By Tony Thomas
Oxfam Australia is yet another climate-catastrophe spruiker to be welcomed into classrooms along with Cool Australia, Greenpeace, Australian Conservation Foundation, WWF, Australian Youth Climate Coalition and Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth teams. But Oxfam is successfully carving out its own territory in the intra-green competition for children’s souls.
The 2013-14 Oxfam Australia annual report says more than 20,000 teachers used Oxfam resources to teach 100,000 students. And more than 6800 students in high schools and universities took part in 40 Oxfam workshops to help them become discussion leaders among their peers.
Oxfam resources specifically for schools
At a glance, Oxfam appears even more politically partisan than the other groups. It cites “great examples of the myriad ways schools can make a difference” and directs students to its “Take Action” page,
“Tell the PM to be the Australian leader we need. Demand he goes to New York and commits in person to the new UN #GlobalGoals for Sustainable Development.”
Take Action also says, below a caricature of Prime Minister Tony Abbott holding an umbrella against a cyclone, and alongside a political petition:
“So far, the Abbott Government has absolutely failed the climate leadership test. Email our political leaders now. Tell them you’re searching for someone to step up and lead Australia on climate..
Tell them that Australians want a bold and visionary government that’s prepared to make the right choice. For everyone, not just for polluting vested interests.
Take action now!”
Some of the climate solutions that Oxfam offers kids are batty. Its “inspiration for students” resources for schools includes recommendations by an Elisha Donkin (“ passionate about food security, global inequality, health and sustainable living”) to help save the planet by eating an untapped source of protein, viz grasshoppers and cockroaches. These are “hailed as the next greatest addition to your diet for health as well as the environment… So, forget about vegetarianism, watch this video and be persuaded to add some juicy beetles to your salad.” (The video link is dead but I found an equivalent here.)
She also urges kids not to flush pee and paper, and finishes by rattling the class can for Oxfam: “A little donation can go a long way and is always appreciated.”
Oxfam’s “3things” site for kids refers them to Oxfam’s mainstream climate pages.On those pages, Oxfam says, “It’s not just the average temperature that is rising. With more heat and energy in the atmosphere and oceans, our weather is becoming more extreme and unpredictable.”
For details of the various unfacts, Oxfam refers readers to Tim Flannery’s Climate Council. Oxfam says that being fair to the planet means cutting emissions to keep warming to only 1.5decC, “beyond which many countries have said they will face unmanageable suffering and devastation.”
Oxfam wants Australian emissions to fall by at least 40% by 2025, and to net zero before 2050, ”including developing a concrete plan to phase-out coal from Australia’s energy supply” and lavish donations to the third world’s $100b a year climate fund/boondoggle.
Kids are barraged with urgings to “take action”.(Banking on Shaky Ground, School Resource Activities (PDF)). Apart from them petitioning the Prime Minister on climate, Oxfam also revs them up to petition Australia’s big banks ANZ, CBA, NAB and WBC and lash them for lending to companies doing “land grabs” from peasants in the third world. Oxfam, to save teachers thought, provides a template for a class “debate”, with banks on a hiding to nothing.
I’d bet Oxfam will soon emulate the Youth Climate Coalition and organize kid-campaigns against banks for lending to fossil fuel companies.
Playing on kids’ good nature, Oxfam provides heart-wrenching videos and tales of stricken people. An example, South African local farmer Yvette Abrahams:
“My family is meeting to discuss moving. We cannot stay.
It is very emotional for us as a family. When indigenous people lose their land, it is not just about food and material welfare. When we lose our land we also lose our spiritual practices which are deeply tied to the land. So the little that we have managed to preserve through slavery, genocide, colonialism and apartheid, we are about to lose to climate change.
“Climate finance [provided by rich countries] is restorative justice. I appeal to you to not leave this to your children to sort out. Because they are going to have to share a planet with my children.
You can help strengthen the voices of women like Yvette!
Australia is feeling the effects of climate change. But it’s poor people around the world who are bearing the brunt.”
Via the referral above from 3things Oxfam offers kids videos called “Faces of climate change”.
“Go to this site and in the groups designated by your teacher watch the short film clip, or read the text provided… When all the groups have presented their report write a summary response to the statement: “Climate change is impacting on farming practices across the world.” – Worksheet, 3 major challenges
The film cuts to the Wannon flood plain, with Helen saying it looks (at 2008) lots drier than a decade earlier, when brolgas used to dance about on the swamp: “It really hit home to me that perhaps there would not be the childhood I experienced, available to my children.”I took a look at the Australian “face of climate change” who turned out to be Helen Henry of Hamilton, Vic., one of Oxfam’s six “Sisters on the Planet”. The 2008 film begins with Helen lecturing a roomful of Hamilton citizenry: “Science predicts that if Greenland was to melt, we would see an increase in sea levels of 6 metres.”
An Al Gore acolyte, she was oblivious that the district flooded badly in 1946, 1981, and 1983, and sure enough, after her filmic lament, in 2010 and 2011, her town got flooded again. She had bemoaned that her family businesses Henry’s Hydraulics couldn’t order 100% renewable electricity (“I love windfarms,” she said). But the inconsiderate 2010 flood knocked out Hamilton’s power altogether.
Here’s another Oxfam template for a class:
“Using the Bureau of Meteorology’s State of the Climate Report 2014, complete the following exercise:
Choose a region near where you live and using the summary page, research any evidence of climate change occurring in your region.
