Radical ills need bold solutions

By Shepparton News

My journey to that of climate activist began more than a decade ago.

At the beginning it was clouded by confusion, doubt, and uncertainty, but evidence from the world’s best climate scientists quickly erased any scepticism, uneasiness or personal apprehensions.

And just last week a research fellow from the Climate and Energy College at the University of Melbourne, Kate Dooley, wrote that research from her university found that if the climate action from all countries was as inadequate as Australia’s, then the world would be on track for 4°C warming.

That observation is not an isolated view with many counterparts from throughout the world pointing out that even if all commitments made at a Paris Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2015 conference are honoured, and they won’t be, then increases of nearly four degrees are certain.

What does that mean for the Goulburn Valley?

Well, let’s not scare the horses, but things won’t be too good.

Life as we know it will not be much more than a memory and so rather than contest the idea, or collapse into despair, we need to align with our fellows and figure out our response.

Climate emergency declarations are popping up in many places from the British parliament to local governments, as near at the City of Darebin in Melbourne and just last week in the Australian Capital Territory.

However, some fear they are little more than tokenism, rather than planing for and responding actively to the quickly unfolding challenges of climate change.

‘‘Green-washing’’ is common in the corporate segment of our society, but now, some fear, it is being elevated to a state level.

We have a defacto climate emergency in Shepparton: the ‘‘Shepparton Statement’’, driven by City of Shepparton chief executive Peter Harriott and the woman in charge of giving it life, Cheryl Hammer, is, but another name for the declaration of a climate emergency.

It is the youth of today who will face the difficulties created by the present decision-making generation, and those before them, and so through the statement they are being asked for direction; asked how they believe the council, and so the city generally, should respond to the emerging climate challenges.

In his just-published book Falter, Bill McKibben, the man behind the worldwide organisation, 350.org, discussed withdrawal describing it as among the most powerful things we can do.

And that aligns, in a sense, with an idea I put to the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCARRF) a few years ago that was taken up for at least a poster display at its annual conference.

Searching for a response, it became clear that we are too wealthy and subsequently lead and live energy-rich lives that are manifesting climate change and a scenario that is leading to the extinction of many life forms, including you and I, eventually.

The poster, accepted by NCARRF, posited the idea of a four-hour work day for all, but farmers, health and emergency workers and other essential public services, such as education, police and transport.

Also, privately-owned businesses with four or less employees could operate unlimited hours, but beyond that it was four hours each day and no overtime.

Our pay would be less, dramatically so, we would be forced to make do with what we had and with what exists; neighbours would become neighbours again; work would still be a part of our lives, but the nexus between our survival and money would be broken as we would have more time to grow our own food, be intimately involved with our communities and learn to live where we live.

Just several days ago a University of Melbourne lecturer and author, Tim Dunlop, who focuses on the future of work, something he has written about, argued during a public lecture to a packed auditorium, that for the betterment of our communities, and the health of the planet, work was something we should do less of.

And so as McKibben says, its about withdrawal, but in an active sense — withdrawing from the neoliberal paradigm that champions profit and growth at a savage cost to community.

Bold and radical?

Of course, but radical problems can only be resolved by equally bold and radical solutions.

Being a climate activist means staring down the profit and growth champions and putting people clearly ahead of an economic system that has humanity teetering on the edge of the abyss.

Robert McLean is a former News editor.