ANALYSIS election 2019: There’s a new style guide doing the rounds in media: a preference for the term global heating instead of global warming and climate emergency instead of climate change.
According to The Guardian, “The phrase ‘climate change’, for example, sounds rather passive and gentle when what scientists are talking about is a catastrophe for humanity.”
The governments of the UK and Ireland have also accepted and declared a climate emergency. Deep in our hearts we know they are right.
Words are hugely important because they define what we think and mean. They are the most powerful weapon – or tool – of all. The Fifth Estate will adopt a similar language and acceptance that we are now in extremely dangerous territory.
In the face of that how do we make sense of Saturday’s night’s emphatic rejection of the so-called “climate election”?
First is to hold onto some rational thought. According to the experts the final tally is likely to show that more than half the Australian people voted for a party that placed climate action a top priority, alongside a progressive social and economic agenda. Just like the polls said.
The problem was that the polls failed on seat by seat electorates. ABC’s Antony Green on Saturday night said the reason is that not many people these days have landlines, so the location of respondents is harder to identify.
Another theory doing the rounds is that people want to be seen as good social/environmental citizens but when they went into the voting booths their inner selfishness was unleashed and they voted for their hip pocket.
Queensland, which voted overwhelmingly for the Coalition, was slammed. Maps of the “Brisbane Line” appeared. This showed the border marking the part of Australia that would be ceded to the Japanese should they invade in the second world war. Harsh.
Just a few weeks ago Mick Daley filed his long piece for us of what happened on Bob Brown’s convoy to “Stop Adani”. Mick talked to people along the way, impartially reported their feelings and how fiercely locals galvanised across sectors and entire communities to defend their perceived jobs and economic future.
The facts might differ, but perception becomes reality during elections. Or when fear grips.
On Monday we received this heart wrenching note from the Queensland Environmental Defender’s Office.
You are not alone. We share your heartfelt concern about the impacts of climate change and your frustration at political inaction.
Just remember that no one is above the law. Through the legal system we can hold the government and mining companies to account, uphold and enforce our environmental laws, and achieve justice for communities concerned about biodiversity and the impacts of climate change.
It’s a fundamental part of our democracy, and a powerful safeguard for times when governments fail us and corporations do the wrong thing.
In the weeks, months, and years to come, EDO Qld will not stop helping communities access their rights to combat dangerous climate change.
We care passionately about action to protect the planet and to slash greenhouse gas emissions.
Our challenge is to channel our shared anxiety into strong effective action and avoid leaving the $133 billion costs of inaction to fall on the next generation.
As the climate emergency leads to more extreme weather events threatening our agriculture, more bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef threatening our tourism and sea level rise threatening our coastal homes, we must redouble our efforts to prevent the worst of climate change and increase our resilience to its devastating effects.
Are you with us?
It’s full steam ahead today, Monday May 20, here at the EDO Qld.
But the fact is that it’s no use blaming Queensland.
As someone said Queenslanders outside of Brisbane are mostly rural/regional people, and they voted exactly the same way as other rural/regional people voted.
The problem is in the messaging, or the lack of it. Climate activists want to stop coal mining, but where was the powerful call to action that the green economy can provide jobs AND growth? Or that news that the coal mines on the drawing board will be almost completely automated?
Where are the demonstration projects such as Sanjeev Gupta’s array of sustainability enterprises at Whyalla in South Australia, that has got the locals excited and kicked off growth again in a town that was decimated by the closure of the steelworks?
And what about the hip pocket voters?
Talk about confused messaging and confused party lines.
In Warringah on Saturday the tradies on Military Road were all pumping fists for “Tony and Scott”. Call it the HiLux and petrol vote, after Morrison frightened the ute drivers by saying Labor wanted to replace petrol utes with cars. Never mind that Toyota distanced itself almost instantly and said all its utes would soon be electric.
In Sydney’s inner west a mums group exchanged ideas online and one said she voted Libs because she was “the big end of town” and Labor would have hurt her business. She’s a florist. Another agreed. She too was the “top end of town”. She owns an investment property.
Former PM Tony Abbott said in his concession speech that the tables had flipped. Working [class] electorates were voting Libs and wealthy suburbs were now voting ALP. He got that one right.
But what if the hip pocket vote is actually a distraction?
What if it was a climate election after all and people can see the climate emergency and are scared? Maybe they feel it’s too late to arrest global heating now. People in fear do not generally choose bold new actions. They go for the things that will make them feel comfortable and unchanged, even if only a bit, for as long as possible.
Maybe that’s what the Coalition got that exactly right.
So where does that leave us?
In the absence of such massive failure on climate and energy policy by our federal politicians, a stance re-endorsed almost immediately by Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg, how do the rest of us get out of bed in the morning to fight the good fight?
The thing about humanity is that it’s highly inventive.
Sadly, most voters don’t get to the see the good news we do. They don’t get to see the immense passion pouring out of people, from the grass roots to the very “top end of town”, because, selectively at least, the top end of town too is worried about the rising waters and rising temperatures.
They’re not receiving messages about alternative jobs, alternative economies and technologies that are hoping to curb rising emissions.
Yes, there’s the danger of hubris and head-in-the sand optimism but there’s also a case for action and hope.
At our event last week, Happy Healthy Offices, we once again felt that magic spirit when this industry comes together face to face.
It is amazing.
Come Monday morning and writing a little note to all the attendees at HHO19 it was suddenly obvious that business could be our next brilliant leaders.
Here at the event were big companies, not always but sometimes, acting boldly, wisely and bravely, and with the resources and clout to do so much more.
Sure they don’t get everything right and excellence anyway is hard won and rare. Even Leonardo Da Vinci had a stack of poor underperforming work in his portfolio. But what the shockingly bad painting did when he acknowledged it was spur him on to hard work and greatness.
This is a time to celebrate our leaders and encourage them. They are not our federal politicians. We will do far better with our state and local pollies. And with businesses.
There they were forging previously unimagined paths. Just a few years ago who would have predicted that Mirvac would have a huge urban farm on the roof of its buildings at Eveleigh? Many would have laughed. When Mirvac launched its “This Changes Everything” campaign with its massively ambitious climate and sustainability goals, (a campaign, we must say, dreamed up by our MC on the day Ben Peacock from Republic of Everyone) yep, there was a tad of scepticism.
Today most other big property companies have declared they are on the path to net zero carbon, and trying to outdo themselves and Mirvac.
Take a bow chief executive Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz. Nice to see Paul Edwards who led the program come back to take the stage at HHO last week to explain his current gig based around the power of experience and networking – the human side of sustainability.
And there was Lendlease that, for all the fallibilities that can beset any big burly organisation, continues to sometimes achieve brilliant leadership. The way Barangaroo works continues to unfold stunningly and the company’s Liam Timms thrilled the audience with his take.
Charter Hall and ISPT – same. Companies trying to outperform wherever they can.
So in writing out note of thanks it was suddenly more clear than ever before that taking the place of government now must be big business.
At the global institutional and financial end big business is fast coming to grips with the seriousness of the climate emergency. Anyone with a brain will agree (but may not admit it). And Australian Industry Group’s Innes Willox wasted no time in telling the re-elected government the whole world is moving to renewables and we need to get with the program.
Business needs to join with small government, state government and the many consultants, advisers and not for profits to set the agenda we want.
The feds are the true washouts of this climate election.
Let’s take charge.