The coronation of Greta Thunberg as Time Magazine’s person of the year may finally be the end of the denial and procrastination of the reactionary rump determined to pretend that climate change is a conspiracy designed to subvert civilisation as we know it.
Time Magazine is hardly a radical publication, but even the conservatives can no longer argue that Thunberg can be dismissed as a mentally disturbed delinquent who should be spanked and sent back to school while the rest of the world continues to pursue its refusal to face the reality that unless urgent action is taken, we are all on the way to hell in a hand basket.
Even as the ludicrous Angus Taylor, a kind of reverse King Midas – everything he touches turns to shit — rants in Madrid about the need to cook the books as a preliminary to cooking the planet, the bulk of the establishment has been forced to acknowledge that business as usual is no longer an option.
Thunberg may only be a symbol, but Time regards her as the most important person of 2019, and even in far off Australia, cantering blithely towards its inadequate response to the existential threat burning our suburbs and choking our cities, there is a sense that something has changed.
Our Prime Minister and his government are still reluctant to go further than a few weasel words: ScoMo, through gritted teeth, has admitted that yes, perhaps climate change may be part of the problem – although, absurdly, he seems to be arguing that the ongoing disasters are mainly due to the prolonged drought, which he apparently thinks has nothing to do with global warming.
And of course he has no intention of doing anything useful; Australia is playing its part, punching above its weight, beating its targets, reducing emissions – don’t you worry about that.
But all the state governments, the vast majority of businesses and the increasing weight of public opinion have moved on. Even within the coalition there is movement – not enough to get Morrison, Taylor and the rest of the recalcitrant off their arses, but a dawning realisation that sooner rather than later, the issue will have to be tackled.
And in a sense this may not be quite as hard as it seems, because the real resistance against the activists is not based on anything more substantial than perverse ideology.
It is not so much that the hardliners resist the evidence and the science—they are not really interested in either. They see the conflict as a key element in the culture wars: if the elitist inner city latte sippers of the left are in favour of acting on climate, true conservatives must be against it, and that’s all there is to say.
But now it is becoming embarrassingly clear that it is no longer a lefty fringe issue; quite apart from the inferno on our doorstep, and the certain knowledge that this is just the beginning, climate change has become mainstream, and is well on the way to becoming an unavoidable political priority .
And it is not about to go away. The picture of Greta Thunberg on the cover of Time is the confirmation that the change is not only urgent, but inevitable.