Sunday, 21 October 2007

Heads are Burning

Heads are Burning

Out where the river dried
The farms and the desert fried
Human wrecks and boiling birds
Dying in forty five degrees

The time has come
To clear the air
To stop the gas
To do our share
The time has come
A fact’s a fact
Too much C02
Let’s bring it back

How can we dance when our world is heating
How do we sleep when our earth is burning
How can we dance when our world is heating
How do we sleep when our earth is burning

The time has come to say fair’s fair
To clear the air, now to do our share

Big engines suck the fossil fuel
From New York to Katmandu
The whole world melts and heats
Slow death by degrees

The time has come
To clear the air
To stop the gas
To do our share
The time has come
A fact’s a fact
Too much C02
Let’s bring it back

How can we dance when our world is heating
How do we sleep when our earth is burning
How can we dance when our world is heating
How do we sleep when our earth is burning

The time has come to say fair’s fair
To clear the air, now to do our share
The time has come, a fact’s a fact
Too much C02, let’s bring it back

How can we dance when our world is heating
How do we sleep when our earth is burning

(With apologies to Midnight Oil, and their song, Beds are Burning, but not
to Peter Garrett who has sold out on global warming and the role of coal mining in Australia to the problem)

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

For the climes they are a-changin'

Come gather 'round people
wherever you roam
And admit that the carbon
Around you has grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone.
If your clime to you
is worth savin'
Then you better start thinkin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the climes they are a-changin'.

Come scientists and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won't come again
And speak right now
For the sceptics still spin
And there's no tellin' what
Lies they're namin'
For the liars now
They will never win
For the climes they are a-changin'.

Come politicians, businessfolk
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
For those that get hurt
Will be they who are poor
There's a battle outside
And it is ragin'.
It'll soon drown your coastlines
And blow away your walls
For the climes they are a-changin'.

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
Do criticize more
Because you can understand
Your sons and your daughters
Will not have a chance
The old world is
Rapidly warmin'.
Help healthearth
You can lend your hand
For the climes they are a-changin'.

The line it is drawn
The carbon is cast
The slow ice melt now
Will later be fast
As the death drought grows
The dry winds will blast
The order is
Rapidly fadin'.
And the first to change now
Will be without carbon sin
For the climes they are a-changin'.

With apologies to Bob Dylan. Perhaps these are the lyrics he would have written if 'the times' was written today?

Thursday, 27 September 2007

The Lomborg Move

A response to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald September 27 2007

It is hard to take Bjorn Lomborg seriously when he writes about organic food, disease, global poverty, polar bears and global warming. His arguments seem superficially convincing and there are statistics to back them up. However, it takes very little to expose the lack of substance behind his so-called arguments. Having accepted that there can be a causal link between (toxic) chemicals and cancer he goes on to make the claim that:

If you reduce your child's intake of fruits and vegetables by just 0.03 grams a day (that's the equivalent of half a grain of rice) when you opt for more expensive organic produce, the total risk of cancer goes up, not down. Omit buying just one apple every 20 years because you have gone organic, and your child is worse off.

The naivity of this argument is breathtaking. People who spend more of their money on organic food are also likely to spend less of it on high fat, low nutrition, high sugar, highly processed (additives, coloring, preservatives) food. Hence, their children are likely to get more ‘good’ food and less ‘bad’ food. Omit buying just one packet of fried potato chips for your kid every day because you have gone organic, and your child will be better off.

On the issue of carcinogens, pathogens and toxins in food, it is clear that organic food is less risky for the consumer than intensively produced food that has been exposed to the standard array of ‘cides’ in production (pesticides, herbicides, fungicides). The rates of increase in breast cancer and prostate cancer incidence is linked to exposure to pesticides as is the rate of premature births in countries where exposure to pesticides is common. While regulation of pesticides might be good in some countries, we now live in a globalised economy where fruit and vegetables can be flown in from distant places where regulation and standards are poor. Eating organically produced food grown in places where standards are regulated and monitored will be safer for young and older bodies than non-organic food. It will also be better for ecosystem health generally. Given the increasing rates of obesity (in children as well as adults) in developed countries, the idea that we might all need to eat less but better quality food, is not such a radical thought.

Next, Lomborg gets into the plight of the polar bear under climate change:

Consider a tale that has made the covers of some of the world's biggest magazines and newspapers: the plight of the polar bear. We are told that global warming will wipe out this majestic creature. We are not told, however, that over the past 40 years - while temperatures have risen - the global polar bear population has increased from 5000 to 25,000.

Now, like Lomborg, I am no expert of the breeding biology of polar bears, but the latest research from those who are experts is cause for legitimate concern. The polar ice flows that constitute Polar bear habitat are shrinking. So much so that it was reported recently that Arctic sea ice shrank to the smallest area on record this year and that the Northwest Passage has opened for the first time. Habitat is important for all species and a disappearing habitat spells disaster.

In western Hudson Bay, Canada, where recent studies of polar bear numbers have been undertaken by qualified scientists, they found that the population has reduced by 22% from 1194 to 935 between 1987 and 2004. Another population in Alaska that has been studied also show reduced numbers and lower adult weights and increased cub mortality. Populations that have increased in number (only two have been reported) are in areas where numbers are recovering from hunting pressure and where protection is now being provided. That bastion of extremism, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has recently proposed listing polar bears as a threatened species.

Despite evidence available that does not support his claim, Lomborg, continues the ignorance with the argument that:

Campaigners and the media claim that we should cut our carbon dioxide emissions to save the polar bear. Well, then, let's do the math. Let's imagine that every country - including the United States and Australia - were to sign the Kyoto Protocol and cut its carbon dioxide emissions for the rest of this century. Looking at the best-studied polar bear population of 1000 bears, in the West Hudson Bay, how many polar bears would we save in a year? Ten? Twenty? A hundred? Actually, we would save less than one-tenth of a polar bear.

If we were to stop the increase in global warming with cuts in our carbon dioxide emissions such that we would stop global temperature increase at no more than 2 degrees of warming, then actually, we might save polar bears from extinction by loss of habitat. In doing this, we save the habitat of many other species as well. Most scientists are arguing that if you save the habitat of this admittedly iconic species, then you save whole Arctic ecosystems. Lomborg is clearly attacking a straw bear. You do not have to do the math to figure out that preventing further polar bear habitat from melting will have the outcome of whole (not fractions) polar bears being saved.

