In a recent interview with the Sunday Age (15.9) Senator Jacqui Lambie from Tasmania called for the conscription of youth to fight the “climate emergency’. Although a headline the term “climate emergency” managed to be split between the front page and the following one losing a fair bit of its punch. The article emphasized how those conscripted could be used in ‘emergency services’ like the CFA and SES. As global warming progresses it is fairly certain the pressures on these and other government and semi government organisations will increase dramatically.
Despite her sometimes misdirected (and basic) rhetoric Senator Lambie has ‘hit the nail on the head’. For in a real climate emergency governments will adopt many of the procedures used in World War 2. Amongst them there will almost certainly be conscription or organisation of labour of some kind. In a way Lambie’s call is similar to the National’s ‘green army’ which turned into another ‘tokenistic’ failure of the governing parties. But rather than condemn them outright it is far better to work out how this ‘coercive’ policy can be managed for the benefit of society.
Conscription should rightly direct the unemployed and underemployed of any age to unfulfilled tasks necessary to cope, and hopefully overcome, the climate emergency – including both mitigation and adaption. Many of these jobs are unattractive to private enterprise such as forest protection, re-afforestation and the many workers required in extreme weather emergencies such as catastrophic bushfires. This will necessarily include training in various tasks as well as education primers on the basics of global warming.
There are many older age citizens on the unemployment ‘scrapheap’ still able to fill essential roles in organising, directing etc. All those in this new ‘green army’ should receive a basic wage and for all those other than youth there should be no coercion involved – that they should be essentially volunteers. Even for youth those who have gainful employment, are students, or of other means, the draft should not be compulsory. In some ways it should resemble the old American ‘Peace Corps” and be as locally based as possible. Unemployment benefits should eventually be displaced.
For me there is a certain irony in all this. It was through the conscription policies of a Liberal government of more than 50 years ago that I became ‘politicised’. Now I am advocating a policy similar to the one that I once diametrically opposed. Hopefully such a policy, and others like it, will be for life rather than death or war, and be welcomed by the multitudes of youth and their supporters who have been striking for meaningful climate action. Senator Lambie at least seems to be working in the right direction.