A Slice of Life
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commentary on issues in politics, culture, environment and technology
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06 Jul 08 The Climate Change Political Football

earth wrecking ball On Friday 04/07/2008, in the first comprehensive assessment of the impact on Australia of climate change, Professor Ross Garnaut reported that Australians must pay more for food, petrol and energy or risk a rising death toll, economic loss and destruction of natural wonders such as the Great Barrier Reef.

The Howard Government’s policies on the environment, climate change and global warming: scepticism, inactivity and a steadfast refusal to ratify the Kyoto Protocol did little or nothing to address concerns raised by The Garnaut Report and other similar studies. None the less, it was to some extent highly politically astute. Howard understood that any positive measures in environmental policy would have a huge economic cost and be political poison. However, Howard failed to accurately gauge the mood of the Australian electorate and the piecemeal environmental policies he took to his humiliating 2007 sydney flooded due to global warmingdefeat were seen as too little too late. The rise of the Greens as a force to be reckoned with attests to the fact that the environment is now a major concern to considerable sections of the community.

The Kevin ’07 campaign made considerable ground by declaring environmental policies which at least appeared to have some credibility, as long as the capitulation on the Gunn’s pulp mill is put to one side. There were key Tasmanian seats which might have been put in jeopardy had Labor opposed the mill. The Rudd government has undoubtedly been damaged by the recent trauma over petrol prices. The decision to implement an emissions trading scheme and meet the Kyoto goals is likely to damage Rudd’s government even more among sections of the population that votes with their hip pockets in mind. It may actually improve his standing among those with a genuine concern for the environment. The backroom boys have undoubtedly already weighed up the statistics. Still, the climate change political football is looming more like wrecking ball for both sides of politics.
sydney desertPerhaps this is the fundamental flaw with democracy. It is natural that any government strives to ensure its political survival. To do so, it necessarily introduces short term policies that aim for approval within the next electoral term. Dealing with the environment has always required much longer term vision and a good deal of short term economic pain; making ‘climate scepticism’ a very attractive response.

It seems clear that governments will always create policy agendas in line with voting intentions. The responsibility ultimately falls to the electorate. If the majority aren’t willing to spend more on petrol and make sacrifices to help save the environment governments are unlikely to do anything more than make expedient noises in an attempt to pacify the minority who understand that sacrifices are necessary to ensure the survival of the human species.

The irony is the long term economic cost of ignoring conservation will be much greater than any short term hardships we might endure securing the future. How much prosperity will we enjoy when coastlines are under water and the rest of the country has turned to desert?

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05 Mar 08 Gaza Crisis

Gaza and Israel are on the brink of all-out war – before it is too late, raise a massive global outcry for a ceasefire to stop the violence and protect civilians: Sign the Emergency Petition. The Gaza-Israel crisis is out of control. It’s come to this: bloody full-scale invasion, or a cease-fire.1 With rockets raining down on both sides, Israel launched a ground assault into the Gaza Strip this weekend. Over a hundred combatants and civilians from both sides lie dead.2 The next 48 hours are crucial — Israel’s cabinet will discuss a larger invasion Wednesday. But Hamas floated a Gaza ceasefire months ago, and 64% of Israelis support the idea.

Both sides know they are in a battle for global legitimacy, and international opinion counts. We need a massive global outcry for a cease-fire now – sign the emergency petition below, then forward this message to friends and family. We will deliver our petition to senior Israeli and Palestinian leaders this week, as well as in a major billboard campaign:

avaz.org cease fire now

Citizens on both sides are desperate for safety. Many experts believe that without a ceasefire to stabilize Gaza, there is no chance for achieving a comprehensive peace and a fair two-state deal. While the US still maintains no-one must talk to Hamas, Israel itself has begun to break that taboo, and public reports and our own contacts indicate that European and Arab officials now support a Gaza ceasefire.

Like the Hezbollah-Israel war of 2006, this conflict is spinning out of control. Just as it did then, international pressure can help achieve a ceasefire today. The combatants take public opinion very seriously. So let’s send a united global message to the warring parties to stop the violence – sign the petition and spread the word today:

avav.org sign the petition

The UN has already called for both sides to cease all acts of violence – the European Union, Turkey, Russia, the UK, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and many other states have joined the global chorus. This is not just a war but a growing humanitarian crisis. Last month we met with EU Middle East envoy Marc Otte and senior advisers in European member states to deliver a call for a ceasefire and an internationally-overseen opening of the Gaza crossings, and we have seen progress since from the international community.5 There is much more to do. We’ve campaigned hard for real Middle East talks, but unless Gaza is stabilised, no lasting peace is possible.

Sources:

  1. Invasion or ceasefire :
    Guardian news report on the Israeli debate:
  2. The Times of London news report :
    both sides claiming success, 110 dead:
  3. Missiles now reaching the Israeli city of Ashkelon
  4. 64% of Israelis support ceasefire talks with Hamas
  5. UN and EU call for an end to the violence
  6. European and international policy shifting
  7. International policy positions changing

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