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Hamilton: a new brand of environmental radicalism

Never has an effective environment movement been more necessary. In fact it is the only force standing between us and massive climate disruption. While environmentalism has had some very substantial successes, all of the gains are now jeopardised.

The difficulty and importance of the global warming campaign is many times greater than every other struggle. Eliminating carbon pollution requires a wholesale industrial restructuring and defeat of the most powerful industry coalition ever assembled. The ruthlessness of big carbon is known to all those who have watched the “greenhouse mafia” at work. Its influence is apparent in the draconian laws against climate protests passed in Victoria, urged by Martin Ferguson and under consideration in other states.

When I think about the state of environmentalism in Australia I keep coming back to the events of May 3,  2009, because what happened on that day encapsulates the impotence of the environment movement in this country.

The Rudd government’s emissions trading policy — the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme — had been coming under heavy attack from everyone concerned about climate change both for its feeble targets and the obscene giveaways to the worst polluters. But the government sensed that the environment movement could be split.

After a high-pressure meeting in Canberra, in which the government dangled the carrot of a 25% cut in Australia’s emissions, the Southern Cross Climate Coalition — comprising the ACF, WWF, the Climate Institute, ACOSS, and ACTU — agreed to support the government’s scheme.

How could major environment groups back a scheme that was so compromised and inadequate to the task — a scheme that handed out billions of dollars to coal-fired power plants, endorsed a strong future for the coal industry, allowed offshore compliance and would deliver, according to Treasury, no reductions in Australia’s emissions until 2035? All this was agreed by the ACF, WWF and the Climate Institute in exchange for a hypothetical 25% cut in emissions that Blind Freddy could see was never going to be delivered.

I think there are three reasons that explain how these groups could support such a travesty.

First, like most Australians some environmentalists find it hard to accept what the climate scientists are really saying. They do not believe, in their hearts, that things could be as bad as the science indicates. Like all of us, they are prone to filter the science to rob it of its sting, to engage in wishful thinking, and to cling to false hopes.

The second reason is the spread of incrementalism. The tension between radicalism and gradualism has defined progressive politics for two centuries, but the victory of free-market ideology in the 1980s saw political radicalism pushed to the very fringes. As the main parties converged on neoliberalism, many NGOs abandoned their interest in a different type of society and came to believe that incremental change to the existing system was the only path.

The third reason for the failure of mainstream environmentalism lies in the professionalisation of environmental activism over the past two decades. Within the main political parties professionalisation has seen a sharp decline in party membership and the rise of a “political class” of career politicians, staffers, spin doctors and apparatchiks. Mass parties have gone and patronage has replaced ideological difference.

Some environmental NGOs have conformed to this new landscape. The “political class” have become the new targets of their activities. To get to them NGOs have felt the need to employ all of the techniques of lobbying and media management that industry groups have perfected. So they become dominated by people with lobbying and media skills, and the conservative political outlook that goes with it.

In other words, they become insiders, remote from their members (or like the Climate Institute with no members at all yet treated as part of the environment movement) and whose attention is focused overwhelmingly on powerful political players and journalists. And as they become more distant from their members they pay more and more attention to their big donors, rarely known for their radicalism.

As insiders they are subject to all of the pressures and inducements the powerful can mobilise. They can have access to ministers, be consulted, and see their opinions reported in the press. In short, they can become “players”. It’s intoxicating.

These three forces — the penchant for wishful thinking, political incrementalism and the professionalisation of NGOs — came together to enable ACF, WWF and the Climate Institute to endorse a policy that, as a response to the gargantuan threat of global warming, was a mockery. Yet the government could now say “major environment groups back our plan”.

In contrast to the capitulation of those groups, it is important to point out that Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and several smaller groups did not succumb to the pressures and could see with clarity that the deal was hopelessly compromised.

Because of the failure of the big groups — either because (such as ACF) they have become conservative, or because the old campaigning methods have run out of steam — new, grassroots organisations have sprung up in recent times. For example, Climate Action Groups, the Australian Youth Climate Coalition and Rising Tide are trying to reinvent activism, and more power to them.

***

It is perhaps no surprise that the most obviously political segment of the environment movement, the Australian Greens, should have been most implacably opposed to the milksop responses to the climate crisis put forward by the main parties.

The Greens’ genuine radicalism — based on a willingness to confront the full facts of climate science and a deep understanding of how power works in this country — separates them from the incrementalism and opportunism that dominates segments of the environment movement. That is why the Greens rejected the CPRS as an utterly inadequate response. The barrage of attacks on the Greens for that decision reflects outrage at the party’s refusal to go along with the power structure, to play the game whose rules are set by the established order.

The most committed defenders of the established order are also those who most fear the Greens — the “greenhouse mafia”, the right-wing ideologists of the Liberal Party, and their apologists in the media. The editorial offices of The Australian are a hot spot of Greens’ hatred, but we should at least thank editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell for declaring so candidly that his paper wants to see the Greens “destroyed”.

In general, conservatives understand environmentalism better than most environmentalists. They see it as a profound threat to the structure of the world they are committed to — the world of free-market capitalism, limited government, unlimited consumption, and the subordination of nature.

Against this, much of the environment movement has no real political understanding of the world. They mistake the superficial argy-bargy dished up by the daily news media for political analysis, and do not truly comprehend the forces they are ranged against. They see environmentalism as merely wiping away the blemishes on the prevailing system, rather than challenging it. And until environmentalism fully grasps its historic mission, it will continue to be found wanting in its greatest test.

So we urgently need a new environmental radicalism; one built firmly on a full confrontation with climate science and its meaning; one that understands the need to defeat big carbon rather than seek a detente with it; one that resists pressure to conform to the prevailing political structure.

We need a new environmental radicalism made up of those willing to put their bodies on the line; because no one ever achieved radical social change by being respectable.

This is an extract of a speech delivered at the Sustainable Living Festival as part of the debate Environmentalism is Failing.

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  • 1
    dragonista
    Posted Tuesday, 22 February 2011 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    In the interests of transparency, perhaps Dr Hamilton should have revealed that he used to be Chairman of the Climate Institute?

  • 2
    Mark Duffett
    Posted Tuesday, 22 February 2011 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    …much of the environment movement has no real political understanding of the world. They mistake the superficial argy-bargy dished up by the daily news media for political analysis, and do not truly comprehend the forces they are ranged against. They see environmentalism as merely wiping away the blemishes on the prevailing system, rather than challenging it.

    That cuts both ways, though. If many environmentalists truly, fully understood the implications of what they profess to advocate - “a profound threat to the structure of…the world of free-market capitalism, limited government, unlimited consumption, and the subordination of nature” - they might very well cease to be environmentalists.

  • 3
    D. John Hunwick
    Posted Tuesday, 22 February 2011 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    Once again Clive Hamilton has clarified the very heart of the problem. Our present way of life is unsustainable. Having been brought up in it it is extremely difficult to throw it off. To do that requires (for me at least) a group of others similarly disposed to confront, with the science, all those people and structures that are in the way. I would do it for my children and grandchildren and the protection of the biodiversity that enthralls me. Now that I am a declared environmental radical what do I do - stand in front of a coal train? I woud be far more motivated if I could communiate with others who felt th same as I do and not get hung up with all the sceptics that only want to delay any action.