Lomborg then argues:

If we really do care about saving polar bears, we could do something much simpler and more effective: ban hunting them. Each year, 49 bears are shot in the West Hudson Bay alone. So why don't we stop killing 49 bears a year before we commit trillions of dollars to do hundreds of times less good?

Yes, Bjorn, it would be a good idea to stop hunting and killing a rare and endangered animal. Perhaps we could do that and tackle the problem of greenhouse gas emissions at the same time? Perhaps we could do “hundreds of times more good” by chewing gum and walking at the same time?

Next, in a now classic Lomborg move, the argument is put that we should not worry too much about these known unknowns (global warming, terrorism, pesticides, and the loss of biodiversity) because there are knowns (e.g., the terrible conditions of the world’s poor) and they should concern us more! His text goes:

Much of my work is to make sense of all these global warnings. I try to put them in perspective and figure out which ones really should concern us, and when we should act on them.
Perhaps surprisingly, not everything of concern should be dealt with immediately. If we don't have a good way to fix a problem, it might be better to focus on something else first. After all, when you don't know where your next meal is coming from, it's hard to worry about what global temperatures will be 100 years from now.

Well Bjorn, we do have a good way to to fix the problem of global warming … reduce the emission of greenhouse gases, stupid! After all, if you are not sure if there will be a habitable planet for humans in 100 years from now, it must be hard to swallow your next meal. Especially when right now, the numbers of over-nourished people on the planet roughly equals that of those who are undernourished (1.2 billion). Perhaps it would be good to commit to reduce global hunger in addition to reducing greenhouse gases?

Lomborg tells us the good news is that things are getting better for humans and that we can expect such trends to continue into the future. The facts, according to Lomborg are:

By the close of the century, incomes will have increased sixfold in industrialised countries and 12-fold in developing countries, making the average person in the developing world richer in 2100 than the average American or European is today. The number of poor will drop from a billion to less than 5 million.

Perhaps so, but maybe you have to factor in peak oil and climate change as the fossil fuel based economy and the global environment simultaneously crash in a fiscal and bipolar meltdown. In a non-linear world, making linear projections of past trends into the future is nice science fiction, but it is not the provision of facts. There is no ‘math’ here, just reading the entrails of goats and hoping that people won’t notice the difference between sheer speculation and real science.

Finally, we get to the end of the fantasy. Lomborg tells us that:

None of this means we should stop worrying about the future. But it does mean that we can quit panicking and start thinking calmly to ensure that we focus on the right issues. Global alarm bells might cause pangs of guilt for wealthy Westerners, but they don't give us an adequate understanding of what is going on. We all need to hear both sides of the story.

Bjorn Lomborg is confident that the right issue is the elimination of poverty by continuing the process of wealth creation under consumer capitalism. That rapid increases in economic growth are needed to overcome global poverty is not a new thesis: the Brundtland report in 1987 ran the same line under the label of ‘sustainable development’. It is even called the “trickle down theory of wealth”. Cranking up economic growth just at a moment of much needed greenhouse gas emission reductions is just plain stupid!

Well, we have heard your side of the story Bjorn and it is a confused and pathetic defense of the indefensible.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Rethinking the Limits of Ethics

Cosmocentric Ethics and Climate Chaos

It is the sheer complexity and potential for devastation of present and future impacts of global warming on global climate that drives the necessity for innovative transdisciplinary responses. In ethics, no less than other domains of research, new perspectives that go beyond or transcend previous ethical frameworks are urgently needed. Under the imperative of sustainability, there has been an expansion of the scope of ethics from purely anthropocentric to ecocentric concerns and values.

Global warming pushes the boundaries of ethical consideration even further into the atmoscentric and climacentric, where new approaches to ethics are being driven by changes to the atmosphere and climates of the planet. All human cultures, all sentient creatures and every type of ecosystem are being profoundly affected by cumulative climate change. The movement from self-interest to planetary interest culminates in cosmocentric ethics or ethical concern about the status of the whole earth.

The transdisciplinary nature of cosmocentric ethics is clear when it is observed that changes in scientific understandings have been the major driver of changes in values and ethics. From a theocentric ethic humans have progressively moved to new ethical dimensions. The issues of sentience were highlighted by the sciences of comparative anatomy and physiology, the temporal and spatial interconnections of living and non-living systems were discovered by evolutionary and ecological sciences and now, the understanding of complex relationships between biodiversity, terrestrial ecosystems, oceans, the atmosphere and climate is being delivered by sciences/studies that transcend traditional discipline boundaries.

Added to the knowledge base delivered by these sciences is the emergence of new transdisciplinary fields of knowledge such as complexity theory and sustainability science. Discipline-based scientific knowledge that is seeking interconnections with other related disciplines and the new transdisciplinary domains, provide a new foundation for ethics. Cosmological citizens, informed about ethics via transdisciplinary environmental education, are in the best position to act on the implications of impending climate chaos.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Solastalgia and Soundscapes

Solastalgia and Soundscapes

I have solastalgia at the fading of natural sounds in the environment ... our soundscape is changing. We are in fact experiencing an aural invasion … the sounds of the natural world are slowly being silenced by the noise pollution of industrial society. If it is not the cacophony of air conditioners, road and air traffic, it is the digital roar inside the earphones … cancelling out the symphony of nature.

Bernie Krause (Wild Soundscapes 2002) has created a division of soundscapes into Biophony, Geophony and Anthrophony. The term ‘biophony’ has been used to describe the noises produced by, for example, birds and insects in a natural environment. Perhaps we should add Ecophony (see Peter Russell Crowe) since the interrelationships of the physical (wind) and the biological (trees) in the total ecosystem is a source of sounds in a landscape). Geophony is the noise from natural landscape features such as moving water while Anthrophony is the total soundscape produced by human societies.

In the US people are recording the natural soundscape in parks in order to document it before it is completely lost to the Technophony or that part of Anthrophony that consists of the noises produced by human technology (see: ).

The now ubiquitous noises of modern technologies such as aircraft wipe out the possibility of listening to the natural world and its ecophony. I recently listened to a resident of Salt Spring Island (West coast of Canada) tell his story of life on Ganges Harbour being forever changed by the constant traffic of float planes into and out of the island. He came to SSI for its beauty, peace and serenity. Now he lives right next to a busy airport that was never planned and approved and he experiences acute solastalgia as the floatplanes roar past his home and cancel the sounds of gulls, loons, turkey vultures and the hum of the hummingbird.
I wonder how many other people lament the deafening of a once loved soundscape?

