Will Turnbull sit in the dark for Earth Hour? I doubt it

March 22, 2017

IT SEEMS LIKE an insignificant, simple thing and detractors say it is nothing more than a tokenistic gesture, but turning off your lights for one hour next Saturday evening, is one small step you can take to show you care about climate change.

Earth Hour started in Sydney in 2007 and now it celebrates its tenth year with events planned in over 170 countries and more than 7,000 cities.

Earth Hour is only one small contribution to saving the planet and it might seem like a “one light-bulb at a time” kind of change, but as with many things, it’s the thought that counts.

All you have to do is switch off your lights for one hour between 8.30pm and 9.30pm on Saturday 25th of March.

According to WWF Australia CEO, Dermot O’Gorman, Australians should feel proud of the role they’ve played in starting a decade-long, global conversation about climate change. “It’s a great Australian success story,” he says.

“We have seen a huge number of positive steps towards a brighter future in the decade since Earth Hour started, proof that one person can make a difference.” 

The tenth anniversary of Earth Hour is also a useful time to reflect on how far we’ve come.

In 2006, less than 1,000 homes across Australia were using solar panels. Now the number is over 1.5 million and growing. We have quadrupled our use of wind power over the last decade and renewables continue to chip-away at coal as the energy source for electricity generation.

Now, in the wake of blackouts in South Australia and predictions of more to come across the southeast of the country, the pressure is on to turn back to coal and gas. The energy lobby is relentless in its expensive pursuit of influence in Canberra.

However, coal and gas are not so popular with the general public, hence we’ve seen Malcolm Turnbull reach for a major distraction in the past week — a half-baked plan to increase the capacity of hydro-electric power generation in the Snowy Mountains at a cost upwards of $2 billion dollars.

Bill Shorten hasn’t ruled out supporting the scheme, which is currently under feasibility study, but he described the idea as another of the PM’s “thought bubbles” that has not been properly vetted through the policy process.

Both the Victorian and NSW governments were also blind-sided by Turnbull’s announcement, despite being the major shareholders in the current Snowy Mountains hydro generation project.

And Shorten is right, Fizza needed the Snowy announcement to distract media attention from the “chaotic” national electricity market which is so compromised it might now be cheaper for Australia to export gas to japan and buy it back, than to sell gas directly into the Australian market.

Meanwhile, back to Earth Hour and calls for PM Turnbull to switch the lights off in his harbourside mansion for one hour on Saturday night.

Last year, Turnbull refused requests from Earth Hour organisers to switch off the lights. In 2016, Earth Hour manager Sam Webb called out Turnbull and other leading Aussie politicians for “dragging their feet” on renewables and climate change.

At the time, Ms Webb told news.com.au that there “are some very cynical people in the world” on climate issues.

“There are also those who have very closely held interests that are threatened by the move away from fossil fuels onto clean, renewable energy. Sadly, a small number of powerful people make a lot of money from creating the pollution that is causing global warming and they are doing all they can to keep polluting, with no regard for the devastating impact this is having around the world.”

Sadly, we see it is no different this year.

The Government is prepared to subsidise a giant coalmine in Queensland and Malcolm Turnbull still hasn’t pledged to support Earth Hour in 2017.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is hoping to encourage / embarrass Turnbull into sitting in the dark on Saturday evening by crowd-funding an advertising campaign involving large trucks and billboards with the simple message: ‘Dear Mr Turnbull will you switch off for Earth Hour?’

I’ve put in a media request to the PM’s office seeking an answer to this question, I expect to not get a response. I’ll let you know.

Help Earth Hour crowdfund the billboard for Canberra (Image courtesy WWF/Earth Hour)

If you want to get involved in Earth Hour, there is a website devoted to local events, you can either attend one of these, or launch your own.

First published on Independent Australia

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Why the media doesn’t get Brazil

June 24, 2013

In the largest anti-government demonstrations – dubbed the Tropical Spring – violent clashes broke out as people demanded improved public services and an end to corruption in the run-up to the 2014 World Cup. (Losh, 2013)

Is the world going to Hell in a handbasket? The answer probably depends which side of the class divide you stand on. For the world’s wealthy elites the protests in Brazil are another disturbing sign that the ungrateful wretches who survive on meagre table crumbs are restless, once again.

The issue is not so much whether the handbasket is being winched up or down; but rather: Why? If you were to rely only on the mainstream media for an answer you may just end up more confused than when you started.

There’s a mood for change sweeping many parts of the world today, but our understanding of its significance is not increased by most of the media coverage.

Since the Arab Spring of 2010 a wave of revolutionary struggle has erupted across parts of southern Europe and most recently it has spread to Turkey and to Brazil. However, our media tends to treat each of these uprisings as isolated events and attempts to explain them in terms of local and national issues. The global instability of neo-liberal late capitalism is hardly mentioned. Most journalists won’t even acknowledge it. Perhaps it’s too complicated; for some it is certainly too scary to think about.

