Naturally at the start of a new year every man and his dog takes the opportunity to reflect on what was, is and could have been. It’s great to take stock; great to reflect on the journey and hopefully look upon the experience with gratitude. 2013 afforded me the opportunity to explore far-flung places and learn about an avenue of environmental protectionism that has been revealing itself as my passion. Renewable energy is the “easiest” way we can combat the effects of climate change, save money, make money and live a sustainable existence. I read a great quote yesterday – “if you really think the environment is less important than the economy, try holding your breath while you count your money”. Nothing speaks more clearly than those few words. Nothing expresses the sheer madness more … the madness of the coal, oil and the epitome of hell, the nuclear industry.
Anyone who knows me knows I have a tendency to hold the human race in contempt. The bleakness that prevails as I watch Earth’s billions coat the land in the concrete and fill the sky with poison is relieved only by the realisation that while the world is indeed populated by the ignorant – who don’t care – and the marginalised – who haven’t the energy nor resources to care – it is also filled with those shining lights who know the power of change lies in their hands. It takes just 10 per cent of the population to create a revolution, to build the momentum that institutes change.
In my world, 2014 will be a defining year. After meeting such an impressive array of environmentalists during my journey for the past two months, I know I enter the new year armed with the buds of knowledge those people are keen to pass on. Hour-long interviews with 27 people have not only filled my notebook and sound recorder, but have filled my mind with hope. I’m still to tackle Denmark, the most environmentally sound country on the planet and, according to a poll published just last week, the happiest nation for 2013!
By no means do I think I have even remotely scratched the surface of what I need to know. I have merely started my campaign to collect ideas that can be implemented and adapted within communities. I’m collecting ideas, so everyday people who want to institute change can look at what is out there and have something to work with. Germany has around 800 community organisations devoted to bringing clean energy to their homes. Australia has just a handful of organisations attempting to make the switch to local, clean energy and, to my knowledge, Hepburn Wind in Victoria is the only co-op actually producing energy anywhere in Australia. Just before new year I traversed a large swathe of Germany by train and I passed a town where wind turbines were located quite near houses. Perhaps some hate it but you know what, I bet most love it. And I bet you those turbines were community owned.
I’ve made a pledge to a few people that I’m really going to focus on the positive work being done by our environmental warriors. It’s too tiring and demoralising to constantly focus on the power the coal and oil industries have over our politicians and, in turn, the voters. If people are so foolish that they actually think it makes economic sense to ignore the signals of doom, then so be it. When people like the oil tycoon Koch brothers in Texas can force the withdrawal of a nominee for the role of chief US energy regulator because he is biased towards clean energy, then there is little to be done but continue to spread the message of people power and hopefully, one day, that message will get through. If we want to stop oil and coal being our dominant fossil fuel, then we need to stem the flow of demand.