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A more sustainable Australia: are we ignoring the future?

A more sustainable Australia. As we hit the half-way mark of the 2013 election campaign, we asked academics to look at some of the long-term issues affecting Australia - the issues that will shape our…

Where are Australia’s politicians leading us? Paleontour/Flickr

A more sustainable Australia. As we hit the half-way mark of the 2013 election campaign, we asked academics to look at some of the long-term issues affecting Australia - the issues that will shape our future. We begin with Geoffrey Robinson, who looks at our history of neglecting the future.

Every election campaign in Australia has a focus on marginal seats – a topic of endless frustration to electoral observers. But at least marginal electorates can be seen as microcosms of the nation. There is more ground for concern about the narrow manner in which the current campaign has defined the future interests of Australians.

It would be easy to blame voters for this, to agree with economist John Maynard Keynes that humans are prone to discount the future, but this pattern largely reflects failures of political leadership.

The Coalition seems to be focused on restoring a golden age that ended with the defeat of the Howard government. The threats to the future are seen as resulting from Labor’s record of “debt and deficit”.

Labor campaigners boast of their concern for the future, but the party’s modest policy record calls this commitment into doubt. Even the Greens, apart from their championing of the Labor government’s modest carbon price, have largely focused on the present concerns of left-inclined voters.

This omission on the part of political parties reflects popular understandings of sustainability, which are closely linked to fears of resource depletion. The 1970s texts that launched the modern environmentalist movement, such as authored by Paul Ehrlich and the Club of Rome, were deeply shaped by fears of resource exhaustion. It is now clear that many of these fears were illusory. Fossil fuel reserves are not on the verge of exhaustion, but our overuse of them drives climate change.

The focus of elite panic is no longer resource depletion but concerns about the alleged budgetary implications of an ageing population decades into the future. This panic serves to undercut environmental sustainability, as the “environment” is cast as a luxury that is no longer affordable.

Discussions about sustainability in Australian politics are thus often sidetracked into the politically convenient field of arguments about population levels. The Coalition has promised to add “sustainability” to the title of the Productivity Commission, but this curious promise is largely a leftover from the 2010 campaign. That year Labor ineptly sought to divert voter concern about asylum seekers into a notably incoherent debate about population levels.

In 2002 the Department of Immigration commissioned a major report from CSIRO on the sustainability of Australian resource usage. This final report entitled Future Dilemmas suggested that Australians were a nation of “future eaters”, to use a phrase popularised by Australian academic Tim Flannery.

It contended that the degradation of the natural environment was not taken into account by policy makers and suggested that advocates of rapid population growth explain how Australia could accommodate the equivalent of 90 new cities the size of Canberra over the next 100 years. The report met an anxious response from the Department, was reviewed by unsympathetic economists and condemned to the archives.

The controversy around Future Dilemmas largely put an end to thinking about sustainability at the level of the Commonwealth government. This is unfortunate. Australia has a rich history of attempts to establish institutions and processes that address sustainability.

In 1985, Barry Jones as Science Minister established the Commission for the Future. The Commission was a pioneer voice on the need for a response to the greenhouse effect, but it endured constantly diminishing budgets and was finally wound up in 1998. After Jones’ departure from the ministry he chaired a parliamentary committee on long-term strategies but it did not survive the change of government in 1996.

Jones - despite his vision and enthusiasm - was never an effective political player, but in the early 1990s debates about the sustainability of resource use briefly occupied a central position in Australian politics. In 1987 and 1990 the Labor government of Bob Hawke campaigned for reelection on the basis of its “green” credentials.

However many of its environmental initiatives were deeply unpopular with natural resource industries and with significant sections of the Labor Party. In 1989 the Hawke government established the Resources Assessment Commission with judicial chair in an effort to depoliticise these disputes over questions such as the fate of old-growth forests and mining in Kakadu.

The commission’s short life was unhappy. The resource lobby was unhappy with the commission’s conclusion that public opinion on the question of Kakadu mining should guide policy. In 1993 the Keating government abolished the commission.

