Friday, September 11, 2015

Dutton's disdain in a drowning world

I've recently been reading Field Notes from the Edge: Journeys Through Britain's Secret Wilderness by Paul Evans. In chapter 5 entitled Flood, he talks about eldritch places, those places that feel eerie and sinister. He visits the old town of Llanwddyn, which now sits at the bottom of Lake Vyrnwy, which provides water for Liverpool. In the 1970s, a drought uncovered many of the buildings of the old town in a phenomena that people found disturbing. Besides the buildings, Evans wonders what else drowned down there.

This eerie feeling will become a common one as IPCC projections of about 60 cm of sea level rise by end of century seem quaintly optimistic. Even this is enough to condemn some island nations, but given the proportion of people living close to sea level, the impacts will be real and far reaching. Long term, several metres, if not 10s of metres are in store if we don't act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. No, coal is not good for humanity.

The disconnect between those currently affected and the rich and powerful is summed up well in a recent slip up by Australian Minister for turning away the boats, Peter Dutton. In a conversation with colleagues, he commented that "time doesn't mean anything when you're about to have water lapping at your door."

Now given the current Australian policy of tight borders, tow backs and imprisonment in offshore detention centres, such a comment indicates how climate change refugees would be treated. It belittles a coming catastrophe and a profound disregard for human life. No, it's not simply a joke, it's a symptom of an inability to "love your neighbour as yourself." Given the number of politicians who flash Christian credentials, I'd like to see this biblical saying of Jesus embodied in climate change, energy and refugee policies ASAP. To say nothing of attitudes towards the victims of our success.

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