Here are 5 ways to flatten the climate change curve while stuck at home



TASS/Sipa USA

Sky Croeser, Curtin University

After the horrors of the last bushfire season, climate action in Australia seemed to have new momentum. But then coronavirus struck. All of a sudden, the public was preoccupied by a different catastrophe.

But one positive has emerged from the devastation wrought by coronavirus: our ability to radically shift social and economic systems when needed. It shows real action on climate change is possible, and should encourage us to work towards that even as we stay at home.




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From the bushfires to coronavirus, our old ‘normal’ is gone forever. So what’s next?


I must note here that for some people right now, the focus is on simply surviving. Increased domestic violence risk, housing insecurity, unemployment, mental health issues and other forms of marginalisation means many have little energy for activism.

But for those of us with time and resources to spare, there’s plenty to do now to support climate action. My research focuses on how people around the world use digital technologies to create change. So here are five ways to make a difference without necessarily leaving the house.


Words by Hugh Goldring and art by Nicole Marie Burton of Ad Astra Comix, CC BY-SA

1. Create or join local coronavirus support networks

A huge number of community mutual aid groups have recently formed – try joining one.

Mutual aid is about helping each other and realising that we all have something to offer. Participating can do more than help us get through the pandemic – it can also strengthen the community ties we need to cooperate on climate action.




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The community-led movement creating hope in the time of coronavirus


The lack of effective climate leadership by many governments – including the Australian government – means working for change at the local level is vital. The Transition Towns movement, which began in 2006, is built on the idea that community resilience can create new possibilities in times of crisis.

Recently, Extinction Rebellion UK released the Alone Together resource pack, to help people meet the challenges of coronavirus through compassion, creativity and mutual aid.

Working together can shift our ideas about what is possible, so keep talking to your neighbours once the pandemic has passed.

2. Put pressure on government and industry to take action

Climate change advocacy campaigns are achieving significant successes in Australia and there are plenty of ways you can contribute from home.

For example, the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act is currently under review, and public input is being sought. This legislation has not done a great job of protecting the environment since it was enacted 20 years ago, and the effects of climate change mean strong environment laws have never been more needed.

If you want to make a submission and need ideas, Friends of the Earth have outlined how the laws must change. Or just write about what matters to you when it comes to protecting the environment.

Now might be also a good time to check whether any of your money is invested in fossil fuels, and move it if it is: Market Forces will walk you through the process.

You could also give time or money to support organisations working for climate justice, such as Seed Mob or the Climate Justice Union.

3. Keep learning

The pandemic has highlighted problems with our political and economic systems. The crisis has affected everyone, but in different ways. Racial disparities put some groups at increased risk and there are claims that policing of the lockdown is harsher in some areas than others.

Also, people in low-paid work such as childcare and retail are at additional risk of exposure to the virus, while many in better-paid professions can work from home.

Learning from the disparities we see during this crisis can help us build a broader and more inclusive environmental movement. If you have time to read, consider books about Indigenous connection to land, such as Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu, Victor Steffensen’s Fire Country, and Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass.

4. Use time at home to reconsider your lifestyle

Making changes as individuals will not in itself solve climate change. The impact of driving less and skipping an international trip pales in comparison to the effect of, say, Adani’s proposed Carmichael coal mine.

But you can link the changes you make at home to broader structural change.

For example, if you’re using time at home to evaluate your water use, find out which industries near you use the most water – and whether there’s a fair distribution. How much are households paying compared to mines, for example, and do any restrictions that your household faces also apply to industries that use a lot of water?

If you’ve shifted to getting groceries delivered, learn more about how to support regenerative agriculture in your area. Can you buy fruit and vegetables from farms that are improving soil health, supporting biodiversity, and paying workers fairly?

The crisis will pass – and may leave us with more hope than before.
Andy Rain/EPA

5. Reconnect with nature

Connection with nature can be soothing. It can also help to spark and sustain environmental action. Connecting to nature might mean growing your own food, paying attention to city plants and wildlife on your walk to the grocery store, or simply letting the breeze blow through your apartment.

Together while we’re apart

Finding ways to participate in climate action from home can connect us to our communities, and help us find meaning and agency during a difficult time.

