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Melbourne University Circles the Green Drain

By Tony Thomas

About 6200 final-year secondary students from 700 schools have been invited to start at Melbourne University (UoM) this year, UoM being a world 30-40th top-ranked university. Good luck to the kids. They’ve suffered eleven school-years of climate doomism; the university will dish out more of it. Two professors in UoM publication Pursuit, for example, see the prospect of another 0.5degC warming by 2030 as a “shrieking emergency siren”.

UoM’s 2020 annual report (p88) says (emphasis added)

Planning for a suite of online modules for all commencing undergraduate students … commenced in 2020 … The Sustainable campuses and communities module, developed in 2020, explores the impact of humans on climate and the environment.

UoM is awash in “sustainability”, code for anti-conservative politics and zero-emission fantasies. A few months after the toothless 2015 Paris accord, the university adopted its “Sustainability Charter” , and then came the 2017-20 plan “Integrating action on sustainability across all areas of institutional activity for the first time”. UoM’s goal is to force Sustainability dogma across every campus, every faculty, every subject and every cafeteria (vegan synthetic steaks, anyone?).[i] Faculty who resist this politicising of their subjects – and the university admits such hold-outs exist (p2) – are being counselled on right-think.

“Sustainability” is literally Melbourne University’s embedded cross-curricula priority, just as in national and state school curricula.[ii] The word means whatever anyone chooses. As one Melbourne University senior fellow has written, “Everyone has a different definition of sustainability.” Borrowing from the national school curriculum sounds better but involves crystal-balling:

Sustainable patterns of living meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.”

As if anyone knows what Australians of 2080 will be prioritising. We might all be speaking ChineseUoM’s 2020 Sustainability Report bemoans (p37) “the absence of a practical definition of ‘sustainability’ research”. Canadian Financial Post writer Peter Foster put it well a few weeks ago:

Like the word ‘social,’ ‘sustainable’ tends to vitiate or reverse the meaning of words to which it is attached. Thus ‘sustainable’ development is development retarded by top-down control. Commitment to sustainability is now mouthed by every politician, bureaucrat, marketing executive and media hack on Earth.

UoM courses in engineering, architecture and law are already saturated in sustainability hype. But the university says in its 2017-20 Sustainability Plan (p24-6),

By 2020, all undergraduate degree programs can demonstrate (at the course and/or major level) that core and compulsory curriculum enable students to understand and apply sustainability knowledge and values to practice in their field. … Achieving this depends on significant, whole-of-University action…

Enforcement orders went out to Associate Deans of Academic Divisions. The Academic Board stands over the lecturers (p26) to

♦ ensure all formal course proposal and review processes require Academic Divisions to identify how graduate attributes relevant to sustainability are developed through teaching and learning

♦ encourage graduate attributes, including leadership for sustainability, to be documented in students’ Australian Higher Education Graduation Statements

Special software was to be developed to “enable documentation of curricular and extracurricular activities demonstrating graduate attributes such as sustainability leadership.” Does the converse apply to the records of unwary kids who let slip sceptic sentiments in the uni pub?

Zealous staff and students, surveyed in 2020, wanted to go further to embed and integrate sustainability “across all University campuses and all courses. Introduce sustainability targets/KPIs for faculties/departments. Introduce sustainability training modules and induction sessions for students and staff.”

These true believers want to bring out the truncheon. One proposal cited favorably by the survey report (p60) was to embed sustainability

Through mandatory subjects that teach sustainability principles, how the sustainable development discourse has evolved and how the global power mechanism that maintains neoliberalism was created in the aftermath of colonialism.

From the 400 self-selected responders came calls (p16 – Key Themes) for

mandatory sustainability orientation module for all students and staff.

I can picture invigilators escorting new professors into the campus Melbourne School of Design Theatre to be harangued by 25-year-old Extinction Rebels. The professors’ names are noted to prove their attendance, and they are set free after passing a multiple-choice exam.

UoM’s “sustainability” sidesteps to the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals for 2030.[iii] The 17 unprioritised SDGs (whittled down from 1400 in bureaucratic bunfights among 120 NGOs) will “end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all”. (Most members of the 193 UN states which created the SDGs in 2015 are basket-cases run for the personal benefit of their autocrats. Denmark’s Bjorn Lomborg has eviscerated the SDG follies.)

