The Steady Stater

Steady Statesmanship Down Under (with Martin Tye)

September 27, 2020 Brian Czech
The Steady Stater
Steady Statesmanship Down Under (with Martin Tye)
Chapters
The Steady Stater
Steady Statesmanship Down Under (with Martin Tye)
Sep 27, 2020
Brian Czech

As one of the most ecologically rich countries on Earth, Australia has a powerful incentive to protective its environment and the unique wildlife that depend on it. For this reason, the Down Under has proven to be fertile ground for steady statesmanship, with a growing number of Aussies showing enthusiastic support for CASSE's mission. One of which is Martin Tye, a straight-talking politician and CASSE's Australian Regional Communities Chapter Director. In this week's episode, we chat with Martin about Australian politics, his discovery of the steady state economy, and his passionate daily activism for an ecologically sustainable world.

Show Notes Transcript

As one of the most ecologically rich countries on Earth, Australia has a powerful incentive to protective its environment and the unique wildlife that depend on it. For this reason, the Down Under has proven to be fertile ground for steady statesmanship, with a growing number of Aussies showing enthusiastic support for CASSE's mission. One of which is Martin Tye, a straight-talking politician and CASSE's Australian Regional Communities Chapter Director. In this week's episode, we chat with Martin about Australian politics, his discovery of the steady state economy, and his passionate daily activism for an ecologically sustainable world.

Richard Tibbetts:

From the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy, this is the Steady Stater, a podcast dedicated to discussing limits to growth and the steady state economy.

Brian Czech:

Welcome to the show. I'm your host, Brian Czech, and we have a really unique guest today. His name is Martin Tye and let me describe why he's such an interesting fellow. Martin is a political activist who has centered his activism around advancing the steady state economy, and that's rare. And by political activist, I don't just mean somebody who puts bumper stickers on cars. Martin is, well, really we can call him a politician per se. He hasn't been elected just yet, but you know, before he was president, Abraham Lincoln lost plenty of elections too. Like Lincoln, Martin has stood resolutely for truth and justice and now in the 21st century, sustainability as well. Juxtapose that to the corporately-funded campaigns that kowtow to Wall Street interests, or should I say Bridge Street interests, in the case of Australia, because Martin is located in the far southeastern corner of Australia in New South Wales, right on the coast of the Tasman Sea. Martin Tye, welcome to the Steady Stater.

Martin Tye:

Thank you, Brian. Thanks for having me and I'm a bit blown away by that comparison to Abraham Lincoln. Such a great man, but in my own humble way, I do my bid.

Brian Czech:

Yeah. Well, Martin, I guess we should also mention that you did spend a few years in the USA, right? That was somewhere in the Boston area.

Martin Tye:

Yes, well, we're going back a bit. My father worked in the airforce and back in the late 60's, he went to the United States to work on a communications project. He was based at Fort Monmouth in New Jersey. We did two years there. I went to school there. And we had a year in the embassy in Washington, DC after that. They're three years in my early high school years in your great country and it did leave a mark on me.

Brian Czech:

Well, you know, it seems ironic now, with how obsessed the US has become with GDP growth, but as I understand it, your interest in limits to growth really picked up while you were in the US. Is that right?

Martin Tye:

Yeah, I'd say that's probably true, because back in the 60's there, the issue was being talked about, the population issue. It just seemed to be the next thing that was going to be the next cab off the rank as the next big issue after the Vietnam War perhaps, at that time. And I came back to Australia after that and wondered where the issue got to, and I'm probably still wondering to this day.

Brian Czech:

Oh, is that right? I was going to ask you if there was a similar conversation in Australia at the time. So how would you describe the views of Australians on economic growth and/or limits to growth? And how have those views evolved over the years since you got back from the USA?

