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……

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Let’s sit back and listen to the terminator.

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Who would have thought that the man we called the Terminator through the 80s and 90s would be making so much sense about global warming today?   Arnie says it as it is and makes a powerful argument for us to act and act NOW.

Over the years I’ve tried various times to come up with a position that suits my exact personality type when it comes to actions to mitigate global warming and our insatiable appetite for fossil fuel use. While I’m a bit of a ‘green’ heart I’m not really enough to be down with the in-crowed who walk everywhere barefoot, ¬†grow their own sweet potatoes before turning them into chips in their own solar ovens, ¬†tie-dying their own clothes and living in an eco-friendly mud hut. ¬† I’m also not the type to just go out and buy everything just because it’s ‘green’ and I have to admit that I do find it hard to give up my love of the automobile in favour of public transport or my bike. ¬†I can’t even manage to remember by re-usable shopping bags or water bottle every trip in spite of having several that spew out all over the kitchen floor every morning when I go to find a lid for my Tupperware.

Personally I disappoint myself in that regard.

But that’s why I am loving what Arnie has to say!

He’s focusing on the big, common sense stuff in a way that makes sense to those of us who pretty much want to just keep on living, making money and being fabulous.

OK, that sounds a bit conceited¬†and not entirely true. ¬†I am prepared to modify my behaviour in order to help save the planet and have been doing so in a variety of ways but I acknowledge that it is hard and that we¬†(individuals like me) need help from the top down. We need to set up, run and invest in businesses that are doing it right and providing us lazy mortals with solutions that don’t cost the earth. That are good for our economy and our planet. ¬†That allow us to breathe easy into the future!

My own personal philosophy has boiled down to this:

Just because you can afford a maid it doesn’t make it right to live like a pig.¬†

Ok so it’s not elegant or particularly meme worthy but my point is clear enough to me.

We know better, we can do better so let’s get on with it because it is the right thing to do.

That’s pretty much the approach that Arnie has taken and proved WORKS which makes it all the more exciting!

Why wouldn’t you invest in or at least cheerlead¬†something that is clean, economically sound and innovative?

What’s stopping you?

I do sometimes wonder why people are still tying themselves up in knots about the science when at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter as the benefits of renewable technology are there for all to see as are the issues with coal.

Maybe it’s a money thing…..

Or maybe it’s them that are the lazy ones.

Be a good citizen and pick up your own shit and if you can’t bend down, at least praise the shit picker upper for helping keep your world peachy.

Behind the signs

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airport t shirt

The only people that seem to shout abuse at me as I protest are the tradies. ¬†The tradies in their new shiny utes all scrubbed up and expensive looking. The tradies that work bloody hard for a living, that got off their backside and built something, fixed something, created something. ¬†The tradies that have to deal with people like me everyday, people like me who want a new kitchen or bathroom, ¬†need a leaky tap fixed or a new fan putting in. ¬†People like me who don’t understand what it is like to be knee deep in shit on a winters morning.

But people like me do understand.

I am a tradies daughter.

I have been a tradies wife – he is now in retail, I didn’t swap him, he just swapped his job.

I know exactly what it feels like to be a do-er, a mover and shaker, a get-up-and-go’er because as often as I could I’d get up and go with my dad and find out, learn the business that he so playfully told me ‘wasn’t for girls’.

And even now, in my own job while I’m not strictly a tradie myself I am a hard working, self-employed grafter who just happens to graft over batches of cosmetic products and formulas rather than u bends, engine blocks or transistors.

Anyway, to politics…..

Here in Australia the liberal government do a good sales job on the owner-business tradie because they have traditionally been the party for the entrepreneur, the self-starter, the small business owner, the boss.  Thinking back to when I was a child growing up  in England with a tradie father I knew just how much the governments decisions meant to my family, how incentives allowed my dad to get new tools, new vans, houses to do up, tax breaks and training.  All this under Thatcher and to a lesser degree Major.  True Blue.

But those were the 1980’s and 1990’s

Global warming wasn’t much of a thing then.

When Maggie closed the mines it wasn’t coal generated CO2 she was worried about.

And when the UK governments of the day enthusiastically promote renewable energy at least 33% of their enthusiasm comes from fears relating to fuel security.

where does the UK gas come from

But that’s by the by when you are standing by the side of the road holding a ‘No Western Sydney Airport’ sign while being told you are an ‘f’ing wanka’ from the car window of a ute. ¬†I reflect on how I am now just ‘one of them’, ¬†someone who has nothing in common with the ute warriors. ¬†Nothing. Well, that is as far as they can see from their elevated window position.

What I want to say is this, that I appreciate the need for airports here in Australia. ¬†We are a country of migrants, migrants from all four corners of the world. We need to go ‘home’ sometimes, back to where we came from to see parents, siblings, aunties, friends. ¬†And they need to come here. ¬†We need tourists to cater for, show the sights, boost our economy, ¬†we need the suits to come in on the red-eye and make deals for our Aussie made produce and commodities. ¬†We need to be connected.

