Editorial May 2019

There are moments when troubles enter our lives and we can do nothing to avoid them. But they are there for a reason. Only when we have overcome them will we understand why they were there.”
Quote from writer Paulo Coelho

The 10th of April should be known, henceforth, as April Fool’s Day. Two events took place which suggest as much. In the first event the Coalition Government signed off on the Adani Coal Mine and indicated in doing so that the mine will have no adverse effect on subterranean water, and by implication, on climate change. Minutes later Greg Mullins, the former Commissioner for Fire and Rescue in NSW and who is a member of the Climate Council, expressed his fear about the world that he now faces as a fire fighter. It was a gripping interview by Fran Kelly on ABC Breakfast when Mullins stated that he was doing the interview because he and his men were frightened about the world that we were heading towards. He stated that the fires he had experienced over the past 12 months were something he had never experienced in 40 years of fighting fires. He stated – and one should emphasise this point – that the fires are a consequence of climate change due to the burning of coal, oil, and, gas. He also stated that many politicians do not understand the science of climate change and, therefore, don’t give it the seriousness it deserves.

In effect, on the 10th of April we have the State’s former most senior fight fighters stating that climate change is real and on the other we have the Federal Government giving provisional agreement to Adani to mine coal, and thereby, literally, adding coal ‘to the fire’. On top of this, and current at the moment of writing, there have been massive protests in the U.K. protesting over lack of action on climate change. Present at those protests was the 16 year old Swedish protester Greta Thunberg who later spoke with British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and accused the British parliament of failing to prevent the likely “end of civilisation as we know it”.

In Australia there have been no protests (save for the student protests some months ago) but a noticeable rise in concern about the changing climate. Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald on April 25th the former liberal leader John Hewson said: “Over and above the cost of living, this is a climate election. Climate has become the principal differentiator, the key indicator of whether there is a plan for the future.”

Let’s look at this from another angle. Why is it that economics and ecology are often pitted against each other as they are in the debate over Adani? There are those who say we’ll all be ruined if we don’t mine coal (hello Barnaby) and provide jobs for workers in Northern Queensland, and those who say we will be ruined, if we do, due to its impact on CO2 levels. That tension is referred to as a duality of thinking where two terms have a binary connection and are opposite in intent. Duality thinkers chose one position over the other and cannot see the sense in trying to understand that position which lies in an opposite direction. In this case (for the right wing of the Nats) it is economics over environment. It’s a case of throw another lump of coal on the fire and keep us in ‘Jobs-n-Growth’, that is, mine the environment to improve our standard of living.

The solution to this, the AIEA believes, is ‘simply’ a matter of learning to think in a holistic way. What do we mean by that? Well in the case of the economics – environment duality, it involves determining which of the two represent the most dominate, the most all- embracing term. In this instance, do we depend on money for our existence or is the environment central to life on the planet! Can we keep on purchasing material good for evermore, and thereby destroying the environment, or do we put emphasis on building the environment and making it healthy and more vibrant. Some would say that economics is Number 1 and that is the argument coming from the right wing of the Coalition. Others, and certainly the Greens, put the environment front and centre. This duality of thinking drives many of our debates and unless we can see that we can’t find a way of thinking in a more creative and exploratory method. In effect, the same old arguments keep on being recycled and fixed positions are, therefore, enforced.

Here is the question that deserves your attention, today!
What is more important, money or the environment? Do you and does civilisation depend on the environment or is financial reward the driver of our decision making? There is a difference. One drives the environment and ultimately harms it, the other allows money to emerge from the environment based on respect and thoughtful, sensitive, and empathetic input into its management.

Kerry Cochrane

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *