Keeping the conversation real
It’s difficult to have a conversation about the environment without risking polarised views. I’ve noticed that talking about how humans are behaving towards nature can unleash a peculiar vehemence.
Our extended family regularly debates the importance of doing all the ‘little things’ in our big world and what starts out as a sensible, calm dinner chat can veer off the rails once terms like climate change and carbon tax enter the discussion.
To show support for the environment is apparently to wave a red rag, or perhaps a green one. If someone starts quoting radio shock jocks and miniscule decimals of temperature change I find myself branded, relatively speaking, a raving hippie. Despite my hairfree armpits, lame hairstyle and conservative clothing.
For me, the idea that our beautiful, bountiful environment has become a political football is weird.
The indisputable fact among all the debates is that most of us continue to consume as madly as we are urged to, in a bid to keep ourselves busy and growing and producing and … and… and…
The challenge in our society is to NOT be a rampant consumer. Swimming against the relentless tide of cheap clothes, disposable barbecues and processed-crud-called-food, requires dedicated and sustained effort. Our appreciation of quality seems to have disappeared along with common sense about what is healthy, what makes us happy and how much of everything we really need.
As our world changes around us and because of us, I am reminded of lemmings hurtling towards a cliff. Surely it is clear that we cannot continue the current rate of consumption and scale of pollution?
No, of course the changes we make should not damage Australian businesses. Yes, individuals should be encouraged to make every small effort to reduce negative impact. In between those two statements lies a vast chasm of opportunity.
In imperial terms, it represents infinite political mileage.
Arguing the climate science is to be distracted by the magician’s assistant and miss the trick with the white doves. Focusing the discussion on a single element, carbon, is not helping and, of course, tax as a solution to anything will be inflammatory.
In combination, they have become a tool to divide people when the solution is in unity. Deep down we may all know that, but it is tough to find a way around it.
The palatable political answer is shaping up to be aligning our noble carbon tax to a global trading scheme. As planned, just a bit earlier. The good news is that in twelve months, the tax has reportedly lifted renewable energy use by nearly 30 per cent and reduced electricity emissions by more than seven per cent.
But back to us real people and what we can do about it, reducing emissions through efficiency saves money. Simple.
And, given the seemingly unbridled rise in household costs, there is the option to look local and see what we as individuals can do to reduce our consumption and manage our waste – of food, water, energy and pretty much everything on offer.
This brings seemingly complex and insurmountable problems into a realm where everyone can act. And save money.
Of course, it’s important that the choice to act is available and achievable. There are barriers: home-grown food is not always nearby; tenants are less able to make homes energy efficient than homeowners; we can only ditch the car if there are cycle paths; we are unlikely to recycle if we don’t have a separate bin.
Locally, we need to support everything that enables us to make environment-friendly choices.
Last weekend I again bought well-priced locally grown food at the Buy Bellarine Produce Barn. This initiative has been driven by passionate locals – farmers and consumers – and the results are deliciously affordable. This week I will shop at Food Skil in Labuan Square and have coffee at Urban Bean.
Young people are passionate about supporting these choices – doubtless because it’s their future. Yet, I noted that the recent column from teenager Bronte McHenry was treated with some disdain. It’s critical we support and applaud every effort towards cleaning up our future, particularly by those who will own it.
I asked my three kids, all under twelve, what could be done to help the environment. The unprompted answers were: cheaper transport so we don’t have to use the car so much, stop producing so much plastic and don’t buy so much stuff. How hard is it?
Next time I’m in a debate about the value of separating garbage, turning lights off and all the other small things that will seemingly never change the world, I will maintain that it’s the right thing to do.
And I will listen closely to what the kids say.