End of the World?


Many have noticed the flaws in democracy. These days, you have only to glance at Trump, or watch Britain unravel over Brexit, or notice the hung parliaments and unconvincing votes around the world. Is it time to find a new system?

Climate change has defeated democratic decision making. The main parties are beholden to the big end of town, especially coal and gas, and rather than choosing to oversee a rational transition to renewable sources, politicians have dug their heels in and promoted products and practices that add to harmful emissions. The science is indisputable – or should be.

Don’t imagine that politicians are happy with their alliances with coal and banks. Their overreactions to the #Extinction Rebellion sit-ins have revealed how sensitive they are to criticism. To suggest mandatory jail and cutting protestors’ welfare payments is despotic. Messrs Littleproud and Canavan should note: Blocking roads is not new. I can remember sitting on Riverside Drive at peak-hour in 1969 to protest the danger for pedestrians crossing to and from The University of WA.

 The argument in This is Not a Drill, a series of opinion pieces by supporters of Extinction Rebellion (Penguin 2019) is that the democratic process has failed us by not taking dramatic action to mitigate climate change. In Australia, emissions are increasing, and sales of coal are growing. Younger people fear for their future: coastal flooding, the melting of polar ice, wildfires year-round and cycles of severe drought should cause fear. The mass extinction of many species and the destruction of much of the world’s coral reefs, including the beautiful Great Barrier Reef, should be cause for alarm and grief.

#Extinction Rebellion aims, in part, to shut down capital cities until governments declare a climate emergency. No one likes the disruption to daily life this causes, but it is far less that the disruption that climate change unchecked will bring.

Writers in This is Not a Drill argue that not only must clean energy be generated and coal and gas phased out, but also the whole economy must be re-made. The ‘free market’ with its dependence on growth and consumer addiction to constant purchasing are the cause of climate change. These writers argue for a more distributive economy, local and equitable. As they say if fewer than 10% control more than 80% of the wealth, the system is loaded for reform.

The #Extinction Rebellion street actions have an element of fun. Some placards are humorous, playful floats function as centrepieces. Food shared generously creates a party atmosphere. Rowan Williams, formerly Archbishop of Canterbury, pleads for a place for delight: this is God’s world we are trying to preserve, and our Scriptures describe the act of creation as a form of divine play. If there is no joy, but only earnest protest, #Extinction Rebellion becomes a negative, maybe destructive force. With the element of delight, however, the movement is showing what a renewed world will be like.

The claims of #Extinction Rebellion disturb me deeply. Has democracy failed? Can a new and loving politics replace it? I fear the answer to both questions is ‘Yes’. We owe it to our children and grandchildren to act to preserve their world. Democracy will evolve – it must – but we must fight for the future.

Beware the Megacorp


Behold the Megacorp! A person
without a beating heart.
He makes himself grow bigger
by ripping things apart.

He’s called a ‘legal person’,
unfettered growth his god.
He’s got the nerve to tell us
we’re the ones who’re odd!

He cuts down old-growth forests
and chips them to a pile.
He slices wood for buildings,
makes money all the while.

He cannot see the tree’s heart,
with beauty that entices.
All he sees is timber
return to him top prices.

He cannot see a mountain
is there to heal the soul:
He rips it down for profit
and yanks out all the coal.

He cannot see that hiking
down through mountain springs,
helps us thrive as humans
as we touch all living things.

He digs out all the umber dirt
to turn to brittle steel:
He points us to the deepest pit
and asks us how we feel!

He stops the earth from breathing.
He scorns if with joy we leap.
Yet his unrelenting pillage
is causing all to weep.

He says that I’m a socialist,
daft with dangerous features,
yet he’s the one destroying
our home and fellow-creatures.

So laugh with me at Megacorp:
with gold and growth he dances.
The only things that grow and grow
are called the worst of cancers.

  • Ted Witham 2017

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