Scummo is what Scott Morrison, Prime Minister of Australia, was called yesterday by residents of a town that had just been devastated by fire including the loss of two lives. Gutless was my own addition seeing him utterly fail to engage with the people in front of him who had just been through hell, and then him walking away.
It’s all going very well pic.twitter.com/0tEafE7mfI— Josh Butler (@JoshButler) January 2, 2020
Andrew Constance said Scott Morrison "probably got the welcome he deserved" when he clashed with locals in Cobargo yesterday evening. #auspol— 10 News First (@10NewsFirst) January 2, 2020
For the latest on the #ausfires follow our LIVE blog here: https://t.co/XQYE5LMMhC pic.twitter.com/lgYLFaO3Y3
Watching the videos, my heart goes out to these people from a small town who know exactly how much they figure in the greater schemes of the government.
Sixteen people have died in the fires in NSW this season. Two have died in Victoria and another 28 are missing this week. Thousands of people are being evacuated from areas at threat of fire. Both states have declared historic states of emergency. In the autumn and winter last year Morrison had refused to meet with senior former fire chiefs to discuss the likelihood of a bushfire crisis. With the predicted crisis arriving in early summer and escalating, he’s been missing in action for weeks. Whatever he is doing now is too little, too late.
In an age where government parties poll excessively to predict what will go down well, it’s hard to imagine what kind of advice Morrison has been given in the past month. Morrison’s words when meeting with the Australian and New Zealand cricket teams two days ago were almost unbelievable.
The guy is living in an alternate Universe.— Ngati Pakeha Kuia💚 (@carol_stirling) January 2, 2020
As someone pointed out on twitter, you don’t go to a funeral and call out ‘how good’s the cricket?’
While I was fuming about gutlessness and scumbaggery, this happened. The young woman from the first video demonstrates she has more social and emotional intelligence and humanity in her little finger than the whole of the federal government,
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this came from a young mother.
I spoke to an obstetrician about delivering babies in smoky birthing suites https://t.co/YsxhPLVcMV "Every single mother-to-be and every single dad-to-be I've seen today has expressed to me anxiety about what the future holds for the child they're carrying." #bushfiresAustralia— Gina Rushton (@ginarush) January 3, 2020
Humans, given the chance, will act with compassion and decency, and our survival as a species is tied to our care for our children not our politicians. When we mobilise as communities the politicians will follow.
There’s a chance here. That this catastrophe unfolding in Australia will be a catalyst for change. Climate devastation reaching a lucky, wealthy country far sooner than expected, together with a political response appalling by most people’s standards, may compel Australians, and those watching, to act.
A Guardian poll in November showed more Australians want action on climate change, and more accept there is a connection between global warming and bushfires.
Ominously for the Morrison government, which bristles at regular public criticism it is not doing enough to reduce the risks of the climate crisis, 60% of the sample of 1,083 voters believes Australia should be doing more. This is up from 51% in March.
Writer Richard Flanagan wrote a stunningly stark summation of the situation in Australia in the New York Times yesterday, He ended with this,
The situation is eerily reminiscent of the Soviet Union in the 1980s, when the ruling apparatchik were all-powerful but losing the fundamental, moral legitimacy to govern. In Australia today, a political establishment, grown sclerotic and demented on its own fantasies, is facing a monstrous reality which it has neither the ability nor the will to confront.
Mr. Morrison may have a massive propaganda machine in the Murdoch press and no opposition, but his moral authority is bleeding away by the hour. On Thursday, after walking away from a woman asking for help, he was forced to flee the angry, heckling residents of a burned-out town. A local conservative politician described his own leader’s humiliation as “the welcome he probably deserved.”
As Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader, once observed, the collapse of the Soviet Union began with the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl in 1986. In the wake of that catastrophe, “the system as we knew it became untenable,” he wrote in 2006. Could it be that the immense, still-unfolding tragedy of the Australian fires may yet prove to be the Chernobyl of climate crisis?
We can hope that Australians find a way, but I think there is another equally important aspect to this. While it’s tempting to point at Australia, its appalling position on climate action and its seemingly entrenched climate-denying political and media culture, there’s the reality that we are all responsible for the bushfires. By ‘we’ I mean humans generally across the planet, but perhaps mostly the ones doing best from and still supporting the globalised economy that is both the driver of the climate crisis and the biggest impediment to change.
While Australia is the world’s largest exporter of coal and gas, it is humans elsewhere that are buying and burning those fossil fuels. And while it is Australia that is bearing the brunt of the crisis this season, and will soon have to face up to the bushfires doubling their GHG emissions in 2020, it’s all of us that are going to reap what we are sowing as the fires feed into the large, complex natural systems that push us ever closer to runaway climate change.
Many New Zealanders feel particularly affected from the outside, because of our close geographical and social ties with Australia, but we’re not really on the outside, there is no outside of this.
This is why we have been hitting the streets in 2019 & why we won't back down in 2020. Activism is our last chance to prevent this from becoming the "new normal". This year has to become the year of climate action – there is no alternative. #AustraliaBurning #ClimateCrisis https://t.co/DGSjmwV2yk— Fridays For Future Germany (@FridayForFuture) January 2, 2020
Need to take action now?
Newshub has a page from November with ways to donate to the various support agencies in Australia.
School Strike for Climate (Australia)’s donation page is here.
Greenpeace NZ has a petition to cancel OMV’s permits to explore for new oil and gas in NZ.
Front page photo by Alex Coppel.
Moderation note: no climate denial under my posts, including ‘it’s too late’ lines.