If I could stop one heart from breaking: carbon tax greeted with gnashing of teeth, claims of witchcraft and blood oaths


The face of denial: anti-carbon tax protestor in Sydney (source: The Age)


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.

5 thoughts on “If I could stop one heart from breaking: carbon tax greeted with gnashing of teeth, claims of witchcraft and blood oaths

  1. Lowy – a name you can / can’t trust – says 63% of Aussies are denying that we need a carbon tax to start to reduce excessive atmospheric CO2 and I say 60 % “deniers” and 40% “renewers” seems about right anywhere and everywhere in the world.
    As always a carbon tax is the litmus test – BC Canada seems to have survived its carbon tax okay. says a recent report by the green leaning pembina institute…..

  2. uknowispeaksense says:

    Alan Jones referring to climate science as witchcraft reminds me of the coke bottle in the movie “The Gods Must be Crazy”. The desire amongst the scientific illiterates to cast it in an evil light and throw it over the edge of the Earth must be very strong. Then I remembered a recent post at my favourite denier blog that suggested Hollywood was in the big conspiracy making movies to brainwash people into leftist thinking. I wonder how the deniers felt about “The Gods Must be Crazy”? I wonder if, in laughing at the ignorance of the Kalihari bushmen, they were able to relate on some level. Somehow I doubt it. Wilful ignorance applies to self examination as well with that lot.

    • Stuart Mathieson says:

      They obviously never saw the movies that came out in the 50s and 60s in which the support of the American military was explicitly acknowledged. Mind you the trailer park fraternity wouldn’t be seen dead attending movies that critiqued the Pentagon line. There will always be candidates to swallow the official line. They didn’t queue up for Vietnam out of poverty, they wanted to shoot coons! Thus people concerned about environmental impacts and global warming can easily be characterised as “leftist”. In the late 20th it was “Reds under the bed”.

      • uknowispeaksense says:

        They probably do remember and wish for the good old days when they made proper movies…before the queers took over Hollywood. Much the same way as they wish for the good old days when in America you could chuck a bedsheet over your head and hunt down the Obamas and in Australia “kicking coons” was a national pasttime.

  3. What I find amazing in this “debate” is that the 5% emissions reduction target is bipartisan.

    (For any international readers of this blog, Australia’s major Conservative Party is called the Liberal Party. They are not liberal in any sense that an American would understand, in fact they are the Australian equivalent of the US Republicans.)

    Here is a quotation from the Liberal Party Environment and Climate Change policy: “A Coalition Government will support direct action on climate change to reduce Australian CO2
    emissions by five per cent by 2020, while at the same time delivering real environmental benefits.”

    Here is the source of the quote: http://www.liberal.org.au/~/media/Files/Policies%20and%20Media/Environment/The%20Coalitions%20Direct%20Action%20Plan%20Policy%20Web.ashx

    Page 6 contains a long section on “The Coalition’s Strong Record on Climate Change”.

    If we take notice of written party policy rather than hysterical posturing the issue comes down to an economic one: “What is the most efficient way to meet the bipartisan 5% reduction target”. The Liberal response is to set up a large government department which they call Direct Action. The ALP approach is to use an Emissions Trading Scheme supplemented by some government initiatives. It is very hard to find economists that think the Liberal Party approach is superior to the ALP approach.

    I would have thought that the Conservatives supporting a “socialist” approach while the “left” supporting a market based approach would be an interesting story for the Media to tell. It looks though that the Australian media is only concerned with hysterical sloganeering.

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