Further, the news media’s debilitating fixation on the concept of balance means that these globe-shifting outbreaks of protest are reported with an even-handed ignorance. Simplistic explanations like social media equals more democracy are trotted out to give a sheen of analysis to what is actually intellectually threadbare coverage.

Protestors are routinely labelled as inchoerent, rudderless and violent; on the other hand, governments are portrayed as neutral arbiters of calm and order. This is a politically naïve representation that highlights the profound lack of real understanding on the part of journalists on the ground and of their media organisations. Simple vox pops are left to suffice for clear political commentary from the movement’s leaders and a seething mass of individuals ‘rioting’ provides the most telegenic images. It’s easier than trying to translate and understand the political tracts and speeches that inevitably accompany protest marches.

The problem is that most journalists are used to reporting politics as a game of ‘he said, she said’ in which claims and counter-claims are presented to the audience within a framework of parliamentary democracy. But you cannot report revolution within that framework. Revolutions do not follow that MSM script and most reporters, unfortunately, cannot see past their own faces to what is really going on.

Fundamental questions about the role of States and state-sponsored violence are sidelined, ignored or mis-interpreted.The history of social movements and the long-lived experience of people which finally draws them to the streets is underplayed or ignored altogether in favour of the sexy shots and simple sound bite.

It is not good enough.

The rest of this post concentrates on Brazil, but similar arguments can be made about Turkey and also the Arab Spring.

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Academic, Media & Religious Freedom ~ Not ~ in Fiji

August 28, 2011

by Dr Mark Hayes

Update, September 4, 2011 ~ This Post started out as something else, but, over the last week of August, 2011, it morphed into a major, running, UpDate on developments in Fiji, several currents of which seemed to coalesce with very worrying speed and intensity. Most of it was written over August 27 – 31, with some tweaking and a few extra links added, until September 4.

I also know this Post has been read in Fiji, as well as more widely.

I won’t update this Post again, but will link to it as relevant in any future Posts on the general topic of Fiji, of which there will be more when events there suggest it and I decide I have something useful to contribute.

Of course, the Comments section remains active and I welcome any comments, which will not be censored (aside from normal, journalistic, editing as to clarity, legals, and taste).

Original Post continues –

I started to compile a more comprehensive wrap on recent developments in Fiji – more attacks on unions, the media, the Methodist Church – but then things started moving so fast on several fronts that I gave up, and will get to the bits and pieces, with much more context, in due course.

Scroll down for material on More Fantasy and Nastiness in Fiji, traversing the latest round on the Fiji regime throttling the Methodist Church, more on how media freedom is also throttled in Fiji, how the University of the South Pacific throttles academic freedom, continuing raids on the Fiji National Provident Fund, and insights into Fiji’s justice system under the military dictatorship.

Why Civil Resistance Works

A long anticipated and exceptionally valuable study, Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict, by American scholars, Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan, has landed on my desk. This is formidable and very thorough scholarship of the very first order which assembles and analyses a vast amount of historical and contemporary data to show, about as conclusively as this kind of research can do, that nonviolent direct action is much more effective at removing dictators, supporting democracies, and challenging domination than armed resistance or terrorism. That’s a huge claim, to be sure, and their work deserves a very close read, which I’m doing now.

You can get a feel for the book from this article, published in Foreign Affairs by Erica Chenoweth on August 24, 2011, and this earlier article, by Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan, “Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict.” International Security 33, no. 1 (Summer 2008): 7-44 (172 k PDF).

As well, I’ve been watching an excellent documentary on the impacts of global warming on Kiribati, The Hungry Tide, which has added to my collection of material on this crucial issue, has been doing the rounds of Australia’s film festivals recently, and brought back acute memories of my trips to Tuvalu where I’ve seen, and reported upon, the same kinds of effects.

More recently, Australia Network Television’s Pacific correspondent, Sean Dorney, has been to Kiribati to report on frustrations experienced from global warming’s front lines as they try to access mitigation funding and assistance pledged after the Copenhagen conference. His reports, including one on Radio National’s Correspondent’s Report for August 20, 2011, have been outstanding.

Sean Dorney’s Australia Network Television News Kiribati story ~ August 8, 2011

But, Memo to the always terrifying ABC Standing Committee on Spoken English (SCOSE) – Please come for Correspondent’s Report presenter, Elizabeth Jackson, for two broadcasting sins. Firstly, she mispronounced the name of the place ~ Kiri-bas ~ and not Kiri-bati. Secondly, she did so twice, in the introduction to the story, and again in the backannounce, clearly demonstrating she didn’t listen to the story she was presenting, in which the reporter pronounced the name correctly. Back in my days at the ABC, we’d be flogged in the car park for such gross violations of SCOSE directives!

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Free Peter Bethune – stop whaling too

April 3, 2010

OK, John Key: What are you going to do about Peter Bethune?

The Australian Green Party leader Bob Brown has called your government “spineless” for not doing anything to secure Peter Bethune’s release from a Japanese jail.

And it’s true Mr Key, spineless is only half of it. Your government is also caving in to pressure from the whaling nations to tone down global demands to stop the barbaric practice.

