Australian Artists Battle the Fossil Bullies: The Simple Signs Send the Message!
By Carol Dance
The posters and banners of Sydney’s May 21 School Strike for Climate
The Australian government promotes the opening new coal mines and subsidises the natural gas industry. There are links to the details at the end of this article.
Half of European coal fleet closed or scheduled to by 2030; some countries ban advertising for fossil fuels; Spain, Hungary, Germany, Malaysia and other countries have banned new coal mines; some European counties ban of domestic flights of less than two and a half hour duration where there are transport alternatives; some ban outdoor gas heaters. Yet the Australian government is subsiding the fossil industry, allowing new mines and building huge infrastructure for natural gas pipelines. Australia could be world leader in renewables but we are its anchor.
Numerous surveys show that 70 to 80% of Australians want an end to new coal mines and gas projects here. We have the sun, the wind and the waves for renewable energy. We do have the highest uptake of residential solar panels in the world…but hat is individuals making a personal choice to use solar. The Government promotes fossils, mainly because the fossil fuel industry donates to the political parties. This is photo of our Prime Minister in our Parliament proudly holding a lump of coal and extoling the virtues of fossil fuels. It says it all.
Good graphics help get the message out and drive our campaigns against both fossil fuels and the fossils in Parliament. The Extinction Rebellion symbol depicts an hourglass – because time is rapidly running out. The Extinction Symbol was created by London artist ESP in 2011. “I started off by chalking it really large on a wall down Brick Lane people started to take notice.” Art works! The logo is now used by 75 ER groups in Australia and is recognisable most places around the world.
One example of Australia’s good design is Stop Adani campaign’s logo. Mr. Adani is the businessman building a huge mine in the north of the country. He has both state and federal government support for this immense project. The mine site covers an area of 44,700 hectares (110,456 acres), around 447 square kilometres (173 sq mi). At one stage, the Australian governments were scheduled to give $4.4bn in effective subsidies to Adani’s Carmichael coal project. The exact figure is contentious. The Stop Adani campaign’s logo was created a decade ago and is now on T-shirts, banners, earrings and bumper stickers. The elongated bottom edge makes people take more notice than if the sign were the same shape as a stop sign. Clever graphics. The sign is now used in India by campaigners where the Adani corporation is building power stations to burn the coal it will import from its Australian mine.
The mine threatens the groundwater under productive farmland. That simple elongated stop sign shape has been turned 180 degrees, changed to blue and is the symbol for the campaigns to save our precious water from mining use. Adani plans to pump 12.5 billion litres of water from some of Australia’s most drought-affected areas. A coal mine can’t operate without water.
The Lock the Gate campaigns, stopping mining companied entering farmer’s property to frack is also simple, a yellow triangle. Everyone around the country now recognises that sign. You see it nailed on tree trunks, on front doors and pinned on hats. Simple is best.
On May 21 young Australians in 50 locations around the country marched to protest the government’s fossil mentality. Art was part of the School Strikers’ campaign. Climate activists’ art comes in many forms. The Facebook and Instagram posts announcing the strike were usually professional quality graphics. They gave the needed information and the encouragement to be part of the action through the bright colours and clever designs.
On the day, May 21, there were a huge variety of artworks, everything from a child’s painted carboard sign to expertly crafted two metre banners. People were inspired to get their message across though words, colour and even objects. One woman’s poster read ‘Fill our climate leadership vacuum’. She carried a vacuum cleaner all the way from Town Hall to Central Station to make her point. That’s how determined people were.
Some posters promoted the general concept of abandoning fossils fuels. Others represented an organisation to show that the organisation supported the protests and climate action. I saw the Socialists, Green Left, Teachers for Action on Climate Change, 350.org, a couple of Unions, Christian Students Uniting Church, Australian Parents for Climate Action and many other artworks representing an activist group.
The cleverest were the ones that told a story. A handmade sign read “STRANDED ASSET” with Australia alone at the bottom of the globe and no other landmass at all. This sign has a double meaning. The subsidised-gas-led recovery and the new coal mines planned are almost all going to end up as stranded assets, having no value whatsoever to their investors or to the country. What fool would invest in them? Apparently only the government. The second meaning is that Australia is stranded while the rest of the world is busy tackling climate change. We are alone, ostracised and ridiculed for our lack of foresight. Once the tariffs on our ‘export of pollution’ are in place, we’ll be even more isolated and stranded.
One of my favourites was What happened this week in FOSSIL FOOLS’ with the heads of the PM and Treasurer in the ‘O’s of ‘fools’. Another good one was ‘anyhow* Have a Gasfield’ with the PM giving the thumbs up to a cigarette packet branded Gasfield. There were plenty of ‘Scomo” posters, some were clever, some were crude. All were heartfelt.
Another favourite was ‘Come on, Australia!!! We should be an example to the world’ in bright red letters. It would be possible to transition and be a world leader in renewables, if only we had a leader.
Here are some links that will give you the details. Tell others about our dilemma. Post this article on your social media. But mostly write to your government representatives to say that Australians want the government to stop supporting fossil fuel. Australia needs the world’s help to change the Government’s fossil mentality.