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Thursday, July 8, 2021

Can Upper Hunter Shire afford another year of climate inaction?

Do we care about intergenerational equity?

At the June 2021 Upper Hunter Shire Council Ordinary Meeting I could not and did not support the 2021/2022 budget.

Its lack of meaningful action to halt climate change and to mitigate the already damaging impacts we are seeing all around us as a result of climate change only goes to show that the Upper Hunter Shire Council plans to continue ignoring the signs of climate change already impacting our lives.

The 2021/2022 budget reveals that the Upper Hunter Shire Council is able to find funding for all kinds of projects including climate wrecking ones but is unable to adequately fund a climate emergency response.

Unquestionably a climate emergency response should be embedded in all of council's decision making processes: putting climate first in every single decision of council is essential and needs to be implemented.

Speaking to the world on World Environment Day 5 June 2021, Antonio Guterres (UN Secretary General) said:

"We are rapidly reaching the point of no return for the planet. We face a triple emergency:

  1. biodiversity loss; 
  2. climate disruption
  3. escalating pollution

Science tells us the next 10 years are our final chance to avert a climate catastrophe, turn back the deadly tide of pollution and end species loss."

... yet here in the Upper Hunter Shire we are 'picking the colour scheme for the family room' rather than doing anything about 'our house on fire' and the real emergencies steadily enveloping us.

We don't have time to be carrying on with the business as usual approach. 

Extreme heatwaves, wildfires, seas on fire from gas pipeline leaks, couldn't be clearer in demonstrating that business as usual is no longer ok.

We need a climate emergency response and we needed it last month.

Monday, May 17, 2021

A voice for children & nature - a voice for you

With my granddaughter at the SGS fete

 Quick update on me since I last posted ... I am running as the Greens candidate for the Upper Hunter by-election which is to be held in five days time (Saturday 22nd May 2021). I have been 'beatleling' around the electorate meeting up with people and participating in Meet-The-Candidates for the past three weeks. On Thursday 13th May 2021, I attended the Dungog Meet-The-Candidates forum at the Dungog RSL, and the following is the speech I gave to crowd in the allocated 10 minutes candidates were given.

Good evening, I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land where we meet tonight and I pay my respects to their elders past and present.

I am a first generation Australian because of "Love"! 

But let me go right back to my beginning. I was born in Germany, and for the first 18 years of my life I grew up in Germany, Holland, Cyprus and England. 

Then at 18, I started my registered nurse training at St Bartholomew's Hospital in London. And it was there at the back of the Barts' Hospital bicycle shed that I met this gorgeous young Australian doctor. Upon being asked whether it was 'Susie or Sue,' with me thinking it's neither but I might run with Sue, there followed a whirlwind romance with us getting married in England and then heading out to Australia at the end of 1982. 

I arrived in this beautiful land I was to call home for the rest of my life like a GI bride having never seen Australia before! I fell in love immediately with this beautiful country, and we came to Scone in August 1983. Our four children were all born at Scone Hospital, and all four did all their primary and secondary schooling in Scone too.

But now I am here before you as the Greens candidate for the Upper Hunter by-election, and the most pressing issue for me is Climate Change.

Climate Change is here in the Upper Hunter whether we like to admit it or not. We see the impacts all around us with droughts, bushfires, floods and the increase in their severity.

We are facing an existential threat to nature which includes us too because we are nature.

Our children's future is bleak. In fact our children have reached a tipping point where they are eschewing their education and leaving the classrooms to take to the streets to protest about the inaction on climate action. Our children do not feel that they have a future so they are wondering what is the point of even getting an education.

It is imperative that we transition to 100% renewables quickly and eliminate our emissions in an emergency capacity.

But there is no political will to tackle climate change and undertake necessary climate action.

Recently it was reported that as a result of massive glacier melting across the world due to global warming, there has been a shift in the earth's axis of rotation. This is huge, yet still are leaders are not moved to do anything.

Biodiversity is plummeting, and this breaks my heart. Here in Australia we have the biggest mammalian extinction rate in the world - that is not a good record to have.

But right now I want to transport you to another state ... I want to take you to Tasmania where I follow the cutest little Instagram account, the "Hobart Rivulet Platypus ... you should too! A post was popped up on this account just recently detailing that we (that's us humans) are the biggest threat to the iconic platypus, and that the continuous concreting over of rivulets and tributaries in Hobart is causing platypus deep distress, and platypus numbers are starting to decline.

Now let me bring you back to Dungog, and your own concrete spectre of more dams being built in this area again. I met with some of you from Hunter Healthy Rivers a couple of weeks ago and you shared with me your concerns about the growing dam-building talk. 

With Dungog residents

We know that dams are hugely destructive of nature and the natural environment, and we know that they completely destroy wildlife corridors and key areas for wildlife potentially impacting your own iconic koalas which you have here in the Dungog Shire. 

The proposed Tillegra Dam was chased off a few years ago because of environmental reasons, and I must acknowledge the 'marvelousness' of Tracey Norman (independent candidate for Upper Hunter and former Dungog mayor) who successfully championed that cause to make sure the Tillegra Dam did not go ahead. Dams are dinosaur technology as you told me, and they destroy wildlife corridors, and rivers, and even pose a threat to the Ramsar-listed Kooragang Wetlands. 

We know that there are other ways to conserve water such as user education, behaviour-change, recycling, water conservation itself, demand management and yet dams remain the popular choice for ill-informed politicians.

Let's talk about your koalas and their core habitats. You have breeding koala mothers here in the Dungog shire with the necessary primary and secondary feeding trees - basically you have koala heaven yet this is under threat with all the dam proposal talk. We cannot let dam building go ahead here at the expense of Australia's biodiversity yet again.

With respect to transition, it is already underway in the Upper Hunter. But what worries me is that it will not be just and we'll get left behind or abandoned if we do not get on board now.

Three disruptions are converging:
1. energy; 2. transport; 3. food and agriculture

With respect to energy; wind, solar, pumped hydro and battery storage have won the race and the market is running with its wallet. 

All sectors across our electorate must de-carbonise from fossil fuels, to health and hospitals, from tourism and travel, to farming and transport.

Regarding transport, it took only 13 years for the last major disruption in transport in 1,000 years to totally shift how we got around. In 1900 city transport was all about horses yet by 1913 it was all about cars (what happened to the horses? ... we ate them). So it only took just over a decade for transport to be completely disrupted and upended, and no-one saw that coming.

And with food and agriculture, it is projected that the dairy and beef industries will be totally disrupted by 2030. Precision fermentation and food-as-software are changing existing food paradigms, and quickly.

If I were to be elected I would advocate for a just transition to 100% renewables so that we are not left behind or abandoned, and I would insist on emergency elimination of our emissions.

I would be a voice for children who don't have the vote, yet who are terrified, frustrated, scared, and suffering from climate anxiety because they think they may not have a future.

I would be a voice for community organisations and neighbourhood-centres which all too often get overlooked when big money is being splashed around for the big ticket items.

I would be a voice for nature who now more than ever needs a voice and an advocate at the ready.

And I would be a voice for you.

Thank you