As an academic, I work on campuses that have become battlegrounds of technophony as each building competes with the one next door to overwhelm the environment with the noise of fans, compressors and pullies. It is a dull roar, but one that makes contemplation in quietude impossible. The irony is that one has to close a window and shut out fresh air and the ‘outside’ in order to have silence in a room! The birds and animals that inhabit the campus must have to yell at each other to be heard. The subtleties of territories and communication are trashed in a cacophony of competition from technosounds. I have read about how the noise of ships propellers, sonar and other technophony in the oceans has made communication for the creatures of the sea difficult, if not impossible (See: ).
The silence of the whales,
the deafness of the dolphins.
Drowning in an ocean of noise?

I am even beginning to find the hum of the refrigerator annoying … it is denying me access to that interior silence of night thoughts. Our heads are filling up with the subtle, but pervasive tinnitus technophony of hard drives that play digital tricks on our ears. A wall of noise hits us inside and out. Who knows what damage the earphone is causing to our aural sense? Excessive noise damages ecosystem and human health.
The warnings about deafness go unheard.
Sorry, I can’t hear you …

We must defeat negative technophony and overcome the solastalgia produced by fading soundscapes. As well as the loss of loved physical landscapes, we are losing their sounds. It is time to turn the I-Pod off and give voice to this loss.

Sunday, 22 April 2007

Something Borrowed

Something Borrowed …

A connoisseur
of the consumer society
Collector of pegs, plastic
and precious cobalt antiques
Finder of lost marble memories

Indigo eye ego artist
‘stick figure with charcoal wash’
An amorous avenue for
feather dancing to liquid song
the bower of babble on

Cryptic green female critics
searching for …

Something blue.


Copyright Glenn Albrecht 2007

Image from:
With thanks to The Australian Museum.

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

Measuring Our Integrity

Measuring our Integrity

We all need measurements of our Greenhouse gas pollution. The ClimateCam or greenhouse gas speedometer now being championed in Newcastle is one way to understand the relationship between consumption and pollution. However, while school kids might learn that turning off the classroom lights at lunchtime will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, this is not a realistic response to the scale of the problem we face. One new coal mine, a new coal fired power station or a single ship leaving the port of Newcastle fully laden with coal will instantly wipe out the value of all of Newcastle’s light bulb changing and energy conservation measures. The real greenhouse gas index (GGI) that we need must measure is the concentration of greenhouse gases in the global atmosphere and we must be able to see that we are actually lowering the emissions at a global level. It is the GGI that will be far more important than the Dow Jones or the All Ordinaries and we will need to watch it come down every year.

There is no doubt that global warming is serious business and changing the climate should not be trivialised with public relations stunts. The Hunter region in particular will be hit hard by increased heat stress and disease in humans and other animals, worse droughts and water shortages, severe storms and flash flooding and sea level rise that will inundate all the land many metres above the current sea level. The expensive water front property, port infrastructure and our beaches will become water world. All these hugely costly changes will occur within the lifetime of the current and next generation of Novocastrians, that is, 50 – 100 years from right now.

The trouble with these problems is that although we can, in theory and with massive investments, adapt to slow change, climate scientists are suggesting that the nature, speed and intensity of the changes might not be predictable. The systems we are dealing with are immensely complex and have tipping points or thresholds that when met, are capable of delivering sudden and disastrous impacts. There may be no opportunity to adapt to enormous changes and even if we try, further unpredictable change might render futile all our efforts to avoid catastrophe. A bi-polar meltdown of ice and a sudden and large rise in sea level will just flow right over the top of any hugely expensive adaptive barrage or levee system we commit to protect our property in the near future. The Hunter is in an extremely vulnerable position with respect to all of the worst possible impacts of climate chaos. Our coastal lifestyle and real estate values, industry, our city and port, Lake Macquarie and agriculture are all at risk. In the face of growing evidence of real world change in response to global warming, it is not scare mongering to argue that the total environment is at foreseeable risk of dangerous change.

The cause of this really bad future scenario is our increasing greenhouse gas problem. For politicians … ‘It’s the climate, stupid’. We must urgently reduce our greenhouse gas emissions until we bring the planet’s climate back into a reasonably predictable pattern. With global greenhouse gas concentrations already close to dangerous levels for further warming and climate chaos we cannot afford any longer to play Russian roulette with the future. The science and the ethics are telling us to change and change right now!

Having delayed reasonable responses to global warming for over a decade it is now necessary that drastic changes take place. The fossil fuels that drive a combustion economy must be urgently phased out. In Australia, we must leave coal in the ground and show that we are prepared to make a sacrifice of cheap but polluting energy for the benefit of all global citizens and all future generations. Ethical leadership on the global warming issue will demonstrate such generosity towards the future.

The GGI as a measure of total concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is the only relevant measure of greenhouse gases and the only way to substantially reduce that concentration is to massively reduce our use of fossil fuels. We just have to stop exploding and burning things to run an economy. Climate chaos and an environment in crisis deliver an economic super-depression. It is not a question of balance. A foundation for society based on genuinely clean, safe and renewable energy is vital to our needs in the post combustion economy. These technologies are available right now and for the current generation of political leaders and captains of industry to be investing billions in the filthy lie of ‘clean coal’ and insanely dangerous nuclear energy is ethically bankrupt. Perhaps worse is a possible outcome of a lifestyle related Greenhouse Gas Speedometer that gives children the impression that the world will be saved if only they change their light bulbs. While the GGS in Newcastle might go down, the GGI continues to rise steeply as the Port is expanded to export more coal.

Our children need to know the truth about what is happening to their world and a vital part of that truth is that we all must understand that the coal-based wealth of the Hunter region and the Port of Newcastle is built upon the very cause of climate chaos. Our children deserve much more and much better.

Glenn Albrecht Tuesday 17th April.

Wednesday, 4 April 2007

Life Out of Balance

Life Out of Balance

A thousand years of Aamjiwnaang dreams
spirits touched by pure steam
from sweat lodge rocks
that release a culture’s memory.

One hundred short years of inversion
in the Chemical Valley
fugitive emissions into every space
Is the maple syrup really sweet?

Geese struggle for formation in miasmic air
benzene tears in the artist’s eye
reveal the reasons for
Benjamin Chee Chee’s suicide.

Sweet innocent boys go missing
So too the Snapping Turtle penis
shrinking in the chromosome chaos
the Hopi call Koyaanisqatsi.

A hundred long years of restoration
Geese, turtles and children
once again in perfect formation
life in beautiful balance.

