This week’s Rio+20 Summit must propel Australia into a better model of city planning through building new opportunities for green jobs. As the government’s lax commitment to various solar power schemes shows, Australia is not giving the issue of green jobs the attention it deserves.
The United Nations estimates the number of green jobs worldwide will increase to over 18 million by 2030. This is heartening news.
It means that every year 750,000 new green jobs will be created if distributed equally. Of these, 59 per cent will be within biofuel and related industries, and 31 per cent from solar power generation.
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Australia stands at a turning point in its demographic development and it is crucial to develop a vision of our future population, taking full account of the best scientific and policy thinking and knowledge but also taking into account the wishes and opinions of all Australians.
The population and immigration debates in Australia have too often been dominated by interest groups and have focused on extreme positions. On the one hand are those who believe Australia should increase its population as rapidly as possible and strive to attain a population of more than double the current size.
On the other hand some environmentalists argue for an immediate end to population growth. However, both of these extreme positions would have negative consequences for Australia and most Australians. We need a midway position which involves growth with sustainability.
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Wildlife harvesting advocate Professor Mike Archer AM has been geeing up the anti-vegetarian ork armies with an article putting the boot in for ‘hypocrisy’ over mice. The pesky little critters erupt into sizable plagues in grain growing areas every few years and Archer thereby accused vegetarians of having the “worst possible” diet in terms of suffering and sustainability.
What not to do when it comes to a sustainable diet
During the robust online debate following his article, Archer produced the following visionary statement on Australia’s food production future:
“In fact (sorry to sound insensitive), but we should not be consuming Australia unsustainably as we are now to feed 50 million people overseas in addition to the rapidly expanding Australian population. It’s a great short-term strategy to make more money and feel we done [sic] our bit to feed the starving millions overseas, but it makes us contributors to the exacerbating global problem of overpopulation rather than part of the solution. If we could just manage Australia sustainably, that would be the beginning of a rational approach to land-use and set a good example for the rest of the world.”
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Here’s a simple thought experiment: imagine a glass seemingly empty apart from a scum on the bottom. That scum is yeast that doubles its size every day and you know that, after 60 days, the glass will be full to the brim with that yeasty scum. Question: on which day is the glass half full?
Answer: day 59. Just one day before the glass is filled to capacity it’s half full. That’s the sneaky thing about exponential growth.The final spurt happens so rapidly.
Take the world’s human population. We only made it to the first one billion people within the last 300 years. But then we really started packing them in. When I was born in 1963 there were 3.5 billion people. Now, just 47 years later, we’re double that figure and still climbing rapidly.
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The United Nations estimates that the world’s population will reach seven billion sometime in late October or early November. The sixth billion was arrived at in 1999, and it is significant that the seventh billion took the same number of years (12) to add as the sixth.
This is relevant because prior to that, there had been a progressive shortening of the time taken to add billions to the human population. The first billion was reached in 1804, taking many thousands of years of human evolution to achieve. Thereafter successive billions were added in 123, 32, 15 and 13 years respectively.
This reflects a slowing down in global population growth from a high of 2.1 per cent per annum in the late 1960s to 1.2 percent per annum currently.
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Listening to the sometimes facile public debate about population growth, it seems that all Australia needs to do to address our population issues is ditch ‘big Australia’ in favour of ‘sustainable population’.
With a debate as shallow as this, it’s little wonder that we’ve made little headway in addressing our growing pains.
In 2009, when Kevin Rudd dug the first few feet of his political grave with his declaration in support of a ‘Big Australia’, population growth — led by higher birth rates and record migration — was at an all-time high. With Rudd safely out of The Lodge, Gillard and Abbott raced to the election trying to see who could distance themselves furthest from the former PM’s sentiments.
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The latest debate over multiculturalism has again exposed the often inflammatory nature of media reporting and its misrepresentation of Australian society.
A recent study by the University of Western Sydney noted that 87 per cent of Australians agree that “It is a good thing for a society to be made up of people from different cultures”.
Yet the headline from one major tabloid newspaper was “Australia a land of racists”.
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It is not often that you wake up on a Saturday in Sydney and have a choice of rallies to attend – but this is exactly what happened last week.
In case you missed it, the two rallies were organised in support and opposition to the proposed “price on carbon” strategy put forward by the Federal Government.
Being excited by a bit of political expressionism in a city where Saturday morning priorities are usually shopping and cappuccinos, I decided to attend not just one but both.
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A poll by Roy Morgan Research several days into the Fukushima nuclear crisis found that 61 per cent of Australians oppose the development of nuclear power here, nearly double the 34 per cent level of support. Thus the growth in support for nuclear power over the past five years has been totally erased ... and then some.
While there was undoubtedly growing support for nuclear power until Fukushima, the issue has been the subject of a great deal of hype and spin.
In 2009, for example, a flurry of media reports and commentary followed the release of a Nielsen poll which found that support for nuclear power had risen to 49 per cent and had overtaken the level of opposition.
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Reconciliation, multiculturalism, sustainability (including confronting human-induced climate change), feminism and economic redistribution are five ‘big ideas’ that, not only excite the passions of The Punch readers, but have characterised Australia’s post-War history.
Each one of these concepts represents a noble goal to be achieved in our society. Let me explain by starting with reconciliation. Reconciliation has little to do with ‘saying sorry’ – though it is an important symbolic act – but more to do with confronting the forced and illegal dispossession of the Australian Indigenous population.
Reconciliation is about reconciling the past with the present, as well as defining the type of future we want – one that recognises and celebrates Indigenous culture and finds a way to compensate for things passed.
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People are discovering that food costs are soaring, electricity and government charges including water charges are on the increase and many families are needing to find savings in the family budget.
If recent reports by the United Nations are any indication then the savings can come from this unexpected phenomenon.
The worlwide non-profit initiative to promote Meatless Mondays and Fishless Fridays is encouraging the voluntary rationing of certain foods. This is not new as rationing was common practice during both World Wars.
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The queasy feeling in my stomach as I flew into Sydney after five weeks in Europe had little to do with the turbulence and even less to do with the 764 unopened emails that found their way into my inbox between London and Singapore. Rather, the source of the unease was that I was landing at the beginning of an election cycle. Most of us suspect that this election is going to be short on substance and will provide us with little vision for our future.
As someone who consumes political commentary, I have grown increasingly disillusioned by both a government and opposition who swing from the banal to the ridiculous. For many of us, this election is less about voting for who inspires us, and more about who is least likely to offer an absurd policy vision.
My sense of dread has not eased as we enter the second week of the election cycle marked by a leaders debate that was focussed on the bland. The question is whether this is likely to continue? Here are five policy areas that may well provide a guide: will we see real policy discussion or be served up glib one-liners?
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Since becoming Prime Minister, Gillard has been work-shopping the phrase ‘Sustainable Australia’. Like Kevin 07’s, ‘working families’ no-one really has a clue what it means, but the faces behind the PM on the six o’clock news all nod diligently whenever she mentions it. It is almost like they are too embarrassed to admit they have no idea what she is talking about.
I bet that every one of those ALP candidates who nod eagerly whenever the word ‘sustainable Australia’ is mentioned would love it if the Prime Minister could explain what the difference is between a ‘sustainable’ Australia and a ‘big’ Australia if you don’t cut the current immigration rate, or increase the death rate or decrease the birth rate.
It is telling the only actual policy Ms Gillard has delivered in her first four weeks as Prime Minister was to change the Minister for Population’s title to the Minister for ‘Sustainable’ Population. Every other policy she has announced will be delivered sometime in the never never or - never, ever.
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