Tag: climate change

A surprise success

I still find it amazing that some of these poems I write, and that I rarely agonise over, take hours to compose, or even – really – take terribly seriously, nevertheless strike a chord or find favour in a publication. Of course they wouldn’t ever do that unless I took the time (and had the confidence) to submit them, and I wouldn’t do that if I didn’t feel they were perhaps worthy, given the majority are unquestioningly and unapologetically political. But even so . . .

In the case of this most recent success, I wrote the poem initially for a Greens’ Fossil Fools Trivia Night fundraiser where the theme was obviously the ongoing climate change risks associated with mining and fracking coal and gas. Two of us were invited to read poems during the evening, and I was one of them. Mine was well received on what was essentially a fun night, albeit with serious undertones, designed to poke fun at the former Coalition government’s failure to take climate change seriously – and to try to help the election of our Greens candidate in the forthcoming Legislative Council. A big ask, and we didn’t succeed this time, but if you don’t try . . .

I filed the poem away in my increasingly bulging folder and gave it little thought until I read the details of a competition and publishing opportunity offered by online media organisation Independent Australia https://independentaustralia.net

Despite subscribing to IA for several years it’s the first time I remember it has invited readers to submit articles, fiction or poetry for consideration for such an opportunity, and one that is running for around three months. Winners and short-listed entries are announced each month, and a selection will be published on the website. To be eligible for consideration all entries, regardless of category, have to be on a current affairs topic, be that political, social justice, environmental etc.

I remembered my Fossil Fool poem and fished it out of the folder. I read it through again. With a bit of tweaking I felt it certainly fitted the brief. So I reworked the last stanza and added another one, completed the entry criteria and sent if off, not really anticipating I’d hear anything back for a while – if ever.
So it was a genuine surprise to learn it had indeed been published, and with its own Mark David cartoon to boot! https://independentaustralia.net/life/art-display/fossil-fools,17603

Whether ‘Fossil Fools’ will progress any further in the IA competition remains to be seen. I won’t know that until sometime in July so watch this space as they say!

When it comes to pollination – don’t forget the birds

We are frequently reminded about the importance of bees when it comes to pollinating flowers, vegetables and fruits. But while most people these days are aware of the critical role bees play in pollination, birds are just as crucial and many bird species are struggling to survive.

Climate change is a threat for birds globally, just as it is for us all. Rising temperatures, and more frequent extremes of dry and wet seasons that lead to floods and bushfires are all affecting birds’ ability to feed and breed successfully, and even just survive. Additional threats are human activity, deforestation and land clearing, invasive species, and predation – in particular by domestic and feral cats.

Certainly in Tasmania the threat of habitat loss from land clearing and logging is right up there, with iconic species like the swift parrot, masked owl and wedgetail eagle under severe pressure of becoming extinct. Introduced species like sparrows, blackbirds and starlings are also aggressively displacing smaller native species in the fight for food and nesting sites. It’s no wonder our native bird species are at risk. Adding to the stress in both urban and regional areas is the increase in light and noise pollution at night. These stimulants can disturb birds’ feeding, and sleeping habits, and ultimately their breeding cycles.

As though bird populations don’t have enough to contend with, a further threat to their survival is the latest iteration of avian influenza, or bird ‘flu. European ornithologists, conservationists and scientists spoke out publicly about this potentially catastrophic threat to birds recently. The only regions that continue to remain free of the most recent strain of the H5N1 virus, are Australia and the Antarctic, but this isn’t expected to last. The rapid spread of infection, and the fact so many bird populations across the world have never previously experienced the virus, makes them particularly vulnerable.

What can we all do to help the survival of our local native bird populations – and help to minimise the biodiversity loss that the loss of birds would accelerate? Well, wherever you live a good start would be to plant more bird-friendly native bushes and trees. Native bushes, shrubs and trees can provide ideal habitat for some species, and the flowers and fruits are a vital food source, especially for some of our honeyeaters, parrots, and wattle birds. To help insect-eating bird species, consider limiting the hours the light outside your home at night is burning, or at least lower its brightness. Security is important of course, but so is the survival of our lovely birds. How shocking it would be if the scenario Rachel Carson wrote about in the 1960s, in her most well-known book ‘Silent Spring’, ever came to pass.