In the early 1990s the Labor government sponsored consultations between representatives of government, industry and environmental organisations on “ecologically sustainable development”. The government hoped that these discussions could depoliticise natural resource conflicts.

The discussions were difficult; the issue of old-growth forests was particularly divisive and led many environmentalists to withdraw from the process. The outcome of this process was disappointing.

In 1992 the Australian and state governments agreed to a National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development. This strategy remains in effect but it has limited impact, beyond the provision of yet another “tick a box” criteria for annual reporting.

The Labor government elected in 2007 showed little interest in establishing an institutional focus on sustainability. The sole exception was the Climate Commission, set up in 2011; the Coalition has pledged to abolish it.

Former Labor minister Lindsay Tanner has argued that much of contemporary Australian politics now revolves around stunts and gimmickry. There was a time when advocates of sustainability were able to win the battle of images: forest preservation activists were masters of the media stunt. This victory proved short-lived.

Politicians have caught up, they have learnt how to champion tree planting for the 6PM news and wind back controls on land clearing at the same time.

Pioneer political scientist Alan Davies once argued that Australians had a talent for bureaucracy. This talent expressed itself in novel institutions such as statutory corporations to operate public services and the industrial arbitration system. These institutions often expressed popular aspirations for efficiency and equity more effectively than politicians.

The future of sustainability policy in Australia will depend on developing new institutions.

Thanks to the Sustainable Australia Report 2013 for inspiring this series.

Join the conversation

53 Comments sorted by

  1. Dale Bloom

    Analyst

    I think the problem does not reside solely with politicians.

    There are economists in universities who only speak in terms of growth and GDP, which are obviously incompatible with sustainability or medium to long term environmental preservation.

    There is a definite need for some communication occurring between academics to find an alternative figure that is better than the GDP, such as the GPI.

    http://genuineprogress.net/

    Whatever figure is decided upon, that figure should be incorporated into any communication academics and university staff have with the public or the government.

    If politicians or archaic economists only want to talk in terms of GDP, they will eventually find themselves left behind and becoming totally irrelevant.

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    1. Craig Myatt

      Industrial Designer / R&D

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      Had a quick look at that website...this is much more sensible. GPI is about 'value' produced rather than simply financial value of goods/services produces.

      Use of that measure would genuinely assist a thrust toward sustainability thinking... I hope this measure is taken up and used.

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    2. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Craig Myatt

      There are several alternatives to the GDP.

      http://www.bu.edu/pardee/files/documents/PP-004-GDP.pdf

      An interesting concept is “As GDP increases, overall quality of life often increases up to a point. Beyond this point, increases in GDP are offset by the costs associated with increasing income inequality, loss of leisure time, and natural capital depletion.”

      I personally think that point was reached in Australia some time ago, and a group from the Australian National University found that worldwide, a peak was reached in 1978.

      http://www.forbes.com/sites/laurashin/2013/07/11/why-its-all-been-downhill-since-1978/

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    3. Craig Myatt

      Industrial Designer / R&D

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      Looking at that first paper...community capital....now that is a term which should find its way into political discussions in Australia.

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    4. Craig Myatt

      Industrial Designer / R&D

      In reply to Craig Myatt

      This really is an important discussion, it really cuts to the heart of valuing things other that the economic...perhaps economists really need to work on answering the question: what is the most sensible metric for sustainability reporting...?

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    5. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      "There are economists in universities who only speak in terms of growth and GDP, which are obviously incompatible with sustainability or medium to long term environmental preservation."
      Really? I must have led a sheltered life, as I've met any of them.

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    6. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      The GPI is incoherent and just bizarre. GDP is a positive stat, independent of the gazillion different normative concoctions out there. It looks like they've been around for a few years. Surely, they would bumped into some with some high school Math to tell they are so way offbase it's sad.

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    7. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      Dale, there's a stat out there (by the UN I think) that adjusts GDP for income inequality. Australia comes 2nd, is predicted to move into 1st place this year, and stay at number 1 over the entire periof of their projections past 2025.

