What is Australia’s role in this mess?
Australia’s current leadership is continuing with the mess made by earlier governments, but is now referring to our environmental policies as Direct Action. It’s difficult for me to take the Abbott government seriously on this initiative, as Abbott referred to climate change as “absolute crap” (Abbott 2010) earlier in his political career. His tenacious and relentless mission to destroy the Gillard government’s carbon tax seems to have resulted in Abbott painting himself into a corner – he can’t perform an about-face (even if he wanted to) and install an ETS or some other mechanism to combat climate change concerns without winding up with egg on his face and more broken promises.
Last year, Abbott stated “Coal is good for humanity, coal is good for prosperity, coal is an essential part of our economic future, here in Australia, and right around the world” (ABC 2014). This utterance illustrated Foster’s contention that Abbott’s focus is “…only on those very limited… solutions that would allow economic expansion and the accumulation of capital to proceed unaltered, unrestricted by the limits of the earth system” (2009, p. 19). Hence, I found Abbott’s statement endowing coal as being Australia’s economic future, when it is a dying industry, laughable. Coal prices continue to steadily fall, with countries in the Western world acknowledging that to place all future interests in coal is not as economically viable as previously thought.
Now, we are facing a summit in Paris later this year, and the international media have been commenting here and there about Australia’s poor reputation in dealing with this global problem – we have leaders who have uninstalled the first step on the way to dealing with the issue (not an ideal one, but a step in recognising the problem, nevertheless). Plus, it is my understanding that Australia “has the highest per capita emissions intensity” than other of the world’s major economies (Milman 2014).
Foster’s Introduction was a great and thoroughly engaging read. I found myself taking lots of notes while I was mentally comparing how Australia functions as a nation in the capitalist realm that embraces what has been referred to as the “Green Industrial Revolution,” the coinage of which Foster (2009, p. 16) attributes to Thomas Friedman.
The Foster reading merely confirmed something which I have known for quite some time: capitalism and neo-liberalism cannot co-exist with environmentalism and sustainability (2009, p. 15). Yet, the Abbott government tries to convince Australians that we can approve the Indian Adani coal mine near Abbot Point in Queensland that will not endanger the Great Barrier Reef. That the allowance of the Chinese Shenhua mine proposed for the Liverpool Plains district in New South Wales will not affect the ground water supplies for the surrounding areas.
Please excuse my anti-Abbott government tirade – alas, his government is not the only one at fault here. However, the problems the world is facing on the subject of the environment and climate change seems to have been magnified by Abbott’s obtuse approach to the issue. What can I say? I’m embarrassed to call myself Australian. There are many other examples I could refer to when answering this question, but for the sake of brevity, I will leave it there.
ABBOTT, T. 2010. Tony Abbott joins The 7.30 Report. In: O’BRIEN, K. (ed.) 7.30 Report. Australia: Australian Broadcasting Corporation. <http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2010/s2808321.htm>.
ABC. 2014. Coal ‘good for humanity’, Prime Minister Tony Abbott says at $3.9b Queensland mine opening. Available: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-10-13/coal-is-good-for-humanity-pm-tony-abbott-says/5810244 [Accessed 31 August 2015].
FOSTER, JB. 2009. Introduction. In: FOSTER, JB. The Ecological Revolution: Making Peace with the Planet. New York: Monthly Review Press.
MILMAN, O. 2014. Carbon emissions: coal reliance puts Australia second on OECD’s dirt list. The Guardian [Online]. Available: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jan/10/carbon-emissions-australias-growth-puts-it-near-top-of-oecd-rankings [Accessed 31 August 2015].