Photo credits: Wedge-tail eagle – Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary; Swift parrot – BirdLife Australia

Keeping up the momentum

There has, of course, been the odd wobble in the planned routine but essentially this book is now steadily moving forward. My wonderful mentor has just sent back the second lot of comments, with gratifyingly few criticisms. She did say there was only some minor editing to do but otherwise it’s looking good. Phew.

I remain focussed despite it being summer, with all that entails when there are vegies that need to be harvested and processed, and opportunities to attend various arts-related festivals which are all crammed into Tasmania’s relatively short season of more reliable weather conducive to holding outdoor events. Then, needless to say and because this is Tasmania, there is the constant and grinding need to respond to other controversial projects that will negatively impact our environment, or threaten public health, wildlife, forests, clean air and waterways, and every other natural resource deemed essential for a healthy life and wellbeing.

Now of course there’s the whole issue of climate change that’s finally hitting home. Even if still being virtually ignored or sidestepped by governments – as it was in the early stages of the pulp mill campaign when the warnings from scientists were still polite murmurings, rather than the louder and more urgent pleadings of today.

The country has experienced the full catastrophe over the past year – and I use the word ‘catastrophe’ advisedly. There have been bushfires and floods with all the destruction and devastation that has fallen on people, homes, crops, businesses, and our increasingly fragile environment, yet still too many in the political and corporate class refuse to listen.

Such is the life of an activist in the midst of such insanity.

Now it’s back to the book . . . .

Dear Prime Minister Albanese

Just before the opening of the 47th parliament I emailed the following letter to our newly-minted PM. Labor was after all largely elected because they promised much greater action on addressing the climate crisis, even if many of us want and expect more than the 43 per cent cut in emissions by 2030. That’s not enough and is also why we want and expect the PM to collaborate with the Greens and the teal independents to achieve a more realistic target and time-frame. For the sake of the planet – and our country – I hope he does.

“It’s true you’ve not wasted time since winning the May 21st election, and you’re to be congratulated on mending some fences with our international neighbours, but your approach to the climate change issue leaves a great deal to be desired.

Many of us were heartened and encouraged by your comments during the election campaign indicating your willingness to work collaboratively across the political spectrum to end the so-called ‘climate wars’.
So your latest, and may I say, somewhat belligerent, reported position is bewildering to say the least. It’s also deeply and distressingly disappointing. If Australia is to move forward from the pariah status it rightly earned under the Morrison government, immediate and meaningful action on climate is essential. There is literally no time to lose. Climate change isn’t some vague nebulous future threat to our country or the planet. It’s here. It’s arrived. Just like the 98 per cent of scientists warned us it would decades ago, and who begged us all to act. And to prepare. Now it’s very nearly too late. We’re in the middle of it. The evidence is here for all to see. Catastrophic floods, unprecedented bushfires, damaging winds and storms, and harsh droughts. All have increased in severity and frequency. And they will continue to do so. The physical impact on the land and the environment has been, is, and will continue to be, horrific. The social and economic impacts from the destruction of lives, homes, businesses, and health is immeasurable. And it will only get worse.

And then there’s COVID. Arguably also a symptom of climate change. The wilful and greedy mismanagement of our global environment has resulted in the emergence of serious diseases. Scientists warned us of this probability too. With the warming climate some of those diseases are now being experienced in many more regions, and affecting many more people. Australia is far from being immune to this threat.

And yet Mr Albanese, now you are Prime Minister, you no longer appear inclined to work collaboratively with those so-called ‘teal’ Independents, and the increased number of Greens MPs. You claim a mandate for your government that has a majority of two. Please remember Anthony, these Independents – and Greens – are MPs who were elected because voters in their electorates are demanding our federal government acts on climate change. And acts immediately. And that action MUST include a swift transition from the fossil fuel industry we know is a major cause of the climate mess we’re now dealing with.

Please remember those Independents and Greens secured a vote of a good 30 per cent of the national vote. Labor might have secured a slightly higher percentage of votes, but still in the 30s, with the Liberals/Nationals securing a total somewhere in between. Your majority therefore is slim and cannot seriously be described as a ‘mandate’.

For all our sakes, and those of future generations, please waste no more time. Climate change is above political ideologies. We expect you and your government to work with those ‘teals’ and the Greens, say no to more coal mines, to close existing ones as rapidly as possible, and ensure those working in mining communities are able to transition to the cleaner and greener employment opportunities in the renewable technology options that abound in this country.

