News from the front desk 453: It’s an indictment of Australian politics that some politicians are in a thundering state of outrage over plans for businesses and students to attend #ClimateStrike events tomorrow.
While the land burns. While the water runs dry in country towns and firefighters must stand by and watch houses razed to the ground rather than consume the last drops of drinking water. While farmers everywhere are suffering to the point of despair. While climate disasters accelerate in all corners of the globe and getting closer every day. And while even the rhetoric by climate deniers has shifted from whether or not the climate emergency is happening to whose fault it is.
Who cares whose fault it was when you’ve lost a leg in a car accident?
Business and investment is smart and more names are flooding to the online sites where they can make a public commitment and declare their support for the strike.
The roll call is impressive. We started our list with Julie Hirogyen who heads up the UK GreenBuilding Council, posting her video encouraging her staff and all her members to go out on strike. We decided to keep a tally. There’s Investa, first real estate investment trust to commit, GoGet Carshare, Australian Institute of Architecture, GWA Consultants Australia, Luigi Rosselli Architects, Mercer Responsible Investment, The Economist (well not in Sydney, but supporting all this with a special issue dedicated to climate), Encycle Consulting, ADP Consulting, Verdia, Domain, Planning Institute of Australia, Bank Australia, Ben & Jerrys and Canva. Check out the full list.
Meanwhile the government seems to feel an intensifying heat of its own as it sees BHP and other big corporates call for more action on climate. (Macquarie Group was on the front page of one newspaper last week simply saying that’s where all the money is). Stop virtue signalling, say the pollies and pals in shock jock land. Stick to your bottom line, says assistant minister to the Prime Minister Ben Morton.
It fears no doubt that these important voices will empower more to follow. But how galling it is for these giants of industry living and working in a free market economy that a government that claims to stand for the same free market tells them how to do their business.
Businesses exist to meet their customers’ needs (not those of government) and last time we looked, the customer is always right. And right now growing numbers of customers want action on climate change, more sustainability and an end to the plastic atom bombs clouding our land, air and sea.
The same pollies who are so vociferous that business and school kids should stay away from the strikes are the same pollies that hold lengthy lunchtime networking events and fundraisers. No mention of productivity loss here. Pretty much a whole city shuts down for a horse race: no problem. Or the Queens birthday for that matter: no problem.
But when Atlassian says it will support staff to step out in defence of our species ability to live on this planet, it’s just not on.
Atlassian boss Mike Cannon-Brookes told The AFR the economic impact of climate change is “coming at us like a freight train”.
He pointed to a CEDA survey released just days ago that shows the public expect corporates to be about more than profit – it expects environmental and social issues to be taken seriously.
The myth this is somehow a fringe concern needs to be busted big-time.
It’s almost ludicrous how worked up some are getting in their opposition to the whole concept of peaceful public protest calling for a cleaner, saner economy and society.
Just two hours. At lunchtime. On a Friday. To speak up for the need for all governments – ours included – to get serious about tackling the climate emergency. Why does that idea make so many conservatives lose their minds?
The NSW government’s Department of Education has been in the news stating that students who leave school or skip school to participate, even with parental permission, will be punished.
Apparently any student not in classes on a school day will be marked absent and unexplained absences may be subject to the schools disciplinary code. Even parental explanation and permission may not be legit, as many schools would mark this an “unauthorised absence” as in not authorised by the school under their policies.
By contrast, many of Sydney’s top private schools have come out in support of students taking action.
But here’s an odd thing – if a student is really good at sport, and misses school to take part is a sporting event, that’s fine. Thing is there’s no cricket on a dead planet.
The Department needs to get with the program.
Parents, aunties, uncles, grandparents, carers and generally concerned adults are answering the student call for worker solidarity.
Some of the teachers are too. Charles Sturt University this week told staff and students there will be no penalties for attending the #ClimateStrike actions.
School districts in New York, USA, are excusing students to attend. In Montreal, Canada, some academic institutions cancelled classes altogether.
In Victoria, the Andrews government announced that Victorian public servants can use “flexible work arrangements” to swap their desks for the street to attend events in Victoria.
A spokesman for the Victorian education department said that while it doesn’t want students missing school, “we want our kids to be engaged in the world around them, so we don’t think it’s fair to criticise students for holding a peaceful protest about an issue as important as this.”
“We should celebrate the fact they care enough to want to do something about it.”
Greens MP Adam Bandt paraphrased the late Bob Hawke on Monday when he tweeted “Any boss who sacks anyone for not turning up to work on Friday is a bum.”
Hawkie was talking about celebrating an yacht race. Sport again. Same with a day off for the AFL grand final, and half the country downs tools for the Melbourne Cup.
Around the world, the influencers are the new sports fans. New twitter handles have emerged from Google Workers for Action on Climate, Amazon Workers for Climate Justice and Facebook Employees for Climate Action.
In the climate emergency the power is shifting our way.
As Carl Sagan has said:
“Anything else you’re interested in is not going to happen if you can’t breathe the air & drink the water. Don’t sit this one out. Do something. You are by accident of fate alive at an absolutely critical moment in the history of our planet.”