Demanding a sustainable future

February 29, 2008

A lot has changed in the last few months: there's a new government, Australia has ratified the Kyoto Protocol and climate change as an issue has arrived in the mainstream in a big way. Unfortunately, one thing that is still changing is our climate.

The way things are going now, ours will be the last generation to see summer ice in the Arctic and living coral in the Great Barrier Reef, and could live through a time where halting global warming becomes impossible.

Thankfully, people have woken up to this emergency and have realised that this is not the road we want to go down. In Australia, many people are considering their carbon footprints, installing solar panels on their roofs, buying locally grown food, riding bikes and installing energy-efficient light globes.

However climate change can't be stopped by individual change — it needs social change, and social change on an international level. We're not going to fix things if — while we're cutting our own contribution to greenhouse gases — coal is still being burned and exported and oil remains the lifeblood of the economy.

The federal government is still holding off on setting binding emissions reduction targets. We're still burning coal like there's no tomorrow (and because of that, there might not be), we're still making energy inefficient appliances and buildings. Australia is still one of the world's top carbon criminals.

What's more, it's going to get harder for people to live green. Continued lack of investment in public transport, the privatisation of public infrastructure and attacks on workers' pay and conditions make green living a luxury few can afford. Moreover, many of the individual lifestyle changes to reduce our individual carbon footprint are inconceivable for people living in Third World poverty (including those living in Third World poverty within First World nations).

In the last few years we've made tremendous progress in bringing the threat of climate change to centre stage. But in 2008 we need to go further. This need to be the year where that willingness to change at a personal level becomes a willingness to make change at the social level. The millions of people who have taken the first step in changing what they can as individuals must now be encouraged to take the next step of uniting for political and social change.

The changes that are needed to create a sustainable society necessitate a mass movement to transform our goals from ideas into reality. This year, we have to work together to build a movement that can stop climate change.

We needs a massive shift away from the mining and burning of hydrocarbons and a shift toward renewable energies; from governance for corporate interests, toward governance for the interests of ordinary people; from the priorities of profit, toward the priorities of ecological and social sustainability.

The movement needs to put forward clear political demands that point the way towards a sustainable society. These demands can draw broad layers of people concerned about climate change into activity and mobilise them to put pressure on the government and corporate Australia.

We should call for an end to coalmining; an end to uranium mining and the nuclear cycle; a mass conversion to renewable energies; and retaining energy infrastructure under public ownership. Such demands will not by themselves eliminate corporate eco-vandalism — in Resistance's view, this requires revolutionary transformation of society so that economic activity is democratic, planned and based on meeting people's needs not on making profits for corporations — but they can provide the political focus for building a mass movement that can begin to challenge the "right" of big business to pollute, and government collusion with corporate profiteers.

Previous generations have stood up against the great injustices of their time and found that others stood with them. They envisioned the world as it should be, not just as it was, and through their struggles achieved things thought impossible. Our generation is faced with nothing less than saving the planet and all its inhabitants and now is not a time turn away from that great challenge.

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