So when I stand with my ‘No Airport’ sign please don’t take that so literally.

Also, I want to say that we, out west, ‘out there’ also need jobs, good jobs. Jobs that can allow us to own our own homes so that we can renovate and put in that new kitchen or bathroom. ¬†A castle to call our own, to retreat to when our world gets too much.

AND I want to say that we deserve investment, that yes, we are a large and growing area that has been neglected for too long, that still doesn’t have full broadband access DESPITE being less than one hour from a global city.

But I also want to say this.

Not at any cost.

It is not the 1980’s or 1990’s.

We know that carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide are killers. ¬†We know that the seas are heating up and rising, the air quality in Sydney’s basin isn’t winning us any prizes NOW so why make it worse than it needs to be?

The Liberal party mantra of ‘jobs and growth, jobs and growth, jobs and growth’ can still be achieved but it SHOULD be achieved¬†for the west WITHOUT all of that pollution. ¬†Breathing isn’t optional. Our kids, the kids we work so hard for do deserve a future, a healthy as well as wealthy future.

So let’s look at some clean energy job opportunities and see how Australia is stacking up against my old home country of England.

In 2014 the UK’s Solar Trade Association predicted there could be up to 50,000 full-time jobs in the Solar industry between now and 2030. ¬†The number of actual jobs in 2013 was thought to be around 15,620. ¬†That same year sunny old Australia with acres of space was employing 13,300 people – a dramatic rise on the 2008 figure of 1800 employees but still a chunk under the Uk total (although as a percentage of population it would look more impressive). Meanwhile a report by the Climate Institute here in Australia predicted up to 33980 jobs in the electricity energy sector with the majority of those being for clean energy by 2030.¬†¬†So that’s still less than the UK, is not solar specific and is in spite of us experiencing hundreds more hours of sun a year than England achieves. ¬†Maybe there is a jobs and growth opportunity right there for Western Sydney? We certainly have the factory space and work force for manufacturing the solar panels and infrastructure.

In terms of transport I have mentioned before about my love of fast train options as an alternative to air. ¬†Time and time again studies have found fast rail trips of between 300-1500 Km’s to be much more time and energy-efficient than making the equivalent journey by air. ¬†These distances would easily encompass Melbourne – Canberra-Sydney-Newcastle-Brisbane so why not do that?

Australia has a steel industry, we have the ability to manufacture rolling stock and both of those PLUS the running of the train station, ticketing and transport hub would provide jobs and growth so why aren’t we talking about that I wonder?

So back to my ute drivers that spew out abuse as they pass slowly by, held up by traffic lights, congestion and protocol.

I don’t expect everyone to have the same view as me and to reach the same conclusions but I do hope that at least some of the ute driving tradies can stop for a moment and consider that maybe a few of us have walked in their boots before and can see another way. ¬†It isn’t all that radical when you think about it.

 

 

 

The future is Solar for Peru

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I saw a story today about Peru giving free solar panels to its citizens with no electricity and that sparked a thought in me. The project began in 2012 since which time Peru had attracted international investment and support based in its progressive and innovative government energy policies.

rural peruvians solar panels

Rather than immediately contrast that with Australia and feel angry I realised that it is easier to innovate when you have next to nothing. To decentralise power when there is no central power grid to unpick, to boost an economy that is coming off a low base line.

Australia is not like that.

In that moment I wondered if Australia will become the new poor, the left-behinds growing so fat and lethargic that by the time we realise it’s time to change it will be too late.

On that point…..

Australia has 110 years of coal left to mine, good quality coal,  the kind of coal that a coal miner would be proud to mine.  Yet we all know that burning coal releases CO2 and NOx into the atmosphere, hastening global warming, changing the climate.  Australia is pursuing deals with India, Pakistan, Thailand and Vietnam to maintain exports, maintain jobs, maintain much needed income.

Coal Terminals

The Adani project in Queensland is a case in point, this coal mining operation has just won the right to ship the mined coal out across the south end of the Great Barrier Reef and on to India. ¬†A journey that takes the coal out through a protected and beautifully diverse natural wonder. ¬†This project only makes sense on one level and that’s financially.

Queensland tourism industry is worth $8 billion annually.

Queensland coal industry is currently worth around $23 billion pa.

There is little hope that the Great Barrier Reef will be prioritised until those figures switch around.  Will that happen before it is too late?

Anyway……..

I applaud Peru’s government for investing in Solar and for providing solar panels to its citizens while at the same time realising that we can’t expect our government to do the same without a monumental push.

For Australia we have to influence change from the ground up whether it be by unplugging ourselves, protesting decisions on coal mining or voting with our wallets and shopping smarter.

If Australian people want change we have to go after it both politically and practically.

Because it sure as hell ‘ain’t going to come after us any time soon.

Amanda x