I favour Emeritus Professor of Geology Ian Plimer’s take on green “Sustainability”:

I charge the greens with murder. They murder humans who are kept in eternal poverty without coal-fired electricity. They support slavery and early deaths of black child miners. They murder forests and their wildlife by clear felling for mining and wind turbines. They murder forests and wildlife with their bushfire policies. They murder economies producing unemployment, hopelessness, collapse of communities, disrupted social cohesion and suicide. They murder free speech and freedoms and their takeover of the education system has ended up in the murdering of the intellectual and economic future of young people. They terrify children into mental illness with their apocalyptic death cult lies and exaggerations.”

UoM Professor of Education Sophie Arkoudis, whose CV lists no output on climate science but a lot on student issues, led a team looking at how to force the environment into all the university’s offerings, saying

The challenge lies in embedding sustainability knowledge and values in undergraduate degrees and majors, as some academics may struggle to see the relevance of sustainability to their particular degree program.

The university in 2017 ran a cross-faculty forum to work out the nitty-gritty. The Professor comments,

Unsurprisingly, some broader debates about the nature of education have become (and remain) an important part of the conversation: for example … whether hope and fear play a role in an academic education, and the role of advocacy in learning.

Oh great! Kids’ courses larded with hope, fear and advocacy.  She foresees in UoM courses:

Management: business students draw from “sociology and critical studies” to identify how some business practices harm people and environments. And kids are to “utilise corporate social responsibility frameworks to guide more ethical business practices.” I hope the kids’ future employers appreciate that.

 Medicine: Students draw on learnings about “Ecohealth”. (I’d mention that global warming has saved 500,000 lives in England and Wales alone in the past 20 years, according to the Office of National Statisticsnewly released figures.[iv]

 Creative Arts: Students study “individual and societal responses to environmental challenges in various artistic media.” Professor Arkoudis reminds the students to “consider the sustainability implications of an international career” – if she’s referring to jet contrails, well said Sophie!

Science: Students use their maths/stats to “anticipate future impacts of environmental change.” How nice to be so certain about the future!

Woke staff and students, especially the student-led Fossil Free Melbourne University, demanded UoM divest from fossil fuel companies by 2021, namely the world’s “CU200” top coal and petroleum producers, more than 20 of whom — unfortunately — happen to be major supporters of the university (p36).[v] So after thousands of words sucking up to woke activists, UoM discovered that divestment is actually a crappy solution compared with positive investments in low-emission fuels.[vi] Sense from UoM, but for the wrong reasons.

UoM is thick as thieves with Premier Dan Andrews’ hard-left minions and “stands together with the Victorian Government as a [Take2 climate pledge] founding partner.” Covid 19 (’20/’21/’22) created no let-up in UoM zealotry, with the 2020 annual report bragging how UoM “continued to work to tackle the impacts of global warming and to demonstrate exceptional green credentials”, and “continued to raise the bar on the University’s sustainability goals.” One example (p88) involved 18 deluded staff and 30 students doing a virtual “Climate Reality” coaching course sponsored by extreme emissions hypocrite Al Gore (net worth $US300m and touting his honorary UoM Doctorate of Laws).[vii] 

Further lifting up of UoM rocks, one discovers in the 2022 course handbook  “Sustainability: Hope for the Earth?” worth 12.50 points, and more fit for Religious Studies.

In its Sustainability Charter, the University of Melbourne recognizes its responsibility to help shape sustainability on Earth through ‘knowledge, imagination and action’. .. Achieving sustainability on Earth requires global values and actions that are ecologically sound, socially just and economically viable… We will consider sustainability of systems at multiple scales and through diverse ways of knowing including scientific, historical and Indigenous perspectives. [Note the equating of these perspectives].

The course welcomes all students interested in ‘climate change, land management, extractive industries and more.’ (I doubt the teaching on “extractive industries” is positive). Arts and Music students are invited to “explore the intersection between power, hope and the arts (huh?) to influence societies (sic) ideas” while Commerce students get “an insight into the history of capitalism” and the environment (again, don’t expect positivity). Youngsters will emerge “Identify[ing] relationships between all beings and their physical environments … There is no exam in this subject.”