Martin Tye:

Well, Australia, probably like a lot of other places, is very diverse. There is a strong understanding at a certain level here around limits to growth. I think it's something that's just starting to take hold. More and more people are starting to get it. But having said that, we keep electing politicians who wouldn't have a clue about the whole concept and are just so mad on economic growth that they're willing to burn the last of our ecosystems. Any social cost is acceptable, as long as the economy is growing. At the big picture level, there's not much happening, but certainly at the grassroots level I feel that, especially over the last decade, that the message is starting to gain a little bit of a following, so that's what we've got to build on.

Brian Czech:

Well, you know, in the US we've never had a president that has really focused on limits to growth or helped to even raise public awareness about limits to growth. Not much at least. Franklin Roosevelt did a bit of that and so did Jimmy Carter, 50 years later, but really no one else I'm aware of. Have there been any prime ministers or prominent parliamentarians there who have helped Australians to understand that economic growth is ultimately unsustainable?

Martin Tye:

And the other one worth mentioning in America, who didn't quite, unfortunately, become president, was Robert Kennedy because he was also very aware of the issue. Yeah, but look, in Australia, minor parties, yes. We've had a party here called the New Liberals endorse the steady state economy position. They've signed the petition online there. And also another party called Sustainable Australia are on a very similar page. They understand the whole growth thing and where it's going wrong and the problems it's causing. So we have some minor parties, but as far as leadership from the top around that sort of message, it's just growth, growth, growth, full steam ahead, cut the green tape, feed everything into the economy, and it's one giant Ponzi scheme over here in Australia at the moment.

Brian Czech:

So, it sounds like the candidates, then, just jockey for position to see who can grow GDP the fastest. Is that pretty much one of the central planks in political platforms there?

Martin Tye:

It is. You've got to tow the party line if you're going to be selected as a candidate. However, I have had conversations with grassroots members of the various major parties here who have actually come up to me on the side when I've been campaigning on the issue, and told me that many of their members actually get it and they actually support this message. However, the policies and the campaign themes come from the top and they just have to toe the line, basically, if they're going to be part of the party. There's no room, really, for this sort of message within Australia's major parties at the

Brian Czech:

I haven't even mentioned this yet, but Martin moment. is one of our CASSE chapter directors. And Martin, you have sort of a special title. You're the director of the Australian Regional Communities chapter. Tell us what that phrase "regional communities" signifies in Australia?

Martin Tye:

Yeah, well, in Australia, we have a pretty clear division between city folk and what we call country folk, I suppose. We haven't got as many major cities as you do over there. We've got maybe six or seven. And then outside of that, there's a vast country with what we call regional areas. Agriculture, tourism, things like that tend to be dominant, mining in some areas. So they sort of have a different set of interests and a different take on things in those regions, especially the agricultural community, who are more in tune with the land. So I feel my position as Australian Regional Communities chapter director gives me the opportunity to talk to those sorts of people, their slightly different attitude on things, and I think it does come back to being a little more in tune with nature and the environment. Whereas in the cities, it seems a lot of people have lost that connection, and more or less feel that their food grows in supermarkets. I might be being a little harsh. I'm sure there's plenty of people in the cities who do get it. But I operate generally outside of those bigger city areas.

Brian Czech:

Yeah, it's an interesting dynamic. I know right now, or, for some years now, the rural communities in the US seem to have really gone whole hog into pro-growth politics. Right now we have a lot of "Farmers for Trump" signs out in the countryside and of course, Trump is the most pro-growth politician, probably ever. So you would say perhaps yet, in Australia, the regional communities tend to be a little bit more on the conservation side of things relative to, you know, relative to "conservative" in the sense of protecting business and being pro-growth?