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    8. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Craig Myatt

      Craig, none of your alternative stats are capable of valuing anything whatsoever.

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    9. Craig Myatt

      Industrial Designer / R&D

      In reply to David Thompson

      Perhaps...the question couched in the first article mentioned by Dale was a call to establish consensus on a new indicator, which resolutely dealt with how to measure sustainable development, more importantly didn't externalise important aspects of the economy, like unpaid home work. Perhaps you could contribute to this discussion?

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    10. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      Dale, I just had a read of the journal article they discuss in the Forbes article you linked to, about this "GPI". Dude, do you really want to be hanging around with this stuff? Actually published in an academic journal:
      "Globally, GPI/capita does not increase beyond a GDP/capita of
      around $7000/capita. If we distributed income more equitably around the planet, the current world GDP ($67 trillion/yr) could support 9.6 billion people at $7000/capita."
      Never mind that the greatest lift of humanity out of poverty took place from 1970 to 2013. I wonder if I've still got my old Mao cap? ;)

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    11. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to David Thompson

      My name is not "Dude"

      You don’t like the GPI?

      Try the HPI, that is developed from figures mostly available from the UN.

      It incorporates Australia’s GDP and HDI and ecological footprint, giving it a final but very mediocre rating of 76 out of 151 countries.

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  2. Gerard Dean

    Managing Director

    I don't think that many people understand the real meaning of the statement, 'A more sustainable Australia' or 'economically sustainable development'.

    It is not, 'told-growth forests and mining in Kakadu'. That is window dressing - window dressing that makes those in the green movement feel good but does nothing to reduce the load of humans on the planet.

    Those same greens log onto the internet, an internet powered by coal and nuclear energy using an IPad made of copper and plastic from coal. They burn JetA1 fossil fuel in an aluminium and plastic A380 plane to fly to Europe to attend sustainability conferences like Rio.

    Locking up old growth forests won't make Australia economically sustainable - locking us away from lighting and jet travel and movies and air conditioned schools and hot cafe lattes, in fact every modern convenience is the only way to make us sustainable.

    It ain't gonna happen.

    Gerard Dean

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    1. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Same old, same old climate science denial Gerard.

      I keep asking you the same question Gerard but you are very coy about providing the answer.

      In 2012, the National Party with the assistance of the 2 major parties prevented an extension of the ETS to cover aviation emissions.

      Do you support the extension of the ETS to aviation emissions. Or are you a hypocrite?

      "Earlier this month (August 2012) the Commonwealth government and the coalition both supported a motion by the (conservative) National Party calling on Australia to “use all political, diplomatic, and legal tools at its disposal” to ensure that the EU’s emissions trading scheme (ETS) is not applied to Australian aircraft."
      http://www.shapingtomorrowsworld.org/hodgkinsonAviation.html

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    2. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      What? not even hot goats milk latte, sustainably grown, both of them in suburbia?
      Urban goats eat garbage, you know; there must be nothing like goat's milk flavoured like old newspapers and discarded cigarette buts.
      Very green!.
      It ain't gonna happen?
      Just wait.
      You'll be green with envy, Gerard, or nausea?
      Or are you that man, bent on revenge, who keeps his wounds green, in remembrance of some long lost slight?
      There are more greens in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in the philosophies of Mr Dean!

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    3. Gerard Dean

      Managing Director

      In reply to James Hill

      Mr Hill

      One for the facts I see.

      What a joke.

      Gerard Dean

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    4. Gerard Dean

      Managing Director

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      Mr Hansen

      Actually, I believe if the powers that be do want to cut emissions, they should apply the carbon tax to all fossil fuel users including petrol for cars, diesel for trucks, tractors and trains and JetA1 jet fuel.

      It ain't gonna happen because the politicians know this would be total electoral suicide. The politicians know more about human nature than all of the academic boffins who push the climate change wheelbarrow. And that is, the great majority SAY they want action on climate change, but that same majority also want cheap fuel for their cars and cheap flights for their holidays. What they want is words, not actions and that is what our politicians gave them.