  • 4
    Tony Kevin
    Posted Tuesday, 22 February 2011 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    First rate analysis from Clive. My own experience, of looking vainly for any intellectual feedback at all since 2009 to my book ”Crunch Time”’ , supports Clive’s clear-eyed conclusions about the self-referentialism and limited political vision what we quaintly call ‘the environmental movement’. He is right about the Greens too: they understand the ruthless politics of climate change as no one else does .

    Having said this, the Greens are going to have to compromise this year with Combet’s cautious policy incrementalism, if we are at last to get a carbon price system started in Australia. But at least Bob Brown and Christine Milne go into this tough negotiation with their eyes open.

    If anyone wants to confront with an unflinching clear eye what we face in this country if our profligate carbon-burning and coal-exporting ways continue unabated, try reading Chapter 11 of ”Crunch Time’ - the final chapter, entitled “Southern Australia 2060: drowning cities in a parched land”. With only a small degree of poetic licence, I visualise here a plausible future that awaits our grandchildren born today - if they are lucky.

  • 5
    wilful
    Posted Tuesday, 22 February 2011 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    All Hamilton has done here is profess his love of radicalism. He’s provided no evidence that it’s more effective, just that he likes it.

  • 6
    Scott
    Posted Tuesday, 22 February 2011 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think the world is ready for deep ecology, Clive. We are too anthropocentric. So when you preach your nihlistic manderings, you give up the centre, and hence, the ability to actually achieve change. Stay with the ecological modernisation and you might get somewhere.

  • 7
    Captain Planet
    Posted Tuesday, 22 February 2011 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for an insightful article, Clive. The world needs radicals like you at the moment. If nothing else, as I said to the Socialist Alliance at the last Federal Election, the truly radical environmental and political activists make the Greens and other, more mainstream organisations, look less radical and thereofore more palatable to the general populace. If you want to look skinny, hang around with fat people :)

    Seriously though, I realise this was a speech and so it is strong on the rhetoric, but a few qualifying statements would not go astray.

    An effective environmental movement, “is the only force standing between us and massive climate disruption”. All you had to do is insert “almost certainly” or “on the basis of the best evidence available” and this would be a reasonable statement instead of coming across as a rabid, staring fundamentalist. The fact that I happen to agree with you, doesn’t excuse you from the need to stick to statements of fact or carefully qualified opinions.

    Likewise, “the difficulty and importance of the global warming campaign is many times greater than every other struggle”. I don’t know about that. The struggles to eliminate poverty and war have proven to be somewhat difficult over the last few thousand years, and I personally believe they rival global warming in importance. That is not to say that global warming is not important, and I realise that both poverty and war will become more widespread in a warming world: but there is a clear cut mechanism for eliminating global warming, the same can’t be said of poverty and war. So, your statement is exaggerated and gives the strong impression (whether true or otherwise) that your personal mission has blinded you to the scope and severity of the multitudinous other problems facing humankind.

    Another problem facing humanity, which I frankly think far more difficult and far more important than the global warming campaign, is overpopulation. At the end of the day, the overpopulation problem is a precondition for the global warming problem, and in the long run I know which I believe is going to prove more intractable, and more devastating. We can generate electricity in different ways and restructure the world’s economy. We’ve undertaken similar political, engineering and logistical challenges before and succeeded. Try messing with the reproductive instinct of 7 billion people and see how far you get. When we solve the global warming problem (and we will, and your article is a valuable contribution to the mobilisation necessary to do so) we will be left with the next symptom to arise out of the underlying malaise of overpopulation. So, I can’t agree that the global warming problem somehow outranks all others.

  • 8
    Ern Malleys cat
    Posted Tuesday, 22 February 2011 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    Interesting points, but at the risk of sounding like Frank Campbell, I’m surprised the article didn’t mention any aspect of environment/alism but climate.
    This is obviously Clive’s special area of interest, but to not even acknowledge some of the other damage/challenges to our environment seems weird if he’s trying to rally the movement as a whole.

  • 9
    D. John Hunwick
    Posted Tuesday, 22 February 2011 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    Hi Scott, I remember reading “it is better to half right on time than to have the whole truth too late” MY concern is that NOW is the time - to delay will only make it worse. Do I have to bite my tongue and go with the incremental flow knowing full well (from an ecological poin of view) that nature as I know it will be lost to my grandchildren? How can a radical at least get a fair hearing when the messge is NOT what anyone wants to know?

  • 10
    Captain Planet
    Posted Tuesday, 22 February 2011 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    Clive has given a thoughtfull analysis of the underlying causes of the present ineffectiveness of the environmental movement at tackling climate change. The fact that the environmental movement is up against the most powerful, and motivated, collective of vested interests ever assembled, is contributing fairly strongly to that ineffectiveness, too.

    Clive’s comments calling for the reinvention of activism in a newer and more radical form may have a role to play, but I would urge caution. As Clive correctly pointed out, Greenpeace and the Greens never swerved in their dedication to achieving the outcomes that are necessary to tackle the climate change problem. Calls for a newer and more radical form of environmentalism than Greenpeace, are something I view with trepidation. If you get much more radical and interventionist than Greenpeace, you risk marginalising the entire movement, alienating the bulk of the populace from your cause and damaging the chances of success. The Greens, on the other hand, are an excellent example of an effective paradigm for successful change: It is easier to change the system from within.

    En Masse, people become engaged in, and support, radical movements for change when they perceive a clear and present threat to their personal wellbeing, or that of their close family. Witness the present movements in Libya, Egypt, Bahrain and elsewhere. The other things which are necessary, to galvanise large amounts of people to engage constructively in movements for radical change, is a widespread, realistic and shared vision for change, combined with a reasonable expectation of popular support, and a good chance of success. So far, the vision is widespread and realistic: It is not yet shared. There is very little perception of popular support for radical environmental activism, largely because people cannot yet perceive the clear and present threat.

    This is why I would advocate that clear and reasonable argument, persistent and engaged but less than radical, activism, is more likely to succeed than the radical brand Clive is calling for.

    We need the warm regard and willing support of the bulk of the populace, most of whom, by definition, have much more mainstream views than radical environmental activists.

    Clive says “no one ever achieved radical social change by being respectable”.

    Having attended several anti logging protests, I can tell you that the protesters who choose to look as outrageous and unorthodox as they possibly can, with huge dreadlocks, tattoos, piercings, and all the attendant counterculture paraphernalia, are as counterproductive to the cause as anything could possibly be. It reinforces the pre existing prejudice in many mainstream minds, that the “save the forests” movement consists of dirty feral dole bludgers.

    I would suggest that many movements for radical social change have been led and achieved by the most respectable means. I would point to Mohandas Ghandi as a fine example: A trained lawyer who advocated peace, non violence, and respect, all through his life, Ghandi achieved more far - reaching change in his lifetime than perhaps any other individual, ever.

    The movements in several of South America’s failed economies, whereby workers who have been made redundant from a collapsed business simply return to work the next day and run the factory as a socialist collective, are respectable in the extreme. These people aren’t burning the factory down, lynching the boss or trying to restructure the industrial system in their country: They’re just going to work and doing business. But the change they are achieving is profound.

