We have a family joke – the “Not me Brian” joke. It began when a neighbour of my father was hosing the path in the vicinity of Dad’s car when the alarm suddenly sounded. The neighbour shouted, “It wasn’t me Brian!” So now, whenever we want to deny responsibility, we say “Not, me Brian!”
When it comes to cutting greenhouse emissions, the “Not me, Brian!” approach seems to be winning the day. The big players all have excellent reasons why their own sector should be excluded from measures to combat carbon emissions – or at least thoroughly compensated.
The fact is that it’s all of us. Yes, there are some who like to deny that there is even a problem, or argue that even if there is a problem it’s not our fault and there’s nothing we need to about it. But the majority consensus around the world is that there is a problem and the problem is us. The problem lies in just about everything we do. The way we eat, move, work and play is increasingly unsustainable. The net effect of our activities is to emit more carbon than we sequester.
With grazier Peter Spencer’s hunger strike in Canberra over the right to clear his own property, attention has turned to how agriculture fits with climate change. On a global level, farming is both a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions (and we’re all a part of this because we all eat!) and stands to be enormously affected by it.
Locally, farmers are organizing themselves against climate change laws that ban land clearing, arguing that this could destroy their livelihoods. They argue that farmers should not have to bear the brunt of the economic pain caused by emissions reductions schemes; that this is unjust.
The issues are very complex, but one thing is clear: everyone has to get on board. It’s all of us, Brian! At the same time, we need to ensure government policies are fair. It’s clear that the massive compensation proposed for the coal lobby doesn’t fit with the attitude taken to agriculture. If we want land to remain uncleared, then we need to give this a monetary value. As long as we go on eating, we’ll need agriculture. We need to work with our farmers, not against them, as change occurs.
Tracy Sorensen is the publicity officer for Bathurst Community Climate Action Network. Visit www.bccan.org.au