, future generations will look upon ours with puzzlement and anger – as the people who might have prevented the Earth from becoming a habitat unfriendly to humans and other species but nonetheless failed to act. … Our conscious destruction of a planet friendly to humans and other species is the most significant development in history. … 

[Tactics for change agents]

Several studies reveal that the choice of language helps determine the level of concern. Conservatives are significantly less resistant to acknowledging there is a problem when the talk is of “climate change” rather than “global warming”. Because many studies have found the level of “visceral” response to the problem to be low, communicative calmness is implicitly or explicitly recommended. One concluded that people are repelled by climate-change messages that seem to them “apocalyptic”. Presenting the issue in this way interfered with their desire to live in “a world that is just, orderly and stable”. Another discovered that people were increasingly irritated by claims they regarded as “alarmist”. … 

Many studies also emphasise the importance of framing. One suggested a problem with using the frame of “care”, as this was the kind of narrative conservatives rejected. Another found that climate-change warnings were more effective if framed as public health concerns rather than as national security ones.

… Norgaard’s [Norwegian] study is interesting in part because it suggests that psychological denial offers a more general clue to the puzzle of humankind’s incapacity to rise to the challenge of climate change than the kind of political denialism found more or less exclusively in the US, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. 

[The way forward]

… In recent months Lord Nicholas Stern has published a new analysis of the climate-change crisis, Why Are We Waiting? The tone is now much more urgent [than in his 2006 review, summarised here]. …Stern accepts that the world must aim for the now internationally agreed limit of no more than a 2ºC temperature increase on pre-industrial temperature. According to his calculations, for there to be any hope of only a 2ºC increase in the next 15 years, in the developing world – where both greenhouse-gas emissions and population levels are currently accelerating very rapidly – emissions will have to be reduced. In the developed world – where emissions have become more or less stable – they will have to be cut in half. … What Nicholas Stern now calls for is nothing less than an immediate, global-wide “energy revolution”.  

Yet, as many people now realise, something much more profound than all this is required: a re-imagining of the relations between humans and the Earth, a re-imagining that will be centred on a recognition of the dreadful and perhaps now irreversible damage that has been wrought to our common home by the hubristic idea at the very centre of the modern world – man’s assertion of his mastery over nature.

Such a recognition signals a coming moral shift no less deep than those that have already transformed humankind with regard to the ancient inequalities of race and gender. … It is this recognition  …  that is already making Bill McKibben’s international movement for divestment from fossil fuels one of the fastest growing, most effective and most morally charged international protest movements since the anti-apartheid struggles. And it is this recognition that forms the core of Pope Francis’s recent summons for a worldwide cultural revolution. “No system,” he writes, “can completely suppress our openness to what is good, true and beautiful … An authentic humanity … seems to dwell in the midst of our technological culture, almost unnoticed, like a mist seeping gently beneath a closed door.”

It is on our instinct for what is good, true and beautiful, and on the arousal of that authentic humanity from its present slumber, that hopes for the human future and the future of the species with whom we share the Earth now rest.

Townsville takes part in the Global day of Climate Action

crowd with placards
The obligatory crowd photo

Today’s global day of climate action represents a remarkable collaboration of environmental and community groups around the world, led by 350.org. Here in Townsville, NQCC provided the leadership and a sizeable crowd assembled on the Strand for music, face-painting and speeches from Wendy Tubman and Sandy McCathie. Rather than a march we had a staged photo-op: dozens of people on the beach with their heads in the sand in imitation of a certain Mr Abbott (certain, that is, that climate change is crap and that he doesn’t need to listen to anyone who thinks otherwise; he’s wrong on both counts, of course).

It was a positive event in the same style as the National Day of Climate Action in June: a gathering of like-minded people for a good cause, having fun in beautiful surroundings as well as making a serious point.

