Say what we may about the powerful pro-carbon, anti-conservation forces at work in Australia, there’s no denying their ability to influence government and public opinion. There’s still a substantial portion of the Australian population that believes global warming is bunk.
The question we’ve tried to answer in this article is – whose voices carry the most weight in speaking against them? Who best informs the public and coordinates and rallies opposition?
Both major political parties accept handsome donations from pro-fossil fuel bodies, so they’re excluded from the list. We’ve also excluded the ABC because its charter obligations prohibit political bias.
Having scanned more than 20 candidates, we’ve come up with the following list. It’s the closest thing we have to a sustainability advocacy A-Team in Australia.
The key metric we’ve looked at is social media following and influence. Maybe there are better ways of assessing influence, but we couldn’t think of any other method that offers hard numbers. We’ve ranked organisations and individuals according to their social media followings and Klout Scores*, which provide a measure of the influence social profiles have in their followers.
In Reverse order:
10 – RenewEconomy
RenewEconomy.com.au is undoubtedly our favourite blog in the sustainability space. It’s owned and run by veteran journalist, Giles Parkinson, a former Business Editor and Deputy Editor of the Australian Financial Review.
The blog provides a prolific daily flow of news and comment on the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy both in Australia and the wider world.
There’s no mistaking where its sympathies lie. RenewEconomy’s enthusiasm for renewables and disdain for fossil fuel proponents are both inspiring and infectious.
What makes the blog interesting though, is the light it sheds on the economics of renewables vs. alternatives and the desperate attempts of fossil fuel interests to obstruct the renewable revolution.
For anyone seeking a source of quality information to counter the sponsored pseudo science and economics that bewitches so many Australian politicians RenewEconomy is essential reading.
You can keep up with Giles Parkinson and colleagues by subscribing to RenewEconomy’s newsletter
9 – Australian Marine Conservation Society
AMCS works on the big issues concerning the sea. Its key focus is to create large marine national parks (marine sanctuaries), make fisheries sustainable and protect and recover our threatened ocean wildlife, such as
our sharks, seals and whales.
8 – Australian Ethical Super
A fund management company may seem an unusual choice for inclusion on this list but their publicised investment decisions impact the future prosperity of over 25,000 Australians and are followed with interest by many more.
Their portfolio includes companies from obvious sectors such as renewable energy and recycling. But they invest in the broader economy too, focusing on companies that meet an exacting set of ethical standards that they haven’t had to change in 30 years.
Automatic exclusions from their portfolio include companies involved in fossil fuels, logging, manufacture of harmful products, human rights abuses and gambling.
By doing what they do AES set a great example for Australian investors. They also bag very healthy returns for their investors, making nonsense of the notion that economic prosperity goes hand in hand with pollution and exploitation.
7 – The Wilderness Society
The Wilderness Society focuses on protecting areas of exceptional natural heritage from big business.
It originates from Tasmania, where in the mid 1970s, it first campaigned successfully against the damming of the Franklin River. Since then it has thwarted plans for the Gunns Pulp Mill in Tasmania along with several other major ventures that have threatened some of Australia’s most exceptional places of natural beauty.
6 – The Australian Conservation Foundation
The ACF’s vision is to “transform Australia into a society that protects, respects and connects with the natural world that sustains us.”
It’s a community-based, not-for-profit non-governmental environmental advocacy organisation. Its campaigns focus on climate change, rivers, oceans, forests, and a nuclear free, sustainable Australia.
5 – The Australian Greens
The Australian Political party dedicated to conservation and responsible environmental management. Its roots are in the environmental movement in Australia and the United Tasmania Group, which was one of the first green parties in the world.
The Greens’ primary aim is to influence outcomes on environmental issues by getting senators elected. In times when the ruling party has has a small majority they wield significant power. After the 2011 federal elections when Australia had a hung parliament, they held sole balance of power. At the time of writing the Greens have 12 federal MPs.
4 – The Climate Council
The Climate Council provides independent, authoritative information about climate change to the Australian public.
When the newly elected federal government attempted to silence the government funded Climate Commission by abolishing it, it quickly reformed as the Climate Council – an independent, non-profit organisation, financed by Australia’s largest ever crowd funding campaign.
Staffed by heavyweights from the academic and business community, it produces in-depth reports and recommendations backed up by hard science. Topics include the renewable energy boom, the effect of climate change on bushfire risk, food security, economic stability and even national security.
3 – WWF Australia
As its name suggests the Worldwide Wildlife Fund focuses on the welfare of wildlife and wildlife habitat. It’s the world’s largest and most respected conservation organisation. WWF leverages the power of spectacular wildlife photography along with cute cuddly imagery to support appeals for donations to animal lovers of all ages.
WWF’s style is less political and more conciliatory than some of its peers, which gives it broader appeal. But that hasn’t stopped it weighing in on the Great Barrier Reef Scandal. The Great Barrier Reef remains one of WWF Australia’s top priorities.
2 – GreenPeace Australia
Best known for decades of campaigning against commercial whaling, GreenPeace was one of the very first environmental direct action groups. Its vigorous, outspoken and high profile campaigning style has brought countless issues to the public awareness, which others in turn have taken up.
From its origins in Canada in 1971, GreenPeace now has a presence in 40 countries. Its stated aim is “to ensure the ability of the earth to nurture life in all its diversity”.
GreenPeace campaigns focus on climate change, safeguarding marine life and diversity, deforestation, genetic engineering and issues related to nuclear weapons and energy.
Over the years they’ve reinforced their field campaigns with award winning photography, films and consumer reports that expose unsavoury conduct on the part of large companies and governments.
It’s a testament to the influence and GreenPeace’s long game that Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, recently voiced his disapproval to his Japanese counterpart over Japanese commercial whaling. 30 years ago, it would have been unthinkable for an Australian Prime Minister to express such views.
1 – The Guardian Environment
Although headquartered in the UK, the Guardian has built up a huge international following overseas with its Australian, US and International editions.
Unlike major Australian newspapers, it’s owned by a non-profit trust created to safeguard editorial independence and liberal values (that’s liberal in the broader sense, not the Liberal Party of Australia).
When the Guardian comments and raises sustainability issues they get people talking – other media channels, politicians, people of influence and ordinary citizens. Its voice is clearly heard in Australia, perhaps more than any other.
Check out The Guardian Australian edition the Guardian Environment Blog.
Have we missed anyone? Tell us what you think in the comment box below.
*Klout Scores measure the influence of social media profiles by looking at the number of followers and the amount of interest their posts generate with their followers. It’s somewhat biased towards Twitter in assessing influence especially when looking at smaller influencers.