    I would suggest we stand to gain more by persisting with a less than “radical” course of activism than that which Clive advocates. A Carbon Tax is just around the corner, thanks to the tireless and respectable efforts of the Greens, who are slowly but surely gaining the support of the mainstream. Remember, in movements for popular change, unless the majority support you, you won’t succeed.

  • 11
    boundbynature
    Posted Tuesday, 22 February 2011 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    Right - that means that there are almost no real advocates for the environment. Clive Hamilton’s analysis is accurate and the most worrying aspect of the story is that the media talks to well, the ACF and The Climate Institute! Too bad that the ACF signed onto water trading - the absolute death knell for agriculture and the environment alike. Too bad that The Climate Institute has absorbed all the oxygen otherwise breathed in by the smaller and often, very local environmental organisations. Too bad that the big players like the Macquarie Bank fund the major environmental groups, the very same bank involved in water privatisation and trading. So where too? Any activist knows that blockades can lead to arrest - simply because government (or the people) pay for the police (who are supposed to catch criminals not concerned citizens) to protect corporate interests that were once public assets. The real agenda? Corporatisation and privatisation of public assets and natural resources. The solution? Has to be a revolution from the ground up when people have had enough of governments and corporations conspiring together to rip the guts out of nature and cream the top off profits by small business or tax the life out ordinary Australians. So Clive - are you going to invite all the environmental minds and hearts in the nation to Parliament House Canberra where you will host the environmental revolution? Post the date on this blog.

  • 12
    ajm
    Posted Tuesday, 22 February 2011 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

    While I agree with Clive’s premise that quite radical action involving transformation of much of our economic and technological infrastructure is necessary (the only alternative being adaptation of an even larger size to live on the hotter planet), the environment movement needs to adopt a workable political strategy, which involves giving strong and unconditional support to one side of politics. In the old days, which I can unfortunately remember, there was never any doubt that the DLP would support the Liberal and National parties on all their other policies, and especially on forming government, in order to secure the DLP objective of crushing left wing influence. The result was 23 years of LN government. The environment movement will need to provide similar endorsement of Labor. At the moment they appear to be suggesting that Labor take all the risk of sacrificing incrementalism on the environment without a firm commitment from the Greens to back Labor governments. This doesn’t mean they have to like all of Labors policies on other matters but it does mean they have to commit to not holding the sword of Damocles over Labor’s head.

  • 13
    Stressed Chef
    Posted Tuesday, 22 February 2011 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

    Speaking as an economic liberal who really wants to address climate change (really! And there need be no contradiction), I think Clive’s stance is crazy and totally counterproductive. I recognize the need for passion, idealism and the drive for change - those people are necessary to provide the impetus to get big things done. But so are the people who are pragmatic and capable of compromise. The radical social change that Clive wants is, I think, irrelevant to solving the climate problem. Lots of people have pursued the overthrow of market capitalism over the years, and very little good has come of it. It’s the social democrats who have made actual progress now and then.

    Hitching the climate issue to anticapitalist reform is a recipe for failure. It’s just going to make a lot of unnecessary enemies and make Nick Minchin look like he was right all along. Climate change is something we can beat within the current political/economic system. I have no time for people who would rather wait for The Revolution than get their hands dirty with making effective change now.

  • 14
    Scott Grant
    Posted Tuesday, 22 February 2011 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    I think it takes all types. It is the extremes which define the middle. For too long the pro-market, pro-corporate, libertarian extreme has been dragging the so-called “center” to the right. For some reason, these people have decided that their interests are best served by denying the science of climate change. Many other people like to see themselves as taking a “middle ground” between perceived extremes. Even me. But I agree with Clive that we desperately need some genuine radicals to pull the debate back in the direction of reality, and in the process make The Greens look middle-of-the-road.

  • 15
    Captain Planet
    Posted Tuesday, 22 February 2011 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    @ AJM,

    I understand your position, and it is a politically pragmatic one in terms of one outcome (CO2 emissions reduction).

    The Greens, however, are not a one policy party, or even a single agenda party, as you alluded the DLP were (I would agree about the DLP). The Greens do not undertake politics as an exercise in political horse trading, where they compromised their principles on important issues in order to influence legislation which “matters” in a narrower policy sense. The Greens are not interested in relegating themselves to the sidelines as a rubber stamp to the Labor Party, The Greens intend to see their entire agenda implemented - and the way the Australian voters are swinging to the Greens, this is likely to happen sooner rather than later. With the National Party getting only 3.43 % of the vote and falling, while the Greens vote is 11.76 % and rising by about 4 % every election, it doesn’t take much to see who the real third major party is in Australian politics. The difference is that the Nationals resigned themselves some time ago to being nothing but parasites aiding and abetting the Liberal Party: The Greens stand alone, taking each issue on it’s merits, and it is this which gives them such electoral appeal. A Political Party with principles and integrity - imagine that!

    The Greens have a full range of policy platforms on all issues. Greens policies are the most detailed and consistent (available on the Greens website) of all of the major parties by far.

    There are four pillars to the Greens ethos -

    1. Peace and NonViolence.
    2. Participatory Democracy.
    3. Environmental Sustainability.
    4. Social Justice.

    If the Greens were to sell out on any of their other core principles - e.g. Social Justice means living up to Australia’s signatory status to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Refugees, that is to say we need to stop keeping children in detention!! - then the Greens would rapidly find their support base eroding, as the voters who believe in their integrity would become disillusioned.

    This would not help the cause in the long term, because under that scenario,the Greens would then end up in no position to influence policy formation about anything, least of all climate change.

    Clive pointed out that the Greens understand the politics of Climate Change. They do. The Greens understand the politics of the rest of their full range of policy positions, too.

    As Bob Brown said recently,

    We are not here to keep the bastards honest. We are here to replace them.”

  • 16
    tones9
    Posted Tuesday, 22 February 2011 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    Environmentalism is definately failing. It is the biggest and most spectacular failure of public policy in modern history.
    How could climate change be so irrelevant when you have every major financial institution, trading house, big business, big media, big institution, billions of dollars in research and programs, education campaigns, tv commercials, movies, tv shows, celebrity ambasadors, and community group etc etc on your side and you still FAIL.

    Only 10% of Australians think its an important issue.
    Most of us have woken up to the scam.
    But Hamilton thinks the problem is not enough radicalism.
    As you have previously expressed, your real desire is to abandon democracy so you can do your thing.

  • 17
    Posted Tuesday, 22 February 2011 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

    I think Clive is probably right about the scale of the problem we face. I also agree that much of what counts for the mainstream environmental movement has surrendered to the “incrementalism” that sees us go backwards. But his general analysis of modern capitalism and therefore the possibilities of resistance is so flawed that he offers us little more than a dead end.

