Time for Action


Who has more credibility? A conference of scientists from across the globe  coming together to discuss issues of global urgency, or the Deputy Sheriff? The answer, sadly, is obvious to New Matilda readers and herein lies a major problem. While it is tempting to discuss here the politics of global warming, desalination and alternative energy, it would only be a case of writing for those with whom there is (excuse the pun) heated agreement.

So let’s look at some of the obvious issues.


We live on the driest continent, but we are surrounded by water. Australia is, after all, an island. We have no shortage of water the problem is that the water is not usable for agriculture or drinking. There are technologies to desalinate it but by and large they are energy intensive. Unless, of course, we use one of the two or three energy sources that were not mentioned in the Prime Minister’s pre-new year announcement that clean coal and nuclear were the only real options.

What about solar, what about bio-mass or fuel cell technologies?

The Australian Government has subsidised the development of a prototype by the Melbourne-based Ceramic Fuel Cell that is a world leader.

How does it work? Hydrogen and oxygen are applied to two electrodes and produce electricity, heat and water. No greenhouse gases and no pollution. Light up the cities and heat the houses and factories at no environmental cost.

Where do we get the hydrogen? It is the most plentiful element in the universe but is usually tightly bound in water and the air. We throw a huge amount of it in the sea daily in the form of human waste. It does not take any greenhouse energy to extract, but it does do damage to the ocean in the untreated form we dispose of it. We could use it to produce the hydrogen that would then fuel our cars, public transport and produce all our electricity, both domestic and industrial.

We could also use the energy created to desalinate sea water, as well as using emergent technology from Europe that uses solar power. In India, peasant farmers are using solar power in primitive stills to desalinate sea water.

So we are staring at solutions to two of our most pressing problems, while the Government is wringing its hands and loudly endorsing technologies that have been problematic for generations.

While we are on the subject of excrement, we also use sweet potable water to flush urine into the sea. As the latest New Scientist magazine puts it:

You recycle your household waste. You buy locally grown food, fit low-energy light bulbs and try not to use the car unnecessarily. Maybe you even irrigate the garden with your bath water. But you’ve still got an environmental monster in your house. Your toilet is wrecking the planet.

As it turns out, urine is a valuable source of nitrates and is better used for agriculture. Some European countries are introducing toilets that have separate receptacles and escape pipes for faeces and urine.

Or just try pissing in the garden!

Thanks to emo

Clean nuclear energy is a possibility if you ignore the environmental cost of mining the uranium, refining it and the geo-political issues of weapon proliferation and wast disposal. Don’t worry your pretty little head about we are told. Big Brother will look after it.

Meanwhile we are not building the world’s biggest solar power plant near Mildura while we continue to complain about the drying up of the Murray-Darling river system. Somehow the dots are not being connected in a most determined way.

We refuse to sign the Kyoto Protocol while telling the world and ourselves that we are beating the Kyoto CO2 emissions targets anyway but this is not entirely true. Tim Flannery (not a politician but a wonderful thinker and scientist) has pointed to the lies we are being told, in his books and in various articles for New Scientist .

The mainstream media seems to have given up their role in testing the government of the day on policy and public interest issues. This has fuelled the growth of internet discussion, either one-to-one or many-to-many, but unmediated by the profit motive and without the input of grubby hands.

We have to stop blaming governments or expecting anything different from them. It is time for citizens across the globe to act for themselves, for each other and for their families and communities. Not only are the air and the atmosphere reflecting our lack of care but the oceans too are presenting serious degradation. A recent report   on the Gulf of Mexico by the National Ocean Service in the US explained how a once rich ocean floor, teeming with life and food, was now dead and sterile due to the amount of chemical waste dumped there by numerous American factories.

It is only a matter of time before ‘dead ocean’ will be as known and used a term as ‘greenhouse’ is today. We can expect the Wall Street Journal and the current White House to dispute the science. Interestingly, such Left-wing subversives as NASA and the North American Meteorological Office are not greenhouse skeptics, but the reports coming out of NASA were censored by the White House, as reported by the New York Times:

The top climate scientist at NASA says the Bush Administration has tried to stop him from speaking out since he gave a lecture last month calling for prompt reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases linked to global warming.

In a post-modern world that hasn’t read or understood French theory, any argument is as valid as any other. Truth has become post-Einsteinian relativity and has indeed been thrown overboard.

I don’t subscribe to the ‘death of the planet’ scenario except in the fullness of deep time. The planet will survive its most destructive mammals us but we will not. We have been around for an eye blink. It would be polite of us not to trash the place while we’re here.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.