Enabling change in our Society, Environment and Economy (SEE)

Surviving Earth

Mass Suicide Prevention

By Lucia Mayo, SEE-Change Woden member.

  • Filmed mainly in Australia.
  • John Curtin School of Medical Research ANU 8th December 2014
  • Organisers: Jane Olsen, Lyn Goldsworthy from Population focus group

Surviving Earth is based around a radio interview with the director Peter Charles Downey. Peter, who in turn, interviews the late Professor Tony McMichael, Professors Tim Flannery, Ian Lowe, Ian Dunlop, Paul Ehrlich, Roger Short, and David Lindenmayer, Dr Simon Michaux, Major-General Michael Jeffery, Bindi Irwin, Uncle Bob Randall and David Holmgren.

The film was followed by a panel discussion with Professor Lowe, Dr Stephen Bygrave, Julian Cribb, Dr Peter Tait and David Holmgren. The MC was Jenny Goldie.

  • Mark Rogers -Radio DJ- on population “Not Doomsday, Just Mathematics”
  • Bindi Irwin-on population “we control animal populations, why not humans?”
  • Family planning – unmet demand from women for contraception. Education of girls and women essential.
  • Tim Flannery- on climate change “We cannot leave it up to the fickleness and whim of politicians. We must stand up and be counted not just at rallies but by any means within the law.”
  • Professor Anthony McMichael “There are solutions – ALL problems need to be addressed not just one.”
  • We cannot rely on politicians WE HAVE TO ACT
  • Neither fossil fuels nor nuclear are viable, whilst 100% renewables are cost effective and possible right now.
  • There are planetary limits to the never ending growth model 
  • Facts are certain enough for Action
  • We have the brains but do we have the social structures
  • People will solve this, not corporations and not governments
  • David Holmgren -gardening done well is more productive than broad scale farming. Cities designed well can use water from storm drains and human waste.
  • David Holmgren- on transport -reduce need to move and travel, better public transport, cleaner propulsion, biking and walking
  • Management of landscapes especially greening of cities 
  • Adaptation a prioritywe need to live more simply
  • Julian Cribb-Women will be the solution- they consider grandchildren
  • Love not fear is a powerful motivator

Fossil fuels

Ian Dunlop and Ian Lowe

  • We have reached peak oil i.e. we have used half supply
  • Shale is dirtier and much more expensive to obtain
  • Warfare possible for remaining oil supply – US, China, India.
  • Vested interests – Coal and CSG
  • Coal is cheaper than Solar in the short term but not in the long term.
  • Solar can provide 10,000 times more energy than we need
  • Peak oil more urgent than Climate Change (Ian Lowe)
  • Transition needed  away from our modern life style
  • We are addicts, hard to change, many in denial (Dr Simon Michaux)

Food security

  •  We are eating coal and oil – unsustainable (Ian Lowe)
  • Agriculture under pressure from:
    • population growth
    • disappearance of suitable land 1% per year
    • artificial fertilizer dependent on oil
  • So far GM has not increased food supply, too risky. (Dr Simon Michaux)
  • Resistance to pests in weeds (as a result of GM) a problem
  • Gene manipulation questionable /unsafe across species ( Prof Ian Lowe)
  • Meta studies show same amount food can be grown organically as current supply (Professor Paul Ehrlich)
  • Food can be grown in cities- reduces food miles (cheaper) and food healthier as fresher, less waste

Population

Mark Rogers -Radio DJ: “Not Doomsday, Just Mathematics”

  • Currently world population is 7.1 billion
  • Elephant in the room nobody wants to talk about
  • Current population sustained by fossil fuels.(fertilizers and transport)
  • Family planning – unmet demand from women for contraception
  • Education of girls and women vital
  • Leadership essential
  • We won’t get to 9 million; natural disasters including disease will prevent it, but 7 million already too much.

Climate change

Professor Tim Flannery (Melbourne Get Up Rally)

  • We cannot leave it up to the fickleness and whim of politicians. We must stand up and be counted not just at rallies but by any means within the law.
  • Biggest problem is vested interest
  • We don’t have a free market.
  • We need a free market for renewables to compete with the fossil fuel industry.
  • Public interest in renewable energy (includes RET)
  • More investment needed

Health

Professor Anthony McMichael

  • Disease- cholera is common following floods
  • Mental health in rural communities at risk with Climate change pressures – flood, fire, drought, water supply.
  • We are living in the Anthropocene where everything is related to human activity including food security, pan epidemics, pollution.
  • There are solutions –ALL problems need to be addressed not just one.

Young People

Bindi Irwin

  • Young people have a unique opportunity to stand up for what they believe in. and what they know is right. Call to Action
  • Population- we control animal populations, why not humans?

Opposition to change

  • Well funded liars (fossil fuel lobby)
  • Skeptics are not scientific at all, they refuse to recognize facts (Flannery)
  • 98% scientists support high probability of CC related to carbon emissions
  • Politicians follow public demand, that is, a public who often do not understand that no science predicts certainty but only probability.
  • Politicians are often more interested in keeping their jobs and pensions and do not care about the long term.
  • Therefore we cannot rely on politicians WE HAVE TO ACT

Climate change: preventive measures

Solar power in Australia has increased from 3% to 18% that is an 18% reduction in electricity production from fossil fuels. 100% renewables are possible NOW. They are cost effective and available. The problem is vested interests, i.e. coal and CSG in Australia.

