January 12, 2009 | Ronda Jambe

‘Moving Forward’ – a slogan or a lie?

My partner alerted me to this phrase. Listen for it, coming from the mouths of policy advisors or pollies. It used to imply a plan, but now it just seems to cover a vague idea of the future. We can’t do otherwise, can we? Except, of course, if moving forward is taking us backwards, into a time of less rhyme, reason or plenty.
Four items from the weekend media deepen my conviction that our leaders are indeed taking us backwards, even as we progress through time towards an uncertain future. One was an article in the Sydney Morning Herald by an Australian of Bangaleshi origin. He is a psychiatry registrar, so it seems the sister back home he refers to is also a professional. He wonders why so little attention is being paid to action on climate change, given that in his country alone, 150 million people are likely to be displaced by the impacts in this century. He quotes a report saying that a sea level rise of just 50 cm would affect 2/3 of Bangladesh’s land mass. Well, the latest (conservative) estimates from the US government are saying 4 ft. That’s well over a meter, and since it is also more than twice the previous estimate, it indicates that the margin of error is quite wide.
Perhaps one can say ‘Toodle-oo, Tuvalu!’ knowing that the number of refugees will be in the thousands. However the thought of 150 million souls seeking shelter is daunting and must surely give rise to some serious thought and risk assessment on the part of our leaders. But perhaps not, and in any case, we are all relentlessly ‘movng forward’ regardless.
The second thought provoking item was a program on SBS last night about changing climate, changing people. It was filmed in several countries, and used the reliable docu-drama approach. This uses plausible people and case studies to exemplify future scenarios. The computer enhancements to show how Paris would be re-done for greater energy conservation were particularly good. And much of their suggestions on where exactly we are moving forward to were already within the scope of current news reports.
Set in 2075, the program used the entwining of 4 groups to show how solutions may be found, but also how drastic the imposition of penalties will be. Palm trees in a semi-arid Burgundy? Endless floods in Europe? Challenges and opportunities of many kinds. The actors were all beautiful, either in body or soul. There was resolution, and optimism. Even so, it was hard enough not to cry at the pathos.
The third media item was on Background Briefing. It was about serious consideration of engineering the climate. One of these would permanently turn the sky grey or white, and no one on earth would ever see a blue sky again. That is just an indicator of how extremely arrogant these plans are. Although part of the program discussed the political difficulties of implementing such massive geo-engineering, the lack of balance still loomed. How could turning over literally control of life and death through manipulation of the environment ever remotely be a positive thing to do? Hasn’t anyone been paying attention to the Russian’s use of gas as a political prodder? My Phd touched on design issues for technology and society; democratic principles apply here, just as in urban planning.
The fourth media item was on food security, again on ABC radio national. Investors are moving into food futures. This has long been one of my hobby horses, especially since no level of government is prepared to address it. Over the years I watched in horror as orange trees and most recently fruit trees have been ripped out, the first due to globalisation and competition from Brazil, the second due to drought. But the program seemed to focus on food shortages and high prices elsewhere, such as the third world. The idea that these matters could affect the affluent is just too hard to contemple.
It seems the scenarios of the climate change film lie much closer than 2075. And it also seems that positive governmental action is even less likely than shown in the film. Going just a few thousand years back, the Romans were able to be sensible administrators. They would incorporate the territories they captured into their civilisation. The benefits generally outweighed the imposts, so that when the Roman Empire imploded, the core was left to build on.
The US empire doesn’t seem to bring much, only exploitation. Certainly not democracy or human rights, or there would have been a regime change in Saudi Arabia long ago. And the US also doesn’t seem to be planning for the drying up of oil supplies. Obama is clearly another insider, beholden to too many powerful groups to realise the public is who he should be pleasing. Instead, he is talking about rolling back entitlements to Medicare and Social Security. That won’t win him many friends.
It is also likely that his push for renewable energy will resolve into massive subsidies for the long term, high centralised forms of power generation: coal with carbon capture and sequestration and nuclear. Neither have much potential to enhance democracy. They also are very capital intensive, rather than distributed, high employment options such as wind and solar thermal. Ditto the Rudd government. Why is Australia always just a rubber stamp for the US? The election imperative given to the ALP in 2007 was more clear than that given to Obama. Yet he disappoints.
But enough, the day is passing, there is much to do, and it is time for me to move forward.

Posted by Ronda Jambe at 9:11 am | Comments (1) |
Filed under: Environment

1 Comment

  1. The Goons were walking backwards to Christmas. I laughed with/at the Goons – now I find that the goons are running the show and I am no longer laughing.
    There is the beginning of a world wide movement that offers some hope: Transition Towns. Transition towns recognize that we need to prepare for the possibility of a world without oil, a world where global warming has spiralled out of control. The aim of Transitions/communities is to build on our existing technologies to create local communities that are not dependent on outside resources to survive. So you will see positive encouragement of local businesses, growing food locally taking the term town back to its lexical origins. (It is used to refer to a settlement surrounded by gardens which sustain it – hence the Russian term for town is Grad and the dutch term for garden is Tuin; no where has the dual notion of concept survived.)
    Want to know more? Here is the link:http://www.transitiontowns.org/

    Comment by john tons — January 13, 2009 @ 10:12 am

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