    What he shares with those who capitulate to mainstream non-action is a contempt for most ordinary people as potential agents of change. In his last book he clearly outlined his vision of what neoliberalism has achieved: a population bought-off and mollified in their extreme consumerist alienation, effectively to blame for how the system works. He therefore seeks agency in brave environmental crusaders — an minority of radical activists or (as he spells out here) canny Greens politicians, who REALLY understand the problem when others look away. It is an elitist vision completely inadequate to the task at hand… and the Greens’ co-option into a diversionary & secretive carbon price committee should lead us all to be worried. Christine Milne’s almost dogmatic faith in “market mechanisms” as essential drivers of climate action speaks to her acquiescence to mainstream neoliberal thinking (and I say this as a former Greens activist who debated her on this issue at National Councils).

    Clive acknowledges the actions of the state in stifling activism in passing, yet he has no serious critique of the state beyond the reformist implication that eventually we must convince those in power to do the right thing. But what if capitalism (and not just its neoliberal variant) is a runaway system — driven by nothing more than the accumulation of capital, no matter what its social and environmental cost, and backed by a state machine that will defend the interests of the accumulators?

    The revolutions in the Middle East pose the potential of much more radical change than anything the Greens MPs dare dream of. It seems to me that in those movements — which have drawn the widest possible layers of the population into transformative political action — lies the kind of model we should be thinking of to address the runaway reality of capitalism. I fear Clive’s dismissal of the mass of people as lost to some imagined neoliberal opiate leads him instead to look to the powerful interests (who are the real problem here) as somehow part of the solution.

  • 18
    Birdie
    Posted Tuesday, 22 February 2011 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Clive, I think you have hit the nail on the head. Radical advocacy is an essential part of achieving radical change, and radical change is essential to having a real impact on the looming climate disaster. Not everyone has to be involved, but without strident radical action by a significant few, nothing urgent will happen. The current events in the Middle East are ample proof of that.
    Remember the Franklin River; only concerted radical action saved it. Remember years of radical action in the forests that finally spawned Regional Forest Agreements. We need the same kind of approach now to deal with climate change.
    I have followed environmental issues for several decades. Umbrella omnibus groups such as the ACF and WWF have NEVER been radical; you can’t expect it of them now. They do the relatively easy incremental, but still important things, as you say.
    Radical action will happen on climate as it becomes increasingly obvious to more people that the current approach is failing. But it will take new energetic groups and alliances, not the comfortable, tired crew that pass for advocates now. It can’t happen soon enough for me.

  • 19
    Flower
    Posted Tuesday, 22 February 2011 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Clive Hamilton for inadvertently reminding me to resurrect a 1984 publication of the Friends of the Earth.

    1984 Friends of the Earth: “Pesticides, the New Plague” - Indecent Exposures – The Sprayers, the Victims, Slow Poisons, the Hospital Crawl, Watching and Waiting, the Bureaucrats, the Industry, Soft Sell, the Conspiracy of Silence.

    Sound familiar?

    While the FOE endured the contempt of a corrupt industry and ignorant politicians, the Stockholm Convention’s global treaty entered into force in 2004 with a global ban on all those pesticides, vindicating the FOE’s warnings which went unheeded for twenty years. Australia tried to weasel out of their obligations and sought exemptions to continue the use of the bioaccumulative Mirex on mangoes, an insecticide banned in the US in 1976. Studies have shown that ingesting Mirex can cause harmful effects on the stomach, intestines, liver, kidneys, eyes, thyroid, nervous system, and reproductive system.

    It’s the same old story except it’s CO2 and the accompanying lethal pollutants that spew from industrial stacks with impunity while hundreds of thousands of humans suffer a premature death from carbon based air pollution every year, according to the WHO and US scientists concerned with mortalities in the US – the victims of industries on rampage.

    Australian and foreign miners are raping our forests, wiping out ecosystems in foul swoops, stripping topsoil, releasing precious soil carbon to the atmosphere to get at the bauxite. Salinity is engulfing the state of WA, destroying millions of hectares of agricultural lands, chewing its way through buildings and infrastructure while developers and sycophantic governments clear large tracts of land to accommodate newcomers even though the nation has exceeded its carrying capacity. There’s 10 deserts, for God’s sake!

    What will it take for a citizens’ uprising in this country? A magnitude 7 earthquake at the Olympic Dam gold, copper and uranium project, a prediction of geophysicist, Edward Cranswick, who investigated earthquakes for the US Geological Survey for 22 years?

    The sword of Damocles has already fallen but the leaders of this nation and the naive soothe the wound with denial, indifference and apathy. No matter that whole towns have been poisoned with lead and mercury. No matter that rivers are on life support - contaminated with hydrocarbons, ag. pesticides, heavy metals and dioxins or that Queensland’s coal mines have flooded, releasing heavy metals and acids to rivers, oceans, soils and crops. No matter that pristine marine parks have been poisoned with oil spills or that uncapped drill holes at Coober Pedy are killing millions of native animals every year. Denialists and ignoramuses can’t feel a thing.

    Australia is on a downward moral slide of economic recklessness and its corporate charlatans and fawning, crawling, self-seeking politicians are converting the nation into a stinking dung heap. ” Just show me the money pal and she’ll be apples.”

    Of course the environment movement must be radical. Enough of the civilities. Enough of the stupefying rounds of swill, fake and deceitful illusions peddled by the abusers and our “leaders”. There must be a Revolution. It’s six minutes to midnight. Count me in.

  • 20
    AR
    Posted Tuesday, 22 February 2011 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

    The Greens showed true courage in rejecting Krudd’s EFTPOS..err ..ETS.
    It might be said they lacked political nous but I disagree - if anyone can remember ancient history, just recall what happened the the German Greens when they joined government - they are now known as the Grau-Grune (and not because of their age).
    Closer to home, the Democrats, set up by an ex Liberal minister to keep the bastards honest eventually joined the bastards by approving the GST.
    Stick to principles - compromise does not, can not work. If a house were burning down, few would think it sensible to only use half the hoses, at reduced pressure, to water the garden then wash the cinders off the car.

  • 21
    D. John Hunwick
    Posted Tuesday, 22 February 2011 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

    When will we gather in Canberra forthe first meeting of this generation’s radicals? Count me in too.

  • 22
    dragonista
    Posted Tuesday, 22 February 2011 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

    I think Clive Hamilton is sadly out of touch. I explain it more here:
    http://dragonistasblog.com/2011/02/22/clive-hamilton-an-out-of-touch-eco-warrior/

  • 23
    wilko49@mac.com
    Posted Tuesday, 22 February 2011 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    you are absolutely correct Clive I’ve long been thinking that is is the only way we can bring about the necessary change . when you see the courage of the poorest of poor in Tunisia Egypt & Libya putting their lives on the line for political change you realize that the only way anything is going to change is to stand up and be counted but in Australia its a pretty lonely pastime … the grass roots Climate action groups are building but too slow … we’ve been fooled again by the same greedy bastards that tried to tell us that tobacco was OK

  • 24
    Broggly
    Posted Tuesday, 22 February 2011 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

    I don’t see how the Greens are that radical for rejecting the CPRS. Voting against rent-seeking industrialists getting massive payouts in such a manner that the economic incentive to reduce carbon emissons would disappear is just a sensible thing to do.

