I released an EP called CODSWALLOP in February this year. It got some kind reviews, below. You can listen to it and even buy it at my bandcamp over ‘nya.
I was recently tasked by Quit Coal with coming up with some kind of certificate for people who buy a Friends of the Earth membership, such that we could try to sell them as Christmas/Holidays gifts and raise funds.
The idea is much like what Oxfam does, selling cards that signify a donation that has gone towards, say, a goat for a family in the developing world, etc.
So anyway i’ve just completely ripped off the Oxfam shtick, but put it in the context of what Quit Coal and FoE do. Here’s what i’ve come up with:
A bit cheeky perhaps, but we’re 80% sure Oxfam will not sue…
Been super busy recently working on a new release for the band. I’ve written, recorded, and mixed the tracks myself and just last week had them professionally mastered and they’re sounding sweet. Here’s a preview of the artwork. The concept and colour scheme came to me in a bit of a rush on a train, and then it took a while to get it looking right, but I think it came up OK. I was thinking a lot about the Stone Roses at the time, which the font may reflect. Three Lions is also quite a British symbol…
I also recently spent a lot of time putting together a fundraiser gig for Quit Coal called Quitcoalapalooza and a lot of time making this poster for it. Seriously, this took for freaking ever. But I larned a fair bit about illustrator in the process, and made a cool poster and had had a cool night and made about $1500 for my trouble, so it was well worth it. Next time I think we’ll have to do it in summer though, it ended up being the coldest most miserable night of the year, and we probably would have made twice as much on a warmer eve. Ah well, you gotta do something throughout the winter months, and who could be arsed organizing a rally that gets rained out? Not me!
My hero Mahatma Gandhi often talked about the importance of seeing one’s political opponents as human beings. He said that no matter what you should never demand your opponent be humiliated, but rather always leave room for them to save face. He also said you should always be willing to talk to your opponents, and should always remember to never hate people, only to hate people’s behavior.
I think that he was a smart guy. And recently I had an experience that brought this home to me all over again.
This is a video I took at an action Quit Coal performed at a Mantle Mining general meeting. A couple of Quit Coallers locked on downstairs and I decided to go ask the board directly how they justify destroying farmlands in order begin exporting brown coal from Victoria and pumping our atmosphere full of the greenhouse gasses already at levels dangerous to the future of our civilization.
Now, I have to say a couple of things about this. The first is that I actually didn’t plan to push the confrontation quite so far. A Mantle employee by the name of Winton started mocking me at one point because as I was filming my hand was shaking. I often shake in highly tense confrontational situations. It’s a fight or flight kind of response, the sympathetic (I think) nervous system kicking into action in a big way. So I was already quite heightened, and Winton mocking me pushed me into a slight ‘fight’ response as I pushed my way into their boardroom, which was actually totally unplanned.
The second thing I want to say about it is that I really didn’t know what to think about it for a long time afterwards, and still don’t in a lot of ways. It was quite new for me to come face to face with the people whose actions are spurring my activism and protest, and this novelty combined with the unplanned nature of what I was doing led to quite a raw, candid encounter.
I expressed anger, certainly, but also confusion, and desperation, and hurt. When you are finally in a room with someone you’re campaigning against they are no longer a bogeyman, and they are no longer the caricature of the money-hungry capitalist with the smoke billowing cigar that you might make them out as in a political cartoon. They are just people. They are just frail, flawed people like everyone else.
I think often more radical activists (and I suppose I fit that category, many would disagree) want everyone to take a hard line, want everyone to regard our opponents as completely psychotic, unfeeling monsters. The idea strikes us as contemptuous, for example, that some activists or campaigners are negotiating compromises with logging companies, whalers, or indeed, ‘coal barons’ as we often terms men such as these in this video. But when you meet people in person, I think it becomes quite understandable that many would adopt what seems from the outside to be an overly compromising and conciliatory approach.
We’re not built to enjoy conflict. Not many of us, anyway. It probably triggers off mechanisms deep in our evolutionary psychological make up that tell us that we’re better off avoiding the people and places we experienced conflict in. In this case, it also triggered off in me a strong impulse to try to achieve reconciliation. After the afternoon of the action I had a strong urge to contact Ian Kraemer and to try to somehow apologize for the confrontational nature of my actions, while still making clear that I was going to strongly oppose his plans. I felt something like: look, i’ve been face to face with your humanity and I want to acknowledge it, and i’d also like you to acknowledge mine. I still hate what you’re doing, but I don’t hate you. Hating you would diminish me somehow, and I don’t have it in me to give up whatever that would mean giving up.