Copyright: Glenn Albrecht

*also A Film by Godfrey Reggio, with Music by Philip Glass.
Ko.yaa.nis.qatsi (from the Hopi language), n. 1. Crazy life. 2. Life in turmoil. 3. Life disintegrating. 4. Life out of balance. 5. A state of life that calls for another way of living.

Written on the release of information about the feminisation of the population of Aamjiwnaang First Nation people and snapping turtles. Twice the number of girls are being born than boys and the ‘feminised’ turtles have diminished penis size. Pollution from ‘chemical valley’ (Sarnia, Ontario) is thought to be implicated. Benjamin Chee Chee was a Native American artist, now famous for his portraits of Canada Geese and other birds. His Autumn Flight is depicted. I see his attempt to keep the world in order/balance in geese art as his way of trying to defeat the pathology and tragedy of nostalgia and solastalgia. The Aaamjiwnaang tell of geese trying to land in Chemical Valley in a cloud of benzene and dying before they hit water. Chee Chee's suicide, the problems of Indigenous people and the death of order in Canada Geese seem somehow connected.

Benjamin Chee Chee Image from with deep appreciation.

Yi-ran-na-li: A Cliff face at South Newcastle Beach, Newcastle, Australia.

Yi-ran-na-li: A Cliff face at South Newcastle Beach, Newcastle, Australia.

A number of places along the Newcastle coastal environment are important to the Awabakal people and were recorded as such by Reverend Lancelot Threlkeld, a 'Missionary to the Lake Macquarie Aborigines' between 1824 and 1859. Reverend Threlkeld was coached in his interpretations by M’Gill, an Awabakal chief, also known as Biraban meaning ‘eaglehawk’.

One of the places described by Reverend Threlkeld is the cliff at South Newcastle Beach, named Yi-ran-na-li.

“There is a sort of sacred place near Newcastle on the sea-beach, beneath a high cliff, named Yi-ran-na-li, where, it is said, that if any person speak, the stones will fall down upon them, from the high arched rocks above, the crumbling state of which is such as to render it extremely probable, that the mere concussion of air from the voice would cause the effect to take place.

I was walking beneath the projecting rock and called loudly to McGill, who with other Aborigines, were with me, he instantly beckoned me to be silent, at which I wondered, a few small stones fell down from the crumbling overshadowing cliff at that moment, and they urged me on.

When we had passed out of the precincts of the fearful place, I asked what they meant by commanding my silence, and pushing on so quickly, without speaking? This elicited the tradition of the place as a fearful one, for if any one speak whilst passing beneath the overhanging rocks, stones would invariably fall as we had just witnessed.” (Threlkeld in Gunson 1974:65)

The very large rock that fell in 2004 perhaps marked Yi-ran-na-li’s final stand. It was a rock so large that we could not ignore it. That rock was a statement about our failure to live within the constraints and sensitivities of place. Despite the removal of the rock and the total reshaping (destruction) of the cliff face to make it ‘safer’ we should not forget the cultural belief of the local Aboriginal people that this place was to be feared and respected.

We can still learn from Yi-ran-na-li’. The cliff speaks to us with a wisdom that is thousands of years old. M’Gill knew this stone wisdom, but we have failed to listen, and today we still have so much to learn about so many other aspects of an endemic sense of place and about the environment that we live in.

It is not too late to show the respect that Yi-ran-na-li deserves. Just as M’Gill instructed Reverend Threlkeld to move on, we should also move quickly and quietly from the vicinity of Yi-ran-na-li, and resume our conversations and activities at a safer distance.

Friday, 30 March 2007

Ethics and Climate Change

The Ethics of Climate Chaos

Glenn Albrecht PhD


The scientific evidence for climate change is now overwhelming. Almost every day we hear news of yet another study that documents the actual changes to our formerly predictable weather patterns and biophysical processes. We all now see and read about the economic, health, psychological and ecological impacts of the increasing frequency and intensity of hurricanes such as Katrina and Larry. There are places on earth where climate change is happening so rapidly that people have new words to describe the shock of change in what was once a reasonably reliable and predictable context. The Inuit of the Arctic have applied a word, uggianaqtuq’ (pronounced OOG-gi-a-nak-took) which has connotations of a “friend acting strangely” or unpredictable behaviour to the way climate change is impacting on their culture[i]. Our world is indeed beginning to act in strange ways but what is even stranger is that in the face of such change, we are not acting quickly enough to counter the prospect of catastrophic risk to all future activity in our economies and our cultures. We can expect new epidemics of illness, physical and mental, in the face of such devastating change. I have created the concept of solastalgia to capture the 'uggianaqtug' in the English language.

You might have thought that the ethics of actually changing the global climate would have been on the top of the agenda in all of the recent talkfests on long-term energy policy. After all, what is at stake with the issue of greenhouse gas emissions and global warming is the future environmental security of all beings on the planet and in particular, the ability of humans to cope with massive but largely unpredictable changes to every aspect of their lives.

In a world operating under complex and unstable conditions, adaptation to the impending changes will be largely impossible because all current forms of planning are based on data and predictions linked to the past. However, in the brave new world, there will be many surprise events in the emergence of complex non-linear complex systems acting under new factors driving their evolution. Such system unpredictability will render useless many of the institutions and methodologies created to manage risk in our economic systems. The institution of insurance, for example, will be one of the first to fail as actuarial analysis fails to cope with evolving non-linear systems in the form of an array hugely damaging unnatural events. In a world characterised by chaos, all that was friendly and familiar will become strange to us and the Inuit will be seen as prescient.

The ethical issues of climate chaos are quite clear and can been understood within the principles of sustainability developed over the last 20 years in the international community. A key ethical issue is equity or the distribution of benefits and burdens of climate change. The intragenerational ethics of climate change is highlighted by the fact that some human communities have already had their lives directly and negatively affected by rising sea levels and melting glaciers. In the Pacific, low lying, inhabited islands are being inundated by the sea, leading to the world’s first climate chaos refugees. As suggested above, in the Arctic, melting permafrost and glacier retreat have already made life difficult for the Inuit people as they can no longer rely on a foundation of solid ice for safe travel, secure buildings and for sources of traditional food such as seals. The people of Himalayan countries such as Bhutan have already experienced catastrophic floods from glacial lakes that form, then burst under the rising flow of glacial melt water. These floods destroy in-stream hydro-electric power generation and the lights go out in Bhutan.

In both the Arctic and the Antarctic, impacts on biodiversity have now been documented with sea ice melt causing Polar Bear habitat to shrink and more snow causing negative impacts on Caribou and Moose. Antarctica is also experiencing major changes with Krill, the foundation of the food chain, in severe decline with flow on effects to populations of fish, seals, penguins, and whales further up the food chain. The world over, there is mounting evidence that as warming occurs, biodiversity or the variety of life, is rapidly disappearing. The extinction of frog species has now been linked to warming and many other species including the Mountain Pygmy Possum of Australia are under similar threat. Biodiversity can be considered under the umbrella of interspecies equity in the here and now, so we already have major lapses in ethical obligations to species other than ourselves.

If we add the increasing frequency of extreme weather events such as hurricanes, cyclones, tornados, wild fires and droughts on humans, domesticated animals and wildlife, then another layer of huge impacts has already been imposed on current generations. In Australia, the extreme hot temperatures will see increasing deaths from heat stress in humans and animals (e.g., cattle) and most recently in January 2006, poultry.

The potential impacts of climate chaos that we are imposing on future generations of humans are so great that one would have thought that leaders of countries such as the USA and Australia who profess ‘civilised’, Christian values would have them at the top of their agendas. But no, the prospect of escalating warming delivering epidemics of infectious diseases, catastrophic failure of agricultural systems, failure of fresh water supplies, massive coastal damage due to storm and tidal inundation and other unpredictable changes as a result of climate chaos has not yet bothered them.

Although the concept of intergenerational equity might seem abstract to some, to deliver into the hands of future children and grandchildren a world that will be in major and prolonged crisis is not a difficult ethical issue to contemplate. It is simply unacceptable to sit on our seats of power, board or conference tables and deliberately do nothing or too little to give children an experience of a beautiful, secure and predictable future world. After all, a major reason why we work so hard and burn so much energy is … to give our children a better world to live in.

The level of scientific knowledge we have about climate chaos issues has reached the point for urgent and extensive action. Right now, we have firm scientific evidence that global warming has been escalating since the industrial revolution, that it is linked to historically unprecedented increases in the levels of carbon dioxide and other human produced gases in the atmosphere, that the sea level is rising at twice the rate of the previous one hundred and fifty years and that it is the human industrial activity, mainly the burning of fossil fuels that is responsible for all of the above. In response to all of the information documented about the possibility of irreversable climate chaos, the immediate need to drastically curtail or even cease the mining and burning of coal and oil should be on our agendas. At the very least, ramping-up our commitment to clean, renewable energy in all of its forms should be an international priority.

Even if evidence of the effects of climate chaos was not available to us, the application of another foundation of sustainability ethics, the precautionary principle, or the idea that we ought to minimise risk or possible harm to current and future generations before actual scientific proof of harm is before us, should be on top of political and policy agendas. Failure to consider and fully implement the precautionary principle through the Kyoto framework or any other multilateral government agreement marks the current generation of political leaders and climate sceptics as standing on ethically thinning ice. As the temperature and the sea level rises, the climate sceptics, along with the glaciers, are in retreat (rapidly!).

Politicians and many business leaders in Australia and the USA in particular have used national and international forums to make Faustian bargains with the future in an effort to achieve the impossible goal of infinite economic growth in a finite world. The tragedy of climate chaos represents a failure to seek long overdue reconciliation of human life within the limits of planet earth. It is to be hoped that the purveyors of the hubris of infinite growth will burn forever in an even hotter climate than the rest of us.

[i] IOL, Effects of climate change seen in the Arctic,
(accessed 11/09/2006) See also:

Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Risk Free Energy

Risk Free Energy: Reframing the Energy Debate

Glenn Albrecht PhD

Now that the ‘inconvenient truth’ about global warming is out and the climate sceptics are retreating almost as fast as ice sheets and glaciers, we are faced with a new and important issue … what do we do next with respect to global warming and our energy needs?

After the failure of governments to take global warming and climate chaos seriously, we need a new frame through which we can consider our options. Risk Free Energy (RFE) can provide us with a new frame to see our energy future.

In the past, political and industry leaders, particularly in the USA and Australia attempted to frame the debates about the enhanced greenhouse effect and global warming around the issues of ‘change’ and ‘uncertainty’. The preferred discussion was about climate ‘change’, as change is natural, not always bad and might even be good for us. We parroted the mantra that reducing carbon dioxide levels would destroy jobs and that certainty in the economy was more important than the scientific uncertainty of climate change.

The twin frames of ‘change’ and ‘uncertainty’ that dominated the debate for over a decade ensured that the public remained ignorant about the importance of global warming and enabled business-as-usual in the form of increasing greenhouse gas emissions from big coal and big oil. But reality has trumped spin and the world now shows clear signs of major and rapid change as a result of global warming. The tide and the temperature are rising.

In response, political parties and big business have advocated ‘clean coal’ and ‘zero emissions’ nuclear power as key solutions to our warming problem. The use of the words ‘clean’ and ‘zero’ in relation to coal and nuclear energy give the appearance of security and safety.

However, clean coal is at best an oxymoron and at worst a filthy lie. The open cut mining of coal is one of the most destructive activities undertaken on the face of the earth. It creates massive and permanent damage to regional landscapes wherever it is undertaken. The burning of coal pollutes big time and it is not just carbon dioxide that we should be concerned about; millions of tonnes of highly toxic chemicals spew out of the chimney stacks of coal-fired power stations world-wide.

The capture and storage underground or undersea of carbon dioxide (geosequestration) is a high risk ‘solution’ to the problem of carbon dioxide pollution. It will be at least twenty years before new power stations are operating with connections to this untested technology. Meanwhile, another 20 years of additional carbon emissions would have been added to the earth’s atmosphere.

More pointedly, there can be no guarantee that the stored carbon dioxide would remain ‘safe’ for the indefinite future. Should huge volumes of stored carbon be released by geological instability, the warming problem will massively and suddenly escalate. Carbon geosequestration is yet another form of Russian roulette with the future. The fact is, concentrated carbon dioxide buried in the ground is potentially toxic and dangerous for all time.

The nuclear energy option promoted as clean and zero emissions is another example of false framing. A nuclear power plant is hugely costly to build, carbon intensive in its construction phase, limited by 50 year uranium supplies, not fail-safe and is open to the ever present danger of human fallibility. There is no solution to the problem of intractable nuclear waste and plutonium is highly dangerous for 20,000 years. The use of refined uranium in weapons and the possibility that they will be used by terrorists is inviting Armageddon. It is simply too risky to allow nuclear proliferation; nuclear energy is a dangerous dead-end in the energy debate.

