It is an all too familiar song. We all know it. But festival-goers were blessed to have three “new aspiration climate change observers” to sing it again, though we loathe to hear it. Climate change. The message is simple, we are not doing enough, both as individuals in our everyday lives, and as a collective, in the forms of government and industry.
Ian Lowe, an Emeritus Professor of Science, Technology, and Society at Griffith University and President of the Australian Conservation Foundation, and author of A Big Fix spoke about why governments are choosing to do nothing about climate change. “In the short term its politically appealing to do nothing because if you decide to do something, impose a carbon tax or an emissions trading scheme without giving out handouts to all the big polluters, the short term consequences will be electricity will become more expensive, and transport fuel does also, so governments choose to do nothing that will antagonise voters before the next election”.
“The real problem is that the dominant attitudes on both sides of the gangway in parliament house in Canberra still seems to be that it would be acceptable to stabilise the climate as long as it doesn’t slow down the growth of the coal industry, and as long as it doesn’t hurt the aluminium industry.”
Of course the more appropriate attitude would be more like “It’s alright to expand any particular economic activity as long as it’s consistent with our overall duty to keep the planet habitable.”
Anne Summers, journalist and author. (Her latest is the literary thriller, The Lost Mother: A Story of Art and Love, points the green finger at several developed western nations – most notably Australia and the United States – in her demand for initiative and action. Australia is lagging behind other similarly affluent nations in regard to addressing climate change. Many people expect climate change talks in December will result in a ruling that developed countries must reduce carbon emissions by a minimum of 40 percent by 2020. Australia has pledged a target of 25 percent reduction. The US has pledged 4 percent. It would appear that the promises made by Kevin Rudd and Barack Obama are null and void, and that “the disappointments have really let us down”. Britain on the other hand, which shows an impressive willingness to adapt to climate change, is legally committed to cutting emissions by 80%. Unfortunately, the people in our own country who are active on this front remain a minority. “Unless we see the government come on board we are really just whistling in the dark,” said Summers.
Further discussion about Australia’s reluctance to make sacrifices at all levels in response to this threat, revealed some interesting insights and harsh truths. This included a brief “chicken or the egg” discussion on whether initial movements need to be made by the public as consumers or by government and/or industry. There is little doubt that we as consumers can and should adopt habits to which industry will adapt, and in response to which the government will be forced to legislate. Cheryl Kernot reminded us that our power does not end there either, that “we could all do more at local council… like stand up and speak out”. The problem with our government, Kernot presses, is that its “framework rewards polluters. We might be willing to take action, but this will be ineffective if the government does not take initiative”.
Post by Ryan Butler of Murwillumbah, journalism and creative writing student at Griffith University