One day this crisis will pass, and we might find we’ve laid the groundwork to come out of it stronger, and with more hope than before.




Read more:
Here’s what the coronavirus pandemic can teach us about tackling climate change


The Conversation


Sky Croeser, Lecturer, School of Media, Creative Arts and Social Inquiry, Curtin University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

‘Sumbiotude’: a new word in the tiny (but growing) vocabulary for our emotional connection to the environment



Glenn Albrecht, Author provided

Glenn Albrecht, University of Sydney

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised this article contains references to deceased people.

I am a child of the Anthropocene, born in 1953. I have lived in a period of history also known as the “Great Acceleration” as huge negative change unfolded.

While contemplating these changes, I have sensed, within humanity, a profound sense of emotional isolation. To help overcome the solitude, I have created the idea of sumbiotude, thinking and working in companionship with others, to reconnect to life.

Being alive in this particular era, I have had the privilege of living through the rapid transition from a focus on that which is “obvious to the senses” to our new ways of rendering the invisible, visible.




Read more:
From the bushfires to coronavirus, our old ‘normal’ is gone forever. So what’s next?


I also accept that reality is complex and independent of us and that new insights into nature can come via acts of scientific and conceptual discovery. However, I am always aware that I am walking in the footsteps of the late Big Bill Neidjie of Arnhem Land when in Gagudju Man he suggests:

We walk on earth,

We look after,

like rainbow sitting on top.

But something underneath,

under the ground.

We don’t know.

You don’t know.

At a time of massive biophysical change (heatwaves, wildfire, floods, pandemics), we need to expand our language to understand these changes and to be able to share the emotional upheavals they engender.

I’ve created a “sumbiography” (from the Greek, sumbios, which means living together) to investigate the union of elements in nature and culture that have symbiotically cohered into a view about life – a philosophy of my own.

For others, undertaking a sumbiography has the potential to help them find their own particular view of their emotional connection – or the lack of it – to the Earth.

A sumbiography can reveal just what kind of emotional compass we have with respect to our personal relationship to this living planet.

A new vocabulary

As a philosopher, my response to the encounter with the open cut coal mines of the desolated Upper Hunter region of NSW was to rethink the emotions of attachment to and abandonment of a place that is loved, and to find the right way to express my feelings.

As there was nothing in the English language to help me, I decided to create my own concept – a neologism – to adequately describe the emotional distress at the loss of one’s endemic sense of place.

It took the combination of a lifetime of teaching, thinking and a creative effort shared with my wife, Jillian, before the concept of “solastalgia” entered the world in 2003.




Read more:
The age of solastalgia


Solastalgia, the distressing lived experience of negative environmental change, arose from understanding that the positive side of the lived experience of Earth emotions had to have negative equivalents. Solastalgia marked the beginning of my journey of mental-landscape discovery.

That such a concept did not already exist in the English language was, to me, a sign of just how deeply alienated from our home we – as an Earth-destroying, or “terraphthoric”, culture – had become.

Co-existence with non-human life

My mother played a huge part in my rediscovery and naming of different, more positive, psychoterratic emotions.

In her late seventies, she was struggling: the legacy of tuberculosis had left her breathless and she was having trouble both retaining her independence and continuing as a volunteer guide at Kings Park in Perth. I shopped for her and we ate together most nights.

After a year where I lived close by, she suffered a big, bloody and lonely fall. Following her hospitalisation and recovery, I took her to live with me in the village of Jarrahdale in the Perth Hills.

Our house and block, “Birdland”, had jarrah trees on it and ground orchids; it was visited by kangaroos, possums, quenda (southern brown bandicoot) and many different kinds of birds.

A kangaroo resting at Birdland.
Glenn Albrecht, Author provided

My mother and I thrived there. She reconnected with her own endemic sense of place, and I thinking about the concepts and the associated words needed to account for that sense of reconnection and good Earth emotions.

If the mine-scape of the Upper Hunter and the homogeneity of the city of Perth represented the solastalgic Anthropocene to me, Jarrahdale had offered a lifeline to a different lifestyle and worldview – one where co-existence with non-human life went beyond companion and domesticated animals and a limited number of edible plants.

