Direct Action on climate means moving your money | RenewEconomy

Direct Action on climate means moving your money

What will drive the revolution to get climate damaging companies to change? Demonstrations do not work, facts do not work. What is the answer? Money.

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Part of the 2000 strong BreakFree crowd. Newcastle. Mothers Day 2016 Direct Action on Climate

By mutual consent the Port of Newcastle was closed for the afternoon, this Mothers Day, as 2000 activists launched 800 kayaks from Horseshoe Beach to protest the export of coal from the world’s largest coal terminal.

A total of 36 more adventurous people were also arrested for lying down on the tracks leading to Kooragang coal terminal. Nobody died, we all had a great time, a climate carnival complete with grass skirts and fairy wings and the caravan moved on. Point made.

Part of the 2000 strong BreakFree crowd. Newcastle. Mothers Day 2016 Direct Action on Climate
Part of the 2000 strong BreakFree crowd. Newcastle. Mothers Day 2016
Direct Action on Climate
Like COP21 we high fived each other, delighted that we had done something. We’d shown them and we were making a real difference. We were gonna turn the seaborne coal trade around.
Well, maybe.
There is a deep psychic disconnect between acknowledging the science of climate change and acknowledging the consequences. The implications of global warming are so profound we play games with our head and gaze soulfully into the middle distance. Robert Manne unpacks the dilemma perfectly in his scholarly piece for The Monthly, entitled ‘Diabolical’.
We know yet we dare not know, comforting ourselves in a cocoon of make-work and earnestness, doing something, or staunch in happy flappy denial. The bald science tends to polarize us into catatonic catastrophists or crazed conspiracists, each equally ineffectual and counterproductive.
George Monbiot (link here) in The Guardian this week describes the games we play with ourselves in the media focusing on ‘topics of brain-melting irrelevance’ while each passing day the graph marches inexorably upwards, rendering us incapable, unseeing, daring not join the dots. We seem not to care.
Facts do not move us. The fossil fuel industry clearly knew the consequences of their actions 40 years ago but chose present profits over the lives of their grandchildren. They knew they were dealing death.

One can imagine the cheery chuckles from the boardroom overlooking the harbor that Sunday: “Oh, what are they like? Those cheeky chappies on the beach. What do you say, Hugh, we could fund them to polish up our green credentials.”

800 watercraft blocked the harbour
800 watercraft blocked the harbour
Demonstrations do not move us. Occupy came and went. 350.org is now morphing into 450.org. Like Aesop’s farmer we clutch the business-as-usual coat tightly to our chest as the shrill wind of science seeks to rip it from our back. The stronger the assault the more tenaciously we cling to the comfort of the past.
We need a new paradigm, one powered by the sun, which in Aesop’s fable out-muscled the wind and saw the farmer willingly remove his coat as it unleashed its warmth on his back.
What does work? To state the obvious, and no, I’m not launching into an us/them rant: Money. Facts and awareness raising are just the ineffectual Wind, huffing and puffing and driving opponents deeper into opposite camps. Money is the Sun, the game changer. Money will drive the renewables revolution, ripping the past from our backs, just as it has driven the agrarian, industrial and information revolutions before it.
Money drives synergistically, where we see Moore’s Law kicking in, reducing the price of renewables in a downward ski slope, below, and then far below, the cost of fossil fuels, but it also drives entropically where we see the energy incumbents shoring up their dwindling monopolies through political donations and regulatory capture. The past head-butting the future.
The future will win. It always does. The relentless and exponential collapse of the price of renewable energy, matched seemingly by the horrific slow-motion, but nonetheless exponential, collapse of our life-support system under business as usual, form the epic backdrop to a convulsive struggle that will usher in a new era: The Age of Renewables.
We could sit and do nothing, indeed most of us will, and renewables would eventually triumph, but we need to expedite the revolution now to avoid the phenomenon of ‘catastrophe anyway’, where we wake up to address the problem with evangelical zeal, only to find, like the foolish bridesmaids, the door already locked and our fate sealed. Eureka signs are emerging as rusted on incumbents such as AGL and Origin quietly hedge their bets with small but scalable renewables lifeboats, readying for the exits, but the majority remain willfully blind.
Money, or the threat of losing it, is the tool that will open their eyes and drive the revolution. Our captains of industry and politics will smile benignly, even tut-tutting approvingly at our earnest efforts, agreeing solicitously with each point in the argument, then turn back to the board table, it’s own parallel universe, to get back to the business of Making Money.
What works, and continues to work is divestment. Threat to The Rivers of Money. Adani have struggled fruitlessly to advance their proposed $16 billion mega-mine in the Galilee Basin, even hedging their bets with forays into large scale solar, due in part to activist intervention with their bankers despite the active support of state and federal governments here, and again, in part to the negative economic outlook for coal, brought about in no small part by the serendipitous collapse in the cost of renewables. I.e. Coal is trying to compete but can’t beat free.
Socially aware investment funds, the Rockefellers, Universities, even the council of coal’s host city, Newcastle, have increasingly withdrawn investment support for fossil fuels. We can all do likewise.
Since COP21, when we sat around the campfire singing Coal is Bad For Your Health, Australia’s big 4 banks have written $5.6b in new loans to fossil fuel companies. If you’d like to express your displeasure about this to your bank go to Market Forces and follow the prompts (link here). You’ll be hitting them where it hurts: Money.
George Parry works as a volunteer adviser with the Tom Farrell Institute for the Environment, University of Newcastle, advising on the evolving EvFest electric vehicle and new energy expo. 
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3 Comments
  1. onesecond 4 years ago

    Yes, it is the money, but don’t be cynical about other measures. The world’s energy transition was started by a law brought forward by the Green party in Germany. Voting matters a lot, as does doing political work and that involves building pressure by demonstrations and protests. Political decisions move the framework where to make money.

  2. Radbug 4 years ago

    It’s what I call the “Mullard Effect”. Remember Mullard? I bet you don’t. It was one of the largest thermionic valve manufacturers in the world. When transistors came along in the early ’50’s, what did Mullard do? Of course, it made a better thermionic valve! People in an incumbent industry become illiterate in everything except what they do every day. It happens everywhere. That’s why the Carbon Tax won’t work. Apply pressure on incumbent companies and they will do what they do, but better. Look at Hazelwood power station. They responded to to the Carbon Tax … by making a better grade of coal! You cannot pressure people in incumbent industries to become transformative, it runs contrary to human nature. The bitter lesson is that government has to do it. It has to pick the transformative idea, research it, develop it, and then apply capital to build at least a demonstration plant, hopefully, along with a private enterprise partner.

    • Ren Stimpy 4 years ago

      There is no such thing as “a better grade of coal”. All types of coal produce almost exactly the same greenhouse gas emissions (CO2) when combusted. Some types of coal produce less aerosol pollutants than others, but that is beside the point.

      The carbon tax was there to fund clean renewable energy sources – solar etc – so that the taxpayer didn’t have to.

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