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Vox pops from the Climate Change Social Change conference

Robynne Murphy, steelworker and Socialist Alliance activist from Wollongong and leader of the Jobs for Women campaign against BHP in the 1970s & 1980s:

I certainly get the impression that this is potentially a huge movement. You are sitting and you get the feeling that there is a wealth of different organizations coming together and that’s just fantastic.

And it’s all-encompassing because it is talking about social justice, a whole international aspect with different parts of the world being affected in different ways right now.

There seems to be a unanimous agreement that this is not just about individual solutions but about a huge political change that has to be made. There’s a whole range of politics but it is being unified more around a socialist perspective.

Roberto Perez, Cuban ecologist:

We are a planet with a population of 6 billion people and almost 200 countries. And you see what is happening is that a few people in a few countries are stealing from the rest of humanity the right to use energy for good. And there is a total waste of materials. They have been doing that for a long time, which is very sad. But to try and keep continuing doing that in the emergency situation we face is totally criminal, unfair and it needs to be stopped.

It is very important to see that the awareness about climate change includes the social inequities in this problem. It is very important to see how people are waking up, especially in Australia, whose position towards climate change until the last year have been very improper in my opinion. I am very glad to see people pressure the government while trying to find solutions on the community level, on the government level and on the legal framework level.

This means that different groups of people that are doing progressive work in food production and sustainable agriculture, people who are doing great work on conservation and environmental awareness, and people who are doing work on social justice and fairness, they need to unite in order to face this problem. Because this problem affects all humans, it is the time, right now, to bring groups together for the common good.

Stephanie Long, Friends of the Earth International Climate Change Team:

What I have been able to witness being a part of an international climate change team is that when you think you have got it hard in Australia, and the forces of evil seem insurmountable, the things that people in other parts of the world live through and still have the spirit to rise up against is absolutely phenomenal.

I’ve worked very closely with a couple of campaigners in Colombia and they get death threats, they get firebombed. It is just amazing what people work through and people get to a point when their wish to live in a different world is greater than the fear that they feel and the enormity of the task. The promise of how fantastic the alternative world could be are also amazing.

Mel Barnes, Resistance activist from Hobart:

My favourite speaker was Roberto Perez from Cuba who has been talking about how Cuba has become much more sustainable using things such as permaculture. He also made the point that this was possible because of the socialist revolution and the fact that they had a government that was supporting them in doing this. He said it was very hard for people in the First World to make the same changes without such a government and a socialist revolution.

Tim Gooden, Secretary of the Geelong Regional Trades Hall Council:

From and education point of view the conference has been fantastic but also from an alliance-building perspective. I hadn’t met people from Rising Tide and other environmental groups before and some of the projects they are working on and issues that they are confronting are really good. I can see a good potential for a red-green alliance in the future. Probably it will be initially around campaigns but as climate change bites in people’s consciousness it will deepen.

The level of awareness, education and experience out there, if combined, is such that I can see why governments are worried and spending big money on PR to make out that climate change is all our fault.

The union movement in Australia is still very strong and dominant in working class consciousness and it is an area that we have reach out to and build bridges to. We need to work within unions and with them and I think the discussions that we have done here will go a long way in advancing this.

Dave Holmes, veteran socialist in the Socialist Alliance and the Democratic Socialist Perspective:

There is a range of people of the left and the environment movement coming together at this conference. There’s discussion, debate and there is a lot of agreement. There are also some things we are going to have to sort out down the line but it has been very stimulating.

Most people realize that big changes have to be made but perhaps they are not sure exactly how this is going to come about. This is why Roberto Perez’s tour has been so valuable because here is a story not just of a group of enthusiasts but a government and a whole people who have struggled to re-orientate their economy, agriculture, food production and achieved real results even if they are still under enormous pressure. I think that’s the basis for these incredible attendances and enthusiasm at the meetings he has addressed as he has gone around the country. This really is a phenomenon which we haven’t seen before.

I think climate change is going to shake everything up. Already there is widespread concern and frankly our message that only popular mobilization and popular control of the commanding heights of the economy makes sense. It is not possible to achieve the drastic changes needed if we don’t have the levers in our hands. That message, even if everyone does not yet agree on how we should do that, strikes and increasing reasonance.

Sue Bull, Socialist Alliance and DSP teacher activist:

The Roberto Perez tour has been fantastic. I am from Geelong and 250 attended the meeting there and here he has had such an impact because he represents those socialists from the Third World (and in his case from a socialist country) who are putting into practice sustainability in a real way. He’s had a great impact on the conference.

John Bellamy Foster’s yesterday was also great. I have never heard a more compelling argument for socialism. What a fantastic teacher! Heaps of people would have got a lot out of this.

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