Martin Tye:

Look, it's difficult, because growth is definitely the dominant philosophy out here as well. It's a difficult sell going anywhere and talking to anybody about degrowth and steady state. Most people fear the concept of degrowth. They don't understand, they wouldn't even know what steady state economics is. So I think there is a sort of a gut feeling amongst a lot of people, but to challenge growth, it's a very difficult thing, as I'm sure you're aware, because so much of our economy is currently geared to the growth economy. It's like being addicted to a drug. You get short term sugar hits, but while you're receiving those sugar hits, it's very hard to get off. And I wouldn't say it was an easy sell anywhere. And we do have a little bit of what you're talking about with the conservative sort of thing in the, you know, like the mining areas and some of the agricultural areas, but it's kind of a conflict because some of them do actually understand that we are degrading our land. We have problems with water here, because Australia is very dry, and a lot of farmers are suffering the water stress. So I think that, you know, the dominoes are starting to fall in our favor, but there's plenty of work to be done.

Brian Czech:

And, of course, one of the big news items there lately seems to be the fires, the awful fire season or fire year that Australia has had. Has that, in any way, sort of raised the bar in the discussions? I know there's more talk about climate change, but is that also connected with discussions about limits to economic growth?

Martin Tye:

Yes, it is. Basically, a sense of we are putting too much pressure on the land because obviously fires don't just happen out of the blue. The fires were preceded by a horrendous drought. And I could talk to the farmers around here and in living memory, no one could recall a drought like it. And I spent a lot of time up in the local national parks. And it was just unbelievable how dry it was up there and all the streams are dried up, the trees were dying. So the fires were inevitable and the whole east coast of Australia burnt. There's not much left of our native bushland that didn't burn. It was absolutely horrendous. So that is making people aware of climate change and now the next thing is to connect the dots. Why is climate change happening? What's causing climate change? Climate change isn't just happening randomly. There is a root cause below that, that root cause being the overshoot we're in, driven by this endless pursuit of bigger economies placing more stress on our ecosystems.

Brian Czech:

Right. Okay, well, now Martin, we'll take a short noncommercial break with Rick Tibbets.

Richard Tibbetts:

Hi there, we hope you're enjoying the show. I just wanted to take this brief intermission to encourage you to become a CASSE member. It's only $25 per year, and CASSE members receive a five-star-rated book called "Best of the Daily News," in addition to other exclusive CASSE offerings. Member support is invaluable in our fight to advance the steady state economy and to grow support for it around the world. In order to sign up to be a member, just go to our website, steadystate.org, pan over to the "Join" button and click "Become a Member" in the drop down menu. Now, back to the show.

Brian Czech:

Well, Martin, as I noted in the intro, you've really been a working politician, I mean, you've thrown your hat in the ring but twice for a seat in the federal parliament and once for state parliament in New South Wales. And that was before you became a CASSE chapter director. So, prior to finding CASSE, did you have a message on economic growth and some other way to express a sustainable alternative to growth?

Martin Tye:

Well, I was an aspiring politician. I ran three times, as you say. I was really, not that I'm a particularly a political sort of person, but I was just looking for some sort of a way to get out there and speak to people about this message. I wasn't, as you say, a member of CASSE at the time, but the message was very similar. So I think what I've done is by being out there and being on the campaign trail and talking to people, I've developed my own style and how to sort of package the message, put it in layperson, if you like, terms, try to make it easily digestible, because if you sit down with the average person and try to talk economics at a party, you know, or a morning tea, most people are probably going to glaze over pretty quickly. So you need to find a way. I guess there's an old saying in politics, you reach for the heart, not the head. And I think that's something that I try to do is try to tweak an emotive button somewhere in people so that they're willing to listen and make make new ideas resonate with them in that way.

Brian Czech:

We'd love to see that in action. And maybe we should try to get some some footage of you in conversation with some of the folks out in the regional communities at some point and, you know, we'll see if we can get a little buzz going that way as well. Now, along those lines, has there been much talk on the Australian airwaves about New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her announcement last year that the kiwi government was now focusing on well-being, rather than GDP growth. And remember, she was very explicit about that in terms of the 2019 budget, at least. She went out of her way to say that GDP growth wasn't one of the goals, but rather well-being was. Are you getting much play from that?

