Introducing: The Sustainable Civilisation

Transcript | Youtube (coming soon) | Raw interview audio for podcast editors

The Climate Revolution podcast episode 5:
Introducing: The Sustainable Civilisation’

As the world’s ecosystem and climate is collapsing around us, due to humanity’s uncontrolled carbon emissions, is a transition to a civilisation that is sustainable, socially just, healthy and less militarised even possible? Associate professor Mark Diesendorf and science journalist Rod Taylor think so, and they have recently published a book about how we will do it: ‘The Path to a Sustainable Civilisation’.

In this podcast interview with journalist Mik Aidt, Mark Diesendorf describes what is wrong with our current political system, and then he makes a coherent argument for how it can be transformed.

Diesendorf calls for citizen-based environmental, social justice, public health and peace groups to form alliances in order to challenge the overarching issues of state capture and flawed economic ideology.

Former US President Franklin D. Roosevelt once told a delegation: “OK, you have convinced me. Now get out there and make me do it!”

In other words, says Diesendorf, pressure from voters is needed to make government action politically feasible. Otherwise why would governments free themselves from state capture and discard the growth economics ideology?

“The solution is to build a social movement to apply overwhelming pressure on government and big business, weaken the power of vested interests, and strengthen democratic decision-making,” Mark Diesendorf explains. “However, building enormous pressure on politicians will require a broader strategy than lobbying.”

“Technological change is necessary but not sufficient. We must also struggle for substantial socioeconomic and political change, as discussed in the book. Consider the nonviolent strategies used to obtain votes for women, civil rights for black Americans, the expulsion from India of the colonial power of Great Britain, and the nonviolent removal of dictators in Argentina and the Philippines.”

. . .

Mark Diesendorf is Honorary Associate Professor in the Environment & Society Group, School of Humanities & Languages at UNSW Sydney. He has written the book ‘Sustainable Energy Solutions for Climate Change’ (Routledge-Earthscan, 2014) and six other books.

Rod Taylor is a freelance science writer and journalist. Rod is co-editor of Sustainability and the New Economics (Springer, 2022). His book, ‘Ten Journeys on a Fragile Planet’ (2020), received strong positive reviews.

The podcast interview with Mark Diesendorf was conducted via Zoom on 9 August 2023.

→ Home page:

“The way out of our black hole is to build social movements to pressure government and big business, to weaken the power of vested interests and strengthen democratic decision-making. This must be done with actions on climate, energy, natural resources and social justice. Our goal is an ecologically sustainable, socially just civilisation.”
~ Authors Mark Diesendorf and Rod Taylor

Meeting at Melbourne Town Hall

EMERGENCY MEETING – Saturday 9 September 2023 at 1pm to 4pm

We are stepping up now, because in the last few months, the global climate breakdown situation has become deadly serious. Scientists have warned us for decades, and now we see the reality of what they have been warning us about.

There are signs we may have just crossed a catastrophic ocean tipping point over the last months. Thermohaline circulation has been interrupted and sea temperatures are going through the roof.

These disturbing developments were predicted to occur after 2050 if we did nothing. This emergency is unfolding right now in 2023. We are calling climate groups to come together at this Town Hall emergency meeting because of the urgent need to somehow generate the political will for real climate action right now.

We face the risk of hot house hell and societal collapse, but our politicians continue to look the other way while opening new coal mines and gas projects, and they continue to pay billions of taxpayers’ dollars to the climate-destructive industries.

This all needs to change.

The speakers at this event will deliver ideas which have the potential to both sound the sirens and galvanise action when it comes to changing legislation and changing the way people vote.

You will hear about new ideas to create a comprehensive wake-up call for our current elected representatives, how minority governments can be created by community independents taking seats from both major parties, a new Climate Rescue Accord for microparties and independents to sign on to, and more.

At the workshop, everything will be at the table.

Get your ticket on Eventbrite

. . .


Public symposium at UNSW Sydney

Public symposium with author Mark Diesendorf, Prof Tema Milstein, Prof Tommy Wiedmann and Dr Kerryn Higgs on Wednesday 30 August at 6:00pm to 7:30pm at UNSW Sydney.

→ Free, but please book your ticket

About The Climate Revolution podcast series

We need nothing less than a climate revolution, and that revolution begins in your head.
Enter our podcast series The Climate Revolution.

This is the fifth of a series of episodes about the climate revolution.

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Podcast content – in order of appearance

00:03 António Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General: “We are rapidly reaching the point of no return for the planet”
00:09 ABC News on 30 July 2023 at 00:35: Reporter in Greece: “One moment this is a thriving beach bar full of young holiday makers. The next it is a pile of rubble.”
00:19 António Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General: “The consequences are clear, and they are tragic. Children swept away by monsoon rains. Families running from the flames. Workers collapsing in scorching heat.” Twitter/X-post and speech on 27 July 2023.
00:25 Movie clip: Marvel, Thor: Kaorg speaks to Thor about revolution: “I tried to start a revolution but didn’t print enough pamphlets, so hardly anyone turned up. But I am actually organising another revolution. I don’t know if you’d be interested in something like that?”
01:25 NineNews reporting on António Guterres’ call for governments to declare a climate emergency
02:04 Mark Diesendorf speaks briefly about priorities: expose the issues, use independent media, and to put pressure on decision-makers to force them to change. (Continues at 2:47)
02:30 ABC News: Report from extreme weather event: “A state of emergency has been declared in New Zealand after cyclone Gabrielle…”
02:34 Sir David Attenborough: “We will face the collapse of everything that gives us our security.”
02:40 Ban ki-Moon, United Nations Secretary-General in 2011: “We need a revolution. Revolutionary thinking. Revolutionary action.”
02:49 Mark Diesendorf: “It’s a gentle revolution, because it doesn’t want to have power over, but it does want to have enough community power, or influence, to push the development of our civilisation into survival mode, and ultimately, into thrival mode.”
03:34 Movie clip: Monthy Python and the Holy Grail: “You seek the holy grail?” “That is our quest. Our quest is to find the holy grail.” “Yes, it is.” “Yes!” “And so we are looking for it.” “We have been for some time.” “Ages!”

04:24 Mark Diesendorf interview begins

49:48 Movie clip: The 100, s1 e5 at 26:20: “This will cause a riot!” “Good. Maybe we need one.”
49:51 Movie clip: The 100, s2 e8 at 8:20: Abby: “The only way we are going to make it through this is if we trust each other.”
58:16 ABC Lab: “We are going the wrong way!”
58:19 7News Sydney: New South Wales Rural Fire Service firefighter: “You are killing us. You are killing Australia!”
58:21 Movie clip: Marvel, The Avengers: “And the humans, what can they do but burn?”
1:06:05 Movie clip: Marvel, The Avengers: “How bad is it?” “That’s the problem, sir: we don’t know.”
1:06:32 George Monbiot, British author, excerpt from Novara Media in April 2019: “Actually everything we have to do is change the system. We have to overthrow this system which is eating the planet with perpetual growth. Since when was GDP a sensible measure of human welfare? And yet, everything that governments want to do is to try to boost GDP…”
1:08:01 Sir David Attenborough, excerpt from BBC’s ‘Greta Thunberg: A Year to Change the World’“There just could be a change in moral attitude from people world-wide, politicians world-wide, to see that self-interest is for the past, common interest is for the future.”
1:08:45 Movie clip: Monthy Python and the Holy Grail: “I have seen the grail! I have seen it!”
1:08:50 “All revolutions seem impossible until they are inevitable.”

. . .

00:02 Alex Aidt: Icecream (also at 00:50, 01:25, 1:08:23)
00:59 Wayne Jones: A Quiet Thought
01:32 Unicorn Heads: Wolf Moon
01:38 Serge Pavkin: Dawn (also at 03:07)
01:59 Monthy Python and the Holy Grail – fanfare (also at 03:33)
02:04 Anno Domini Beats: Coast
02:30 Twin Musicom: A Dream Within a Dream
03:58 Wayne Jones: Connection (also at 49:54, 1:04:02)
49:28 Wayne Jones: Resolution
1:07:59 Density & Time: Ether-Real
1:08:20 Unicorn Heads: Dreaming in 432Hz
A big thank you to the musicians for allowing us to use this music in the podcast.

. . .

Listening tip
If you think an hour-long podcast is too long for you, we recommend you think about it diffently. The overall idea with us doing these long podcasts (we’ve done 500 of them by now, and they are all one hour long) is that our listeners listen to them for instance when they are in transport – sitting in a car or a train – and press the pause button in the podcast player when they reach their destination. Then next time they are back in transport, they press play and continue listening from where they left.

In other words, cut it up in smaller bits which are suitable to your life. You, or your transport situation, decide where to break the hour up in those smaller bits. 

. . .

→ Subscribe to The Climate Revolution series via The Sustainable Hour’s podcast account in Apple Podcast 

More interviews with Mark Diesendorf

3CR Earthmatters podcast episode on 29 July 2023:
The Path to a Sustainable Civilization, by Mark Diesendorf and Rod Taylor
Hear Rod Taylor co author of a new book The Path to a Sustainable Civilization with Professor Mark Diesendorf and Ecopella environment choir. Break the bonds of corporate state capture.”

Download mp3

Papers, podcasts, posts and articles relating to this topic

The Guardian – 6 January 2024:
What links Rishi Sunak, Javier Milei and Donald Trump? The shadowy network behind their policies
“The Atlas Network’s dark-money junktanks are behind neoliberal policies around the world. And you may find its leaders on a resignation honours list near you.”


Cognitive dissonance of our leaders

“The crisis is being driven by the mindless pursuit of economic growth on a finite planet. All of our leadership, industry, finance and governments are utterly wedded to and fixated on economic growth with no regard for the ecological costs. So these elites refuse to declare the climate emergency because it would mean in so many ways, halting or changing in some way the economic growth agenda.

Those at the top of decision making in society are part of the 1% of the richest people in society. Where they all lead extravagant lifestyles with massive carbon emissions. The top 1% account for more carbon emissions than the poorest 66%. What is less understood that in Australia this actually represents over 580,000 Australians or 3.8% of taxpayers. The biggest driver of these emissions are in our superannuation funds which hold 50% of all fossil fuel investments all tax free on retirement and whose companies pay little or no tax on what belongs to we the people of Australia.

In their ecocidal pursuit of this economic growth to preserve and enhance their lifestyles is pure self interest because their wealth , power, status and luxury lifestyles depend on it. Just like the smoker who knows that smoking will ultimately kill them, the cognitive dissonance of our leaders is unconscionable. They know the consequences; they have read the science and IPPC reports but deep in their psyche they believe their wealth will protect them and their families.”

So this tiny demographic can simply block action by doing nothing, refuse to agree to the urgency of action, deliberately dissembling, lying through their massive budgets and false advertising in the media and the more insidious state capture of our politicians; demanding laws against peaceful, non violent protesters and lucrative board positions on retirement.

It is clear Net Zero by 2050 is unachievable not because it would fail to address the crisis but we are also facing a biodiversity crisis which is equally important as the climate crisis and will lead to ecological collapse, mass starvation and the deaths of 1 billion people and billions more climate refugees through loss of agriculture and fresh water. We either solve both or we solve neither.

This is a systemic problem, caused by the whole of the current economic system, imposed by government under the control of the economic elites. Only whole of system change to a degrowth, sustainable, circular economy with zero population growth that puts equal emphasis on ecological sustainability can we possible achieve halting rising emissions.”
~ Colin Hughes, formerly with the Flying Doctors service

→ Yale School of the Environment – 28 November 2023:
Clearing Skies: Opening a New Path on Climate and the Future
“Adapting to climate change does not address the societal systems and values that spawned the current crisis. What’s needed is “systemic adaptation” that fundamentally changes our economy, our politics, and our priorities in ways that put community and the planet first.”

→ Current Affairs – 15 November 2021:
What Would It Look Like If We Treated Climate Change as an Actual Emergency?
“If we accept the facts of climate change, we also have to accept the radical changes necessary to address it.”
By Jason Hickel

“This requires the hard work of organizing, establishing solidarities, and uniting around common political demands. It requires strategy, and it requires courage. Is there hope? Yes. We know it is empirically possible to achieve a just and sustainable world economy. But our hope can only ever be as strong as our struggle. If we want hope—if we want to win such a world—we must build the struggle.”