To avoid further imposition of risk on the citizens of planet earth we need a new frame to evaluate our energy options. Both coal and nuclear energy are high risk options for our future. By contrast, genuine contenders for a sustainable energy future must satisfy all of us that they present no short or long term risk to the health of the planet and its inhabitants. If RFE fails, it will be a safe fail; if humans display characteristic fallibility and make big mistakes, the fall-out will be inconsequential and the sources of such risk free energy must be renewable and freely available to all. In short, RFE is the new frame that must allow evaluation of all energy options into the future … we must ask not only if it is really clean, but is it safe?

Saturday, 24 March 2007

Link to Healthearth website

More information about Solastalgia and research undertaken by Glenn Albrecht and his colleagues can be found at their website at

Friday, 23 March 2007

Turtle Tears

Turtle Tears

A leatherback turtle
caught in the wrong millennium
comes ashore one last time.

A long life cut short
by a long line of torture
… dying of detritus.

Hooks worm their way into flesh
necrotic nets garrotte the neck
body buoyed down and drowning.

Turtle tears soak the sand
a final sight of its hatching beach
a final sigh that traverses the world.

Ocean waves crash in the death shell
all ears hear the sighs and cries
too late to untangle the extinction.

Copyright: Glenn Albrecht.

[Written on the news (January 2006) of a two metre long, 150 year old, 350 kilogram, leatherback turtle that beached itself on the Victorian coast and died of injuries incurred as a result of entanglement in discarded fishing and boating gear]

Tuesday, 20 March 2007

Solastalgia: A new psychoterratic condition

Cultures all over the world have concepts in their languages that relate psychological states to states of the environment. The Hopi have used the word koyaanisqatsi to describe conditions where life is disintegrating and out of balance. The Portugese use the word saudade to describe a feeling one has for a loved one who is absent or has disappeared. The North Baffin Inuit of the Arctic have applied the word, uggianaqtuq, ((pronounced OOG-gi-a-nak-took) is) to the climate and weather. The word means to behave unexpectedly or in an unfamiliar way and has connotations of a “friend acting strangely” or in an unpredictable way. The weather has become uggianaqtug for them.

Worldwide, under the relentless impact of development and climate change, humans are experiencing epidemics of physical and mental disease that have connections to the environment, yet we have very few concepts in English that address environmentally induced distress and illness. I propose two new categories; psychoterratic and somaterratic illness that make the connection between the state of the earth (terra) and mental and physical health. In addition, I suggest that one very old concept, nostalgia, needs to be re-examined as a legitimate psychoterratic disease to be seen along side solastalgia, an important new concept in our understanding of environmentally induced health and illness. What with relentless development pressure and climate chaos (global warming + climate change = climate chaos), both somaterratic and psychoterratic illnesses are likely to increase dramatically.

We have one word in the English language that very closely connects human distress to the place where we live, our ‘home’. The word, ‘nostalgia’, was once a concept linked to a diagnosable illness associated with melancholia experienced by people who were distant from their home and wanted to return. Nostalgia (nostos = return to home or native land, algia = pain or sickness) or literally, ‘homesickness’, was considered to be a serious medically diagnosable psychosomatic disease with the potential to cause death in those afflicted right up to the middle of the C20.

The indigenous peoples of the earth who have been dispossessed of their lands and its cultural meanings are also likely to experience the pathology of nostalgia. The nostalgia for a past where former geographical and cultural integration was both highly valued and sustainable is for them an ongoing painful experience. Worldwide, displaced indigenous people experience physical and mental illness at rates far beyond those of other groups of humans. Their social problems; unemployment, alcoholism, substance abuse, violence, disproportionately high rates of crime and incarceration, lead to community dysfunction and crisis. People, who are dispossessed, either by force, or via disaster, will experience the serious distress of nostalgia.

However, in general, reference to ‘nostalgia’ as a sickness resulting from a longing or desire to return home while one is away from ‘home’ is no longer in common use. The more frequent modern use of the term loses its intense connection to the geographical ‘home’ and suggests a ‘looking back’ to a positively perceived period in the past.

Dispossession is one trigger for environmentally induced distress. But what about the idea of environmentally induced distress in people who are not displaced? There are places on earth that are not being completely ‘lost’, but are being ‘transformed’. People who are not voluntarily nor forcibly removed from their homes can also experience place-based distress in the face of the lived experience of profound environmental change.

It seems that we lack an appropriate concept for the distress humans directly experience that is caused by environmental change. There is therefore justification for the creation of a new concept that captures the space or territory connected to this particular constellation of the factors that define environmentally induced distress. The people of concern are still ‘at home’, but feel a similar melancholia as that caused by nostalgia connected to the breakdown of the normal relationship between their psychic identity and their home. What these people lack is solace or comfort derived from their present relationship to ‘home’, and so, a new form of psychoterratic illness needs to be defined.

From Nostalgia to Solastalgia

There are few words in English that closely connect psychological and environmental states. One such word is, ‘desolation’ and its meanings refer both to a personal feeling of abandonment (isolation) and to a landscape that has been devastated. The word ‘solace’ also relates to both psychological and physical contexts. One meaning refers to the comfort one is given in difficult times (consolation) while another refers that which gives comfort or strength to a person. A person or a landscape might give solace, strength or support to other people. Special environments might provide solace in ways that other places cannot. If a person lacks solace then they are distressed without the possibility of consolation. If a person seeks solace or solitude in a much loved place that is being desolated, then they will also suffer distress. In both contexts there is anguish or pain (algia).

Therefore, I suggest ‘solastalgia’ to describe the pain or sickness caused by the loss of, or inability to derive, solace connected to the present state of one’s home environment. Solastalgia exists when there is recognition that the place where one resides and that one loves is under assault (physical desolation). It can be contrasted to the spatial and temporal dislocation and dispossession experienced as nostalgia. Solastalgia is the ‘lived experience’ of the loss of the value of the present as manifest in a feeling of dislocation; of being undermined by forces that destroy the potential for solace to be derived from the immediate and given. In brief, solastalgia is a form of homesickness one experiences when one is still at ‘home’.

Any context where place identity is challenged by pervasive change to the existing order has potential to deliver solastalgia. Transformative technologies and emergent disease (for human and non-human life) have enabled change to occur to cultural and natural environments at a speed that makes adaptation difficult if not impossible. While some might respond to such stress with nostalgia and want to return to a desired past place or time, others will experience solastalgia and express a strong desire to sustain those things that provide solace.

