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Greenie and Proud

By Alex Neale

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack loves describing anyone who cares about the environment and would like the government to have a decent climate change policy as ‘pure, enlightened, woke, capital city, latte sipping, inner-city, greenies and raving lunatics.’ He always uses these words to form an insult to any credible politician, climate activist and leader in our community (including chiefs of emergency services and firefighters) and quite frankly gets pretty creative. He uses these insults to deflect the rightful questions millions of people all across the country are asking, “When will the Coalition government have a climate change policy? When will we reduce our emissions and turn away from coal? And most importantly when will you stop denying that the recent bushfires that ravaged the country were the result of climate change? Isn’t there enough proof?"

I, as a climate activist and a ‘greenie’, am sure he would label me with some of these descriptions. As a university student of English, I take a particular interest in all of those epithets. I, like many, questioned the accuracy of such labels, however I also took the liberty to explore the motive behind the choice to use these words. See, McCormack is not the first and will not be the last to employ these dismissals to pigeon-hole this movement which I have donated a quadrant of my heart to; so remove that name from the equation if you will. Let’s see what these words truly mean, why they’ve been spoken and, most importantly, why those specific words connote what they do:

Woke. In this context, sceptics and deniers mean this as an insult – a subversion of its original intent aimed at rejecting its metaphoric meaning of enlightenment. Why? Well, to be woke is to not be asleep; it is to be aware. Indeed, this metaphor was created by those whose aim it is to be woke – by those in the climate movement and other movements of empowerment like it. I personally have been called woke before – as both a compliment and an insult – many times. This word was invented by movements of empowerment, with the goal of empowerment; the use of it in a cynical context attempts to deny the activist from it.

Latte-sipping. This is a generalisation, marginalisation and stereotyping which anyone within the climate movement would instantly recognise as such. When you hear this, you should instantly recognise its speaker as one whose perspective on the movement is only external; yes, this type exists, but it is as prevalent in the climate movement as any other. Personally, I could count with my fingers the amount of coffee I’ve consumed in my life, and I’ve never had a single latte. If a cynic truly wished to label the people within this movement by their beverage of choice with the aim of alienating them, from my experience they most likely should have gone with ‘bubble-tea-sipping’ instead. Enough said, I hope.

Inner-city. I know I asked you to remove McCormack’s quote from your mind when considering this phrase, however the context in which he said it – in reference to a member of the Rural Fire Service – serves as an effective symbol in conveying the inaccuracy of the quote’s second generalisation. I have lived in the suburbs of Sydney, far removed from the Newtons of the world, for over a decade. Furthermore, the target audience of this stereotyping, that is, people of rural and regional areas who would find it easiest to draw a dividing line between themselves and city-dwellers, are the ones who have felt the most brutal and obvious effects of climate change; they are the people who are the most woke to its impacts, and I don’t mean the cynical kind. So, if a denier wishes to refer to climate activists as ‘inner-city’ people, they must also include people from Cobargo or Nelligen, for example, in that category.

Greenie. My personal favourite. Used so often in a derogatory context in Australia, this term fascinatingly alienates all who wish to leave a green footprint on the world. It has been used in every circumstance imaginable in the last several years. Originating as a label for members of The Greens, the political party, we as Australians have watched it evolve to define the party’s supporters, climate activists, environmental activists, vegetarians, vegans, people who recycle, people from Melbourne, people from Victoria, people from Newtown, School Strikers and now, in McCormack’s context, firefighters. I’ve likely missed some; I’d be grateful if any more were pointed out to me. Like ‘woke’, it seems as though the self-appointed opponents of advocacy for Mother Nature have attempted to subvert this term in order to make caring for the environment a foreign thing: something they do, but we don’t. However, as we’ve seen throughout the last few months, the nightmare the Earth has brought down upon us over the Summer enlightened many to the need to protect the ground we walk on and the air we breathe. If recent polls are correct, Mr. McCormack, and if attendance numbers at climate strikes are anything to go by, there are an awful lot of greenies in this country.

So there you have it, the ‘woke, latte-sipping, inner-city greenie’ includes all those who are literally awake to world issues, drink all sorts of beverages, hail from regional Australia as well as its cities, and care about the planet. Surprisingly enough, I do not expect this would be the demographic McCormack and his cynicism envisioned when he described what he did; which is as cynical as I will get. Thus, with all that said and done: this has been your local woke, latte-sipping, inner-city greenie, reminding you once again that the climate movement is maintained by everyone, for everyone.

*The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the Woke magazine.

**Cover image by Kalhh from Pixabay


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