How Australia’s expanding environmental movement is breaking…

(MENAFN – The Conversation)

In the general election, voters’ growing concerns about Australia’s lax response to climate change were finally addressed, with blue-green Independents earning seats in the Liberal heartland and record votes for the Green Party candidates.

But what caused this seismic shift in Australia’s political landscape? And why now? We believe the rapid growth and diversification of Australia’s environmental movement since 2015 has played an important role.

For example, in 2019 nearly a million Australians volunteered for an environmental organisation, whether by planting trees, organizing candidate forums or taking part in a climate strike.

The environmental movement is also increasingly moving into traditionally conservative areas, with the emergence of groups such as the Coalition for Conservation and Farmers for Climate Action, which brings together 7,000 farmers and 1,200 agribusiness supporters.

Much of this work remains invisible and takes time, though punctuated by clearly visible uprisings. And after many years, it could finally bring about the end of the climate wars.

Challenging stereotypes

Many Australians will already be familiar with iconic environmental campaigns such as the Franklin Blockade in Tasmania in the early 1980s, which was crucial to the development of Australia’s environmental movement.

More recently, the Extinction Rebellion and School Strike 4 climate protests have attracted significant public attention in Australia.

A climate school strike at Kirribilli House in Sydney ahead of the general election. AAP image/Bianca De Marchi

Behind these well-known protests is a diversifying and rapidly growing environmental movement. Hundreds of new groups have sprung up in recent years, and many actively challenge the activist stereotype characterized by labels such as hippies, extremists, or zealots.

Groups such as the First Nations Clean Energy Network, Emergency Leaders for Climate Action, and the Investor Group on Climate Change have normalized calls for climate action in new industrial sectors and in regional and remote communities.

Many of these groups are using innovative methods to bring about change. For example, Market Forces uses financial leverage to challenge corporate support for the fossil fuel industry.

Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners established a sovereign camp within the Adani coal lease after their native ownership rights expired.

Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners and their supporters protested outside Brisbane Parliament House in 2018, calling on the Queensland Government to rule out canceling their native title in favor of Adani’s Carmichael coal mine. AAP Image/Darren England

And Next Economy surveyed regional communities and discovered a strong desire for clear and well-funded transition plans to a zero-emission economy.

Meanwhile, philanthropic organizations are increasingly prioritizing funding for climate activism. Other organizations provide research services, resources, training, and grants to people demanding social and environmental change.

Consensus building on climate protection

Tactics activists are using to call for climate action include the 2019 roadblocks, deaths and mass strikes by Extinction Rebellion and School Strike 4 Climate.

These actions bring climate change onto the public agenda by generating widespread media attention. But they represent only a fraction of the activities of the environmental movement.

Read more: The Lake Pedder Legacy: How the world’s first Green Party was born in Tasmania 50 years ago

Most environmental movement activities aim to build consensus on climate change with those who share different values ​​and worldviews.

Our extensive empirical analysis published last year found that between 2010 and 2019, environmental groups promoted more than 24,000 events, such as film screenings, seminars and clean-ups, on Facebook alone.

Volunteers taking part in Conservation Volunteers Australia’s National Day of Action ‘Sea To Source’ at Pandanus Beach in Brisbane in April 2022. AAP Image/Jono Searle

Many Australians have now felt the effects of the climate crisis. The 2019-2020 bushfires directly or indirectly affected 80% of Australians. Tens of thousands of people have been displaced by recent floods in New South Wales and Queensland.

By sharing heartbreaking accounts of climate change-related harm, groups like Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action can influence people’s opinions and beliefs about climate change.

Group diversification has also fueled calls for climate change from conservative voices closely linked to climate skepticism in Australia.

Read more: The election shows that the conservative culture war against climate change could be coming to an end

But research from 2021 shows how amplifying these voices within the environmental movement can help normalize climate action within conservative ideology. Conservatives are also more likely to support messages from other conservatives.

We can see these processes happening in groups like Farmers for Climate Action. Traditionally represented by conservative politicians famous for questioning climate science, farmers are increasingly frustrated by inaction on climate change.

By promoting the economic opportunities and benefits of food security that strong climate governance offers, Farmers for Climate Action have helped to connect farmer identity with environmental responsibility while maintaining conservative values ​​and views.

The environmental movement is increasingly penetrating traditionally conservative areas. Shutterstock More than a goal

For many groups, the election is just one way to bring about change to adequately address climate change in Australia. They continue to act in different ways.

Some, such as B. Australian Parents for Climate Action, are building community groups that address local issues. This includes installing solar panels and batteries in schools and day care centers.

Original Power, a community-focused Aboriginal organization, strives for self-determination and a recognition that Aboriginal rights go hand-in-hand with solutions to the climate crisis.

Read more: Climate wars, carbon taxes and ousted leaders: the 30-year history of Australia’s climate response in brief

And Better Futures is building an alliance of leaders from the public and private sectors to showcase individual and collaborative climate action across industries and communities.

Groups like these organize hundreds of new campaigns each year, from local to national levels, many of which achieve their goals.

Will the government heed the call that voters expect more climate protection? AAP picture/Lukas Coch What does this mean for the new government?

Entrenched interests aimed at keeping the fossil fuel industry alive and media-backed climate change denial have bolstered political inaction on climate change and perpetuated Australia’s relentless climate wars for decades.

While the Albanian government has set a tougher emissions reduction target and promises to inject more renewable energy into the grid, it insists on continuing to support the emission-intensive gas industry.

Read more: The extremely polluting Scarborough-Pluto gas project could blow Labor’s climate target – and it’s just got the green light

This year’s election offers the federal government the opportunity to break new ground. It remains to be seen whether politicians will seize this opportunity.

Will the government heed the call that voters expect more climate protection? Will Labor chart a path beyond fossil fuels, a path that won’t leave coal and gas communities behind? And how far will the Greens and Blue-Green Independents push Labor to meet the challenge?

The environmental movement is now deeply entwined in communities across Australia and its demands are clear. It has had a demonstrable impact and wields considerable power to effect change. Politicians ignore it at their peril.


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