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Category Archives: Environment

Drinking water under threat from bushfire

Edith Cowan University Media Release

Rainfall after fire brings immediate relief but the environmental effects can sometimes be as significant as the fire itself.

Edith Cowan University (ECU) environmental experts Professor Pierre Horwitz and Dr Dave Blake are investigating the long-term impacts of water supply contamination after fire has swept through a region.

Over the next four years in collaboration with the Water Corporation, the ECU researchers will lead a comprehensive investigation of forested water catchments in the Perth Hills from Mundaring Weir to Collie.

Dr Blake said that water quality is not at the forefront of people’s minds during the management of a fire, but this could result in problems with community’s water supply for years.

“After vegetation cover is burned, and the soil is scorched, what’s left is the concentrated and chemically transformed ash, exposed and vulnerable to wind and water erosion. Heavy rainfall will wash this ash, topsoil and incompletely burned vegetation into streams and water reservoirs,” he said.

“All of this eroded matter is accompanied by dissolved organic compounds, carcinogens and heavy metals from the soil that are exposed and concentrated after a fire.

“Water treatment plants aren’t set up to deal with this sort of contamination and can suspend water supply if faced with this sort of contamination.”

Lessons from Yarloop

The ECU team completed an initial study in the Yarloop region in South West WA after the devastating bushfire destroyed more than 69,000 hectares of land in 2016.
Professor Horwitz said water was one of the big concerns of the Yarloop community after the megafire.

“After the danger had passed Yarloop residents were looking for immediate guidance on how to protect their water assets from the effects of the fire. So, having a better understanding of the long-term consequences for water would be a powerful tool to help to guide fire management protocol,” he said.

Investigations in Yarloop helped researchers map erosion hotspots and variable fire risk to determine potential contamination risks around water catchments.

“We found that in this region erosion was particularly harsh on steep terrain where the fire had been very severe,” Dr Blake said.

“Now we want to expand our work to a wider region, and consider land after fires of different burn intensities, like prescribed burns and wildfires, and wherever possible, collect pre-fire and fire history information as well.”

Professor Horwitz said the research would lead to tools for environmental managers to apply in their areas to prevent post-fire erosion and subsequent water contamination.

“By factoring in the land topography, fire severity and rain intensity we can identify how long it takes burnt material to make its way into reservoirs used for water supply, then perhaps we can prevent the contamination altogether,” he said.

“Understanding why some areas are particularly vulnerable will tell us where to go, and when and how, to stop particular sources of contamination from soil erosion after a fire.”

Assessment of post-wildfire erosion risk and effects on water quality in south-western Australia and can be read here in the International Journal of Wildland Fire.

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Solar farm powering Newcastle operations and revenue

City of Newcastle Media Release

A solar farm built by the City of Newcastle on a rehabilitated landfill site has exceeded expectations in its first six months of operation, generating almost twice the revenue it was expected to make annually.

The five-megawatt facility, which spans an area equal to five football fields at the City’s waste management centre, generated more than $420,000 in revenue between mid-November and the end of April, well above original forecasts used in the business case of $250,000 a year.

Selling energy back into the electricity market, the 14,500 photovoltaic-cell facility saw the Council become a net exporter of electricity when the January bush fires damaged the state’s energy grid.

A renewable power purchase agreement with a wind farm that came into effect on 1 January, making Newcastle the first NSW Council to be powered 100 per cent by renewables, saved the City a further $30,000.

“The business case showed the solar farm would save rate payers around $9 million, after costs, over its 25-year lifespan – and so far, it’s on track to do even better,” Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said.

“The solar farm at our Summerhill Waste Management Centre has helped us exceed our renewable energy goals under the Newcastle 2020 Carbon and Water Management Action Plan, which targeted 30 per cent of our electricity needs from low-carbon sources.

“By combining solar installations, battery storage and the purchase agreement to power all our operations, the City has created a resilient energy strategy that will protect us from future electricity price spikes.

“Working in concert with the power purchase agreement, these investments give us price stability, create financial savings for rate payers and have already enabled us to reduce our operational carbon emissions by 77 per cent, compared to the 2008 baseline.”

Partly funded with a $6.5 million loan from Australia’s Clean Energy Finance Corporation, the solar farm is a “fantastic accomplishment” by a local government, says Climate Council of Australia’s Cities Power Partnership Director David Craven.

“City of Newcastle has again stepped up as leader in renewables and as a leader amongst local governments taking significant action on climate,” Mr Craven said.

“Renewable energy is the cheapest form of new energy generation and is proving to save Novocastrians millions, while creating a healthy future for this community.”

The City is also paving the way for electric transport by converting its fleet to electric vehicles and installing a charging network powered by solar panels and battery storage.

Meanwhile, the City is increasing solar-energy generation on its buildings.

“We recently added an additional 100-kilowatt roof top photovoltaic system to our Waratah Works Depot, doubling the capacity of the system installed onsite in 2013 and taking total generation of our 12 solar systems to almost 9 million kilowatt hours of renewable energy each year,” Councillor Nelmes added.

“Our five-megawatt solar farm and over 660 kilowatts of rooftop solar provide the equivalent energy needs of more than 1,770 Newcastle households a year with clean, renewable energy.”

For its commitment to renewables and reducing carbon emissions, the City won the prestigious Local Government Sustainability Award in 2019 and is currently a finalist for Environmental Leadership and Sustainability in the 2020 NSW Local Government Excellence Awards.

Aerial footage of the $8 million solar farm at the Summerhill Waste Management Centre west of Newcastle is available here.

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Anangu Mayatja say “no” to reopen Uluru

By Tjimpuna Ruby, and supported by the Anangu Mayatja Council of Elders

Please refer to the media release from Parks Australia below.

My Grandfather and two aunties were not called into this meeting as decision-makers on the Board for this to be in concrete.

Our entire Western Desert Block is closed as a biosecurity zone and that includes ULURU – KATA TJUTA NATIONAL PARK.

Anangu are not happy with the threats from Tourism NT and Voyages to reopen.

 

Media Release from Parks Australia

Staged re‐opening plans announced for Kakadu and Ulur̲u‐Kata Tjut̲a National Parks

Parks Australia has today announced staged re-opening plans for Kakadu and Ulur̲u-Kata Tjut̲a and National Parks, with both parks to welcome visitors from Friday, 19 June 2020.

Director of National Parks, Dr James Findlay said due to COVID-safe arrangements and infrastructure upgrades, some areas of the national parks will not be open to visitors during the initial re-opening, but there will be plenty of opportunity to seek recreation and relaxation in these much-loved parts of Australia.

“Kakadu National Park will be open for day use only, between 8 am and 5 pm. Most boat ramps will be open, meaning visitors will once again be able to enjoy some of the Top End’s best fishing.

“Mamukala Wetlands, Mangarre Rainforest, Bardedjilidji, Gungural, the Yurmikmik area and the Burrungkuy (Nourlangie) region will also be open, allowing for some stunning walks and access to Kakadu’s wildlife and world-class rock art,” Dr Findlay said.

“Overnight camping will not be permitted in Kakadu during the first stage of re-opening, however there are many accommodation options for visitors at Jabiru, Cooinda and Mary River.

“In order to keep flattening the COVID-19 curve, all tour operators will be required to carry their COVID-19 plan when with visitors.

“Currently, we are continuing to make some urgent infrastructure repairs across the park, including at the Bowali Visitor Centre which will remain closed for several weeks, district ranger stations and staff housing. These are a priority in supporting increased visitation.

“At Ulur̲u-Kata Tjut̲a National Park, walking tracks and sunrise and sunset viewing areas will be open. Visitors can take a walk to Mutitjulu Waterhole, hike around the base of Ulur̲u or explore Kata Tjut̲a’s breathtaking views. There are plenty of opportunities for walking, wildlife watching, photography and other activities.

