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Climate Bullying – A Deviant Behaviour

During and after every cyclone, flood and fire, the main push is to tell us that we are resilient. I’m sick and tired of being resilient when the Government, as perpetrators enable natural disasters and devastation to wreak havoc on us! I seek to introduce a new concept of climate bullying for discussion.

Climate Bullying

We often speak in terms of climate denial and climate activists, in doing so we merely point out a difference of opinion. Importantly, we fail to frame the problem in human terms, as one of perpetrators and victims. However, using concepts from Workplace Bullying literature, we can see there are antecedents and consequences of climate bullying.

Climate bullying similar to workplace bullying can be defined as:

Repeated and persistent negative acts towards communities and individuals, which involve a perceived power imbalance between Government and targets and create an environment conducive to natural disasters of which the negative consequences are felt by the target.

Adapted from Salin, 2003 and Einarsen, Hoel and Cooper, 2000

For many years, research has shown us that climate change will have a significant impact on the frequency and intensity of natural disasters. For each community, disasters have devastating impacts of lost homes, lost infrastructure, isolated communities and economic and business losses.

For the victims of natural disasters, the personal impacts are mild to severe psychosomatic disorders. These include, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression and suicide. In addition, economic loss, homelessness, poverty, hunger and death as a direct impact of natural disasters. In addition, direct health impacts that may result in severe discomfort, disease and death.

Climate Bullying is the act of intentionally enabling an environment that is conducive to natural disasters.

Climate Bullying is a Deviant Behaviour

Deviant Behaviour is just one construct of workplace bullying. This is because deviant behaviour may also attack an organisation and not just a victim or target.

Similarly, the Government does not intentionally cause harm to the Government with this behaviour. They have a set of mechanisms and structural supports via the media to excuse such deviant behaviour.

However, Climate Bullying by the Government does share similar factors with Workplace Deviance:

It is voluntary behaviour

It violates the norms and beliefs of the country

Threatens the well-being of the country and its citizens

Dimensions of Climate Bullying

Climate Bullying as a form of deviant behaviour, also shares the same dimensions as workplace deviant behaviour (Sharma, 2019). These are:

Perpetrator/s

Intention

Target/s

Action

Consequence

Inside and Outside Perpetrators

Perpetrators of Workplace Deviance are both insider and outsider perpetrators. That is people who work for the organisation and those who are outside of the organisation.

Similarly, the deviant behaviour of Climate Bullying has inside perpetrators of Government. These are the leaders, speakers, policy developers. The outside perpetrators are other political parties, the media and those with vested interest in energy resources.

Intentional and Unintentional Harm

Intention may be to cause harm intentionally or unintentionally. An intentional motive is for any political party or independent to willingly reject legislation that will have a positive impact on reducing climate change. This is because they do not believe that climate change is real and there is no need to act on climate change.

An unintentional consequence of harm may be for any political party or Independent to willingly reject action on climate, for either a political motive to gain relevance or sustain power. This may be to insist on changes and demands that are perceived as stronger action, but are not practical, or will not be accepted by the public, because of the perceived hardship caused by the perceived stronger policy. It is an unintentional consequence of harm, if the political party who sustains power by popular vote, is the party who does not believe action is needed, because the public reject the hard-line demands of alternative parties.

Community, Political and Individual Targets

Targets are both Organisational and Interpersonal in Workplace Deviance. In Climate Bullying, Targets are communities, political rivals, individual citizens, individual activists, the science community and anyone advocating climate action. The aim is twofold. To discredit the notion that climate change is real and requires action and secondly, to discredit those who seek action.

Action

Action is the process of participation. Action may be active or passive. An example of Active Action is a rejection of climate action. Passive Action impacts on quality of life. An example is Liberals removing Labor’s qualifications for disaster recovery funding. Another is refusing to meet with the Fire Chiefs or call an emergency COAG meeting.

Action may be direct or indirect. Direct Action intends to cause harm to a target. This is normally interpersonal. An example is the campaign to discredit action on climate change by the Liberal Party and media trying to discredit the then Labor Government by creating a ‘Carbon Tax’ scare campaign, when it was not a tax at all. Another example is the attacks on youth climate activist Greta Thunberg.

