The time is now.
Today is October 7th and it’s a day of protest for climate change activists. Hard to believe that some debates are still being had around climate change. Imagine your body is the earth and it is undeniably showing signs of suffering and illness and imminent death, add to this the fact that you know this was caused most likely from self-inflicted lifestyle habits you have enjoyed for many years and maybe a bit of genetic predisposition that you failed to find out in time. So, you get a bad prognosis. You either stop those bad habits right now or adapt to a situation which hopefully means you can manage to limp on or miraculously recover or you reject the advice and carry on business as usual at your own peril. What would you do? Debating the worthiness of climate change initiatives implies we are in denial and most probably selfish or stupid or all three. It would be one odd farmers market if we did not acknowledge the climate change paradigm we are in. After all good farmers markets are all about sustainable ways of making and growing food. The irony is that our reality here in the Waimakariri is one of water quality or rather lack of. The Governments Action for healthy water ways document is essentially a climate change initiative, weak as it may be, it was launched recently and has created a bit of a stir.
The consequential squealing from those farmers who feel they have been singled out are being heard. Maybe they feel uncomfortable about the way they have been and maybe still are farming and maybe they are in a state of denial that they are actually part of a problem. Big fossil burning industries and their supporters have also started lashing back at criticism. It may seem small stuff relevant to the scale of climate change denying that Trump and Australian PM Morrison are so good at, but the response to our local Action for healthy waterways could be seen as reminiscent of a mind-set that was better suited to the our colonial past in more ways than we might like to acknowledge. Back then nature was something to conquer and use, be it a river or forest or just the entire planet. Throw the school strikes for climate and the ‘kindly but poor informed teenager’ Greta Thunberg into the mix and you start to hear some uncomfortable Taliban like back lashing from this mob directed at female climate activists.
The back lash that 16 year old Greta experienced as a result of speaking out publicity about the leaders attitudes that fuels the climate change issue is being reinforced by some men claiming reverse racism. They don’t like ‘white men’ being singled out as being largely to blame for this issue. Considering white men’s dominant role in most if not all significant governmental decisions in the western world and men’s significant part in the same processes in most countries worldwide, it seems a bit odd that some of them suddenly find the attention a little too personal. Cultures that display a proliferation of male symbols in town squares or immortalise men in statues on every boulevard in the world tell us a story that demands attention, and it not a womans story. There is no shortage of written and oral history from a man’s perspective. No amount of womens literature will ever catch up. Global social and environmental domination by men is often the reality. Matriarchal societies were as popular as Greta. So this male and especially old white male group stands out as being responsible and yes the focus is on them.
This whole climate issue is creating a social and cultural storm. With the likes of Extinction rebellion fuelling the initiatives for controlling climate change in mind, I have heard that we are in the early throws of a cultural war. Extinction Rebellion implies that the system is broken. Any change politically that might foster responsible and remedial action is impossible under the current regime they say.
“Traditional representational democracy is not fit for the purpose of addressing the climate emergency, as politicians represent many competing interests before they represent the interests of people and planet.”
XR propose Peoples Assemblies to tackle climate change issues. Peoples Assemblies are ‘a way for a group of people to discuss issues or make decisions collectively, where all voices are heard and valued equally and no one person or group are able to dominate the process’.
Extinction Rebellion hopes to rally 3.5% of the population to vote for system change. 170,000 people turned out to march for climate change recently right here in New Zealand. This went largely unreported.
When any climate discussion is written off as being emotional or there are covert suggestions that children should be seen and not heard, you could start to see the point that XR are making. With the Occupy and the #MeToo movement in the background one can see clearly that this backlash is coming from predominantly white men in positions of power. Their conservative views come to the fore. From leaders of countries and industries to lowly local shock jocks the reaction has in this case been the same. They avoid the climate change issue and instead focus on the messenger. Gender wars have been ongoing in westernised countries and to some degrees a successful one on both sides. This Climate Change issue has become a potential catalyst for change in more ways than we may have realised. Greta and her younger generation and some good men have wizened up to patriarchy’s disproportionate influence on their lives.
The most vocal advocates for climate change initiatives right now seem to be from women. Stats say that women are also more likely to vote for environmental issues. According to latest international statistics more women are standing for election and more women are voting. According to XR 60-70% of their supporters are women. But also according to an international 2018 research paper called Sex and Power men still remain the dominate force in all areas from positions of power to wage earning. Men in positions of governance are also getting older; the likes of Trump, Bernie Sanders, Winston Peters to name a few. So it makes sense that when all boards, committees, councils, governing bodies consist of 50% women we might then hope for some significant change in environmental and social policy that embrace a more holistic approach. Women even have science to support them in the knowledge that they do in fact think differently from men. This could offer us some hope for better decision making. If only science would also tell us what we already know about men statistically more likely to be the perpetrators of industry induced climate change.
Cultural wars have gone before. Those who have most to lose become most vocal. There is a generation out there now that doesn’t like what the future looks like as a result. Any negative reaction to climate change initiatives are also met with the same reaction, they too don’t like the look of the future either. So what do we do.
Fact of the matter is that men have been making a lot of the decisions at policy and governmental levels and using science to back them up. It hasn’t always got it right hence the climate change problems we now have to deal with.
They say that shifts in cultural changes are sometimes only incremental. What went before makes the next shift possible. Women’s progress in positions of power has certainly been slow whereas according to the science the cultural shifts we will experience as a result of climate change will be more significant and more immediate. Hence the dire actions taken by these ‘activists’ to get your attention. Some of which may be annoying and frustrating however necessary.
Right now the last thing we need is any backlash or attitudes that are likely to make Margaret Atwood’s Gilead more than pure fiction. Addressing the issues that create, increase, inflame and aggravate climate change is a step forward, abusing the messengers is a step back. We need more women in the mix. Good leaders, sensible decisions, more emotion and more action. We need to challenge the existing male dominated system if it continues to fail us and to acknowledge its mistakes. It can’t be business as usual. Men’s policies and directives have failed so many times to protect our environment.
Otherwise maybe XR is right, the system itself needs to change. Perhaps this is the only way we can be really hopeful for any significant changes that may be for everyone’s good, including the planet we live on and all the species on it. Climate changes demand immediate attention now. They require us to change and adapt. How we do it will be defined by us.
Cages need rattling. Mistakes have to be acknowledged. Only then is healing possible.
Women or system change are both kinds of revolution and both options may not cut it. Maybe Rebellion is the only way. In the meantime there will be plenty more sabres rattling from grumpy white men and their supporters as the cultural power struggles ensue.
Conservative Agriculture http://www.fao.org/zhc/detail-events/en/c/238478/