That is, it would have completely overshadowed the tiny rally of neoliberals and climate deniers, had not the media shone their spotlight on that benighted gathering! A few pictures of it that I found have are a bit lacking in whole-of-crowd shots, but this one gives some idea.
As one wag commented on Facebook, “the timorous ABC now matches foreigner Rupert Murdoch as an enemy of the people. 7,500 people at Climate Action Rally today, 200 at Deniers' Rally but showed them first. Both given equal time on ABC News, no mention of numbers and no wide shots.”
To which one response was “better than channel 7 though, that had the deniers rally first, spoke to people, then crossed to our rally for about 5 seconds, saying 'just as many turned out....’”
|Image: Nick Carson (borrowed from Earthsign)|
Let’s just say the climate action protest was in the order of 20-40 times the size of the deniers’ rally. It was also in the order of 5-10 times the size that I had been expecting, which is encourageing. The protest was called at only about a week’s notice, and largely built by online word of mouth and email calls; some posters were put up around the place as well.
|Overflow down the embankment|
GetUp, the online campaign organisation, were the principal organisers. GetUp are notorious for taking credit for other people's campaigns and failing to collaborate with other organisations, but they certainly deserve credit for their efforts with this rally.
I didn’t hear much of the speakers as the topography of the area where the rally was held was not really conducive, and I was circling around to try and find friends and take photographs (my whole album is viewable here). I just heard the announcer thanking Lucy Manne of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition as she finished speaking, and another speaker who declared that “ours is the last generation that can take the action needed” to avoid devastating climate change.
|Kids find new uses for placards|
|Young Labor Left|
Many of us involved in the Stop HRL campaign handed out hundreds, probably thousands of leaflets for this ongoing anti-coal campaign. I saw others with their own issues piggybacking on the rally too: one leaflet offered to me asked the leading question, “can you be an environmentalist and eat meat?” (My considered answer – yes of course you can – probably differs from their answer!)
There was a small group from Solidarity handing out a statement opposing the carbon tax (while firmly in the camp of those wanting climate action of course). I did see one person pointedly giving the leaflet back and I don’t know how well the message was received by those that read it.
|Socialist Alliance banner|
One protester had a large placard expressing the concerns put by Beyond Zero Emissions that a higher carbon price will only drive a shift from coal to gas power at this point.
|Protester Education Unit|
GetUp originally put out a call to support a carbon price (or "price on pollution"), but in the course of the week changed to call it a "rally for climate action". This is an important distinction because, as the critical comments on the fringes of the rally illustrate, there are many who do not think a carbon price will itself have many positive results.
But most people happily grabbed the printed placards on offer which supported a “price on pollution” and “clean energy” without probably knowing or caring so much for the debates about whether gas can be called "clean", or the various forms of carbon price and their relative merits. Many people shrink from the prickly debate over economic and legislative policy mechanisms, if they are even aware of it. The left need to do more work to find the information and issues which help people to begin thinking more critically on this.
Such a positive and large rally is a good sign in any case. There is much work to do to negotiate the pitfalls of the carbon price (which is intended to become a carbon trading scheme and promote a shift to fossil gas, according to environment minister Greg Combet). But if 8000 people can come out at short notice to support action on climate change– which was the clear sentiment of all those there – we are getting somewhere.
LIVE has a list of links to all news coverage of the rally, including videos taken by Peter Campbell