Below is a short piece I was asked to write for the Messenger masthead of newspapers – a suite of community papers that are distributed across South Australia each week, free to each mailbox. So it’s an excellent place to put forward some simple ideas about renewable energy and climate change and reach a broad audience (i.e. most SA households).
This column accompanied a survey showing that the vast majority of people who responded now support permanent water restrictions and many are already taking positive personal action towards reducing their own environmental footprint. Granted, such self-selecting surveys are likely to be biased towards those who care about such issues to begin with, but it’s encouraging nonetheless.
Now, I beg the indulgence of regular BNC readers, because much of this column is simply a reworking of ideas I’ve discussed (and harped on and belabored) in previous posts – but there are a few new ideas regarding the encouraging link between changing attitudes on water conservation in South Australia (we are currently in a deep and sustained drought) and what is possible for energy efficiency, GreenPower purchases, and support for large-scale renewables.
You’ve got to start somewhere…
Green Power Shift
THERE is no doubt that public opinion on an issue can swing quickly when evidence on the need for change stacks up.
Just think of the old truism “a week is a long time in politics”.
The current worldwide financial crisis is a good example of a situation where a huge problem seemed to suddenly hit global markets.
Yet the root causes of this crisis – poorly secured loans, risky investments and energy insecurity – were long in the making.
It also forced actions by federal governments, such as the part-nationalisation of banks, that would have seemed absurdly improbable to most people just a year or two ago.
So, too, for environmental sustainability. The recent Messenger Community News survey, which elicited 1092 responses, reveals more than four out of every five respondents now want permanent water restrictions in South Australia.
Ninety-eight per cent use some form of environmentally-friendly practice in their gardens and 75 per cent use at least four different methods, such as drip irrigation, mulching, recycled water and drought-resistant plants.
A few years ago, this sort of community consensus on water conservation would have been unthinkable.
My hope is that the same will soon be true of renewable energy and energy conservation. Australia has the potential to be powered from solar, geothermal, wind and wave power and, indeed, to export this energy and know-how to the world.
We just need the collective motivation for change that will bring about a fast transformation.
The signs from the Messenger survey, in terms of the proportion of people now voluntarily investing in green power and energy efficiency measures, are really encouraging.
But we can’t afford to stall on climate change solutions.
If we wait too long, it will be too late and there will be no second chances.
So as a community, let’s decide to be proactive and switch from 20:20 hindsight to a clear and positive vision for our future.
* Barry Brook is the director of Adelaide University’s Institute for Climate Change & Sustainability