Not Tree-Hugging Nonsense

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For too long investment in renewable energy, electric cars, sustainable agriculture and a swag of other activities has been seen as the preserve of alternative individuals in our society.  These people are often derogatorily referred to as tree-hugging greenies by those who do not share their values or see the urgency in transitioning our communities to more sustainable practices.

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The Australian government continues to refuse to accept that exponential economic growth at the expense of environmental protection is not the key to our future.

However, I believe the tide is turning.  I have read several articles in the past few days in which the impact of climate change is of concern.  Doctors are identifying health issues, global banks are withdrawing funding for coal mines and an Australian private health fund has announced that it is divesting itself from fossil fuels on the grounds that it cannot reconcile supporting an industry which harms the health and well-being of its members.

This one from APRA (Australian Prudential Regulation Authority) is close to home and should be a stark warning to the government that they simply cannot continue on their current trajectory with regard to action on climate change and support of power generation from non-renewable sources such as coal..

As the support for the coal industry wanes and associated funding options begin to evaporate, the government is determined to push on with its agenda of coal at any cost.   The latest idea is to use the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) to fund the establishment of more coal-fired power stations using ‘clean coal’ technology.  This is an absolute disgrace and should be stopped.

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Joining the Dots

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I have just checked my blog and realised that it is now 6 days since I last posted.  Why?  Well, I could tell you about how busy I have been but that is not really true.  Life has been ticking along and there has been plenty of activity.  On Wednesday I took our 2 granddaughters to see the matinee performance of “Matilda – The Musical”.  This was their Christmas gift from us and we all thoroughly enjoyed it.  Then I spent Thursday and Friday in Sydney on work-related business so there really has not been a huge amount of time for blogging.

However, the real truth is that I have felt so overwhelmed by the recent political events, both domestic and international, that it has been quite difficult to think about writing about the simple things that I do here at home.  When you add in a dose of exceptionally hot weather the inertia really takes over.

It is difficult not to despair when the Treasurer of this nation (supported by his colleagues) brings a lump of coal into the parliament and mercilessly mocks those for whom climate change is a real and present threat.  This, in a week where much of the country is sweltering through some of the highest temperatures on record and it is set to be even worse in Queensland tomorrow.

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What will it take for these dinosaurs to understand that we are living with climate change here and now and there is a real risk to public health?  Yet their answer is to dig up more coal to supposedly generate cheaper power for the air-conditioners which are deemed essential to cope with the environment we have created.  Will they ever manage to join the dots and work out that the solution is not digging up more coal?

Here are a few basic statistics from NASA.  15 of the hottest 16 years on record have been since 2001.  Climate change, perhaps?  Why would our government believe that?  A lump of coal is much more fun!

This article should be compulsory reading for all of our politicians.

 

 

Memo to Mr Abbott

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This post from Not Forgotten is a reminder that coal is not good for humanity.

A Blog about Smog

I don’t think that I can spend a month in China and not say something about the smog.  From the first day we arrived in Yangshou I have felt disoriented, as if my senses have shut down and I am unable to “tell” what the weather will do. The sky is unlike anything I have seen before and the air feels different. While there have been some gloriously clear days, in general, a grey haze hangs in the air and it feels oppressive.  Steven and I have both been coughing since we arrived and I am convinced that it is smog irritation.  Steven is a well managed asthmatic and I have feared that the smog would set off an attack but thankfully this has not happened.  Before we left for China, friends who visit here often for work warned us about the smog and they check the air quality before they travel.

I am writing this in Xining, at the edge of the Tibetan Plateau on the 23 floor of the hotel.  I look across at the other skyscrapers and the dirty haze just hangs in the sky.  It horrifies me that I am breathing that air. Do children who grow up with this think it’s ordinary weather? How long would you have to be here before you started to accept this as normal, that a really smoggy day was just a bad day?

Today in Xining the Air Quality Index is 134 which means it falls in the “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” category. Apparently the general public, like me, wont be affected, but Steve with his asthma may be affected.  To give you a comparison, Brisbane, where we live, was 45 on the same day, in the “Good” category.

In Beijing I read an article in a magazine for expatriates living there.  A man discussed his dilemma about staying and working in a country he loved now that he had a young child. He had been ok about putting himself in the unhealthy environment but felt completely different when he made that unhealthy choice for his child. Lucky him, he had the choice of whether to leave or not, the Chinese don’t.

P1090187 (2)The cause of the pollution is complex, but I understand that it comes predominantly from traffic and coal fired power plants, and that China’s rapid growth fuels the pollution. The development here is mind boggling. Everywhere we go there are skyscrapers being built, not just one 30 storey building at a time but groups of 9 or 10 skyscrapers being erected at the same time and there might be five or six groups in a row creating a forest of skyscrapers. There’s a lot of production and transportation that goes into that enormous level of development.

Consider this for a moment, China produces 70% of all solar panels in the world. In Australia we pat ourselves on the back for using solar panels and happily buy them from China, and yet the production of these panels takes a large amount of water, a precious resource in China, and creates a lot of toxic waste.

China is taking action to address the pollution problem but it is difficult to get a balanced report on this.  There is a lot of propaganda from China and the West about China’s pollution and its actions to address it, but in 2013 the Economist reported “the remarkable thing is not what China has failed to do but what it has achieved, especially in reining in carbon dioxide. Its carbon emissions are growing at half the rate of GDP, a bit better than the global average. China has also boosted investment in renewable energy far more than any other country. It has the world’s most ambitious plans for building new nuclear power stations.”

I certainly don’t know the answer but I do know that this environment is not ok for people to live in. On those rare occasions when I get the opportunity to talk to Chinese people in English, and tell them we are going to Lhasa, the first thing they say is that the air there is clear and you can see the blue sky. That is profoundly sad.

If you want to read more try these links:

http://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21583245-china-worlds-worst-polluter-largest-investor-green-energy-its-rise-will-have

http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/china-tries-new-tactic-combat-pollution-transparency

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pollution_in_China