Outside perpetrators also use direct action to create scare campaigns to discredit political opponents, with similar deceitful campaigns. Such as the Greens political party and media promoting Stop Adani and the Climate Convoy to regional Queensland. That is, despite the fact that such parties were knowledgeable that one mine is not the panacea to climate action, and that there are significant and complex challenges to ‘stopping Adani.’

Indirect Action has an unintended consequence on others. An example of indirect action is one region suffering the consequence of a natural disaster, due to climate inaction. This is although their geographic boundaries do not have necessarily high carbon emissions (i.e. a rural community).

An example of an external perpetrator indirect action is former Labor Leader Bill Shorten, unable to lead action on climate change by assuring blue-collar workers of security, among the fear of job losses, political opponents were inciting and the competing demands of city progressives; resulting in the election of a climate denialist Government.

Consequences

Consequences can be both constructive and destructive. Constructive deviance may be a politician crossing the floor or a traditionally supportive cross bench rejecting support to the Government and breaking with norms and behaviours that exist. Another example is compliant media organisations that have traditionally provided free campaigning for climate denial parties, criticizing the Government’s inaction. This type of constructive deviance may push the Government into action.

Destructive Deviance is any actions that results in harm to the country and citizens, as a negative consequence of climate inaction.

Enabling Climate Bullying

The enabling factors of climate bullying are adapted from Salin’s (2003) Enabling Factors and Processes of Workplace Bullying. The enabling factors for climate bullying are motivating structures, precipitating processes and enabling structures and processes.

Enabling Factors of Climate Bullying (Adapted from Salin, 2003)

Enabling Factors of Climate Bullying, as you can see from the framework above, are complex. I will briefly outline each area. However, each individual factor requires much deeper discussion.

Motivating Structures

The motivating structures for enabling an environment of climate bullying essentially revolve around power. The desire for political power. The bowing to the powerful media moguls who deny climate change, that can make or break a Prime Minister. The power of the financial benefits of corporate donations.

The rewards and benefits of appeasing climate denialist media moguls and corporate donors is of course the ultimate power of Government.

With a supportive structure of a compliant media, a climate denialist Government can effectively campaign using propaganda about the negatives of climate change to using voter complexity as the basis to divide and rule. On the flipside, outside perpetrators can also use climate change to divide and rule, as we have seen at the last election with the noted regional / city divide between blue-collar workers and progressives. More on that later.

Precipitating Processes

The decision to not act on climate change is underpinned by a number of events or existing structures. The existing structure of coal mining is one factor. Coal mining is heavily concentrated in multiple regions. Australia is the largest exporter of coal mining in the world. Local communities and entire regions are heavily impacted by the existence of mining. Coal communities are targeted to wear the entire burden of climate change. This then creates another event where competing political interests compete over the approach to change.

Due to a high concentration of mining jobs in multiple regions and the national and local economic impacts; moving away from coal, creates fears of joblessness and poverty and economic instability.

Politicians and compliant media enable a jobs versus climate action argument. This is where the argument for a complex scenario is reduced to black and white. The Liberal Government’s argument is that we must not act as it will kill jobs.

The climate activist side is that must kill existing jobs and destabilize communities and transition them to something else. The first idea is idiotic and dangerous, and the second idea is privileged. As Labor leader, Shorten tried to straddle both idiotic and privileged arguments. If we return to indirect action discussed earlier, this straddling just caused confusion by angering progressives and leaving blue-collar workers feeling insecure.

It appears that Labor now has taken the pathway that is aimed to unite the interests of both blue-collar workers and progressives. This proposal uses our strengths in regional communities and utilises our blue-collar workers to transform communities and tackle climate change domestically and also globally. How that is received is yet to be seen. As I have written about previously, it will be a hard sell to progressives.

