John Lennon

Some time ago now a baby was born in a shed. He was not the first and countless more have subsequently entered the world in equal or worse circumstances. Most of them died early and unpleasantly, but not so very famously as this one under discussion. This birth has been celebrated for hundreds of years. Today the celebrations go on but the reason for it largely forgotten or minimized in favour of what our great- great grandparents called ‘jollification’. Today there are more children being born under sub-optimum conditions than ever before in our history. There are over seven billion of us. These vulnerable infants and the luckier ones born under the umbrella of western medicine are heading into a future that is unravelling at an increasingly alarming pace.
The environment is becoming increasingly hostile. Both the children born to poverty or relative wealth are entering a world fraught with – ecological degradation, loss of biodiversity and in particular the steep rise in heat retaining atmospheric gases. All these crises are caused by human activity. The crisis is fuelled by the raft of life-style choices, promoted by corporations and politicians, that are beyond the capacity of available resources on our planet to supply. The evidence is overwhelming, the effects are all around us. We have entered the Anthropocene.
Politicians and their wealthy supporters are reluctant to respond to the emergency because the revolutionary changes socially, technologically and politically necessary to tackle the problem threaten their comfortable position. To take the heat off, politicians and third parties are encouraged to question and or deny the evidence, attack those promoting the need for change and disingenuously reframing the problem in an attempt to be seen to appear to be taking action.
Australia is in a particularly difficult position as conservative forces have acted over time to make us economically increasingly reliant on extractive industries and industrial farming driven by exports. These are low employment industries with maximum wealth generated for minimum effort and risk. Most of the income goes directly offshore and most of the rest stays in the hands of the wealthy and their supporters. The move away from industries that actually manufactured something in favour of service industries has weakened our people power to force the government to act on our behalf. Continued attempts to erode a right to act and speak out on our own behalf are constantly under threat in the name of national sovereignty and public safety.
There is a small (about thirty percent) but vocal section of our general population that is also in denial. Their denial doesn’t stack up evidentially but has everything to do with being human. We believe in conspiracy theories (of which climate emergency denialism is one) for a suite of human reasons. Some of us are educationally and or neurologically set up to take conscious control of our belief mechanisms, the victims of conspiracy theories are not.
We ‘believe’ for a number of reasons. Here are very briefly the main one –
• In our remote past we had to make life saving decisions quickly on minimum evidence. Was that rustle in the grass a tiger? Those not good at this were eaten and did not pass on their genes. Today this form of reaction is counter survival. We need to react from a strong evidence base. Some of us have not neurologically moved on.
• In our complex society it is easy to feel powerless. Political dissatisfaction creates populism. The next step from there is to believe that malign forces are working against your best interests. Next is to believe that the objects of your personal prejudices are responsible (Greenies, Jews, Moslems, Migrants, Gays). That you may believe you are ‘in the know’ about some theory and the rest of the world are deluded ‘sheeple’ bolsters your self-esteem and sense of control.
• Education is a key factor. While it is possible to be have a Phd and still believe in conspiracies, higher education can minimise the effect. The increasing role in educational institutions to be vocational rather than educational and decoupled from social and political engagement is adding to the problem, degrading a once, more or less, civil society.
• Some of us never mature sufficiently to deal with bad news. Like children we turn away and make up stories to try and make the problem go away, be more manageable or make it someone else’s fault.
• The fact that people buy lottery tickets and back horses indicates that not a few people have a very poor understanding of probability. When presented with the outrageous assertions and coincidences that flesh out so many conspiracy theories many of us do not register the ultimate statistical implausibility of the notions.
• Some people promote conspiracy theories from ironic amusement, they think it is funny.
There was an article in last week’s Mouth from a person who was commenting on the problem of being trolled by denialists on social media, accusing her of being a hypocrite because she had a phone and car. This practise of attacking the messenger demonstrates well the uncoupling of denialists from reality. An individual’s behaviour is totally irrelevant to whether there is an emergency or not. A spectator at a footy match cannot personally affect the game’s outcome. This behaviour is writ large by the Trump Presidency and the governance of our current parliament. The extreme conservatives in Australia and else-where are morphing from a political movement into a cult, impervious to rational argument or evidence-based discourse. The denial of evidence and the construction of a ‘post fact’ universe leaves us all keelless and rudderless and vulnerable to widespread exploitation and manipulation by people who are not our friends.