In the end I didn’t contact him. I shared the video through Quit Coal’s facebook and wrote something about feeling conflicted about it and left it at that. Some people found the video powerful, some found it funny, others found it depressing at how little response my words got from the Mantle board. I still fully don’t know exactly how to feel about it, but I’m sure the experience given me an even greater understanding, admiration and affinity for Gandhi’s methods and his non-violence.
As I said, I think he was a pretty smart guy.
Relatively dodgy video I chucked together of an action Quit Coal did in January in response to news Martin ferguson had been diverting resources towards spying on environmental activists.
This piece was published on the Green Left Weekly website on Saturday april 14, 2012:
On Wednesday, April 11 two officers identifying themselves as being from “security intelligence” visited my house for a chat (listen to an interview I gave the ABC here). If this week’s headlines are anything to go by (“ASIO eyes green groups” The Age12/4/12) such surprise visits will become ever more frequent for anti-coal activists like me.
To be fair to the officers in question, we had a reasonably pleasant conversation. They told me that they respect my passion and commitment for ending fossil fuel exploitation and for preventing catastrophic climate change, and also respect the right of the group I belong to — Quit Coal — to express our views in the public sphere.
What they are concerned about, however, is what they referred to as the potential for my and Quit Coal’s activism to escalate into activities that might put people and infrastructure at risk; a concern they said was especially strong given “what’s being planned” — a reference, surely, to the Baillieu government’s plans to open up Victoria’s brown coal reserves for export to Asia.
I assured them that Quit Coal is a completely peaceful and non-violent organisation that does not wish to damage critical infrastructure or cause anyone any physical harm. After about 20 minutes we shook hands and they left.
But when you’ve become an activist purely through your concern for the well-being of others, it is easy to be upset by reading, as I did yesterday, that so-called “security sources” consider you a greater risk to energy infrastructure than terrorists, especially when you have never even thought about undertaking any act of violence in the name of your cause.
It is easy to be upset to read that ASIO is being deployed, far beyond its mandate and possibly at the behest of foreign-owned corporations, to spy on environmentalists. And that this deployment — a corrupt, wasteful and possibly dangerously negligent misdirection of public funds, is supposedly based on the most tenuous of justifications — that environmentalists’ activities could escalate into a threat to energy supply and subsequently jeopardise lives, despite there being absolutely no historical precedent to support this.
It is also easy to simply feel bullied and intimidated when two large officers show up unannounced at your house, failing to properly identify themselves and making a point of indicating how much they know about you and your activities.
Yet however upsetting these things may be, I think it is important that anti-coal activists do not let our natural inclination to defend ourselves distract us from having the most important debates we need to have here.
Because the truth is, after all, that many green groups — including Quit Coal — are butting up against the law, and quite openly doing so. And when we do that it follows that we’ll eventually attract the attention of law enforcement agencies. So there should be no real shock when we do.
The real issue for me personally, then, is not that my friends and I are being watched. The real issue that deserves attention is why we have come to be in conflict with the law, and whether or not our arguments against those laws are valid. This is the real debate here, and it is one that we can’t allow to be overlooked.
A good example of what I mean was pointed out by my “security intelligence” visitors on April 11 when they referred to Premier Baillieu’s plan to export brown coal from Victoria. As our law stands, Baillieu’s plans are perfectly legal, and any plans Quit Coal may have to physically prevent the exporting of brown coal would be clearly illegal.
Yet the question that should be asked, and the question that myself and many others are raising, is whether these laws are right.
Should it be legal to open up a brand new export industry in brown coal, the most greenhouse intensive of all fossil fuels, in a world that an overwhelming scientific consensus tells us is rapidly heading towards the threshold of irreversible and catastrophic climate change?
Is it morally acceptable for wealthy industrialised countries such as ours, who the world recognises must lead the fight against climate change, to be chasing short term profits by selling our coal reserves to developing countries in Asia regardless of the consequences?
Do we not have a duty of care towards the potential victims of brown coal exports, both here and abroad, to consider their interests alongside whatever short-term benefits we think will accrue from the practice?
And are the green groups who are willing to stand in the way of brown coal exports a threat deserving of ASIO surveillance, or are they people putting themselves at risk of great personal cost to protect the lives and well-being of others on the basis of well-founded scientific opinion?
