Thank God for the Salvos … Recent reading/viewing on Climate Change and related matters

To get the curious title explained first, go to A Salvation Army for the Earth and watch the cute video there.

This video from “Just Salvos Live” is a great initiative from the Salvation Army in Australia that intros young peeps to some of the issues that surround how climate change affects the poorest of poor around the world.  The show includes inspiring and thought-provoking clips that are great for churches and youth groups, the voices of sisters and brothers where climate change is already taking its toll, interviews with leading youth climate justice campaigners in Australia from the AYCC, and an awkward conversation with me about … sex.


41TTMJ2T15L._SL500_AA300_I’ve enjoyed Environmentalism (linked to the image on the left) for its overview of the variety of attitudes towards nature and humanity over the past three centuries. It is a valuable tool for sorting ideology, Romantic and otherwise, from facts and reasonable propositions and points up cases where good intentions have led to exaggeration or extremism. It is by no means a debunking of climate change science, with which it is not directly concerned. One quote: “Environmental doomsayers bear some responsibility for the growing numbers of consumers who believe they can have their environmental cake and eat it too. Alarmists of the 1960s and 1970s prophesied calamities that, by the century’s close, seemed less and less likely to materialise…”

True enough, but not of itself relevant to the current warnings on climate change.

Another good backgrounder is a documentary from BBC: The Story Of Science -E04 – Can We Have Unlimited Power – 1 of 6. Very interesting on the rise of our present carbon-based world. Can we have unlimited power? Good question.

Can we have unlimited growth? is another good question. One left of field answer that is provocative, but could be suspicious as there are some marks of the whack-job about it, is a documentary: Collapse (2009).

Americans generally like to hear good news. They like to believe that a new president will right old wrongs, that clean energy will replace dirty oil and that fresh thinking will set the economy straight. American pundits tend to restrain their pessimism and hope for the best. But is anyone prepared for the worst?

Meet Michael Ruppert, a different kind of American. A former Lost Angeles police officer turned independent reporter, he predicted the current financial crisis in his self-published newsletter. From the Wilderness, at a time when most Wall Street and Washington analysts were still in denial. Director Chris Smith has shown an affinity for outsiders in films like American Movie and The Yes Men. In Collapse, he departs stylistically from his past documentaries by interviewing Ruppert in a format that recalls the work of Errol Morris and Spalding Gray.

Sitting in a room that looks like a bunker, Ruppert recounts his career as a radical thinker and spells out the crises he sees ahead. He draws upon the same news reports and data available to any Internet user, but he applies a unique interpretation. He is especially passionate about the issue of “peak oil,” the concern raised by scientists since the seventies that the world will eventually run out of fossil fuel.

While other experts debate this issue in measured tones, Ruppert doesn’t hold back at sounding an alarm, portraying an apocalyptic future. Listening to his rapid flow of opinions, the viewer is likely to question some of the rhetoric as paranoid or deluded, and to sway back and forth on what to make of the extremism. Smith lets viewers form their own judgments.

Rating: 9.8/10 (41 votes cast)

Make up your own mind on that one.

Today in the Sydney Morning Herald Ross Gittins – definitely not a whack-job – raises a similar concern: Show us your ticker, Gillard, before you force us to vote.

… I’m not impressed by what we’ve seen of the Gillard government so far. We’ve seen the triumph of political expediency over good government. From her first day she’s left little doubt three running political sores – the mining tax, resentment of boat people and the vacuum left by Labor’s abandonment of its emissions trading scheme – needed to be staunched quick smart if the government’s re-election were to be secured.

But what hasty, amateurish patch-up jobs we’ve seen. Wayne Swan has fudged up figures purporting to show the revenue cost of the deal done with the three biggest mining companies was minor, whereas share market analysts are saying the extra tax to be paid by the companies will be minor. Then we had the fearful muddle over the Timor solution the Timorese hadn’t agreed to, and now we’re getting the climate change policy you have when you don’t have a climate change policy…

We know, despite her protestations, climate change won’t be one of her second-term priorities. She says (correctly) we need to put a price on carbon, but then says she won’t get ahead of public opinion and won’t act on a carbon price until after 2012. Her next term will be spent doing the explaining that should have been done this term.

I fear most of what passes for economic debate in the election campaign will be of little consequence. Labor dumped its emissions trading scheme and emasculated its resource super profits tax for fear of being accused of introducing ”a great big new tax”, but that won’t stop both sides accusing each other of planning to do just that…

Far from spending the next three years chatting about whether to get serious about combating climate change, we need to debate our unquestioned commitment to unlimited economic growth.

Does ever-rising affluence – much of it used to fuel an unending status competition – make us happier as both sides of politics assume? Are we paying a hidden price for it in damage to our family and social relationships? Is it really possible for the rich world to keep increasing its consumption of natural resources while the developing world – led by China and India – rapidly raises its standard of living towards Western levels without this irreparably damaging the ecosystem?

A bit too much for a prime minister from the left desperate to prove she’s not left-wing? Far too threatening a subject for either of the political parties? I fear so. Much safer to have a furious argument about great big new taxes and the budget deficit.

Tomorrow: some more books and other sources I have been delving into lately, but I will conclude with a (possibly) good news story — Out back, opportunities beckon to reduce effect of carbon.

Australia’s outback is a massive carbon bank ready for deposits and its fees would be cheaper than other methods of reducing carbon emissions, says a report to be released today.

Research carried out for the Pew Environment Group investigated five carbon-cutting methods for the outback, which covers three-quarters of Australia. These included reduced land clearance, control of feral animal populations and better fire management.

Most of the changes could be implemented using existing knowledge, said a Pew Environment Group representative, Patrick O’Leary, and could reduce Australia’s annual carbon dioxide emissions by more than 40 million tonnes, or about 7 per cent of present levels, by 2030.

In most cases the changes would cost less than the estimated carbon price under the government’s shelved emissions trading scheme, the report said…

Compare: Storing carbon: motivating landowners is key.