Friday, September 30, 2005

Nuclear debate is a dead end, renewable energy is the way forward

The opening of the "nuclear debate" does not bode well for our future. Mining uranium, processing it, then using nuclear fission to generate power and produce toxic waste can hardly be regarded as sustainable.

The substitution of nuclear fuels for fossil fuels simply replaces one form of non-sustainable energy production with another, albeit much more dangerous and toxic.

Nuclear power and the transport and processing of radioactive waste are hugely expensive and highly risky.

It is far better for us to focus on developing technology for harnessing and using energy from truly sustainable sources such as the sun, the wind and waves. Australia is still at the forefront of research on solar energy - even though government funding for it has been greatly reduced. We can create both local employment and a thriving export industry for renewable energy technology and products. We need to encourage our political leaders to do this.

Let's aim to get solar panels onto the north-facing roof of our houses. We have twenty on the roof of our Melbourne house and produce two thirds of the power we need. This is far better than extending the life of coal-burning power stations.

We also need to reduce demand for power by encouraging the production and use of low energy appliances and lighting. This is a quick and easy win - but has been surprisingly neglected by our politicians.

It is time to get Australia on a genuinely sustainable footing and display some leadership for the future and the benefit of coming generations.

World Leadership...really?

Author: Peter Friend

The leaders of the World met in New York at the UN to try to solve some of the most challenging problems we face. Issues like poverty, inequality, racism, health, and even the great distracter of terrorism.

John Howard naturally attempted to stride (even in micro power walking steps) the stage and made a huge commitment to increase Australia's aid donation. Sorry it was not a commitment but a goal, or was it a target or intent that he may not quite be able to see in the distance, as he won't be around to implement it? Naturally linked to this idealism is the sharp edged sword that says that if anyone wants our help they'd better learn to tow the line, create political institutions that mirror our 'open democracy' drive out threats to national security like peace activists and sign up for free trade. Again John was unable to recognise that in our 'Lucky Country' there is a significant proportion of the population that has terrible life expectancy, poor health, lousy housing, massive unemployment, drug taking as an escape from misery and a level of incarceration that makes the Deep South look positively benign. These people of course are our Aboriginal brothers. Where's the concern for them?

Tony Blair then repeated this bizarre logic of the rescue of the poor through trade. So, Countries of sub-Saharan Africa can solve their problems by turning their arable land over to the production of cash crops such as coffee for us in the West to buy. This leaves the populations with less land to grow subsistence food crops and will drive them increasingly off the land into the overcrowded Cities. Some hasn't worked yet in Ethiopia where most of the beans for Heinz baked beans are grown and bought at prices that are controlled by the buyer who has power over the producers. The other great trade saviour is of course the oil industry with its appalling record of corruption and environmental damage as seen in Nigeria.

Nothing was said about solving the scourge of AIDS that threatens to depopulate such Countries as Zimbabwe and South Africa of their African peoples. Naturally, the religious right won't permit a solution to this problem for a range of reasons. First, the black people of the World are simply reaping the whirlwind they sowed themselves and in the way of 'Third World' politics, where everyone is responsible for their own outcomes, if they caught this disease they earned it and must pay the price. Secondly, they don't have the capacity to contribute to the hedonistic societies that abound in the USA or here, so they have no economic capital that is worth saving, and finally if the drug companies cannot make a profit selling anti-AIDS drugs to Africa then they simply won't sell them at all.

Sometimes I just need to vent my frustration. If things are working out the way they look to be in this country I expect my phones to be tapped and maybe have to explain why I should not be deported back to the land of my birth, despite having lived here for 40 years.

Peter Friend

Saturday, September 10, 2005

LETTER: Stoking the flames of fear

Author: Peter Friend, Heathcote, NSW

Published in The Age, 10 September 2005

NO ONE can deny that Australia faces real threats, and that the Government has an obligation to protect us. But let's be sensible. There has been one terrorist attack in mainland Australia since 1978, and the Sydney Hilton bombing is still wrapped in suspicion about who did it. There were three unfortunate deaths. Even if we include the terrible butchery in the Bali bombing, in which 88 Australians died, the comparison between deaths from terrorism and the more accepted causes is very small. Between 1989 and 2005, 31,779 people were killed on our roads and about 9550 were killed in workplace accidents.

None of the measures suggested in this knee-jerk legislation will stop even a harebrained schemer, let alone a well-trained activist, getting to their target. Someone in the Government is clearly well-versed in the writings of George Orwell in the way that fear and loathing are raised and lowered to suit the political climate. When the heat in the political kitchen gets too hot, light a fire of fear in the backyard to distract us.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Bracks government tries to green-wash brown coal

In early 2003, the second term Bracks Government hosted a meeting to allocate greenhouse reduction targets between various states and territories and establish a timetable of how to achieve it.

Bracks also established the Sustainable Energy Authority to promote renewable energy and ensure Victorians have access to energy efficient choices, programs and rebates. Then he committed to reducing greenhouse emissions from the energy sector via the Victorian Greenhouse Strategy.

Unfortunately, Steve Bracks has now let us down by extending the life of the coal burning and greenhouse gas polluting Hazelwood power station. This decision is both disingenuous and negligent, as the greenhouse effect is now well and truly upon us. There is no point pretending that brown coal can be green-washed.

We need to transition from burning coal to renewable energy sources, and we need to do it now.