As Australian Conservative Politicians Laugh about COALPHOBIA the rest of us quietly install our cheap and effective Solar Systems.

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Whether or not you believe in global warming is irrelevant.

The sun is free and if you are lucky enough to live in Australialand we get a lot of it.

In fact, we sometimes get too much – it helps to make us the skin cancer capital of the world, wreaks havoc with the paintwork on our red cars, breaks down our washing pegs, turns our hair to straw and our washing to cardboard but we still love it because it’s FREE energy.  Yay!

The other week, with Sydney just about to experience its hottest days on record Scott Morrison indulged himself in a little show-and-tell, bringing a lump of coal into parliament, declaring that ‘coal is our future’ and laughing heartily at the Lefties, accusing them of Coalophobia for wanting to move away from this black gold.

coal-is-funny

You can’t blame them on one hand. It would be fair to say that Australia was built on Rock and Coal and it is equally fair to say that thousands of Australians still rely on our coal industry for their weekly wage packets but are they reason enough to keep us locked into a technology that is running out of steam?

I think not, especially given that these days many of us are employed in industries that didn’t exist 50 or even 20 years ago – there are plenty of opportunities out there for jobs and growth building but coal ‘ain’t one of them. Surely with a bit of fore-thought and planning we can create a clean energy jobs market, I mean the solar panels don’t make themselves, they have to be installed, maintained and improved.  Then there’s other clean energy engineering problems to be solved, improvements to be invested in and minds to be engaged.

Australia is in danger of falling behind.

Actually Australia already is behind in terms of government leadership because while the coal is being passed around the parliament a quiet solar revolution is unfolding in and around suburbia and nobody gives a shit about what the pollies think or whether they or anyone else believes in global warming, climate change or coalophobia. People are just doing it because it is cheap.

Two years ago we purchased our property out west and a rough estimate for installing enough solar and battery storage for a family of four was $40-$50,000.  Last week I was quoted around $15,000.  Amazing!

We are not yet fully ready to install solar out west as we are yet to build our house but it is coming.  Talking to our suburban friends and neighbours they are already ahead of us. After taking advantage of government subsidies and rebates a few years back now that the rebate has all but run out the next logical step is storage and unplugging from the grid.  Again I’m not talking here about a colony of greenies living in a woodland forest far, far away from reality. I’m talking engineers, doctors, nurses,  teachers,  builders,  architects, therapists and shop assistants.  People who just got a calculator and worked out that they will be better off going it alone.

And that worries me a bit.

My lefty side comes out right about now and says that’s all very well for those of us that can fork out the $15K or whatever, those of us that own their own house and can make a long-term investment but what about the renters, the elderly, the young and the broke?  Aren’t they the people who the government should be looking after?

Sadly it looks like these guys are left with coal and coal-fired power stations that are old and suffering from under-investment because their rich investors are taking advice from their insurance people and waiting to see what new and sustainable energy policies are coming into law.  As more and more people take themselves off the grid the cost of supplying those left increases.  Lose, lose for the government.  Oh dear.

Now I get why Australian politicians are doing what they are doing but it won’t wash for too much longer because people need power and no matter how much money the government pushes into clean coal advertising, clean coal is going to reach a point where it is just too dear when compared to the ever decreasing costs of solar. Sure you can throw in the diversion of ‘base load power’ and ‘jobs’ and whatever but that won’t wash for long either as soon everyone will know someone who lives a life of luxury off-the-grid with no power bills and anyway, solar is only one possible future solution, it just happens to be quite an obvious one for this sunburned country to excel at.
On that note, Australia has so much to offer the world in terms of alternative energy sources, so much so in fact that only a dinosaur would stick to coal.  And look, a dinosaur is exactly the meme good old progressive politician Cory Bernardi chose to make his point earlier this week.  He’s clearly a man to watch……

australian-conservatives

 

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If A Tree Falls in the Forest & doesn’t end up on an accountants balance sheet as ‘timber’ was its life worth anything?

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Think about it.

That is how we account for nature.

There is nowhere on our current balance sheets to reflect the value of a living tree.

But would giving a living tree a value make it any more precious?

Or would we just fight over who owns it?

And then boast about how many trees we own?

Would we covet them to death?

Would they go in and out of fashion?

I don’t know.

But what I do know is that I dream about a future where the trees can just be trees

and where people like me can breathe

Slowly

and

Deeply.

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Global Warning, It ain’t half hot mum.

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Finally the winds have changed and the temperature has dropped. It’s been too hot and humid for too long and I haven’t liked it one bit.

Look – this data is from the last 31 days, I can vouch for the previous 31 being equally uncomfortable. Eight weeks of heat exhaustion has been gruelling.

Weather from 16th Feb to 19th March

But that’s not ‘global warming’ that’s the weather.

