HENRY BATEMAN. Digging Holes After the Bushfires

Jan 28, 2020

Is repeating our short sighted, business as usual thinking to recapture our economy after the bushfire holocaust the smartest way to face climate change?

It is a truism that the best advice, when you find yourself in a hole, is to stop digging. The past four and a half months of bushfires indicate that we are in carbon induced climate change hole. And nearly a quarter of the world’s and a third of Australia’s carbon emissions are generated by transport. But our shakers and movers, from the grassroots to Canberra’s hallow halls of government, seem intent upon ignoring the application of this extractive advice in their rush back to economic normality.

For the third year running, with over 47 thousand sales last year according to the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), the Toyota Hilux was Australia’s most popular motor vehicle. Another dual cab ute, the Ford Ranger, came in at number two. Both these vehicles have carbon emissions of around one kilogram for ever four and a quarter kilometres driven.

With this level of popularity, it is fair to surmise that a goodly number of these tradies best friend were part of the climate change induced bushfire exodus from Batemans Bay just a couple of weeks ago. Now that the rain has come, and the Kings Highway is no longer a raging inferno and has been reopened to the public, the good burgers of the Canberra beachside playground are calling for their return. They have released a video to push home their plea; a parody of the 1977 soft rock song “Baby Come Back.”

While one can appreciate their current economic pain, is more of the same the best way to go? If as suggested by the boffins that carbon in the atmosphere is a major causal factor of this recent existential holocaust surely a rinse and repeat is a very short-sighted response.

The round trip for a Canberran to enjoy a day of surf and sun with a take-a-way lunch is all but 300 kilometres. This equates to an additional 70 odd kilograms of carbon being pushed into the firmament with each trip. This equates to a tonne of carbon being emitted for little bit over 14 such trips. And with 43% of Australian cars being of this type the hopes of Batemans Bay’s tourist orientated businesses will ensure the hole keeps getting deeper.

Living up to his internet meme, our Prime Minister, Scotty from marketing, has implicitly endorsed this activity. Within the Government’s national bushfire recovery fund is an allocation of $20 million to market destinations for domestic travellers and $25 million for a global tourism campaign. He wants us and the world to know that Australia is “safe and open for business.”

Announcing the package Mr Morrison said “This is about getting more visitors to help keep local businesses alive and protect local jobs right across the country and especially in those areas so directly devastated such as Kangaroo Island and the Adelaide Hills, the Blue Mountains and right along the NSW Coast and East Gippsland in Victoria. ”

Tourism Australia figures also show that visitors from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, France and China are reluctant to experience our fires and smoke ravaged cities. For the first fortnight of the year international bookings were down by 20 to 30 per cent.

About which Margy Osmond from the Tourism and Transport Forum stated, “People are believing everything they see on social media — the country’s on fire, top to bottom, coast to coast, don’t go to Uluru because it’s on fire, Sydney airport’s on fire — crazy stuff.”

But not so crazy if our bushfires have shown our potential visitors a deadly cost associated with international air travel. Which the New York Times reported, back in September at the start of our bushfires, accounts for about 2.5 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. And at its current growth rate, air travel has a bullet to become a quarter of the world’s carbon budget by 2050 alone.

Perhaps our international visitors, not being so blinkered in their outlook, are prepared to take on board the axiom associated with holes and digging. Whereas our government and those at the coal face seem to be intent on doubling down on the short term, business as usual thinking driving the Ardini mining adventure.

Henry Bateman is an artist and writer whose work has been published and exhibited in Australia, Asia and America. He has been living an increasingly carbon free(ish) lifestyle since 2005.

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