These are the questions I believe our society must be facing up to and asking ourselves. And I can only hope that we do so soon, so my new associates at “security intelligence” can go back to chasing real bad guys and leave me well alone.
This past Tuesday myself and five other activists from Quit Coal performed a sit in protest inside the foyer of Ted Baillieu’s offices in Treasury Place Melbourne. I shook off my exhaustion and wrote the following blog about it on Tueday night.
Here’s the scene:
It is 7PM at night, and four Quit Coal protestors are being led through the corridors of the Premier’s office at 1 Treasury place. They have been locked together in the foyer of the building via their necks and thumbs since 11AM in the morning.
Outside the foyer, channel’s 9, 7 and Ten have recently completed live crosses within news bulletins. The ABC, triple J, 3AW and Nova100 have also carried stories throughout the day, of both the lock-on and the Quit Coal ’die-in’ at midday.
(Channel 10′s coverage, see 9 and 7 on our Vimeo page here)
The police, who have repeatedly told the protestors throughout the day that no politician will see them, lead the group to a meeting with Ted Bailliue’s chief of staff Tony Nutt. After an 8-hour sit-in the protestors have been offered the meeting and immunity from criminal charges in return for them consenting to unlock.
For the protestors, who are sore, and had never expected to have been allowed to stay so long or to have gained such widespread attention, it is a happy compromise.
And here’s what we said:
“Our group is strong, and growing stronger. We have a large group of supporters we can mobilize at very short notice, a core team of experienced and committed activists, a growing pool of funders, and a huge capacity to reach out through the media to millions of people in their homes.
“You can try to ignore us, but we won’t go away, and we will cause you enormous problems if you continue to sacrifice our climate, farmlands and communities to the greed of the fossil fuel industry.
“So far, you have broken an election commitment to Victoria’s 20% emissions reduction target, have crippled the wind industry, have pushed for brown coal exports, have issued CSG exploration licenses across our state, and removed regulations limiting the emissions intensity of new fossil fuel infrastructure.
“It has to stop.
“Because this is not just about inner city “Greenies” anymore. We are increasingly growing and campaigning in regional areas – reaching out to the farmers determined to defend their land from being taken away or ruined by coal seam gas fracking, and to the communities who have heard the horror stories coming from the north and want to keep the mining companies away.
“They are the National party voters you rely on to stay in power, and your government is holding power in our state by one single seat. They are voters who will abandon you if you do not uphold their rights, protect their farms, and safeguard their way of life. And if you do not begin to act responsibly on climate change, Quit Coal will happily focus our organization into helping that happen.”
And that was that.
But now we need to make good on our promise.
We need to work together to cause the Baillieu government so much political pain that they are forced to change course from the fossil fuel orgy they have in their sights.
We’ve got a plan brewing to make this a reality, but it’s going to need your help.
Take the first step now – sign up here to support our call for a moratorium on coal and coal seam gas projects in our state (already supported by two regional councils and soon to be supported by many more) and we’ll be in touch soon with next steps in the game plan.
And finally, a huge thank you needs to go out to everyone who made today one of the most rewarding days of campaigning we have ever had.
Go Quit Coal!
Wildcat General Strike has had a pretty big few months. While Liam Jard and Steve were away i Europe, I was busy writing some tracks and figuring out how we were going to sound as a guitar-focused four piece rather than a guitars and synths five piece. It was a cool challenge as a composer and songwriter and so far I’m pretty happy with the results. We’ve been playing a few gigs around and a lot of people have been saying we sound pretty UK 80′s, eg Cure, Clash, Joy Division, Smiths. That’s pretty awesome. I’m a little lost for exactly what I want us to sound like, but those kinds of bands are close to what I want. I think. It’s evolving.
Anyway, this is a demo of one of our new songs, it’s called ‘Young Man’s Pride’.
The idea started as a Joy Division-esque bass line and me really wanting to sing some low baritone stuff for a change. And a big inspiration for the chorus was a great song I found called called The Shore by a relatively unknown UK act called Chapel Club.
So far it’s been getting a good response live. I’m wondering what kind of tricks I can use in the studio to get it sounding really unique. Hm..
This was the pun Seven News used in their voice over for images of me climbing Mantle Mining’s drill rig in Bacchus Marsh to protest the insanity of attempting to start exporting brown coal in a world dangerously close to the brink of catastrophic climate change.
