MAIL COLUMN – ENVIRONMENT AND CLIMATE CHANGE

ENVIRONMENT AND CLIMATE CHANGE July 2015
The 20th century was a remarkable period in the world’s history with the sharp increase in human population and the proliferation of many industries that brought convenience to what was previously a harsh existence. New discoveries for the application of the earth’s resources as well as advances in our knowledge lead to changes in our understanding and use of science and technology, this has also lead to a stronger appreciation of our impact on the earth and what it means for future generations.

The rate of advancement was impressive and those achievements should not be minimised for we all rely on the luxuries afforded by modern convenience today. However, there is room for personal reflection on our individual impact on the earth and how we can reduce it.
The focus of Victorians and media on the need for government to achieve global agreement around emissions reduction and adaptation planning often is a convenient way of deflecting our own personal responsibility. We can change how we do things at home and in the workplace which ultimately determines the environmental footprint we all leave behind.

The reality is that there is nothing in the way of any individual purchasing green power. It is an option through utility companies. There is nothing stopping you from purchasing your own household solar system where you can even earn a dividend from energy suppliers. Photovoltaic systems are far more affordable than even 5 years ago as a result of technological improvements in the materials used in the panels and the manufacture of batteries. There is nothing stopping you from purchasing a rainwater tank to reduce your reliance on our dams, which in turn impacts the availability of water resources needed for environmental flows. Equally there is nothing stopping you from upgrading your lightbulbs to energy efficient LEDs. In fact, subsidies exist to entice more people to take up this highly cost effective and environmentally friendly option.

The surprise funnily enough to some, is that each of these actions, constitutes action on climate change. They are not dependent on governments signing global treaties or committing to new targets. They are about a choice we all make as individuals – young and old. Male and female. I hear some people in the community criticise governments of all persuasions for not offering generous enough rebates or setting targets to stimulate investment in renewables. In some cases I can’t help thinking that it wouldn’t matter how generous the rebate, some people are just not willing to suffer the smallest of inconveniences for the sake of our world. It is frightfully sad when you think just how much the earth has provided for us.

Perhaps it is because I have come from a generation that abhorred waste. For years I have been an advocate of conservation and recycling. The leftovers my husband bemoans are fed to my chooks. We use rainwater for home and to grow veggies. I have planted numerous trees on my property to provide shade that reduces my energy consumption in summer. I recycle my papers, books and clothes. But maybe more importantly, I try to influence the people around me to make the decision to adopt some of these simple practices that contribute to the protection of our environment.

Similarly, business shouldn’t always have to wait for a signal from government before realising the ample opportunities to invest in renewables in Victoria given the nature of our climate. I don’t necessarily agree with targets and grand political gestures which business sometimes overly relies on as the impetus to act. History shows that political targets are seldom met and the grander the gesture the less sustainable the policy tends to be, resulting in jarring dislocation of major industries. In fact, it was the leader of the Victorian Greens who said about Victoria’s former emissions reduction target – “It didn’t actually do anything, it was a PR stunt.”.

My goal in writing this article was not to justify government inaction on important environment issues. Policy will always play a role. My intention is to provide a call to action. Realising we already have the power is more important now than ever before. So I ask what are you, the reader, going to do now to take action on climate change?

Christine Fyffe MP
State Member for Evelyn

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