Australia takes legal action against 183 during bushfire season; celebrities claim they were caused by climate change
Australia’s rampant and destructive wildfires were started by arson and other causes, as well as fueled by dry conditions and high temperatures, but you’d never know it from the Golden Globes or mainstream media outlets.
In November, a teenage volunteer firefighter from New South Wales was charged with setting 7 bushfires in the region, and then returning with his brigade to fight them. Apparently, he has set 17 fires, and the pyromaniac has now been barred from access to any firefighting equipment.
“When one country faces a climate disaster, we all face a climate disaster,” Cate Blanchett said.
Meanwhile, Russell Crowe’s statement at the Golden Globes, read aloud by Jennifer Anniston, stated that “the tragedy unfolding in Australia is climate change based. We need to act based on science, move our global workforce to renewable energy, and respect our planet for the unique and amazing place it is. That way, we all have a future.”
Switching the script, Joaquin Phoenix took personal responsibility for his own actions, and advocated for a plant-based diet. “It’s great to vote, but sometimes we have to take that responsibility on ourselves and make changes and sacrifices in our own lives and hope that we can do that. We don’t have to take private jets to Palm Springs for the awards. I’ll try to do better, and I hope you will too.”
According to The Australian, “Police arrested 183 people for lighting bushfires across Queensland, NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania in the past few months. NSW police data shows 183 people have been charged or cautioned for bushfire-related offences since November 8, and 24 arrested for deliberately starting bushfires.”
This claim was later revised to 183 people who Australian authorities have taken “legal action” against. Still, that’s 183 people who have acted illegally with regards to fire safety during this period of catastrophic bushfires, displacement, property loss, and deaths of both people and animals.
So why do so many Hollywood celebrities claim that the massive fires in Australia are a result of climate change? There’s a years’ long drought along Australia’s Gold Coast. There are rising temperatures. This has been the driest year on record, and the fire and cyclone seasons are just around the corner. But without those 183 irresponsible or malicious people since August, these blazes would probably be substantially less bad.
Climate change, greenhouse gases, pollution, air quality, and other threats to life and quality of life are of course real concerns. But the predilection of media and stars to taking any tragedy and using it as a fulcrum for their own cause celeb does less to amplify the need for action and policy change, and more to highlight the myopia that makes the public at large roll their eyes. Extinction Rebellion, devotees of teen climate activist Greta Thunberg, and simplifications of complex issues make it easy for people to dismiss climate concerns as baseless. Stating facts and offering solutions will do more to convince people of the need for change than easily dismissable hyperbole.
Many towns and schools have been forced to evacuate after New South Wales sees heavy rainfall throughout the region. The rain has put out some of the wildfires that have been burning for months according to CTV News.
According to Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology, over 200 millimetres of rain came down on the region in just one day. Sydney saw more rainfall than the city has seen since 1990 at 391.6 millimetres over four days.
On Monday, the New South Wales Department of Education closed many schools due to flooding in the area.
Since Friday, more than 30 fires were put out by the heavy rainfall according to the New South Wales Fire Service. The Fire Service released a Tweet saying that the rain was the “most positive news we’ve had in some time.”
James Morris of the Fire Service noted that the Currowan fire was put out by the heavy rain on Saturday. That was a giant fire that had covered about 500,000 hectares in 74 days.
Morris also noted that the persisting fires will most likely be extinguished by the continuous rain.
The Department of Canadian heritage, which is run by the Liberal Member of Parliment Steven Guilbeault, is paying journalists to write stories on climate change, according to Blacklock’s Reporter.
When launching the Local Journalism Initiative in 2019, the then Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez said that “our government is committed to ensuring Canadians everywhere continue to have access to accurate, diverse and relevant news.”
Despite this, these state-funded subsidies have gone towards writing stories on climate change. The Canadian News Media Association, for example, was paid $14.4 million last year.
As well as this, the Yukon-based publication The Narwhal received a subsidy after writing, “It seems like British Columbia is always on fire… The Narwhal tracks government commitments to climate change and separates the wheat from the chaff.”
The Narwhal then went on to publish stories like ““Meet The Alberta Climate Activists Who Say They’re Not Scared Of Jason Kenney.”
Another publication that received a subsidy was Nunavut-based Nunatsiaq News, who also received a government grant to pay for a journalist to cover “the effects of climate change on the Arctic.” Likewise, The Winnipeg Free Press was given a grant so that they could hire a reporter who was dedicated to climate change.
the Local Journalism Initiative is a key component of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s plan to revive the ailing industry of journalism in Canada. In 2019, Trudeau committed nearly $600 million in what has become the controversial media bailout.
A Greenpeace co-founder has been de-platformed from a sustainability conference in Regina according to Regina Leader-Post. The conference is called Reimagine Conference 2020: Roadmap to Sustainable Cities.
Patrick Moore was supposed to be a main speaker at the Energy and Sustainability Conference at the Queensbury Convention Centre this May.