“The Cultural Centre and associated businesses will remain closed during this first stage of re-opening, as will organised group activities and tours.

“We ask visitors to continue maintaining social distancing. We’ll be conducting additional cleaning of high contact areas and extra hand wash stations will be set up at key high-contact locations throughout the parks. Some paths or areas may be one-directional or have other health and safety restrictions related to COVID-19, so we request visitors please observe arrows and signs,” Dr Findlay said.

 

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Glacier hazards on the increase in the warming world

University of Western Australia Media Release

A global team of scientists including The University of Western Australia has found glacier detachments, which are highly destructive events, may occur more frequently as the world warms.

Following two extreme events in 2013 and 2015 where glacier detachments at Flat Creek in Alaska caused landslides that travelled several kilometres at high speeds of up to 180 kilometres per hour, the research team set out to investigate the causes.

Researcher Dr Matthias Leopold from the UWA School of Agriculture and Environment, an expert in shallow geophysics and soil and sediment analysis, joined an international team led by Dr Mylène Jacquemart from the University of Colorado, in the US town of Boulder. The research was carried out in August last year and published in Geology.

Dr Leopold used geophysical techniques to determine the thickness of sediments deposited during the catastrophic events. The team then looked for buried ice and permanently frozen ground, known as permafrost, to assess the general stability of surrounding areas.

The study had ruled out seismic activity as causing the detachment, but 10-year-old high-resolution satellite images showed a 70-metre-high ice bulge in the area above the glacier tongue.

“On analysis we found the glacier tongue not only blocked ice from flowing down the glacier but caused water to pool under the glacier, causing immense pressure which finally caused the glacier to detach,” Dr Leopold said.

Although many glaciers are formed in remote areas they have the potential to travel long distances when they collapse and have far-reaching environmental impact, making studies like these important.

Dr Leopold said as the Earth continued to warm, glacier detachments would continue.

“The results from the study will help us to identify the specific characteristics of sediments linked to catastrophic glacier detachments to better understand if this has happened in the past,” he said.

“So far we believe this is a new natural hazard linked with the global warming trend.”

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UniSA researcher joins new national program to protect the Antarctic

University of South Australia Media Release

UniSA and South Australian Museum invertebrates expert, Associate Professor Mark Stevens, will join a team of leading Antarctic researchers as part of a new $36-million program to track and respond to environmental change in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean.

The Securing Antarctica’s Environmental Future (SAEF) program was announced today by Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan, to be funded under the new Australian Research Council Special Research Initiative for Excellence in Antarctic Science.

Over the next seven years, SAEF is set to deliver world-leading research that will monitor and forecast environmental change across the Antarctic and enhance environmental strategies to manage and protect the region.

Assoc Prof Stevens is an internationally renowned expert on the tiny invertebrates living in Antarctic soil, which are the dominant land-based lifeforms on the continent and, as such, play a key role in our understanding of how climate change is impacting the region.

“Antarctica and sub-Antarctic have been thought of as being some of the most isolated places on Earth, but there is actually a rich biodiversity there,” Assoc Prof Stevens says.

“However, we don’t know enough about the current status and trends in biodiversity and biogeography of the region to fully understand how it may be impacted by climate change.

“Changes affecting these tiny lifeforms can give important insight into impacts on the whole Antarctic environment, and those insights have huge significance for understanding how global ecosystems may behave in the face of globally-changing climates.”

The SAEF program will involve 30 organisations in Australia and abroad, including peak industry bodies such as the Australian Antarctic Division, Geoscience Australia, Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, and the Bureau of Meteorology, with links to the national Antarctic programs of Chile, Norway, South Africa and the UK, and with the Department of Conservation in New Zealand.

The program will be hosted by Monash University and involve a collective of other Australian universities and museums, including the Queensland University of Technology, University of Wollongong, University of New South Wales, James Cook University, University of Adelaide, the South Australian Museum and the Western Australian Museum.

Associate Professor Mark Stevens

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Is a Food Crisis the next big hit for humanity?

By Julian Cribb

As the world reels under corona virus and the resulting economic meltdown, another crisis – far more serious – appears to be building: the potential collapse of global food supply chains.

For those who cry “We don’t want any more bad news”, the fact of the matter is we have landed in our present mess – climate, disease, extinction, pollution, WMD – because we steadfastly ignored previous warnings.

The first warning of a corona pandemic was issued in a scientific paper in 2007 and was blithely ignored for thirteen years. In it, the scientists explicitly stated “The presence of a large reservoir of SARS-CoV-like viruses in horseshoe bats, together with the culture of eating exotic mammals in southern China, is a time bomb. The possibility of the re-emergence of SARS and other novel viruses from animals or laboratories and therefore the need for preparedness should not be ignored.” [1]

Similarly, in 1979, the World Meteorological Organisation warned “… the probability of a man-induced future global warming is much greater and increases with time. Soon after the turn of the century a level may possibly be reached that is exceeds all warm periods of the last 1000-2000 years.” [2] And climate warnings have been coming thick and fast ever since, to scant avail.

Now we have a new warning from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, a cautious body if ever there was one, that states “We risk a looming food crisis unless measures are taken fast to protect the most vulnerable, keep global food supply chains alive and mitigate the pandemic’s impacts across the food system.” [3]

Border closures, quarantines and market, supply chain and trade disruptions are listed as the chief reasons for concern. However, like many national governments, FAO insists “there is no need to panic” as world food production remains ample.

This, however, depends on fragile assumptions. It assumes that farmers and their families do not get sick. It assumes they will always be able to access the fuel, fertiliser, seed and other inputs they need when supply chains disintegrate. It assumes the truck drivers who transport food to the cities do not get sick, that markets, cool stores and food processing plants are not closed to protect their workers. That supermarkets continue to function, even when their shelves are stripped bare. All of which is starting to appear tenuous.

There is never a ‘need to panic’ as it does not help in resolving difficult situations. But there is definitely a need to take well-planned precautions – as we have failed to do in the cases of climate and corona virus.

The looming food crisis starts from three primary causes:

  • The global ‘just-in-time’ industrial food and supermarket system is not fit for purpose in guaranteeing food security. It is all about money, and not about human safety or nutrition. Its links are fragile and any of them can break, precipitating chaos – especially in big cities.
  • The agricultural system we know and love is becoming increasingly unreliable owing to climate change, catastrophic loss of soils worldwide, shortages of water and narrowing of its genetic base. Farmers are struggling with their own pandemics in the form of swine fever, army worms and locusts. This unreliability will become increasingly critical from the 2020s to the mid-century.
  • The predatory world economic system now punishes farmers by paying them less and less for their produce, driving them off their farms and increasingly forcing those who remain to use unsustainable methods of food production. This is causing a worldwide loss of farmers and their skills and destruction of the agricultural resource base and ecosystem at a time of rising food instability.[4]

The reason that a food crisis is far more serious than either the corona virus or its economic meltdown, is that the death toll is generally far larger. More than 200 million people have died in various famines over the last century and a half, and many of those famines led to civil wars, international wars and governmental collapses. That is why we need to pay attention now – before a new global food crisis arises. Not brush it aside, as so many inept world leaders have done with the virus.

The Spanish have a well-learned saying that “Lo que separa la civilización de la anarquía son solo siete comidas.” [5] The French and Russian Revolutions both arose out of famines. WWII arose partly out of Hitler’s desire to capture Soviet farmlands in order to avoid another WW1 famine in Germany. Many modern African wars are over food or the means to produce it. The Syrian civil war began with a climate-driven food crisis. Indeed, there is growing evidence that lack of food plays a catalytic role in around two thirds of contemporary armed conflicts. As US former president Jimmy Carter has observed “Hungry people are not peaceful people.” [6]

Food failures bring down governments and cause states to fail. In 2012 a drought in Russia and the Ukraine forced them to cut grain supplies to Egypt and Libya – where governments promptly fell to popular revolutions. It was a strange echo of history: in the third century a combination of climate change and a pandemic caused a failure in grain supplies from North Africa, an economic crash and, ultimately, the end of the Roman Empire.

