It is unconscionable that we, our children and grandchildren should have to bear the terrifying brunt of this unprecedented disaster. When a government wilfully abrogates its responsibility to protect its citizens from harm and secure the future for generations to come, it has failed in its most essential duty of stewardship. The ‘social contract’ has been broken, and it is therefore not only our right, but our moral duty, to rebel to defend life itself.
We therefore declare our support for the Extinction Rebellion (XR) movement and the global week of non-violent civil disobedience and disruption planned for October. We stand behind XR’s demands for the Australian government to declare a climate emergency and to establish a citizens’ assembly to work with scientists on the basis of current evidence to develop a credible and just plan for rapid total decarbonisation of the economy.
In addition, we call on all Australian universities and other major institutions to immediately divest funds from all fossil fuel and other industries which are contributing to the climate crisis, and to redirect investments urgently toward the renewable energy sector and other climate enhancing technologies.
We also recognise the crucial role First Nations people in Australia and across the globe, have played for tens of thousands of years, and continue to play, in maintaining species, and caring for the land, water and air. We therefore declare our support for the urgent establishment of a treaty with First Nation Australians, to recognise Indigenous sovereignty and to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to continue protecting what they have already cared for, for so long.
The #ClimateStrike crowd numbers are phenomenal.— Guardian Australia (@GuardianAus) September 20, 2019
Perth & Adelaide at least 10,000 each
Thousands more across regional Australia & Pacific https://t.co/rViiPMOgWR @strikeclimate #schoolstrike4climate pic.twitter.com/VAOKRHq7Zu
These are heartening numbers in one of the key growing movements for climate activism. The current public awareness and willingness to act compared to even a few years ago makes me think we are approaching a tipping point. I’m not keen on timed predictions around big societal change, but I expect that this time next year the landscape will look very different again. With things moving this fast, there is great opportunity to influence which direction we tip.
September 20th marked the start of the Global Climate Strike week. New Zealand’s strike will be at the close of the week on the 27th. Organised by the School Strike 4 Climate people, this is a strike for everyone. SS4C NZ are calling it a general strike.
Ten days after that the International Rebellion begins on the 7th October. This is a fortnight of actions from Extinction Rebellion designed to non-violently disrupt societies to sufficient extent to force governments to listen to what the people want and to take meaningful, timely action.
Extinction Rebellion has been getting a fair amount of valid criticism from some activist quarters for its organisational culture and tactics, but there is no doubt that they have radically changed both the narrative around climate change, and the actions we can now expect to take. This has been one of the critical pushes we needed to get mass awareness of the urgency of the climate crisis.
The strikes this year are mass protest marches. Schools are now starting to give students permission to take the day off to attend and there is general acceptance of the validity of students doing this. One value here is in the kind of medium term change we can expect as institutional power holders start making better decisions about priorities (I look forward to when the need to prevent runaway climate change becomes paramount across society). But I can’t help but feel that striking is something people do as an act of empowerment in the face of injustice. They don’t require permission.
Mass mobilisation via marches is necessary. It builds solidarity amongst people who take part, and it gives hope and the sense that acting matters. It raises wider public awareness, and gives clear signals to politicians that they need to pay attention. So the marches are necessary but probably not sufficient in the immediate term, which is where we also need accelerated change.
Hence the wonderful timing of Extinction Rebellion’s next set of disruptions. Here we have the opportunity to shift the narrative again. With the IPCC and the mainstream media now publicly declaring the need for urgent action, people are increasingly scared and looking for what to do. ER actions focus attention in the places where it hurts those who still deny the need for immediate change. These actions are likewise necessary and not sufficient. We also need, very soon, clear pathways that many people can act on effectively and from a place of empowerment.
This is effort on as many fronts as we can manage. Marching, rebelling, planting trees, driving less, talking to our neighbours, these are the collective activisms that push change and the individual acts that underpin societal change. But we’re not yet at the point of conceiving of the system change needed to prevent the worst of climate disaster. Coming up next, we also need to fast decide how to transition off fossil fuels in ways that are just, timely, and ecologically sustainable. This is the discussion we need to be having now.
In the meantime, writing radical poetry on pub walls is as good an activism as I’ve seen: