Deepening democracy

Our guests in ‘The Tunnel’ — also known as Zoom, where The Sustainable Hour no 320 is recorded during the coronavirus lockdown — on 24 June 2020 are:

Anna Langford from Friends of the Earth Melbourne: Six years ago, we met a very passionate 15-and-a-half-year-old year 10 student who had just started as a volunteer for Friends of the Earth in Melbourne. Today Anna Langford returns to The Sustainable Hour as an organiser for the organisation’s Act on Climate Collective to tell us about their recently campaign to get the Andrews government to set real targets to address the climate emergency we face. We see that Anna has lost none of that passion and commitment to the task at hand as she combines this work with her university studies.

Sonia Randhawa from the Sortition Foundation and Coalition of Everyone: Sonia worked for many years as a journalist, both in Malaysia and in Australia. She has done a lot of work on how to implement Citizens’ Assemblies in Australia. The germ of an idea of having one in Geelong before the local government elections in October has life breathed into it during our chat with Sonia.

Colin Mockett‘s global outlook: In this week’s show Colin looks at Australia’s international ranking in a number of sustainability indices. While there are some overall improvements, we still have a long way to go. One particular area where we fit that category is emissions from cars and numbers of electric vehicles sold. Meanwhile, Denmark – where the government currently is introducing a carbon tax – tops the list.

To round off this week’s Sustainable Hour, we hear an extract from a recent powerful talk by climate teen hero Greta Thunberg. It’s an excerpt from the Swedish Broadcasting Corporation program ‘Summer on P1’  which occurred on 20 June 2020, titled: ‘Humanity has not yet failed’.

“Doing our best is no longer good enough. We must now do the seemingly impossible,” Thunberg says in the program where she takes us along her trip to the front lines of the climate crisis. You can listen to her entire talk here.

In-between Anna, Sonia and Greta, we hear music from Australian Tones & I: ‘The Kids Are Coming’.

Please, if you found this show stimulating in any way, please help us by sharing it far and wide.
Till next week’s show: Be the difference!


“The climate and ecological crisis cannot be solved within today’s political and economic systems. That isn’t an opinion. That’s a fact.”
~ Greta Thunberg, Swedish climate activist


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Acknowledgement

We at The Sustainable Hour would like to pay our respect to the traditional custodians of the land on which we are broadcasting, the Wathaurong People, and pay our respect to their elders, past, present and future.

The traditional owners lived in harmony with the land. They nurtured it and thrived in often harsh conditions for millenia before they were invaded. Their land was then stolen from them – it wasn’t ceeded. It is becoming more and more obvious that, if we are to survive the climate emergency we are facing, we have much to learn from their land management practices.

Our battle for climate justice won’t be won until our First Nations brothers and sisters have their true justice. When we talk about the future, it means extending our respect to those children not yet born, the generations of the future – remembering the old saying that…

“We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors. We borrow it from our children.”

The decisions currently being made around Australia to ignore climate change are being made by those who won’t be around by the time the worst effects hit home. How utterly disgusting, disrespectful and unfair is that?

“Either we go on as a civilization, or we don’t. Doing our best is no longer good enough. We must now do the seemingly impossible. And that is up to you and me. Because no one else will do it for us.”
~ Greta Thunberg, Swedish climate activist

→ Swedish Broadcasting Corporation, SR – 20 June 2020:
Greta Thunberg: Humanity has not yet failed
“Climate activist Greta Thunberg urges world leaders to do more. ”Doing our best is no longer good enough. We must now do the seemingly impossible,” Thunberg says in the Swedish Radio show “Summer on P1” where she takes us along her trip to the front lines of the climate crisis.”



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Newsletter from Friends the Earth Melbourne’s Act on Climate campaigners:


Thursday 18 June 2020 was meant to be the final day for the Andrews government to announce Victoria’s first interim Emissions Reduction Targets. But that was before the pandemic hit…

The Climate Change Act 2017 requires the state government to announce the targets within ten sitting days of March 31.

Yet changes to the Parliamentary sitting calendar in response to COVID-19 has extended the ‘sitting-day’ window out to August. The government has three more sitting days up its sleeve to meet its legal obligation. 

Now more than ever, we need your help to keep the community’s call for science-based targets on the agenda. 

Will you help us sustain our campaign by making a tax-deductible donation?

Over the last year we facilitated 2,500 submissions calling for maximum ambition; met with dozens of Labor MPs; brought frontline communities into the debate; put the climate blockers on the backfoot; and mobilised community members for iconic human signs and online actions amid the lockdown. 
We can’t afford to let all this momentum go to waste. Which is why we’re asking for people to dig deep and keep us on the campaign trail.
 
While our Emissions Reduction Targets campaign continues, we’re not just sitting idle waiting for the announcement. 

Earlier this month, we launched our push to write a People’s Climate Strategy for Victoria with over one thousand people watching the online launch. 

Writing a People’s Climate Strategy to present to the Andrews government later this year is a bold and ambitious undertaking. But shaping the state’s first climate strategy is an opportunity that can’t be missed.

The Victorian government is required to prepare and rollout a climate strategy every five years out to 2050. Our efforts in coming months will influence the Labor government’s own plan as well as all those that follow it.  

We’re also hosting an online fundraising gig—Dial Up the Music, Not the Climate—featuring The Orbweavers, Good Luck Omen, and more on Friday 26 June 2020. Get your tickets today

The Act on Climate collective is a community effort that punches well above its weight when it comes to climate action in Victoria. 

If you have a few spare bob and like our work, please make a tax-deductible donation before the end of financial year (June 30).

Cheers, Anna, Leigh, and the Act on Climate collective

Leigh Ewbank and Anna Langford

Leigh Ewbank
Act on Climate (Vic) coordinator
Friends of the Earth Melbourne
Tel: 0406 316 176

The interview with Anna Langford in The Sustainable Hour no 320

→ You can contact Anna Langford on anna.langford@foe.org.au · tel 0478 031 771

→ Follow Anna on Twitter

actonclimate.org.au — Support Act on Climate’s work with a donation

→ Link up with Act on Climate Victoria on Facebook



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Sonia Randhawa
Interview in The Sustainable Hour with Sonia Randhawa about citizens’ assemblies and Sortition Foundation

→ Link up with Sonia Randhawa on Linkedin.com

Next big thing for the climate emergency movement?

Could citizens’ assemblies be “the next big thing”? …the big vision that will implement REAL change, and quickly enough, (if following in the slipstream of the Climate Emergency Declaration movement at Council level). Should we all join forces and organise a Citizens’ Assembly on Climate in Victoria before the local elections in October? Or several of them, in key electorates?

Should we be asking council candidates to commit to, if elected, to engage their municipalities much deeper in this style of local decision-making process which isn’t corrupted by Big Money and where decisions are made in everyone’s interest? In Victoria: Would it help if we refer them to the new Local Government Act, which specifically requests councils to be engaging in deliberative democracy…?

Should we as a society implement a four-day work week, where the fifth day is spent on citizens’ assembly related work, as well as carbon drawdown projects in the community?

These are some of the questions and topics we explore in today’s Sustainable Hour together with Sonia Randhawa.

→ You can post your comment, ideas and feedback below this Facebook post

According to the new Local Government Act in Victoria, councils are now obliged to engage in “deliberative democracy”.

Our political system needs reform. Politicians are guided by Big Money, not by what their voters actually want. Powerful lobby groups have managed to compromise the system – this has been documented by numerous investigative reports in Australia over recent years.

Citizens’ assemblies show that when you get a mixed group of average citizens to make decisions on important topics for our health and wellbeing, the outcome makes a lot more common sense. What’s missing now is making it compulsary for the politicians to follow these decisions made by a Citizens’ Assembly. To make that happen, we probably need to first vote in a new breed of young leaders who understand why this is crucial for saving ourselves against the worst impacts of the climate and ecological emergency.

