Wednesday, 2 March 2011

The Selfish Nation

Singapore: Where Air Conditioners LiveLike the true Australians we are, we went to pay a visit to inspect our neighbor’s house currently for sale. Yes, it’s that house I already mentioned here, the one our neighbor held on to for just as long as it takes to get an exemption for paying taxes on sale profits.
We were therefore surprised to find the house’s brochure, which the real estate agent made sure he stuck in our hands, boldly states the house was never resided in. Clearly that statement is true: there is no blemish in the house to make you think a human being had actually resided there. I do wonder, though, what the ATO might think of this? [ATO, or Australian Taxation Office, is Australia’s version of the IRS]

The other thing we couldn’t avoid noticing is the house’s heating/cooling approach. It’s very simple: they installed an air-conditioner in most rooms to a total of five in the house. Think about it: at full throttle, with each air-con consuming about 2kw of electricity (and that’s a moderate estimate), we are talking about a single house consuming around 10kw/h for heating/cooling alone. That house needs its own power station! Just think about the cost passed over to the tax payer that has to fund the infrastructure to support that, which in Melbourne’s case means more dirty coal powered turbines. Think of what this house says about Australia’s approach to climate change.
My argument is made clearer through the evolution of our neighbor’s house. Due to its design’s intrusion over the other premises around it (we are lucky to live on the other side of the road), that house’s design was up for lengthy local council discussions and eventually found its way to VCAT for approval. We are actually going through similar motions ourselves at the moment in order to get our own house extension project approved, but that is the result of local council regulations demanding all changes to small residential plots go through the most rigorous approval processes (while exempting the larger plots that dominate our area and Melbourne in general).
These approval processes we are going through are pretty tedious. In essence, they are there to ensure the character of your would be house would be similar to that of the houses around it, and they’re pretty picky about things – they want to know what finish you intend to apply, etc. Yet we live in the 21st century, we know for forty years now about the effects of global warming, but the picky local council doesn’t give a damn about you installing a billion gazillion power hungry air-conditioners at your house; they only care for the color of your bricks.
Not that I should be surprised by this approach of our official government: a poll on this Monday’s Age (here) asking “Do you accept that we need to put a price on carbon to tackle climate change?” had 35,510 people answering it, 53% of them saying no. I know one shouldn’t pay too much respect to such polls but it does mean there is a significant number of people in the Australian public, perhaps even the majority, that simply live in denial and prefer to ignore the very clear science on the matter of human induced climate change.
On what ground do these people allow themselves to ignore the science or claim that it’s wrong? Obviously they don’t have science of their own, because the science is pretty unanimous on this matter; they either choose to ignore the science or they choose their own sources to make their minds up with, sources that by definition cannot be founded on evidence. In other words, they choose to be selfish about this, an issue that really is the greatest moral issue of our time (I’m quoting Kevin Rudd here but I actually think he’s right for a change): the issue of what world we choose to leave behind for all future generations, a world in ruin or a world with potential?
I will be explicit about it: Australia’s approach to climate change clearly demonstrates that a big portion of Australians (if not the majority of Australians), while generally nice people and all, are selfish and narrow minded people that worry about their own back pockets first and foremost. That worry manifests itself in all that is bad about Australia, including – to name but one example – the way these people ensure their preferred private schools get enough public funding so they can afford to send their kids to a religious school that will indoctrinate them to dismiss science and listen to their oracle of choice instead. And if that oracle tells them to ignore climate change then so be it.
There is something very rotten at the core of Australian society. Sooner or later we will have to face this demon, because our troubles are only going to be magnified.

Image by pmorgan, Creative Commons license

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