While there is ‘no need to panic’ over food, there is a very clear and urgent need for plans to forestall major shortages around the world. Yet, there is very little evidence that governments worldwide are preparing to head off a food crisis, other than to reassure their citizens, Trumplike, that there isn’t a problem. However, lack of trust by citizens in their governments has already prompted a global rush to stock up on staple foods which has ‘upended’ the vulnerable ‘just-in-time’ food delivery system in many countries.[7]

Over four billion people now inhabit the world’s great cities – and not one of those cities can feed itself. Not even close. None of them are prepared for catastrophic failure in fragile modern food chains, on which they are totally reliant. It would appear almost nobody has even dreamed of such a thing. We are sleepwalking into something far larger and far more deadly than corona virus. The delicate web of modern civilization is fraying.

What is to be done? The short answers are:

  • Introduce emergency urban food stocks
  • Compulsory reduction of food waste at all points
  • Prepare for WWII-style rationing if needed
  • Pay farmers a fair return
  • Increase school meals programs and food aid to the poor
  • Encourage local food production and urban food gardens
  • Develop a global emergency food aid network as a priority
  • Reinvent food on a three-tier global model encompassing: regenerative farming, urban food production (and recycling), accelerated deep ocean aquaculture and algae culture.

There are few crises that cannot be avoided with careful forward planning, including the ten catastrophic risks now facing humanity as a whole. [8]

It is time we, as a species, learned to think ahead better than we do, and not listen to those who cry “no more bad news, please”. They only lead us into further crisis.

 

References

[1] Cheung VCC et al., Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus as an Agent of Emerging and Reemerging Infection. Clinical Microbiology Reviews Oct 2007, 20 (4) 660-694; DOI: 10.1128/CMR.00023-07

[2] World Climate Conference 1979, http://wmconnolley.org.uk/sci/iceage/wcc-1979.html#flohn

[3] FAO. Will COVID-19 have negative impacts on global food security? March 2020. http://www.fao.org/2019-ncov/q-and-a/en/

[4] These issues are extensively analysed in my recent book Food or War, Cambridge University Press, 2019. https://www.cambridge.org/us/academic/food-or-war

[5] Civilization and anarchy are only seven meals apart.

[6] Carter J., First Step to Peace is Eradicating Hunger. International Herald Tribune, June 17, 1999.

[7] Lee A, How the UK’s just-in-time delivery model crumbled under coronavirus. Wired, 30 March 2020.

[8] Cribb JHJ, “Surviving the 21st Century”. Springer 2017. https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-3-319-41270-2

 

This article was originally published on SURVIVING C21.

Julian Cribb is an Australian science author. His book Food or War describes what must be done to secure the world’s food supply.

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Climate Vse Corona Virus

Existential threat and the generational divide.

While the world as we know it collapses around us the politicians and pundits are in a tailspin. Words like “emergency, unprecedented, panic, collapse, economic meltdown and existential threat” are being tossed around like confetti. Raging firestorms, hail-stones the size of cricket balls, unseasonal floods, locust plagues, and now the Covid 19 pandemic. This is our world in 2020.

This pandemic is frightening, but in truth, it is far more frightening for some of us than for others. The young are largely unaffected, with relatively few deaths and a reasonably non-threatening prognosis. However, for those in their late 50’s or beyond the threat is immediate and palpable. They could die, and they could die reasonably soon.

Without casting criticism on global governments’ measures to stem the spread of Covid 19, one cannot deny the stark contrast between our response to the pandemic, and our response to the very real existential threat that is climate change. So now, all of a sudden we believe the scientists?

If the great toilet paper panic of 2020 has taught us anything, it is that many of us are shamelessly self-interested to the point of utter irrationality. So consider this, is it a coincidence that an existential threat that is beating down the door of the “power rich” demographic gets such unprecedented action; Whereas the looming disaster of climate change, that will impact heavily on the currently “power poor” younger generations is largely ignored?

The French have a saying, “Apres moi le deluge.” Which translates as “After me the flood.”

This pithy little epithet pretty well sums up the attitude of those who hold power.

Corona Virus has made a mockery of the economic excuses. When the bell tolls for the powerful no level of economic sacrifice is too great, but when it comes to economic realignment to stem climate change, our children and grandchildren can quite literally burn in hell.

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Morality

Because my maternal grandfather was a Minister in the UK Church of Christ – very similar to the Methodist Church – I grew up in a household with a library of moral tales.

Books like Charles Kingsley’s The Water Babies, with its Mrs Do-as-you-would-be done-by and Mrs Be-done-by-as-you-have-done, were the underpinning for developing a conscience and an awareness how our own behaviours affect others.

Like C S Lewis’ TheChronicles of Narnia, which was read by my children’s generation, there is an implied overtone of Christian values, yet it is actually morality rather than Christianity which is at the core of the message.

IMHO you do not need to believe in a god or gods in order to understand that, living in a community, we need rules for communal living which avoid covertly or overtly harming others.

Where I feel the religious have led us astray, is in planting themselves, as ‘believers’, between us and the goal. And by making the goal an after-life, they avoid a lot of awkward questions!

After all, no one has returned from that after-life to confirm its existence, and to think we can hurt other people, even killing them on too many occasions, say sorry to some omniscient being, directly or through some often self-serving intermediary, and waltz off to paradise when we die, is at the very least naïve. Or so, as a now agnostic, I am inclined to think.

I have my own philosophy on this issue. I try to help, not harm others, and if, after I die, a few people remember me favourably – for however brief a period – then I will have life after death!

I hasten to add, I am no saint, I have many regrets over past behaviours and I try (sometimes successfully!) not to repeat past mistakes.

Ethical or moral behaviour involves empathy and a high degree of selflessness to be truly effective, and leading by example is necessary if the message is to have an impact. If you hypocritically say “Do as I say, not as I do” then your message will fail.

My doubts over Christianity were probably triggered by the religious organisations’ strong linking of morality with sexuality.

When I was growing up, unmarried mothers were shunned and shamed, children born out of wedlock were bastards and would remain so for life, homosexuals who put a toe outside the closet were vilified and chastised, even killed, in many cases, and the fact the Christian missionaries followed closely behind ‘Christian’ colonisers has meant that a totally undesirable legacy for those colonised has been warped attitudes and ignorance about human sexuality.

Any education expert will tell you that what is learned early in life is best remembered and has most effect on future attitudes. The, in my opinion, appalling reaction of religious people – Muslims and Hindus as well as Christians – to the same sex marriage debate, highlighted how hard it is for deeply ingrained beliefs to be cast aside and new knowledge embraced.

In speaking or writing these days, I try to avoid using ‘I believe’, preferring to say ‘in my opinion’ or ‘I accept’ or ‘it appears to me’, because in my mind, to say ‘I believe’ implies acceptance without proof.

The Catholic Church ‘believed’ the Bible was the source of truth, so they accepted that the sun went around the Earth, and fought long and hard against the proof that they were wrong.

Countries like Australia are, IMHO, very slow in accepting that, as a multicultural country with no national religion, government must leave religious issues to individuals and develop Human Rights laws to ensure that people are free to follow a religion – or not – while avoiding adverse effects on others of the choices they make!

The law of Australia imposes on ALL its citizens an obligation to report to police if they know or suspect that an adult is abusing a child sexually, or if an adult is being abused by a present or former partner in a domestic relationship.