Enabling Structures and Processes

Climate Bullying exists due to the perceived power imbalance between Government and people. The Government also supported by compliant, climate denialist media moguls creates a further power imbalance. Opposing opinion is barely given the light of day. In addition, the Government, media and other vested interests can use social media to further ingrain climate inaction. On the flip-side, external perpetrators of activist groups and supportive mainstream and social media, can inflame the need for radical action and workers are ‘just a consequence’ or climate denialists can inflame fears about joblessness.

The cost to a climate denialist Government, so far, has been a low cost. Through simple slogans and the support of the media, the Liberal Party has won office in 2013, 2016 and 2019. This has further legitimised for the Liberal Party, that they have a ‘mandate’ to not take any urgent action on climate change.

Dissatisfaction and frustration relate to the environment that victims of bullying exist in. In comparison to workplace bullying literature, this can be summed up as the competing interests between economic stability and climate action.

Climate action policy instability, unclear goals, and a complete lack of worker centric climate action debate, has fostered an anxious and aggressive environment within this policy area.

Mining regions rejected the Labor Government at the last election. This has now created an environment where some are now calling for the Labor party to abandon blue collar workers in regional communities. This will just reinforce both motivating and precipitating structures discussed above and further enable a culture of climate bullying.

Prevention of Climate Bullying

With the greatest natural disaster in our history burning around us; it is of the very positive assumption that we must do all we can to prevent climate bullying. To do this, it is important to bear in mind the dimensions of deviant behaviour and also the factors and actors within these frameworks, that enable a culture of Climate Bullying to occur.

I have adapted Einarsen et. al.’s (2018) workplace bullying model of systems we can use to prevent Climate Bullying and enable Climate Action.

Ethical Infrastructure

It is a reasonable argument that climate bullying is an unethical practice. Ethical infrastructure are systems and processes designed to stamp out unethical practices. Essentially, this framework details how we, as the people, can use resources and systems to destroy the culture that enables climate bullying and the perpetrators who inflict it upon us.

The resources available to us are a Government majority, Financial Resources (including in-kind) and the level of commitment we have. This includes a shared vision.

Systems

The systems we can use are:

Climate Action Legislation

Insist every single day for climate action legislation. Labor’s Anthony Albanese has delivered a policy direction speech that will act on climate and mitigate joblessness and poverty and create security for blue collar workers. This will unite blue-collar workers and city progressives.

Regardless of whether you have points of difference, it is essential to support Labor’s plan as the major party, so the left can unite, instead of fight on this issue.

The Greens Party must cease combating Labor as their major threat and seek unity in the way forward on legislation, well prior to an election. The fight can occur in Parliament once the Liberal Party are removed from power.

Climate Action Education

Climate action education must be ongoing. However, as I have tried to implore people for the last four years to do so; climate action education must be worker centric.

We can no longer to afford to allow ignorance of the impacts of the structural changes to coal regions to continue unopposed. Every single person must make a commitment to educate themselves on the impacts of structural change in regional communities.

We do not have the time to insist on perfectionist policies. We are too desperate for change to insist on our idea of perfect policy. We must look to the most likely Left party to form Government and absolutely insist that Labor policy is promoted and not rejected as imperfect.

We no longer have the luxury or privilege of denying regions targeted to carry the entire burden of change, agency as participants of change. We must actively listen to regional workers and work with them to find solutions.

Climate Action Education should be inclusive of regional, city and rural communities. It should unite farmer and worker, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, the wealthy and homeless. We can no longer tolerate the narrative of pitting worker against worker and community against community, as has been the narrative now from climate activists for so long.

Climate Action Education must also share the burden across the entire country, instead of just on regional Australia. Education about reducing impacts in cities and structural changes required in cities, is urgently required.

Unified Communication

With the outcome of the last federal election where regional communities voted strongly against ‘the Left’ and re-elected a Morrison Government. It is essential for ALL Climate action communication to be unified with the worker central. If Party Leaders and Activists are unable to find a way to unify workers at risk of joblessness and action on climate change; they should hand the conch to someone else.

Sanctions

I cannot reiterate enough how imperative it is to heal the divide between regions and cities to stamp out climate bullying. Parties and Organisations must impose sanctions on any leader or speaker who is unable to unify blue-collar workers and the communities of coal regions and action on climate change. They must formalise a strict penalty and replace leaders who exacerbate and thrive on division.