      That is why the carbon tax is a nonsense - not because Julia Gillard or Kevin Rudd or Tony Abbot haven't got the guts, rather because we as a nation don't.

      Gerard Dean

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    5. Gerard Dean

      Managing Director

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      Still waiting for the ethical justification for those who tell us not to burn fossil fuel in order to stop climate change, then choose to burn JetA1 fossil fuel for their own pleasure.

      Not one person has yet offered an ethical basis for this duplicitous behaviour.

      Not one.

      Gerard Dean

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    6. Gerard Dean

      Managing Director

      In reply to James Hill

      Mr Hill

      Green with envy? of what - drivel?

      Kindly refer to the article in question, or else the much feared Moderator will strike your comment down. My comment was merely saying that the author was concentrating on the 'window dressing' of sustainable living and ignoring the fact that 7 billion humans are hammering the earth into dust.

      Now, that reminds me that I must fill the 427 cubic inch V8 with fuel in the morning - one never knows when a pumped up Audi or BMW M3 has to be put back into its box at the traffic lights.

      Gerard Dean

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    7. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      @Gerard.

      There is no doubt that if Tony Abbott did have the guts to apply a carbon tax (a policy he once supported), with that bipartisan support, we as a nation would "find" the courage. Certainly the scientists and environmentalists who are the usual target of your anger have the courage because they understand the consequences of not acting.

      But to your straw man. No one is suggesting immediately shutting down the economy. All the proposals involve transitioning away from fossil fuels. Your…

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    8. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      @Gerard

      No one has yet provided you for the ethical justification for eating foods grown with the help of fossil fuels either.

      Have you given your straw men names Gerard? They must seem like family by now.

      The hypocrisy of you position is highlighted by the fact that it is the climate cranks who are preventing the extension of the ETS to aviation emissions.

      "Earlier this month (August 2012) the Commonwealth government and the coalition both supported a motion by the (conservative) National Party calling on Australia to “use all political, diplomatic, and legal tools at its disposal” to ensure that the EU’s emissions trading scheme (ETS) is not applied to Australian aircraft."
      http://www.shapingtomorrowsworld.org/hodgkinsonAviation.html

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    9. Henry Verberne

      Once in the fossil fuel industry but now free to speak up

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      "Those same greens log onto the internet, an internet powered by coal and nuclear energy using an IPad made of copper and plastic from coal. They burn JetA1 fossil fuel in an aluminium and plastic A380 plane to fly to Europe to attend sustainability conferences like Rio".

      That is why fossil fuels need to be progressively replaced by renewables Gerard! And those of us who see an urgent need to make this country more sustainable therefore support this.

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    10. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Now, now Mr Dean you doth protest too much!
      Did not we ( I, worshipfully, include the moderator in this observation) detect a reference to "green" in your previous post?
      And is not my reply to that post a facetious satire of your strongly opinionated views on the subject?
      To which you are entitled but to which no-one is to disturb your equilibrium, there upon your soap box?, with a response?
      And yet you conjure up the spectre of "punitive" "moderation" by way indicating your displeasure at the…

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    11. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      "It ain't gonna happen." Gerard, just a small correction: I sadly have to agree that "It ain't gonna happen voluntarily". We are going to hit the wall, or fall off the cliff if you prefer, whether we plan for it or not. Nature is finite, but our delusions are infinite and no-one seems to notice that we will reach the end of everything we consume, if we continue to consume it at a rate faster than Nature can replenish it.

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    12. Gary Murphy

      Independent Thinker

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      "- one never knows when a pumped up Audi or BMW M3 has to be put back into its box at the traffic lights."

      You had better hope you don't run into a Tesla. It would CRUSH you.

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  3. Theo Pertsinidis

    ALP voter

    The money spent maintaining the coal to energy for property model... can be spent providing every property with solar panels at no cost to the property owner. The money spent maintaining the oil to fuel for cars model... can be spent providing electric cars.

    No different than switching your money from your current insurance provider to another.