350.org is assembling a photo gallery on flickr; Australian images are here. I haven’t yet seen photos of the completed heads-in-the-sand panorama but here’s one showing people beginning to get ready for it.

preparing to  dig
Playing on the beach – seriously

Update, 24.9.14

The media coverage has now peaked:

  • Avaaz has a great collection of photos from around the world accompanied by front-page newspaper coverage.
  • GetUp! has a good collection on instagram.
  • More locally, the Townsville Bulletin had no coverage at all on Monday (except a short report from AAP of the Cairns rally, which was presumably ‘news’ because it was held outside the G20 finance ministers’ meeting) but came to the party on Tuesday with a cute photo of a child in costume and a brief report.
  • The “heads in the sand” photo (below) from Cranky Curlew has attracted quite a lot of attention including a spot on Channel 10’s “The Project” yesterday evening.

Townsville Salutes

Introducing the North Queensland Conservation Council

Six months ago I resigned from Reef HQ over GBRMPA’s failure to stand up to government and protect the Reef from the miners. At the time I declared (a bit pretentiously, I know, but I was dramatising a point) that I wanted to, “take my skills, my knowledge and my undiminished passion for the environment to groups which are genuinely committed to minimising and mitigating damage to the environment,” and after a couple of months I started helping out at North Queensland Conservation Council because their aims and needs were the best fit with my priorities and skills. 

NQCC describes itself as “the voice for the environment in North Queensland.”  It was established in 1974 as a not-for-profit incorporated association with a broad mandate to endeavour to protect the “land, waters and atmosphere” of the region bounded by Cardwell and Bowen to the north and south, the Northern Territory border to the west and the Coral Sea to the east.

NQCC is an umbrella group, aiming to support smaller, often single-issue, local organisations at state level. (The region has a surprisingly large number of such small groups. There’s a list of them here but I’m sure it’s still incomplete; if you can add to it, please let me or the NQCC know.) Their main focus recently has been Abbot Point, reef dumping and, by extension, Galilee Basin coal.

screenshot of nqcc site
The NQCC site, 2014 edition

I have spent most of my time with NQCC working on their website. It was already a WordPress site like Green Path, which made the job easier for me, but had been somewhat neglected since being set up a couple of years ago. That’s a common problem with organisational websites, by the way. Most people seem to think of them as books – publish and forget – but they are much more like magazines, requiring a flow of new content and regular review of older content.

The redesign is now essentially complete but there is always more to do. My latest project is to add a wider variety of header photographs. If you have any suitable photos, as per nqcc.org.au/photo-credits/, please send them in!

North Queensland Conservation Council shares one trivial incidental advantage with Reef HQ: my easiest route home from both of them is along Queens Road so my collection of photos from the Ross Creek parkland has continued to grow; see my previous post for recent examples.

I found it on the net

This is one of my occasional “grab bag” or “miscellany” posts, simply sharing sites and images I have come across and tagged for one reason or another.

wall of films

Films for Action (http://www.filmsforaction.org) is a site which documents activist movies, much more methodically than I did in my Greenie Movies posts last year. The page which first caught my attention is their wall of films (above) but they have some interesting articles as well (I particularly liked their overview of worldwide moves towards reducing wage inequality) and a useful list of “independent media” in a sidebar on the article index page.

• This Environmental Art Calendar is just for inspiration. How do people think of such things? And then how do they make them?

• These hyper-stylised Renaissance-inspired insect drawings might hardly rate a mention after the calendar but they do do something with insect forms that I have never seen before, and I do like anything that encourages a positive attitude towards insects and, in fact, the whole biosphere in which we are so intricately embedded.

• Finally I will share a Facebook page. I can hardly believe I’m doing this – I dismissed FB entirely for years as a waste of time and bandwidth, a horrible fad which pandered to lowest-common-denominator narcissism, a time-sink … and it is still, in fact,  all of those if we allow it to be. On the other hand, it has become a useful means of spreading independent news and generating grass-roots crowd energy; and it has spawned its own visual language which, as I said in earlier posts, is sometimes beautiful and often fun. Trust Me, I’m an “Eco-designer” https://www.facebook.com/GreenSetGo enjoys the possibilities to the full. Reading the “About” info reveals the FB page is run by a real eco-design business … and there is nothing wrong with that, either.