  • 25
    ogalacho@hotmail.com
    Posted Tuesday, 22 February 2011 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

    Nice speech, Clive, but gives me a bit of deja vu … sounds like something I wrote two years ago - http://bit.ly/gioaNZ - Why is it taking the environment movement so long to address its dysfunctionality? Because like you said, its all about power and influence…having an audience means more to some of them than actually having courage to act. Our children will look back on the sorry state of climate change action today and pull their hair out. Pathetic.

  • 26
    granorlewis
    Posted Wednesday, 23 February 2011 at 12:08 am | Permalink

    For once, Hamilton is right! We do need a new brand of environmental radicalism. His brand has well and truly reached its use-by date..

  • 27
    tmtityt
    Posted Wednesday, 23 February 2011 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    Another piece on environmentalism without mentioning veganism. Like going to a gun fight without a gun. Shame!

  • 28
    freecountry
    Posted Wednesday, 23 February 2011 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    What do you mean by “incrementalism”? Obviously, it is possible to stall any reform indefinitely with a “slowly, slowly” approach, but that doesn’t mean revolutionary shocks achieve much except starvation and war. I suspect that’s what Mark Duffett is referring to when he says:

    If many environmentalists truly, fully understood the implications of what they profess to advocate - “a profound threat to the structure of…the world of free-market capitalism, limited government, unlimited consumption, and the subordination of nature” - they might very well cease to be environmentalists.

    For example, suppose I were to suggest the following:

    1. The cost of labour in Australia is very high by world standards.
    2. The cost of coal in Australia is very low by world standards and requires little transportation.
    3. Production of electricity is very efficient in Australia.
    4. Consumption of electricity is very inefficient in Australia.
    5. From (1) and (2), Australians could achieve far more reduction of emissions at this stage by providing aid for poor countries to build sustainable generators, as opposed to replacing coal generators here in Australia.
    6. This would be more optimal again if we directed that assistance to populations still in need of any electricity supply at all, rather than decommissioning coal stations that they already have.
    7. As sustainable generator technologies mature to higher efficiency and lower cost, and as coal stations in Australia reach end of life in coming years, it would become more affordable to upgrade them to state-of-the-art sustainable generators.
    8. In the meantime Australia would use its continued economic efficiency to reform its domestic consumption side of electricity, building more sustainable homes, commuter railways, freight railways, and so on.

    What would you label someone who suggested that … an incrementalist? A denier? A pragmatist?

  • 29
    freecountry
    Posted Wednesday, 23 February 2011 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    9. An energy consumption shift in transport — from cars and trucks to electric trains — would be hampered if railways have to pay the carbon price.

  • 30
    Flower
    Posted Wednesday, 23 February 2011 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    Dragonista – Thank you for the link. With respect, I would say that you are rather naïve. One example is the claim that Michael Rae led the charge to stop the use of cyanide in the mining of gold. In fact, cyanide is used at all gold mines in Australia – no more obvious than at Barrick/Newmont’s super pit in Kalgoorlie where the owners have been fined (albeit a bit of ‘petty cash’) for cyanide spills. There are other technologies that would eliminate the requirement for cyanide, however, “they are more expensive.” “Right” says our sycophantic regulators!

    Barrick/Newmont are not prosecuted for the seven tonnes of mercury they dump on the community each year, free of charge.

    The EPBC Act to which you refer is in fact impotent when it comes to environmental, human and animal health. They have no control over the States. I have already alluded to the estimated 10-28 million native animals trapped in the couple of million uncapped drill holes at Coober Pedy each year. Where is the EPBC? Not their problem?

    And let us have a moment’s silence for the 9,500 native birds slaughtered by the lead emissions of Magellan Metals – well they are the ones we know about. Then there are the 6,500 native animals Newcrest slaughtered in their operations over six weeks.

    Several State Environmental Protection Acts in Australia came into force in the early seventies. There were a couple of good men at the helm in those days. Alas, the tenets of the Environmental Protection Acts have been ignored, manipulated and corrupted ever since. Why else would Australia be one of the highest emitters of CO2 on the planet? Enforcements remain few and far between. Conditions of Licence are minimal. States are on rampage. WA’s EPA have warned that the state’s CO2 emissions will increase by 75% in “a few years” but what does one do (politely) when you have an eco-vandal as Premier?

    Have you ever read the emissions reports of companies reporting to the National Pollutant Inventory to which you refer?

    And it can’t get any better than the Department of Environment’s decision to resume pastoral leases for “conservation.” in WA. For some 12 years until last year, each time a lease was returned to the DEC, they shut off all water supplies. As a result, an incalculable number of native birds and animals (and ferals) died a lingering death from thirst in outback Western Australia. Pastoralists were informing the DEC way back in 2004 - to no avail. Conservation? I don’t think so.

    Many of DEC’s senior officers (and the EPA’s) have jumped camp to get on the payroll of mining companies which they once “regulated” – no lag time between appointments. Indeed one needs to ask “Who is regulating the regulator?” In fact, former head of WA’s EPA, Barry Carbon is now chairman of Bauxite Resources who have been granted some 23,000 km2 of mining tenements of land through state forests, parks, farmland and through about 37 shires to rip up the trees to get at the booty.

    May I suggest that Clive Hamilton is au fait with the grim realities and that it is you who is “sadly out of touch?”

    Incrementalism? For whom?

  • 31
    Captain Planet
    Posted Wednesday, 23 February 2011 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    @ Freecountry,

    some queries about your plan.

    point 3. What makes you think production of electricity is efficient in Australia? The antiquated Brown Coal power plants in Gippsland are amongst the most inefficient in the entire world.

    point 5. What do you define as a “sustainable” generator? Sustainability by its very name implies that the plant would not be dependant on a limited fuel source, therefore by definition this would have to be a Renewable power plant. Renewables are the only true sustainable form of generation. Is that what you mean? If so, it would be the worst form of economic suicide to spend Australian money on equipping other nations to prosper in the energy constrained, carbon emissions reduction world of the next 20 - 100 years. I haven’t heard such a stupid idea (economically) in a long time. If you mean some kind of highly efficient fossil fuel power plant, again, where is the economic advantage to Australia in installing this infrastructure for another country? Let’s install it here instead. Why would we give our money to another country, along with the employment it creates, only to have that country end up with a nice new efficient generating plant, while we in Australia have less money, old crappy inefficient generating plant, and no construction jobs? You are not thinking straight.

    point 7. You really need to define what you mean by sustainable generation. Many many coal fired plants in Australia are already past end - of - life, and our state and federal governments are rapidly approving and installing new coal fired generating plants, that are only marginally more efficient, and will be with us for the next 30 - 50 years. If we wait much longer, we will be saddled with having spent a very great deal of money on highly polluting infrastructure which we will be almost compelled to continue using.

    point 8. All indications are, that in order to reduce emissions by the margins which are necessary to avoid catastrophic climate change, we will need to use ALL CO2 mitigation means available. Just working on energy efficiency measures and promising to replace some coal fired power plants at some point in the future may lead to a net reduction in emissions in the short term. But it will not be enough. We need to carry out energy efficiency reforms, certainly. But we also need to change our generation technology over to renewables, as close to immediately as it can conceivably be done. We also need to totally overhaul our transport and agricultral sectors, to achieve the emissions reductions there AS WELL. We can’t pick and choose where it is most convenient to make cuts in emissions, we need to make cuts everywhere we can.

