At present the whole world is preoccupied with a major pandemic which has turned life on its head. It is necessarily distracting all of us from what were previously major issues.
Climate change issues, following an unprecedented bush fire season, were well up the list, with people whose lives and livelihoods had been devastatingly affected, hoping for help in recovery.
Corruption in government was very much in the forefront of our minds, too, here in Australia, early this year, with inquiries afoot over the sports rorts affair.
That issue might have threatened to end political careers, and the bush fires had, sadly, taken lives, but the pandemic has been much more sinister and put thousands of lives on the line.
No one can yet predict when the necessary constraints on day to day life will end, we can only be certain that when they do, we will have a very different life from our existence before Covid-19.
Comparing national responses is not much help because every country differs in size, philosophy, culture and, in relation to Covid-19, severity of infection.
So – we are, in one sense, on our own when it comes to planning ahead. Yet, at the same time, we share the planet with all other countries, and our obligations to ensure it has a climate which can support life – not just for mankind, but for as many as possible of all the species we have not yet succeeded in obliterating – remain shared with all mankind.
So – number one priority, in the immediate future, is ensuring that our plans take advantage of the lull in the pattern of global warming which has resulted from the pandemic.
As far as possible and as soon as possible, re-starting industry must commence using renewable energy as soon and to as great an extent as possible. We need to think very carefully about moving away from depending on others when it comes to manufactured goods.
We must re-visit ideas which were on the drawing board – like phasing out fossil fuels for powering transport – but question the viability of electric cars except for urban use and look more closely at hydrogen – the most climate friendly fuel available in unlimited quantities!
Forget Snowy Hydro 2 – too expensive and too environmentally damaging. In fact, that reminds me – I am overlooking a most important step.
We must pass legislation which decrees that all future legislation must take account of its impact on the environment and on human rights, and existing legislation must be amended to meet those same requirements. And those human rights must be determined once and for all.
There are enough existing models to examine and refine and, at the heart of the resulting legislation, keep in mind that every right we claim places an equally demanding onus on us – responsibility.
Freedom of speech carries with it the responsibility to ensure we do not hurt others in the process of expressing our opinions. This approach might help to engender a higher level of empathy in many of our citizens, who not only seem unaware that their public statements might affect others, not always advantageously, but appear not to care, either!
In talking to people who remain unconvinced that renewable energy must become our mainstay, their arguments seem to centre around the accessibility of the materials involved in manufacture and, even more importantly, whether those materials can be suitably recycled when they reach their use by date.
Totally valid concerns which could have been more immediately answered had we still got the research resources which were available before CSIRO was decimated.
So, perhaps stage one needs to be to beef up CSIRO, and also call on all relevant university research areas to join them, in working flat out to research every aspect of viable options in the context of renewable energy and recycling.
One factor in favour of getting higher levels of acceptance of the need to retain improvements in air quality and reduce future levels of emissions is from the growing awareness of what we have lost, as well as the damge that has accrued.
The return to any semblance of universal ‘normal’ will be far from immediate, as the countries which have been slowest to introduce a lock down will necessarily take longer in recovering and repairing their economies.
Australia always prides itself on being up there with the best when it comes to forward thinking and innovation. That pride has not always been well founded, but now is our chance to show both China and the USA, let alone the EU, that we have what it takes when it comes to leading the world in a successful recovery which also shows we have learned our lesson about the necessity of adapting our behaviour in order to reduce the rate of global warming!
After all, present indications are that we have possibly peaked as far as the number of Covid-19 cases is concerned, and, as long as we do not let down our guard too soon, we could well be in the vanguard of the recovery phase!
The fly in the ointment is, of course, political.
Labor’s ideas, on humanely dealing with the impact on the economy and providing support for the unemployed, were initially rejected out of hand, but, fortunately, the politically diverse membership of the National Cabinet ensured that they were, essentially and eventually, adopted.
And, because Scott Morrison, like a one-man band, both in the 2019 election campaign and in the 2020 Covid-19 crisis, has been spokesperson at all times, he has managed to give the impression that the ideas were fully supported by him, maybe even persuading some that they were really his own.
I am sure he is not so stupid as to believe that he can just cast them aside as we come to re-establishing more normal rules for everyday life, but I have a very uncomfortable suspicion that, once the process of gradually returning to an even keel has commenced, he will call a snap election and, glowing in a reputation of having brought the country safely through the crisis, succeed in retaining office, only to return to neo-liberal policies.
I would rather be an optimist than a cynic but I think we have to be very wary over the next 3 to 6 months if we are to really benefit from the fortuitous reduction in emissions!
There are so many issues which require attention and ordering priorities will be critical.
Parliament really should be recalled much sooner than August. The National Cabinet can continue to concentrate on the immediate future, but we cannot afford to wait until restrictions are lifted before we consider how life will continue thereafter.
We have little else to do, for the most part, so let’s get stuck into brainstorming and developing a viable blueprint for post-virus action!
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