I caught up with my assignments 3 days ago, and since then I’ve been catching up with everything else in my life that’s taken a back seat over the last couple of months. So apologies for the flurry of blog posts, but I have to get in quick before the assignments start up again next week!
Amongst my neglected passions is climate change. I know this is a contentious issue for a lot of people so I won’t force my beliefs down anyone’s throat. But… Can anyone honestly say they don’t believe we have caused a lot of pollution?
There is a lot of asthma in my extended family, and I have seen first hand how living near intense sources of pollution – like say a freeway or major road – has exacerbated asthma attacks amongst my nephews and nieces. I have also driven through the La Trobe Valley countless times on the way to somewhere else, and I have wrinkled my nose up at the smell as the car traveled from the clean forests into the pollution haze over the valley*.
So just from the perspective of human health, pollution is not something I can ignore. It has consequences for for me and mine, and I know we are not alone.
Now ask yourself this question : why should we have to suffer the consequences of pollution when the companies creating that pollution do not?
Think about this as well : until fairly recently [last 2 decades?], Melbournians did not have to pay for their water consumption. We paid a set MMBW charge every year [less than $50 from memory] but the water coming from out taps was free. And we used it freely – to wash our cars, water our gardens, fill our swimming pools ad nauseum. Taps were allowed to drip, and no one batted an eyelid if a fire hydrant gushed water for hours. Now we pay for every drop of water we use.
We also have to pay to get rid of our rubbish. My own area is draconian in its efforts to make us reduce and recycle.
If we have to pay for the water we use, and the pollution [rubbish] we create, why is it so inconceivable that business too should have to pay for the pollution it creates?
Companies know exactly how much every part of their product cycle costs, from materials to labour to distribution. They have to know these things because otherwise they cannot calculate their profit. Yet until the introduction of the Carbon Tax, they did not have to factor in the cost of pollution at all. Pollution was free.
Sadly, when something costs you nothing, you don’t have to find a way to reduce it.
From a simple, psychological perspective, I know that no one ever does anything unpleasant unless they have to. Ergo, if we want to reduce pollution for health, or climate change if you believe in it, there has to be a price of some sort on pollution.
But it will end up costing us, the consumers!
Doesn’t everything? When a car company builds a new plant with cutting edge technology [which will save them money in the long run], doesn’t the cost of that plant filter through into the price of the cars in the showroom? You know it does. We barely blink when a business does something to make itself more profitable, even though we end up paying for it. Why should we be so shocked at having to pay when a business is forced to do something to improve our lives?
The difference, I think, is that pollution is not like a bright, shiny new car – it is invisible, and its effects have crept up on us little by little over the years. Like so many things in our modern world, we don’t even notice that it’s there until it makes us very, very sick. The ‘cure’, however, can be very expensive in terms of time, effort and money. Here I’m thinking specifically of Kathryn Chastain Treat. After years of suffering from a severe mold allergy she contracted at her place of work, she is now a little better, but just getting to that point has cost her more than you or I can imagine. And a cure is still just a pipe dream.
Another analogy most of us should be familiar with is the maintenance of the family car. If you have it serviced regularly, those services cost you money that you might otherwise spend on something else, but the car lasts for years. However if you don’t maintain your car and the little bits of damage accumulate over time, eventually that car will break down. At that point you will either have to spend a lot of money getting it repaired, or you will have to spend even more money to replace it.
The moral should be obvious but I’ll spell it out anyway. If we continue to pollute the globe, we will eventually reach a point where it will become unlivable. We can’t replace the earth, so the only option will be to repair it…and that will cost a HUGE amount of money. Essentially that was the gist of the Stern Report.
As a mother, I look at the future as the place in which my childrens’ children will live. I may not be around to suffer the consequences of industrialization myself, but they will, and they are a part of me going forwards. What kind of a parent would I be if I just shrugged pollution off because it might not affect me personally?
The human race faces that same decision now : do we live only for ourselves, or do we live for our children, and their children after them?
This coming Sunday, I’m going to get off my butt and go into the CBD [central business district] of Melbourne to lend my support to the National Day of Climate Action. The venue in Melbourne is Treasury Place, at 11am, but similar events are planned all over Australia :
Melbourne – Treasury Place, 11am
Sydney – Prince Alfred Park, 11am
Canberra – Garema Place, 11am
Brisbane – Queens Park, 10am
Perth – Russell Square, 11am
Adelaide – Elder Park, 11am
Hobart – Parliament Gardens, 12pm
I doubt we’ll achieve a great deal as Tony Abbott clearly believes all Australians are with him on this issue, but I have to do something more than just turning off lights and recycling; I owe it to the future.
* The Latrobe Valley in Victoria, Australia, is where massive power plants generate electricity from brown coal.