THE ELECTION OF TRUMP HIGHLIGHTS the extreme political polarisation in the United States, and few issues are as tribal as climate change. From near bipartisanship in the 1970s, views on global warming among Republicans and Democrats diverged in the 1980s and widened into a chasm under Obama.
SPARE A THOUGHT FOR AL GORE. The recent US election must have brought back painful memories of his own knife-edge loss to George W. Bush in 2000. Like fellow Democrat Hillary Clinton, Gore won the popular vote but fell short of the Electoral College votes needed for the presidency.
Then there are the excruciating similarities in his pet policy area, climate change.
ON 28 SEPTEMBER AN EXTREME STORM lashed South Australia and the entire state lost power. How could this have happened?
It’s a question that has occupied the country for the last three weeks as politicians and commentators have peddled their unqualified opinions in an escalating culture war about the role of renewable energy.
‘HOW DO I EVEN BEGIN to come to terms with this barrage of bad news?’ So begins a journal entry I wrote in March this year after reading recent reports on climate change.
WHAT A LOVELY DAY FOR SCRAREMONGERING. On 7 July this year, South Australia experienced a cold snap. As residents turned on their heaters, the still and cloudy conditions meant wind and solar power couldn’t contribute much to meeting electricity demand. The last coal plant at Port August had closed a few months before, pushed out of the market by renewable energy.
DISCONTENT HAS REACHED AUSTRALIA. The brash anti-establishment populism of the Tea Party and Trump in the US, Brexit and UKIP in the UK and a menagerie of left and right parties in Europe has finally washed up on our shores.
BY THE TIME POLLS CLOSE SATURDAY, tens of thousands of voters in marginal seats will have received ‘election scorecards’ from environment groups.
IT’S A CREDO of consumer capitalism: never address the cause when you can create an industry treating the symptoms. This is the logic behind many profitable businesses, from cholesterol-lowering pills that compensate for poor diet and lack of exercise to factories that recycle unnecessary packaging.
Now there’s a new technofix on the table, and it’s called geoengineering.
A FEW WORDS could build political will to tackle climate change much faster. Just a few. The problem is no one is quite sure what they are.
It would have made a great April Fools joke — if it wasn’t only February. On Wednesday, we woke to the news that Greg Hunt, environment minister in the most anti-environment government in Australian history, had been awarded ‘World’s Best Minister’ at an international summit in Dubai.
OH HOW WE LOVE cheaper petrol. After years of writing pain-at-the-pump puns, journalists are giddy at the prospect of prices heading south for once.
I HAVE A cause to promote, but I’m not asking you to sign a petition, lobby your local member of parliament or take to the streets in a procession of orderly outrage. I don’t want you to do anything, because what I want to take action against is taking action itself.
I am proposing a National Day of Not Doing Much.
COMPOST IS ITSELF A COMPOST OF IDEAS. The modern method was invented in the early 1930s when British agricultural scientist Sir Albert Howard witnessed the fertilising techniques of Indian peasant farmers, and began to conduct his own experiments in fermenting agricultural waste. Eastern wisdom, Western science and Mother Earth mysticism combined to create the miraculous process we still use today. Sir Albert’s compost principles, published in 1931, remain as relevant as ever. An efficient compost needs a carbon-nitrogen ratio of about 33:1, which means for every bucket of nitrogen-rich ‘greens’ (kitchen scraps, lawn clippings or weeds) you should add a bucket of carbon-rich ‘browns’ (dried leaves, hay or shredded paper). The trick is to keep the compost moist but not wet; a bit like the texture of a well-wrung-out sponge, or, in Sir Albert’s milieu, a sweaty colonialist’s breeches…
As the Australian public baulks at even a modest carbon price, climate change activists have set their sights on what is pragmatic and convenient, not what is truly necessary, writes Greg Foyster.
ON JUNE 18, the Australian Senate launched an inquiry into “The Abbott Government’s attacks on Australia’s environment, and their effects on our natural heritage and future prosperity”.
Initiated by the Greens, the inquiry lists a litany of grievances: abolishing the Climate Commission and the Biodiversity Fund, attempting to scrap the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and carbon price, cutting funding to Environmental Defenders Offices, and attempting to de-list a swathe of forest from the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Areas.
It was an obvious political ploy, and the message was clear: the Coalition is tearing through Australia’s environmental programs like a Hummer bush-bashing in the Daintree.
SAY YOU’RE IN THE MARKET for a second car. You’ve already got the station wagon to drop off the kids at school, but your partner drives it and you want your own set of wheels, something zippy and hassle-free. You travel into the city for work so it’s got to be small and easy to park in tight spots. And fuel efficient, that’s important too. Money’s tight enough as it is.