The factors that cause solastalgia can be both natural and artificial. Natural disasters such as drought, fire and flood can be a cause solastalgia. Human-induced change such as war, terrorism, land clearing, mining, rapid institutional change and the gentrification of older parts of cities can also be causal agents. The concept of solastalgia has relevance in any context where there is the direct experience of negative transformation or desolation of the physical environment (home) by forces that undermine a personal and community sense of identity, belonging and control.

In areas affected by prolonged drought desolation to both farmers and the landscape occurs. Research undertaken on the mental health aspects of the drought have concluded that it is not just large scale landscape change (loss of vegetation, dust storms, dead animals, starving animals etc), it is also smaller scale events like the loss of a much loved farmhouse garden that finally trip people over into solastalgically induced depression and illness[1]. Similar situations occur when citizens and communities experience severe impacts from open caste mining. Dust, noise, machines, explosions and pollution all have their effects and a once much loved landscape can be dramatically transformed by such activity. Research in Australia conducted by the author and colleagues has found clear connections between the loss of ecosystem health and felt declines in both physical and mental health of those affected by large scale industrial activity.[2]

The concept of solastalgia can also be applied to understanding the social impacts of disease epidemics. For example, in the epidemic of foot and mouth disease in the UK in 2001 between 6.5 million and 10 million animals were slaughtered prevent the spread of the disease. The loss of the animals and their absence in the rural landscape and economy was a cause of great distress in rural England. A study from Lancaster University found that the epidemic had far-reaching psychosocial impacts. Those farmers and people in their communities directly affected by the sudden change to the environment felt “distress, feelings of bereavement, fear of a new disaster … flashbacks, nightmares, and uncontrollable emotion”[3].

With an increasing incidence of emergent diseases such as HIV AIDS, Asian Bird Flu and SARS, whole social environments can be rendered rapidly ‘at risk’ of complete devastation and transformation. When, for example, thousands of animals must be slaughtered or whole communities and institutions (e.g., hospitals) must be isolated from the rest of the world, solastalgia is a likely outcome for those affected. The HIV pandemic in Africa affects community integrity so profoundly that all sense of ‘home’ and family relationships is desolated. In such circumstances ‘home’ becomes pathological and those who are living with the disease as well as those who are their carers experience acute solastalgia as well as a devastating disease burden.

The most poignant moments of solastalgia occur when individuals are directly involved in or directly experience the transformation of a loved environment. Living through the terrorism of 9/11 2001 or a hurricane such as Katrina in 2005 and watching houses and whole urban landscapes of New Orleans devastated by subsequent flooding would be a traumatic case of solastalgia. Those who were voluntarily displaced but then return ‘home’ to such devastation would manifest distress of a solastalgic kind. Equally, those who survived the tsunami in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Thailand in December 2004 and remained in their utterly transformed environments would have experienced deep solastalgic distress. At a less directly traumatic level, witnessing the removal of much loved trees for new development in an urban environment can be the cause of a profound distress that can be manifest as intense visceral pain and mental anguish.

A diagnosis of solastalgia is based on the recognition of the degree that distress within an individual or a community is connected to the loss of an endemic sense of place. All people who experience solastalgia are negatively affected by their desolation and likely responses can include the generalised distress and feelings of loss and bereavement outlined above but can escalate into more serious health and medical problems such as drug abuse, physical illness and forms of mental illness. So powerful is the connection between a loved place and the experience of negative transformation, that for some people, suicide is seen as the only form of relief from psychoterratic distress (particularly indigenous people).

Positive outcomes from the negative experience of solastalgia stem firstly from the recognition of the psychoterratic cause of the distress. There is potential empowerment in the clear acknowledgment of that which needs to be confronted. Secondly, a commitment to engage in action to cooperate with and support distressed people and heal distressed environments is itself a profoundly healing act. As was found in the British context of foot and mouth disease, engagement in human support networks is an important counter to the solastalgic distress caused by various forms of disaster.

In Australia, voluntary land care groups have formed to offer mutual support for each other (solidarity) and engage in direct action to restore and repair of distressed environments. Indigenous communities in Northern Australia have been able to achieve important advances in human health while at the same time actively repairing their damaged biophysical environment. In all cases, it is clear that good human health (mental and physical) is intimately tied to ecosystem health.

Many people sense that something is wrong with our relationship with the planet and their unease just might be an expression of deep-seated solastalgia about non-sustainability. Climate chaos is already causing profound changes to our sense of place. The intense desire to be organically connected to life and living landscapes is, in part, a desire to overcome solastalgia by finding an earthly ‘home’ in the connection with living things and life processes on this planet. As put simply by Albert Schweitzer, “ethics is nothing else than reverence for life”.[4] In all aspects of life; social, cultural, psychological, political, scientific and economic; humans need to redirect their energy and intelligence to an ethically inspired, urgent practical response to overcoming the causes of solastalgia.[5]

[1] see News in Science, Judy Skatssoon, Drought Prompts New Type of Mental Stress (accessed 22/08/2006)
[2] See L. Connor, G. Albrecht, N. Higginbotham, W. Smith, & S. Freeman, (2004) Environmental Change and Human Health in Upper Hunter Communities of New South Wales, Australia, EcoHealth Vol. 1, Supplement 2, pp. 47-58. (Published online: 28 October 2004, Hard Copy Vol. 1 (Suppl. 2), 47-58)
[3] see BMJ, UK foot and mouth epidemic was a human tragedy, not just an animal one (accessed 22/08/2006) at
[4] Albert Schweitzer, Civilization and Ethics translated by C.T. Campion. (London: Unwin, A & C Black, 1967), p.11.
[5] See Glenn Albrecht, Solastalgia: A New Concept in Human Health and Identity, in PAN (Philosophy, Activism, Nature) 2005 Issue. 3, 41-55.

Carbon Conservation Parks

The Anvil Hill Carbon Conservation Park

With a new baby granddaughter in the family I have been thinking about buying her a present. I would like to buy her the equivalent of my past lifetime’s worth of carbon dioxide pollution and lock it away so that it never enters the atmosphere. I have been eyeing off the proposed Anvil Hill mega coal mine in the Hunter Valley of NSW as a possible source of the coal that I would put into my carbon safe. I want to prevent Anvil Hill from ever becoming an active coal mine but I want to buy some of its coal, give it to Lilly, and leave it in the ground forever. I think millions of others worldwide would also like to ‘invest’ in the idea of a carbon conservation park.

