By Joe Montero
Australia witnessed incredible images last Friday (20 September 2019), as hundreds of thousands joined activities in 110 cities and towns across Australia, joining the mass of school students who skipped class to join the strike4Climate, and to demand immediate and serious action on the climate crisis.
And in case anyone hasn’t heard, was a global strike for climate. Millions participated out across the planet.
How the Climate Strike travelled around the world
Video by Guardian News
Such was the scale of the turnout in many places across Australia, it left no doubt, that Australia realises the gravity of what we’re facing.
The impact of the statement made was so powerful that those who politely call themselves sceptics, and the downright nasty knockers, have been left in a state of shock. They might deny this too, and swear to keep on doing what they do.
But their isolation is obvious. They have no chance of getting the numbers to stand with them, and can only continue to hobble along because a minority but powerful sectional interest, associated with fuel and an economy dependent on it, continues to wage a campaign against change.
Knocking those demanding action on the climate emergency has now become harder. Calling those on the other side of the argument brainwashed fringe elements and liers is awkward, when the description best suits yourself.
Demanding action on the climate crisis is now the mainstream. More than 2,500 businesses willingly closed for the day or allowed their employees to take part in the marches. This is unread of. Some joined an alliance called Not Business as Usual, to further show their support for action.
People of faith are taking part.
More than 250 prominent academics have taken it a step further and signed a letter of support for the Extinction Rebellion movement, which is planning a Spring Rebellion week, starting on 7 October.
University students are organising themselves and they were well represented in the marches.
When thousands of young stand up, are well informed know how to argue the issues, when they feel so strongly, are determined to do their part and a new generation of activists takes form, society takes note. A sense of social change is in the air.
Nowhere was this seen more than in Melbourne, where up to 150,000 took part in the marches, which came together at the Treasury gardens, and spilled over along Flinders, Spring and Collins Streets.
Sydney was close, with at least 80,000. Brisbane saw 35,000. Other cities and regional towns saw big turnouts as well.
Support for the school students from older generations is important. It lifts the cause to another level. It came about because months were spent by young people talking to a range of organisations and individuals and calling on them on them to take part.
Unions, for example, gave their support through the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), trades and labour councils, and individual unions. Discussion took place in workplaces.
Global climate strike sees ‘hundreds of thousands’ of Australians rally
Video ABC News (Australia)
In Melbourne, for instance, a modest union gathering collected outside Trades Hall on Friday, and picked up tens of thousands as they marched through the city. A big crowd was waiting out the front of the State Library. Other marches coming from different directions merged, and a solid mass of humanity made its way to the Treasury Gardens.
It was not only the number that made the strike impressive. Passion was so strong that it left no doubt that a serious movement is in the making, which is prepared to go further than has been seen for a long time.
The call for action on the climate emergency is merging with the rising disillusionment with traditional politics and economic policies. This was in slogans shouted out and the many conversations taking place.
This passion also brought the spark of optimism: A sense that a better future is possible, so long as enough people are prepared to stand up and be counted.
The impact of the rise of Extinction Rebellion should not be underestimated, as it is an outcome of the realisation of climate crisis and the growing disillusionment with the status quo.
More people are therefore willing to move from protesting the state of affairs, towards realising that the solution is collective action and actively rebelling against the forces preventing change.
It inevitably brings conflict with the existing political structure and the way the economy is organised, and this maker need to challenge the power of the minority inevitable. There is a battle for democracy and its practical implementation. A theoretical democracy that can’t be practically applied is snot good enough.
Although not everyone consciously sees this as the reality we are facing, it remains that this is the direction of thinking that many Australians is moving towards. Extinction Rebellion is part of this shift, and is already exerting an influence toward its further development.
Climate crisis, politics and the economy are interwoven. It is impossible to deal with one without dealing with the others. All must give way to something new, if this planet is going to remain habitable and we are going to be capable of managing this as a society.
We are living at a time when the political and economic systems that are under the control of mega corporations are becoming increasingly dysfunctional; increasingly incapable of attaining a sustainable future, protecting the livelihood and rights of the majority, and maintaining political stability.
Replacing them with something that is far better is much more than a theoretical proposition.
It is fast becoming a practical necessity.