Last night we went to Gleebooks for the launch of Anna Rose’s Madlands. This is her book about the experience of going on ABC television’s I can change your mind about … climate with Nick Minchin. I confess to not watching the show: there was enough condescension on the basis of age and gender in the trailers to do me for a lifetime, though Anna Rose seemed remarkably unflustered by it. He called her a warmist! It was as attractive as an hour ‘debating’ whether the earth is flat or passive smoking is a health hazard or Rupert Murdoch is rich.
Last night was not a ‘debate’, though it was largely about the vested interests, economic and ideological, that keep talking that way.
Louise Adler of Melbourne University Press referred in passing to the current debasement of political life and we realised that this was not the ABC, where Balance rules, and all opinions are equal. Incidentally, she confessed (under a cone of silence so as not to build up other writers’ expectations, but us bloggers know no shame) that the book was written in two and a half months and then proceeded from manuscript to the bookshops in another couple of months.
John Hewson, once leader of the Liberal Party and sufficiently neo-liberal to have been called the Feral Abacus by Paul Keating, launched the book. (Incidentally, to have been insulted by Paul Keating must be a little like having been caricatured by one of the greats – it might not portray you in a good light, but the artistry is so fine that you will tell people about it for the rest of your life.) Hewson talked quite a bit about his own activism in the business sector. He’s currently involved in a project, for instance, which will result in a published list of the top thousand superannuation funds rated according to their investment in sustainable enterprises – a listing which, he hopes, will result in a significant increase in investment in non-carbon energy options. But he wasn’t so much taking the opportunity to blow his own trumpet as to contextualise Anna’s book and her activism as co-founder and chair of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition: it’s no good waiting for government to act, was his message, but if you look around you’ll see that there are alternatives.
Anna Rose spoke too. Asked about her calmness on the TV show, she said that she kept remembering that her aim was to speak to the people watching the show, and if she allowed herself to be rattled by unpleasantness coming at her she wold probably lose those people. She invited us to applaud her mother (in the audience, almost as alarmingly young as Anna Rose herself), who over many years had given her a brilliant example of talking to people respectfully and changing their minds. Evidently she has received an enormous amount of hate mail since the show went to air – she commented that the anonymity of the Web allows some people to behave very badly, but shrugged and said you get used to it. (She’s married to Simon Sheikh of Get-Up, also there with a big smile on his face, so I guess she has some forces countering the hate.)
There was some talk about hope. Anna Rose quoted Paul Kremer (I looked it up and found the context here):
If you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t understand the data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor, and you aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a pulse.
Any time we are feeling discouraged, she said, we should visit http://aycc.org.au/, see what the Australian Youth Climate Coalition is up to and make a donation. At the moment they’re raising funds to give a copy of this book to every member of the Australian Parliament.
We bought three copies of the book and went off to dinner knowing that we had pulses.