The tree outside my window is showing the first promises of Spring. The white blossom is just emerging, and with a few warm days will be in full flush, declaring winter gone for another year. Hopeful signs are also emerging that the pandemic is coming under control here in Victoria, albeit still at a level of concern within the community. We need hope to bear the burdens and discomfort required. We need the hope of a return to something like ‘normal’ to plan and feel free agents determining our own way forward. The articles in this newsletter address hope from different perspectives.
Michael Yore has reviewed the Australian Catholic Bishop’s Annual Social Justice Statement for 2020, which focuses on mental health. The statement encourages faith communities, governments, and individuals to make a priority of mental health. The statement contains many recommendations. As Yore identifies, however, the most important of these is that we recommit as a nation to the principle of the Common Good, which the bishops express as “…attending to the good of all of us, without exception, paying special attention to those who are most overlooked or pushed aside, or who fall through the gaps” (P14).
Yore expresses his hope for the future in his concluding remarks: “if people of goodwill were to choose this principle as the first criterion in deciding how they will vote, who they will do business with, and how they will conduct themselves in society, perhaps we might at last hear the death rattle of neoliberalism”.
For those who are deeply concerned about climate change and the failure of our politicians to embrace aspirational policies to mitigate the risks, some cause for hope is emerging. In what would have been unthinkable not so long ago, strong voices are uniting to call for government action. Michael Mazengarb discusses an alliance of leading industry groups calling on governments to commit to reaching zero net emissions by 2050. In his article, Big business, energy, & unions call on Morrison to wake up to climate risks, Mazengarb points out that the Australian Climate Change Roundtable making the call has among its members the major business lobby groups, including some who are late converts to the call for drastic action.
Their concerns are clearly stated: without a “coherent national response to climate change, the future prosperity of the nation will be at risk”. With such a representative and powerful group of advocates, perhaps governments and oppositions will be emboldened to pursue ambitious climate change policies.
Added to these voices, we can also list the agricultural sector. Richard Eckard, in his article Australia’s farmers want climate action. And they’re starting in their own (huge) backyards, shows that the National Farmer’s Federation wants a tough policy on climate, and is calling on the Morrison government to commit to an economy-wide target of net-zero greenhouse gas emission by 2050. Not only is this a hopeful sign in itself, but, as Eckard identifies, agriculture is well on its way to having the technologies to become carbon neutral, while maintaining profitability.
Young people are very concerned about climate change, and believe they should be heard by our political leaders. Maggie Coggan reports on the findings of a recent survey entitled Our world, our say. The results of the survey contain a powerful message on climate change. Young people want governments to do more on climate change than they are.
On a less hopeful note, Ian Bayly addresses 40 Years of Climate Warnings Ignored by Australian Politicians. His article chronicles the increasing understanding of climate change in the scientific field, and explores concerns about inadequate action of a number of Australia’s leading scientists. He also lists a ‘rogues gallery’ of those who, in his view, have held back informed debate on this topic.
Michael Tanner is concerned about the impact of the current economic dislocation upon young people. In his article Young Australians told to be resilient as COVID-19 wipes out jobs & housing hopes, he identifies a new sort of victim blaming. Tanner cites the terrible impact on jobs and incomes for young people, and makes the link between hope and resilience. Hope is crucial to resilience, but so is a feeling of the capacity for control. From the position in which many now find themselves, he asks what there is to be hopeful about. For him, the Government is failing to take adequate action on the climate, the housing market, the welfare system, the media, and renewable energy.
Roger Beale is likewise unimpressed by the neoliberal leanings of the Morrison government, and particularly with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg extolling the legacies of Ronald Reagan and Maggie Thatcher. Beale blames their neoliberal policies for cutting taxes on the wealthy and undermining unions, wages, and living standards for most people, resulting in the precarious world of the gig economy.
Whatever hope we hold for the future is clearly derived not only from how we understand what has occurred in the past, but also from what we understand is possible for us in our future lives. As these authors show, there are reasons to hope for change on matters like climate change and inequality of income and opportunity. But such hope requires us as individuals, communities, and governments to embrace a commitment to the common good, to shape our political priorities with the poor and marginalised.
1 September 2020.
Photo School Strike 4 Climate 2019. Juian Meehan. clickr, cc.