Clamour for change
It was a riot of colour and a huge meeting of like minds. One of the organisers, GetUp*, said there were 5,000 of us in Brisbane on Sunday's national day of climate action. They had asked us to wear hot colours, and we did. Drew Hutton from Lock the Gate and Greens leader Christine Milne came to speak, and John Butler came to sing, with his missus, Mama Kin, adding some great harmonies.
It was great to see Queens Park full of people, but it could have accommodated a lot more. Sixty thousand people turned out across Australia, in 190 state capitals, major cities, regional centres and towns. Why wasn't it 600,000, or a million or two? In Melbourne there were 25,000, which was a better effort, and 10,000 in Sydney, in pouring rain. But Queensland, well, we're in the coal business up here. And the nation as a whole? Clinging to their comfortable lifestyle and electing the wrong people for the wrong reasons.
Unfortunately, there was no march, which was GetUp's decision, but a mistake in my opinion. When we marched for the Reef in August, our presence in the streets of the CBD raised the profile of the cause and empowered those making their voices heard.
Some of the signs people had made were funny, others deadly serious. But the message to the Abbott government was clear enough.
As delegates at the climate conference in Warsaw were told by the World Meteorological Organisation that 2013 is on track to be the hottest year since records began, firefighters joined climate scientists on Sunday. Secretary of the United Firefighters Union Peter Marshall asserted that 'there is no sceptic at the end of a fire hose.' The Climate Council's Tim Flannery summed up:
The simple truth is this: that we cannot leave a matter as important as climate change to the fickleness and whim of Australia's politicians. We must stand up and be counted [and take] every effort to speed the uptake of renewable energy.
While Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek claimed what, for me, is the most significant point of the whole debate:
[While] Australia is going backwards, the rest of the world is going forwards accepting that climate change is real and accepting that we must act.
Australia is increasingly an embarrassment. GetUp said Coalition MPs were invited to all major rallies but none responded. There are none so deaf as those who do not want to hear.
* Others included the Australian Conservation Foundation and the Australian Youth Climate Coalition