Image for Let’s dare to talk about it … a message of hope

Forester, Speth, right, is interviewed on sustainability ...

The response to the “What nobody dares to say to you about climate change” article ( HERE ) has been nothing short of astonishing.

Such perceptive commentary on what’s wrong, such heartfelt sharing about how alienated we all feel, and – above all – such remarkable suggestions about what to do about it. 

These expressions are growing all over the world, but here in Tasmania we have a unique situation:  firstly, it’s a small place - perhaps actually doing something about it is possible here?, and secondly, we’ve clearly got some very thoughtful and well-informed, aware people in it. 

If we really care that much, we could build on the work others have already done, such as the US insider-turned-radical James Gustave Speth.  After thirty years as a scientific advisor to the US administration, he has been forced to conclude:

“I used to think the top environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and climate change. I thought that with 30 years of good science we could address those problems.  But I was wrong.  The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed, and apathy … and to deal with those we need a spiritual and cultural transformation.  And we scientists don’t know how to do that.”

But he has not allowed this to depress him into inactivity.  He went to the Keystone pipeline protests, joined the Occupy movement in New York and other civil disobedience marches, and has turned to the people, writing many books to raise awareness. 

The most powerful is “America the Possible”, the final chapter of which contains a manifesto for a better world.  Don’t let the title put you off – in the book is the “what to do about it” list that we had hoped to hear from Bill McKibben. 

Speth identifies these issues as primary:  “The current system, predicated on GDP economic growth and consumerism, is not geared to produce good results for the people.  The lack of independent media makes everything worse. Not supporting good values, social justice, good education, jobs and adequate basic living standards for all, makes succeeding with environmental objectives virtually impossible…”

And this is his agenda for tackling the problem.  He sees it in two parts, only because of the environmental urgency that’s upon us now, so firstly:  do everything you can to reduce the use of fossil fuels and prevent pollution.  Above all, don’t fly.  Do it yourself, urge your friends also, lobby your politicians, and vote to disable those political parties who continue to support the fossil fuel lobby. 

The bigger, second part of his agenda is the truly wonderful bit, because so much of what is on it was also suggested by various TT readers in their comments.  To stop doing more of same (which hasn’t fixed anything anyway), and to take back the narrative into our own hands, we need:

1. Leadership.  Groups must be formed to create the igniting spark, formulate the issues, and provide the driving force to keep the momentum going.

2. We must work towards complete political reform:  the adversarial party system may have reached its use-by date – it is not good use of taxpayers’ money to use it for ‘keeping a party in power’.  Don’t vote for anyone who accepts any political donations. Demand that no advertising accompany any election.  Tell the politicians what you want – or don’t want, such as the selling off of our significant assets and businesses to foreign investment.

3. Create a common vision to re-write, re-wire and re-program the system.

4. Support any independent media and lobby the government to support independent journalism. 

5. Bring together all progressive groups so the coverage of issues can be much broader.

6. Stimulate private enterprise in appropriate areas – renewables, local services, food production, etc.

7. The government must go back to creating public employment – to make jobs that provide the things we need like more teachers, more educational institutions, building public housing and electric buses, creating better public transport, building things useful to the community, and employing many more public servants so that it can remain independent of vested interests and create better stability.  Getting more people on steady wages, even if modest, is much better for the community than spending millions on foreign-owned companies (such as car manufacturers…) because “they will provide jobs”.  We know they can close down just like that if it suits them – just ask the people who worked in the King Island abattoir.

There was a lot more on Speth’s list.  But I don’t need to continue with it, because so many of you have already spelled it out. 

That’s real cause for hope – a reassurance that something better does exist and we can work towards it.  And I think we should, starting with your many great suggestions, drawing on existing groups and using the guidance offered by such as Gus Speth. 

So, rather than lose this wonderful momentum, who is willing to start showing some of that leadership, join a group, get on the pollies’ tail (a great time right now, with the election coming up), write up ideas, and more?  We have had the talking, next is the time for action.  I invite you to indicate in the comments column to this article, if you are interested.  If enough show up – we’ll do something real.

I want to finish with the hope expressed by one of the commentators:

“Life was good [in 1967].  We had perhaps two trips overseas in a lifetime.  We rarely flew interstate, and it was not for some sports match or shopping trip.  We lived with a fraction of the possessions but had community life.  Today, with the internet, feminism, and all we’ve learned about self sufficiency, it could be a glorious time.  Voluntary simplicity and an enriched community and cultural life.  Since the oil-based economy is collapsing anyway, we can start to build the new Tasmania.”


We have so much more clever, useful stuff now than we did in 1967. 

Who needs to casually travel when there is Google Earth? 

We can use Skype and video-conferencing. 

We have the internet, email, digital photos and more. Forty years of political and social experience, psychological understanding, and computers to collate that information. 

We could build on the 1967 insight that a certain level of material stuff is enough, and finally turn our excess time, energy and attention away from the distractions and back to where it belongs: to the home, the family, the neighbourhood… and back to this once-beautiful and special Island. 

We can make it that way again. 

Will you join me?

Others have already done it. Take a look at: (activate the ‘translate page’ option): seven council districts in Germany have got together with the overall intention of reducing their emissions. 

This has led to a vital communication with so much wonderful and inspirational stuff happening!  (Thank you, Frank, for this link).

*Elizabeth Fleetwood ‘is of European origin and has lived in Tasmania for nearly 35 years.  Ran two dairy farms in the NW, then two retail businesses in Burnie, raised a family of three children there; moved to Hobart 17 years ago and ran a tourism business for 10 years before selling and ‘retiring’ recently.  Initially an unwilling immigrant, it was not long before the (then) pristine beauty and extraordinary history of this Island exerted its influence and created a campaigner for the preservation of this unique place.  To see it being destroyed, along with the values that once made Australia a truly special place worth coming to, is a matter of great concern for this ordinary citizen, whose grandchildren will one day ask: why did you let this happen?’ 

Surviving the Carbon Apocalypse