Ministers for and against

April 08, 2010

All governments have ministers, who have their various portfolios, which then makes them Minister for something. But what does it really mean? Wilson Tuckey was once the Minister for Forests and Conservation under the Howard Government but it was clear to most people that he was actually Minister against Forests and for clearing them, exemplified by the escalation of woodchipping that took place under his watch. At the moment we have a Minister for Climate Change, but there’s little argument here about what the “for” means, with the Federal Government showing no sign whatsoever of ending its love affair with coal and no commitment to coming up with something useful and effective like a carbon tax.

Last month there was a fabulous forum on climate change as part of the Spirituality in the Pub series in Braidwood, which unfortunately was missed by most people due to inclement weather or football or something. There were two speakers – George Browning – former bishop of Canberra and Goulburn, and Tony Kevin – engineer, economist, diplomat and author, whose latest book is entitled Crunch time. Both gave fascinating and illuminating presentations. One or both speakers mentioned James Hansen, who is seen by many as the world’s most highly respected authority on climate change (and whose new book, for those who are interested, is called Storms of my grandchildren).

Hansen says that if we are to have any hope of impacting on climate change before it is too late, our top priorities need to be 1. to stop burning coal and 2. to not open any more coal mines and use civil disobedience if necessary as part of the process to stop them.

George Browning said that by the time his grandchildren are his age – 67 – they will be using five times the resources that he is now. This is the reality of exponential growth, and not to accept the limitations of the planet is absolute madness. It is a little tedious to be constantly pooh-poohed when one raises the growth issue in council meetings, usually in relation to subdivision. It appears that the dominant thinking is that we should say yes to everything that is proposed, even when staff recommend that we should ask the developer to come back with a revised plan that addresses some of the problems there are likely to be if we don’t. Only last week, at the April The First meeting, council chose to go against the staff recommendation to ask for amended plans (due to concerns about water security, vegetation, stormwater, amenity, etc) for two separate DAs.

So the question is, will the responsibility of the new Minister for Population be to squeeze as many people as possible into Australia? There is little doubt that this will be supported by the business sector, but when are we going to grasp the concept that growth cannot go on forever, and stand up and say so? The definition of sustainability, as used by the body that was the former Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), is that people should have the resources to meet their needs as long as they don’t impinge on the resources of the next generation. If being a Minister for something means you really are for it, perhaps we had better appoint a new Minister – for the Future – but we had better hurry, or there won’t be one.

Comments (0) | More: blog, climate change, community, environment, local government, mining, politics, rights and responsibilities, sustainability, water, woodchipping