It would seem that the battle lines are drawn. On one side are thousands of highly trained police with batons, tazers and a brand spanking new water canon. On the other side are the people of Sydney. Hang on a minute. Isn’t there something wrong here? In an era of anti-terrorist hype, it is all too easy for beefcake politics to trample over democracy and for the issues to be obscured by hyperbole and shows of police strength.
Quite simply, John Howard is trying to use the APEC summit to further undermine global action on climate change and the Kyoto Protocol. So of course people are going to protest. And so we should.
When the laws are unjust or are destroying our future, and when official channels continue to fail, people of conscience have a responsibility to act. We have a responsibility to take to the streets to hold our elected decision makers accountable. Whether it be your State MP that is supporting a new coal fired power station, your Federal MP who is refusing to support renewable energy, or our PM who is trying to wreck the international framework for greenhouse gas reductions.
Peaceful direct action and civil disobedience are a fundamental part of our democracy. The reason we have weekends is because of labour movement protests. Women have the vote because the Suffragettes took to the streets. The anti-slavery movement, Gandhi, Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement all used civil disobedience to win fundamental freedoms that we now take for granted.
When your children ask you about climate change and about the future, can you honestly look them in the eye and tell them that it’ll be ok? And that you’re doing enough to protect their future?
Climate change is already resulting in more extreme weather events, displacing people from their homes, and is expected to cause massive problems of starvation, not to mention extinction. It’s time to move beyond the endless rhetoric and posturing of our political leaders. We need to massively cut greenhouse pollution and we need to start doing it now. Howard’s APEC agenda is basically to take us in the opposite direction by undermining the Kyoto process and pushing for non-binding, aspirational targets. In other words - more hot air and no action.
So amid the inevitable discussions about violence on the street, it’s important to remember the overwhelming moral imperative that is driving people to protest. And the serious violence that needs to be exposed is the violence on the people and the planet that will be unleashed if Howard succeeds in his attempt to use APEC to undermine Kyoto and climate change reaches tipping point.