There’s literally no time to waste.

Images courtesy of Pexels

Life can be so full of surprises

In the wake of the devastating 2019-20 bushfires that raged across so much of eastern Australia for weeks, I wrote a poem that raged against prime minister Scott Morrison’s total failure to show any kind of genuine leadership, or even common decency, empathy or humanity.

The poem was a piece of writing sparked by the words submitted in that week’s Word Expo – a word game I’ve been playing now for well over 10 years with writers from around the world, although these days limited to Australia and New Zealand. Writers submit a word, one that’s not been previously used, and from the disparate list invited to create a piece of writing. It can be anything – poetry, anecdote, story, script – the only criteria is that at least three of the submitted words are included.

While I still hesitate to describe myself as a poet, poetry is often what emerges from this weekly list of words. And most of the poems are political, often relating to a situation that’s been dominating the media in some capacity. It’s quite cathartic to vent one’s anger, frustration or despair at whatever is occurring that week in the state, the country or the world.

In January 2020 it was Australia’s bushfires, and the breathtakingly unbelievable discovery our PM had deemed it OK to quietly creep off to Hawaii with his family while half the country was engulfed in flames. His reasoning for abandoning communities whose homes had been destroyed, and landscapes, forests, animals scorched and decimated, and exhausted firefighters and volunteers, was because he ‘doesn’t hold a hose, mate’.

My poem was in the form of a letter and entitled Dear Mr Morrison. Once written it joined others in a bulging portfolio I keep in the filing cabinet, and that might occasionally be rolled out for a reading at the monthly Poetry Pedlars evening. But after spotting a call out for contributions for an anthology – planned as a fundraiser to support sanctuaries overwhelmed with wildlife victims from the fires – I offered this one, since it fitted the climate change/bushfire theme essential to submission requirements.

My poem was accepted, and the anthology was duly published in 2020. It includes impressive and moving comments and personal accounts and hopefully raised significant dollars to aid the rescue and recovery of the millions of animals and birds injured and displaced as a result of those terrible and disastrous fires. While I was not unnaturally pleased to see it in print, it never occurred to me that publication in this modest tome might prompt additional interest.

So an email seeking permission to use an extract from Dear Mr Morrison, from Australian academic Eve Darian-Smith who is based in the US, and was writing a book on the global response to climate change from a world where right-wing governments were on the rise, was completely unexpected. And she was terribly apologetic that she couldn’t offer me any payment, should I agree to her request.

To say I was gobsmacked is an understatement! Needless to say I agreed. Who wouldn’t at such an unlooked-for opportunity!

Publication was scheduled to be in early 2022, and I was promised a copy of the book. Late last week it arrived, and sure enough that extract is included (on pages 57 and 58 actually).

Sometimes you never know how, or with who, the words we write will resonate and find their own life in the world. It’s highly likely the idea for the poem was born on a Thursday, so it could be argued this particular ‘child’ was always likely to have ‘far to go’!

Voting for our future

Despite the best of intentions to keep this blog a political-free zone, I’ve decided it’s not possible. And not just because there’s a federal election in four weeks. Possibly the most important one ever, and one that could just deliver a result able to bring us back from the climate change brink, or else send us spiralling into a frightening future from which there will be no safe return.

It’s no great secret I support the Greens. I joined the party in the early years of the pulp mill campaign, as did Peter Whish-Wilson, who is now an Australian Greens senator and up for re-election. I first got to know Pete when we were both founder members of community group Friends of the Tamar Valley, and he was one of several FTV members, (including me) who stood as support candidates for the Greens either in state or federal elections.

Pete epitomises that saying about a person who ‘grows into the job’. He’s certainly done so since first entering the Senate in 2012, following the sudden and surprise retirement of Bob Brown. Big shoes indeed, but Pete’s filled them fabulously, fighting for our forests, our oceans, our state and our planet for 10 years.