It is my understanding that the canon law of the Catholic church requires that anything divulged to a priest in the confessional cannot be disclosed to anyone. Therefore, if, during a confession, the priest learns that the one confessing his sins might be guilty of child sex abuse, the Vatican insists that cannot be reported to police.

The offender can be recommended to self-report, but who, if anyone, polices that?

What is so special about one group of religious believers that they can deny the law of the land?

What is more – what human being is entitled to judge that someone has truly repented of their sins and may then be forgiven?

The history of child sex abuse has clearly revealed that priests who preyed on children for sexual gratification, regularly did so over and over again, and the offender was often moved on by a hierarchy which was well aware of the offending, and of the likelihood of further offending.

What value can you put on a religious organisation which allows damage to children in preference to having its power limited?

So, we now have the Attorney General, Christian Porter, being tasked with over-sighting the drafting of legislation to protect people who wish to practice a religion! He has been so unsuccessful to date that it might be better if he instead drafted a bill to ensure the non-religious were safe from the religious practices of the rest!

Actually, it appears that defining a religion is a precarious business, because many genuinely harmful cults would seem to be covered by the definitions attempted to date.

Please can we have something simple like:

Each and every adult Australian citizen is entitled to worship such gods as (s)he chooses, and live according to the laws which her/his faith has dictated, if and only if, in so doing (s)he does not harm, mentally or physically, any other living being and (s)he continues to obey all laws of Australia.

Feel free to try to re-word that but, in my opinion, it captures the essence of what is required.

Because some cults and religion have practices and beliefs which contradict those accepted by mainstream Australians, it is my opinion that no religion should be taught in schools by religious leaders, but, instead, a syllabus leading discussion on Comparative Religion should form part of a common curriculum, required by all government funded schools, at least at secondary level.

At the same time, I think a group of educators and religious leaders should agree on the content of a course on ethics and ethical behaviour which, again, should be part of the common syllabus.

Whatever our current leaders might have learned during their own paths through education, ethics and morality must have been conspicuously absent or totally ignored by many of them.

There have been fears for many in recent years that we have been moving ever closer to fascism and a police state.

Under an immoral and clearly corrupt governing body, which fails to be bound by ethics, this is a frightening prospect. Given the urgent need for a proper policy to combat global warming and an equally urgent need to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, I am deeply concerned that the current government lacks both the motivation and the skills to lead us effectively – which is why I am exhorting everyone who shares my fears to engage with their local Extinction Rebellion group!

Once more – this is my 2020 New Year Resolution:

“I will do everything in my power to enable Australia to be restored to responsible government.”

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Designing a city without cars – for the sake of the kids

UniSA Media Release

More than half of Australian households own two or more motor vehicles, while only seven per cent own none – we are, without a doubt, a car country.

However, while countless advertisements celebrate the freedom cars provide, University of South Australia urban planning researcher, Hulya Gilbert, says there are growing reasons to question the cost of that freedom, and even challenge whether it is freedom at all.

“There’s obviously the environmental impacts, and the health and fitness consequences of using cars, but there’s also a huge social impact,” Gilbert says.

“Despite the common view across the world that cars provide freedom and flexibility, increasingly we’re seeing the priority given to cars is infringing people’s ability – and right – to get around without one.

“That’s especially true of children, and the more we build our cities around cars, the more we rob kids and teenagers of opportunities to enjoy some independence and develop self-reliance.”

Gilbert’s research shows the assumption that most people travel by car dominates current transport discussions, which, in turn, has dictated the design and location of key places in children’s lives, such as schools and sporting clubs.

Once our cities are built that way, she says, it’s hard to move outside the plan.

“It’s not enough just to say, ‘kids need to walk to school more’,” Gilbert says. “In many situations, we have planned that possibility out of cities, and now it’s just not safe or practical for children to ride or walk to the places they need to go – so much so, that there are now perceptions that parents who do let their kids ride or walk are being negligent.”

Gilbert says a change in priorities by urban planners is needed to reverse this trend, and despite a growing interest in alternatives to the private car across the world, her research suggests we’re unlikely to see large scale shifts in travel behaviour unless we make the required changes to infrastructure first.

“That involves building and maintaining safe walking and cycling paths and associated infrastructure including green spaces, trees and pedestrian crossings, and reducing speed limits and traffic flow around those areas to ensure they’re safe.

“It also means ensuring public transport is connected to those active transport networks, and that key locations, such as schools and sports clubs, are located so they’re accessible by those modes.”

Developing these networks will not only benefit children and teenagers, Gilbert says, but also help other social groups currently disadvantaged by being unable to drive, including the elderly, vision impaired and lower income earners.

“At the moment, our cities and societies are set up based on the idea that having a licence and owning a car is the norm, and we often consider the lack of car ownership as a disadvantage. Our right to move around our cities without a car is not commonly considered.

“Now, even though it’s the case that most people have access to a car and travel by car in cities such as Adelaide, planning and thinking as if they don’t would open up many possibilities and opportunities which would accelerate progress towards less private car usage and the associated, wide-ranging benefits,” Gilbert says.

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Going, going, gone. Koalas and their uncertain future west of the ‘sandstone curtain’.

By David C. Paull

In early February this year, I appeared as a witness to the New South Wales Upper House Inquiry into Koala populations and habitat in New South Wales as someone who had worked extensively with Koalas in the north-west of NSW.

It was a fairly gloomy hearing as the Committee struggled to digest the lack of good news on the future for Koalas west of the divide. While forests west of the divide were spared the worst parts of the recent bushfire season, with some exceptions, eg. Mt Kaputar National Park lost over 80% of its total area, Koalas have been declining in this region over the last 20 years for a variety of factors, not least declining habitat conditions and extent. In particular, one question gave me pause to think, going to the heart of the matter one which requires a better and urgent examination of our attitudes to conservation more generally.

The question was, why has there been little apparent action in relation to Koala conservation west of the divide? Here is my written response.

The overwhelming answer to this question principally lies in the dominant political culture in western NSW and a corresponding lack of political will from government to act. Both at state and federal levels, political representation has been dominated by the National Party. Generally, strong advocates of farmer and property rights, this has tended to play out as a dominant narrative stressing the need to reduce the role of government agencies in farm management, compliance and planning. According to this narrative, nature conservation, instead of being something that could be compatible with farming, or indeed beneficial, has been framed as being anti-farmer, especially matters relating to wildlife. This is even though wildlife is protected under state jurisdiction. Instead, governments have just wanted to ‘lock-up’ people’s land we were told.

This paradigm is reflected also in local government, who in the north-west of NSW, have tended to represent wealthier farming and business interests and more recently, have acted as advocates for mining (such as Gunnedah and Narrabri Councils). In my view, over a long time, the National Party, NSW Farmers and the National Farmers Federation have used property rights as a political tool to wage a culture war against ‘greenies’ and ‘latte sippers from the city’ in order to bring into disrepute any concerns for the environment that local people and the wider community may have. This seems to have become ingrained in our regional culture.

But in many ways, this view does not reflect the sentiments of people living in these communities who have genuine concerns for wildlife and the environment more generally but whose voice remains unheard in Macquarie Street.

Notable property rights advocates from Barwon have included Ian Slack-Smith and his successor Kevin Humphries. The latter having a strong ally in Barnaby Joyce at the federal level. The Guardian and ABC investigations have shown how Mr Humphries encouraged illegal land-clearing, giving a ‘green light’ at farmer meetings and strongly lobbying for a decrease in vegetation regulation. He and others have acted as a sort of guarantor for producers against legal repercussions, real or imagined.

