There are many reasons that I’m glad I’m home: my family (close and extended), old friends, the abundant sunshine, friendly people who make eye contact, fresh fruit, my favourite boutiques (Alannah Hill, Spencer and Rutherford, and Review), geckos clacking in the evening, open air pools in which one can swim without freezing one’s tits off, beaches with real sand and clean sea, eye candy in the form of healthy men who don’t run a mile at the sight of a capable woman, the bush, the marvellous Queensland State Library with views of the river, good coffee in non-multinational cafes, excellent cheap Asian food, my hilarious camp hairdresser in the ‘burbs, places where I can ride my bicycle safely and prettily, and of course the endless blue sky and the space. However, after watching the Liberal party chew off its legs like a fox in a trap, I have begun to despair of Australian politics. Although the isolation of this country is one of its appealing characteristics, it also means there is less exposure to the politics and policies of other countries. Over the four years that I lived in England, the question of the environment and of climate change went from an issue that could be easily dismissed (there was no recycling in the residential college in which I lived for the first year, nor in the housing commission area for the second year) to something urgent and pressing. Although England was initially fairly backward in terms of environmental policies, change and consumer awareness happened rapidly because of the proximity to Europe, where recycling and alternative energy usage were already mainstream. There were also, of course, more people, which meant that groundswell movements could take off more quickly.
Here, by contrast, farmers in the country work the land the same way their fathers did, and their fathers before that, despite that the fact that we are running out of water and the land was never meant to be farmed with European methods, if at all. There is a desalination plant either in place or being planned in every city. Not only do these kill off the oceans’ ecosystems, they’re also energy-intensive, which means more carbon output, which contributes to global warming, which in turn means less water. And a drier continent means we are more partial to bushfires.
And while Australia burns, Abbott, Minchin and Hockey fiddle their laborious tunes and play the game of My Dick is Bigger Than Yours Therefore I Should be in Power. Who cares about our children, or our grandchildren, or even the country itself which, at the rate we’re going, won’t have enough fertile soil or water to support its population?
It’s clear that we can’t rely on politicians stumping around on bloodied legs, and that change can and must be done on an individual level, even at the risk of our efforts being cancelled out by the permits being handed to industry. Because what we need is the shift of a national mindset, and that will happen more effectively if it’s viral rather than imposed by above. This doesn’t mean you have to become a greasy-haired hippy (I, for one, will not give up my shoe/handbag/frock addiction), but to think sideways, and to make changes where you can: ride, walk or catch public transport instead of driving, uses buses and trains instead of planes (where possible; it’s a big country), use aluminium water bottles instead of plastic, get a worm farm if you have a garden, re-use as much as you can, pester your council member to increase recycling and make cycling easier and safer, especially for deaf cyclists who like to wear stilettos.
Counting carbon is like counting calories, but it’s far more beneficial than anorexia. Brother-in-law scoffed at me for wanting to ride to Avid Reader to get a book for a friend rather than having them post it to the PO box, but posting would have meant creating carbon through making the packaging and driving the parcel to the post office, when on my bike it would have cost nothing. Maybe it’s addictive personalities that take up the cause like this …
Or maybe it’s just that I love Australia, and want my children to have the quality of life that I have, and the stupidity and selfishness of the naysayers means the likelihood of this is becoming increasingly dim; obscured, no doubt, by the smoke from fires.