On Friday, Mike O’Donnell announced, at City Hall, that Moore’s speech may take away from the conference. He noted that Moore’s speech was more about climate change and less about the main goal of the conference which is to discuss sustainable energy.
One of the main discussions of the conference is about how to make operations and faculties in the city completely renewable by 2050.
“We’re not hosting a climate change conference and so we feel that we need to refocus,” O’Donnell said.
O’Donnell mentioned that they originally contacted Moore asking him to talk about “a sustainable energy future.”
The Regina Leader-Post reported O’Donnell saying, “He has now announced in this last while that he wants to speak about a different topic. I’m not interested in that.”
Today, Moore tweeted, “Pleased to be getting some coverage exposing the City of Regina’s cowardice in de-platforming me. I did not intend to focus solely on climate change in my keynote, but no-one tells me what to say. I am independent and proud of it. I am sad for Canada.”
This week, Moore noted that his talk was called “Fake invisible catastrophes and threats of doom” and he wanted people to listen to the speech before judging it by its title.
O’Donnell said that the city will still be paying Moore for the event due to their contractual agreement. The agreement was to give Moore $10,000 and to cover expenses.
On Friday, O’Donnell said, “We have a contract. We’ll honour our contract.”
“We are just now speaking with the National Speakers Bureau and so we will obviously have some discussions with them but we will honour the contract.”
Moore responded to the announcement on Twitter saying, “I have been de-platformed, cancelled, and round-filed by the great City of Regina for daring to question the God-Given wisdom of the catastrophists. Actually, I don’t want to be part of such a stupid exercise. It’s impossible to make a city 100% renewable.”
Berlin-based climate activist Karin Louise Hermes has left the climate movement because she couldn’t deal with the white people anymore. She felt like her concerns as a person of colour, about the racist impact of climate change, were not adequately represented or respected. What this means is that identity politics is eating itself.
We’ve heard tell about the climate crisis facing our world. The rhetoric goes that we’ve got maybe 12 years to turn this ship around before we all suffer something akin to the fate of the dinosaurs and cause our own extinction. Greta Thunberg practically dropped out of school because of it. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says it’s probably a good reason to not have kids. Extinction Rebellion blocks roads and public transit to draw attention to the dire consequences of climate change. But for Hermes and Vice magazine, those white people just make saving the world impossible.
Hermes was asked to speak at climate change awareness-raising events, and often told the story of her family in the Philippines that had suffered tragic losses during and in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan. The predominantly white Germans and Europeans in the audience were receptive, empathetic, and moved by her words.
Hermes said she “felt required to tell my Filipino family’s experience during speeches and rallies because this form of “storytelling” was the only thing that would move a mostly white European audience to an emotional response of climate urgency—even though it was exhausting telling the story, especially since any mention of hurricanes in the news gives me anxiety.”
Any cause worth undertaking is exhausting. The work of “world-saving” is not easy. Hermes was probably not the only one who was made tired by her efforts. Her climate activist colleagues would probably be horrified to know that their empathy and concern for Hermes’ family was racist. In fact, Hermes wasn’t the only climate activist of colour who has had this experience.
“Many other climate activists of colour have described similar experiences of tokenism,” she writes. “Māori and disability rights campaigner Kera Sherwood-O’Regan (Kāi Tahu iwi from Te Waipounamu) found that as an Indigenous person at the UN climate conferences, organizers would suggest showing support and ‘passing the mic,’ but the same people would be the ones taking up space in negotiations and speaking to the media.”
This forces the question of whether fighting to prevent climate change is more or less important than securing a prominent place for yourself and your personal story in front of the mic. This could be asked to a person with any collection of identity markers. What’s more important, the message or the messenger?
If the answer is the messenger, or something more nuanced, such as the messenger is the message, then how can there be a unified front opposing climate change?
Perhaps there can’t be. Perhaps there are as many messages as there are messengers, and the cacophonous voices against climate change can not be stitched together. Perhaps climate change activism will be eaten by identity politics.
Hermes believes that “Anti-racism and anti-capitalism need to be made part of organizing.” But is the lack of inclusion of those things in the mainstream climate change movement a detriment to that movement? Is there anything to be said for picking a simple cause and going all-in without any modifiers? Apparently not.
“Fortunately,” writes Hermes, “there is now a growing BIPOC Environmental & Climate Justice Collective in Berlin, where we share these experiences of being silenced or tokenized and work together on how to link anti-racism and inequality in climate justice.”
She quotes Sherwood-O’Regan, who said, “As we grow and climate change becomes a harsher reality, privileged activists need to learn to de-centre themselves and meaningfully support Indigenous, disabled, queer, global south, POC, and other marginalized people who are on the frontlines of climate change.”
Because for Hermes and so many others, the messenger is more important than the message. The messenger is the message. Despite the terms used, and the advocacy for the voices of persons of color, this call for people of one skin colour and ethnic background to be decentered in favour of centring people from different skin colours and backgrounds is about tribal dominance. And it’s silly. And it won’t save the world.