Margo: Recently someone with a wise face followed me and interacted in an interesting way. I asked him to write for me and this is his response. I’ve made it part 3 of our series on new political activists, although he has been active his whole life. This piece is a new manifestation, and I’m crossing fingers Mr Wilson will agree to be @NoFibs climate change election reporter.

By Gratton Wilson

June 09, 2013

A few years back my wife let me play with her computer after I spent some time at the local TAFE, learning how the thing worked. That made it a whole lot easier to write letters to the local paper, usually commenting on local matters and on occasion, politics.

A couple weeks back one of my sons dropped by for a few days and introduced me to Twitter. Turned out it was like taking on a new job.

After completing an MSc. degree in physics in WA and working a few years with industry, I spent thirty years at CSIRO in Melbourne and in Canberra. During my time with CSIRO I worked with the Australian National Commission for UNESCO, UNESCO in Paris, and carried out ground assignments in Asian and Pacific countries. I visited China in the early 1980s and saw the beginnings of their industrialisation and its accompanying pollution.

In 1985 I retired from CSIRO and we moved from Canberra to Numeralla, an idyllic spot on the Monaro, where we took up breeding unusual high fecundity merinos and glorious border collies.

For a time I was a local councillor and did a stint as mayor of the Cooma Monaro Council. Council work became pretty repetitive so I did not seek re-election after a couple of terms. That gave more time for Greening Australia and our local Landcare group.

Then Jim Snow, our Federal member, thought I was too idle so put my name forward to Andrew Refshauge the Health Minister in the newly elected Carr Government and I spent the next ten years chairing a regional health board. The eventual clash with bureaucrats about money for health services, or the lack thereof, and a personal health crisis, saw the end of that career and I once again retired.

Looking back, it has been an enjoyable journey of continuing education, leaving me with a little knowledge about many things and a wide range of interests for which I have now found an outlet through Avaaz, GetUp and Twitter. The approaching election has given impetus to voicing my concerns about global warming, over-population of the planet, misuse of the world’s resources and destruction of the environment.

Intertwined are our own Australian issues in need of attention if we are to cope with the world which is emerging. Education, health, adequate housing, violence, refugees, rights of indigenous people and more.

It would be easier to address many of these matters if we incorporated the WHO Social Determinants of Health into our thinking. We must take early childhood learning very seriously. Long term studies overseas have shown this to be not only cost effective but that it leads to a better functioning society. To make progress in all these areas requires  good, stable and innovative Government, one that is concerned as much for society as for the economy and for that we must have politicians with integrity and intelligence. That brings me back to the election.

There is no doubt our long term future depends on finding international solutions to prevent the increase of green house gases {ghg} in the atmosphere, and this requires cooperative action at all national levels.

The present Government has put in place what is internationally recognised as the lowest cost method of reducing ghg pollution from fossil fuels – principally a price on carbon used for energy production. This is accompanied by programs designed to give us alternative means of producing energy.

Both these approaches are giving positive results – a decrease in pollution from energy generation and an increase in energy from solar cells and wind turbines. Other alternative devices are under study; geothermal and ocean driven. And other methods of reducing pollution are being pursued – energy efficiency, digesting waste material and using algae that eats CO2 and produces a useful product. The Government is clearly determined in these efforts.

The same cannot be said for the Opposition, which might well become the next government. Mr Abbott doesn’t understand Global Warming. In the past he has ridiculed the very idea of Global Warming and cast doubt on the integrity of scientists and economists working on the issue, although in 2007 he supported the Howard Government’s efforts to combat Global Warming.

He has championed a Direct Action Plan to combat Global Warming whilst being highly critical of the government’s internationally recognised best practise activities at a time when the World Bank has praised the efforts of 40 major countries and 20 other governments who have placed a price on carbon. Abbott has blustered long, loud and savagely about “a great big new tax” and so called broken promises, when what we have is a price on pollution (carbon) and a Prime Minister with the nous to use the structure of parliament to further a program of incontestable benefit for the country.

Abbott claims to have a ‘Plan’ (which lacks detail) though many of its principal features are seriously flawed. This is not political comment but the outcome of serious scientific study. We know that planting a million trees by a green army will not materially reduce ghgs to the extent required, nor will carbon sequestration of carbon in soil be the wonder solution. The soils need to be selected, the areas to be used need to have the correct rain-fall history and the cost will be many times that provided for.

Then there is the proposal to in effect pay polluters for reducing their output without penalty for non-compliance – the equivalent of local government paying residents for rubbish removal. Even from the little information we have on the details of the ‘Plan’ we know it will be more expensive for taxpayers and it will not reduce ghgs to the extent required.

