Eve of Disruption: Politics, Society & Culture on a warming planet

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Where to start?

It’s always the question any writer has to face.

What do I want to say? Who will listen?

Firstly, a little about myself…

I’m Mike, a Melbourne based writer, sometime activist and full time Geek.

I used to run a moderately successful blog called Watching the Deniers (WtD) for a while, but I’m back after a long and very necessary break. I wanted to start anew and say something very different.

I was exhausted by the fight against the deniers. I did my time, and I needed some much needed R&R.

The debate between scientists, environmentalists and the deniers is not a debate over facts: it’s a culture war and bloody one at that. Sometimes there are causalities. I think I was one of them.

Luckily for you there is a thread running through everything you’ll find on Eve of Disruption: how the issue of climate change and the risk of environmental collapse changes everything.

Can we prevent it? How can we adapt to a changing planet? What are our ethical obligations when it comes to environmental issues? Have we done enough? And if not, why not?

Some of what I’ll have to say won’t make me popular. And not just with the climate change deniers with whom I used to have fun criticising on WtD.

No. What I have to say will challenge you. In a way it’s meant too. Not in an aggressive way. But I think we need to challenge our assumptions about many things.

We need to think more.

If humanity is to survive the next couple of centuries we’ll need to reset some of our fundamental values and rebuild our advanced technological civilisation from the ground up.

The challenge is not just keeping global average temperatures below 1.5c as the recent Paris agreement asks humanity to do.

We’re going to have to completely change our energy systems while our political and economic systems will need to adapt to new realities. We will need to overturn much conventional wisdom and start afresh.

Eve of Disruption is a place where I hope to explore those questions with you.

Statement of Intent

Eve of Disruption (EoD) will explore a broad range of issues. But for the intermediate period I will be exploring two main themes in a series of ongoing articles: 

  • A history of climate change denial and inaction in Australia within the broader context of Australian history and culture
  • A history of conspiracy culture and denial and it’s impact on politics and society from the early 20th to early 21st century.

While these two themes appear unrelated, it is hoped the relationship between the two will become apparent.

Further to this EoD will explore:

  • Environmental issues and adaptation to a warming planet;
  • How society is being transformed by the nexus of resource scarcity, environmental collapse, technological and social change.

Eventually I plan to consolidate this work into a short text – in many respects these articles will lay the foundation for the following work.

Heady stuff indeed!

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Denial Nation: Australia and the Social Construction of Ecological Privilege & Climate Change Inaction

Invaluable research has been undertaken into climate change denial by many outstanding scholars.

However I would contend there are some – essential – missing pieces. If we stand back and look at both history and our culture it is possible to see climate change denial as part of a broader pattern.

Denial Nation is the working title for a short text I hope to have published.

Australia and a culture of denial?

I don’t think it can be argued that Australia, a rich industrialised nation, has failed to deal with the challenge of climate change.

We had a price on carbon but got rid of it, replacing it with an ineffective pay-the-polluter scheme.

Our emissions on the way up again while we’ve been ranked one of the worst performing “developed” nations when it comes to addressing climate change.

However we cannot attribute this failure to a few “climate change sceptics”, right-wing think tanks or timid politicians.

I propose that as a nation and culture we constructed a myth centered on denying our collective and individual impact on the environment.

It was done to protect what one could term “ecological privilege”.  The debate over climate change and a price on carbon is reflective of these broader, deeper and more culturally centered values.

The antecedents of this mythology of denial have their roots in our settler colonial past, were then further shaped by our “growth fetish” and informed by a culture obsessed with consumption.

I propose that all levels of Australian society – business, the media, sections of government and large numbers of the public – entered into a “compact” to deny the urgency of climate change and other environmental challenges.

It’s a challenging notion, but I think there is a great deal of truth to the proposition I’m putting forward.

So hang on to your hats. I’m sure it’s going to be interesting.

~ Mike @ Eve of Disruption

 

 

 

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10 comments

  1. Great to see you back, Mike.

    On the subject of a collective denial myth, there is evidence that as a society we do care about our environment. Enough to stop coal burning and coal mining? Not yet. But we do have some rungs on the board when it comes to environmental management. Think LandCare, Greening Australia, land-clearing legislation of the 1980s, our national parks, the recent climate marches, the stupendous response that allowed the Climate Council to operate, the big shift in South Australia to wind energy.

    I might be overly optimistic, however I think there is a lot of goodwill in Australia that can be harnessed to reduce our impact on climate a lot more. It’s just a matter of getting to a critical mass that no one can ignore.

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    1. I agree, the change is happening albeit slowly. However the response was slower than optimal.

      I’ll expand more on the idea – not *all* of Australian society was in denial. Indeed large sections recognised it early. But cultural change takes time.

      Australia saw the birth of the world’s first Green Party.

      My thinking is that a culture war has been in operation for decades, and that our potential to be a leader in green tech, sustainability and responding to climate change etc. has frequently been haltered/slowed by a conservative back lash. The same politics are at play in other issues such as marriage equality etc.

      Great to hear from you Sou. I’ll check out your writing too 🙂

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      1. Oh I couldn’t agree more, except it’s not just the conservatives (Libs and Nats). There are influential (nefarious) people on both sides of politics who have worked to delay mitigation and climate action including, as I understand it, a Minister in the Whitlam Government (old but still having connections).

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Great that you are looking at culture. I think that is key. The climate “debate” is disguised as a debate about science, but if you are scientifically literature you will quickly see this is just a thin veneer. We need to understand the cultural resistance against solving climate change. The mitigation sceptics are not willing to tell us their real reasons, that is why they dress up the debate as being about science. Some people may not be willing to change when the results help others more than themselves.

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  3. As Sou said, it’s wonderful to have you back Mike, and from your introduction I think that I’ll be elbows deep in the discussions here.

    I’m tempted to start on the nuclei of ideas that have been sown even at this early stag, but the later hour stays my hand. Looking forward to the conversation though.

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    1. Thanks mate, appreciate your comments. And please jump in. Love to hear your thoughts. I want this to a place of informed conversation and debate.

      Like

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