Speaking Truth to Power by Dr Michael Borgas

Michael speaks at the Inverloch rally (image Andrew McEwan)

Thank you for the invitation to speak to the Inverloch Climate Rally today. First of all, I want to thank you as citizens participating in the democratic process to change our damaging human climate footprint. You are vital for the planet and us!

I have long involvement in the science of climate and atmosphere and the never-ending task of ‘speaking truth to power.’ Scientists see the problems first and my CSIRO colleagues spoke truth to power for decades. Then they came for us. Our society gifts power to elected politicians, government bureaucracies and corporations. In the past when Australia strove to better its version of society, it was necessary to listen to truths, whether scientific, economic or social.

But popularism has increasingly empowered manipulative vested interests to ignore truths on climate and our social responsibilities. We are driven away from a sustainable future, or even a safe climate to enable most humans to aspire beyond survival.

The truth to power is now based on popular opinions and fantasies. Scientists are told to influence opinion in a fractious and ignorant political, media and fake-news landscape.

This is why you are vital citizens. You listen, make judgements on evidence, and influence your friends and neighbours in the community. In this modern world you are as important as the greatest scientist, most strident activist, or even peak forums like the IPCC. Your local politician will listen to you more than any of these authorities. You are more likely to have read and made judgements on the key messages from the science and experts than your representative in government. Your message to the powerful has never been more important.

There are exceptions, like Bass Coast Shire and the local Mayor who is here today. But the powerful in Australia are not leading the way, and we are recognized internationally as extremists and climate action laggards.

But do not despair, because truth cannot be denied in the long run. Have anger, because the denial and delay by the powerful is doing more damage to our climate and environment than necessary. Have hope, because we have pathways to a decarbonized economy with projects like Star of the South offshore wind and many community-based renewable energy developments. Have compassion to find a just world for the many people that will suffer climate emergencies and the wildlife and environment we plunder until we learn and act.

By protesting today, by standing up for climate action, you are taking responsible and just actions. The truth to power now means those messages reaching more and more citizens and our power finally cowering our insipid political leaders. Surveys clearly show more and more people want climate action and a sustainable future. There are even begrudging and fawning commitments to net zero by 2050 by most politicians.

Thank you again for demanding a more sustainable and just community. Our votes must change the current pathway to catastrophe and we must hold the powerful to account.

*The Author was in CSIRO 1987-2017 Atmospheric Research, Aspendale and President of their Staff Association 2002-2017. Yanakie, South Gippsland (Just Transition South Gippsland Inc)