We demand innovation of businesses.
We demand courage of our politicians.
We demand of ourselves… not so much.
First, let me say this: I’m glad the “Say Yes” rally in Adelaide happened, and the organisers deserve applause and thanks. They didn’t have a lot of time or money, and they pulled it off.
Opportunities like today – a chance to see that plenty of other people are concerned (despite what you’d believe if you thought the Murdoch press reflected reality) – are valuable. We need occasionally to go to the well to refill the leaky bucket of optimism and passion for climate action.
The event was short, sweet and.. not enough.
We have been doing rallies like this – on various issues be it (pro-peace, pro-tolerance, pro-planet) – for a long time. If they worked to build a movement that grew, learned, organised and won, then, well, we would Be “There” by now. But we’re not. (Footnote 1)
The rally followed an entirely predictable format. After some music, there was an entirely competent introduction, followed by three speeches of variable audibility and interest. [For what little it is worth, here's the speech I would have given.] Nobody said anything that the people attending didn’t already know or agree with. People had no opportunity to communicate what they didn’t know, what they thought could be done, what they wanted to happen next with the campaign for a climate safe Australia (which is a much bigger issue than just a carbon tax/emissions trading scheme)
So here are some questions
Why gather 2000 people who have knowledge, ideas, passion and commitment and have them listen to 30 minutes of music and 30 minutes of speeches telling them what they already know
Why gather 2000 people and disempower them by having them listen for an hour, as if they are simply empty vessels to be filled? Or sheep to be shepherded? I am sure that the organisers do not think that, but their actions create that impression. I looked at the faces of people during the speeches, and many seemed bored and irritated. That’s not the way to enthuse and engage and encourage.
How many of those who attended the rally will be able to tell a mildly skeptical friend or neighbour “yeah, it was exciting and inspiring, you should come next time.” (That, to me, is a key definition of success.)
Why not give permission to people to mingle and meet with those stood around them. How else are we to create the loose networks of people across the city?
Why not structure some of the hour so that all the people who are teachers, or health care professionals or students could gather in different parts of the park, just to exchange names and details.
Why not structure some of the hour so that people from different parts of the city could mingle based on where they live. For example, when I was walking down my street about to start putting the “conversation” letters in post-boxes, I met someone who had also been at the rally, and we had a really useful conversation. That was a happy accident. The organisers of the rally could have created many more of those happy accidents.
Why not have a a space after the rally where people who have questions about the science of climate change could talk with experts face to face, and get impromptu lessons. It would make people feel more confident in their (inevitable) dealings with the small number of vocal denialists. It would give the experts valuable experience.
Why not have a “suggestions box” so that people can submit their contact details and ideas for what the movement could be doing to improve its power?”
Why not have an agreed post-rally meeting place for those who want to talk more over a coffee or a sandwich?
Why not have a “video booth” where people can record brief comments that could then be posted on youtube, showing just how many people outside the “latte-drinking inner-city professionals” demographic want action.
So, it’s good that the rally happened. But if we keep on as we have been keeping on these last 30 years or more, then we are not going to “win”
Next up – an analysis piece on the Dangers Ahead… (betcha can’t wait).
If you’re really time-rich with a high tolerance for shockingly clumsy graphics, see these videos
From Cannon-Fodder to Ego Fodder
Meetings from Above
Footnote 1: For good (IMHO) analyses of the state of the Australian climate movement, see these two recently articles.
The first is from the latest “Chain Reaction,” by Holly Creenaune, a member of Friends of the Earth Sydney.
“Bad policy aside, it’s the debate – or lack of it – that is the real problem. The public cannot participate in a discussion about a perfect price or the market that could work magic: the debate is inaccessible, ignores concerns about justice, and is not relevant to our daily lives. We’ve been stuck for decades in a media and policy vacuum of neoliberal market mechanisms and a contest over complex science. Real solutions, community voices, or the elephant in the room – our coal exports – are locked out. It suits government and industry to keep the debate on this limited terrain – but we desperately need to build a message and a movement that can reject false solutions like carbon trading, halt privatisation of energy infrastructure, and put forward new ideas.”
The second is by Anna Rose, one of the founders of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (a more mainstream lobbying outfit – sort of like “Stop Climate Chaos,” only effective.)
“But the time has come to be honest. We are failing because as a whole the Australian environment movement does not understand power, has not built power, and has failed to effectively exercise the power we have built.
“To win campaigns we have to make it harder for those in power to continue with business as usual than it is for them to give into our demands. Yet currently, it’s easier or politicians to continue with business as usual, and to give in to the demands of industry lobbyists from the coal, gas, mining, aluminium, cement and electricity generation industries — everyone, that is, except us.”