Why isn’t there a proper climate change movement in Australia?

At the weekend GetUp! held a national “day of climate action” to demand action. An estimated 60,000 people took to the streets around Australia, in many cases in pouring rain, to call for real action to prevent global warming. It was the largest national global warming protest yet in Australia.

Far more people turned out than ever did for anti-carbon tax rallies in the previous parliament.

It highlights the fact that something like 69 per cent of Australians support stronger action on climate change.

Still, it could have been better. How much support did this event get from other green organisations? I searched the websites of Greenpeace, the ACF, WWF Australia, the Wilderness Society and the Greens. ACF gave it a passing mention. The others totally ignored it.

My question is: after all this time, why is there still not a single, unified, powerful climate action movement in this country?

The problem, I think, is green NGOs have adopted a pseudo-business mindset, with marketing departments concerned about branding and product differentation. They see themselves as competing with each other for supporter donations and membership fees. So they rarely work together.

Green organisations can still have their niches – Greenpeace for protest and action, the Wilderness Society for wild places, ACF less radical, and so on – but they need to come together in a single climate action coalition.

Organising rallies when you can’t pull a crowd is counterproductive. Instead of a show of strength, it’s a “show of weakness” that lets politicians know it’s safe to ignore you. Is 60,000 enough to make politicians take note? I doubt it. We need hundreds of thousands, rallies bigger than the anti-Iraq war demonstration, to startle politicians into taking climate change seriously.

We’ll only get meaningful climate action from our politicians when all green organisations stop thinking like seperate brands and start working together to build one climate movement.

Right now, the green movement is as culpable as anyone else on climate change.

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