The current Native Vegetation Act and associated regulations now shows the lobbying efforts by the property rights champions has borne fruit, with its focus on self-assessment and less restrictions, along with the Biodiversity Conservation Act which now allows the unrestricted removal of threatened ecological communities and Koala habitat.

An example the extent of the anti-environment culture war west of the divide comes from one wildlife carer from the Croppa Creek area who was subject to intimidation and death threats by some landowners, just for advocating for Koala welfare. One of these landowners was later found guilty of illegal land-clearing, but not before he had murdered an OEH compliance officer. Such is the level of intimidation that comes from individuals influenced by the property rights lobby. To this day, virtually no planning for Koala conservation has occurred on the Moree Plains and clearing continues seemingly unabated.

The other mechanism by which Koala habitat could be protected is SEPP44. This requires local governments working with state government to implement Comprehensive Koala Management Plans which have an objective of minimising loss of koala habitat (but never completely protecting all potential koala habitat). The lack of will among local government to implement this statutory planning policy west of the divide is further testament to the success of the property rights lobby. Moree, Warialda, Inverell, Warrumbungle and Narrabri in particular, who all have (or had) documented, significant Koala populations, have never seen any attempt by government to implement SEPP44 CKPoMs in these LGAs.

The revised SEPP44 set to be implemented on March 1st, has actually less statutory protection for Koala habitat than the previous version, and no longer has any requirement for a site-specific Plan of Management.

The exception is Gunnedah Council, being the self-proclaimed ‘Koala Capital’, who have toyed with the concept of a CKPoM for over 10 years, though in the end preferring to implement a non-statutory ‘Koala Strategy’ which allows the removal of core Koala habitat using an offset mechanism. This is also despite funding received by Council from BHP to conduct LGA-wide Koala surveys and two grants under the Save Our Species Program to set up a CKPoM.

Another factor which is likely to have assisted Gunnedah Council’s decision to defer implementation of a CKPoM was the perception that Koalas were common in the LGA. Council, using the firm ‘BioLoaning Greenstudies’ and in conjunction with Dr Steve Philips, conducted surveys in key Koala areas who provided an estimated population size of over 12,000 animals for the LGA in 2014. However, issues with the methodology and how this estimate was derived has brought this into question. The view that Koalas are common and therefore not a significant conservation issue, has little scientific credibility today.

Previous studies have shown that Gunnedah populations were under decline by 2009. This has been further verified by more recent estimates which describe a population decline of approximately 80% from pre-decline levels with estimates of current population size in the LGA at perhaps less than 2,000, based on published and unpublished surveys along with current local knowledge.

The documented decline of the Pilliga Koalas should be viewed in context with the Gunnedah population. The Pilliga decline has occurred within intact, extensive forest and is primarily attributed to ongoing drought, possibly due to the early signs of climate-associated warming, a factor identified in the Gunnedah area. Pilliga Koala densities first decreased notably during the millennial drought and through the 2000s. 2013/14 surveys suggest that there may not have been more than 100 Pilliga animals at this time, compared to a pre-decline population of somewhere between 5-10,000 animals. The estimate of 12,000 animals in the Gunnedah LGA probably better reflects the pre-decline population size.

But the situation for Koalas in the north-west has become worse in recent years. Severe drought over the last 3 years has seen the Pilliga Koalas virtually disappear and increased rates of mortality and disease in the remaining Gunnedah/Liverpool Plains populations have been observed (based on work by North-west Local Land Service).

On the Liverpool and Moree Plains, the last twenty years has seen significant land-clearing on top of the warming climate and so, Koalas have been subject to significant pressure on habitat availability and quality over this time. Gunnedah populations are also subject to relatively high levels of vehicle collision and dog attack, much more so than the Pilliga animals had been.

Over the last 20 years, there has been relatively little active Koala habitat conservation work in the north-west, restricted to a small number of landowners where tree plantings and conservation agreements have occurred. Today, much of the effort to conserve Koala habitat in the north-west has been undertaken by the Local Land Service with some funding now available for private land conservation from the NSW Biodiversity Trust. The latter is in the early days and take-up has been limited, restricted by minimum area rules and limited funding.

Besides working with supportive landowners, the North-west LLS has a Koala Corridor Plan which is aimed to prioritise Koala conservation efforts in the Gunnedah LGA. It has been conducting ‘baseline surveys’, as the Gunnedah population has always suffered from a lack of understanding of the distribution and number of animals in the shire though recent surveys better reflect current post decline numbers, rather than a ‘baseline’. The total area of Koala habitat trees planted out by landowners in the Gunnedah area amounts to less than 100 hectares in total, however, recent work is starting to increase this. Other Local Land Service groups, such as the New England LLS are also conducting surveys and drawing up plans to strategically increase koala habitat.

These measures are encouraging but still lags well behind levels of habitat loss from land-clearing throughout the north-west over the last twenty years, particularly on the Liverpool Plains and the Moree (Northern) Floodplains, where thousands of hectares of Koala habitat have been cleared. The removal of over 1,000 ha of Koala habitat by mining companies in the Leard State Forest and the proposed level of clearing associated with Shenuha’s Watermark Mine further highlight the deficit that future plantings and habitat enhancement need to address. Once again, a program of offsets and translocation is proposed, which is actually in contravention of the existing operational NSW wildlife translocation policy as it is to facilitate mine development.

In conclusion, any regional conservation targets will remain largely meaningless given the past loss and future anticipated loss of Koala habitat under current private land vegetation management, offset and SEPP44 policies and regulations.

Unless there is a profound shift pervading private land conservation politics in NSW and better protections put in place (private lands support the majority of remaining Koalas), wild populations of Koalas in the north-west of NSW may soon be a thing of the past. But this isn’t just about Koalas, it is about the dubious-looking future of ecosystems and biodiversity in general, west of the ‘sandstone curtain’ unless the public makes a stand.

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Costing the earth – the price of not acting on climate change

By Elizabeth Dangerfield

Apparently, the public do not respond well to doom and gloom, but the truth is that reality denying is rife when it comes to climate change and it is not doing us any good. Every time we choose the easiest path, every time we choose the best-case scenario rather than the one most likely, every time we opt for business as usual, we increase the likelihood that the worse-case scenario is the one that will happen.

One study suggests that lack of action on climate change could cost Australia $159 billion a year or the equivalent of the world experiencing 4 – 6 global financial crises per year. If the costs of increased severity and frequency of tropical storms and bushfires are included the figures are much higher. We have already experienced a global record of 20 million hectares burnt in an unprecedented bushfire season exacerbated by climate change and causing huge economic, social and environmental losses.

But the Government is determined to ignore all the evidence on climate change in order to create an alternative universe where their ideology and pseudo-reality meld together. The Labor Party at least acknowledges the overwhelming evidence for human induced climate change and believes Australia should put its own house in order by becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

Emily Farnworth, Head of Climate Change, World Economic Forum, believes that a carbon neutral world by 2050 is inevitable because “No politician will be able to ignore the social and economic pressures as climate impacts become more severe – but the longer it takes, the more expensive it will become.”

Our politicians seem to be able to ignore the reality that it doesn’t matter who puts CO2 into the atmosphere – we all pay for it. Both Labor and the Government believe that we can have our cake and eat it when it comes to climate change. We can keep extracting more and more coal and gas to sell overseas and just wait until other countries tell us they don’t want it anymore. This way we can avoid the transformative change required to address climate change globally and can deny the reality that restricting global warming to 2°C is going to require sacrifices. As a result, Australia will become a very significant contributor to global CO2 emissions rather than a leader in reducing them.

In many places, countries, regions, cities and corporations are doing wonderful, innovative things but everyone needs to be part of this endeavour if we are to achieve the desired global outcome. Technological solutions require time to develop and implement. We have squandered that time. We have consistently denied the reality that the issues we face are time critical. We are like a person who wants to lose 30kg before their wedding in a year’s time but puts off dieting until 4 weeks before the big event. The only way to achieve the goal then would be by sewing their lips together, if the goal can be achieved at all.