    What if the British monarchy only existed if it solely relied on citizen donations?

    Would you donate to the monarch fantasy and keep it alive?

    The donation model is better than the compulsory tax to monarchy model.

    Read My Thoughts at https://sites.google.com/site/theopert

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    1. Gerard Dean

      Managing Director

      In reply to Theo Pertsinidis

      Mr Pertsinidis

      You really have got not idea.

      If you covered every house in Australia with solar panels, it would barely make 10% of the total power used by the occupants of the house in their daily life..

      Where are you going to get the other 90% - wind?

      The fact is that modern humans are energy eating monsters, you, me, everyone.

      Enjoy it while it lasts, because when it is gone, things are going to be very interesting on this big planet named Easter Island II

      Mr Hansen knows what I mean.

      Gerard Dean

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    2. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      "If you covered every house in Australia with solar panels, it would barely make 10% of the total power used by the occupants of the house in their daily life.."

      That is not true. You just made those figures up.

      In the USA, buildings are responsible for 36 percent of total energy use and 65 percent of electricity consumption. There is no reason why that would be any different here.

      Using largely off the shelf technology including solar PV and with an emphasis on reducing demand by better design, Australian households can get close to emissions free.
      https://theconversation.com/how-to-have-zero-emissions-housing-and-tiny-power-bills-in-ten-years-16799

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  4. James Hill

    Industrial Designer

    I suppose it would entirely crass and unforgiveable to mention that The International Greens Party Principle of Ecologically Sustainable Development, as promoted by Gro Harlem Brundtland, and now changed locally to Ecological Sustainability, will soon be entering its fifth decade?
    Just in case anyone is interested in giving credit where credit is due?
    Well, I didn't really think so, given the abiding depth of deliberate political ignorance on the subject over tens and tens of years.

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    1. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to James Hill

      The connection between ecological sustainability and inter-generational equity, as promoted by Gro Harlem Brundtland, might have made a welcome addition to the article.
      So here it is.

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    2. Gerard Dean

      Managing Director

      In reply to James Hill

      And pray Mr Hill, why not tell all of the other readers where the International Greens Party had their recent Young Greens Congress.

      Dakkar, Senegal no less. And how exactly did these young Greens get to Senegal Mr Hill?

      Did they swim? Did they walk? Did they sail? No, No, No, they BURNT JETA1 Fossil Fuel to fly to Senegal Mr Hill.

      I think we can safely say that you are giving credit where credit is not due.

      Gerard Dean

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    3. Gerard Dean

      Managing Director

      In reply to James Hill

      When discussing Gro Harlem Brundtland, is that when she lived in Norway or southern France.

      And just how did she commute from Norway to southern France. And when she got sick, did she not call on all of the powers of the western scientific and industrial world to make her well.

      Lift your game commentators.

      Gerard Dean

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    4. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Lifted on flights of fantasy, as in your arguments, Mr Dean?
      Gro Harlem Brundtland, a former Prime Minister of Norway, and her report to The United Nations on intergenerational equity is so well known by all commentators that you can just soar over its contents with a request to said commentators to lift their game.
      Et Tu Gerardus.

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    5. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      We then presume that the Senegalese Greens, who hosted the event, must under your proposed regime of no jet travel, never ever do any such hosting?
      Now that would be perfectly reasonable if somewhat harsh if there were no actual trade in carbon credits which compensated for said fossil jet fuel use.
      Then you have that "terrible" Branson fellow over at Virgin actually using biologically derived jet fuel.
      But all this does overlook the unaccounted problems of high atmospheric pollution which persist with jet flights.
      There is an airline in Brazil which uses ethanol as the fuel for its engines, and flies at lower altitudes, so flying is not entirely written off then?
      Still not good enough Gerard?
      Don't descend into irreversible curmudgeonry, your arguments do have some merit, though your solutions are somewhat sparse.
      Perhaps you could change that?

