By Noël Wauchope
Now, thank goodness, we’re all beginning to take action, saving water, recycling containers, planting native shrubs, and even doing more walking and bike-riding, instead of driving.
But, when it comes to preserving biodiversity, wind farms, global warming, well, it’s a bit more complex, isn’t it? We have a thousand sound reasons for not sticking our necks out on these complicated issues.
Still, without an opinion, we are not participants in decision-making, and we leave our children’s and grandchildren’s future in the hands of ??? This is a cop-out.
Check your cop-out level with the following quiz:
1. Wind farms
A) Other energy sources should be used first, so as to preserve the landscape
B) I support these, because they are a form of clean energy
C) They sound good, but I’m not sure, as they offend local residents
D) I oppose these, because they destroy landscape and are noisy
E) More research needs to be done on this
2. Nuclear power
A) It is dangerous, but we might need it for a period, in phasing out coal
B) This is such a complicated problem
C) It is very dangerous, and I am dead against it
D) It is a necessary step in reducing global warming
E) I have faith that our government will make the right decisions
3. Cotton-growing versus the bilby habitat
A) I don’t know; I think we probably should be protecting the bilby
B) This is a remote area, the Kimberley region – I really don’t see that I need to have an opinion on it
C) The bilby’s habitat should be preserved, and cotton growing should not be allowed in its habitat area
D) Let’s be reasonable – Western Australia needs this cotton industry, and the bilbies can be housed elsewhere
E) Industry development in Western Australia is vital; the cotton growing should be allowed in Western Kimberley
4. Old growth forests
A) Governments have done enough to protect these, and no further restrictions are needed
B) There has to be a balance between conservation and the forestry industry, and government, conservation groups and industry are working on this
C) I do not have time to keep up with all the ins and outs of this: I can see the different points of view – industry, employment and conservation
D) We can’t have any effect on this debate; it’s up to State and Federal governments
E) More government action is needed to protect old growth forests
5. Reducing water allocations from the Murray River system
A) The economy depends on agriculture: we must not punish farmers by reducing (or increasing the prices for) water allocation
B) The Murray River needs help, but there must be other ways
C) The State and Federal governments are co-operating on this one: I’ll go by their solution.
D) I really don’t know anything about the Murray River
E) They should reduce the mount of water taken for irrigation, for the health of the river
6. The Kyoto agreement
A) People talk about Kyoto; I don’t understand what it is
B) Australia should sign it, and play our part in reducing global warming
C) Kyoto is unworkable, and I support the US and Australian government’s plan to reduce greenhouse gases
D) The Kyoto treaty sounds like a good idea, but it might be bad for our economy
E) It might be good for Australia to sign up to it, but I’d need to know more about it
7. Sequestration of carbon dioxide from coal mining
A) Sequestration? I don’t know what you’re talking about
B) Yes, putting these gases deep underground is the answer, for coal mining to continue in a sustainable way
C) No, they don’t even know if this works, and we should not rely on this idea to solve the problem of CO2 from coal mining
D) I think we need to know a lot more about this technology before using it
E) I’d want to read some expert engineering and environmental reports before deciding on this
8. Local councils
A) I don’t expect the local council to do more than manage basic council regulations
B) Local councils should above all encourage the economic development of their area
C) Local council wouldn’t listen to me anyway
D) Local councils should make the conservation of environment a top priority
E) Local councils should consider both development and conservation in their area
9. Uranium mining
A) Should be stopped, because of the environment and other risks
B) Should be continued, but with strong environmental controls
C) This industry is probably safer now. I’d need to find out more about this
D) I’m against nuclear power, but I think that Australia should continue with uranium mining
E) This question is really just too hard for me: I need to talk with my partner/brother/father/ someone who knows more
Answers to quiz
1 (wind farms): a)4 b)1 c)3 d)1 e)5
2 (nuclear power): a)3 b)4 c)1 d)1 e)5
3 (cotton): a)3 b)5 c)1 d)2 e)1
4 (forests): a)1 b)3 c)4 d)5 e)1
5 (Murray): a)1 b)3 c)4 d)5 e)1
6 (Kyoto): a)5 b)1 c)1 d)3 e)4
7 (sequestration): a)5 b)1 c)1 d)3 e)4
8 (councils): a)4 b)1 c)5 d)1 e)2
9 (uranium): a)1 b)1 c)4 d)3 e)5
9-14: You have the courage to have an opinion and to state it. Congratulations! But don’t forget to keep an open mind, as well, and to listen respectfully to other views, and to new information.
15-22: You’re not copping out. You’re having a go, and you do have opinions, but you’re also ready to listen to other points of view and to change your mind, when necessary.
23 and over: Mmmm. You’re thinking about the environment, but not coming up with your own opinions, are you?
35 and over: You pretty much cop out. At this rate, you’ll be amongst those of whom it is said, “They didn’t care”.
45: You’re a complete copper-out. What could you say to your grandchildren when they ask, “What did you do to stop environmental disaster?”
Who holds the solutions to environmental problems? Each of us does. Copping out is bad news for the planet. Participation is the good stuff.
The exposure and cleanup of the notoriously polluted Love Canal in the USA was the result of a campaign led, not by a scientist or lawyer, but by Lois Gibbs, a local family woman. What Lois did was to have an opinion, and to continue to gather information, and communicate this; so that her informed campaign eventually prevailed.
We should remind ourselves that environmental achievers don’t have to be ‘experts’, and indeed, ‘experts’ can often have a very narrow focus on the world. The so-called ‘ordinary person’ of commonsense can have the broadest view. Yes, let’s all keep on avoiding plastic bags, and planting our native shrubs. But let’s also have a mind on the wider picture, and speak that mind, and vote that mind.
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