Some still believe in the illusion that it will be possible to limit global warming to 1.5°C. In many regions, global warming has already surpassed 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels because global warming doesn’t occur evenly around the planet. More than one-fifth of all humans live in regions that have already seen warming greater than 1.5°C. In Arctic regions global warming of 2-3°C has been experienced.

The Government still pretends Australia will meet its emission targets set by the Paris Agreement despite the reality that industrial greenhouse gas emissions in Australia have risen 60% in the past 15 years. If you think that our emissions are so insignificant that we shouldn’t have to do anything then I suppose you are okay with using an unacceptable approach to fudge the figures. The reality is that we are right up the top of the list of countries that emit most greenhouses gases on a per capita basis. The reality is that countries like Australia that emit less than 3% of greenhouse gases collectively contribute around 37% of all emissions. The reality is that every extra bit of warming makes a difference – that we are all in this together.

On top of this we continue to ignore the reality that if all countries meet their targets under the Paris agreement emissions will continue to grow and peak by 2030, putting the world on a path to global warming of 3.0°C to 3.5°C. But worse than that, we continue to deny the reality that we are facing a future in which global warming could reach 4°C or more.

Here is a little of the reality that will confront us as the world warms up

A global warming between 2-3°C will mean that millions, then billions, of people will face a tough battle to survive. The Amazon will die, Greenland’s icefields will completely melt. Tropical reefs, including the Great Barrier Reef, will already be dead. The warmer oceans will be unable to absorb as much CO2 so more will accumulate in the atmosphere. As the soil warms on land, bacteria will convert more carbon stored in the soil into CO2 in the atmosphere. These processes will accelerate global warming.

At three degrees there is a risk that the planet could be tipped into runaway global warming.

Farming and food production will falter, and many people will starve to death. Fresh water supplies may not meet demand. Many people will die from heat stroke. Rising sea levels will inundate the land especially during storm surges. Settlements around the Persian Gulf and on islands in the Pacific are very vulnerable. A metre rise in sea level would submerge almost 20% of Bangladesh and displace more than 30 million people Scientific American. Many people will drown. Coastal cities around the world will be badly affected. There will be a huge exodus of people to escape to safer areas – where will they go and how will they cope?

At between 3-4°C of global warming the economies of countries will be destabilised. People will be left destitute and governments will not be able to cope. Social cohesion will be destroyed. Agricultural production in China may not be able to meet demand. India and Pakistan will face water shortages. Millions of people will starve to death. Soaring temperatures will exacerbate dryness, droughts and bushfires as well as deaths due to heat stress. Huge migrations of people will take place putting great pressure on resources. Many people will lose their greatest asset – their homes as they become valueless due to their location. Ecosystems will continue to degrade, and more animals and plants will become extinct.

At 4°C of warming Europe will be in permanent drought; vast areas of China, India and Bangladesh will be claimed by desert; Polynesia will be swallowed by the sea; and the American Southwest largely uninhabitable. A diminished population of humans will survive in a more chaotic, dangerous and unpredictable world. Fights, even wars, over resources, will be likely. Who is likely to win out in a struggle for resources? The reality of this world is likely to be very unpleasant.

The prospect of a five-degree warming has prompted some of the world’s leading climate scientists to warn of the end of human civilization The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change. There will be no adaption possible to runaway global warming.

If this seems far-fetched note that even economists are saying that human life is under threat due to global warming. JP Morgan economists have recently said their research shows the climate crisis will impact on the world economy, human health, water stress, migration and the survival of other species on Earth. They say policymakers need to change direction because a business-as-usual climate policy “would likely push the earth to a place that we haven’t seen for many millions of years”, with outcomes that might be impossible to reverse.

The reality is that we do not have until 2050 to become carbon neutral. National Geographic cites an analysis of millions of possible climate futures which found we only have a tiny window to keeping global warming to levels the international community has deemed safe. Carbon emissions must reach zero by 2030 in every country in the world if we are to stay at less than 2°C of global warming by 2100. If we don’t the above scenarios will play out. Obviously, we are not going to reach zero carbon emissions by 2030.

This is why members of the Extinction Rebellion are chaining themselves to barriers! This is why Greta Thunberg mounted her school climate strike! This is why so many scientists and environmentalists are filled with despair. This is why doing what is politically expedient, rather than what is needed to be done, is not good enough.

We need to focus all our efforts on the outcome required because Inaction on climate change will cost the Earth. That is too high a price to pay.

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Carbon Neutral by 2050 … or earlier

By Dr John Töns

The Labor Party has announced its commitment to Australia becoming Carbon Neutral by 2050. The proposal has been dismissed out of hand by the Morrison Government with the familiar cry ‘where is the money coming from?’ Had they not be so blinded by ideology they may have rejected the commitment as too modest – we can fast track the transition to a zero, perhaps even negative carbon economy well before 2050. To understand how we need to start with our summer of catastrophies.

The first of the Australian bushfires started in June. For fires to start in June and continue through well into February is unprecedented. Moreover, although heavy rains extinguished many of the fires those same rains now brought with them floods and landslides. Rural communities that had spent much of the summer coping with the fire emergency were now faced with having to deal with yet another emergency triggered by extreme weather events.

Although all of these emergencies played out in regional Australia, they also impacted on the lives of city dwellers. For weeks on end thick smoke blanketed many of the major cities. Health authorities advised that people with respiratory conditions should avoid going outside. Few Australians were left untouched by the fires. It was a crisis that impacted on all Australians. Research by ANU has shown that 70% of Australians were impacted in someway by this summer of disasters.

That same research has shown that faced with the tangible impact of climate change there has been a substantial shift in thinking. As late as November Michael McCormack dismissed those who sought to link the fires with climate change as “inner-city raving lunatics”[1] by talking about ‘inner-city raving lunatics’ he was playing to his constituency. However, by February 2020 his constituency had had a change of heart; the participants at the Q & A Bushfire special from Queanbeyan were in no doubt about the role climate change played.

The hostility of regional Australia to continued climate change denial should not have come as a surprise to those politicians who had assumed that their natural constituency had little truck with climate change. They merely had to look at the compendium of case studies compiled by Monash University which documented that the thinking of regional Australia was really no different to the rest of Australia. That set of case studies dealt with Regional Victoria’s response to Black Saturday – the overall theme from those communities is perhaps summed up by The Centre of Resilience based in Emerald:

[We aimed] to develop a community development strategy that connected businesses, community groups, local education, events and the arts by exercising our relationships in a practical way and developing local management capacity. The government representatives told us to ‘Say No to the community, scale back and stick to your core business’. We rejected this advice and set about acting on our vision.

‘Community continuity’ encompasses a variety of planning, preparatory and related activities which are intended to ensure that community functions will either continue to operate despite serious incidents or disasters that might otherwise have interrupted them, or will be recovered to an operational state within a reasonably short period.

The goal of CoR is to contribute to community continuity by encouraging the efficient and effective use of existing social, natural, economic and built community-based assets in a progressive and sustainable way.[2]

Right around Australia there is an emerging view that these disasters need to be seen as a unique opportunity for nation building. As I listen to communities around Australia it is clear that we have moved on from the climate change debate. Australia is looking at developing local strategies for sustainable living. We are becoming increasingly aware that the short-term policies pursued by our politicians is kicking the problem in the long grass, as a nation we are of the view that we cannot afford to leave the next generations with problems that could have been nipped in the bud in 2020.