I recently received a communication in the mail. It was on the bottom a form we are distributing to encourage community groups to declare a Climate Emergency and lobby EG Shire Council to do the same. On the bottom scrawled in caps was the following – “YOU IDIOTS ARE OUT OF YOUR ‘TREE’ LOOK AT THE FACTS YOUR SENATOR IN WA IS A TOTAL GOOSE” it was not signed. One choice we can clearly make – to be part of the problem or part of the solution.
We have a climate/ecological emergency. We have very few years in which to put in place changes to ensure our children and their children are not forced to live in an intolerable and accelerating collapsing planetary climate and ecology. Babies born either in sheds or in hospital deserve a better future than is currently indicated by the available evidence.
There are two ends to both the problem and the solution. The big end and the small end. The big, and by far the most important, is with governments and big business. Apart from the sclerotic and corrupt fossil fuel sector, business is largely ready to go. Governments are the problem. The wealth of the fossil fuel lobby has corrupted political systems and the public media. Government have obfuscated the problem and bought votes with tax cuts at a time when tax revenue is needed for more and greater intervention and regulation if we are going to turn the ship around. In the EU efforts are being made in the US and Australia they are not. We are struggling in the post fact world where denialism, religious intolerance and populism have free reign.
So, it’s up to us – the small end of town -‘the quiet Australians’. Around the world protest is growing, local political activism is breaking out all over. If the babies are going to have a chance, we all need to act. We can make changes in our personal lives. What this will do is show government, by the patterns of our spending and our activism that we do recognize the problem and we passionately want to help. You know what to do –
• Cut out single use plastics
• Cut out or greatly minimize animal protean in your diet. Don’t eat the farm beast unless you knew the animal you are eating personally. Only eat feral meat like deer, rabbit or camel. Don’t eat aquatic and terrestrial native creatures.
• Don’t eat products that come from agribusinesses that is implicated in massive land clearing.
• Eat local seasonal food, not stuff trucked from across the world – asparagus from Mexico is insane.
• Minimize car travel. – walk or ride if you can, car-pool if you can’t.
• Don’t fly unless it is a family emergency or vitally important to you in some other way.
• Make your leisure time activities fossil fuel free.
The baby in the shed was innocent of the knowledge of the horrors that would end his life. The babies and the young children today do not know and cannot imagine a world where 40 to 50 degree days are common and all that surrounds them is black. This year, already thousands of hectares of Gondwana Rain Forest that has never been burnt before ever is gone.
So, lets draw a line around Christmas. Eighty percent of all Christmas presents currently end up in landfill in twelve months. Buy presents that will last with ongoing value and with minimum plastic content. Buy virtual presents like music, computer games or movies. Make presents like knit-wear, cakes or cordials. Buy organic presents like books, cotton, hemp or bamboo clothes and plants. Buy local and/or handmade like local calendars or soft toys. Buy stuff with the smallest ecological footprint you can.
Traditionally, in the northern hemisphere, where our Christmas traditions mostly originate, the living world was bought into the house as decoration. It was bitter winter. Christmas was, in part, celebrated as a promise that spring would come. So ever-greens like holly and mistletoe were garlanded around the house. What a travesty, that in the hot dry southern hemisphere, we hang up plastic holly and plastic mistletoe. Let’s de-plastic for an authentic Australian Christmas celebration.
These activities strengthen your resolve. Literarily buying into the solution to the problem shows those in power you mean business. Business is what they care about. While you are at it send a Christmas card to Darren Chester or any other politician of your choice and ask him/her to declare a climate emergency. Do the same to our own East Gippsland Shire Council.
A great Christmas present for yourself would be to get off Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg is not the people’s friend.
The best Christmas present we can give to our children, this year, is to strike a blow for our poor embattled planet. Get active!

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