I spend a lot of my days trawling the follies of our time. To avoid sinking into the mire of despair I need to keep a firm hold of love and hope and grandchildren. But every now and then something lands too heavily in my heart, and I can only grieve.
Tarwyn Park is the Hunter Valley property where Peter Andrews worked out how to get the water back into the ground, by reconstructing a degraded creek so it flows slowly and the water can soak across the valley. His work is revolutionising the way we live in the Australian landscape, restoring its original productivity and resilience in the face of our challenging climate. We learnt last Monday, May 4th, in the ABC’s Australian Story that Tarwyn Park has been, very reluctantly, sold so it can be dug up for the coal that underlies the valley. It would be hard to find a more apt metaphor for the blind stupidity of Australia’s ruling class.
[I will be taking a break from posting for June-July-August. We will be travelling our large continent, something long deferred. Uluru, Larapinta, Tanami, Kimberley, Hammersly, jarrah, Nullarbor and points along the way.
I may get one more post up. Otherwise that’s it for a while and we’ll see what kind of shape the country and the world are in when we get back. Interesting times, of course. So here’s George Monbiot, one of the saner commentators, writing about something not mentionable in polite company.]
It’s simple. If we can’t change our economic system, our number’s up
It’s the great taboo of our age – and the inability to discuss the pursuit of perpetual growth will prove humanity’s undoing
Two major Australian institutions are in the spotlight at the moment, the Labor Party at its annual national conference, and the media in an enquiry prompted by the Murdoch press’s excesses in Britain. However the deepest problems with them are rarely acknowledged. The Labor Party has become an obstacle to good governance and to a tolerable future for Australia. The media have become more superficial, divisive, and regressive, and they are eroding our open and democratic society.
It is characteristic of some past societies that their highest accomplishments occurred just before a precipitous decline in their fortunes, according to Jared Diamond in his book Collapse. It is less common that a society’s trajectory comprises a slow rise, a plateau and a slow decline. Diamond does cite some societies that were able to shift their strategy and successfully negotiate a crisis, so a crash is not inevitable.
The former pattern, accelerating into a crash, is a signature of a society oblivious to imminent peril. At least, the leadership of the society is oblivious to warning signs of a crisis, and they just keep on doing what they have always done. Or perhaps they become more and more dissolute, like the later rulers of ancient Rome.
There is an eerie sense of unreality in Australian public life. The things our leaders argue about, and the evidence they pay attention to, are largely irrelevant to our real situation, which is one of rising multiple crises. The longer the crises continue unattended, the worse will be the consequences.
There’s not much more to say, really, about how we’re dealing with global warming:
“We’re running an epic experiment on global biophysical systems with only the faintest clue what we’re even doing, much less how to manage it. We know things could go rapidly, irreversibly, horribly wrong, but we’re not sure how likely that is, or when it might happen. So we just blunder ahead at top speed. Because coal is cheap.”
From an article by David Roberts of Grist. He’s commenting on a commentary in Nature Geoscience pointing out that climate models are not good at predicting tipping points.
Newly-installed minority Prime Minister Julia Gillard doesn’t get global warming.
Her chosen minister for “Climate Change” – the sanitised term for global warming – is Greg Combet, a former coal engineer, union official and MP with coal workers in his NSW electorate. He said in an interview with The Australian newspaper, referring to employees of the coal industry,
“I’ve got a responsibility to support those people’s jobs. The coal industry is a very vibrant industry with a strong future. What you’ve got to do is look to how we can achieve in the longer term things like carbon capture and storage for coal-fired power stations.”
So there it is. The Gillard government will continue the fantasy that Australia can reduce greenhouse gas emissions while preserving the coal industry.