By Shane Kavanagh
As another federal election comes and goes, Australia finds itself caught between a choice of two transactional leaders. This was always destined to happen considering that we as a society have consistently failed to think beyond the next year, let alone the next 3 or 30. However, the threat of climate change has caused a stir within the population – a stir which has turned into a cyclone. We all know the threat climate change brings, and while many are proposing the solutions we need to see occur – namely public divestment away from the fossil fuel industry – there is an absence of transitional solutions. We will never see the kind of transitional solutions we need realised with transactional leaders at the helm of public policy. We aren’t talking about a new tax or portfolio – we’re talking about the habitability of the planet.
Let’s look beyond the present and ask ourselves what we can expect as temperatures rise and low-lying regions begin sinking under water: First, we can expect the cost of food and water to skyrocket as food scarcity becomes a front-of-house issue for most of the population. Second, we can expect massive tax hikes to deal with the momentous costs associated with foreign aid as many millions of our neighbours are displaced. This should also be mentioned as a national defence issue. Our regional neighbours can’t be expected to sit silently as the decades roll by and Australia does very little to assist the global effort while we sit pretty in the lucky country. We need our trade to be incredibly strong and our chief export needs to be renewable energy technology which has been manufactured on Australian soil.
There’s very little point in “taking down” the fossil fuel industry without proposing what to replace it with. We need energy and we need to generate it here. If we do not have solutions to generate, harness and export energy from home soil, then we will be dependent on importing it which only translates into more costs for the Australian consumer over time. We already possess a strong mining sector which will continue to be a cornerstone of our economy as we need resources such as iron, lithium, copper, etc. to build the harnesses to capture the sustainable energy that exists all around us.
Let’s be clear; we are already currently digging up these minerals to dig for our fuel. We simply need to focus on the former, forget the latter and move our public investment towards kickstarting Australia’s manufacturing industry in renewable energy technology. This goes far beyond simply building solar panels. We could, if we wanted to, construct enough wind turbines, tidal generators, biomass power plants and geothermal generators in the next 30 years to accommodate for the entire world’s power needs based on today’s levels. Consider that it would only take approximately 90sqkm of solar panels to power Australia’s total energy needs based on 2012 levels while we’re also considering a 90sqkm coal mine to be constructed which will further destroy our Great Barrier Reef. Where are our priorities? Jobs? I’ll weigh 90sqkm of solar panels being installed on every roof-top in the country, including ongoing maintenance and improvements over the next 90 years against Adani’s coal mine every day of the week.
The next industrial revolution is in renewable energy technology. It takes people-power to design, build and install the necessary infrastructure which will fuel Australia’s future. We don’t need politicians with obvious financial ties and motives convincing us that a reduction in the wallets of the 99% is necessary while they heap larger benefits on their own pay packets. We know where their interests lie – self-interest. As Australia hands the reins over to another transactional leader for another 3 or so years of acting during question time that would make Marlon Brando blush, Australians will be looking for somebody to blame. Whether it’s the following election or the one after, becoming a Republic will be a major election issue as the public’s frustrations with the government overflow into unrepentant anger. What Australians will need to ask themselves at that point is whether they want the sitting politicians to decide on the next Constitution for them or whether we will design a system which works for all of us, not just a few.