Mass protests of the scale held during the Vietnam War are just around the corner for people concerned about climate change, environmentalists have warned, as a growing number of activists turn their attention to those who fund fossil fuel industries.
Students strike in Brisbane
- Climate inaction protests and participants rising
- Major parties fail to implement lasting policy
- Protesters targeting financers of fossil fuel
Activists on Sunday disrupted Labor’s national conference in Adelaide to oppose oil drilling in the Great Australian Bight and the Adani coal mine in Queensland — two proposals considered “lightning rods” for unilateral climate protests.
It happened weeks after thousands of school students defied Prime Minister Scott Morrison and marched on capital cities to demand significant action to reduce carbon emissions — surprising authorities with the number of participants involved.
“The divide between the Government and the young people of Australia is probably the greatest it’s been since those huge protests of the Vietnam War era, and I think it’s for a similar reason,” Greenpeace chief executive David Ritter said.
Stop Adani protestors at Labor National Conference
“Back then, 18 to 20-year-olds [facing conscription in the 1960s] felt their future was being callously taken away by a war they could see no justification or point for.
“The young people of Australia today can see the future being callously taken away to prop up the old fossil fuel industries that have to go if we are to have a flourishing future.
“A 14-year-old is perfectly capable of looking at the news and seeing terrible wildfires in California, bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef, the Arctic burning.
“People can see the climate consequences [of inaction] and they are not going to stand around and watch their future disappear.”
Australia’s School Strike 4 Climate campaign started earlier this year in Victoria, after children were inspired by the actions of 15-year-old Swedish student Greta Thunberg.
Greta has pledged to protest outside Parliament House in Stockholm until her country catches up on its Paris Agreement commitments.
Some students have also taken inspiration from a landmark climate lawsuit filed by 21 teenagers in Oregon against the US Government for failing to take meaningful action against climate change.
Watch Greta Thunberg’s Ted Talk Stop Stealing our future
Protesters with multiple targets
Professor Quentin Beresford is joining Mr Ritter to speak at Womadelaide’s Planet Talks program in March at an event called Adani, Coal Wars and the National Interest.
The author of Adani And The War On Coal said a strong protest movement was well underway, and pointed out the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC), which is comprised of several different youth organisations, already had more than 150,000 members.
Professor Beresford said protests today were a blend of non-violent direct-action protests witnessed during the Vietnam War and social media activism.
“What we’re seeing now is a maturing of the broad environment movement and they’re developing multiple strategies,” he said.
“One of the effective strategies is to go for the institutional funders, the big corporations, the big banks and investment houses.
“The rely on their reputation, because if there is no social licence for a project, no public approval, [vocal criticism] can have a powerful effect.”
It has resulted in banks refusing to support projects like the Adani coal mine, even if it has the backing of some politicians.
“Targeting political parties is necessary, but it doesn’t necessarily bring you success and effectiveness because of the power of the fossil fuel industry and how it’s captured the political system,” Professor Beresford said.
“When both major parties more or less support the project, where are you going to get the break-off?”
Professor Beresford said Adani had been “a lightning rod for the climate movement and for activist politics in general”.
“It just doesn’t make sense for Australia to allow this mine to release catastrophic levels of CO2 into the atmosphere in an era of climate change,” he said.
Australia rudderless on carbon reduction
Although it ratified the Kyoto Protocol in 2007 and signed the Paris Agreement in 2015, Australia remains without a significant federal policy to reduce emissions.
Both major parties have proposed varying strategies to appease public sentiment since 2007, only to be abandoned, repealed or put on the backburner.
In the meantime, emissions are on the rise after a marginal fall between 2007 and 2013.
Mr Morrison, when he was treasurer, infamously brought in a lump of coal to Question Time in 2017 while making a point about renewable energy versus base-load coal-fired power.
When asked about last month’s school strike, he said the Government wanted “more learning in schools and less activism in schools“, to which the young protesters said that if “he was doing his job properly, we wouldn’t be here”.
AYCC campaigns director Kelly Albion said there were 160 different “stop Adani groups” across Australia in an “organic movement” that was growing on its own.
“We saw a couple of weeks ago high school students and primary students alike willing to make their voices heard about an issue that affects their generation,” she said.
“Climate change is an issue that affects us all and we need to make sure our political leaders are doing everything they can to make sure we avoid the worse impacts.”
The Womadelaide world music, arts and dance festival runs from March 8 to 12 at Botanic Park in Adelaide.
South Australian students protest at Parliament House Adelaide
Press link for more: ABC