I have to say, I’ve always been slightly weary of Seven news. I’ve seen a lot of pieces they’ve done in the past that made me feel there is a strong right-wig bias at the station. And during Climate Justice Fast! their news room was apparently even quite nasty towards my friend Mel who was trying to act as our publicist.
But on this day, they were honestly lovely. Margaret Dekker, the journalist who filed this piece, was sharp and friendly, and the piece is very reasonable:
I think that sometimes when you’re right you’re just right, and it’s hard for nearly anyone to disagree that productive farmland should be protected from being taken by mining companies. Even the police and local council out at Bacchus seemed supportive of our action, albeit behind a professional distance.
Ten news filed this piece:
In addition, Ten forwarded on a snippet of our footage to The Project, bestowing on me the great honour of being made fun of by the hilarious Dave Hughes:
As another nice little bonus from the action, Andrew Bolt wrote a blog about me! Nothing warms an activist’s heart more than some derision from Andrew, as it is a sure sign you’re threatening to make some kind of positive change in society. As usual, his blog was full of lies and misrepresentations. He says for example that I had said in 2009 that I was on a ‘total fast’. Not sure who he’s quoting with those quote marks though, as no-one in CJF ever said anything of the sort. We promised to eat again if our demands were met, but never said anything about guaranteeing we would fast to death.
I wrote to Andrew in response, challenging him to a debate about coal and climate, but no response has been forthcoming at this stage. I live in hope.
This is a poster I designed for Quit Coal‘s February 1 Rally to stop HRL.
I recently wrote this letter to a hero of mine Tim Decristopher. If you don’t know who Tim is, please check out his website at www.bidder70.org
I am a social justice (especially climate change) activist from Melbourne, Australia who has been an admirer of yours since I first came across your case in 2010. In fact I wrote a piece in Adbusters last year which discussed your case and the psychology behind the Edward Abbey quote you’ve often mentioned, that sentiment without action is ‘the ruin of the soul’. I’ve been meaning to write you for a while now, but as I’m sure you’re aware, when you’re a climate activist it can be hard to find time for many things in life.
But today I’ve finally decided to do it. It’s New Years Eve, and also my birthday, so I figure my own activism and work can take a back seat for once.
There are a lot of things I’d like to tell you, the first is just a thank you. Thanks for being the inspiration and moral beacon that you are. You are a hero to me, and a hero to thousands of others. I also believe in time you will be a hero to millions.
I believe, too, that history shows that any social movement needs uncompromisingly principled beacons such as yourself to be successful. These are the people who don’t back away from confronting ugly situations for what they are, who are willing to speak the truth about injustice, and to act strictly in line with their conscience rather than in line with the norms of the society around them. These are the people that take moral arguments to their logical conclusions.
In essence I think that the actions taken by people are the cornerstone of social change, for the inspiration and moral compass you provide to people of conscience. And while no one can ever prove it, I have strong doubts whether all those people would have found the courage required to travel to Washington and brake the law outside the White House, finally forcing a concession from Obama on the Tar Sands pipeline (however small a victory it was) If it wasn’t for you and what you have done,. I know I myself, all the way on the other side of the world, was motivated to take one arrestable action this year for climate directly because I read your speech to the judge, and because I knew you were behind bars where you do not belong.
I really want you to know that, because I know activists, and I know that what you have done and who you are challenges them to the core. I know that you are going to meet (if you haven’t already) a horde of them whose competitiveness and insecurity will lead them to act like they stayed out of jail because they wanted to use their time more ‘productively’. They will say things such as ‘if we were in jail we couldn’t organise Tar Sands rallies’. They won’t admit that if you weren’t in jail no ne would be showing up to get arrested at their rallies and actions in the first place. Not now or ever will these activists admit this, because admitting that would mean that what you have done is a vital part of the movement and that more need to follow in your footsteps.
And that, let’s face it, is a scary thing.
But I admit it. You’re probably the most valuable person the climate movement has in the entire world right now. You have inspired me. And when, as I expect will happen, I follow you to jail for standing in the path of climate catastrophe, the people inspired by me will actually have been inspired by you too.
It is in this way that what we do for good, and what you have done, has a way of resonating far beyond comprehension. So no matter what anyone ever tries to tell you or insinuate, know that not a single second you spend behind bars is wasted.