Just Transition Part 1 by Dr Michael Borgas

Lock the Gate Activists Howitt Park Bairnsdale 2016

Reproduced from Just Community

A group of us in and around Fish Creek have been thinking about a future based on a fair society with a sustainable environmental footprint. Around the planet the climate-change issue has driven a lot of people to do this with the tag lines of ‘Just Transition’ or ‘Green New Deal’. It seeks hope in dark times, but things have gotten even darker.

Despite the urgency of the climate crisis, highlighted by the extreme bushfire season only months ago, nothing has primed our society for change as much as the COVID-19 pandemic has. The Prime Minister Scott Morrison has called for bold thought and new ideas to rebuild the collapsed economy, clearly indicating that it can’t recover without public intervention, a novel idea itself for the last 40 years.

Perhaps investing long term in CSIRO to use science and economics for green growth is the idea we need? Perhaps it is time for regional development and more balanced urban development? Perhaps we can get rid of open plan offices? Unfortunately, the usual noisy suspects and vested interests are promoting more of the same lame old thinking, particularly fossil fuel investment in gas extraction, perhaps with domestic reservation to create employment in plastics and fertilizers. Others suggest less green-tape environmental control on development for more pollution and degradation of the land, water, air and biosphere. At the same time, we are learning that increasing human exposure in the stressed wild world is where new pandemics will originate.

Others desperately attack workers, foreigners, trade unions, and ultimately the living standards of the broader community. The growing evidence from around the world is that the fossil fuel pathway is not wise even if it seems more palatable than unregulated environmental and job degradation. In the United States, gas from fracking has been a growth industry as capacity shifted from imports to domestic production with reservation for job creation in chemical industries.

Recent measurements show fugitive emissions make this gas as dirty as coal, and Australian clean coal is a fraudulent claim to boot! Now a massive wave of bankruptcies is washing over the fossil fuel sector as it becomes uneconomic in changed times with falling prices, so the jobs are vanishing too. The finance sector is divesting from fossil fuels globally, and governments are begged and badgered around the world to be investors of last resort in a dying industry. Not too much bold innovation or thinking there.

Jobs to produce chemical fertilizer and plastics are also not the hallmarks of progress they once were. We regularly hear about plastic pollution of the ocean and can see it for ourselves on many of the beautiful beaches in South Gippsland. Less well known is the growing and necessary trend towards regenerative agriculture drawing back from chemical fertilizer use, instead focusing on soils, land use and animals, often with better economic, environmental and job outcomes.

To be continued