Speech at March Canberra in August

“Safeguard Creation, Because if we destroy Creation, Creation will destroy us! Never forget this!”

That was one of the great climate activists of our time – the Pope! And another quote from another great moral leader:

Our future depends on what we as a nation do today. … This challenge is not of our making, but we… accept responsibility to fix it.

That was Joe Hockey, talking about the sustainability of our budget, sustainability of health, of pensions … everything but actual sustainability! Hockey talks about the budget crisis. But what about the crisis in our atmospheric carbon budget?

We want to forget, but we must never forget the huge calamities bearing down on us. This is a moral crisis of the highest order and history is judging us.

Science has known about climate change for decades. The scientists are now freaking out. If you were born in 1978 or later, you will see the world breach the 2 degree safety limit before you retire. Your kids are likely to see downright catastrophe.

That is, if we let fossil fuel companies burn their reserves as they intend.

What fortune then to know that the clean energy transition is well under way. What fortune we know the clean energy transition wont cost us the earth. That is of course the point.

But you don’t really understand the problem until you see that avoiding catastrophe means keeping most carbon unburnt and in the ground, wiping out trillions in fossil fuel assets. If that is radical, then so is the world bank, the IMF, the OECD, the UN.

That is why these companies have spent billions lobbying ferociously, corrupting our public debates to promote denial and delay.

They would rather us crash the planet than pay the modest insurance premium of some halfway rational public policy.

Seeing this with clear eyes, what then can we really hope for?

Well, renewables costs are falling, while environmental regulation is rising — nearly everywhere else in the world.

But business will only move fast enough if governments force it. Governments will only force it if the people demand it.

Our hope can really now come only from social movements.

Here I must mention the Lock the Gate movement – surely one of the most important social phenomena of our time, with greenies and farmers coming together to protect our land and water from coal mining and gas fracking.

I should also mention global events that help us imagine and create a global community of action, like the People’s Climate Mobilisation, 21st September. This will be the biggest global climate event ever. GetUp and Avaaz will send you the details. Get involved.

But I want to talk most about fossil fuel divestment.

If you have a bank account with the big four banks, if you have a standard super fund, they are using your money to mine and burn coal, to frack our farmland, to lobby governments to kill the renewables industry, and to wreck our future.

Say no – move to any of the other banks, move to an ethical super option. And of course, read the fine print. There is a lot of greenwash out there.

Our local community leaders face a choice. do they endorse the hypocrisy that will tank our planet, our say no and divest? Get behind the campaigns targeting the ACT government and the ANU.

ANU students just voted in a referendum last week. We don’t yet have formal results but it looks like overwhelming in support of divestment.  

Victories in the divestment movement already include:

World Council of Churches – representing 500m Christians;

the British Medical Association;

Stanford University — which Chancellor said was the gold standard on responsible investing;

Uniting Church National Assembly, just this week followed the leadership of the ACT/NSW synod

And USYD has announced also this week it will freeze its coal investment. ANU should be ashamed that it is now being left behind.

History shows divestment works, and the fossil fuel divestment movement is the fastest growing in history.

Divestment is about about retracting the social license of these industries. Ultimately it’s about strengthening the arm of government as they battle the rent seekers. Or should we say, twisting their arm.

That brings me to this government.

We are here today because to reject this government’s offensive vision for our country. It is so disgustingly obvious that they are not governing in the long term interest of the many, but in the short term interest of the few. We need to discredit not the people, need to discredit their ideas, the very idea that they can get elected by putting us all in such outrageous danger.

But in fact, we give them too much credit, we misunderstand this situation if we think of them as merely ideological warriors out on a crusade. This government has been bought. We have let our government be bought, but we can make this right.

Better government means learning the skills of democracy. It’s not just a sausage sizzle and a how to vote card every three years. It means  conversations in community halls, conversations with friends, conversations with people you don’t agree with, building petitions, calling strangers, writing letters, writing press releases, pressuring on your community leaders, divesting your bank and super, coming to rallies, going to trainings, and above all being proud about giving a shit about your country.

If you want better government, you have to get together and work for it.

If you want an alternative, you have to build it.

If you love this country, you have to fight for it,

so let’s go and fight for it.


This entry was posted in Climate, Divestment, Politics, Speech. Bookmark the permalink.

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