Environment

Just days after the ALP replaced Kevin Rudd with Julia Gillard as PM, Rio Tinto boss Tom Albanese delivered a blunt warning to governments around the world, especially Third World governments, not to be tempted to go for what he called “resource nationalism”. “As you know, the original May proposal for a super tax caused a furious national debate in Australia”, Albanese told a gathering of mining executives and big investors at Lord's in London.
Peoplequake: Mass Migration, Ageing Nations & the Coming Population Crash By Fred Pearce Corgi Books, 2010, 352 pages Review by Martin Empson In the 200 years since the Reverend Thomas Malthus first penned his tract, An Essay on the Principle of Population, the question of the “carrying capacity” of the planet has repeatedly appeared. Most recently, mainstream debates around how to solve the question of climate change have boiled down to the simplistic argument that “there are too many people”.
On June 19, six executives — the entire board of Australian mining corporation Sundance Resources — were killed in a plane crash in the Republic of the Congo. Australian politicians and the corporate media emphasised the tragedy of their untimely deaths, showering praise on the deceased.
The New South Wales government welcomed figures released by the state transport department on June 28 showing a slight increase in the proportion of trips taken by public transport in NSW over the 2008/09 year. “In 2008/09 travel by train increased by 3.1 per cent and travel by bus grew by 2.4 per cent whilst car trips fell by 0.8 per cent”, the government website said.
A Washington DC court convicted a repeat-offender in May for a crime that could have seen him spend years in prison. The offender was not a BP executive found guilty of criminal negligence over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Nor was it any other environmental vandal. It was climate change activist Ted Glick. His crime was to hang two banners off the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in September last year.
A series of investigations have cleared the climate scientists at the centre of the “climate gate” scandal of falsifying or suppressing data. In November, a series of leaked emails from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia purporting to show them falsifying data to promote the concept of human-caused global warming were released to the media. This occurred in the lead up to the United Nations December climate summit in Copenhagen.
Wiya! Angela Pamela by the Super Raelene Brothers & the Little Sisters Collective Review by Emma Murphy Wiya! Angela Pamela, a protest song in three languages with an incredibly catchy base and back beat, is the result of collaboration between funk-folk band the Super Raelene Brothers and the Little Sisters Collective, two Alice Springs-based groups. The song, in Western Arrernte and Luritja, with a smattering of English, is in response to — and part of a campaign against — the proposed Angela Pamela uranium mine.
About 250 people attended the Students of Sustainability (SoS) conference at Flinders University in Adelaide over July 4-8. A highlight of the conference was the attendance of the Indigenous Solidarity Rides bus full of passengers on their way from Newcastle to the convergence at Alice Springs. They presented workshops on the NT intervention, its effects on Aboriginal communities and the struggle to repeal the racist laws.
More than 200 people gathered at the Yirara College in Alice Springs over July 6-9 for a conference entitled Defending Indigenous Rights: Land, Law, Culture Convergence. The convergence brought together Aboriginal communities affected by the Northern Territory intervention to speak and coordinate with anti-intervention and Aboriginal rights groups from around the country.
Environmentalists are calling for the state government to cancel a mining lease on North Stradbroke Island, off the coast of Brisbane. Huge quantities of sand on the island has been illegally mined and sold to landscape and building industries. On July 3, the Queensland Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal by mining company Unimin against a Supreme Court ruling in December 2009 that it had carried out illegal mining and sale of the sand.
"The recent campaign by the big mining companies, which brought down PM Kevin Rudd, shows the enormous power of these giant monopolies in our capitalist society”, Socialist Alliance activist Marg Gleeson told a public forum, sponsored by the SA on July 6. "This two-month campaign of lies and distortions by the mining barons was victorious. It underlines exactly who holds the levers of power in our 'democratic' country."
Humanity is in a race against time to avoid the environmental and social catastrophe caused by climate change. At times, it seems we are losing the race. When we look at the sabotage of international summits by the rich countries, or the false solutions peddled by governments and corporate polluters, the challenge we face can seem overwhelming. But globally, there is a rising people’s movement demanding real action on climate. This movement gives reason for hope and inspiration.
From the standpoint of conventional political analysis, Julia Gillard has had a spectacular start to her reign as prime minister. She wrested the position from Kevin Rudd with minimal bloodshed, announced she was going to neutralise the mining tax controversy by negotiating with the mining billionaires and was rewarded with a dramatic turnaround in the opinion polls.
In 2006, the Victorian government committed to introducing a “landmark” Climate Change Bill. At this time, there was growing momentum around the world for legislation that would cut greenhouse gas emissions. This momentum was largely in response to the glacial pace of the international climate change negotiations.
In her opening remarks as Australia’s new prime minister, Julia Gillard said she believed climate change was real and was caused by human activity. What she left unsaid was that she doesn’t believe in doing much to stop it. Former PM Kevin Rudd’s rapid nosedive in the opinion polls coincided with Labor’s April decision to dump its proposed emissions trading scheme until 2013. The scheme itself was radically flawed, but many people still associated it with action on climate change. More than with any other issue, Labor was punished for its perceived backflip on climate.
While G20 leaders barely made mention of the climate crisis at the June 26-27 G20 summit in Toronto, Pablo Solon, Bolivia’s United Nations ambassador, was in town to encourage action on the “Cochabamba protocols”. It is no surprise that Solon, also Bolivia’s chief climate negotiator, was not on the list of special invitees to G20 meetings. In April, Solon and the Bolivian government he represents organised the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Cochabamba.

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