Often when the subject of global warming comes up so too does the fact that our records are very short and that climate is something that is variable and somewhat cyclical.  We know, for example that there have been ice ages and heat waves in the history of the planet.  I remember being told that it was once possible to grow grapes and wear toga’s in wet and grey England thanks to a hot spell, I also remember thinking that would be lovely and that it couldn’t come quick enough but that too tends to happen when we focus on the good side of a situation and ignore the bad – I was a teenager trying to get a summer tan at the time.  Now I also know that too much sun can give you skin cancer.  Oh my goodness….

Anyhow I want to talk a bit about climate change and global warming etcetera, etcetera but I also don’t.  You see I am a scientist by trade and have listened to ‘the science’ and the updates time and time again.  I’ve been both convinced and not so much by what people have to say.  I have to say that when Al Gore first burst onto the scene with his ‘Inconvenient Truth’ monologue he actually made me believe more than ever that this was just some big government con job. It felt like he was trying to recruit people into a cult and my instinct was to seek out the small print, question and challenge, find the flaws.  But I got busy and on the whole ignored it while carrying on trying to live as responsibly and respectfully as I could.

And that’s where I am today.

Since as long as I can remember I’ve believed there to be a better way of living life than burning forests, polluting the air and taking our clean water for granted. I remember questioning my dad about economic growth and ‘more stuff’ back in the 1980’s when I was a just a child.  I was always fascinated by my dads philosophy that each generation gets richer and lives better than the one before.  I’m not sure he still thinks that but back in the 80’s he did and I didn’t.  I was a challenging child…… I couldn’t see how this never-ending upwards spiral could keep on going on a planet with only so much stuff and I still don’t although now I’ve realised that money is just a concept and as long as everyone (or somebody) agrees you sort of can just keep on making it (thanks to fiscal easing for de-coupling currency and commodity).

So I guess what I’m realising is that my thinking about the environment and the economy haven’t really changed much in thirty years and, more importantly that I was on the right track when I was a child. Right for me anyhow.

So where does this leave the global warming situation?

Well it sure has been hot here at home and I’m absolutely noticing the relief that a cool breeze and a 10C drop in temperature and humidity brings but that is ‘just’ the weather.

Whether it is hotter, wetter, dryer or as expected no change in the weather is going to make me question whether my philosophy of life is right or wrong because it clearly is right.

My philosophy like many others that I know is to work with and as part of nature rather than as separate or against it and that requires me to care for and about the environment and make choices based on what will do the least harm for the greatest good or something along those lines.

And these days that is so much easier to do.

Unlike the 1980’s today we have so many more options available to us with regards to power generation, farming practices, consumer goods, modes of transport and more besides.  Now more than ever I feel that every breath taken in trying to argue the stats or ‘whether it is true or not’ would be better placed just doing something better and cleaner.  Now I know that economists and governments have to have strategies and don’t like to take risks and are especially adverse to anything that changes how the economy works (the economy has replaced God as supreme leader)  but I just wish they could explain to me how the risks of being wrong about climate change outweigh the benefits of just being more responsible and respectful of how we treat the planet?

I no longer think that the original science was a con job and it’s not because of the science or the way it was spoken, it’s because of how many powerful people have continued to ignore or oppose it and plough ahead with their old-fashioned polluting ways. This is a major problem here in Australia.  If the science was rigged to the advantage of the power class I’d have expected them to be charging me for the sun by now but they aren’t.  Yet.

So what to do?

Well I don’t know about you but I’m finding these Elvis lyrics just about say it all really:

A little less conversation, a little more action please
All this aggravation ain’t satisfactioning me
A little more bite and a little less bark

A little less fight and a little more spark
Close your mouth and open up your heart and baby satisfy me

Because there is never been a better (or cheaper) time to stop polluting the planet regardless of whether it warms the planet or not.

Well that’s what I think anyway.

Hope for the Planet : Tim Flannery, David Suzuki, Naomi Oreskes at the Sydney Opera House

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On Tuesday evening I attended ‘For Thought: Hope For The Planet’ at the Sydney Opera House.

Tickets for hope for the Planet

If the truth be known I booked it out of morbid curiosity than enthusiasm really as in the past I’ve been a little critical of Tim’s communication style and had even taken to calling him ‘Tim Flappery’ as I feel he is always in a bit of a tizz.  I didn’t that much enjoy his book (I reviewed it here) but felt guilty about my appraisal of him given that he has done nothing BUT try to help the planet which I’m all for. Also I could see that underneath my harsh glare there was a lovely, intelligent and thoughtful person and one who could no doubt teach me much.  I was going along to give him a second chance.

