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On what do we want and when do we want it?

kids strike for climate change

News from the front desk Issue 432: The federal election has been called for 18 May, so strap in for another wild ride at the fun-fair roller coaster that passes for our governance these days. Think of it like a festival at the Colosseum. Or “Reality TV goes to the Polls”.

What could be more entertaining than the quickstep two-step of a government trying to stay in power by announcing contradictory policies seemingly within minutes, in the vain attempt to please all the people all the time? Labor Party, same, when it comes to the Adani coal mine.

As long as we realise this is just entertainment for the masses and not the real game, all well and good and we won’t “lose our tiny minds” as the kids say.

The promise is that the key issues will be about climate and environmental issues. Good. But let’s hope they don’t do Michael Daley trick (remember him? Leader of the ALP in NSW for the blink of an eye) and isolate all the critical issues of our day down to one, in his case a single stadium when there were so many other urgent policies that needed to be discussed with urgency.

As in NSW the nation needs urgent action on so much. Here is just a sample of urgent policy issues flagged by you the experts in our pages:

  • Carbon emissions – the Paris accord, pollution, name your catalyst
  • A plan for resilience, which may well impact on 850,000 homes if the forecasts are correct, plus any amount of infrastructure that will flood or crumble under pressures it was never intended to endure.
  • Food security – See Willow’s Oxygen Files this week, Can Melbourne have 7 million people without destroying its foodbowl? See how some leaders in the development world are seizing the opportunity to meet real needs of people, not what last century’s house and land marketing dinosaurs are saying. Companies such as Evolve, Milieu, and Villawood. What is Sydney doing about its food bowl? Especially when the entire world of property development is getting set to alight on its fertile west. Maybe it will be so hot there that airconditioned houses and commercial buildings connected to airconditioned electric vehicles and public transport is the best and highest use. Maybe we need to go broadscale industrial farming inside warehouses that are fitted out for the task of protecting crops from the climate. See Poppy’s story about how a tech/lighting expert is doing just that.
  • Ground water – including our amazing Great Artesian Basin being destroyed by contaminants from fire fighting foam chemicals, not to mention the human and financial costs of those who damaged or killed by this poison and the effluent of mining.
  • Building and construction – Where exactly do we think we are going to get the natural resources needed to meet demands of growing global populations and expectations, when we currently waste 30 per cent in conventional building techniques? Given the scandal of poor quality building, when is the government going to say it will make prefab building a priority? And where do we think we’re getting all the wood from? It grows on trees, but remember that’s not an overnight petri dish exercise. Can we set the CSIRO onto that exercise and give it something more useful to do than the paid propaganda it’s forced into for want of funds. We love CSIRO but not the way they are forced to act by the government. And no we haven’t forgotten the decimation of their scientists (and their ethical standards it seems.)
  • Affordable Housing – Finding a solution that works. Now we know having adequate housing is economic infrastructure (thanks Robert Pradolin for that insight.)
  • Congestion busting – But real congestion busting, which is not more roads! But better housing near better jobs and public transport to get around.
  • Ethical commercial behaviour – Or enforcement. We already have all the laws we need, but their announcements have been as empty as the minister’s latest “key announceable” in the television series, Utopia.

How likely it is that whoever wins government will act on these preferred agenda items from The Fifth Estate, is important – we don’t want to understate the power of government to assist in our will to save this planet – but it’s no longer our only hope.

As you’ve heard here so many times, the world is moving fast, especially in business.

The tide has turned and morphing into the biggest industrial/economic and now ecological revolution in history. The desire to survive will do that. History can tell us how quick that turnaround can be – the American economy is said to have taken just six months to switch to full war mode. As a small example, it went from building 3611 planes in 1940 to 18,466 in 1941 and in 1945 it was producing more than 96,000 a year.

When we have to, we will do “whatever it takes.”

Our heroes of the revolution are not just in environmental organisations, or political parties, they’re ensconced in powerful companies such as Atlassian and Amazon, sometimes at the very top and sometimes agitating from the grass roots employee level.

Atlassian is leading from the top, and very publicly thanks to its co-chief executive Mike Cannon-Brookes. This week it said it was committing to going 100 per cent renewable energy (not just carbon offsets) by 2025.

Not a bad target when you employ 3000 staff in 10 locations.

“To formalise our goal, we’re joining RE100, a group of influential global businesses committed to 100 per cent renewable electricity,” the company said. “This is not an easy thing to do, but it’s the right thing to do. It’s an exciting commitment that will have a real impact. We hope other companies around the world follow our lead.”

That’s the top down approach.

In a bottom up approach 4500 staff at Amazon, the company that gave the world its richest man, Jeff Bezos, has told its bosses it wants the same thing after the company was accused of being too slow in its promise to become 100 per cent renewable.

The big bold statement of commitment to 100 per cent renewable is increasingly through membership of RE100 and that’s how Atlassian formalised its aambition.

Other companies on RE100 include Facebook, Etsy, Fujitsu, Interface, Kingspan, Johnson and Johnson, Lego, Philips, Sekisui House, Steelcase, Sony, UBS, Walmart, WeWork, Bloomberg, Commonwealth Bank with a 2030 target, Autodesk, British Land, IKEA, Allianz, 3M, Microsoft and Swiss Re. Some you will recognise from these pages, others are household names.

The list is growing pretty fast and it will probably soon be easier to list which big companies are not members that the other way round.

You can see where this is going.

We’ll be keeping a close eye.

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