I read yet another climate article in The Sun Herald early this year by Jacqueline Maley, and saw the same rhetoric that is being poured into our minds from the media everywhere. But not once is anyone looking into why it is so. That is, why are these politicians seemingly slow to act?
Everyone is pushing the economic wagon, but from my reading of the situation, the leadership is stuck between a rock and a hard place. I’m from Newcastle. Yes I know, huge coal exports! Don’t get those knickers in a knot though, because this coal is unique. This coal is metallurgical coal, is called lignite, is double burning, and is the hardest and most efficient in the world.
What has that to do with climate control, you ask? Well, it is required for blast furnaces to process metal. So? you ask. Well, think about what is necessary for clean, green energy: Solar panels, wind farms, wiring for equipment for the energy to be conveyed, electrical cars, in fact all of those technologies that are being cried out for, for the betterment of our climate.
Think of that computer on your desk, the iPhone you use, the printer, even the paper clips and staples, including the kitchen sink — they all started life in a blast furnace. Next time you slip that jewellery on, please think. It’s metallic too.
The other material requiring this quality of coal is glass. As you look across the city, really look, see how often this product is part of our world. As you switch on the windscreen wipers to clear that smoke dust from those terrible fires look what’s there — you guessed it, glass! Recycling metal and glass requires metallurgical coal too! Isn’t that interesting?
After Greta Thunberg spoke angrily at the UN about the older generation “doing nothing for thirty years” in her synthetic blouse with plastic buttons, I was very concerned about her knee-jerk outburst as no-one seems to be seriously looking at this from an individual perspective as to how each of us — that’s you and me — are not ready to do our part.
Petroleum byproducts are in the fashionable clothing, swimsuit, exercise gear, stockings and socks (if you wear them). What about the commercial packaging producers, and excess plastic used to contain products, like bottled drinks?
Rather than attacking the politicians, how about addressing the source of the problem: the supermarkets and packaging producers? What about the use of synthetics and industries like the fashion industry? If councils can have bags made from cornflower starch, why isn’t an enterprising scientist investigating ways to bring change to packaging generally?
Oops! I wonder what is required to produce those bags? A steel wind turbine perhaps? Metal machinery? Electricity must be there too, so wiring’s involved.
Walking and biking seem a much better idea than driving. Make that walking only, because that bike has both metal and petroleum byproducts as its source.
What about that fashionable clothing? Recycle it. After all, if we are genuine about this, we should be wearing natural silk, wool, linen, bamboo and hemp. Cotton’s out, because pesticides are necessary in its production. As for colour, only natural dyes will do, and natural mordents (urine was favoured in the past) to fix those dyes.
Then there are those fleece hoodies, dressing gowns and blankets. Did you realise they are causing more microplastics than anything else in our oceans? But wait, to weave this material we require machinery made from metal, and electricity to run it, and wind turbines and solar panels to “make it green” “and a partridge in a pear tree” — metallurgical coal.
This is starting to sound like that song: “There’s a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza, there’s a hole in the bucket dear Liza, a hole … well fix it, dear Henry, dear Henry fix it …”
Think of all those things that you use each day derived from petroleum products: your toothpaste, shampoo, hair dryer, tooth brush, comb, the detergent in your dishwasher and washing machine, the petrol and diesel in your vehicle, that insect spray for those pesky mosquitoes, the cleaning solution you use to clean your desk and keyboard, the computer and keyboard itself, the furniture if it’s made from plastics, the pod in the coffee machine, the TV screen you observe for news and fire updates, come on now, we are the criminals here and need to be a lot more informed and sensitive to what we are doing as individuals to affect the environment.
Population has grown rapidly as well, compared to my childhood (I’m in my sixties in case you were wondering). At the end of the war (WWII not WWI – I’m not that old!), Australia’s population was roughly 7 million.
Now we have about 24 million, I believe. It’s not only those cows producing CO2. Over 7.8 billion people are living on our planet today, compared with a little over 3 billion in 1939. Hold your breath and save the world!
As to the carbon footprint and food, this means no meat, fish, or poultry, and this includes meat substitutes from soy (after all, this grows in farmers’ fields and requires pesticides and machinery to harvest the beans, trucks to transport to processing plants, where more energy is used in canning and packaging).
No imported food, because of the negative effect on the climate and environment. And absolutely no coffee from Brazil, no tea from Kenya and India … is this making you think outside that blinkered world you’re living in?
As for flight to get away from it all: No planes, as aircraft are more heavily polluting our planet than any other form of transport. No ships unless they are wind-propelled. But oops again! No planes, or ships, or trains or cars, or motorcycles, or bikes — they are all made from metal, and metal requires a blast furnace, and the best coal in the world for this is metallurgical coal called lignite from Newcastle.
“There’s a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza, there’s a hole in the bucket dear Liza a hole. Well fix it dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry, well fix it dear Henry, dear Henry fix it. With what shall I fix it dear Liza, dear Liza?” … I think by now you may be getting an idea that this needs to begin with us!
The late Ian Kiernan of the “Clean Up Australia Campaign”, and Craig Reucassel, who drew our attention to waste with “The War on Waste” program on the ABC, were both individuals who passionately practiced what they preached, and didn’t merely scream their angst at the world without really thinking about solutions and acting on them.
These men were visionary and on the right track. This whole issue is extremely complex, and will require a huge rethink. How do you eat an elephant? A bite at a time. But each bite will have to be a considered and a quality one.
That will require visionary scientists who don’t only invent solutions, but really consider all the ramifications of their scientific breakthroughs, unlike many of their predecessors whose inventions, like plastics, have brought us to this point.
Also, we have to look to our own actions. Excessive consumption. When is enough, enough? You can point the finger at political leaders, and not always remember that when you point that finger, there are three fingers pointing back at you.
[Photo: Lignite mine, south of Gaville]