A logging site near Icy Creek, Victoria. Photo: DANNIKA BONSER
A logging site near Icy Creek, Victoria. Photo: DANNIKA BONSER

Stop pretending we’re not part of the problem

IT'S easy to see the rich and ruthless as the bad guys. The powerbrokers that make billions and demonstrate no real conscience about how they do it.

They exploit people, pay no tax and are wrecking the planet, threatening the future of life itself as they amass astronomical personal wealth. And they continually try to cover that up in myriad ways, often with the support of governments and the media.

That's pretty much as ugly and blatant as greed gets. And more and more people are starting to hate on those trading in it.

This is because the consequences of their greedy actions are finally starting to impact on mainstream society, not just people of colour or the poor (often the same people).

At the moment Australia is at the forefront in showcasing what can happen when those in charge keep ignoring warnings and prioritising profits.

Experts whose advice on climate change was ignored now see an opportunity to wake the complacent mainstream out of their Netflix comas thanks to the international exposure Australia is receiving (along with lots of generous private donations) through its unprecedented bushfires.

We are finally seeing some traction on the subject of climate change.

But what a way to get there. Decimation of ecosystems on a mass scale, livelihoods and lives destroyed and an economical nightmare that is going to cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars over many years rebuilding infrastructure and people's lives. Our ecology and economy smashed in one fell swoop.

We'll be compensating and navigating this reality check that should have started two decades ago. Not the best example of housekeeping by those we put in charge of managing those unforeseen events, especially when they weren't that unforeseen, just downplayed or completely ignored until it was too late. And after staring into that abyss, they failed badly when it came to handling the crisis.

Unfortunately the kind of climate change they seem willing to trade in now is still the underrated it's too tricky variety. You won't hear much about the scientifically-studied, evidence-based man-made climate change, more likely the naturally-occurring new weather patterns climate change.

But this kind of failure to launch isn't exclusive to political parties or the top end of town when confronted with an issue that affects everything and everybody.

Sure they are the experts at wielding power and money and have had a huge hand in creating a society that feeds off these kinds of attitudes, but we can all be hypocrites when it comes to putting ourselves first over the planet.

Whether it's through our own personal behaviours or just opting to stay dumb about it. Collaboratively it's just as damaging from a grassroots level as it is from the top.

So what's that look like from down here?

(Deep breath)

Let's say you work or support an industry that impacts poorly on the environment, and there is factual, scientific evidence that says it continues to cause harm to the environment what do you do? Stop and think about how that industry is going to fare into the future and maybe plan a better way? Or do you come to the realisation that there is no better way so accept it's going to be phased out completely across a time frame that doesn't see people destitute and suicidal?

Nope. Instead you have a lobby group to provide spin and justification and throw money at political parties to protect your interests, while you keep soldiering on until something breaks. Hello mining, hello deforestation and logging, hello water-hungry, ground disseminating agriculture and industry, hello shareholders, hello hello hello. Are you out there?

Or on the human front, what about if you work or participate in an industry that impacts on society's most vulnerable and there is solid social evidence of it harming these people, what do you do? Stop and think about the human carnage you are causing and work out a better way? Or do you phase it out completely because there is none?

Nope. You have a lobby group to and throw money at political parties to protect your vested interests. Hello gambling industry, hello liquor accord, hello makers and sellers of cheap crap food and plastic tat, hello sweat shop users, hello banks, hello aged care providers, hello Catholic Church. Are you out there?

How about if you work or participate in an industry that brainwashes and manipulates people under the guise of informing and the public interest?

Hello media. Hello internet. Hello mainstream, social, talkback radio, other affiliated platforms. And no, the irony isn't lost on the person writing this newspaper column. So what do we do? Stop and think about the mind carnage being caused and its consequences to people and the planet, or phase it out completely.

For the sake of journalism I hope it doesn't come to the latter because often that's all there is between you and the aforementioned powerbrokers.

But we are saturated with information of all kinds - sobering truths, blatant lies, twisted facts, rumours and gossip - we all have a role in sorting out the facts from the fiction.

From the people that provide, process and relay the information, to the consumers, clickers and sharers of it, to the expressing of opinions on it. It's a beast all right and while putting it down completely isn't the answer, reigning it in and trying to tame it is something we can all participate in. How often do you challenge your family and friends that are fuelled by the misinformation doing the rounds?

But that's just a handful of damaging industries and situations we are guilty of maintaining.

The questioning of our role in all of this isn't about letting the big fish off the hook. Keeping that up is crucial in seeing tangible change happen but it has to be a two-pronged approach.

Bar a few saints, we're all responsible in some fashion for these setups and while blaming and attacking the guy at the top is satisfying and proving to be more effective than ever before, it is fruitless in the long-term unless we own a piece of how they got there.

So how do you do that?

Start by looking at what you settle for and contribute day-to-day as you soldier forth.

What you buy and consume, how you travel. Who you vote for, what you click on and read. What you believe in and talk about. Look at your own behaviours and those around you and seek out the contradictions you are upholding. Think about what's really important to you and make better choices while you demand better from others.

It's not bloody easy, particularly for the privileged and comfortable (like moi) where going with the status quo is easier than sticking your neck out (writing this was no walk in the park I might add).

Mostly we function as small cogs in bigger machines. And a lot of those machines are not geared for a changing climate.

So here we are at the uncomfortably big fork in the road where we either stay on the same path and continue moving blindly into oblivion or take a new route.

One that entails thinking, asking questions, learning and trusting the experts in their fields. Then adjusting behaviours accordingly. Not everyone is privileged enough to do this but a lot are, so do it on their behalf.

If you believe nothing needs changing, then by all means keep calm and carry on but at least own and stand by your principles as they are challenged (because they will be) as the overwhelming evidence isn't going to back down.

That's the level of scrutiny and transparency required to solve this overarching crisis of climate change.

The door is open to hold the dominate to account for their damaging practices but as history will attest it's closed very quickly once the little guy defaults back to the comfort of complacency. That's what they sweat on.

While relying on those in power to do the right thing is the easy and idealistic route, in the long-term it's also become the most damaging as the current climate will attest, both figuratively and literally.