You might get a couple of good laughs out of Willow’s story on the preppers this week. These are the people preparing for all sorts of catastrophes from meteors to pandemics.
One laugh might be because they are so extreme and silly, but the other might be a tad on the nervy side because though many don’t mention climate change, they probably should.
The piece is a must read at least for the telling information that one outdoors retailer in NSW’s Southern Highlands has 2000 customers a month – quite a few educated urban professionals… and who are preppers.
In our Spinifex OpEd column Jack Haber calls on Aussie architects to follow their US counterparts in declaring a climate emergency. He’s picking up on this growing movement initiated by the UK government (of all things), pressured by the now unrelenting Extinction Rebellion movement which is now spreading to places such as Brisbane where regular commuters are more than a bit annoyed by fake dead people trying to sound a warning about our future.
So people are increasingly taking the urgency of climate action seriously.
But as Willow asked, if you declare the emergency, what then? For architects and engineers the next step might be resilient design that does no harm to the planet or people. For governments and local councils there might be some new policies enacted.
Campaigners and activists and ordinary folk who for years have brought their hearts and minds to improve climate responses and sustainability wherever they can, might be feeling a little more fragile right now.
All around there is bleak news.
Especially after the crushing report from ABC Four Corners this week that the Feds enabled scandalous rip offs of our tax payer funds – around $4 billion in Commonwealth funds handed over to irrigators, which has allowed them to expand their operations and use more water under a scheme that’s meant to recover water for the rivers. While a company called Webster Ltd gets $41 million from the scheme “to grow its empire in the Murrumbidgee Valley, in south-west New South Wales, where it has bought hundreds of square kilometres of land.”
Especially when you can almost hear the same glee that the Russian oligarchs must have uttered when Putin opened the doors to government vaults and said, “help yourself”.
Especially with the even greater crushing news that our journalists are no longer protected with notions of freedom of the press and police can wade through ABC newsrooms and for eight hours pore (or paw) through the personal possessions of a NewsCorp journalist including her underwear drawer.
While the world looks on horrified that a country such as Australia is giving open fiat there are even more fierce regimes to follow suit.
We hear the NSW government is considering the same facial recognition system that just six months ago horrified us all when we learnt China had adopted it.
All technology starts with good intentions, we heard at our last event.
So how do the good people fighting the good fight stay sound and resilient in the face of all this?
These are the people we rely on to be so annoying to some of us that they finally generate social and political change for the benefit of most of us.
We need those people to be resilient and to stay sound.
How do they resist a sense of failure?
Running away as the preppers do is not an option.
Our future leaders, the young of today, have better ideas.
A few weeks ago The Fifth Estate was asked to be part of Women4Climate mentoring program run by The City of Sydney for a crop of emerging young female leaders in the climate and sustainability space.
Among the mentors are empowering women such as Gabrielle Kuiper, Lucy Sharman, Sarah Hill, Preeti Bajaj, Kim Mckay, Monica Richter, Romilly Madew, Blair Palese, Jacki Johnson, Siobhan Toohill, Emma Herd, Ronni Kahn, Natalie Isaacs. (If you don’t know these women look them up; they are serious movers and shakers. So yes, humbled, lots)
The mentees were likewise impressive and it’s clear there is no lack of talent coming up behind. But wisdom too, it turns out. During a selection interview we were introduced to Jacqueline Fetchet, a lawyer from Herbert Smith Freehills, with background and drive in activism that’s rare to see, including National Youth Delegate UNFCCC 21st Conference of the Parties and a project leader for Renewable Cities Young Ambassador, a network she founded to deliver workshops, training and events in the renewables sector.
After so much action and at such a young age, Jacqueline is acutely aware of the disappointment that followed the signing of the Paris agreement in 2015. She mentioned she’d like one of her future programs to involve working on how to foster a sense of resilience among climate activists.
After the Paris agreement, she said in a phone call later, “There was a lot of hope we would have this dramatic pivot and everything would fall into place.
“It symbolised a huge achievement. There was a palpable collective exhale.”
Not any more. In the face of growing disappointment, including the US pulling out of the agreement and Australia wanting to go the same way, it’s yet another call on activists to dig even deeper within themselves to continue that battle.
For some, it could be too much.
The climate change movement has been forced to consistently shift its rhetoric and having to reposition itself in the face of adversity and is “constantly having to fight for a seat at the table”.
A problem is that language of urgency and emergency is real and key but instead of focusing on what’s still to do, perhaps it’s more useful to focus on what’s already been achieved.
“Rather than think that’s a failed outcome, let’s acknowledge the wins and that we’re on the right track,” Jacqueline said.
“If anything it’s shown me that there are so many more avenues for action than politics. There are so many conversations being ignited in so many more spaces than they were a year ago – in schools, in business, in the C suite, in the state government and with local councils and subsequently at the individual level.”
Think about the massive 1 Million Women movement (getting very close to its target ) or the ABC’s War on Waste and the impact that’s had, she says.
“My message would be one of patience.”
We need to recalibrate, she says.
It’s a very different message to take to a sector that’s always heard of urgency and emergency, but it’s one worth considering.
Scott Ludlam former Greens senator and now agitator at large has tackled a similar topic in the current issue of The Monthly focusing on the Extinction Rebellion. He shows that it’s precisely unrelenting movements such as these that create change. But it takes time and these movements are often pushed back over and over by the status quo before they succeed.
“But the darker the skies become, and the more our representatives refuse to take steps to keep people safe, the more the political pressure will build,” he says.
Direct action has been absolutely critical to many wins.
“The great question of our time is: how much longer will people quietly submit to the calculated ruination of the world?”
He has a warning:
As long ago as 2017, federal MP George Christensen sought to conflate anti-Adani advocacy with acts of terrorism. “Some activists threaten lives, including their own,” he told parliament. “Such action meets the definition of terrorism in the criminal code.” While most would recoil at this hyperbole, there is no doubt that protesters and campaigners who choose to spend time on the frontline are stepping willingly into a confrontation with their own government.
And he says:
Nonviolent movements have a vastly improved chance of success over those that pursue armed struggle or terror tactics, including under authoritarian regimes where the consequences of even peaceful dissent can be life threatening.
….you don’t need everybody: you only need about 3.5 per cent of the population to achieve a critical mass of sustained popular noncompliance.
Ludlam says the movement is building and quoting an activist says, it’s maintaining its resilience partly on the “regenerative culture part of Extinction Rebellion – the idea that we all take care of each other.”
“Before I joined AYCC I felt powerless; I didn’t think that government and people in power were doing anything to solve these issues. I didn’t know that we could have the power to change things,” another activist tells him.
Ludlam has a message for the built environment and our politicians.
“In showing up for the fight in this crucial decade, this growing civil resistance is buying time for the engineers, the planners, the architects, the diplomats and, yes, the politicians, to do their fucking jobs: to turn the ship of state before the damage is irreversible.”
And the activists? “They’ll be less activists when things are less shit.”