Martin Tye:

Yeah, she is a bit of a shining light. No, is the answer because mainstream media here is very much controlled by vested interests that wouldn't want to promote such a message. So, anything like that, any progressive ideas like that that take us away from business as usual and where people have already got their money invested in the easy short-term money, tied to the current growth economy, GDP growth economy, you're not going to get much airtime over here. But there are people who are aware of it, people who use the internet and use alternative news sources. But no, it didn't sort of make any headlines over here. But I think people, thinking people, are aware that she at least is setting some sort of an example. I mean, GDP growth, after all, is supposed to be a means to an end, not an end in itself. If it's not delivering those ends, as in a better quality of life for the people, a sustainable environment, a more secure future, all of those things, then obviously, it's failing and we need to look at alternatives. So, what she's probably doing is looking at at the ends and saying, well hang on. GDP growth isn't doing this. We've got more homeless people than we've ever had. Housing is less affordable. Our environment's going backwards. And she's taking a different focus and all credit to her.

Brian Czech:

Right. And so when you run for office again, Martin, assuming and hoping you do, maybe you can use Ardern's reforms to to help with your campaign and get it into those Australian airwaves?

Martin Tye:

Yeah, maybe. I did say to myself, though, and I'm sure it's the same in America, I've run in three campaigns on a shoestring budget. I've paid for my own campaign signs for the roadsides. I've gone around and hammered them up myself. And I've been up against massive amounts of money with whole armies of people doing this and enormous media. I'm not quite sure I can be effective in the political arena without money behind me, so if you know anyone who's got a bit of money they want to throw at me, I'd happily run again, but to do it all out of my own pocket and run around as a sort of little one man band, almost, I'm not sure that that would be very effective.

Brian Czech:

Yeah, I think that is one of our challenges in steady state politics for sure is learning how to get into the circles of campaign financing without in any way jeopardizing or compromising our messaging. And I think it's possible, because actually, this leads into one of the next questions I was going to ask you, which pertains to the Green Party of Australia. Because I know in the US, for example, the Green Party, it's not so much "green" anymore. It doesn't have a focus on green, doesn't have a real focus on the environment. It's more of a, it seems like left on every single issue and very far left. And so I'm wondering, that may be a really crippling strategy of theirs in terms of getting any sort of campaign financing, whereas on the other hand, if we focused really on the issue of limits to growth, and then stayed more central on the rest, perhaps we could, you know, politicians like yourself, and candidates anywhere would would have an easier time of it in terms of financing.

Martin Tye:

Yeah, look, I agree. I think that it's a little the same over here. The Greens started out as a purely environmental party, but they've taken up other issues which kind of distract from what should be their main message. And we've got two political parties here, above them, which are the two main ones, and I think people are really ready to look for an alternative, but the Greens haven't made up ground. Now, it's not up to me to tell Greens how to do their business, but they've had an opportunity there to gain good ground on those major parties and they failed to do so. So they probably need to have a good look at how they're going about things and maybe change tactics a little bit. And if they don't, as you say, there may be room for another party to step in and take the message pure and simple around steady state economics, new economic systems, the transitionary period, more of a focus on on the environment. Tthey do think they focus on the environment because they'll jump up and down about climate change and so on, but they, so far have failed to challenge the growth-based economy, the GDP growth-based economy, and I just don't think they've got their head around economics to be quite honest.

Brian Czech:

Yeah, it's a shame because, you know, the steady state message, it doesn't entail a tremendous amount of detailed economics. You know, we think about economics, a lot of the things we think about are really microeconomics and, you know, raising awareness about limits to growth and the conflict between economic growth and so many other things, environmental protection and long-term jobs and national security even, doesn't really entail a lot of certainly no mathematical economics. It's really largely a matter of common sense. So, it sounds like at least you were able to advance these common sense principles in a couple of the parties there, you mentioned, I think, was the New Liberal Party, and also, to some degree, the Sustainable Australia Party. Where do they fit in the political picture there? Are they right after the Green Party?