Voters must impose sanctions on any political party who attacks Labor as the main opposition party, who is in the most likely position to implement climate action. We must speak out loudly and clearly against any party who focuses their activism and campaigns on the party who can replace the climate denialists, and who are not focusing every last bit of energy on the climate denialists in power. We must no longer tolerate division on the left of politics. We must recognise that it is Labor as the major Left party who will implement action on climate change; and the points of difference can be debated, once Labor is in Government.

There must be sanctions within the Media. High-profile journalists must unify and rebel against pressures to conform to promoting political parties not committed to climate action. They must call out amongst their own cohort any journalist who promotes inaction on climate change, or who makes apologies for ineffective leaders.

The ultimate sanction is against the Government. A commitment from voters to formalise the removal of the Liberal National Party Climate Denying Coalition, who perpetrate Climate Bullying.

Resources

A Government of climate denialists is the major barrier to overcome. We must commit today to elect a Government that has the power to implement climate action. We must aim to wipe out the Liberal Party, National Party, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party, The Katter Party and any other minor or Independent supporting a climate denialist Government. This needs to be done at every level of Government.

We must continue to build financial resources. So, this means a commitment of personal donations to any party or Independent that supports action on climate change.

In-kind donations are also priceless. Make a commitment today to join a political party. My personal preference is the Australian Labor Party who can make a real difference as the major party. Issues based activism is fine; but it is Government that implement legislation, not activist groups. Volunteering in campaigns is crucial for success.

As we know, the election is two and a half years away. That means that there is plenty of time for the Government and the compliant media to implement scare campaigns on every other topic to divert our attention away from the disaster that is burning around us and taking precious lives.

The commitment must be made today, that you will never waver. That you will remain resilient to campaigns and propaganda from the right. That even if you are a generational voter of the Liberal or National Parties, that you will commit today to remove them.

Put the Liberals and Nationals Last. It’s where they put You

To stamp out climate bullying that prevents action on climate change, which then results in the most devastating consequences, every single person in the country must make the commitment today that they will put the Liberal and National Parties LAST on their ballot.

Our future depends on it.

References

Einarsen, Kari et al., (2019). Antecedents of ethical infrastructures against workplace bullying: The role of organizational size, perceived financial resources and level of high-quality HRM practices. Personnel Review, Vol. 48 No. 3, pp. 672–690.

Salin, Denise. (2003). Ways of Explaining Workplace Bullying: A Review of Enabling, Motivating, and Precipitating Structures and Processes in the Work Environment. Human Relations, Vol. 56 No. 10, pp. 1213-1232.

Sharma, Naman. (2019). Analyzing Workplace Deviance in Modern Organizations. IGI-Global, Pennsylvania, USA.

Scott Morrison – These People Need Kindness More than YOU

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has truly united the country. Every single person with a beating heart and a working brain in Australia is united in their absolute anger towards him. United. Undivided. Shoulder to Shoulder. In anger. Australians have felt Morrison’s true contempt for us and have returned it with unwavering precision.

Kindness. That is Morrison’s answer. His response to abandoning the country as Leader during one of the biggest crises we have ever faced is, that “It is time for the discussion about his holiday to be over and that we should be kinder to each other.”

Kinder!!!! He wants US to be KINDER?? The arrogance just falls right out of his mouth every single time he speaks.

Here are five groups of people who need Morrison to be kind to them, RIGHT NOW. Then we might be kinder to him. (I said Might! OK!)

Our Children

Morrison needs to be kind to our children. Our kids are absolutely terrified. They are terrified of having no future. They discuss with seriousness about whether to have children or not when they grow up. They are terrified of having no clean drinking water and the planet existing in a constant cycle of death and destruction.

Dad’s don’t just promise holidays. They also promise to stand by their kids, protect them always and fight for their future.