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  5. Glen Warner

    Urban Planner at GCI

    The problem with institutions as a solution in the the modern political landscape is that they are seen as eminently malleable, hence the near constant state of public service restructure that is the real constraint on national productivity. It seems that unless it is the Most Sacred and Esoteric Society of the Reserve Bank Economystics, any agency is open for rationalisation. As sustainability requires stable, long-term vision the only way I see any institution being able to deliver it in Australia is if there was a constitutional or multi-national basis for its existence. Such as with the Reserve Bank which is required for us to effectively participate within global markets.

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    1. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Glen Warner

      And there is that Royal Commission into "Institutions", happening right now, which confirms your misgivings on the subject.
      If you will forgive this rude interjection, into your informative post, Glen.

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    2. Gerard Dean

      Managing Director

      In reply to Glen Warner

      And your point is.........?

      Gerard Dean

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  6. Neville Mattick
    Neville Mattick is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Grazier: ALP Member at A 4th Generation Grazing Station

    A really interesting and balanced article thank you.

    I can't help thinking that in a mineral extractive dominated economy // society // and, even government that Science and Sustainability have completely left the debate.

    Consider; in the era of Prime Minister Abbott that those will prosper much further than the powerfully muted attempts of the Rudd Government and its dismantled MRRT for example.

    The society at large will feel the effect of the "suppository" at the "locus in quo" within months as the short term view; suited to many, is put in to place.

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    1. Gerard Dean

      Managing Director

      In reply to Neville Mattick

      If you don't like minerals Mr Mattick why not stop using your computer, and lights, and car, and tractor, and ute, and Lister shearing blades and electric motors in your shearing shed and chemicals and drenches and, well, just about everything.

      But, like almost everyone who fires off glib motherhood statements, your words are just words.

      You, like me and the billions of other humans on this planet are inextricably entwined with the mineral extractive economy.

      And I almost forgot, you can stop using drugs and printers and newspapers and movies and, well everything except food. And the funny thing is, if we didn't have all of the things we gain from the earth, there is no way we could grow enough food with our bare hands to feed ourselves.

      Gerard Dean

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  7. Lee Emmett

    Guest House Manager

    When Tony Abbott talks of removing green tape, and state governments like Denis Napthine's are comfortable with 99-year leases in National Parks, 'sustainability' may well become a thing of the past.

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  8. Craig Myatt

    Industrial Designer / R&D

    Two things.

    Sustainability is not well defined in this article. It is best described as essentially meeting the needs of the present, without compromising those of future generations. That is, living economically, socially and environmentally within our means, so that in 10, 20, 50 years, people can thank us for our stewardship of the world they inherit. This website is a good source of information on sustainability reporting - http://www.globalreporting.org

    This unwholesome influence over…

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    1. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Craig Myatt

      "Sustainability is not well defined in this article. It is best described as essentially meeting the needs of the present, without compromising those of future generations."
      Craig tell us how you achieve this. Do you use tarot cards, a crystal ball, a horoscope, perhaps? No, no, I've got it. It's a Ouija board, isn't it!

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  9. Jenny Goldie

    population and climate activist

    The history is interesting but largely useless. There has been a rapid decline in various commodities in the past decade and rapid deterioration in the climate so we can't learn very much from history.

    Robinson claims that the "1970s texts that launched the modern environmentalist movement, such as authored by Paul Ehrlich and the Club of Rome, were deeply shaped by fears of resource exhaustion. It is now clear that many of these fears were illusory. Fossil fuel reserves are not on the verge…

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    1. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Jenny Goldie

      Jenny, Paul Ehrlich didn't have a clue. The real hero and true seer was Thomas Malthus.