This planet-saving course bulks up degree courses including Bachelor of Fine Arts (Dance) for “expanded dance thinking and performance”. Extinction Rebellion galoots prancing for the evening TV news perhaps? UoM claims, “Expertise in dance as a way of knowing opens doorways for careers as performers, makers, leaders, activists, collaborators and cultural partners in a global world.”

For loopiness, try UoM’s Environmental Arts & Humanities Network: “A post-disciplinary space for stories and conversations about art-activist-academic thinking-making-being to support living systems and multispecies justice.” These pampered idiots aim to

critically and self reflexively investigate intersectional ecological practices and pedagogies, environmental phenomena, climate in/justices, temporalities, narratives, grief, trauma, laws, science and activisms in the Global South… Critically and generously question and re-frame what scholarly-artistic-activist knowledge looks, sounds, and feels like in a climate-changing world… Attend to undervalued perspectives and oppressed knowledges [and] Nourish co-existence on the planet.

Other UoM insights:

♦ Although Pro-Vice Chancellor Mark Hargreaves axed the university’s Marx-loving Sustainable Society Institute last December, it’s retained several like-minded institutes such as the net-zero “Melbourne Climate Futures”.[viii]

♦ Among cutting-edge UoM research is a project led by a Professor Rodney Keenan – “Maternal futures: Motherhood and the climate crisis . Focusing on how the climate crisis is shaping women’s experiences around reproductive decision-making and childrearing practices.”

♦ UoM researcher Amelia Leavesley has written in the university’s official magazine, Pursuit, a piece headed “Liveable Melbourne a Blessing Amid Weary Lockdowns”

Despite all the hardship, Melburnians have benefited from going through lockdown in one of the world’s most liveable cities … Increased demand for mental health services over the course of this pandemic has seen the Victorian Government invest a record $A3.8 billion funding for mental health and wellbeing in the 2021-2022 State Budget… 

When compared to the COVID-19 impacts experienced by other cities – we’re in a very fortunate situation. This is not to undermine the sacrifices and hardship of Melburnians’ pandemic experience – characterised by an endless loop of new restrictions, general uncertainty, and home-job haircuts…While the journey isn’t over yet, we can be fortified with the knowledge that we have much to be grateful for. Not least, that we’re still in this together.

What of individual students? The UoM survey of 2020 (p76) found support for lionising and weaponizing climate extremists on campus, i.e. “enable passionate sustainability advocates to develop, lead and/or implement initiatives.” These students – perhaps Extinction Rebellion glue-babies – would be “leveraged” to increase their “communications reach.” I’ll instance two young stalwarts but change a student’s name – I wouldn’t want her UoM excitements to dog her career.

BA student “Pearl Fearless” won an Australasian 2021 Green Gown award for campus sustainability work. She’s an advocate for turning urine from office and apartment blocks into fertiliser for sustainable food production, after getting rid of the faeces and other unsavories. (Making fertilisers, as usual, from methane seems simpler and less messy). “Pearl follows her passion for climate and inter-generational justice,” said the citation. It cited her leadership in Al Gore’s Climate Reality propaganda coaching; representing UoM at the 2020 Global University Climate Forum; and an internship enjoying Tim Flannery’s Climate Council hysteria about routine weather events.

But Pearl caught the UoM intolerance virus. Here’s how: UoM late last year set up on campus, with $7m federal funding, the Robert Menzies InstituteApart from being Australia’s longest-serving prime minister (18 years), Menzies was a Melbourne University law graduate and Chancellor from 1967-72.

Of course Carlton’s ferals mobilised to strangle it at birth, notwithstanding that Western Sydney University has a Whitlam Institute with identical $7m federal funding, and SA University and Curtin University host Hawke and Curtin institutes respectively.[ix] And every US president is honored with a presidential library.

The ferals’ petition claimed Menzies was a “staunch supporter of countless acts of war and genocide”, and the proposal “ignores the many who suffered or perished because of him and his political project.”

It boasted of Leftists’ previous success in stifling a Ramsay (conservative) Centre at Sydney and Queensland Universities (it should also have mentioned stifling the orthodox climate academic Bjorn Lomborg proposed thinktank at UWA). Among signatories was our Pearl Fearless, then an incoming student union official.

