Deja Vu

banksy warming regent's canal london 0713
Isaac Cordal, artwork 'electoral campaign' global_warming 0314

[Wrote this eighteen years ago to subscribers/members of a local sustainability group I initiated in 1989 called Canopy Southern Highlands. The group ended about a year later. The letter displays some uncanny similarities to today. Is there ‘climate change fatigue’ like there is ‘compassion fatigue’ in our current medial mindscapes of digital overwhelm? Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose, as the French say: the more things change, the more they stay the same. The only alternative: system change, not climate change, and time is running out. Art work by Banksy in London and Isaac Cordal’s ‘Electoral Campaign’.]

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. A Letter to Canopy Subscribers, Christmas 1997

Summer 1997, and welcome to climate chaos, folks.

We wake up to the smell of bushfires. Our days are hazy with their smoke.

On November 27 we had the hottest November day ever recorded in the shire (37 degrees), the second hottest day ever recorded at all in the shire. On September 23 we had the coldest September day recorded in Sydney for fifty years (11 degrees).

1997 is the hottest year on global record. Nine of the previous ten years have been the hottest on record.

Fires, mainly lit by logging companies with close ties to the political ruling classes, destroyed hundreds of thousands of acres of rainforest in Indonesia from late August to November. The smoke from the fires caused grave public health problems throughout South-East Asia and even spread to Darwin.

The current El Ninjo phenomenon built up at a speed “never seen before” (New Scientist). The previous 1991 El Ninjo was predicted, like the current one, to stay around for nine months. It caused drought in Australia for three years. The current one has led to crop failures, food shortages and starvation among the rural people of the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea, West Papua (over 600 dead already) and Ethiopia. The increase in frequency and severity of El Ninjo events has been linked to global warming. Mosquitoes carrying Ross River Fever have now moved to the outskirts of Sydney. This has also been linked to global warming.

The Australian government, tacitly supported by Labor, has succeeded in being allowed an actual increase in greenhouse gas emissions at the recent UN climate conference in Kyoto. Howard’s “victory” will severely rebound on all our health, on farming and tourism incomes, on many vulnerable plant and animal species. Other countries have been prescribed only minimal cuts in emissions on 1990 levels, while UN scientists actually advocated cuts of 60-80% just to stabilize warming levels.

Governments and energy-intensive Big Business they represent (coal, oil, mining, auto, air travel etc.) no longer deny the reality of climate change; they now, and successfully, seek to limit the necessary cuts in emissions. (For the moment the global insurance industry, which sides with Greenpeace on this issue, has been ignored. This industry may increasingly shift its investment trillions away from coal/oil-dependent industries towards renewables and services.)

Canopy Southern Highlands was actually founded in March 1989 as a result of strong local concern about the Greenhouse Effect/global warming and the wish to do something about it by ‘thinking globally, acting locally.’

We have tried to do this in a variety of ways. We have been strongly involved in many local issues directly or indirectly connected with our unsustainable levels of energy consumption, water consumption, ecosystem consumption, waste production. All of these issues are of course inter-connected aspects of our unsustainable consumer capitalism, issues such as:

the Mount Flora mega-quarry proposal, the Sydney mega-dump proposal at Pleasant Farm in Penrose, Council waste and recycling policies, bike paths, Council energy-efficient housing policy, native tree planting near Bowral pool, alternative sewage treatment proposals for the northern villages, public events and workshops on community sustainable futures, river pollution and total catchment management, peat mining at Long Swamp and Wingecarribee Swamp, the Very Fast Train proposal, the public Sydney-Canberra Corridor consultations and discussions, meet-the-candidates local election evenings…

What has changed in the nine years since Canopy was founded is the increasing evidence of the fact that climate change is no longer a mere scientific theory about the future but is already upon us. (In fact, UN scientists declared this to be officially the case two years ago).


~ by Peter Lach-Newinsky on November 3, 2015.

2 Responses to “Deja Vu”

  1. That is a little scary. The only thing I would say is that there appears to be a shift in elite attitudes, not nearly enough and far too late. Also fascinating (in a morbid way) to see them suddenly need the systems they have been studiously gutting for the last forty years so that we are left at the mercy of the Market.

    • Thanks, Dave. The global gearing up of massive creative direct action around COP 21, without any illusions about the bullshit of the latter, seems very heartening to me. Cf. for example:,,,,, The Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination…

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