On 1 July Australia saw the “carbon tax” came into effect, and the nation’s response has been telling.
To quote Gandhi:
A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.
And what hearts we have; what a culture we have made.
In less than 48 hours segments of the Australian media and public have gone into a frenzy of panic, fear mongering and denial:
Piers Ackerman in the Daily Telegraph claims the tax unnecessary because the science of climate chance is undecided:
Despite the bleating of the government’s shills, there is no scientific certainty about the causes of climate change.
The Earth has been much warmer with less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, warmer with more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
There is no concrete evidence that carbon dioxide is even a major climate determinant.
The constant claims of settled science have not led to any reassurance in science; they have led to an unprecedented distrust in scientific institutions, spurred largely by the disgraceful practices engaged in by contributors to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
No fact checking – Ackerman trots out a stunning series of falsehoods and lies.
It gets better.
This morning protestors converged on the steps of state Parliament houses in Victoria and New South Wales to protest the tax. Right-wing radio shock-jock Alan Jones made some startlingly claims about climate science:
About 2000 people marched from Hyde Park to Belmore Park to hear Bronwyn Bishop speak against the government’s Clean Energy Bill, while a much smaller group in Melbourne heard the broadcaster Alan Jones refer to climate change science as ”propaganda”.
”The notion of global warming is a hoax,” Jones told a group of about 150 people on the steps of the Victorian Parliament. ”This is witchcraft. Commonsense will tell you its rubbish; 97 per cent of all carbon dioxide occurs naturally … 3 per cent around the world is created by human beings.”
That’s right; climate change is “witchcraft”. Let’s roll back the Enlightenment and declare anything we don’t like sorcery.
“Won’t somebody think of the children!”
In addition to protecting the world from witches, tax protestors are deeply concerned about our children:
Ms Bishop and a Liberal MP, Craig Kelly, repeated the opposition’s line that MPs would swear a ”blood oath” to repeal the carbon price legislation immediately after the next federal election, should the Coalition win government.
Mr Kelly also accused the government of using ”fear tactics”.
”The worst thing that they’re doing is that they’re scaring our kids,” he said.
The protests were far smaller than last year’s rallies in support of a carbon price, but there was no shortage of placards.
The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, was depicted as a Soviet army officer and a snake-haired Medusa, while there was also a sprinkling of other banners and signs referring to ”illegals” and ”boat people”.
Obviously the worst thing about climate change is it might scare the kids. And of course, conservative politicians continue to pledge a “blood oath” to repeal the tax.
Whatever the merits (or lack thereof) of the carbon tax, the response of the Australian media and large segments of the public has been telling.
When compared to the vast majority of our fellow human beings on the planet, the average Australian enjoy advantages in education, careers, entertainment, peace and security, access to consumer goods and travel opportunities that make our lifestyle the envy of the world.
And yet as extreme weather events escalate across the globe and temperatures continue to rise most Australians are in a state of panic about having to spend a few extra cents in the dollar after being compensated in billions of tax breaks.
The debate on climate change has revealed the soul of our nation. And now that our national soul has been laid bare, all I can do is but weep.
Stop one heart from breaking
Despite this, I will not dwell in despair.
I take comfort in the fact that I am not alone.
Across the globe there is a community of activists, bloggers, scientists and citizens concerned about the state of the environment. Millions of equally passionate, committed and concerned individuals who collectively through word of mouth, Twitter, blogs, YouTube, Facebook have a voice.
Thus there is one thing we can do today to counter the fear and panic being spread by conservative politicians and the Murdoch press in Australia: we can tell our fellow Australians “It will be OK”.
We can push back and tell the media and the organised campaign of deceit and denial by saying we will not succumb to fear.
The poet Emily Dickinson wrote about the experience of overcoming grief:
If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.
Nothing will have been in vain should you tell one other person that the neither carbon tax or climate change is the end of the world.
Yes – the scale of the present environmental crisis seems daunting and the vested interest groups too powerful.
But to quote Gandhi:
A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.
I’ve told you: now go tell someone else.