This is a hard post to write. It has been bubbling around my consciousness for months, if not years, but I struggle to frame it. It’s too big. Too important. And too lost to the public view. Buried in the politics. I speak, of course, of climate change. How do you react to something like this?
When the leader of one of our major parties – who came within a whisker of becoming the leader of our country – responds to major weather-related devastation with desperate political greed (I don’t know why he didn’t just blame Yasi on Julia Gillard and be done with it).
When the leader of our country responds with taxes to handle the devastation, but is alarmingly silent on the bigger issue of tackling the cause of the devastation.
When the public screams about taxes, cries about “one in a hundred year events” and fails to notice that we get those roughly once a year now.
When the government’s top climate change adviser says “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”
Well. What can you do? I feel a crushing sense of panic building inside me like the mother of all high pressure systems, yet the world seems to be sitting quietly in the eye of the storm, saying “It was a freak event. These things happen.” and then trundling along with business as usual.
Ross Garnaut makes it clear that the science shows these things happening with increasing frequency, and increasing severity – even if we STOP EMITTING CARBON RIGHT NOW. We can’t stop this. But we can make it infinitely worse, unless we get serious about climate change TODAY.
I know the psychology. How human beings aren’t good with threats that aren’t immediate and in our faces. That it’s easier to deny it and snuggle back into our cosy, fossil-fuelled cocoons. What did the man who cut down the last tree on Easter Island say? Well, I think I might have heard his echo, all around the world, over the last few years. He probably blamed the opposition.
I don’t know if we still have a chance to avert total catastrophe. But I know that doing nothing guarantees it. And yet nothing is precisely what we are doing. Sure, individuals ride their bikes, install solar panels, and plant trees. But what we need is urgent, global action on a governmental scale. And it will cost us. But not as much as Yasi’s big brother will cost us. Not as much as Katrina’s mum is going to cost us. Not as much as all the nameless floods, bushfires, droughts and ice storms will cost us.
What does it take for the world to take this seriously? How many people will die? Or is it more a case of which people? The headlines about Yasi are largely economic. Food prices will rise. Eating out will get more expensive. Insurance will get more expensive. Home owners will suffer as inflation rises and interest rates climb. Perhaps if more rich, white people died at the hands of extreme climate events, the media would care. Perhaps then the government would act.
Or perhaps it’s simply something the world won’t get its head around in time.