Climate change, war and the burning fossil fuels – a theft from those who hunger

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. – Eisenhower.

Significant mobilisation has been brought about by the bushfires in Australia. Uni Students for Climate Justice should be commended for organising these protests even though there was an element of manipulation in the latter ones.

People’s disenchantment with the federal government has been crystallised by the tragic consequences of the fires over the Christmas period 2019-20. That is why 10,000 people turned out at the rally in Brisbane on 10th Jan 2020. The bushfires and smoke have dissipated in Queensland and, predictably, so did the numbers at the follow-up rally.

Climate change, war and the burning fossil fuels

So why have mobilisations on climate change been taken from Extinction Rebellion or #Stop Adani or #Frontline Action on Coal? Social media have moved, at least temporarily, to the mass rallies against Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

At the Sack Scomo rallies not a word was spoken about the people trying to stop the trains at Camp Binbee near Bowen in North Queensland. Not that facebook is any guide, but acceptances for the #Galilee Rising campaign are still small, reflecting the reality that getting people to where the coal is being exported, far from the big population centres, is difficult. Online camp organisers are pitching Camp Binbee as a good or even a ‘fun’ or total experience, a social get together, as well as locking on to stop the coal trains before being locked-up and fined.

At the last rally in Brisbane on 17th January 2020, I listened to an excellent speech by Oula from Uni Students for Climate Justice about how the bushfires have displaced people from their homes.

Syria – the Levant

Whether it was intentional or not, the speaker did not mention claims that climate change was a contributing factor to the civil war in Syria (2011-2020). Syria, a largely agrarian society, had experienced a terrible drought forcing farmers off their land. Moving to the cities was followed by unemployment, poverty and tensions with their city cousins. When people began to protest about this, the Assad government cracked down hard on some, leading to civil war, or so the theory goes. There is no doubt that Syria experienced a severe drought in the lead up to the civil war and that this had a major impact in a country whose economy depends on agricultural production.

The Assad government is secular and provides protection for various religious groups. For example, Christians support Assad because he guarantees them safety. The Syrian speaker at the rally concentrated on the failure of the Australian government and the fossil fuel companies and how the Australian government has demonised refugees by placing them in detention. The reality is about 3.8 million Syrians have been made refugees in neighbouring countries by the civil war. That’s one third of the population! Lebanon and Jordan took the bulk of these refugees.

The facts of the campaign against Scott Morrison are outlined in several articles on this website under Brisbane: ‘Sack Scomo’ series I, II, III and so on).

Academic versions of the debate can be found elsewhere. John Quiggan on his blog of the same name gives a good academic account of the forces at play however the language used is often technical and the meaning sometimes obscure. Quiggan makes an economic argument against the federal government’s denialism protecting profits. Put another way, the reason governments are in denial of climate change is because they wish to protect the profits of big companies.

So it is little wonder that the main slogan of the demonstrations has become Make the Corporations Pay! The corporations that profit from burning fossil fuels at least.

At an Independent and Peaceful Australia Network (IPAN) meeting on 16 January calling for No War on Iran, attempts were made to link the onset of war with climate change and bushfires. However the emphasis was on how the bushfires had mobilised people not on why they were linked.

The argument centered on how difficult it is to mobilise people against a U.S. war on Iran. However Trump is to the anti-war movement what bushfires are to the Climate Change movement. When the US President backs down as he did when the Ukrainian airliner was shot down by Iran, then people won’t come out on the streets. Marxists call this the ‘objective conditions’. Anyway, that was the logic of the debate at the IPAN meeting. The participants, activists all, have spent years watching the crowds dwindle on peace and refugee issues. Vibrancy has gone out of the refugee movement with the slow absorption of asylum seekers from detention offshore to community detention onshore . The peace movement has been in the doldrums since the 2003 Iraq War and the disaster it caused the people of Iraq.

Yet the meeting held at Brisbane Trades Hall called on short notice had 15 people from most of the peace groups in Brisbane. A good response to a call for action where the fire had already gone out of a crisis brought on by Trump’s assassination of one of Iran’s top military commanders, Major-General Soleimani.

We do need to make a stronger case for why sitting home watching the television or surfing the internet is not an option. Some people feel secure because their wealth is not under threat, the stock market is on the rise, super pensions are paying dividends, the haves are happy with Morrison if a little concerned about the fires. They think their wealth will protect them from climate change.

We need to organise workers, to mobilise their unions. The Queensland Council of Unions Secretary spoke at the first Sack Scomo rally echoing the feeling in the crowd that getting rid of Morrison is not enough.

Ian Curr
Paradigm Shift 4ZZZ
22 Jan 2020

* Please Note that information included in this article was obtained from public meetings where I declared at the outset that I was from a media organisation (4ZZZ) and wished to conduct interviews with people.

National Protest Rallies
(IPAN together with unions, community and other anti-war organisations has called a national day of protest and in support of the international day of protest against war on Iran)
25th January, 2020
at the following locations:
PERTH: 11 am outside U.S. Consulate Contact:
SYDNEY: 12 midday outside Sydney Town Hall Contact Nick 0420 269 929
ADELAIDE: 1 pm on Parliament Steps Contact 0404 629 764
BRISBANE: 11am, King George Square: Contact Annette 0431 597 256
MELBOURNE: 1pm, Steps of State Library: Contact Shirley 0417 456 001
NEWCASTLE: 11am, Westfields Kotara: Contact Bevan 0418 697 528
ALICE SPRINGS: Courthouse lawns, time TBA Contact Jonathan 0403 611 815
Bring our troops home from Iraq
No Australian Naval vessel for U.S. war in straits of Homuz
Keep Australia out of U.S. wars

Ian Curr
21 Jan 2020

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