So, what could be done almost immediately? A good place to start is with funding. Yes, it is expensive to make a rapid transition to a carbon neutral economy. The big stumbling block in our political thinking is that this generation is asked to make sacrifices in the interests of future generations. Why should we pay for benefits that may not come until some 100 or 200 years in the future? The answer is simple – we don’t. There is no reason why we cannot raise the trillions of dollars needed by entering into a 100- or 200-year loan.

There are at least three things we could do almost immediately. The Royal Commission into the Black Saturday fires recommended shifting to a decentralised energy network. At the time it reported the cost of switching to renewable microgrids was still prohibitively expensive. The cost of these has come down. Were we to invest in micro-grid technology we could become a world leader in state of the art micro-grids. We could design these so they fit into a large container – meaning that we can manufacture and export these microgrids to the many communities in Asia and Africa for whom connection to the national grid is prohibitively expensive.

The second initiative would be to accelerate the shift to hydrogen power. This can be done by simply setting a target that by 2030 we can only buy either all electric or hydrogen powered vehicles. We have seen that government decisions to phase out the use of fossil fuel has encouraged innovation – there is no reason why we cannot join that party.

Plasma furnaces – one of the problems that the world faces is how to deal with waste. There are a number of plasma furnaces around the globe that can process all waste. These are generally small scale – ideally suited for our regional settlements. Again, if we invest our energy into improving on that technology we have another export industry for the problem of waste (especially plastic waste) is a global problem.

These three ideas are but the tip of the iceberg. We need to acknowledge that changes in technology will mean changes in the employment profile. However, if we commit to a principle that no-one will be left behind, that we are not in the business of closing down businesses and throwing workers on the scrap heap much of the resistance will dissipate. We also need to stress that the government’s continued support for coal is doing no-one (other than some very wealthy mine owners) any favours – the writing is on the wall for the fossil fuel industry to continue to use tax payer funds to prop up unproductive industries is myopic. We are far better off working with communities to enable them to develop successful enterprises that do not depend on fossil fuel.

  1. Crowe, D., Deputy PM slams people raising climate change in relation to NSW bushfires, in Sydney Morning Herald. 2029: Sydney.
  2. University, M. Centre of Resilience. 2008 08/02/2020]; Available from: https://www.monash.edu/muarc/research/research-areas/home-and-community/disaster-resilience/compendium-case-studies/centre-of-resilience.

 

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The enemy is at our door!

I am fairly sure that when, at the beginning of WWII, Britain established a War Cabinet to decide strategies and policies to enable the country to prevent invasion, and supply and provision troops to fight in Europe, while at the same time ensuring that there was enough food to go round at home and the factories could be contributing to the war effort, the first question asked was not “How much will it cost?”

Had it actually been asked, the answer that would have come back, very swiftly, would have been “Whatever it takes!”

The climate has declared war on us, and we are ignoring the need to respond suitably, wasting time asking stupid questions like “How long is a piece of string?” instead of the not so stupid ones like “What price do you put on keeping a child alive and healthy?”

What is more, our governments are trying to silence those calling for action!

In the NT we are about to vote in a bye-election. A community group has surveyed the candidate’s views on whether fracking in the NT should be allowed. They intended to publicise the findings, to ensure voters knew in advance what the candidates’ views are when deciding how to vote.

Restrictions are being put in place to prevent this!

Why?

It is quite normal for there to be public forums* where candidates are questioned, the media attend and the public is kept informed.

So why insist that a community group has to be registered and subjected to surveillance of its financial resources, and its political affiliations if any, before it can conduct a campaign as described above?

Even more so when the issue is not really political.

After all – people on all sides of politics are divided between being convinced that manmade climate change is reality and being still undecided or unaccepting over the issue.

In fact – where exactly does politics come into it?

If you are a rusted-on supporter of either Labor or one of the Coalition partners, you just follow the party line. Why bother to think for yourself when all the decisions have been made for you, for generations, by people whose views your forefathers have always followed?

However, there is a groundswell of opinion in Australia, as well as in other countries, that the cosy relationship between governments and global corporations with their generous-to-a-fault donations is damaging the people’s trust in government.

We have had enough recent examples of blatant corruption in government and total refusal to acknowledge that working for your party’s benefit is not exactly why you were elected.

Decisions are made which are clearly for the benefit of donors and blatant pork-barrelling is a regular feature of pre-election behaviour.

Australians should expect better than that – particularly if we want the best future possible for our children.

Did any of the Liberal Party examine in detail ScoMo’s work history in New Zealand and NSW before he entered politics? (If you have yet to do so, you will find it quite instructive!) Judging by that history, he will cease to be PM before his term is up! After all – he has quit pretty well every position he has ever been employed in before his contract was up and his entry into politics was not really on merit – unless skulduggery is a desirable characteristic!

And if he was Malcolm Turnbull’s friend, I will eat my hat!

But all that is a side-track from the serious issue, which is that most of us have children, many with their own children and the future for the generations following us is looking more and more grim.

We are living on borrowed time – their time – because our lack of action is guaranteeing that their future living conditions will be much less tolerable than ours have been.

I am certain that we must exert ever-increasing pressure to force the government to initiate genuine action to transit away from fossil fuels as fast as possible.

How?

Through people power, civil disobedience, non-violent resistance to accepting bad laws.

We do not need to go to the bloody lengths of the French Revolution to achieve our aim. However, we have just as much justification as they had to throw out our current ruling party and insist on employing expert advisers to put together an action agenda which minimises forcing people into unemployment.

Goodness knows, the useless mob who are supposed to be helping the unemployed to find work at present should be the first to find themselves out of a job, along with those who are involved with Robodebt and the cashless welfare card!

Coalition governments have been rabid supporters of privatisation, and the minute you replace public servants with private employees, whose first duty is to make a profit for shareholders, then the service offered is immediately downgraded.

Capitalism and wealth creation have benefitted a very small group of now very wealthy people by forcing more and more into poverty and worse.

And all the while those in charge have failed to keep their eyes on the ball of climate change.

Now it is crunch time, and it is up to you and me to ensure that we at least try to pass on to our children a half-decent world.

Are you up for it?

Talking time is over.

Once more – this is my 2020 New Year Resolution:

“I will do everything in my power to enable Australia to be restored to responsible government.”

*’fora’ for the pedantic!

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The War on Climate Change has already begun and we are losing. How on Earth are we going to win it?

By Elizabeth Dangerfield

Not by burying our heads in the sand. Not by waiting for everyone to be reasonable and listen to the evidence. Not by leading from behind. Not by appeasement. Not by believing we can have our cake and eat it too. Not by waiting for technology and science to save us. Not by business as usual and hoping that adaption and resilience will be enough to get us through.

We can only win the war on climate change through courage, conviction and a willingness to change. We can only win a war on climate change if we recognise that wars don’t wait until we are all ready to fight. We can only win the war on climate change if we are prepared to make all sorts of sacrifices now in order to secure a better future. Indeed, if we do it right, our future could be better than our current present!

We have been capable of great feats of courage, determination and self-sacrifice in the past and we need to dig deep as individuals and collectively do the maximum that needs to be done to save ourselves, to save our future and to save the planet. We need to be the best humans can be.

My parents were 19 and 17 years of age, living in England when the Second World War broke out. They were young and full of possibilities, just starting off on their own lives. I can only imagine the dread that they must have felt when war was declared.

Many people in Britain did not want to believe that war was coming. Who would? They went about their daily lives hoping it would all pass over. Politicians tried to broker deals with Hitler, they thought he was a reasonable man. They wanted “peace in their time” and deluded themselves into thinking that things weren’t that bad, and it would all work out in the end, even if they did need to appease Hitler a bit. So, they turned a blind eye when he invaded another country – the German nation needed living space after all!