Jason Hickel

“The governing classes have given up on the survival of numerous species and future generations, and their inaction constitutes the ultimate crime against life on Earth.” 
~ Andrew Glikson, Australian National University, advisor to the IPCC

→ The intercept – 29 October 2023:
When Idiot Savants Do Climate Economics
“How an elite clique of math-addled economists hijacked climate policy.”

A Real Deal

Mark Diesendorf emphasises the importantce of alliances, which is the basis of the community organising that is also an important ingredient in the Real Deal project, which is conducted under the auspices of the Sydney Policy Lab.

David Attenborough’s “self interest to common interest” statement towards the end of the podcast also underpins the Real Deal projects’ theory of change and its concept of community organising, which very openly addresses the power question.

The Real Deal project was concived by Dr Amanda Tattersall, who is an expert in alliances – have a listen to her podcast called Changemakers.

Broadbased alliances beyond the environment are essential for consciousness-raising by workers and unionists – and to whether the Labor Party will actually be serving their interests. The best hope is for the different groups to connect with each other relationally, enabling them to respectfully explore mutual interests as organisations, and support each other to get wins whilst training leaders to grow the movement.

After a successful launch meeting in Geelong a few months ago, the Real Deal project has made a foothold in the north of the city. Organisations that previously had almost nothing to do with enviromental organisations, let along collaborated on projects together, have not started collaborating and building an alliance.

Extinction Rebellion’s co-founder Clare Farrell and conservation scientist Dr Charlie Gardner team up once more to discuss issues and stories they feel are not getting enough airtime. They want to make sure that the latest news in science and important reports that are relevant to the climate and ecological crisis are flagged and explained in ways that are easy to understand.

In this episode Clare Farrell and Dr Charlie Gardner discuss the evolving discourse on aerosol masking, particulates and solar radiation management approaches, plus the pensions report from carbon tracker that shows the flawed economics of climate overlooks science and leaves the pension sector in grave risk. In fact the assumptions used to make decisions in finance cite risks that the scientific community describe as incompatible with organised human life as ‘acceptable’.

Strategic thinking by George Monbiot: How we should respond

In this thread of tweets on X, British author George Monbiot gives an analysis of why normcore progressive movements can’t succeed – and how they must build power and alternatives from the outside-in.

“Feeling powerless in the face of insane political news? Read this and then start living it:”
~ Curly Bex

“Brilliant thread an absolutely must read.”
~ Martin Hussey

George Monbiot tweeted:

“Here’s where I think we now stand, and how we should respond. A thread.

