A perceptive and important article on the climate emergency in the Age by Paul Gilding appeared recently. Gilding compared the current situation with the unprecedented emergency caused by World War II. The similarities between then and now are clear.
On the historical analogy he stated: “The evidence of the threat posed by Hitler was overwhelming and the case for action crystal clear. However, many were still deeply resistant to acting. Only when the threat became overwhelming – until it was accepted as an imminent crisis – was Britain triggered into action. When it was, Winston Churchill led the critical shift in thinking, arguing that no matter how uncomfortable, expensive or challenging to the status quo, sometimes you just have to do what is necessary. Not your best, or what you can afford, or what’s “realistic” – but what is necessary. In his case, that was going to war and assuming victory was possible. And so began one of the fastest and most dramatic economic mobilisations and industrial transformations in history. As a result, something that was rationally bordering on the impossible was achieved.”
Has the crisis occurred that will bring on the climate emergency? Probably not though the heatwaves and bushfires in the northern hemisphere this summer, possibly including the currently occurring hurricanes/typhoons in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, are definitely ringing the alarm bells. At home we have the drought and winter bushfires in NSW and East Gippsland. Currently there is no end in sight for the ‘dry’ and an El Nino threatens, which could complicate and intensify an already dire situation. We have no idea how big or how severe the ‘crisis’ will be.
In the meantime Gilding points out that the Darebin shire council has already declared the ‘climate emergency’ in Victoria as a result of determined ‘grass roots’ action and this has been followed by a number of local governments in the USA. As well there is the “climate emergency” petition that has been circulating online for some years which many of us have signed.
Gilding noted that with “identified threats, resistance and avoidance, stronger and stronger evidence, acceptance of crisis and then dramatic response – is pretty much how these things always unfold. And so it will most likely be on climate change.” The type of action that will follow the emergency declaration is clearly enunciated by Gilding and by Churchill before him. By definition the emergency will not be debated, there will be no question of cost, rather it is a question of what has to be done – of what is ‘necessary’. This will be decided by scientists and engineers, and implemented by the politicians. A process that should already have been in process 30 years.
And whilst we await the climate emergency defining crisis perhaps you can work on your shire to declare the ‘climate emergency’ and in the meantime sign the petition.