Australian news, and some related international items

What is needed is a war on climate change: why are people not voting Green?

Climate crisis demands war footing, but we won’t even vote for the Greens,, By Elizabeth Farrelly
May 18, 2019  The world’s children are demanding that we forget the past and look to the future. Hope? “I don’t want your hope,” says Greta Thunberg, the deadpan Swedish teen who inspired the climate strikes. “I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear.” We’re moved, watching this stuff, but are we listening? Will we act?

recent poll puts climate change atop Australians’ list of perceived threats, with almost two-thirds of us believing it’s situation critical. This is scarcely a surprise, given the unignorable increase in intensity of heatwaves, cyclones, fire and drought, the unassailable axiom that all economies need ecology and the unwelcome news that atmospheric CO2 this week topped 415ppm for the first time in human history – not to mention the kids and their climate strikes. What is surprising is how few of us will vote accordingly.
The evidence is mounting – for climate change, but also for official acceptance of it by our hopelessly laggard institutions. In February, the NSW courts made history by rejecting the Rocky Hill coalmine (in part) for its climate impact. This is huge and will ripple far and wide through the system. Almost more astonishingly, even the NSW government – although still frantically building motorways and increasing coal exports – now thinks it might find room for a little climate change department  within its voluminous but dowdy skirts.
So climate-consciousness is now commonsense. Yet still the party most devoted to it – the Greens – is generally seen as radical and nonsensical. Even those who vote Green do it, one suspects, more as heartfelt protest than from a genuine desire to see the Greens take government.
This anomaly derives both from public misperception of the party and from the party’s refusal of anything resembling discipline in its public persona.
 Leaving parties aside, briefly, what if we did vote for climate? What if, today, a miracle occurred across Australia and we decided, en masse, neither to stuff our ballot-papers down the dunny of rusted-on tribal loyalties nor engage in our usual election scrabble for the goodies, but to vote instead for climate commonsense, for survival? How would that shape the policy agenda?

Chief Justice Brian Preston’s long and scholarly judgment on the Rocky Hill mine is instructive here, noting with refreshing candour that government is tasked to guard the public interest, that this is not served by climate destruction and that the precautionary principle is required by law to be applied to all State Significant Projects.

“The Rocky Hill Coal Project,” wrote Preston, “will yield public benefits, including economic benefits, but it will also have significant negative impacts, including visual, amenity, social and climate change impacts and impacts on the existing, approved and likely preferred uses of land in the vicinity … which are all costs of the project.”
This is important, setting as legal precedent the self-evident fact that climate destruction is a very real cost and yet another way in which the public is routinely required to foot the bill for private gain
Which is the only reason climate change has been allowed to rampage on. We talk much about costs of mitigation and – obvious riposte – the far greater cost of non-mitigation. But there’s a critical difference. Mitigation costs are payable immediately and by the rich, whereas the cost of failure is payable later, by the poor.

Or so the rich (people and countries) like to think. But unless they want, metaphorically speaking, to clean their own toilets they – and especially their kids and grandkids – are umbilically linked to the poor. On anything more than a five-minute time-frame it’s all interconnected. There is no Planet B.

So how would it look, this Green Centre policy platform?
Naturally there’d be a rapid phase-out of fossil fuels, where our still-considerable smarts (despite what we’ve squandered during neoliberal decades) go to capture that vast natural resource, the sun. Every vehicle is electric, most freight is transported by solar train and every horizontal surface not devoted to growing food – be it desert, paddock, rooftop or road – is photovoltaic, generating energy for local use.
With mining thus reduced (and fracking banned), farmland is no longer under siege and the great river systems begin to recover. Petrochemical fertilisers and pesticides, being CO2-intensive, are also phasing out so industrial-scale farming – which kills more than it grows – is dwindling. Instead, regenerative agriculture reappears, building soil and re-planting trees in a way that both enhances water-retention and sequesters CO2.
Such agriculture, necessarily smaller in scale, requires more human input – in particular, intellectual. So country populations are again flourishing. To enhance walkability and urban vitality but also to reduce energy consumption, these towns, like the big cities, have set boundaries, further protecting precious foodlands from sprawl.
To achieve this, under scrutiny from a new federal Independent Commission Against Corruption, political donations have been banned and elections are publicly funded. This has lessened the skewing of politics towards large corporate interests  leaving governments genuinely interested in what people think.

In places where people rejected tower-living, the need for medium density, and for people to like it (since now the developers are not running the show), has placed extra emphasis on both design and consultation.

With the loosening of the developer stranglehold, self-help and co-operative housing has also flourished. The resulting communities, prioritising street life and walkability, render people more engaged and also fitter. Epidemic obesity and diabetes have reduced, paving the way for changes to the health system that shift the emphasis from gargantuan, energy -guzzling, waste-spewing mega-hospitals to smaller local hospitals where sunlight and fresh air reduce energy and enhance healing.

It’s not a pipe dream. It’s not even radical. It simply acknowledges that grabbiness and tribal loyalties are irrelevant. Thunberg told the UN, “we had everything we could wish for and yet now we may have nothing.” Justice Preston puts it more drily. The costs of mining will “exceed the benefits”.

This is war. We’ve a common enemy, measurable in °C, and a common goal – survival. To win we must act with the focus, haste and unity of a war effort.

May 18, 2019 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, election 2019

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