  1. There is a global trend towards political impunity. In many nations, politicians are testing the limits of constitutional power, and discovering they can get away with almost anything. 🧵
    8:45 PM · Nov 9, 2022
  2. Lying, corruption, dark-money funding, voter suppression, vote-rigging …. as cynical pols around the world learn from each other, they find that constitutions and legal systems can everywhere be gamed, using similar tactics, in almost any way they wish.
  3. In the age-old contest between money and democracy, money now wins hands down. Those who spend most win. Thanks to the Pollution Paradox*, the arc of politics bends inexorably, under this system, towards corruption.
  4. *The Pollution Paradox: “The more damaging the commercial enterprise, the more money it must spend on politics to ensure it’s not regulated out of existence. As a result, politics comes to be dominated by the most harmful commercial enterprises.”
  5. Cynical politicians also know that the persuasive power of modern communications enables them to win elections even when they offer nothing to the people. This knowledge, more than any other factor, has changed the nature of politics and made a mockery of democracy.
  6. To put it bluntly, an increasing number of those who claim to represent us couldn’t give a cuss about us. And they make ever less effort to disguise it. Power in many nations is little more than a supermarket sweep: fill your trolley before the whistle goes.
  7. As trust and hope collapse, the attractions of “anti-politics” rise. “Anti-politics” means fascism, or something adjacent to it. Fascism is, of course, highly political, and funded by the very interests that caused the political mess it claims to address.
  8. Fascism’s vehicle is conspiracy theories. Regardless of where on the political spectrum they arise, conspiracy theories transport people – sometimes the most surprising people – into fascism’s parking lot. CTs, born of political despair, have reached epidemic levels.
  9. Global negotiations are a charade. The powerful govts meeting in Egypt at the moment have no intention of taking the action required to address the climate crisis, paying the money they’ve promised poor nations or doing anything other than what corporate lobbyists demand.
  10. They would rather see the end of the habitable planet than upset their sponsors.
  11. In many nations, mainstream progressive parties have responded to this disastrous slide with zero political innovation and design. They seek to hold power within the existing system, rather than rebuild it on different lines. So they are constantly fighting a losing battle.
  12. In the US, some analysts believe that the failure to resolve this political crisis will lead to civil war. We might shake our heads at the follies of that nation, but it is just further down the road we are also travelling.
  13. There has been plenty of democratic innovation proposed by citizens, but a tacit elite consensus prevents it from penetrating the political establishment.
  14. Keir Starmer exemplifies this elite consensus, resisting even the most basic change, demanded by reformers since the 19th century: proportional representation. Let alone the innovations required to respond to our 21st-century crises.
    George Monbiot
  15. So what do we do? Two things, I think. First, we spell out our theory of change. I’m pretty clear about what mine is: using our new knowledge of social tipping points to create the shift we want to see.
Social tipping processes towards climate action: A conceptual framework
Societal transformations are necessary to address critical global challenges, such as mitigation of anthropogenic climate change and reaching UN susta…

  1. What this knowledge tells us is that it’s pointless and unnecessary to try to persuade people in the opposite corner. In seeking to do so, we have destroyed the efficacy of our movements, endlessly compromising for fear of alienating those most antagonistic to us.
  2. We should preach to the choir, but keep expanding the choir, pushing out the concentric circles until we reach the 25% penetration of a new perspective or a new idea that triggers social tipping.

After the failure of Cop26, there is only one last hope for our survival | George Monbiot
By mobilising just 25% of people, we can flip social attitudes towards the climate, says Guardian columnist George Monbiot”

  1. A good model is the campaign for marriage equality, whose aims have been achieved in much of Europe from a very low baseline in a remarkably short period. What it shows above all is that you do not need to persuade your opponents.
  2. Once you have passed the tipping point (acceptance of the idea by roughly 25% of the population), almost everyone falls into line with the new status quo. People who fiercely opposed marriage equality now claim they always supported it, and they genuinely seem to believe it.
  3. After the war, everyone became a member of the Resistance.
  4. What this tells us is that we do not have to water down our message. We do not have to meet neoliberals, reactionaries or fascists halfway. We pursue what we want with courage and determination.
  5. If you want another example, look at the systemic change achieved by our opponents, the neoliberals. They didn’t seek to bring us round to their point of view. They had a clear theory of change, they knew exactly what they wanted, and they didn’t stop until they got it.
  6. Admittedly, it was easier for them, because they had big money on their side. They could bulldoze their way to power. But once they had got there, most people seemed grudgingly to accept their worldview and shifted their beliefs to accommodate it. At least for a while.
  7. Second, we strategically seize every opportunity that presents itself. As soon as a city, region or nation elects a sympathetic government, we don’t just leave them to get on with it, we press for maximum political redesign.
  8. The classic example is the city of Porto Alegre in Brazil, in which innovative citizens used the opportunity of a PT municipal government to introduce participatory budgeting in 1989. It transformed the city and their lives.
  9. The next challenge is to embed and spread the change.
  10. Sure, none of it is easy. Like anything in life, if it were easy, it would not be worth doing. But it’s much easier than living with the results of our gathering political dysfunction.”


“Let’s all join the twenty-five per cent as explained by @GeorgeMonbiot. Sure as hell, we need to do something.”
~ Joan Byrne

“This is one of the most significant positive developments in recent times: the growing acceptance of “ecocide” as a defined legal term. I think this is one of the most focused, successful, far-reaching developments that could lead us to an ecological civilization.”
~ Jeremy Lent, American author

→ The Guardian – 26 August 2023:
Growing number of countries consider making ecocide a crime
“Mexico latest country where government is considering passing new laws to criminalise environmental destruction.”