Instead of being an actual Dad, Morrison doubled down on his absolute bone headed, mind numbing drivel that we cannot act on climate without harming jobs. Labor has a plan to act on climate change AND protect jobs. Morrison needs to listen to that plan. NOW.

Be Kinder to Our Children, Scott!

To show kindness to our Children – Morrison MUST commit to serious action on Climate Change TODAY.

He could also be kinder by holding a fully televised Youth Summit with two representatives from every single Primary and High School in the country.

Emergency Response Workers and Volunteers

Every single person in the country is emotionally exhausted watching helplessly. We watch as firefighters die, are injured, don’t have proper breathing equipment. We feel helpless as they are pushed beyond all human limits, as they try to save us.

Meanwhile, Morrison was doing bloody tequila shots at a bar in Hawaii. His clown posse back home were literally telling us exploding horse shit is the reason the country is on fire. I know where the horseshit is exploding from and it’s certainly not from the horses!

These incredible, incredible emergency workers have worked tirelessly and some without any compensation whatsoever. Workers and volunteers work in extremely dangerous conditions. Instead of showing true humility, contrition and leadership; Morrison used his arrival as a series of poor taste photo ops. These photos featured his smug face, with hard working emergency responders as the insignificant background. Once again. The arrogance!

Be Kinder to Our Emergency Workers, Scott!

Morrison needs to be kinder to Emergency Response Workers and Volunteers. He needs to treat the impact the climate is having on our country, as serious as he treats security and defense. He needs to fund the absolute hell out of Emergency Planning and Prevention. Mother Nature is at WAR with us. He needs to compensate volunteers for time, expertise and lost wages.

People and Communities Devastated by Fire and Other Disasters

The worst bush fires in our history have the country in mourning. People have died, homes have been lost, businesses destroyed. Children no longer have fathers, husbands and wives no longer have the love of their life and parents grieve the loss of their children.

Amongst all this, is the tight-fisted surplus chasing driven excuse the Government calls “Disaster Relief funding.”

Be Kinder to People and Communities, Scott!

The people do not need Morrison’s faux kindness; nor his thoughts and prayers. He can be much kinder by reinstating Labor’s criteria for disaster relief funding, not punishing communities who have not had the funding for mitigation; admit that the current take on mitigation will not stop events such as massive bushfires or other disasters; but a serious commitment and action on climate change will.

As the Government has been so unkind to ENABLE disasters to occur, he should make a commitment to be kind right now. Anyone who loses their life should have a Government funded funeral and massive compensation to families. We cannot get these people back. He should commit to this immediately.

Workers, Jobless and the Poor

The jobless and underemployed are living in POVERTY, in a first world country. The callousness and punitive set up of the social security system has and is driving people to suicide. People who are loved very much by their families are experiencing self loathing, hunger, homelessness, depression, anxiety, hopelessness and helplessness. This is NOT Kind.

The Morrison Government has shirked all responsibility for job creation. They use joblessness in regions as a sickening plaything to not act on Climate Change. They push back against climate activists who want to shut down jobs without thinking or blinking; by fueling that and insisting there is no other way. It’s Jobs or Climate Action.

Morrison, a known show pony and lazy thinker, finds it absolutely impossible to develop a solution to reinvent communities that are now reliant on coal jobs. He finds it an absurd notion, that as leader of the country he can create new industry and job competition in regions, so coal is not the major employer and stops affecting absolutely everything.

Climate Change Impacts on the Poor

In addition, climate change affects the poorest communities unfairly. Policy direction from all parties is directed at more able and wealthier home owners able to reduce their energy costs, rather than a national plan for ALL homes. We have treated the roll-out of our internet connection with more dedication than reducing energy costs for the poor in this country.

Also, the communities impacted the most by fires, drought, floods and cyclones are the regional, rural and remote communities, that are already so often ignored across ALL policy areas, including climate change.

Be Kinder to Workers, the Jobless and the Poor, Scott!

If Morrison wanted to be truly kind he would create a consortium immediately consisting of State Leaders, Regional Mayors, Unions and Industry affected by the necessary industrial change to forge ahead with climate action. This consortium should not be directed by the energy sector, but a genuine commitment, working with various experts to reinvent and invest in regional communities to truly diversify local economies and create true job competition in regions across energy and non-energy sectors.

