S Sorrensen’s Here & Now: Rallying for reality

Photo David Lowe

Lismore. Saturday, 9.55am

George Monbiot, a British writer, wrote recently that we only get to influence the little stuff. The big issues are already decided for us. We, the people, are fed details to peck and squabble at. The agenda is already set, the big deals done. Democracy is an illusion.


People are wandering into the Quad, Lismore’s community meeting place, as fingers of sun poke through the clouds and touch the wet grass, the microphones in their stands and the wet plastic roofs of the stalls.

The recent rain underlines just how lucky we are in the Northern Rivers bubble. But the recent dry spell underlines just how crucial a predictable climate is to our survival. The region’s environment has evolved from 10 millennia of relatively stable climate. A few weeks without rain and we start to feel uneasy. Not the superficial panic that happens when our phone battery dies, but rather a deeper alarm that sounds when we feel the awful impossible could be possible.

We humans and all life around here have been shaped and sustained by that dependable climate. We are fragile creatures in a changing world. When it doesn’t rain an unease grows in us. Our connection to the world slips back from the safely virtual into the troubling real.

Some of the people walking into the Quad carry homemade signs supporting action on climate change. I see a spelling mistake. Oh dear. I suppose a paintbrush doesn’t come with a spellchecker, but crude handwriting (even with a spelling mistake) has more emotion than a laser print. These people care.

This morning in the Quad, there’s a rally demanding action from the government on climate change. That is sad in itself. Without a doubt, climate change is the biggest threat we humans have faced since wandering out of Africa, so it seems weird that the government ignores the situation’s urgency.

Well, it seems weird unless you understand what governments are really there for. It isn’t for you and me. Democracy is an illusion.

Also, it’s strange that so few people are here. I mean it’s a good turnout for this type of event, but why isn’t everyone here? What could be more important than the future of your children?

I’m sitting outside the cafe in the Quad, sipping a chai latte, nodding at passing people in the gathering crowd. I know most of the faces here. I don’t know all the names, but many of these people have been showing up at protests and rallies since I can remember. The same faces, just getting older. They care. We are bonded by that care.

There are some younger people, but not many. Children play in the puddles that linger on the grass while their parents chat, their placards resting against their legs.

Meanwhile, Lismore goes about its Saturday morning business. Registers ping, bacon cooks, sports are played, hangovers nursed. Business as usual.

Perhaps people believe it isn’t true; that climate change is exaggerated; that all those scientists are wrong or hoaxing us. That Saturday morning is better spent mowing the yard.

Perhaps people do know we are in the tightening grip of climate change but believe there is nothing we can do. There’s comfort in sticking to the old ways. Maybe buy a cloth shopping bag.

I can understand that, but what will you tell the kids? You must fight.

A man with greying hair and a neat beard, shakes my hand.

‘Well, the government has to choose between big business,’ he says, ‘or us.’ His arm sweeps across Quad, indicating the older faces, the children, the giant owl, the dancing climate angels, the Knitting Nanas and a Bundjalung elder gathered there.

I smile.

The choice, I’m afraid, mate, has already been made.

One response to “S Sorrensen’s Here & Now: Rallying for reality”

  1. LISA YEATES says:

    You are so right Sssss. Good article and I will share this as it basically echoes (ha, pun intended) my feelings .
    Lisa Yeates

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Become a supporter of The Echo

A note from the editorial team

Some of The Echo’s editorial team: journalists Paul Bibby and Aslan Shand, editor Hans Lovejoy, photographer Jeff Dawson and Mandy Nolan

The Echo has never underestimated the intelligence and passion of its readers. In a world of corporate banality and predictability, The Echo has worked hard for more than 30 years to help keep Byron and the north coast unique with quality local journalism and creative ideas. We think this area needs more voices, reasoned analysis and ideas than just those provided by News Corp, lifestyle mags, Facebook groups and corporate newsletters.

The Echo is one hundred per cent locally owned and one hundred per cent independent. As you have probably gathered from what is happening in the media industry, it is not cheap to produce a weekly newspaper and a daily online news service of any quality.

We have always relied entirely on advertising to fund our operations, but often loyal readers who value our local, independent journalism have asked how they could help ensure our survival.

Any support you can provide to The Echo will make an enormous difference. You can make a one-off contribution or a monthly one. With your help, we can continue to support a better informed local community and a healthier democracy for another 30 years.”

Echonetdaily is made possible by the support of all of our advertisers.