As the Sea Shepherd organisation says, Peter Bethune is a political prisoner. If he was being held by the North Koreans, or Chinese perhaps you might have been a little braver in your response.

The charges against Peter Bethune are ridiculous and so too is the fact that the Japanese government has not properly investigated the sinking of Bethune’s ship the Ady Gil, which was deliberately rammed by a whaling vessel.

[NZ Herald 2/4/10]

Peter Bethune could face up to 15 years in jail if convicted of assault and “business obstruction”. That’s almost as disgusting as the harpooning of whales for “research” purposes.

Peter Bethune was entitled to serve citizen’s arrest papers on the captain of the Japanese vessel that sank the Ady Gil. This is what he was doing when he was detained and transported back to Japan. [Sea Shepherd]

Sign the online petition calling for Peter Bethune to be released.


Olympic obsenities – rolling updates #3

August 22, 2008

I’ve had a great Olympics so far. I’ve managed to avoid all but the most incidental coverage of the actual “games”; though it hasn’t been easy.  I’ve refrained from getting into arguments with patriotic and even downright chauvinist Kiwis about the “funtastic” effort from “our” chaps and chapettes. I’ve even managed to catch up on some classic Star Trek thanks to Moac’s buddy who’s kindly loaned us his prize collector’s edition DVD boxed set.

But it hasn’t been so much fun for the blessed Chinese who thought they were going to get an opportunity to have their complaints heard by a sympathetic and “modernizing” regime. I read today of two grandmothers who’ve been sentenced to “re-education through labour” just for even daring to take the dictators at their word and apply for a protest permit.

The isolent cheek of these two old ladies; don’t they know what’s best for the nation is also best for them.

To top off my week of hilarity, the story of the underage Chinese gymnast is finally getting some well-deserved attention. He Kexin is a plucky young lass who serves as an object lesson to the gruntled grannies. She knows what’s best for everyone is to shut up and play along with the charade.

Ah, the scandal. Gotta love these games.

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Solidarity with Peter McGregor

August 28, 2007

I reproduce here a news piece written by my friend Antonio about another friend Peter.
Civil liberties in Australia are under threat and the right to protest is very limited indeed.

This story will be published on Saturday in City Hub. As Dr. Maria Angel (UWS) said: “Peter may not do things the way that each one of us might choose to, but what has happened to him is a breach of civil liberty and the principle of free speech.”
A group of UWS academics have written to Hilmer, Dr. Williams and Dr. Lynch requesting to drop the charges against Peter McGregor – a former UWS academic.


Too much law and liberty

By Antonio Castillo
Arresting academics for speaking out is usually associated
with dictatorships and governments unable to deal with
dissent.
When former academic Peter McGregor was arrested and charged
last July while attending the Gilbert & Tobin Symposium on
“Law & Liberty in the War on Terror” at the University of New
South Wales, the irony of the situation was quickly replaced
by outrage.
A group of academics from the University of Western Sydney
where Mr McGregor was a well-respected lecturer wrote: “To
prosecute Mr Macgregor for exercising the rights the Gilbert
& Tobin Centre and its staff have been on public record
supporting and advocating would seem to be contradictory and
hypocritical. We believe that Universities need to be places
where robust debate and differences of opinion can be
expressed without fear of reprisal.”
The arrest of the former academic followed his attempt after
the symposium proceedings to peacefully protest against the
presence of Attorney-General Phillip Ruddock, the keynote
speaker. He was removed by police from the event and informed
that his permit to attend the event had been revoked by the
organisers. He was then charged.
“When I registered to attend the Gilbert & Tobin Symposium on
“Law & Liberty in the War on Terror” I was appalled to see
that Attorney-General Philip Ruddock was a ‘keynote’
speaker,” Mr McGregor said. “And that there were two other
speakers from the Attorney-General’s Department and one from
the Australian Defence Association but no speakers from the
anti-war movement, or even the Council for Civil Liberties.”
In a letter to the event organisers Dr George Williams and Dr
Andrew Lynch, University of Western Sydney Law School
Associate Professor Michael Head requested the charge be
dropped. “I call on you to immediately contact the police and
request that the charge be dropped. It would be entirely
hypocritical of you not to do so, while at the same time
writing publicly in defence of the civil liberties of Mohamed
Haneef. McGregor, a retired academic, was wrongly evicted
from the symposium for seeking to make a peaceful and
legitimate protest against the presence of the Attorney-
General,” he said.
Associate Professor Head said many participants had objected
to the false report given to the symposium that McGregor had
“rushed at” Mr Ruddock. “McGregor, who is a well-known
political figure, simply rose to address the audience before
he was frog-marched out by police. Unless you intervene with
the police, you will be involved in using similar methods of
slander and smear as those being used in the attempt to
convict Dr Haneef,” he said.
Mr McGgregor – a member of NSW Council for Civil Liberties –
has pleaded not guilty and the trial will begin on Wednesday
September 5 at Waverley Court.

Addendum: this is going to make some recent visitors Ethical Martini salivate, for others it’s a sad indictment of the current poor state of democracy.