Scott Morrison should be so kind as to tell Matt Canavan to stop sitting on NAIF funding and actually spend it.

It would be so unkind to leave these communities behind as global markets decline in demand for thermal coal. It would be so unkind as to agree to environmentalists demands to cease the coal industry NOW and just simply push everyone in to poverty with nothing in its place. It would be unkind to refuse to sit down with Anthony Albanese and not work with Labor on Labor’s plan of action.

Indigenous Communities

Climate change is not just a human rights issue for all of us, but it is a significant human rights issue for Indigenous People. Not just in Australia, but all over the world.

Indigenous people have a deeply inherent and emotional connection to country. It is something, non-indigenous people will never feel. We must accept it is not a part of us and give full respect to those who have this wonderful gift to feel that connection.

Enabling destruction of their country through the politics of division, is arrogant and ignorant. Ignoring the expertise of Indigenous people to care for and respect the land and wildlife, is just plain stupid and endangers all of us.

In addition, climate change impacts on poorer communities which often have a high Indigenous Population. Climate Action policy also has an impact on Indigenous communities. We simply cannot just believe that solutions that do not include Indigenous input, regardless of how well intentioned, are the best solutions for all.

Be Kinder to Indigenous Communities, Scott!

If Scott Morrison believes we need to be kinder to each other, he can also be much kinder and much more respectful to Indigenous Communities and place a specific focus on climate change and climate action policy and how this affects Indigenous Communities. But most of all, actually listen and implement solutions via their concerns and expertise.

If Being Kind is Too Hard, Scott – Call an Election Now

So, Scott Morrison says that it is time for us to be kinder to one another. It is fairly obvious from the above, that there are huge cohorts of people that he does not bestow the same kindness upon. Yet he calls for us to be kind, when he is facing personal criticism for choosing to go on holiday in Hawaii and abandoning the country, in a time of serious crisis.

The main criticisms of Scott Morrison at this time of national crisis, is his lack of leadership. Scott Morrison wants US to be kind to one another. However, he has shown an absolute void of Authentic Leadership. Authentic Leadership requires self awareness, a genuine self, fairness and equality and significant to this time, a moral perspective.

If this challenge of being kind to just five groups of people is too hard for Scott Morrison, he needs to be kind enough to step down.

If he does not have the inherent qualities to be an Authentic Leader, he should be so kind to go directly to the Governor General. Morrison should advise the Governor General that the task of Prime Minister is too difficult for him, request that Parliament is dissolved and call another election, immediately.

Yes, we can be kinder to each other. Let’s start with the level of kindness we need from Scott Morrison, right now.

Environmental Elitism and the Inconsequential Worker

people need jobs

Bolman and Deal’s “Reframing Organisations” encourages leaders to look through various ‘windows’ to reframe and solve problems.  The Author argues that climate change activism is led from a position of privilege. To counter this, the worker must be central to the climate change debate.

The Rise of Climate Change Activism

Climate Change Activism is not a passing phase. Warnings about climate change have progressed since the 1980’s. Aerosols and cows expelling gas would destroy the earth. Climate change activism has become increasingly more prevalent in politics, media, and society.

The current phase, post-Paris Agreement, is a particularly strong phase of climate change activism. This is globally pushing leaders to implement legislation and regulations to mitigate the impact of climate change.

The Force of Change on the working class

The vocal aim of activists to shut down entire industries, such as coal (and some say beef is on their radar as well), places climate change as a (negative) force of change on the working class.

We are no longer in an era where we are debating the reality of climate change. The majority of people accept that climate change is real and we must act on climate change.

Many activists still operate in the mindset that any question about jobs equals denialism. They do not try to understand if the other person believes in climate change. Lectures about the merits of climate change stream forth in abundance, regardless.

Abuse and ridicule are common responses to the jobs issue. A strong position is jobs do not matter in the end. They argue fiercely if mining destroys the earth, there will be no jobs at all. This is particularly exacerbated by the current anti-Adani movement at present.

