Gord Price will be in Australia for the next month, Instagramming and podcasting his way across the country. Follow his coverage here and on Instagram (gordonpriceyvr), as well as PriceTalks podcast when interviews are occasionally posted.
I’ve been following the news through the Sydney Morning Herald prior to the trip, and thought this was a particularly revealing item:
A conservative activist group – which bills itself as the right-wing version of GetUp – will target primary school children with a series of new resources designed to counter the “climate alarmist narrative” it says is being pushed in classrooms and the media.
Advance Australia’s national director Liz Storer said the resource packs being developed will be sent to schools, parents and grandparents, and could be used in the classroom or at home. The resources will say human-induced climate change “isn’t true” and “there’s a lot more to the story”.
It’s not so much that this initiative is new or unexpected. The ‘counter-narrative’ strategy has been remarkably effective at seeding sufficient doubt to establish ‘both-sides-ism’ in media coverage and, importantly, delay any unequivocal action by government to address climate change. Like the Harper Strategy described below, it doesn’t require outright denial, and hence doesn’t seem overly wingnut to those looking for the ‘moderate’ response to the issue. Including those who decide what should be taught in schools.
Hence the response to this proposal by Advance Australia is what makes the story important:
But the New South Wales and Victorian governments have already indicated the materials in question would very likely be banned in public schools as they “would not be deemed objective”. …
The NSW Department of Education said Advance Australia’s resources would not be allowed in the state’s public schools because they would fall foul of the government’s policies and guidelines.
“This includes the Controversial Issues in Schools policy which says that schools are neutral places for rational discourse and objective study, and discussions should not advance the interest of any particular group,” a department spokesman said.
“Under the Controversial Issues in Schools policy these materials from Advance Australia would not be deemed objective and therefore not permitted to be used in NSW public schools.”
Likewise, the politicians in government feel comfortable in outright rejection:
Victoria’s Labor Education Minister James Merlino said he believed most principals in his state “will put this rubbish where it belongs – in the bin”.
“This organisation is a front for a group of ill-informed climate change deniers,” he said. “Our schools should not be used as a tool for a group like this to peddle their political agenda.”
A Labor minister of course. But my guess is that the Liberals and even the Nationals will not run to Advance’s cause, much less say they would put their material in the schools.
And here’s why: doubt and denial can be planted and nourished when climate change is not catastrophic and unfolds slowly. When catastrophic events do occur – fires, floods, droughts, hurricanes – and go beyond one-off extremes of weather, when the frequency of them becomes a pattern, and the pattern is consistent with prediction, denialists become irrelevant. They have nothing to say in response to the reality of an existential threat – because that reality wasn’t supposed to happen.
The public and decision-makers then turn to those who have something to say about reality, and look to those who have a strategy of response.
That is where Australia is now, I believe. And Ill be looking to see how it is playing out in real time with those engaged in “the reality that doesn’t go away.”