Adding richness to sumbiography

In loving each other as kin, my mother and I also shared a love of the endemic (endemophilia). This was made manifest in the moments when spider, donkey, enamel or bee orchids were found with almost the same excitement as very first encounters.

These five years with my mother added richness to my sumbiography.

As an adult, I could reunite with my past and feel, beyond solastalgia, positive emotional states residing in me that were also without the corresponding concepts, words and ideas in my language.




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While based at Murdoch University, I began a systematic quest to negate solastalgia and all the other negative Earth emotions to add something new, something “terranascient” or Earth-creating that could join the dialectic of the psychoterratic.

Symbiosis

In 2011, I created the meme of the Symbiocene, which I defined as the next era in human and Earth history where reintegration of the Anthropos (humans) with the Sumbios (symbiotic life) was completed.

In 2013, aged 84, my mother died. Half her ashes were scattered carefully into the Kings Park bush around a huge old gnarly log from a long-dead jarrah tree.

Ground orchids abounded in this place, so too the red and green kangaroo paws. She deserved a presence in that park, as her spirit had graced it for more than 20 years. I imagine she became a copse of pink enamel orchids, glistening in the Perth spring sun.

If humans are kind to the Earth, some of her will also become a new jarrah tree, auburn hair all fiery in its wood grain.

‘Sumbiography’, ‘solastalgia’ and other emotions are discussed in the author’s book, Earth Emotions.
Shutterstock

For the great bulk of human existence, symbiosis was typical of our relationship to the rest of nature, and I wanted to regain the property of what the Greeks called sumbiosis or “companionship”.

Living together

If I live to be 100 years of age, it is my hope that my life will come to exemplify a neologism that is sumbiotude, or the state of living together.

Sumbiotude is the exact opposite of solitude: instead of contemplating life in isolation, sumbiotude involves contemplation and completion of a lifespan with the loving companionship of humans and non-humans.

I will also be happy if my creative, conceptual work can help Generation Symbiocene – which includes my own children, my step-grandchildren and my five-year-old granddaughter – live in a world where positive Earth emotions prevail.

This is an edited extract republished with permission from GriffithReview68: Getting On (Text), ed Ashley Hay griffithreview.comThe Conversation

Glenn Albrecht, Honorary Associate, School of Geosciences, University of Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Snowy 2.0 threatens to pollute our rivers and wipe out native fish



Schopier/Wikimedia

John Harris, UNSW and Mark Lintermans, University of Canberra

The federal government’s Snowy 2.0 energy venture is controversial for many reasons, but one has largely escaped public attention. The project threatens to devastate aquatic life by introducing predators and polluting important rivers. It may even push one fish species to extinction.

The environmental impact statement for the taxpayer-funded project is almost 10,000 pages long. Yet it fails to resolve critical problems, and in one case seeks legal exemptions to enable Snowy 2.0 to wreak environmental damage.

The New South Wales government is soon expected to grant the project environmental approval. This process should be suspended, and independent experts should urgently review the project’s environmental credentials.

Native fish extinctions

Snowy Hydro Limited, a Commonwealth-owned corporation, is behind the Snowy 2.0 project in the Kosciuszko National Park in southern NSW. It involves building a giant tunnel to connect two water storages – the Tantangara and Talbingo reservoirs. By extension, the project will also connect the rivers and creeks connected to these reservoirs.

A small, critically endangered native fish, the stocky galaxias, lives in a creek upstream of Tantangara. This is the last known population of the species.




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An invasive native fish, the climbing galaxias, lives in the Talbingo reservoir (it was introduced from coastal streams when the original Snowy project was built). Water pumped from Talbingo will likely transfer this fish to Tantangara.

From here, the climbing galaxias’ capacity to climb wet vertical surfaces would enable it to reach upstream creeks and compete for food with, and prey on, stocky galaxias – probably pushing it into extinction.

The stocky galaxias.
Hugh Allan

Snowy Hydro has applied for an exemption under NSW biosecurity legislation to permit the transfer of the climbing galaxias and two other fish species: the alien, noxious redfin perch and eastern gambusia.