Renewables verses Fossil fuels – coal and gas

  • Beyond zero emissions 2010 report -Professor Stephen Bygrave-
  • bze.org.au
  • Myth –we need coal and gas
  • Myth- renewables are not cost effective
  • 100% renewables possible right now
  • Combination of solar, wind, photo voltaic and bio
  • Every country can do their own mix of renewables
  • Need all countries to participate

Renewable energy v Nuclear

  • Accident risks- Three Mile Island 1979, US; Chernobyl 1986, USSR; Fukushima-2011, Japan.
  • Large Investment
  • Mining uranium – dependent on energy, including transport
  • 15 years to build –increase in emissions
  • Technology and social structures needed
  • Waste problem- burden on future generations
  • Country borders change – no security for nuclear waste
  • Neither fossil fuels nor nuclear are viable whilst 100% Renewables are cost effective and possible right now

David Holmgren – Permaculture design pioneer

  • Biofuels for cars would result in less supply of food for poor
  • Positive environmentalism- Community gardens and Transition towns
  • Gardening done well is more productive than broad scale farming
  • Cities designed well can use water from storm drains and human waste.
  • School gardens obligatory in Victoria – Stephanie Alexander
  • World War II gardens the way to go (Ian Dunlop)

Obstacles to change

  • Politicians overwhelmed by vested interest and opinion polls
  • Only game plan is economic growth and staying in power.
  • Inertia
  • Political time scale (electoral terms lead to short term rather than long term thinking and planning).
  • We need short term pain for long term gain.
  • Fossil fuel industry very powerful, muddying waters on CC science
  • Power addiction
  • Economic and population growth regarded as the norm-
  • Consumption to feed growth is the norm
  • Attitude- this is the way the world is-
  • Group think and vested interest (Ian Dunlop)
  • People resist change- do not want to hear the message
  • People do not think of their children’s future
  • Business especially big corporations have a vested interest
  • There are Planetary Limits to the never ending growth model

Uncle Bob Randall

  • We need to recognize our mutual dependence
  • Need to apply best of modern with best of tradition

Professor Paul Ehrlich

  • Debt based money system unsustainable- not enough resources left to repay
  • Media skepticism
  • Facts are certain enough for Action

Professor David Lindenmayer

  • Ecocide- a new crime for the International Court of Justice
  • Illusion we can all live same lifestyle egg India, China, Africa
  • Electric cars unsustainable- not enough resources for manufacture
  • We have the Brains but do we have the Social structures?

Prognosis

  • Not all companies are skeptics some value the opportunities
  • Building now taking account of rising sea levels
  • Fossil fuels to stay in ground
  • Renewables- the way forward for our energy supply
  • Management of landscapes especially greening of cities
  • Value of forests to be recognised
  • Adaptation a prioritywe need to live more simply

Panel’s views on Movie

  • We need a film about what can be done to solve the problem rather than this doom and gloom. Ref TV years of living dangerously.
  • Pessimists/optimists-Need to appeal to both
  • Film appeals more to pessimists
  • Aim of film unclear and too long
  • Film – gender balance lacking
  • Too complicated- liable to put some people off.
  • People need different messages at different time points.
  • Can give too much information
  • Human connectedness vital
  • Needs to happen in simple language and be relevant, e.g., sharing on internet
  • Communication happening on Twitter, Facebook etc
  • Include old media, books – include all ways of communication.

Additional panel comments and recommendations

Dr Peter Tait

  • Democracy undermined by vested interests
  • Grassroots democracy needed

David Holmgren

  • Permaculture philosophy includes both production and consumption
  • Better way to live-Set an example
  • Working models to copy, i.e., Ammonia
  • Nitrogen for transport. Can be created by solar power
  • Transport -reduce need to move and travel, better public transport, cleaner propulsion, biking and walking

Julian Cribb

  • Ref: Becoming Famine
  • Bloke inventions – impatient
  • Women will be the solution- they consider grandchildren
  • Global consensus via internet
  • Sharing ideas and awareness
  • People will solve this, not corporations and not governments

Professor Ian Lowe

  • Need sticks and carrots
  • Growth is not inevitable
  • Party is over – unacceptable to those who haven’t had one yet
  • Better party – all invited
  • Journey of the heart, not rational
  • Apostles for a new religion, replace strategy with feeling
  • Nuclear not the answer (a former supporter)
  • Possible to live more simply
  • Significant change needed

Jenny Goldie

  • Men thought technology could solve all problems
  • Women thought otherwise – thought of their grandchildren
  • Need to reach less well educated, need to be motivated
  • Firies who face bushfires – good for motivation
  • Population predictions not inevitable
  • Foreign aid to assist in sustainable population
  • Waste – consumption – How much do we give up?
  • Education of women-control of fertility
  • Every Australian child uses four times resources as a Somali child
  • Living more simply with less waste
  • Australia in 1960’s, not privation
  • Change inevitable, best to accept and act now
  • Love not fear is a powerful motivator

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