By Michael Mobbs

Every time I wake up there’s a new rating scheme.

Enough is enough. It’s cold shower time.

Remember when we were invited to spray DDT on our food and in our houses because it “harmlessly” killed bugs? (If you’re too young to remember, do an internet search on “DDT advertisements” and see for yourself).

Ah, those were the days. “Bring back the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer . . .”

The way folks are thinking in lockstep today, mooning over BASIX, Green Star, NABERS and such, reminds us Raters of that empty-headed wombat world. Rating schemes are today’s DDT. And we’re proud of it.

Lady Gaga is not here by accident this year; she’s come to acknowledge our times, our delusional building rating schemes. Those music house gigs of hers are just a distraction.

Last month, deep in a cave, far away in a remnant rainforest, she sang primal checklists with our glazed-eyed gathering of Raters, wrapped up in lockstep thoughts and singing beautifully off the same page.

The secret singing rites are the property of the Raters. Publicly we are a po-faced bunch of do-gooder, save-the-worlders, but in that dark, candlelit cave we were fabulous. Burr was there, of course, being a member. How we loved chanting in time with Gaga. “Oh, honey, the mindlessness was fabulous,” she said afterwards.

We Raters are related to the Knights of the Black Cross, or the Southern Cross and the Just Plain Cross. We have undisclosed links to the Papacy; well, to the hidden statues and markings on the walls in the Sistine Chapel there. We funded Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code and we wanted to name one of the rating schemes something like The Da Vinci Building Rater, but the marketing department got worried, for some reason.

We Raters communicate secretly with each other by blowing smoke out of our bottoms. I can tell you these things because you won’t believe them because they’re so fantastic, and we love that. You know, being visible but invisible at the same time. It’s sooo energy efficient.

What are we about? It’s the money; we rake it in and don’t have to spend a penny. We make your ‘sustainable’ rating schemes.

Raters love to dominate and be holier than thou. If we don’t walk all over you, we’ll walk all over your building. “Tut, tut,” we say as we go.

There’s nothing like the discipline and bondage of a good rating scheme to give one a sense of control and sanctity.

Because the facts don’t suit us, we lie to you every time we sell you your ratings. This is what we don’t tell you and you don’t get: our rating schemes only checklist the least relevant, least damaging uses of energy and water. Like, your car is hurtling towards a cliff and you keep a close eye on the speedo to see at what speed you’re travelling instead of slamming on the brakes in any way you can. Yes, that’s our game, speedo watching.

These are the facts we never mention but pesky universities do, and so does that Ross Garnaut bloke in his reports but because he, too, banged on about it being too hard to measure the things really stuffing up your planet. You ignored what he said, you bunch of speedo watchers:

“In a generic sense, the combined direct and indirect requirements for energy, land and water all increase steadily with per-capita income, . . . There is little suggestion that the per-capita requirements saturate or plateau over the range of income data represented in the household expenditure surveys for Sydney. . . .

For the environmental management of households in Sydney, it is apparent that a policy focus on reducing the direct component of energy use, while laudable, is probably misdirected since direct energy use constitutes remarkably small portion of the total energy requirement over a range of incomes. The real challenge lies with “wants” rather than “needs” or in the progressive dematerialisation of the “wants’ of city residents . . . “ (1)

See? Rate away, pay away. It won’t help anyone but Raters.

One thing that helps us go to work each day is how easily we fool you. We tell you, over and over again, that the energy and water you can measure in your meters is what it’s all about; cut that stuff and you’ll live happily ever after. We never say it’s not as much as you could save without our Raters’ ratbaggery. We don’t do truth.

Our leaders will amaze you but I’ll name just one for the pleasure of knowing you won’t believe me.

Our Australian leader and holder of the Australian Continental Chief Bottom Blower of Ratering is, of course The Abbott and we expect him to lead your next federal government. We Raters call him the Supreme Distractor.

So, now do you get it? No? Well, try this.

Next time you look into a young baby’s eyes, know that no matter how many ‘energy efficient’ homes it may live in, we Raters have ensured you’ll never do anything worth a hill of beans to secure its future.

Every tin of baby food that has come from China, encased with the ore we shipped there from Australia; every nappy shipped here from China made from plastic, made from oil from Saudi Arabia; every glass of BASIX-blessed dam water from hundreds of kilometres of pipes pumped with energy never measured by our rating schemes; every car-trip by the babysitter; every car trip to the shopping centre; every round trip of 200km by the chippies and delivery vehicles on every building site; every piece of fruit stored for six months at minus 30 degrees in freezers the size of football fields at Wagga; every lovely knitted beany for diddums’s tiny head in winter; every tube of ointment for that bottom yet to blow smoke out of it when it grows up to be a Rater – the whole of the convoy of goods, chattels, trips, backpacks, boots ’n’ all that we clothe, use and move about in is off our Raters’ radar.

The furniture, forks, food: how you got it from chain stores, who got it from China etc, in all its awful destructiveness, is actually the real DDT of our times, but you don’t want to know that, do you?

And you know the beautiful thing? Those Copenhagen Raters have made sure it’s not going to be in any climate-change rating scheme.

We’ve got it all covered; well, uncovered, really. Self-promotion worked for us with DDT and it’s working for us today.

Can’t say you weren’t told.

God, we miss DDT, though. That’s why we hit on the caves to escape to; there’s a wonderful growing accumulation of it there. We can have it with every banquet now.

I just wish we could do something that really nukes your dining room tables instead of these wimpy rating schemes. Checklists just don’t match the drama of the old spray can of DDT.

Today, when I came out of a cave and the warmth of the sun warmed my skin and for a tiny moment I felt human again, the thought of going off to do yet more Rating rubbish felt, well, false.

But then, I guess, in some small way, I’m not quite on the same page when we Raters chant our checklists.

Lenzen, Dey & Foran (2004). Energy requirements of Sydney households. Ecological Economics 49: 375-399.

Michael Mobbs consults with private and public sector developers and their project teams to design, obtain approvals and funding for sustainable projects, particularly urban farm projects.


Projects include residential flats, offices, subdivisions, housing, infrastructure, and sustainable government policies.

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