Redfin perch compete for food with other species and produce many offspring. They are voracious, carnivorous predators, known to prey on smaller fish.

Redfin perch also allow the establishment of a fatal fish disease – epizootic haematopoietic necrosis virus – or EHN. This disease kills the endangered native Macquarie perch, the population of which below Tantangara is one of very few remaining.

If Snowy 2.0 is granted approval, it is likely to spread these problematic species through the headwaters of the Murrumbidgee, Snowy and Murray rivers.

The climbing galaxias, which threatens the native stocky galaxias.
Stella McQueen/Wikimedia

Acid and asbestos pollution

Four million tonnes of rock excavated to build Snowy 2.0 would be dumped into the two reservoirs. Snowy Hydro has not assessed the pollution risks this creates. The rock will contain potential acid-forming minerals and a form of asbestos, which threaten to pollute water storages and rivers downstream.

When the first stage of the Snowy Hydro project was built, comparable rocks were dumped in the Tooma River catchment. Research in 2006 suggested the dump was associated with eradication of almost all fish from the Tooma River downstream after rainfall.




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Snowy 2.0 will not produce nearly as much electricity as claimed. We must hit the pause button


Addressing the problems

The environmental impact statement either ignores, or pays inadequate attention to, these environmental problems.

For example, installing large-scale screens at water inlets would be the best way to prevent fish transfer from Talbingo Dam, but Snowy Hydro has dismissed it as too costly.

Snowy Hydro instead proposes a dubious second-rate measure: screens to filter pumped flows leaving Tantangara reservoir, and building a barrier in the stream below the stocky galaxias habitat.

The best and cheapest way to prevent damage from alien species is stopping the populations from establishing. Trying to control or eradicate pest species once they’re established is far more difficult and costly.



The Conversation, CC BY-ND

We believe the measures proposed by Snowy Hydro are impractical. It would be very difficult to maintain a screen fine and large enough to prevent fish eggs and larvae moving out of Tantangara reservoir and such screens would be totally ineffective at preventing the spread of EHN virus.

A six metre-high waterfall downstream of the stocky galaxias habitat currently protects the critically endangered species from other invasive species threats. But climbing galaxias have an extraordinary ability to ascend wet surfaces. They would easily climb the waterfall, and possibly the proposed creek barrier as well.

Such an engineered barrier has never been constructed in Australia. We are informed that in New Zealand, the barriers have not been fully effective and often require design adjustments.




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Even if the barrier protected the stocky galaxias at this location, efforts to establish populations in other unprotected regional streams would be severely hampered by the spread of climbing galaxias.

Preventing redfin and EHN from entering the Murrumbidgee River downstream of Tantangara depends on the reservoir never spilling. The reservoir has spilled twice since construction in the 1960s, and would operate at much higher water levels when Snowy 2.0 was operating. Despite this, Snowy Hydro says it has “high confidence in being able to avoid spill”.

If dumped spoil pollutes the two reservoirs and Murrumbidgee and Tumut rivers, this would also have potentially profound ecological impacts. These have not been critically assessed, nor effective prevention methods identified.

The Tumut 3 scheme, part of the existing Snowy Hydro scheme.
Snowy Hydro Ltd

Looking to the future

Snowy 2.0 will likely make one critically endangered species extinct and threaten an important remaining population of another, as well as pollute freshwater habitats. As others have noted, the project is also questionable on other environmental and economic grounds.

These potential failures underscore the need to immediately halt Snowy 2.0, and subject it to independent expert scrutiny.


In response to the issues raised in this article, a spokesperson for Snowy Hydro said:

“Snowy Hydro’s EIS, supported by numerous reports from independent scientific experts, extensively address potential water quality and fish transfer impacts and the risk mitigation measures to be put in place. As the EIS is currently being assessed by the NSW Government we have no further comment.”


A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that water pumped from Tantangara will likely transfer fish to Talbingo. It should have said water pumped from Talbingo will likely transfer fish to Tantangara.The Conversation

John Harris, Adjunct Associate Professor, Centre for Ecosystem Science, UNSW and Mark Lintermans, Associate professor, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.