Against a backdrop of the most destructive summer I can recall, social media has brought out the best and worst in Australians.
As a means to share news, information and encourage all to pledge what ever they can in aid of bush fire relief, digital media forged connections and possessed the potential to nurture the most valuable of assets; community.
However, our devices also over-heated with hatred and vitriol during the Christmas/New Year period. Two warring Goliaths have gone at each other; often forgetting those brave heroes charged with remedying a seemingly insurmountable situation.
The men and women who have stood stoically in the line of fire as blazes threatened not only properties and infrastructure but their own lives, will live in our hearts forever.
Our respect for the brave Australians who have fought what at times must have seemed the most forlorn battle, is unwavering.
Locating an Australian who doesn’t feel precisely the same way would be a tough task right now. Sadly, that communal bond is severed rather dramatically when Australian’s take part in a social media discussion on climate change and the role it may have played in the disasters of 2019/20.
Put bluntly, Australians appear to be pooled into two clear camps when it comes to the earth, it’s weather, climate change and humanity’s impact on all three.
In one corner sits the right-wing conservative side of the Australian political spectrum. They are coal loving, gun toting, cattle prodding folks, all hell bent on proving that natural disasters are common in the wide brown land; that human impact on climate is negligible and any argument to the contrary emanates from a cult.
In the opposite corner, sits the left-wing crowd. Supposedly a gathering of tree-hugging, scare-mongering hippies who believe the decades of peer reviewed research and evidence that suggests humans have indeed negatively impacted the climate of the planet they inhabit.
Social media provides the perfect vehicle for the two to lock horns and lock they have, in the most partisan and passionate manner; with members of both camps foolishly believing that opinions will change.
Each set of beliefs is blamed on a conspiracy. The left cite the interests of the coal, gas, resource and mining sectors as driving their denial of climate change. With billions of dollars still to be made, those folk deeply concerned about the health of the planet are convinced that any move to renewable and alternative sources of energy might hurt the corporate bottom line just enough to influence public commentary.
Conservative thinking calls for a debunking of climate change theory; referencing a global conspiracy to convince the next generation of the damage already done, and still to be done, to planet earth.
The accused scientists, meteorologists and environmentalists whose reputations, research and livelihoods are constantly questioned, are apparently peddling their theories to achieve some ideological future end-game.
As a collective, those professionals will tell you they merely fear for the generations to come, yet the right continues to perpetuate a line of thinking that infers an ambition to establish a new world ‘socialist’ order.
The argument between the two is always heated and often destructive to relationships. The idea of disagreeing with another human being and not disliking them as a result, appears unattainable for many.
Usually based on a collection of poorly researched and clumsily constructed memes or cherry picked articles to suit the specific purpose of the sender at any given moment, social media interaction around climate change becomes something of a farce.
Yet through it all, the conservative side of Australian politics is determined to be right. It desperately clings to a photograph of Sydney Harbour in 1934 that proves sea levels are not rising and despite the environmental evidence suggesting otherwise, maintains the view that warming temperatures are just a natural and cyclical global occurrence.
All the while, they maintain an insanely vigorous hatred of anything connected to the notion of being ‘green’. I often wonder if they recycle at home.
Personally, it scares me. With no scientific training whatsoever, I do not have a professional basis on which to present an argument. For that, I refer to those expert in deciphering environmental data.
Combine that information with the changes I have witnessed in my local environment and further investigation around renewable options, water retention and rising temperatures does not seem like a radical or drastic course of action.
Ideally, climate change will be folly. Yet those of us concerned about the long term future of our planet and the lives our offspring will live on it, fear that may not be the case.
Sadly, as much as we hope things are not as bad as they may seem, the right continues, determined to prove its case.
And that is what scares me the most.