It’s a mad mad world

11 August 2011 – Johnny Depp has nothing on this tea party. Much of the world has dived down the rabbit hole and earlier in the week Australia and the US drank something labelled “Big” but now look like joining the Europeans who are on the “Small”.  Everyone, it seems, is waking in a stupor after years of gorging on all the goodies, real and imagined.

Holding onto something firm is key and the most solid piece of reality is that you cannot go wrong by embracing a leaner more sustainable world. No choice really.

In Western Australia they’ve just faced steep energy price rises and their 30 cent a kilowatt hour tariff is about double every other part of Australia. Primewest, the $1.5 billion wholesale fund managed by John Bond, son of Alan, has just retrofitted its entire portfolio to four star or four and a half star NABERS energy.

Energy efficiency specialists such as Ian Knox, whose HFM Management did the Bond work, are gearing up for growth in demand for their services but don’t know how the industry is going to compete with the miners for skilled people.  Green recruiter and consultant Green Collar from Sydney plans to open an office in Perth for similar reasons.

At the macro level the message is starting to seep through that regardless of what you think about climate change, resources are dwindling and we need to think about conserving not consuming.

So what does the Productivity Commission do?
Last week it released a draft report on the retail industry, making a good fist of understanding some of the externalities involved in economic terms. But nothing in environmental terms. When are economists going to work out that environmental/resource issues have a massive economic impact? Ignoring these will soon make them irrelevant.

It’s like relying on a Standard and Poor’s rating: “According to our set of criteria Enron is a sound and viable company.” Blah Blah Blah. Change the criteria.

What’s the point in working out how to make shopping more efficient and competitive if you don’t look at the cost on local communities, which has an economic cost, and the fact that most of what shops sell is crap for the landfill. Maybe that’s part of the reason shoppers are strike.

The Chinese get it
The Chinese are working both sides of the fence in terms of resources. They’re shoring up on the stuff that’s running out and gearing up for massive expansion on the stuff that won’t – solar energy.

In Australia the Chinese are buying 100 per cent mining of operations everywhere they can (and not worrying too much about the niceties of community engagement, we hear from consultants close to this industry). Their government directive is to massively expand vertical ownership of resources anywhere and everywhere.

They also recently announced national solar feed in tariffs, and news reports say solar energy prices for industrial uses will soon be close to parity with coal generated energy.

We also get it
Paul Myors of Ausgrid last week told daily newspapers that in only 18 months the number of solar energy units they have connected to the grid has grown from 2000 to an extraordinary 46,000. And that’s just in Ausgrid’s patch of Sydney’s east, the Hunter and Central Coast of NSW.

Myors thinks other parts of the country have similar stories but perhaps not so dramatic as that in NSW, which for a while at least, has enjoyed feed in tariffs of 60 cents a kilowatt hour, far greater than standard prices.  (A review of the tariff is currently on hold.)

“The uptake not been as strong in other states,” he told The Fifth Estate, ” “but because the NSW scheme was so generous, NSW is probably leading.”

Myors is one of the Ausgrid people trying to work out how to make the grid smarter so it can take much more energy from alternative sources such as solar, through the SmartGrid project involving partners such as CSIRO, University of Newcastle and GE.

Maddest party of them all
Not only did the United States fling itself (and  much of the world) to the bottom of the share market this week (and then up again) but its looney right has declared that sustainability is a socialist plot.

According to a report in Treehugger, this lurch into the strange realms of conspiracy theories and the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party started with the patriotic struggle against energy efficient light bulbs.  You betcha.

It then moved onto declaring that local governments all over America are plotting to remove property rights and send the country into environmental communist world government by protecting the environment.
It’s all about the principles embedded in the United Nation’s Agenda 21, apparently.

Read the whole sad story

On the English Spring

An extract from ABC website:

A British youth worker says the country’s social system needs to shoulder some of the blame for the riots that erupted on the streets of London.

Hundreds of people have been arrested after four days of chaos and looting, and smaller-scale riots have spread beyond London to cities including Manchester.

Camila Batmanghelidjh, who has spent decades working with poor and disenfranchised youth, told ABC Radio National the mayhem was unacceptable.

But while admitting there is a degree of opportunism in the riots, she says there are social factors underlying the violence that cannot be ignored.

“This didn’t happen out of the blue. There wasn’t something toxic in the water that suddenly turned all these individuals into crazy people. This was brewing for a while,” she said.

“[Young people say] this is their revenge and they feel empowered by holding, in effect, governments and other people morally hostage… they’re doing what they want without regard for others because they feel they’ve been disregarded for years.”

Ms Batmanghelidjh, who founded charities The Place To Be and Kids Company, says many disadvantaged young Britons lack the social structures to improve their lives.

“It’s a number of things that erode the young people’s sense of dignity and it keeps shaming them, repeatedly, into the corners of society,” she said.

“Eighty-four per cent of the young people that arrive at Kids Company arrive homeless, and 73 per cent are not even registered with a GP.

“Large numbers of these people don’t even have a birth certificate and because of that they can’t access benefits.

“So the normal structures around these people have been eroded and they experience the state as constantly chasing them down for debts, taking them to court, threatening them with various things.

“But they don’t see the state extending a helping hand to actually help them through their difficulties.”

Culture of violence
Ms Batmanghelidjh says that as a result, “violence becomes the currency of survival” and many neighbourhoods are propped up by the drug trade.

“The drug economy is pulling very young children into the trade and using them as couriers and giving them the weapons and the firearms so that they can, if you like, hold the [drug] economy to account,” she said.

“Because you can’t take a drug dealer to court and say ‘he didn’t give me my bag of heroin’. What you do is you threaten him or you shoot him or whatever else they do.

“So violence in effect becomes the norm in these neighbourhoods and I think society, rather than just putting just the blame on these incredibly badly behaved individuals, needs to reflect the light on itself and wonder why such large numbers of children and young people are able to behave in this way.”

Ms Batmanghelidjh says the divide between the rich and the poor exacerbates the problem.

“The discrepancy shows up between the haves and the have-nots, and that compounds the rage and the feeling of disengagement and disenfranchisement.”

Sam Awad lives in the borough of Hackney, near Tottenham, where the riots first erupted in response to the police shooting of a man.

He says the demand for housing in Hackney is widening the divide between the rich and poor, but “not to the extreme”.

“You’ve got a mixture of different issues to entertain. You’ve got overcrowding; it’s a time of economic decline, a lot of unskilled and semi-skilled workers end up losing their jobs, which has affected Hackney a lot,” he said.

“But you’ve got other issues like underage pregnancy, family problems, violence within the community.

“A lot of people in the Caribbean community especially come from broken homes with only one mother, possibly a father who is not around or has been in prison.”