And then there’s David Suziki. I had never really paid much attention to him before either, mainly because I dislike the way he tends to skip a few steps of logic in his arguments, keeping them ‘marketable’ – the over-simplification trap- thus, in my very critical and scientific opinion rendering his arguments less valid. Again this appraisal of a much-loved and probably very nice guy had me feeling a little uneasy about myself, like I needed to ‘pull myself together’ and gain a little perspective.

I have to confess to never having heard of Naomi Oreskes before this event and having not had time to ‘google’ her before the night I turned up with no pre-conceived notions of who or what she was. Lucky for her given my past track record….

So I paid the $59 ish each per ticket and headed on down into town. I even caught the train and ride-shared home – ultra eco-friendly!

Hope for the Planet

So what was the verdict after all that?

David Suzuki was up first.

This guy has a way with words and a presence that is both warming and intellectually stimulating. I can see why everybody loves him and I too found myself nodding and agreeing with his point of view. I especially loved his anecdote about meeting a corporate suit and telling him to ‘leave his CEO title at the door and meet me as one man to another’, something the CEO was reluctant to do.  I loved the way he boiled human rights down to some simple and well-known truths – we need and deserve clean air, clean water and good food.  A philosophy he has popularised and turned into a movement via his  ‘Blue Dot’ foundation.  The way he emphasised that these three things  should be placed above all others in society, before the ‘economy’ and economic growth.  It reminded me of this:

cant eat money

Only my corporate and personal background, my history reminded me of what happens when you say that sort of thing to the business community. Greeny, socialist, leftie, tree-hugger, dreamer, idealist……

When did these things become insults?

And why did the opposite become divorced from these basic human needs and rights?

I don’t know which is more scary a thought.

The one thing that David said that didn’t resonate with me was the comment he made about mankind being naturally aggressive. I think this is worth discussing in a separate blog post as there is so much philosophising to do but my gut is telling me that this is not true.  As much as I am a fan of Darwin and understand that his ‘survival of the fittest’ mantra does hold weight I can’t help but think that applying this to humanity is showing bias towards a religious interpretation of dominion and is therefore flawed.  I say this after just finishing a book about Aboriginal Culture – Dark Emu, Bruce Pascoe.  I see little sign of ‘survival of the fittest’ within that culture and wonder if the blessing of distance and space allowed humans to reach a fuller and deeper emotional growth than societies that grew up in a more invaded and competitive space.  I’d like to explore that further.

Naomi Oreskes.

Interesting, interesting woman  who talked about the history of science and more specifically why we should believe the scientists when it comes to climate change.  Basically she went through the way that the scientific method works and looked at what we do and don’t know until reaching the conclusion that even if the science is wrong we should still probably listen to it as what is the worst thing that could happen?  We would end up with a cleaner, better planet in any case which just has to be a good thing right?  I agree Naomi.

I’ve long been of the mindset that the science doesn’t matter to me in my day-to-day life.  Predictions, models, scenarios etc are all well and good but in reality the environment and the planet is bigger and more complex than we can ever possibly imagine. There is always going to be an element of hope (title of the talks) that we have chosen the right way but just like wearing a seatbelt, eating some vegetables, getting a good night sleep or just saying please and thank you if there IS a better, safer and cleaner way wouldn’t we just do it and not get hung up on the detail?  In this case I think yes.

Tim Flannery.

Aaaahhhhh good old Tim, you were last to speak but by no means least.  Tim spoke about what good things are going on here in Australia and the project that stood out to me most was the greenhouse project in the middle of an arid region of South Australia. Who would have thought it possible to growTomato’s where there is no rain? The greenhouses are watered  by using solar-thermal energy to desalinate water turning salt and sun into some 15 million kilograms of tomatoes, all grown in a pest free environment given the climate and distance from other growing communities.  The very definition of hope!

Tim also talked about the way the Climate Council is funded and is growing, working with businesses and helping to commercialise these fantastic initiatives and bring in investment from all over the world.  At the ‘out there’ conference I attended on Friday this week our very own Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull mentioned that Australia has a terrible history of commercialising new ideas and technology, well I think he should pop his head in to Tim’s office and see what is possible when government sacks you and the people pick up the pieces. Makes me wonder if our government is actually the liability here.

So did I re-mould my personal impressions of Tim after hearing him speak?  Well, yes and no. I have always rooted for Tim and wanted him to do well but he does have a quieter, more apologetic way of communicating than either David or Naomi but I’ve come to realise that this is not something that Tim should fix, it is something that society should accept and relish. The world is tough enough without people like me trying to bully Tim into becoming a hard-nosed fighter like what I am.

As you were Tim, as you were.

Overall it was a thoroughly enjoyable night and one which I will not be forgetting in a hurry.  I have hope for the planet, not least because people like these three are fighting for it.