If you went shopping for a vehicle with all these characteristics – small, fast, efficient and suitable for short trips into the city – what would you end up with?
You’d end up with a bike.
A FEW WEEKS AGO, as a cool change swept away Melbourne’s mid-January heatwave, my partner and I went for a walk around our block. The air temperature had plummeted about ten degrees in 30 minutes, but as we passed a new two-storey home with no surrounding vegetation and a mound of gravel for a front lawn, I felt a surge of residual warmth. The house’s dark-grey exterior seemed to shimmer with stored-up heat.
Hurrying on, I wondered how this house — and so many others like it — would cope with future heatwaves.
THROUGHOUT THE 2013 Federal election campaign, both major parties have pledged to address ‘cost of living’ pressures. Kevin Rudd used the phrase 14 times during a press conference the day after calling the election, and the Liberal Party includes ‘cost of living’ among its 11-point criticism of Labor on its campaign website. Tony Abbott’s recent announcement of a generous paid parental leave scheme is another example of tapping into middle-class anxiety over making ends meet. But is the average Australian household really ‘doing it tough’?
THE TERM ‘CLIMATE ALARMIST’ is usually reserved for high-profile activists, scientists or politicians — think Bill McKibben, Tim Flannery or Al Gore — who raise concerns about the catastrophic impacts of future global warming. But with the release of some frightening reports over the last 12 months, those who deny the scientific consensus on climate change will have to expand their list of ‘alarmists’ to include some unlikely suspects — the World Bank, PricewaterhouseCoopers and the International Energy Agency.
MY PHONE’S stuffed, and I’ve got to buy a new one. Being young, white and middle class, I’m genetically predisposed to Apple products, so the iPhone seems the natural choice. And oh, I’ve seen what these babies can do. I’ve salivated over the full-colour GPS maps, marvelled at the pinch-zoom and blushed over the vibe app. And yet, I can’t bring myself to buy one of the things. In the back of my head there’s a little voice that says, “Do you really need all that crap?”
I call this voice my inner old codger.
THE YEAR is 2001. You live in a large sharehouse on the south side of town. The place has millions of rooms and people are always coming and going. One day a stranger knocks on the door. ‘Help!’ he shouts. ‘The people in my house are trying to kill me! I need to hide here for a while.’
Instinctively, you reach for the door handle. A wrinkled hand, old yet firm, grabs your wrist. You look up and see your landlord, a bald man with thick rectangular glasses and bushy eyebrows. ‘We will decide who comes to this house and the circumstances in which they come,’ he says, sternly.
He locks the door.
HE WAS the angry driver from Hell.
The green Commodore screeched to a halt, and out stepped a hulking bogan with a shaved head, wraparound sunnies and tattoos from head to toe. He lumbered down the road, stopped face-to-face with the shocked cyclist he had almost run over, drew back his fist and screamed ‘I’m going to punch your head off!’
MANY teenage boys are embarrassed by their mothers. I had good reason to be. When I was in high school, my mother became a professional clown.
As a young woman, she was the person you would least expect to spend her days playing the fool. From what I’ve been told, she was an introvert. She went to teachers’ college, got married and settled into a life of domesticity. Then she hit middle age and flipped out. She threw off her apron and, with it, others’ expectations. She was over 40, she had had her kids, and she would do whatever she wanted, thank you very much. Unfortunately for me, what she wanted to do was wear silly costumes and act like an idiot in front of my friends.
JOURNALISTS and politicians like to talk about the human face of a conflict. But when it comes to the war in Afghanistan and the Australian Government’s arbitrary discrimination of Afghan refugees, we don’t have a human face. We have a series of human numbers. The first is 1005628.
I WAS born in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. I was born in Kashmir, between India and Pakistan. I was born in Iran. I was born in Iraq. I was born in Sri Lanka.
I worked as an architect, building up my business. I worked as a negotiator, liaising with the government. I worked as an engineer. I worked as a veterinarian. I worked as an accountant.
I am a member of the Hazara ethnic group. I am opposed to the government’s occupation of Kashmir. I am a firm believer in women’s rights. I am a whistleblower for government corruption. I am an ethnic Tamil.
I was held down while I watched my father beaten to death. I was kidnapped by the government and taken to an interrogation room. I was knocked out with the butt of a rifle. I was shot three times. I was arrested and put in a camp.
“We’re going to focus collectively as a group to streamline our growth so we can hit the ground running with a win-win. You know what I mean?’’
No. I have absolutely no idea. I can’t count the number of times I’ve sat in a meeting, heard a manager regurgitate buzzwords onto the boardroom table and then nodded as if what he said was perfectly understandable.