Sustainability Bites

There is no such thing as a free lunch

It’s not the end of the world… according to the sirens of BAU

It’s not the end of the world… according to the sirens of BAU

The sirens of BAU (Business as Usual) are singing a seductive song that everything will be okay if we just apply a bit more technology, a bit more efficiency and a lot more optimism. Well, the wheels are starting to come off ‘spaceship Earth’ yet the siren song is still being sung, to great applause. Consider the latest offering: Hannah Ritchie’s ‘Not the End of the World: How We Can be the First Generation to Build a Sustainable Planet’. It’s a Pollyanna potion we should think carefully about before taking.

Nature-positive information: devilish detail and a head with two hats and no teeth

Nature-positive information: devilish detail and a head with two hats and no teeth

Will the new Environment Information Australia (EIA) be up to the job? Can it equip us, for example, with the necessary data to discern if the government’s new “nature positive” policies and nature repair markets are delivering real gains, or just biodiversity conservation doublespeak? As the saying goes, the Devil is in the detail. Or in this case, in the lack of it.

The need for speed: can we buy faster environmental approvals to enable Australia to become a clean energy superpower?

The need for speed: can we buy faster environmental approvals to enable Australia to become a clean energy superpower?

Rapid Environmental Impact Assessment, without diluting environment has now become a national priority. What was once a problem of red tape and substandard practice, is now central to the clean energy revolution and vital to our collective future. Throwing money at the problem won’t solve it. Even more data and regulatory guidance won’t solve it, though of course it will make inroads. Solving the problem completely, achieving complete regulatory efficiency and removing a major bottleneck to Australia’s transition to a carbon-neutral economy, will take something out of the box. Maybe we should look at how the courts now do case management.

BAU and the green button syndrome – it’s the end of the world as we know it, so push the button again

BAU and the green button syndrome – it’s the end of the world as we know it, so push the button again

To quote a much (over) used aphorism, ‘insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.’ It sums up our approach to sustainability. I call this the ‘green button syndrome’, and to appreciate it, think of the world as a photocopier. It’s also a good way of understanding our policy response to mass coral bleaching.

It’s time to strike an environmental grand bargain between businesses, governments and conservationists – and stop doing things the hard way

It’s time to strike an environmental grand bargain between businesses, governments and conservationists – and stop doing things the hard way

For policymakers, this suggests environmental laws should define minimum viability thresholds. Some thresholds would be absolute; others would be crossable in one location provided equivalent restoration was done in another. Environmental groups could take satisfaction that thresholds would be maintained in most cases. Ecosystems would function, rivers would flow. But governments would still override thresholds for important economic and social reasons, say to approve a critical minerals project. What’s in it for corporate Australia? Business would gain upfront certainty about what can be approved and quicker approvals for projects. Environmental litigation would fall. But development options would be narrowed and offsets would become more expensive. The government would achieve a key goal: major environmental reform. But it would have to say no more often, and be transparent about crossing environmental thresholds.

This is not ‘higher than average’, this is the new normal

This is not ‘higher than average’, this is the new normal

NOAA has declared a Global Mass Bleaching Event and Australia’s Prime Minister races to the Great Barrier Reef to make an announcement! At last, the world is responding to the existential threat of climate change. But wait, what’s this; the PM is actually in Gladstone (at the southern end of the GBR) to celebrate the shipping of fossil fuel to Asia! Is this some sick parody? No, it’s real life. Welcome to the new normal – just like the old normal but with none of the certainty we once all enjoyed.

The cognitive dissonance in dealing with mass coral bleaching

The cognitive dissonance in dealing with mass coral bleaching

The Great Barrier Reef is facing an existential threat of our own making. We know what the solution is but our current governance around the Reef is inadequate to meet the challenge.
We can’t speak truth to power; science does not guide our decision making; and we can’t acknowledge that current economic priorities (and vested interests) mean that “the best managed reef ecosystems in the world” is being hung out to bleach.

The Bite

Key messages from our featured blog – 

Would a ‘climate trigger’ fire silver bullets?

People have been calling for the creation of a ‘climate trigger’ for years, but to little avail. Why? Because things are complicated, and a climate trigger is not the only game in town. It’s no silver bullet, but a quick check on where Australia’s emissions are coming from suggests a climate trigger may have a role to play.

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