Lilly will be only 33 in 2040 when carbon dioxide levels, assuming they do not increase any faster than the current rate of 2% per annum, reach 450 parts per million (ppm) in the atmosphere. It is a gloomy thought, but we might already be dangerously close to that mark if the impact of all the greenhouse gases (e.g., methane and nitrous oxide) is taken into account. At this point, many of the world’s top climate science experts agree that a dangerous ‘tipping point’ could occur with the world’s climate spiraling out of control into much higher temperatures, polar meltdown with massive sea level rise and totally unpredictable weather systems. I will have to tell Lilly that largely due to the lack of Australian and USA political leadership, the Kyoto Protocol failed to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and that in 2007, no major political party in Australia was prepared to immediately reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Indeed, I have to tell her that both major parties, just before a national election, committed to major increases in our emissions for at least another two decades.

Coal miners and coal engineers love their children and grandchildren just as much as environmentalists do. We need to give to our children a sense of hope about the future and demonstrate that we are all prepared to make sacrifices right now in order to take excess greenhouse gases out of our economy and our atmosphere. Of course we must immediately cut our energy consumption and engage in massive energy conservation measures. It is equally obvious that a moratorium on all new coalmines and coal-fired power stations must be implemented while the energy conservation measures and the genuinely clean and safe renewable energy technologies of the post-combustion economy are put into place.

However, we still need to do more. A globally set cap on greenhouse gas emissions to bring the concentration down from its present 380 pmm to safer levels (less than 300 ppm) is urgently needed. From now to 2040 the Greenhouse Gas Index (GGI) will be far more important an indicator of our sustainability than the Dow Jones or the All Ordinaries. Right now, at a personal level, other than direct investment into clean, safe renewable energy technologies, the strongest ethical and practical statement we can make about our commitment to reducing the GGI is to buy pure carbon and permanently take it out of our economy. A clear demonstration that this mature, well-educated and affluent generation is prepared to pay for past greenhouse gas intensive lifestyles and forgo the immediate and future benefits of cheap carbon-based energy and leave it in the ground for the benefit of the common good is what the next generation needs to see right now.

We do not have the time (perhaps 20 years) to wait for speculative carbon capture and storage technologies that only partially reduce emissions even if they succeed. Conventional carbon offset businesses also offer only a limited solution to our current emissions. When we grow a new forest as a carbon offset we buy the equivalent of our carbon pollution as carbon dioxide sequestered in the living and dead matter in trees. However, the problems with forest carbon offset schemes are that the actual amount of carbon sequestered is not easy to calculate and that it can be converted into fugitive carbon dioxide by natural or human-made disaster. If a fire goes through our offset forest, and the forest is not regrown, most of our carbon goes up in smoke. Forests are also long term propositions and we cannot wait another 50 years before a significant amount of carbon is locked up in trees.

Other schemes for C02 offsets seem dodgy. Early dry season burning in Arnhem Land, burning methane from coal mines, non-audited alternative energy schemes in developing countries and low energy light bulbs that never get turned on give the whole idea a bad reputation. A radical new approach to carbon accounting is needed.

Let’s examine the proposed Anvil Hill coal mine in the Hunter Valley as a case study in carbon accounting. Over its projected life of about 20 years it produces 10.5 million tonnes of coal per annum. If the coal is sold on the open market, at $50 (Aus) a tonne, the current historically high price, this coal is worth about $525 million per annum for the shareholders of Centennial Coal, minus about 7% for royalties paid to the government (calculated after costs such as washing and transport to port have been deducted). The final value would be less than $500 million per annum. If, theoretically, the carbon dioxide produced by Anvil Hill is captured and sequestered, at the current cost of about $100 per tonne of coal, it would deliver to Centennial a $500 million loss per annum. I can feel a huge public subsidy for carbon capture and storage coming on.

Moreover, if we convert 10.5 million tonnes of dirty coal via combustion to the 27 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (its 100 year global warming impact), then according to the Stern Report, it generates $109 per tonne in costs in damage to the earth and our economies or over $1.0 billion per annum. Again, Anvil Hill makes a $500 million loss per annum. The economics of business-as- usual and carbon capture and storage just do not add up. It is obvious that options other than burning coal are urgently needed.

With a shift in imagination we can think about Anvil Hill’s annual 27 million tonnes of C02 equivalent as a guaranteed and instant pure carbon offset, one that can never be subject to accidental carbon dioxide release. With the current price for carbon offsets in NSW at $20 a tonne, then by selling the pure coal as a carbon offset, the value of the coal would be about $500 million per annum. To offset the 27 tonnes of C02 equivalent per annum generated on average by each person in Australia, it would cost me a mere $500.

After consulting with my carbon accountant, I give baby Lilly on her first birthday a certificate showing her that I have purchased the equivalent of my past 10 year’s generation of greenhouse gas emissions. As my financial situation allows, I will be able to offset the total of my past 54 years of treating the earth as a ‘free’ waste bin for my greenhouse gas emissions.

As others worldwide make similar bequests of pure carbon, never to be used in the future, for their children and grandchildren, we speed up the decarbonisation of our economy. However, I still have to pay more in the here and now for carbon-based fuels in the form of other carbon taxes that are designed bring the GGI down to below 300ppm. No purchase of ‘indulgences’ here where I continue a carbon profligate lifestyle without taking carbon out of the economy. I pay twice for my carbon, once for my past consumption and again as I consume carbon in the last days of the combustion economy. Ultimately, as the economy becomes carbon neutral, my carbon tax noose is loosened. I have offset my lifetime’s emissions and I pay no more carbon taxes in a post-carbon and post combustion world.

The Anvil Hill Carbon Conservation Park option looks like good value as it includes the complete preservation of landscape values, ecosystem services (water supply, arable soil, biodiversity) and no additional cumulative impacts on farmers and residents of the Upper Hunter. The shareholders of Centennial have a return on their investment and the State of NSW gets offset royalties from permanently sequestered carbon. I see no reason why coal from any other working coal mine cannot be bought by those who wish never to mine or burn it; after all, it is a free market.

Moreover, it would be optimally ethical for the State government to invest all of its new carbon offset royalties into clean, renewable and safe energy technologies with all new employment going to ex-coal industry workers. A final bonus is that we will not have to develop hugely expensive ‘cleaner’ coal technology as we save a lot of money by leaving coal in the ground. All this money then goes into developing clean, safe renewable energy. This is a win, win, win situation and the Anvil Hill Carbon Conservation Park will become world famous as a turning point that helped prevent the tipping point into global climate chaos.