Activists who do try to engage only have one solution – all the coal workers will now work in renewables.  There is no vision to reinvent communities or truly see the human factor and offer diversity and true renewal.

Other activists are quite discriminatory about who deserves jobs. They will respond with the notion that Great Barrier Reef jobs are more important than coal jobs. The notion of job losses in the coal sector is sometimes even celebrated by activists as an achievement.

Rebuttals are in the form of industry that is not yet prevalent.

Oh! They can just go get jobs in the renewabls industry!

The conversation around jobs and regional communities towards a post-coal world is extremely difficult to get off the ground.

Concern for Jobs isn’t Climate Change Denial

Environmental activists must cease the perverse accusation that one is a “climate change denier” if displaced workers are a major concern

(And Malcolm Roberts, by some weird turn of events you read this; despite what you may have read from Climate Change activists yelling at me on Twitter – I am not in love with you).

To achieve positive progress we need to reframe the debate with the worker as the centre. This will highlight the negative impact climate change action has on workers.

Environmentalists must question if their position is so pure that negative consequences, such as mass layoffs are inconsequential.  If mass layoffs are inconsequential, and workers can’t put food on the table, then does one’s activism come from a position of privilege?

The Negative Consequence of Positive Action

Activists generally sincerely value their actions and advocacy as a positive effect on society. I do not disagree that this is the intent with climate change activists.

However, I would strongly argue to value the intent of activism is not enough. I would also argue it is ignorant.  Activists must also value the consequences of their actions, not just the intent. Sometimes a positive action can result in negative consequences.

An environmental lens ensures the following remain silent:

Displaced workers, economic loss, increased welfare, homelessness, poverty, despair, an increase in psychosomatic symptoms and even suicide.

Reframing the debate with the worker as central to the climate change debate is essential. This places climate change action as an externality that is a force of change on industry and work. This shifts the worker from an irrelevant byproduct of change to the central focus.

This should serve as the impetus to mitigate harm to the working class co-existent with positive action on climate change.

What does Feminism have to do with this?

I am using this example to demonstrate activism and privilege. Often the negative consequences of positive action, are not recognised. The activist does not have a desire to reframe the debate. It is not until voices push for reframing that the negative consequences of activism are realised.

As a white liberal/radical feminist in the 1980’s, I was oblivious that the activism I participated in had negative consequences. This activism had a negative affect on women of colour and also misrepresented men of colour.

It has been through women of colour persisting with their voices, who created this change. This forced white liberal feminists to reframe their activism and recognise specific feminist issues for women of colour.  Many white liberal feminists now follow women of colour as allies in support of their activism.

Through reframing by women of colour, white liberal feminists could then identify the negative consequences. They recognise their activism was from a position of privilege.

A united and stronger feminist wave was born.

Stop Lecturing and Start Uniting

Activism that spares no thought about how to alleviate harm on the worker is from a position of privilege.

Activism that is not involved in ideas and discussions to mitigate harm to the worker, is a position of privilege.

Persisting with ‘lecturing and convincing others’ and shouting down concerns about jobs is regressive and obstructive.

If this continues, unlike feminism – a stronger united movement will not be born.

Privilege and Elitism

Privilege is a term commonly used in sociology and feminist literature and it is described as:

As a concept, privilege is defined in relational terms and in reference to social groups, and involves unearned benefits afforded to powerful social groups within systems of oppression (Kendall, 2006; McIntosh, 1988).

Within Environmental Literature this concept is defined as “Elitism” (Dunlap, 1986). There are three types of environmental elitism.

  • Compositional Elitism: The suggestion that environmentalists are generally more upper-class and financially well off.
  • Ideological Elitism: The suggestion that environmentalists protect their own interests at the cost of the poor – i.e. Preventing a power plant on land that is beneficial to their own interests.

The third type of elitism is the most relevant for the purpose of this article:

  • Impact Elitism: The suggestion that environmental reform measures that have (intended or not) regressive, distributional impacts on society. (ie job losses, economic loss).