Martin Tye:

No, no, there, they're quite a long way down there. They only get a small percentage of the vote. So we'd like to see them do better. But I think you're right. That's an important point around economics scares people and it's not exactly the sexiest of subjects for conversation, but the principles of the steady state economy, just the basic understanding that an economy has to operate within ecological limits, otherwise, you're essentially stealing from your children to prop up an unsustainable present, it's a very simple principle and you don't need to be an economist to understand that. And, you know, I think you had, was it Laurel Hanscom from the Earth Overshoot Organization last podcast? They've clearly demonstrated, everyone should know that we're massively into overshoot, we're using more planets than we've got in terms of renewable resources. So, you don't need to be a PhD economist to understand that what we're doing now is not sustainable. And therefore, we need to bring it back down to a scale that the environment can support and then operate at that level, a sustainable scale. It's a pretty simple, basic concept.

Brian Czech:

Yes, agreed. Well, let's see now. So, what are some of the other ways that you go about advancing the steady state economy in your work there as a CASSE chapter director? I mean, we know about your amazing Twitter account, which anybody on social media ought to go to that. It's @MartinRev21.

Martin Tye:

I pump them out every day and get a lot of interactions. I've got nearly five and a half thousand followers there. So that's one thing I do quite regularly.

Brian Czech:

Yes, and I think that you have spawned a number of conversations out there in social media that wouldn't have occurred otherwise and so we're very grateful for that. I mean, conversations really to-the-point about limits to growth in a very, I want to say politically talented way of going about it. And so it probably has benefited from your experience in campaigning and it really shows. Are there any other any other methods or forums that you've been using to go about advancing the steady state economy?

Martin Tye:

Yeah, well, I've been following up on leads through Twitter and elsewhere, but I'm looking for people and organizations that are suffering from the growth economy. There's all sorts of people suffering social consequences, worried about their local environment, their local living area, all of these things, and there's community organizations lobbying to save this forest or to prevent a new airport or this that and the other. So what I'm trying to do is go to those people and say to those people, look, you know who your real enemy is here. It's this quest for constant growth, which is destroying your quality of life and your ecosystems. So what you need to do now is get involved with CASSE, with the steady state economy. You need to go on to the website, sign the petition, even as an organization, just endorse the petition and the more names we can get in there, the better, and then that links them into the whole steady state economy message. So that's one thing I started on. I had a bit of an issue which kept me off that for a month or two, but that's something I want to get back onto doing is trying to target leaders of organizations, people who speak to many people, so that if I speak to one person, hopefully they'll speak to 50 people, and maybe we can get a bit of organic growth in the steady state economy message that way.

Brian Czech:

Godspeed Martin. Yes, that's an excellent plan. Well, I've always had the impression that you're a real straight shooter and a rare, sincere politician. I hope you do run for office again, too, and maybe a few times more. Who knows? You just might become the Abraham Lincoln of steady state politics.

Martin Tye:

Yeah, well, hopefully, there's someone out there listening to this podcast who's got a cool sort of 100 grand in his pocket or her pocket and might like to get behind my next campaign.

Brian Czech:

Yeah, that sounds good. All right, well, I want to thank you for helping us and helping the world by advancing the steady state economy as the sustainable alternative to growth.

Martin Tye:

Thank you, Brian. Thanks for the opportunity to talk.

Brian Czech:

Well, folks, that about wraps her up. We've been talking with Martin Tye, CASSE's Australian Regional Communities chapter director. We've heard about the daunting challenges to steady state politics down under, but I think we've also been encouraged and refreshed by Martin's straightforward approach. Be sure to tune in next week when we talk with Dick Lamm, the three-term governor of Colorado and a near miss as a steady state president. With that, I'm Brian Czech and you've been listening to the Steady Stater podcast. See you next time.