This editorial is being written on the day after the spill in parliament and following the decision of the government to downgrade the National Energy Guarantee (NEG) as the countries energy policy. Perhaps this analysis is water-under-the bridge given all that is happening but here is our two-bobs worth.
One of the interesting components of the NEG debate was how the environment and finances were set in opposition with each other. Economics and ecology (environment) are what we call binary opposites and in that sense they lie in opposition to each other. What tends to happen with binary opposites is that people often employ a dualistic thinking habit and select one component and dismiss the other. What we end up with is all of something and nothing of something else.
In the case of the NEG it was all about lowering power prices and in the end it had little or nothing to do with emissions. At this point in the debate it was economics (1) and ecology (0). And all this happened as the symptoms of climate change raged on around the world – drought in Australia, fires in California, huge floating icebergs off the coast of Iceland, and temperatures of 40 degrees in Europe. The only cry coming from the right wing of the government was to “ditch the Paris agreement” and “let’s build another coal fired power station!”
Is there another pathway that the politicians may have taken? We suggest the following possibility. We recommend ditching dualistic thinking and embracing a cooperative framework which could be called unity or holism. Here is how it works.
In a dualism (like economics and ecology) it is a matter of determining which of the two components is the most significant in terms of its positive impact on the world. The quality that is determined is labelled as the Master, and its opposite becomes the Slave. In our example Ecology is the Master and Economics the Slave since ecology is the foundation ‘stone’ for life on the planet. We can do without money but we can’t do without ecology. Now what is actually happening as evidenced by the NEG debate is the reverse; it is Economics that is proving to be the Master and Ecology its Slave.
This is not to dismiss economics but to place economics within a context that is critical to the survival of the planet.
To re-run the NEG debate using non-dualistic or holistic logic is to raise the emissions target much, much higher than prescribed by the government. In fact, a far better solution would have been to put a price on carbon, and ultimately that will have to happen.
The concept of the Master and the Slave was first mentioned by Einstein. It was later expanded on by Scottish psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist in his book the Master and his Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World.
The duality thinking approach where economics takes all represents a pathway to ultimate destruction. In a metaphorical term it is like driving a car down a road to the edge of the cliff with no intention of taking the foot off the pedal.
Editor: Kerry Cochrane