Extreme claims have recently been made by the state government, and their supporters in the media, of the impact on traffic by climate protesters blocking the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
I wonder how many of those making these claims are struck by a feeling of irony when they see the images on the daily news bulletins of the impact on traffic from the climate change induced flooding events happening almost monthly in parts of NSW.
Protesters from Blockade Australia and Extinction Rebellion are merely illustrating the impact, in a very small way, that our continued inaction on climate change will have on lives over the decades to come, in fact that it its having now.
The inconvenience felt by some on their way to work last week is insignificant when compared to the impact on residents of Camden and the Hawkesbury who are suffering their fourth major flooding incident in 18 months, residents of Lismore and other parts of the Northern Rivers who are still waiting to rebuild their lives after the flooding months ago and South Coast residents still homeless as a result of the horrendous 2019/20 bushfire season. What does the government expect ordinary citizens to do when they see that their governments are failing them in the most fundamental ways?
Do they really expect people to stand by and do nothing when state government instrumentalities, like Forestry NSW, ignore state laws and environmental protection requirements, or while governments give approvals to coal and gas developments that fuel the fire of climate change?
These are existential challenges that people, real people, face right now. Whether it is the extension of the life of a coal mine or the implementation of a so-called koala protection plan that will actually lead to the extinction of koalas and other wildlife, people are not prepared to wear it anymore, so they protest.
Increasingly, because governments and their instrumentalities refuse to listen to communities or the science, but rather protect their industry mates, these protests become more direct and more disruptive.
What is the response of government? Rather than listen to concerns and address, the issues they impose a heavy-handed police response and criminalise protest through greater penalties on those who seek to raise concerns and disrupt the destruction. This must change. Governments must listen to people and address their concerns rather than seek to silence them.
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