Just Ask Nicely: 24 Things You Can’t Do When Campaigning For Climate Action

By Tim Hollo October 10, 2019

Just Ask Nicely: 24 Things You Can’t Do When Campaigning For Climate Action
Extinction Rebellion protester Richard Ogden in Brisbane, asking for climate action.


With the increasingly panicked attacks on climate activists for daring to protest, and faux-concerned opinion pieces published pleading “Why can’t they ask nicely?”, here’s a short and incomplete list of what we’re not allowed to do when campaigning for climate action. Suggestions for other items I may have missed are most welcome.

1. You can’t skip school

Goodness me, no. School is important, to give you an education that will prepare you for a lifetime as a consumer/worker/drone. School children should be seen and not heard. Actually, ideally not seen, either.

2. You can’t disrupt traffic

It’s totally fine for governments and corporations to disrupt traffic when building more pointless freeways. And, of course it’s fine when visiting heads of state block everything off for their cavalcades and security. But protesters seeking change should avoid ever making anything inconvenient for anyone under any circumstances.

3. You can’t regulate

Regulation is just bad, you know? Red tape! Shocking. We can’t have any regulations which stipulate a reduction in emissions. It’s fine if we regulate to make the transition to renewable energy slower and more expensive, of course. And regulating to stop protesters is just common sense. But regulating to reduce emissions? Communism! Soviet lunacy!

4. You can’t price carbon

Oh, you think the alternative to regulation is to use the market? Too bad, pricing carbon is out. You can’t do that.

5. You can’t seek to change behaviour

Regulation is out and markets are out. But don’t even think about social engineering projects which try to encourage people change their behaviour! How dare you? What do you think this is, the Cultural Revolution? We’ll ridicule you for being a wuss who carries a reusable bag, but we’ll also tell you to stick to using your reusable bags and stop seeking systemic change, because that’s just crazy stuff. And if you’re asking for big change and dare to ever use a plastic bag? Hoooo boy, we’ll have a field day!

6. You can’t lock on to anything

Are you kidding? That’s terrorism. Don’t even think about it. We’ll arrest you for carrying a bicycle D-lock. And if you stop a coal train for half a day, we’ll fine you more for a single offence than we fine the coal corporations for releasing toxic sludge that kills wetlands.

7. You can’t act globally

This “negative globalism” where countries seek to cooperate for a common cause and get in the way of corporate interests is a real problem. And don’t get me started on the terrifying spectre of “One World Government”, “Agenda 21”, and the Illuminati!

8. You can’t ask Australia to act before anyone else, and we don’t matter anyway

I know we said you can’t act globally, but I mean really you can’t expect little old Australia to do anything unless the whole world is acting. We only produce 1.3% of global emissions, and yeah, our population is just 0.3% of the world’s population, but we’ve always punched above our weight!

9. You can’t run consumer boycotts

Markets are for the corporations! Corporations are allowed to influence consumer choice by advertising everywhere all the time, but the very idea of people seeking change trying to twist the profit motive by adding a layer of social or environmental concern is just shocking. How very dare you!

10. You can’t run for parliament

The bloody Greens are spoilers! Leave politics to the grown-ups who’ve very professionally failed to act for generations!

11. You can’t run campaigns which seek a political goal

Oh, you want to influence the major parties to shift their policies by running political campaigns? No way! The only acceptable role for civil society is to provide the outsourced services government no longer wants to take responsibility for. You can run job services and care services. You can do tree planting and bush regeneration. You can apply the bandaids when the system creates gaping wounds. But don’t even think about advocating for change to deal with the underlying causes.

12. You can’t use the courts to force change

Lawfare!? Listen here, governments make the rules, for the benefit of the corporations, and the courts are there to keep that cosy relationship nice and water-tight. If you start to use the courts to insist on basic rights, we’ll change the law to make it impossible. And judges who make decisions in your favour will find themselves on the receiving end of our wrath.

13. You can’t use facts

This intellectual elite business of claiming expertise is ridiculous. My opinion is as valid as some Nobel Prize-winning research.

14. You can’t use emotion

That’s emotional blackmail! Stick to the facts!

15. You can’t rush us

These things take time, you know. And you only started warning us about this 40 years ago!

16. You can’t say it’s urgent

Now you’re just scare-mongering!

17. You never talk about jobs!

18. You only talk about the wrong jobs!

19. You’ve never had real jobs!

20. Professionals with real jobs shouldn’t be protesting; they should get back to their actual jobs!

21. You can’t use the term ‘Climate Change’

22. You can’t use the term ‘Global Warming’

23. Look, see, they changed terms, they must be faking it!

24. You can’t call it an emergency!

I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to get the impression that this isn’t about how we’re campaigning. I reckon, just maybe, it’s that these folks don’t actually want any change. What do you think?


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