“Power abdicates only under counter-power” – Martin Buber
While some may not view it these terms, Graham Readfearn’s article on the real possibility of climate sceptics assuming power both federally and in most states is a call to arms:
Anyone who places any stock in safeguarding the current and future climate (and for that matter anyone who doesn’t) should prepare themselves for the risk that very soon, climate science deniers, contrarians and sceptics will be running the show.
All the polls suggest that the Liberal-led Coalition will sweep to power at next year’s Federal election. Current Liberal leader Tony Abbott, if we care to remember, once described climate change as “crap“.
As I noted in the articles “Locking in the March of folly” (Part 1 and Part 2), conservative governments and vested interests across the country are in the process of opening up new coal mines, gutting climate change programs, ripping up “green tape”, firing public servants and buying up the media.
What we are seeing is a counter-reformation: in short an attack on the last 50 years of progressive politics, government regulation and even secularisation. It is nothing more than a campaign of revenge against those that dare question the privileged world view of the few.
They have looked for the enemy, and have seen us: progressives, liberals, greens, the LGBT community, indigenous Australians, the irreligious and scientists.
We have dared (dared!) to suggest the ethical circle of concern be drawn ever more broadly to include not just women, gays and minorities but even non-human species. Perhaps even the planet itself.
This may explain the cause of the barely comprehensible rage that finds expression in the denial movement, anti-gay marriage stance of conservatives and resurgent right-wing parties of Europe.
From the rage of the Tea Party against “leftist elites’ and News Corporations relentless war on the mildly progressivecentre right Gillard government, the politics of hate and division seem to rule.
This in turn lead has led to a sense of defeat or deflation amongst those fighting to preserve a livable climate: “Why cant the public see what’s happening?”
As recent polling suggests, concern for climate change and environmental issues amongst the Australian public has declined. It would seem a few decent rain showers that have filled some damns and angst over the “carbon tax” has turned many into climate agnostics: in essence, they may accept that the climate is changing, but they’re going to hold off supporting policies designed to mitigate climate change and its impacts.
So if the deniers hold the levers of power – as Readfearn has pointed out – and the public has no appetite for action and prefers the safe, warm media bubble of Master Chef and endless home renovation projects what can we – should– do?
Firstly, contemplate the use of counter power.
Keeping the wolves at bay
A good start is Tim Gee’s “Counter power: making change happens” which explains the basic concepts and provides examples:
“No major campaign has ever been successful without Counter power – the power that the ‘have-nots’ can use to remove the power of the ‘haves’. This is examined by investigating the history and tactics of the suffrage movement, the labour movement, the anti-war movement, the anti-colonial movement, the environmental movement and today’s human rights and anti-globalisation movement. In the context of the financial crisis and the threat of climate change, engagement in system critical social movements is on the increase…”
Secondly, consider how the now disparate and deflated activist, scientific and other communities can work together far more effectively.
Within Australia the number of those actively engaged in politics or supportive of environmental activism, science, atheism, and social justice would be in the hundreds of thousands – if not millions.
Over a million voted for the Greens: there is part of our base. Over 22% of Australians have no religious preference – the fastest growing “faith” (or lack thereof) in the country. The politics of those under 30 are in direct opposition to the frightened old men that staff the ranks of the Liberal-National Party. There are more, so many more.
Call it the Coalition of the Rational: those who value the truth, and wish to see public policies formulated in response to what science, reason and compassion tell us.
We can be the twenty-first century’s civil rights movement, its suffragette’s and Abolitionists. We can follow in the steps of the ANC and Indian Congress. Should we not continue the tradition of these social movements?
Could we not?
The evolution of these movements can be traced from William Wilberforce, Thomas Paine, Emily Pankhurst, Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Rachel Carson to you. Yes, you.
What the coalition of the rational can demand, and why
Distilled, our demands are simple:
- a livable climate for us and our children 
- equality and justice broader than just economic opportunities
- transparency and accountability in politics
We fighting not just to save the climate: we wish to preserve those core values that have found expression across the centuries in disperse projects such as The Enlightenment, the Civil Rights Movement and gay rights.
Each of these battles were fought – and won – over the span generations. And yet the environmental crisis and the conservative counter-reformation are putting all of this at risk. There is more to this fight than preventing the mass die off species and loss of habitats (though these are tragedies).
The disruptive effects of climate change on our society, economy and infrastructure will test the tolerance and resilience of nations and by extension billions of individuals.
That should be of concern: all too often the Old Russian proverb, “Man is wolf to man”, has proven to be true. The only true competitor to Homo sapiens is Homo sapiens.
But the wolves can be kept in check: the worst and most disruptive effects of climate change and its impact can be mitigated.
Perhaps it is too late the stem the brute physics and chemistry of climate change.
But it is never too late to change minds and win hearts by building a culture based on the values of compassion, rationality and equality.
 And their children, and those that follow…