Some years back, there was a philosophy in mathematics education circles that students should be encouraged to create knowledge via discovery processes.
It is true that finding out how to find out is incredibly valuable, indeed actually invaluable, but the time factor has to click in at some stage.
Also, if every generation had to reinvent the wheel, progress would be abysmally slow!
So, the compromise is to accept some knowledge as fact.
Some of us have the luxury of time to explore what is going on all round the world, to research history and science, compare information sources and check the truthfulness of available information. Others, by the nature of their employment, have to follow this path in order to keep those who employ them suitably informed.
Once upon a time, most democracies employed public servants, whose role was to provide this knowledge source for governments. It was intended to be apolitical, to provide unbiased and factual information and advice, whatever the political flavour of the current government. and to ensure this, employment was permanent and promotion was on merit.
In many countries, including Australia, that system is now well on the way to being destroyed by political masters, who prefer to reduce the size of the Public Service and spend squillions on consultants whose role is to provide the information the politicians want to hear! How will you be called on again to offer advice if it does not suit the political masters?
Gone are the days of “Yes, Minister!” and “Yes, Prime Minister!” with knowledgeable experts heading up government departments!
This is also the age of ready access to information via the internet, so that anyone with a computer, time, ability to compare sources and to fact check can find out what is going on all round the world.
And it is not good!
It is clear that for over a century it has been known that burning fossil fuels could affect the climate. For over 40 years, the fossil fuel industries, having researched the effect increasing use of fossil fuels would have on climate, have funded a disinformation campaign to hide the knowledge of the eventual severity of the man-made disaster which was looming.
In the process, party political funds have been flowing in nicely and, in gratitude, the fossil fuel exploration and extraction ventures have been generously subsidised by governments.
There are other greenhouse gases other than those produced from fossil fuels, and thawing tundra in northern Europe is set to release enormous quantities of methane.
In 2018 the news was released that the rate at which climate change was happening was in fact increasing, and, this year, we learn that we are already past at least one of the tipping points which scientists have alerted us to.
The tipping points relate to the stages of climate change, defined by various temperature increases – that is the average annual global temperature – based on pre-Industrial Revolution temperatures. We are already up by one degree Celsius and we have been warned that increases above 1.5 deg C ensure more severe and more frequent adverse weather events.
The various international commitments made, the most recent being the Paris Agreement, have not been honoured by every signatory, and the latest reports indicate that levels of emissions are still increasing, making it unlikely that the Paris goals will be met.
Many people complain, incorrectly, that China is doing nothing to reduce its emissions, and examination of this graph indicates that total emissions can be divided into three similar sized pieces of pie, one of which represents China. It is worth noting that reduction expectations at Paris were influenced by several factors, one of which was the stage of development of each country – and China was recognised as still being in a catch-up period.
The total of the sectors from India through France is roughly equal to China and includes countries which are already taking significant steps to reduce emissions. The USA is a large part of the remaining third and, despite Trump pulling out of the Paris Agreement, many of the States of the USA are also taking steps in the right direction.
For any country to do as Australia is doing, and hold back from having a plan because others like China are having so much more impact, is totally counterproductive. There are countries less developed than us who will struggle to meet targets, so the most developed countries need to take up the slack. We all live on the same planet, remember!
Fortunately, most of our states and territories, and many communities and individuals, are acting to reduce emissions but for some time now, business and industry have been pleading with the Coalition government to provide guidance by providing a national plan. We need to reduce emission but we also need to tackle pollution with effective recycling on a national scale.
After all, piecemeal introduction of renewable energy sources creates problems for a grid which has been severely neglected after privatisation. Many issues need to be guided by an over-arching plan.
There are, as always, many issues requiring attention. Inequality, Indigenous recognition, regulation of the banking industry and financial institution, reforms for aged care – a never ending list!
BUT – the highest current priority is saving the planet!
The activism of the Extinction Rebellion groups round the world has not necessarily been well received. Nor were the suffragettes or the French revolutionaries!
Somehow governments MUST wake up to the fact that we need a planet before we need a government!
We should all be camping on our federal politicians’ doorsteps demanding action – NOW!
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