    Your suggestion shows you have thought about how to achieve the maximum amount of emissions reductions, for the smallest cost.
    Unfortunately two things stand in the way of this:
    Firstly, when, not if, the world starts to apply an appropriate price signal to CO2 emissions, Australia will look incredibly stupid, and be incredibly disadvantaged, if we had spent our money installing low carbon infrastructure overseas.
    Secondly, if the international mechanism for CO2 emissions reduction should include a carbon trading mechanism, this would allow for the kind of emissions “trading” you have proposed. This is really an inherently flawed model, as it transfers the onus for CO2 reductions to other countries. It’s like a get out of jail free card for the rich world - pay poor countries to reduce emissions, so that we don’t have to go through the economic pain.
    In the long run the only way to reduce emissions by the necessary amount, is for ALL means of cutting emissions to be implemented - not just the select few which cause us the least inconvenience.

  • 32
    Captain Planet
    Posted Wednesday, 23 February 2011 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

    @ Freecountry,

    If railways are having to pay the carbon price, this will give them an incentive to switch to electric power from renewable energy, instead of internal combustion engines.

    And if rail freight / transport is still so expensive as to be prohibitive, then perhaps other alternatives will be found by individuals and business. The whole point of a Carbon Tax is to discourage activities which generate CO2, in favour of activities which generate less CO2. If this means that we have to grow our tomatoes locally, and transport them to a local food market with an electric truck, instead of shipping them in refrigerated containers across 5,000 km of continent (either by truck or by train), then maybe that’s what has to happen.

    Exemptions from a Carbon price should be considered only on a very short term basis, in order to facilitate the construction of infrastructure which has been assessed as useful in long term carbon abatement, e.g. Wind turbines, solar thermal power stations, electric cars, electric car recharging infrastructure, electric train lines. Even these facilities must be subject to the carbon tax, in order that the price signal of the tax is effective in doing its job - encouraging changes in behaviour for both industry and individuals. It may not be too much fun in the short term, but any objective risk analysis shows that it is necessary, so we’d better get on with it.

  • 33
    freecountry
    Posted Wednesday, 23 February 2011 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

    Captain Planet - Thanks for explaining the pigovian price signal mechanism; you needn’t have bothered. I don’t think there’s a single newspaper reader in the country who doesn’t know the basic idea by now, though in most cases not nearly as well as they think they do. Sustainable means able to be sustained, which implies containment of long term negative externalities. For some people that includes nuclear while others vehemently disagree. I was going to to answer more of your points but they just kept getting sillier.

    More to the point, you’ve answered my question. I asked what someone would label me for making such a suggestion, and you carried on like a wind-up toy, gave the standard “do something” speech, repeated some standard green myths like “a get out of jail free card for the rich world - pay poor countries to reduce emissions, so that we don’t have to go through the economic pain” to show you don’t even begin to comprehend what you’re talking about, and labelled it “stupid”. So there’s the answer to my question, from one person at least: “stupid”.

    CHIEF SCIENTIST RESIGNS

    I wonder how many people here realize that Australia’s Chief Scientist, Professor Penny Sackett, announced her resignation last Friday. She had had a total of one meeting with Prime Minister Rudd and a total of zero meetings with Prime Minister Gillard. Gillard did not even attend the last Prime Minister’s Science Council. Even worse, Prof Sackett was not even invited to attend the Copenhagen summit with the Australian delegation.

    Clive Hamilton might even consider this news a victory for hysteria … er, extremism … er, radicalism. Sackett did not put on a sufficient performance of abject panic for the cameras when she had the chance, instead delivering thoughtful speeches like this one: (( chiefscientist.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/100615-climate-change-speech.pdf ))

    Maybe that’s why the whole country knows Clive Hamilton, but even the Prime Minister, along with Crikey, doesn’t seem to have been aware that Australia even had a Chief Scientist.

  • 34
    Frank Campbell
    Posted Wednesday, 23 February 2011 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

    …we urgently need a new environmental radicalism; one built firmly on a full confrontation with climate science and its meaning”

    A call to arms- from a publicly funded windbag who never leaves his comfort zone.

    Let’s code him Triple O. Licensed to terrify. The dire emergency is global warming.

    000’s demand for confrontation is an admission of failure- not the failure of Hamilton and other Savonarolas, naturally. Nope. He injects some pop sociology: the early environmental radicals have been domesticated. They sup with the devil, happy with modest concessions from the corporate ogre. It says much about the corporate carstration of sociology that this banality is treated as wisdom.

    There’s no doubt the Savonarolas have failed: CO2 emissions in Australia (and the world) will soar for decades to come. No matter what anyone does. That’s the political and technological reality.

    Climate millenarians like 000 are the architects of their own bankruptcy:

    (a) the “climate action” taken so far has been premature, incompetently administered and irrelevant;

    (b) This fiasco, driven by hysteria, has played into the hands of corporate capitalism. Not just Big Carbon, but every rapacious extractive on the planet. And it’s been a godsend for the hard Right.
    Idiot “climate” schemes have attracted capitalist carpet-baggers like blowflies to a sheep’s arse. The low-postcode middle class have assuaged their environmental guilt through domestic solar subsidies and outsourced it in industrial wind turbines.
    Billions of dollars pumped out of ordinary households into million-dollar inner-city properties. The political payback for this class discrimination has begun.

    Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the daily rape of the environment continues.

    Where are the FitzGlebe Greens? Tethered to their cult and the GPO. The real environment is ignored. I see some greens out here on the front line, but no Greens.

    It’s no coincidence that we read OOO’s Carbon Manifesto now: Remember the tsunami of Green hubris before the 2009 byelections in Higgins and Bradfield? “Progressive” Liberals were going to sweep Hamilton into parliament. The gauche social anachronism Abbott had knocked off Turnbull. It was all over bar the voting. Alas, the apotheosis of the Greens didn’t happen.

    Hamilton now knows that the millenarian Greens have no political future beyond their current level. They managed just one Reps seat (the lowest possible post-code, inevitably) against two discredited parties saddled with a pair of abysmal leaders- a banal opportunist and a simian throwback.

    The parliamentary road thus blocked, Triple O opts for Revolution.

    Farcical.

    Can’t wait for the musical.

  • 35
    freecountry
    Posted Thursday, 24 February 2011 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    It’s true. If I wanted to run a scare-tactic campaign against carbon reform, Hamilton would be my favourite person. I’d spend all my air-time discrediting him, so that people like Chief Scientist Sackett could be quietly ignored. Hamilton makes it so easy, by arguing that it’s necessary to destroy the village in order to save it.

  • 36
    Liamj
    Posted Thursday, 24 February 2011 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    Good job Clive, keep telling it like it is.

    The need for extremism to shift the ‘Overton window’ of the political mainstream is demonstrated by the successes of the neoliberal right in recent decades. The neoliberals very strategically funded their fundamentalists to get out there and yell what were considered laughable theories, and here we are now with their inhuman dogma the default rationale for business, politics, and media.