Use the maps of temperature change, rainfall ranges, heatwaves and fire weather, and scroll down to the Australian map of climate scenarios.
Use this information to suggest how these changes might impact on the sustainability of local farms.
Find an image of a local farmer/group of farmers and using speech bubbles write their comments on climate change and its effect on food production.”
Oxfam’s push into schools with heavy political messaging, is assisted by Oxfam’s long-standing reputation for humanitarian activity. Oxfam also has plenty of savvy about giving teachers a tempting “bundle” of information and pedagogy. The success of classroom brainwashing will probably depend on whether kids’ natural cynicism is stirred up by such a deluge of green proselytizing. #
OXFAM’s non-school material is only a click away
Oxfam’s current crusade is against the Australian coal industry, with the message that 90% of our coal should be left in the ground.
Oxfam is pushing back against the uncomfortable proposition that electricity grid expansion is leading the third world out of poverty, instead arguing that localised solar power is what struggling peasants need.
Oxfam does plenty of good humanitarian work with its disaster relief , and its advocacy for peasants beset by predatory businesses. But because it believes global warming will fry the planet in a few decades, it makes climate activism top priority. “Why is Oxfam working on climate change? Tackling climate change is central to ending poverty.”
The class material offered is only a click or two from this sort of Oxfam stuff:
“Today, with an irresponsibly weak target to reduce pollution by just 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2030, the Abbott Government has chosen to risk a brutal future of ever more extreme and unpredictable weather, making it harder for families and farmers everywhere to grow and buy enough food to eat.
It’s a #badcall – … one that risks brutal consequences for some of the world’s poorest communities, that are already being hit hardest by the devastating impacts of climate change.
We do not have to accept this disastrous decision. The Government can and must increase its target in Paris. Call on Australia’s political leaders to step up and lead on climate.
In contrast, the Labor Party’s thought-bubble on renewables promotion is hailed by Oxfam CEO Dr Helen Szoke (salary $229,000) as “A welcome show of leadership and vision”.
“(W)hile the energy revolution gathers pace, the Australian Government remains stuck down the deep, dark coal mine of the past and seemingly oblivious to [renewables] changing realities.
“Captured by an ailing coal industry and urged on by conservative commentators, our government has delivered a series of bizarre and misleading pronouncements about the future of coal.”
I could find no mention by Oxfam of the 18 year (so far) halt to global warming; instead, Oxfam finds dire consequences of imagined global warming everywhere it looks.
Like its activist peer groups, Oxfam has twigged that teachers are variously too busy, lazy or unequipped to teach climate , and are therefore happy to outsource such lessons to alarmist third parties providing class materials, lesson structures, templates and curriculum integration for both teachers and kids.
The tone of the Oxfam material is pretty hysterical, especially about events like Cyclone Pam, via Oxfam UK teachers’ notes.
The Australian material includes “Climate Change”:
Hungry for a fair climate?
Climate change is the single biggest threat in the global fight against hunger.
Extreme weather events, like Tropical Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu[iii], are a forceful reminder that the people who have done the least to contribute to climate change are already being hit hard by its devastating impacts.
Dirty polluting companies are causing climate change to worsen, poisoning our clean air, and threatening our food, water and health.
The Australian Government has been shirking responsibility and acting in the interests of the big dirty polluters.
Luckily, families and farmers around the world are fighting back and driving smart and positive climate action.
Don’t let families and farmers take the heat for our inaction. Be part of the fight for fair food in a fair climate!
The Oxfam grand plan
Oxfam these days is a more cohesive or “one Oxfam” body as a result of a six-year plan to integrate the 17 national Oxfam outfits. The 2013-19 master plan is big on promoting wealth transfers: “Redistribution of 10% of the incomes of the richest countries would increase the incomes of the poor countries by more than nine-fold per head.” But it has little to say about promoting conventional economic growth:
“[The poor] will benefit from expanded national and international debate on economic development policies beyond conventional GDP growth to focus on equitable prosperity within a resource-constrained world.”
The plan also wants to tilt Oxfam’s humanitarian work more towards political agitation: “The proposed ‘worldwide influencing network’ aims to drive our shared agenda more powerfully within the broader global movement for change. It is an expression of Oxfam’s ‘enabling’ role. It marks a trend towards working more on influencing authorities and the powerful, and less on delivering the services for which duty-bearers are responsible.” – Oxfam Strategic Plan (PDF)
Oxfam Australia enjoys tax-free charity status although there’s nothing obviously charitable about trying to destroy Australia’s fossil-fuel industries. In addition to $52m raised from the public last year, Oxfam also got $23m in grants from the federal Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. (See the Oxfam annual report.)
Annual reports do not specify how much Oxfam Australia is spending on climate campaigning per se. Its five-year climate action blueprint for 2010-15 called for $14.6m spending, “from a mix of supporter funds and institutional donors”.[ii]
[i] Oxfam claimed in 2009 that “The number of people affected by climatic crises is projected to rise by 54% to 375 million people over the next six years, threatening to overwhelm the world’s ability to respond.”
The six year time frame takes us to 2015. Anyone notice 375m climate crisis victims?
[ii] Addressing Climate Change: Oxfam Australia’s Plan of Action, Jan. 2011, p14
[iii] There is no evidence that Cyclone Pam had any connection to global warming.