Idea: Can we organise a citizens assembly on climate emergency in Victoria before the Council elections in October? Could we get council candidates to commit to the idea of, if elected, opening their Council to engage in the citizen assembly processes, based on random selection of representatives of the community and an in-depth participatory process of deliberation?

Vision: Imagine a world when politicians aren’t corrupted and where decisions are made in everyone’s interest. A world where we work only four days a week and spend the fifth day on community engagement work such as citizens assemblies, while opening up public community food gardens, planting urban forests, turning grass lawns into vegetable hubs based on regenerative farming principles.

→ New Scientist – 23 June 2020:

UK citizens’ assembly shows big support for green covid-19 recovery

Around four-fifths of a citizens’ assembly on climate change in the UK wants the government’s coronavirus economic recovery measures to also help the country meet its target of slashing carbon emissions to net zero.

A British Citizens Assembly overwhelmingly supports accelerating the green transition. UK business too will make climate a turning point in the impending recovery following COVID-19, reported several news outlets.
In January 2020, the United Kingdom set up a so-called ‘Climate Citizens Assembly’ consisting of 108 representative citizens. Over three weekends they discussed the implications of climate change on society and how UK lawmakers should deal with them now and in the future. 
It was intended that the assembly should also have met a fourth weekend, but here the COVID-19 and the accompanying lockdown came in the way. Instead, in April and May, three online meetings were held for members of the assembly. Previously, the British Parliament had decided that the assembly should also consider the impact of the corona crisis on society’s ability to fight global warming.A citizens’ assembly works by asking participants to thoroughly familiarise themselves with the problem by reading it. At the meeting itself, experts with divergent positions talk, and then discuss the members of the assembly. 
The outcome of the debate is taken to the minutes and collected in an advisory report. It will not be released until September 2020, but the assembly has already delivered a provisional conclusion to the Westminster Parliament.

→ Read more on www.newscientist.com

When citizens assemble: a breakthrough moment

“Ireland’s efforts to break a political deadlock over its de facto ban on abortion inspired a bold response – the creation of a Citizens’ Assembly to tackle on the issue. During five weekends spread over five months, a random selection of Irish people deliberated on the highly divisive and controversial issue. Their conclusion, in April 2017, recommended a radical liberalisation of existing laws, including a change to the Constitution. Their work helped prompt Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to pledge a national referendum on abortion in 2018, when Irish voters will have a chance to make new laws.

The Assembly represents a breakthrough moment not just for Ireland but also for ways of doing politics in the rest of the world. By using random selection and deliberation to seek solutions to a highly contentious issue, rather than leaving it to elected politicians, Ireland has gifted us all a real-life lesson in doing democracy differently. At a time of deep dysfunction in our electorally driven political models – what issue wouldn’t lend itself to a citizens’ assembly approach? When Citizens Assemble is the first in a global, nine-film series on the state of democracy and efforts to radically improve the way it works.”
~ Patrick Chalmers

→ Shared Future – 14 February 2019:
Citizens Assemblies, Citizens’ Juries and Climate Change
“Citizens Assemblies have gone mainstream, no longer are they the preserve of those democracy geeks who have the Oxford Handbook of Deliberative Democracy on their bedside tables. Climate activists, politicians and health professionals are excited by their potential.”



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The Kids Are Coming

“No one seems to understand the kids these days
And why we live this way
We’ve got to clean up the mess you’ve made
Still you don’t wanna change

You create the law
But can’t control our thoughts
And no we won’t be bought
We don’t just protest for the fun
We’re here to get it done

The kids are coming
The kids are gunning
The kids are running
The kids are coming”



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A fundamentally new political philosophy required

“Why is the government still more black than green when there are no moral, political or economic arguments for it?

