Gippsland Extinction Rebellion

Gippsland Extinction Rebels (Tony Peck)

The Extinction Rebellion protests in Melbourne over the second week of the month received an enormous amount of publicity. Twenty-three members of the Gippsland XR group – a number of whom are members of East Gippsland Climate Action Network (EGCAN) and the Baw Baw Sustainability Group – participated in the events with as many as 10 being arrested. Climate Activist Angela Crunden of Bairnsdale provided a rough list of those making the sacrifice including former Bairnsdale shopkeeper and Clifton Creek resident John Hermans, West Gippsland medico Malcolm McKelvie and the daughter of former Mayor of East Gippsland Shire Council Mendy Urie. Other Gippslanders not part of the XR group were also arrested. Inverloch resident Bron Dahlstrom reported that “Neil Rankine, the ex-Bass Coast Mayor was also arrested. These people are doing us proud.”

Angela commented on facebook on her week: “We lay down and stay still for 10 minutes Matt signifying deaths associated with the changing climate. We had mini shrouds over our faces. Died in Fed Square, Bourke St, Melbourne Central inside and out and Southbank. We sang once we rose from the dead. Check out EGCAN link for video and thanks for all your encouragement and good vibes.” Also on facebook the television image (Channel 9) of John Hermans being arrested received an enormous amount of attention with over 50 likes, a similar number of comments – mostly praise – and at last count 22 shares.

John noted that “when l was asked to talk on ABC Gippsland radio this morning, l was asked the question, ‘Was it all worth it?’ My reply, ‘Absolutely, look at the media we have generated, and the public discussion on the issues around Climate Change and the need to act now’. This comment no doubt lead to the termination of that interview, I had created my own platform and paid for it with a miserly $330 fine. Talk about getting credibility for something that is otherwise seen as a shameful misdemeanour! Prior to being arrested I was quite anxious about the whole idea of it, but now I can honestly say it has lifted my own spirits and determination. If you are feeling down about the world at the moment, get active, get arrested!

“But first join in with your local Climate Action group to find out how it’s done. The EGCAN group is only 7 months old, but we are punching above our weight with two hundred members and enjoying ourselves as we achieve our goals.”

Civil disobedience requires a certain amount of confrontation, inconvenience and disruption for many as well as the inevitable arrests. A few weeks ago I argued that the protests could be more carefully targeted as with the example of the civil rights movement in America targeting segregated cafes and buses. I have another, perhaps unfounded, worry that the climate change message will be buried. On this occasion at least I concede that the overwhelming attention the protests have received in the media more than compensates for the inconvenience of others and that congratulations are due all round. More to follow.