    We need alot more of saying the unsayable: coal kills kids, the greenhouse mafia are treasonous planetfu%&ers, and The Australian should be disolved by the ACCC for corporate malpractice.

    @ Free country - “production of electrivity is very efficient in Aus” ?!?! Your ignorance on this point is pretty telling, no need to read you further.

    @ D. John Hunwick - standing in front of coal trains isn’t a bad idea, Rising Tide Newcastle will be doing a wetter version on 13 March http://www.risingtide.org.au/ might see you there. We do have radicals (sensibles, really) in Oz, but billionaires media barely ever mention them.

  • 37
    freecountry
    Posted Thursday, 24 February 2011 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    LiamJ - I welcome your desire not to read me further, and I don’t mind at all if you abstain from commenting on the following. I’m really talking to the Tony Kevins out there, highly intelligent rational people who are in danger of being seduced by the likes of Hamilton into joining the tear-out-your-hair brigade.

    From the government’s Climate Change website (( climatechange.gov.au/en/government/reduce/energy-efficiency.aspx ))

    Energy efficiency is a critical way for Australia to waste less energy, reduce our demand on energy resources and lower our greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing the amount of energy we use is widely believed to be the quickest, simplest and most cost-effective way to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions. The International Energy Agency suggests that energy efficiency could deliver 65 per cent of all the global greenhouse gas abatement needed to reach a target of 450 parts per million of CO2.

    Our homes, workplaces and government buildings are responsible for a fifth of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions with emissions rising rapidly, making them a major priority for the Australian Government. Our work includes increasing energy efficiency requirements in our building codes, ensuring environmental information is available on the property market, setting out a pathway for improving our buildings over time and much more.

    For those who think that using international carbon credit markets to offset our own emissions is “cheating” or “avoiding the pain”, just stop and think, what pain? Any given degree of economic pain, say $50 billion, is $50 billion of pain, whether we spend it as part of overseas aid for very poor people far away, or waste half of it on aesthetic feel-good initiatives at home.

    Once again, please see the government website (( climatechange.gov.au/government/international/global-action-facts-and-fiction/use-of-offsets.aspx ))

    Trade in emissions units (sometimes called ‘offsets’) through the international carbon market allows countries to access cost-effective mitigation, whereever it occurs. This reduces the cost of mitigation for both Australia and the world. As countries realise that deeper emissions reduction targets are achievable and affordable, they may be more willing to commit to even deeper targets, helping to cut global emissions quicker and deeper … Around two-thirds of the world’s lower cost emissions reductions opportunities are in developing countries.

    Those of you who want a perfect world and want it right now are just as much the problem as the reactionary panic-mongers you inspire. You’ve publicized the issue, that job is done, now get out of the way and let the scientists, engineers, and economists take it from here in driving the policies.

  • 38
    Mark Duffett
    Posted Thursday, 24 February 2011 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    Slightly off-topic, but “energy efficiency could deliver 65 per cent of all the global greenhouse gas abatement needed” may be optimistic, for reasons explained in today’s Nature editorial on what is known as Jevons’ Paradox. The need for low-CO2 generation capable of delivering serious quantities of power when required should not be underestimated.

  • 39
    Captain Planet
    Posted Thursday, 24 February 2011 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    @ Frank Campbell,

    Hamilton now knows that the millenarian Greens have no political future beyond their current level.”

    Can’t agree with you Frank, that’s just wishful thinking on your part.

    2001 - Greens Vote 4.94 %
    2004 - Greens Vote 7.67 %
    2007 - Greens Vote 9.04 %
    2009 - Greens Vote 13.11 %

    Plot it on a graph, Frank, I think you’ll see where it’s heading.

  • 40
    freecountry
    Posted Thursday, 24 February 2011 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    Good article, thanks Mark.

    Indeed, some researchers think that energy efficiency itself is a fundamental driver of economic growth, freeing up resources that can be used for other things, the deployment of low-carbon energy among them. Despite its concerns about the rebound effect, the Breakthrough Institute argues that energy efficiency should nonetheless be pursued for exactly these reasons.

    There’s no disputing the need for low-CO2 generation. The question is where a dollar of investment can do the most good: here in Australia closest to the coal supply; or out in the global hinterland where labour is cheap, coal is more expensive, and starvation and strife are even more expensive again?

    The Jevons effect may be a paradox to scientists; to economists it’s just a shift in the supply-demand equilibrium. That’s why we need to talk. What I wrote above is not a white paper or a model; it’s just an example of where hard-nosed modelling should now take the front seat in policy formation, and panic merchants on both extremes should be simply ignored.

  • 41
    Frank Campbell
    Posted Thursday, 24 February 2011 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    Of course the environment movement must be radical. Enough of the civilities. Enough of the stupefying rounds of swill, fake and deceitful illusions peddled by the abusers and our “leaders”. There must be a Revolution. It’s six minutes to midnight. Count me in.”

    So says Flower above. He’s no shrinking violet. Reading it I thought “great- sounds exactly like me”.

    But it appears that Flower’s environmental rage is not aimed at Hamilton and the Cult. In fact Flower appears to confuse Hamilton’s Carbon Manifesto with an environmental revolution. Carbon fundamentalism is the enemy of the environment.
    We need a new party- The Green Left Party- the expose the reactionary class nature of the Savonarolas, and their culpability for current environmental neglect.

    It’s worth recycling this typical comment from one naive follower:

    “I don’t think we can avoid 2 degrees of warming and we are currently on a trajectory for about 4 degrees of warming by the end of the century. 4 degrees means, ultimately, a sea level rise of 70 meters or so. No ice sheets anywhere. Human population, projected to hit a peak of 11 billion or so in the middle of this century will plummet to a few hundred million, clinging to the remaining livable areas of the planet at high lattitudes. (This is from memory of something I read recently).
    Meanwhile we fiddle around arguing about trivialities and doing less than nothing.”

  • 42
    Captain Planet
    Posted Thursday, 24 February 2011 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    @ Freecountry,

    my points are only silly to you, if you are so set in your ways that you are unwilling to consider alternative points of view, rationally argued.

    Beware of confirmation bias.

    Try to approach this with an open mind.

    Your entire recommendation is based on two principles:-

    1. That Electricity Generation in Australia is “Efficient”. Where did you get that idea?

    2. That money spent overseas will result in more net emissions reductions due to the cheaper labour and construction costs. This is almost certainly true. Unfortunately you have not made the connection to the big picture implications of this exporting of emissions reductions obligations.

    The end product of any international emissions trading scheme, is that countries where emissions reductions are going to be very costly, give money to other countries where the emissions reductions are going to be cheap. The result therefore is that wealthy countries balk at the cost of reducing their own emissions, and manage to give the appearance of having met their international obligation to reduce emissions, by paying somebody else to reduce emissions instead.

    Hence, it is a get out of jail free card, allowing rich countries to keep on polluting whilst pretending they’ve done something. The only way this issue can be tackled with any fairness, is to establish that all countries must make cuts in their OWN emissions. Otherwise, in 25 years time, we will have a very low emissions third world, and a first world which emits even more than now, and has made little or no attempt to reduce its emissions. The end result will then be more glabl emissions than now. Hardly much point in that.

