Thursday, July 19, 2012

When Kathryn Said Mooo

When I was about eight or nine, my cousin Kathryn and I were in a car, driving somewhere with family. I have no idea who else was there, who was driving, where we were going, but I remember Kathryn. Kath is about 18 months older than me, and she grew up in Sydney. I’m from the country, and Kathryn, along with her parents and younger sister Jane, would spend school holidays with their grandmother, just a block or so from where I lived. We did all the things that girls do – we enacted our own versions of Countdown in the lounge room. We swam at the local pool, and at the beach, we shared books, talked about pop stars and listened to the radio. I was in awe of Kathryn: she was older and smart and pretty and thin and she was from the city. That impressed me a lot.

And then she said “mooo”.

Perched in the backseat of the car, as we drove past a paddock with some blurry lumps – possibly cows, possibly spaceships, I can’t remember – Kath said “mooo”. Yes, they were cows.

In that instant, I understood that city and country people can swap geography, learn each other’s language and mannerisms, work, live, inter-marry, have families of their own, but they are different species.

Kath is still gorgeous and thin and smart – she’s a university lecturer these days – but she said “mooo.” to a herd of cattle of some sort. I saw them every day. I went to school with kids who milked those same beasts every afternoon. I would no more say “mooo” to a herd of cattle than I’d say “Whoa” standing in front of the David Jones flagship store in Elizabeth Street during the Boxing Day Sales.

Oh okay. I confess I love a good shop. I’ve been known to sigh with pure delight in certain retail establishments and not buy a thing. I realised if Kath needed to mooo at the cows, there’s no reason why she shouldn’t. Yet for me, it was a light bulb moment.

It should come as no surprise that only 27% of readers of Australia’s rural daily online paper ( describe themselves as believing in climate change. The other 73% are spread between sceptics, deniers, and almost 7% who literally don’t care. No wonder it’s impossible for the ALP to sell the message about Carbon Tax to voters in the bush: most people in the regional, rural and remote Australia would view the Carbon Tax as a Great Big New Tax that (a) the Prime Minister lied about, (b), is going to cost them lots and lots of money, and (c)is supposed to fix a problem that they don’t think exists.

Where are these people getting their information? They can’t be listening to Alan Jones on 2GB, as most regional and rural radio stations have their own local breakfast shows. I imagine that much of the rejection of climate change is a self-perpetuating cycle of misinformation, supported by News Limited commentators Andrew Bolt and Piers Ackerman, spurred on by occasional Rinehart-sponsored “lecture tours” by distinguished climate change denier Christopher Monckton, and maintained by Sunday sermons on the evils of climate change whoopla from Andrew Bolt on Rinehart’s Channel Ten. The world of climate change denialism is surprisingly small.

The Climate Change message, backed by credible science and well over 90% of the world’s scientists in relevant fields, is freely available, and is no longer the subject of debate in most of the world. Still, included within the deniers’ narrative are fantastic tales of far-reaching conspiracies that control the IPCC, the media, and every progressive/government in the world. They’re all in cahoots to create a single global government, and they’re doing it by perpetrating the largest ever con-job in the history of the world.

Senator Nick Minchin claimed on ABC’s 4 Corners

"For the extreme left it [climate change] provides the opportunity to do what they've always wanted to do, to sort of de-industrialise the western world. You know the collapse of communism was a disaster for the left, and the, and really they embraced environmentalism as their new religion."

That’s an interesting claim from the Senator. What he hasn’t provided is any motive for the extreme left, or anyone else, to want to do this? If Climate Change leads to global government, what do the lefties get out of it? It’s a bizarre claim. No-one has yet explained why lefties would be universally in favour of global governance.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott undoubtedly owes much of his modest popularity to his earlier claim that Climate Change was crap. He’s wheeled that claim back, although that’s for political reasons rather than because his opinion has been changed.

It does seem that the apparent acceptability of Climate Change swings in harmony with extreme weather and potential for another El Nino. Just this morning, news articles in the USA reported that as the northern hemisphere experiences worsening drought, concern around climate change is swelling. We’ve seen the reverse in Australia: the drought broke in 2009 (depending on where you are) and with it, climate change as a cause seemed to lose traction. It’s a natural reaction: when the evidence of sustained hot, dry weather is on the news every night, it’s easy to believe the scientists who link this phenomenon to climate change. When the weather is moderate and the country is experiencing flooding, climate change seems unrealistic.

For country people, especially those on the land, weather and climate are the difference between a university fund for the kids, or being on the dole. It’s emotional and it’s hard, and if I was faced with the possibility of losing my heritage and my livelihood because some scientists who don’t even live here said we were killing the planet, I’d probably look for anyone who’d allow me to keep my faith.

It’s just bad timing that has seen the Gillard Government introduce the Carbon Tax at a time when climate change seems less threatening to Australia than at any time since 1997, when the Kyoto Protocol was adopted and the conspiracy theorists stopped taking their medication. It’s also unfortunate that in the last 25 or so years since Climate Change was confirmed and accepted as a scientific certainty, we have failed to educate our citizens that weather is not climate, and vice versa.

We need to close the cultural gaps between city and country. We need to get inside the minds of our country cousins, and see if we can locate the switch for the blinkers they’ve chosen to wear on this issue. And try not to say “Mooo”. It’s only cute when you’re a kid.

1 comment:

  1. Kathryn Hardy BernalJuly 19, 2012 at 10:19 PM

    Ha! I do not remember that!! But then you have identified why it would stick in your mind. I'd probably still say "mooo" to cows :)