PAUL COLLINS. Parochialism Reigns Supreme

The Coalition, like many of those who voted for it, seem incapable of grasping the big-picture evidence required to deal with global warming. Morrison says he always believed in miracles, but unfortunately that’s not going to work for climate change.

Over the last decade several dystopian, end of the world novels, has appeared. Clearly, they sell and resonate with readers. Margaret Attwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and The Year of the Flood are well known. Cormac McCarthy’s description of post-apocalyptic America in The Road is both a novel and film and John Lanchester’s 2019 The Wall, set in Britain after the “Change”, depicts a destroyed world when oceans have risen dramatically eliminating whole nations and vast swathes of climate refugees swill around the world.

No, I don’t think dystopia has arrived with Scott Morrison, but since 1980 greenhouse gases have already driven-up temperatures by 0.7°C. By 2050 temperatures could rise from 2° to 4°C with catastrophic effects. But we’re actually not talking about the future. The May 6 2019 release of the UN-sponsored report on biodiversity loss shows unequivocally that species extinction is already far higher than the average losses over the last 10 million years, and that extinction rates are set to increase with global warming. The report finds that around one million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction, many within decades, more than ever before in human history.

Thirty years hence in 2050 the effects of global warming will really be felt. Water and food shortages will impact. With increasing average temperatures, forest and wild fires will become more common. The pollution and acidification of the oceans will deplete fish stocks, destroy all coral reefs and species extinctions will become commonplace. Breakdowns in natural systems and sea level rises will create an enormous mass of people fleeing from environmental disasters and looking for somewhere to decamp. Dystopia in on our door-step.

The tragedy of the election is that these real-world scenarios will continue to be ignored by the Morrison government. The Coalition, like many of those who voted for it, seem incapable of grasping the kind of big-picture evidence required to deal with global warming. Morrison says he always believed in miracles, but unfortunately that’s not going to work for climate change. As was pointed out on Insiders yesterday there are really two Australias. One is regional Queensland where Adani and coal jobs are still king and global warming an indulgence of “Greenies”. The other is Victoria where climate change really bites as an issue and the Greens hold their only lower house seat.

As Pope Francis says in the encyclical Laudato si’, political short-termism reigns supreme. He says that “a healthy politics is sorely needed, capable of reforming and coordinating institutions, [and] promoting best practices” so that “a genuine and profound humanism” is developed “to serve as the basis of a noble and generous society.”

Clearly, we’ve got a long way to go in Australia, where the hip-pocket nerve reigns supreme, to get “a healthy politics,” let alone “a genuine and profound humanism.” The tragedy of the Labor loss is that we’ll retreat even more from tackling big issues and fall back to the politics of parochialism, narrow-mindedness and ignorance.

Paul Collins is writing a book on the ethics of world population.

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Paul Collins is an historian, broadcaster and writer. A Catholic priest for thirty-three years, he resigned from the active ministry in 2001 following a dispute with the Vatican over his book Papal Power (1997). He is the author of fifteen books. The most recent is Absolute Power. How the pope became the most influential man in the world (Public Affairs, 2018). A former head of the religion and ethics department in the ABC, he is well known as a commentator on Catholicism and the papacy and also has a strong interest in ethics, environmental and population issues.

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