Some examples of impact elitism are:

  • The cost of reducing energy costs benefits the wealthy and excludes the poor. (Older cheaper cars versus newer Tesla cars).
  • Solar panelling and insulation benefits wealthier home buyers and excludes those who rent
  • People from poorer countries live in unhealthy environments. This is because they cannot afford the infrastructure or cost of electricity for a healthier, cleaner environment.
  • Purchasing a set of environmentally friendly shopping bags as a choice between an inedible bag or much-needed food.
  • Wealthier advanced countries advocating against poorer countries accessing fossil fuel energy. Although this may be a step enable fuelling, farming, agriculture and new industry.
  • Activism to shut down an energy intensive plant, even though its closure will result in mass layoffs.

Reframing the Debate

The Climate Change debate would look much different if activists, politicians and media reframed this to a worker-centred debate.

Decisions around budget measures, domestic and foreign affairs, industrial relations, training and the distribution of revenue would look much different.

The continual lecturing and ridicule from activists who are stuck in the view that the majority of people still need convincing are stifling the debate.

The leader of the Labor Party, Bill Shorten, is also guilty of this. Shorten’s narrative concentrates too much on the environmental, rather than the working class.

It is up to the Australian Labor party to lead serious reform in this area. Leave the environmentalism to the Greens.  Australian Labor should be working to mitigate the effects of climate change whilst simultaneously loudly advocating for national reform. Championing the new way we look at jobs, industry and the economy in a post-coal world.

A Serious Transition is Urgent

The Labor party has a transition document available.  However, in my view, it does not go far enough.  The legacy of Labor is about national progressive reform. I welcome a transition plan. However, one that responds within an environmental framework is not enough. The answer is not just about renewables.

We urgently need a visionary set of serious reforms for regional communities.

  • How will revenue be redistributed?
  • How will the loss of coal revenue impact regions?
  • What are the impacts on specific communities, rather than nationally?
  • Should we focus on regional unemployment or a national average?
  • Do education and training need greater investment?
  • Should renewables training colleges be set up in regional universities?
  • Do we fully fund TAFE to secure the necessary training required to reskill for the future?
  • How do we attract a range of non-energy related industry investment to regional communities?
  • Is funded redeployment for displaced workers to existing and new industry an option?
  • Should regionally focused apprenticeship quotas be funded on a national scale?
  • Will redistribution of centralised public services to regions relieve the burden?

These are some questions to be asked.

The Labor Party’s narrative about the world of work in a world of serious climate change action is also non-existent.

Unless we fight and win a region-focused jobs and economic transition plan, the resultant high unemployment, filled with skilled heavy industry unemployed, only risks tipping the balance of power to the employer. This is a huge risk for further erosion of job security, safety and fair wages and conditions.

I have renewed hope now that Australian Unions are speaking up.

Food on the table, rewarding and permanent secure work should be an inherent value we ALL fight for.

A Synergistic Policy Framework

This cyclical fight does not have to continue to be the case.  The “left” appears to be fighting itself to champion one social cause (environmentalism) at the expense of another (the worker).

Mass layoffs and closures will become a prevalent and a visible acknowledgement of successful climate change activism. Without a serious region-focused economic and jobs transition plan, this divide will deepen. It will hurt.

Arguments that the worker is secondary give fuel to the ONLY argument that the actual climate change deniers have left. That is pretending to care about the working class as the reason to block change.  We saw that in abundance this week with the Liberal and National Party’s rejection of the Finkel Review.

The absence of narrative about jobs is also partly attributed to the rise of Trump and Hanson. I do not want that to continue. Do you?

Reframing and placing the worker at the centre of the policy debate and self-identifying privilege is the first step. A step towards a synergistic policy framework of positive climate change action united in positive progress for the worker.

Trish Corry

trishcorry

trishcorry

I love to discuss Australian Politics. My key areas of interest are Welfare, Disadvantage, emotions in the workplace, organisational behaviour, stigma, leadership, women, unionism. I am pro-worker and anti-conservativism/Liberalism. You will find my blog posts written from a Laborist / Progressive Slant.

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