The most important debate

Type radio and ABC into Google and you’ll find yourself at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Type radio and ABC into Google and you’ll find yourself at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

The place is a trove of fantastic radio — and, if you prefer to read, written transcripts for many shows are simply posted on the site for free.

Anyway, on September 2, the ABC ran a story titled Gaia and Climate Change, which explored James Lovelock’s theory of a living planet.

Lovelock suggests Earth is a self-regulating organism.

And he has just written a new book, The Revenge of Gaia, which leans on the theory as he examines our changing climate.

Lovelock is not optimistic about our future.

“It’s far too late, hopelessly too late,” he told the broadcaster in its elegant documentary. “We are wasting our time and energies on all the wrong things. We have to face up for the fact that we are about to enter a major war with our own planet.

“There is a huge challenge and problem before us of surviving ourselves and making sure that civilization survives, and that’s more than enough to exercise us and something that everybody will soon become quite desperately involved with and will want to do something about it.”

There is much in the hour-long program to think about … the melting of the Greenland icesheet; feedback loops that hasten the pumping of carbon dioxide into the environment; ocean warming; the coming threat of extensive flooding; ecological refugees … it’s not easy to listen, but its hard to turn off — the audio equivalent of watching a train wreck.

There is very little good news.

We are at war with our climate, and such a fight dwarfs our existing human conflicts.

Clearly, listening to the assembled experts, humanity is in a race to see if the planet turns bad or very bad.

Or terminal.

And, while Lovelock is the most pessimistic, others cling to hope.

Humans often prove themselves ingenious, and there may still be time to act, said Peter Cox, a former UK climate modeler and current director of the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.

He’s one of the most optimistic.

“I don’t think it’s too late but I do believe that we can’t mess about for two more decades without doing anything,” said Cox.

The next five years are critical.

“We have to get on with it because a lot of the systems that we’re dealing with take a long while to turn around, and human systems amongst them,” he said.

“It’s got a lot of inertia in it, we have to slow down the tanker and start turning it way before the threshold is obvious to you.”

So people, corporations and governments have to act.

Immediately.

No more dithering.

Literally, the future of the planet hangs in the balance — not to put too fine a point on it, but indications are we’re close to snuffing ourselves out.

So things have to change.

“One of the things we have not got to yet, certainly not in the Western democracies, people are not yet voting on environmental issues, me included,” Cox told the ABC.

“And until we do that we won’t be using our ultimate leverage as individuals in democracies, which is to actually choose governments based on what they do and how they act with regard to the environment, and that to me is the key.

“We have to vote with our feet in that sense.”

Tonight, the Keep it Clean, Keep it Green, Keep it Wild Coalition is holding a leaders environment forum at the Yukon Inn Fireside Room. It starts at 7 p.m.

No leaders will attend. However, all three parties will be represented.

If you’re interested in the ABC broadcast, you can find it at http://www.abc.net.au/rn/scienceshow/stories/2006/1726869.htm (RM)

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