Once upon a time there lived a King, who was wise and just and loved by the inhabitants of his kingdom.
One day the well that supplied the kingdom with water was poisoned by a powerful wizard, and all the people of the land went mad – except the King, who had his own well at his palace high up on the hill.
The kingdom was thrown into mayhem. All the policemen and officials had also drunk from the well so the laws of society were forgotten, and chaos reigned.
The King tried to keep governing, but the people decided he was insane and marched on the palace, calling for his head.
As he watched the mob gather outside the palace walls, the King felt very sad and lonely, not to mention frightened for his life. So after days of deliberation, he made his way down the hill, drank from the poisoned well, and became as mad as all the others.
All the people rejoiced, for their King had been returned to them, and he ruled happily until the end of his days.
If you have even the most basic knowledge of climate change, and you have been observing politics in Australia in recent years, you could be forgiven for feeling a bit like the King in the story above.
So many in this country seem to have drunk from the poisoned well of greed, self-interest, and deceit, including many in the very institutions that are supposed to protect and serve us, that those of us who haven’t ‘drunk the water’ may be questioning the validity of our own perceptions, or at the very least feeling somewhat outnumbered.
In this series that I’ll be writing for the Tasmanian Times in the leadup to the Federal Election, I’m going to detail the tactics and strategies, a good deal of them imported from the United States, that have poisoned the well of public perception in recent years, played havoc with our country’s political and democratic processes, and distorted the facts around global warming. I’ll describe where these tactics originated, the key players who use them, and what you can do to help turn this situation around.
Much of the media, big corporate interests, and some members of Parliament in Australia have already decided who will win the election in September this year. I’m far less interested in what political ‘team’ people choose to barrack for than I am in the future direction this country embarks on at this crucial point in history. If all political parties championed policies that fairly served people and the planet, if the mainstream media presented factual evidence to the public instead of serving spin in the interests of corporate billionaires, there would be no need for me to write this series, or for you to read it.
However, as prominent climate change campaigner Bill McKibben pointed out on his tour of Australia last week, there is a massive disconnect between our current actions and the path we must take if we are to avoid dangerous climate change.
If Australia pushes ahead with its planned expansion of coal mining, the burning of that coal will take the world 30% towards 2C of warming, the so-called ‘safe’ upper limit before we run into climate catastrophe (1).
If you think it sounds unethical that a country with .33% of the world’s population intends to contribute a third of the world’s total carbon ‘budget’, you’re right. We have a situation in this country where the mainstream media has utterly failed to inform the public of the facts about climate change and the reasons why there needs to be a price on carbon pollution.
Instead, the media repeatedly tells us that in a few months’ time we will vote in a Coalition government whose leader Tony Abbott has time and time again denied or diminished the climate science, and led a sustained, three-year long attack on the Labor/Green government for its attempts to make polluters pay for the damage they are doing to our kids’ future.
We’ve seen corporate lobbyists flexing their financial power, reaching into government to influence policy in previously unimagined ways, such as the mega-rich mining industry’s campaign against the super profits tax, and the bought influence of rich coal barons over our media and politics.
Right now many Australians feel betrayed by the civic institutions we rely on to maintain harmony and prosperity in our democracy, but it’s important not to become discouraged. We must remember that truth has tremendous power, ultimately far more power than the wealth and false respectability of those in this country who are seeking to suppress it.
To clearly name a lie, to show it for what it is, is the first step in taking away its power and exposing the truth. We’ve been told over and over again by Tony Abbott that this election will be a referendum on the carbon tax; that it will bean election about trust. Over the course of this series I’ll be exposing the breathtaking lies that have been sold to the Australian public about the carbon tax and climate change, and why the peddlers of those lies, far from being the stalwarts of respectability and rationality they purport to be, are enabling and often profiting from the destruction of the planet that all our children will inherit.
I began with a fable, and I’ll end with another. In the story ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’, a foolish Emperor is tricked by unscrupulous weavers into parading through the street naked, while believing he is wearing the finest embroidered silks and velvets. All the townspeople pretend to believe this fiction, because those in power and all those around them seem to believe it also. Finally, a little child calls out ‘but he’s not wearing any clothes!’ and the lie is exposed.
Though the coal barons, biased mainstream media and politicians of the extreme right in this country seek to cloak themselves in a veneer of respectability, I intend to call out loud and clear the naked truth. I’m not drinking the water, and neither should you if you care about the future of this planet and all the people on it.
1) Bill McKibben speech to Canberra Press Club 6 June 2013 ‘To my Foreigner’s Eye’: http://350.org/en/about/blogs/my-foreigners-eye
Pic: Anti-carbon tax rally photo from Independent Australia: http://www.independentaustralia.net
Miriam Moriarty is a Tasmanian writer with a focus on the environment and society.
• Miriam’s first full article will post on Tasmanian Times on Monday ...