Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Global (online) action on global warming

It looks like online campaigning can work to channel the groundswell of public concern over global warming into effective action to influence governments. According to Ben Wikler from, at the G8 environment ministers' meeting in Germany a couple of weeks ago,
… Avaaz campaigners hand-delivered our 100,000-signature climate change petition to the environment ministers of the world's most polluting countries. It worked. The chair of the meeting waved the petition in the air, calling on his fellow ministers to act--and they agreed that climate change would be the #1 issue at the G8 summit in June.
Apparently, campaigner Iain Keith presented the petition to German environment minister, Sigmar Gabriel, who held up the petition in his closing speech, saying:
"Thanks to increased pressure from people around the world," he said, "the tide is turning. When an international NGO can gather this many signatures" (here he holds up the petition), "we cannot ignore this problem anymore... As Environmental ministers, we have a responsibility both to the environment and our voters to make sure our heads of state act!"
German Chancellor and G8 President Angela Merkel has promised to put climate change at the top of the agenda for the G8 Leaders Summit. Remember, this is Germany's new conservative government – taking active steps to push governments to act on global warming.

With momentum on their side, wants to "keep the focus on the climate issue by showing that the call for action is growing," and keep-up the pressure to ensure climate change gets on the agenda for the next G8 summit. They wanted to reach 150,000 signatures by Tuesday (yesterday) – which is today European time – so if you're in Australia or anywhere east of Europe, you may still have time to sign the petition here.

There is more on the campaigning at the G8 environment summit from their blog.

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At March 28, 2007 3:54 pm, Blogger philjohnson said...

The German and European responses are very interesting especially when contrasted to the obstinacy of the Howard regime.

Today in question time Howard made it clear that any governmental decision on emissions will be framed around "the view of the national interest".

This rhetoric conveniently dodges the moral problem and ethical responsibility that the Commonwealth must face on the problem of pollution, energy sources, production of emissions etc.

Howard's remarks also are question-begging. He never invites us to ponder "what constitutes the national interest", nor "who decides what is in the national interest".

Howard's stance is one framed around ecological isolationism. It reminds me of the US's isolationist foreign policy post WW1. Howard makes out that we must go it alone. He makes it clear that Australia's coal and mining industry interests are synonymous with the national interest. So we do not need to change our energy consumption habits nor the means by which we generate power to indulge in such consumption. He ignores the consequences of our 1% contribution to global warming by saying our output is so small it is inconsequential.

Unfortunately he ignores the fact that the raw minerals are exported and then belched out of power stations in China and other lands. So our real contribution is actually much greater.

Howard's isolationist approach is dangerous on so many fronts. It dismisses ethical duties and moral accountability from the nation collectively and from the mining industry specifically. He acts as if we are so far away from the rest of the world that we don't have to worry too much about climate change caused by Australian human activity. He takes no responsibility then for our technological advances and how that places us relative to poorer nations in the production of pollution. He offers no moral compass nor any practical model for other nations to emulate.

Yet if you got Howard talking about the virtues of Australian democracy, he'd be happy as a duck in a pond to say we are a shining example to other nations.

He won't act and cannot act because he is beholden to a moribund worldview and a bankrupt set of principles, and is further beholden to the financial profit making interests of mining magnates and people of similar social status.

I have briefly noted the difficulties on my own soap-box at

At March 28, 2007 5:06 pm, Blogger Mark Lawrence said...

I tend to agree with your assessment about Howard, coal and the 'national interest', phil, but I'm not sure about what you call Howard's 'ecological isolationism'.

I think it's less that Howard's isolationist (other than bucking international trends to take Kyoto and global warming seriously), but stems from a deeper malaise – he just doesn't get it. Howard doesn't get global warming.

I've heard a number of commentators on radio suggest this, (can't name names, sorry - morning shaving radio listening), and they point to Howard's approach to 'managing' issues and problems. I.E. the Liberals' need to 'manage' the Hicks issue, or assylum seekers, etc. Or 'manage' climate change. What they think they're 'managing' is public sentiment over global warming. They are not absorbing the true import of the crisis, and are not taking true leadership to tackle the issue.

This is not one they can just 'manage' till it goes away. Unfortunately, its our kids who will reap what the Liberals sow.

You may be interested in my follow-up post on this.

At March 30, 2007 10:02 am, Blogger philjohnson said...

Thanks Mark. I agree with you that there is a micro-management style in Howard's approach, and this is very much about manipulating perceptions in the public square.

Although yesterday involved the SE Asian venture on ostensibly saving forests, I interpret Howard's policy on ecology generally as being an isolationist view.

By this I mean he wants to put carbon emissions into an isolation ward, kept apart from the mining industry interests. The defect here is that like love and marriage and the horse and carriage -- you cannot have one without the other. The problem of carbon emissions and the mining of coal/fossil fuels are interlinked. So his attempt to isolate the problem by a process of separation is nonsense; but it is also a very dangerous form of nonsense.

I also interpret Howard's policy as isolationist in that he has shown very little interest in international forums and treaties, so we have been in isolation from the nations that signed Kyoto protocols. He has also been an isolationist in that he refuses to take any lead in the international community. By disengaging Australia from the international forums and treaties he is doing to ecology what the US did to foreign policy after WW1.

President Woodrow Wilson was the initiator of the League of Nations but his own Congress dudded his aim to have the US involved. The disengaging of the US from international forums after 1919 meant that Japan and Germany and Italy had no direct challenges made to them in international diplomacy by the US. However events dragged the US into world politics and WW2. In like manner, I see Howard trying in vain to downplay our international participation and responsibilities to developing societies and to future societies.

Howard basically says "yes there is a problem with a global warming; no, I will not accede to international opinion because my financial support for being elected will be threatened. Coal industry interests will be treated as an endangered species, even though the coal industry contributes heavily to pollution."

In effect his isolationist approach suffers from a parochial perspective. He downplays Australia's emissions on the global scale, and also attempts to keep Australia out of the holistic web of interrelatedness.


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