Watching Q&A on Monday night was very disturbing. The recently elected One Nation senator, Malcolm Roberts, was arguing (amongst other things) that:
- “The empirical data says quite categorically that the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are a result of temperature changes, not the cause”
- NASA had “corrupted” and “manipulated” data
- The climate change models “the IPCC uses are unvalidated and erroneous and have already been proven hopelessly wrong and that’s a fact”
- “The satellites show that the Pacific Islands are growing in size”
- “The 97% consensus [of scientists who agree that who support the humans are causing climate change] has been debunked and found to be a 0.3% consensus and that, by the way, includes no one who has ever provided the empirical evidence that human production of carbon dioxide affects our climate”.
Even though Brian Cox, a particle physicist and presenter of a number of science programs for the BBC, was able to present a much more rational discussion of climate change, it was scary that we had to have the debate at all.
I honestly don’t know the best way to deal with somebody like Roberts. On the one hand, I believe that all people should be treated with respect; that we should adopt a cooperative, problem-solving approach to conflict; and that we should strive to build inclusive accepting communities.
On the other hand it seems that rational discussion (at least about climate change) has little impact on Roberts, he isn’t interested in evidence and his mind is made up. The main reason I can see for engaging in debate with him is for others to hear responses to his claims in the hope that they are not persuaded by his mistakes, confusions and bizarre claims.
Even though very few people actually voted for him they did vote for the party he represents and so there is some justification for having him on a program like Q&A. At the same time we need to be very careful about giving his misguided, even dangerous, views national exposure.
Like many other people, One Nation voters are sick of mainstream politics and don’t trust politicians. Many of them have been hit hard by, or are fearful of, economic and social changes. We can’t just ignore them.
Rather than just getting angry at Roberts and One Nation, we need to engage them. Here are five suggestions of things I think we could try:
- We need to hear (really hear) their concerns and fears. This will mean not just responding to what we consider outrageous statements and slogans, but trying to work out what lies underneath them.
- We need to humanise refugees and Muslims, and create opportunities for breaking down barriers between different sections of the community.
- We need to explore alternatives to our combative, adversarial political system that focuses on short-term interests and gaining power rather than the long-term interests of not just Australia, but the world.
- We need to be clear about our own values and the type of community we want.
- We need to be compassionate and understanding but also strong and powerful.
If you liked this post please follow my blog (top right-hand corner of the blog), and you might like to look at:
- 12 principles of a problem solving approach to conflict resolution
- What are Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) workshops?
- A statistically representative climate change debate
- Dear Future Generations: Sorry
- Climate change is real: an open letter from the scientific community
- The earth is doing just fine – really?