Some British people, especially members of the aristocracy and wealthy elites, admired Hitler and thought his kind of regime might do Britain good. They hated the working class getting a bit uppity and threatening the old and proper order of things. They didn’t want to face up to the truth of his real nature and some, particularly in America, saw an opportunity to make money selling arms to the Nazis.

Fortunately, some people in Britain, such as Winston Churchill, saw what was coming and tried to make the best preparations they could for the inevitable war. This was difficult without the total support of the government and the people and it meant that it was very touch and go as to whether the war would be won by the allies.

Once war was declared everything changed for my parents as it did for everyone else. My father went off to France as part of the British Expeditionary Forces and only barely escaped with his life in the Dunkirk evacuations. My mother became a Red Cross nurse in Birmingham which was heavily bombed during the Blitz.

On top of the dangers of war ordinary life changed dramatically. Because of the huge spending on the war effort, so necessary for survival, there were shortages of everything. My parent’s wedding cake was made of cardboard. Rationing of food and petrol was severe. Most of the men were off fighting and women had to step into their shoes, on farms, in factories and many other professions. Accommodation was hard to come by as so many houses were destroyed by bombing. Families were separated and many people killed and injured. But people kept calm and carried on despite all the hardship and suffering. They had too, the other choice was to give up. To give up everything they valued.

Of course, we are facing a world war now. It is the war against climate change and we need to mobilise. If we lose this war the results will be much more horrendous than that of the Second World War. That is such a painful truth that most of us don’t want to face up to it, and I can’t blame people for that but ignoring this horrible fact, or shooting the messengers, will only make it worse, much worse. The only thing that I can think of that would produce a worse future for us would be a nuclear holocaust or a large meteor slamming into the planet. If you don’t believe me look up the likely impact of 2, 3, 4 degrees of global warming conflated by tipping points.

Our war on climate change is also a war on the degradation of the biosphere by humans. To save our planet as we know it, we must do both. The United Nation’s Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services report in 2019 provides overwhelming evidence, from a wide range of different fields of knowledge, that the health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever, and that we are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.

It called for immediate transformative change, at every level, from local to global, to address this pressing issue. Such transformative change means a fundamental, system-wide reorganization across technological, economic and social factors, including paradigms, goals and values. This is the same change that the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2018 report indicated was urgently required in order to keep global warming to 1.5°C. A business as usual approach means that very soon that goal will be unobtainable. Nothing, but an attitude akin to being at war on climate change will make us make the necessary sacrifices required to achieve that goal. Transformative change is just that – life-changing, like war.

The only trouble is that nobody wants a war. A war is very inconvenient, nasty and disruptive of our comfortable way of life. Not many of us want to undertake transformative change although more of us would be prepared to concede that we are facing some sort of climate emergency after the recent bushfires.

But there is a danger that those people who have become concerned about climate change because of the bushfires, those who think that global warming is a serious problem but are not motivated to become personally involved in taking any action about it, will become disengaged from the climate emergency as everything settles down.

In fact, evidence suggests that some people who are concerned about climate change (as opposed to those of us who are positively alarmed by it), those who are cautious about the issue, or even disengaged from it, get turned off by too much doom and gloom about its likely impact. Rebecca Huntley’s research shows that “attitudes about climate are informed not by an understanding of science, but by world views, values, political identification, social and cultural conditions and gender identity”. Age also is a big factor. Older people are generally more conservative and less likely to change.

To change these attitudes, we can participate in a myriad of conversations where we respectfully listen, knowing that people’s views on climate change have more to do with how they live their lives, their life experiences, expectations, values and prejudices, than science. We can give some the facts about climate change, knowing that many people are more likely to be convinced by a focus on how climate change action can benefit society.

And transforming our society to deal with climate change can result in a large number of benefits. There would be less pollution, to begin with, that would make us healthier. Our health would also be improved by our more plant-based diet as we eat less meat, especially from animals fed on grain, and because we would be walking and cycling more. As we shift to electric cars our world would be quieter, cleaner and easier to get around. Cities would be much more pleasant places to be in.

We would waste much less, recycle and repurpose much more and share much more. Our environment would improve not just for us but for all living things. Ecological friendly tourism would be a big drawcard. We would appreciate what an amazing world we live in. Our more modest consumption would mean that we would not be driven to earn more and more in order to buy the biggest and latest of everything. This would reduce work stress and give us more leisure time.

Many jobs would be generated from the renewable energy sector and other innovative solutions for addressing climate change. We would move to more innovative and thoughtful ways of mining, agriculture and manufacturing that would not cost the Earth. We would build transitioning from old ways of doing business to new ways of doing business into our economic model. And we would work in partnership with others to achieve our ultimate goal – a sustainable, vibrant and egalitarian future.

Independent MP Zali Steggall has emphasised the positive in a private member’s bill on climate change she is going to introduce to the Australian Parliament on March 23, 2020. She is asking for a conscience vote on the legislation which covers:

  • A positive response to the challenges of climate change
  • National plans for adapting to climate change
  • National plans for reducing greenhouse emissions and
  • Transparent monitoring, reporting and accountability

Of course, it seems when it comes to climate change many MPs don’t have a conscience at all. They are only interested in the here and now, avoiding change at all costs, and demonising any opposition. It is these ignorant, self-interested climate deniers that refuse to heed the risks of their obstruction of action on climate change, that we must challenge vociferously in our war on climate change. We need to call them out.

In the meantime, let’s hope Zali’s legislation gets through. If it does it will be a step forward for reasonableness. But it is the third part of Zali’s legislation that is the most important because it is absolutely time-critical – national plans for reducing greenhouse emissions. For some reason, fundamentally human nature I suspect, many people cannot grasp the concept that there is a deadline for saving the Earth. We are looking at ten years in which to do something concerted and effective to reduce emissions. The years are ticking past and the climate bomb is ticking fast.

The reasonable, conversational approach to change is a very time-consuming process and many of us have been doing it for years and years, and if someone is prepared to have an open discussion, we will continue to do it. However, we simply do not have the time to wait until enough people are convinced through this incremental process. We have waited far, far too long; patiently, reasonably, hopefully, to the point where many of us think it is already too late.

In lieu of a million conversations we need charismatic, authentic leaders who can speak to people on our behalf and convince them to follow a path of transformative change that will address their concerns, but also help them face the reality of climate change with courage, and seek solutions with determination. For it would be deceiving to say that we can tackle climate change without having to give up anything although we can inspire people to think that their self-sacrifice today may lead to a much better future for our children. It was certainly what inspired my parents.

We don’t seem to possess a Winston Churchill, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, or Nelson Mandela. At the moment, our most prominent flag bearers are a 17year old girl and a 93year old man. I look for charismatic, intelligent, well-informed leaders in Australia and I cannot find them. I go to demonstrations demanding action on climate change and the only truly inspirational speakers I find are the young people who are still at school. Who do you think can inspire Australians to want to fight to address climate change, to transform our society, to make a better future?

In the meantime, if we don’t have a single leader who can speak up loudly, clearly and persuasively about the need for urgent action on climate change we can have a million of voices speaking as one. As part of the School Climate Strike movement involving millions of people around the globe, 300,000 Australians gathered at climate change rallies around the country late in 2019. There were lots of ordinary Australians amongst the protesters who called for the Federal Government to commit to:

  • No new coal, oil or gas projects
  • 100 per cent renewable energy generation and exports by 2030
  • Funding for “a just transition and job creation for all fossil fuel industry workers and communities”

The Government ignored them. We need to see if the Government can ignore 600,000 protesting people or can describe a million Australians protesting as a fringe movement. All of us who are alarmed by climate change or concerned about it, need to voice our worries by turning up to the next climate change rally and the one after that, and the one after that. We should not leave it to others to fight the fight we all need to fight.

Every one of us needs to step up in the war against climate change!


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