→ Basic Income Earth Network – 26 July 2022:
Countries that Have Tried Universal Basic Income
“Universal Basic Income (UBI) is a program that provides citizens of a country with a monthly or annual stipend. It is given to individuals regardless of their employment status, income, or resources they own. The objective of Universal Basic Income is to reduce poverty and wealth disparity in a country. So far, no country has implemented Universal Basic Income but some countries have tried to implement it. ”

→ Wellbeing Economy Alliance:
For an economy in service of life
“A Wellbeing Economy is an economy designed to serve people and planet, not the other way around. In a Wellbeing Economy, the rules, norms and incentives are set up to deliver quality of life and flourishing for all people, in harmony with our environment, by default.”

2023 Earth4All Action Week

Systems Change, not Climate Change, a two-week global initiative dedicated to sparking discussions on the need for economic systems change.

Earth4All invites individuals, organisations, businesses, and governments from around the world to take part in an action week and join the budding momentum for systems change.

The action week is scheduled from 1 November to 15 November 2023. It is open to anyone who feels called to kickstart and engage in conversations around the deep changes our world needs. It’s also an opportunity to connect with a vibrant community dedicated to building a sustainable and fair future.

Participate in the Earth4All Action Week.

ChatGPT’s vision of a collective awakening

I asked ChatGPT: “Can you write me a short encouraging story how humanity will just in time transform and avoid ecological and societal collapse?”

By Hans Lak on

Once upon a time humanity found itself on the brink of ecological and societal collapse. The world was plagued by pollution, deforestation, and dwindling resources. However, in the face of adversity, a collective awakening began to take hold.

People from all walks of life, driven by a deep sense of responsibility, came together to champion change. Governments, corporations, and individuals united in a shared vision to transform their ways of living and interacting with the planet.

Renewable energy became the norm, replacing fossil fuels and drastically reducing carbon emissions. Innovative technologies emerged, harnessing the power of sunlight, wind, and water. Clean and efficient transportation systems flourished, reducing congestion and pollution.

Communities adopted sustainable practices, embracing recycling, composting, and reducing waste. Education programs flourished, instilling a deep appreciation for nature and inspiring future generations to protect the planet. Sustainable agriculture practices blossomed, promoting regenerative farming and nourishing both people and the Earth.

As the world transformed, harmony with nature became the cornerstone of society. Protected areas expanded, allowing ecosystems to recover and thrive. Biodiversity flourished once more, with endangered species finding refuge in carefully preserved habitats.

The spirit of cooperation transcended borders as nations worked hand in hand to address global challenges. International agreements were forged, ensuring the equitable distribution of resources and the preservation of fragile ecosystems. Scientific collaboration thrived, enabling breakthroughs in sustainable technologies and ecological restoration.

This collective effort to transform and protect the planet bore fruit. The air became cleaner, the waters clearer, and the forests flourished with life. Communities were revitalized, thriving with newfound opportunities and shared prosperity.

Humanity learned the importance of living in harmony with the Earth, recognizing that our well-being is interconnected with the health of the planet. The wisdom gained from the brink of collapse served as a catalyst for a new era of sustainability, compassion, and innovation.

In the end, humanity’s commitment to transformative action allowed it to just in time avoid the looming ecological and societal collapse. Through unity, determination, and a deep love for our shared home, the world was transformed into a beacon of hope, showcasing the incredible power of human resilience and the capacity to shape a brighter future for all.

Just imagine people living in harmony with nature.”

New Means – 6 August 2023:
Moving from “The Personal is Political” to Systemic Change
“On synthesizing the individual and the societal into transformation.” By Joshua P. Hill

Prospect – 18 August 2023:
The climate appeasers are leading us towards catastrophe
“In 1940, George Orwell famously lambasted those who refused to prepare for the Second World War. Today we face a different war—on the climate crisis—and we are as much “in the soup” now as we were then…”

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