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  10. Michael Lardelli

    logged in via Facebook

    I just love it when people take cheap shots at the Club of Rome claiming that resources, especially fossil fuel resources are not limiting. I notice that you did not support your comment on that with a link. The point with fossil fuel resources is not the imagined total size of the resource but the rate at which the resource can be produced. It is energy flow that drives the economy and if the rate of energy flow decreases then economic activity must decrease. The new "vast" unconventional fossil fuel sources claimed by the FF companies can only be produced slowly and will soon not be able to compensate for the drop-off in conventional oil production. Here is a link worth looking at:

    "Peak Mining" by Dr Simon Michaux
    http://www.resilience.org/stories/2013-08-15/peak-mining-implications-for-natural-resource-management

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    1. Arthur James Egleton Robey

      Industrial Electrician

      In reply to Michael Lardelli

      You noticed that too Mr Lardelli.
      One declarative statement, one wave of the limp wrist and the Limits to Growth, business as usual, curves are banished forever.
      That bit about Oil Never Running Out was a hoot. Only an academic could utter such horns-waggle.
      This is an experiment you can try at home.
      Make a milkshake. Insert a straw- suck. Write down the results. The milk shake level goes down. For extra credits get a friend to insert a straw. Both of you suck. Notice how the rate at which the level drops doubles.
      Get all your friends to insert straws and suck. Soon you will hear a strange slurping noise.
      That slurping noise is the sound of Fracking.
      The oil is not going to run out. It is running out.
      since 2005 the maximum rat of extraction has been 85 000 barrels a day. Despite the price being near on $100 a barrel. Any less ant the oilmen make a loss. Not worth their getting out of bed.

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  11. Michael Shand

    Software Tester

    So when the leader of the greens talks constantly about decoupling our economy from fossil fuel consumption, talks about the boat people never going away and only increasing with climate refugees, talks about high speed rail for the future, talks about the importance of education and above all cutting emmissions by 90% and transitioning into a future economy

    apparently none of this is forward thinking - if this doesn't represent forward thinking then I have no idea what you are talking about and more to the point, I'm pretty sure you have no idea either

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  12. Stewart Scott-Irving

    Education Consultant

    I have been co-ordinating a proposed Team of Independents nationally to offer voters a 3rd alternative to the current 2-party-by-default-preferential system. Those endorsed will submit all legislation to their constituents in a referendum-type vote... the exceptions being those requiring emergency responses... natural disaster, epidemic or urgent security risks. A true polling outcome. The role of the member will be to gather supporting and non-supporting material, seek contributed amendments, educate and vote according to the polling of constituents. Some of the first will be to remove State Governments, make home loan interest tax deductible for all and provide income splitting tax benefits for "married" couples. The raising of the GST levy to 15 % would receive strong consideration.... wallabistew@yahoo.com.au

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  13. Doug Hutcheson

    Poet

    "Fossil fuel reserves are not on the verge of exhaustion": true, but AFFORDABLE reserves are already largely diminished. Peak Oil is not concerned with when the resource will run out, but when it's supply cannot meet demand. When it takes the energy of a barrel of oil to extract a barrel of oil, clearly the process will grind to a halt, even if there are billions of barrels still locked up in the rock. Peak Oil tells us that there is an upper limit to the amount of oil that can be recovered at any given time and demand is accelerating faster than supply, the result being diminished supplies and higher prices. It is a death spiral and we are currently circling the plug hole.

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  14. Andrew Smith

    Education Consultant at Australian & International Education Centre

    You cannot mention Paul Ehrlich without referring to John Tanton, with whom he formed the advocacy group Zero Population Growth (but he appears to have distanced himself publicly).

    'Nativists in America have been working to enlist environmentalists as allies since the late 1960s. This is partly due to the fact that many leaders of the contemporary anti-immigration movement first came to immigration issues from the left, typically as a result of their interest in environmentalism and, more precisely…

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    1. Jenny Goldie

      population and climate activist

      In reply to Andrew Smith

      It is interesting the way that those that profit from high population growth rates are now pulling out the race card to discredit organisations such as Sustainable Population Australia (SPA) and the US-based Progressives for Immigration Reform (PFIR). They must be getting desperate. SPA has since its inception had a very clear aim to reject any selection of immigrants on the basis of race or ethnicity. It has wanted "low" immigration rather than "no" immigration. The current level of immigration…

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  15. David Thompson

    Marketing Research

    Actually, Keynes' more profound sneer was
    "“The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.”
    Welcome to The Conversation. ;)

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