Signatories at the university’s thought-leading Associate and Professor level totalled close to 25, from departments including law, pure maths, “Culture and Communications” (sic, and heavily represented), German, philosophy, linguistics, anthropology, development studies, literature, art history, management, environment, obstetrics, workplace leadership (sic), biochemistry, and political science. (Another signer: Roz Ward, LaTrobe’s Marxist co-founder of the Victorian State’s gender-fluidity project aka “Safe Schools”).[x] At the Institute’s November opening, students and staff with megaphones rioted at the Old Quad, chanting “F**k the NLP”, banging on doors and windows and encircling the event while being held back by security guards. The event was cut short to protect attendees. At least two elderly ladies, one with a walking stick, required escorts from the function.[xi] I don’t know if Pearl was there, but a student union Facebook post said at the time,

Thanks to everyone who came along to the protest against the Menzies Institute yesterday!! 🔥…Incoming 2022 UMSU Education Officers Ben Jarick and “Pearl Fearless” are committed to continue the fight against the Menzies Institute next year, so stay tuned.

A Green Gown UoM “excellence award” finalist was lead kindergarten teacher Harriet Deans, of the Early Learning Centre and a doctorate researcher. She’s gung-ho for educating toddlers about her vision of sustainability:

Her work is directed towards empowering the children she teaches to develop the skills and values to care for others and the environment. Harriet has formally researched (Ethics ID 1646280.1) a unique ‘Learning in Nature Program’ (LNP) which led to the development of an ‘Ecocentric Curriculum’ specifically for preschool children…EfS [education for sustainability] as a priority in the early years provides children with opportunities to develop eco-centric values, attitudes, skills, and behaviours, necessary to contribute to a sustainable life, now and into the future… Early childhood education can develop children’s deeper understandings of and responsibility for current matters of social and environmental concern.

Both Ms Deans and UoM take pride in their role as UN camp-followers. Ms Deans works with the panoply of UN bureaucracies, particularly the Monitoring and Evaluating Climate Communications and Education Project (MECCE). This group, well plugged into UoM, pushes for mandatory climate alarmism in primary schools and upwards, along with “climate justice” and “socio-emotional or action competences” about the “ecological crises”. (Actually, global temperatures have fallen in the past six years, according to the satellite data). MECCE says, “Effective education and communication are fundamental to overcoming climate change denial, increasing climate literacy, and supporting climate action.”

MECCE is also pushing panic through schools about climate’s biodiversity impacts, allegedly involving “mass extinction of species”. The UN agencies seek to turn kids’ “potentially overwhelming feelings of loss” into “the need to take action.” (Fact check: Mass extinction fears ‘have little support from science’ –and claimed losses ‘are absurdly large’).

I have to wonder about UoM Vice-chancellor Duncan Maskell claiming UoM teaches kids “how to think”.

Duncan, please make that what to think.

Tony Thomas’s “Foot Soldier in the Culture Wars” ($29.95) is available at [email protected] or publisher Connor Court


[i] “Improve sustainability practices of on-campus food vendors; increase vegetarian/vegan options.”

[ii] Through Growing Esteem (2015) and the University’s Sustainability Charter and Strategic Plan 2017-2020, the University of Melbourne has committed to embedding sustainability across all aspects of the University, including to ‘inspire and support students to be leaders for a sustainable future’.

[iii] The original socialist Rio Earth Summit in 1992 declared: “Students should be taught about the environment and sustainable development throughout their schooling.”

[iv] “Over a 20-year period the estimated change in deaths associated with warm or cold temperature was a net decrease of 555,103, an average of 27,755 deaths per year (Table 1). A decrease in deaths from outcomes associated with cold temperature greatly outnumbers deaths associated with warm temperature.”

[vi] “The University’s investment strategy is peripheral to its core purpose and is not where it can exercise its greatest influence on solutions to climate change.”

[vii] Gore’s Nashville mansion – one of three — uses as much electricity to heat its pool, as six normal houses in total.

[viii] Other “flagships” include the Primary Industries Climate Challenges Centre, the Peter Cook Centre for Carbon Capture and Storage Research and the Australian-German Climate and Energy College.

[ix] Compared with Menzies’ 18 years in office, Whitlam served three years, Curtin four and Hawke eight.

[x] Ms Ward, among other things, considers the Australian flag to be racist.

[xi] The above description is not from the wicked Murdoch press but from the Melbourne University students’ Farrago.