After the climate rallies — taking stock

June 21, 2009 at 9:29 am Leave a comment

4000 rallied in Melbourne on June 13

4000 rallied in Melbourne on June 13

Below is an assessment of the impact of the Climate Emergency rallies held across Australia on June 13 from Green Left Weekly.

About 11,000 rallied. Read a summary of the actions here.

Melbourne based ecosocialist Ben Courtice has a very useful Biopsy of our movement on his blog – BCC words.


After the climate rallies — taking stock

Simon Butler

We would have loved for them to be bigger, but the June 13 national climate rallies were an unmistakable step forward for the climate action movement. More than 11,000 rallied nationally, making them the largest climate actions yet in the era of PM Kevin Rudd.

The protests’ key demands to scrap the government’s flawed emissions trading scheme, create hundreds of thousands of green jobs and for 100% renewable energy by 2020 received widespread media coverage and forced the government to respond.

Climate change minister Penny Wong told the media: “What many of these people are calling for simply can’t be done.”

Our movement’s response — that the renewable energy technology already exists and continuing with business-as-usual is really not possible — got a powerful national hearing.

2009 has been a year of growth and development for the movement. January’s Climate Action Summit was the first meeting of its kind and signalled the birth of a new climate protest movement.

The decentralised actions outside MPs’ offices around the country in March were not massive. But they were still double the size of the actions held in December upon the release of the Rudd government’s miserable target of 5% emissions cuts by 2020.

There are now about 250 climate action groups active in Australia. Up to 20,000 people are linked to these groups in some way. Although the level of activity varies a lot between and within these groups, this is a solid base to build upon.

What must be on the mind of most activists, however, is that — given the looming climate crisis — is the movement growing fast enough?

General awareness about climate change is more widespread than at any previous time. But the depth of this knowledge is still shallow. Most people who are genuinely worried about climate change still do not fully understand the nearness of climate tipping points.

The cynical role of the Labor government goes a long way to explaining this disconnect. In the past 18 months, we’ve shifted from the outright climate change denial of the former Howard Coalition government to a colossal greenwashing campaign under Rudd.

The government has set up an entire new ministry, and an elaborate and complicated emissions trading scheme, in a ploy to give the impression they are taking serious action. They are not. This has had an impact on many of the people we need to draw into our movement.

Future actions this year — the climate camps in September and October, non-violent direct action protests, mass rallies during the Copenhagen conference on climate change in December — must be organised to reach out to, involve and convince more of these people.

The demand for 100% renewable energy by 2020 was questioned by some outside, and inside, the movement as too radical. The strength of this call, however, is simply that it is as radical as the reality we face.

Now that we have started to campaign around this demand and given it national prominence there can be no going backwards .

June 13 was a solid beginning. But it was only a beginning of meeting the greatest, most threatening challenge of our times.

Most of all we need to keep building the movement and we need to keep putting the movement first. Last year, US ecologist Lester Brown summed up the era well: “If you like challenges, there’s no greater time to be alive.”

[Simon Butler is a member of the Socialist Alliance and was part of the organising committee for the Sydney June 13 rally.]

1500 mobilised in Adelaide

1500 mobilised in Adelaide


Entry filed under: climate movement, Climate protest.

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