He sees this election as the climate election. So do I. We are literally fighting, politically speaking, for a habitable future on the planet. This election is crunch time for Australia in my opinion, and I’m proud to be doing as much as possible to achieve not just Pete’s re-election, but the dismissal of a blind and blinkered federal Liberal/National government that refuses to divorce itself from its toxic relationship with the fossil fuel industry. This industry has contributed massively to creating the climate extremes Australia has experienced to the hilt of late. Whether it’s bushfires, drought, or floods, we’ve copped the lot and the damage to lives, to homes, communities, to agriculture and the economy more broadly has been immense. And all the signs point to all these climate-induced extremes getting worse if we do nothing. Yet Scott Morrison’s Coalition government remains complacent despite overwhelming scientific and economic evidence that says the result of inaction will be environmentally, socially and economically disastrous.

The nation’s youth are screaming too – a demographic that so far has been overlooked in this campaign. That over 700,000 first-time voters registered with the AEC on the last day before the books closed, was apparently unprecedented. Most of those are probably young people determined to have their voices heard, and an opportunity to vote for candidates who are demanding action on climate change.

A fundraiser supporting Pete’s re-election campaign is on next Saturday. Poetry for the Planet, with several slices of pizza thrown in, as well as some motivational words from the man himself. I’m one of the approximately 12 poets invited to share their words about climate change, and the environment. I’m told tickets are selling well, and that’s good. I’m also told that support for the Greens has been rising rapidly in the last few weeks. Not that you’d hear about it in the mainstream media since the focus has been almost exclusively on Liberals and Labor.

I’m hoping the Greens will be the quiet achievers on the 21st May, and will be a vibrant and visionary force in the next parliament. They’re certainly the only ones with a realistic plan to transition the country forward.

Paying the price of ignoring climate change

Paying the price of ignoring climate change

During the pulp mill campaign I regularly wrote letters to editors of both the national and local media, as well as commenting on as many online articles and blogs as I was able to find. Missives to editors have been much less frequent in recent months and years, but the whole climate issue has inspired me to write more often. My latest efforts though have failed to make it into print. Possibly because they touch on a movement that is gathering momentum around the world – Extinction rebellion, or XR.

Whatever the reason I decided it was time they saw the light of day, and had a potential audience and it occurred to me this blog is the perfect platform, so here they are:

“Every day there are media reports of extreme climactic events around the world. Many of them occur in Australia. Summer has barely begun yet already we’ve experienced shocking bushfires that have destroyed homes, businesses, livestock and food crops. We’ve got the worst drought on record, while elsewhere in the country there’s flooding. Rivers are dry, communities have run out of water, unique wildlife species are either extinct, or on the brink of being so. To say this is ‘normal’ is ridiculous, yet Mr Morrison refuses to acknowledge the risks, or accept two of the major contributors to the climate emergency are mining and forestry. Instead he rails against and vilifies those pointing out the danger of climate inaction in the only means left to them: displays of public, peaceful and creative protests. Scientists from every discipline are speaking out and emphasising the danger of climate inaction, strongly criticising the Morrison government’s wilful refusal to act.

So what will it take for this government to accept reality?  How many more homes must be lost to the flames of uncontrollable bushfires? How many crops must be ruined? How many thousands of sheep, cattle, and horses, must be culled? Or forests and wilderness destroyed? Or the health, wellbeing and safety of Australians be compromised and threatened, to satisfy the Morrison government’s love affair with a coal industry whose day is over.”

“The Morrison government has a one seat majority. This suggests almost half the country didn’t vote for it, and doesn’t necessarily support it. Therefore however much Mr Morrison, and others in his government, continue to dismiss the need to take urgent action on climate change, he shouldn’t be surprised that half the population disagrees with him, or that increasing numbers of Australians are choosing to express their disagreement and frustration in the only means left to them: civil disobedience. We live in a democracy. Civil disobedience and the right to protest peacefully are our democratic right. It’s something Mr Morrison would do well to remember. Democracy is a two-way contract after all, and threatening to remove the right to peacefully protest about government inaction on an issue universally recognised as the greatest threat to the planet, is a disgraceful and unacceptable response from a prime minister.

Thousands of scientists across the discipline have now demanded the world’s leaders take action on climate. For any government to ignore this advice now borders on criminal negligence and shameful irresponsibility. Not only does a refusal to act risk serious social division or collapse, as well as economic ruin for thousands of people, it risks leaving successive  generations of Australians facing ever more extreme droughts, floods and bushfires, and an increasingly uncertain and uncomfortable future.

What price the lucky country then?”