  • 43
    Captain Planet
    Posted Thursday, 24 February 2011 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    global

  • 44
    freecountry
    Posted Thursday, 24 February 2011 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    Set in my ways? Mate, have a look in the mirror.

  • 45
    Flower
    Posted Thursday, 24 February 2011 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    Yo LiamJ - $525,000 in “victims” compensation, says the axis of parasites? And I wonder how the hapless victims of Rio/Xstrata in developing countries would respond to that? While the perpetrators claim to be socially responsible miners and promise to protect and respect affected communities, beneath the benevolent smiles, lay a couple of corporate thugs:

    1) In 2003 Xstrata admitted that its chrome mines in Kroondal in South Africa were responsible for polluting the Sandspruit waterway. The admission came after the problem was brought to light by an investigation conducted by the NW Eco Forum and Moneyweb.

    2) In June 2008 Xstrata was fined the equivalent of about $60,000 by the Peruvian regulatory agency OSINERGMIN for environmental violations at the Las Bambas copper project.

    3) Xstrata was one of the companies featured in a 2007 report published by the anti-poverty group War on Want about the role of UK mining companies in human rights abuses in poor countries. The report focused on Xstrata’s Alumbrera mine in Argentina, where peaceful protests against the mine and lax government enforcement were said to have been attacked by police.

    4) The report also mentions allegations of forced evictions in connection with the El Cerrejon mine in Colombia, where Xstrata has a minority stake, and allegations of mistreatment of protestors at the Bushveld platinum complex in South Africa, where Xstrata has extensive operations.

    5) And Rio? Nuff said:

    http://www.hbsslaw.com/cases-and-investigations/rio_tinto_lawsuit

    Destroy, deny, delay - that’s the tactic. Ten years on and counting and yet no settlement from Rio - nothing!

  • 46
    Frank Campbell
    Posted Thursday, 24 February 2011 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    Captain Planet
    Posted Thursday, 24 February 2011 at 1:23 pm

    “Hamilton now knows that the millenarian Greens have no political future beyond their current level.”

    Can’t agree with you Frank, that’s just wishful thinking on your part.

    2001 - Greens Vote 4.94 %
    2004 - Greens Vote 7.67 %
    2007 - Greens Vote 9.04 %
    2009 - Greens Vote 13.11 %

    Plot it on a graph, Frank, I think you’ll see where it’s heading.”

    Forget problem gambling- let’s see you bet on it. 10 or 12% is their mark. The last decade’s voting (which included me, but doesn’t now) coincides with the rise of the climate cult (now declining) and disgust with both Howard and Gillard (for many reasons, inc. climate hypocrisy). So the Greens went up. Abbott’s election, the Crikeywank world was sure, heralded a massive swing to the Greens. It didn’t.

    Greens will remain a minor party because they have abandoned the real environment in favour of a religious cult. The “carbon tax” was rejected by both Abbott and Gillard: we have it solely because of the Greens. If it is set and remains at a jocular level (no real harm done) , it won’t affect voting much. I expect that to happen. Gillard will betray the Greens. If the tax becomes damagingly large, there’ll be a backlash from the Right and Left (the latter as payback for the brazen class discrimination this tax represents).

    I think a thousand dollar bet is called for, don’t you? Expiry time: the next election. Baseline: Greens to win no more than two extra Reps seats. That’s insurance to cover the ever-denser aggregation of Greens in ever-lower postcodes.

  • 47
    Tony Kevin
    Posted Thursday, 24 February 2011 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    Can I try to sum up my conclusions from this important Crikey discussion in a few sentences?

    We need a clear-minded and resolute radicalism of ENDS ( namely, 100% decarbonisation of our economy) , and a judicious and prudent choice of MEANS.

    There is a place for Clive’s existential pessimism - we need to read him. There is also room for the more positively slanted messages of people like Paul Gilding (‘The Age of Disruption’) , Tim Flannery, Guy Pearse, BZE, Greenpeace and myself (and many more) .

    There is a rational strategy for Australia’s decarbonisation. We are still engaged in finding that right path.

    Today’s welcome announcements on carbon price policy by the PM mark a new step forward. Thanks for Clive’s essential contribution to this crucial national debate .

  • 48
    Flower
    Posted Friday, 25 February 2011 at 2:09 am | Permalink

    “But it appears that Flower’s environmental rage is not aimed at Hamilton and the Cult. In fact Flower appears to confuse Hamilton’s Carbon Manifesto with an environmental revolution……….Carbon fundamentalism is the enemy of the environment.” Gulp!

    Err…..well no Frank, there is no confusion. Mitigating anthropogenic environmental destruction mitigates A/CO2. CO2, human rights abuses, corporate and political malfeasance, violations of environmental rights, rampant air pollution, corruption and ecocide are inextricably intertwined. All things are bound together.

    Naturally when one is too apathetic to grasp the basics of organic (and inorganic) chemicals or even how CO2 is formed, and remains ignorant of the chemical synergy, they should refrain from debating the state of the environment, A/CO2 (and its accompanying hazardous wastes), climate change, cause and effects.

    But then decimation of human health, biodiversity, environmental desecration and a warming planet is not your problem Frank. Indeed old boy it’s all about you, the parochial “back of Burke” hamlet in which you reside and your old black and white movies, isn’t it?

  • 49
    Captain Planet
    Posted Friday, 25 February 2011 at 2:49 am | Permalink

    @ Freecountry,

    you obviously weren’t paying attention during the thread on the mining tax. You made some very good points which I acknowledged. The whole point of participating in these threads, for me, is to learn from others, and to allow others to learn from me when I have expertise in a particular area.

    My point is that electricity generation in Australia is terribly inefficient, by any standards. You’re telling me that my points are silly, but you don’t know what you’re talking abouot. You refuse to acknowledge you may have something to learn about electricity generation.

    Some humility might look good on you. Are you here to learn when it is possible for you to do so, or to pontificate and be snide and obtuse? Your call.

  • 50
    boundbynature
    Posted Friday, 25 February 2011 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    Clive - clearly we need a new Chief Scientist - can you find one and have she or he convene a meeting with all of ‘us’ the people who feel, think, breathe and drink the environment at Parliament House. You have raised the issue Clive that many of us have talked about for at least the last decade and some of us have had the courage to address in various fora including public gatherings and demonstrations. By the way - you will need to inform the ACT Police or AFP as it is apparently illegal now to gather without notifying the police. Something to do with 9/11. Probably winter is too cool in Canberra and within a couple of weeks the leaves will start changing colour. Let’s make this the Autumn of the bad four decades of corporatising Australia - now nothing more than a conglomeration of profit-centric corporates with ever changing financial landscapes feeding voracious directors who have little concept of ‘value’ for executive compensation .We either face a future ruled by the corporates (nationhood, ‘Australia’ is a farce, a thin veneer that barely disguises the ugly truth beneath our Parliaments) or we recover Australia for Australia and Australians and that includes the environment. God help the next generations as their waterways and groundwater supplies and soil and air are poisoned by industrial chemicals and worse.

    Clive - this is the call. The time has come. Are you ready and willing?

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