There are a lot of academic ways to answer that question: What institutions do we have available and how skilled are they at translating professionalism into politics and government? How democratic are they and how strong is the influence of citizens on politics towards the economic and fossil fuel-based elite and lobbyism?

But if we are to make a green transition, it also requires that we actually know WHY we are here today. WHY modern man smashes nature and climate.

A climate-philosophical answer is that Christianity does not contain a strong concept of nature. The basic idea is that nature is sinful and paradise is not on this planet. Our modern civilisation is based on an understanding of nature as something of no value, something that can be used, thrown away and over-exploited. And our economy and politics too are based on that principle.

Therefore, climate policy is not just about an extra wind turbine. It requires a fundamentally new economy, a fundamentally new political philosophy.” 

~ Theresa Scavenius, PhD, associate professor, researcher in climate policy and democracy at AAU in Denmark, lecturer and climate mediator



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The climate movement versus $150 billion of new fossil fuel projects

Newsletter from Market Forces on 23 June 2020:

“The COVID-19 pandemic has taken us to a fork in the road. And it’s clear which direction the government, ably assisted by its gas-fired National COVID-19 Coordination Commission, wants to take us. 

Forcing a renewable energy agency to fund the coal industry’s “carbon capture” fantasy, and pursuing gas projects that have already been found to be unviable are the actions of a desperate government that would stop at nothing to help their friends in the fossil fuel industry. 

Coming into 2020, there were over 100 proposed new coal and gas projects in Australia, needing $149 billion of investment. This movement has knocked so many climate-wrecking coal and gas projects off the table in recent years and Australia is rapidly expanding renewable energy to the point where we could be coal-free by 2030. But all these gains will fail to prevent catastrophic climate change if we continue to expand the fossil fuel industry at the same time. 

If the government gets its way, these projects will get the investment they need and we can kiss goodbye to any chance of a safe climate future. But together with you, we will campaign to make sure nobody is prepared to put money up for the government’s fossil fuel dreams. We’ve already gotten two of Australia’s major banks and our three general insurers to commit to being out of thermal coal by 2030, if not sooner. We need to hold these institutions accountable to their commitments while getting their competitors to raise the bar even further, ruling out any new fossil fuel lending. 

We will demand superannuation funds pull our retirement savings out of companies whose business models only succeed if we fail to cut greenhouse gas emissions. In 2020, there is no excuse for investing in climate catastrophe.

As we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, we have a chance to build a better society. Many other countries are putting green growth at the heart of their economic recovery plans. Some are making bailouts conditional on companies setting targets for reducing climate risks. 

Australian governments at both a federal and state level seem hell-bent on worsening the climate crisis as we come through the coronavirus crisis. Whether it’s Queensland opening up another 7,000 square metres for coal and gas exploration, Victoria opening up onshore unconventional gas drilling, or New South Wales approving coal mining under Sydney’s water catchment. 

We can make sure that when the coal and gas industry tries to take advantage, investors aren’t interested, and are using our money to back clean, renewable energy projects instead. But we need to work harder and smarter than ever before. 

We need to throw everything we have at this fight against fossil fuels, so I’m asking if you’ll make a small donation to help escalate our work over this critical time. All donations over $2 are tax-deductible.

Thanks so much for your support,”

Julien, on behalf of Market Forces

P.S I know that for many people, finances are hard and if you’re not in a position to donate right now, I completely understand. People have always given what they can, when they can. But if you have the means to make 2020 a turning point where we leave fossil fuels behind, please chip in to give us a massive push on our way.



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Events we have talked about in The Sustainable Hour

Events in Victoria

The following is a collation of Victorian climate change events, activities, seminars, exhibitions, meetings and protests. Most are free, many ask for RSVP (which lets the organising group know how many to expect), some ask for donations to cover expenses, and a few require registration and fees. This calendar is provided as a free service by volunteers of the Victorian Climate Action Network. Information is as accurate as possible, but changes may occur.

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Podcasts and posts on this website about climate emergency
Latest news on BBC about climate change


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