We also, at least I and many others, have serious doubts about the integrity of the Opposition leader on this matter, given his previous and various politicly expedient stances. There is also the matter of the expressed views of so many in the LNP, both in the parliamentary party and the wider membership. The views of Bernardi and Minchin, to name two, have the type of intellects that removed Turnbull as Leader. Abbott intends to appoint well known climate change intellectual manikins to important positions should he come to government. Then there are the ignorant voices of the shock jocks and the baying of the Murdoch press. We cannot be confident that an incoming Abbott will lead us to achieve that which is necessary for the safety of the planet nor of Australia.

When there are debates about climate change we often see arguments about the degree of temperature change or the effectiveness of modelling.What people need to do is take a look around their own environment and discern the changes that are occurring. Fish, birds and animals are changing habitat to maintain an environment suiting their genetic requirements. Or you can study your local weather patterns. Where I live snow is now rarely seen. In the mid 70s snow was a regular occurrence and there are early photos showing snow-bound sheep and snow thick in Cooma streets. Those events hardly ever happen now. In the 80s people said that the weather had been changing since the 50s. Fewer Summer storms bringing rain and more frequent and harsher droughts. Some of them blamed the Snowy Hydro for diverting and damming the rivers. Folklore stuff.

There has been a lot of chatter about conspiracies by scientists and government but no evidence. However there is evidence of people, organised by those with interest and investment in the fossil fuel industries, coming together to arrange opposition to people taking action against climate change. It’s happening here in Australia and in a very public way in the USA. In another time these actions would have been seen as treason as they, in reality, are attacks on the State.

The development of the sciences, physics, chemistry and mathematics collectively called atmospheric science has a history going back 150 years. The steps along the way have been proven and tested by universally and historically accepted methods. You can travel every aspect of the journey in an excellent book by Spencer Weart published under the auspices of the American Institute of Physics.

You will find no hint of conspiracy by scientists or governments: nothing but the accumulation of wisdom to the point that sounds warning bells, now becoming louder and resulting in action. But we need to hasten our efforts.

The pollution causing world wide climate effects also has other local implications for our well-being. Coal fired power stations spew particles in the air that cause breathing problems. This is particularly bad In China but it happens in Australia and across Europe. We all know about fogs in major cities caused by car exhaust fumes. Then there is the new problem to water supplies caused by too hasty gas extraction. Governments and companies eager for cash with little or no forethought about possible adverse affects on their communities.

That leads to the question of the protection of our environment in general. There has been a lot of pressure from the mining industry for the Federal government to hand over its environmental powers to the states in the interest of cutting regulations – so called red tape – and of course that old alleged enemy of progress – bureaucracy. To my mind parliaments for good reason pass laws with their associated regulations. Regulations are there for a purpose. Changes urged by vested interests have been resisted by communities concerned about the well being of our environment and working conditions. It is as well that the Federal government took notice of that concern because progressively conservative state governments are making changes that will damage our environment.

Recently we’ve seen the reintroduction of land clearing in Queensland, attempts to graze National Parks, recreational shooting in National Parks, mining and gas exploration in National Parks and destruction of agricultural land by mining and coal seam gas extraction.

Sadly the Federal government has been implicated with the State government in over-developments affecting the Great Barrier Reef. Hopefully that position might yet be saved. For the present, the government, with help from some friends, managed to save those wonderful Marine Parks, the best in the world. A change in government could see their destruction.

The signs are clear. A Coalition government would join with State colleagues in changes that would result in irreversible damage to our environment.

Media commentators say the government is not getting its various messages out to the public. The media does not seem to like the Prime Minister’s voice and does not listen to what she says. They write about some silly kid throwing a sandwich at her and totally ignore policy statements.

But it is the policies that matter. I certainly have no trouble comprehending the many policies that have been announced and delivered. It’s strange that the media is so obsessed with trivia.

There was much to be done when Labor came to office – infrastructure, health, education, illegal wars to get over, and wrongs to be righted. There is still much to be done, but Labor has taken us forward as Gillard promised.

We have yet to hear from the Opposition more than the oft-parroted, empty slogans and ranting rhetoric. I am sure that in the future the slogans will become the nursery rhymes of the future, bringing Humpty Dumpty up to to date.

There is no doubt that Abbott’s single motivation over the last three years has been to become Prime Minister. His every move has, as Tony Windsor has told us, been directed to that end. He has found it intolerable to have a woman outrank him. That has been his history. How can we make people think through to where our best interests are before voting in the coming election?


Read the first and second activist stories:

The genesis of the @ch150ch Abbott gaffe list

Why I’ll letterbox my suburb to keep Abbott out