A View From the Understory - June 2021

A View From the Understory -  June 2021

It’s a mad, mad world.

“The world we live in should not be treated as normal, and it should not be a sign of good health to become ‘well adjusted’ to a society that is casually practising ecocide, celebrating narcissism, institutionalising racism and assessing the value of all things according to the cold logic of profit maximisation.”

Is this a reasonable analysis of today’s fractured world? This is the premise of the essay, Delusions of Sanity: Deconstructing madness in an insane world **, penned by Samuel Alexander and published recently in Griffith Review72. The author in his essay calls out the destructive global behaviour of “late-capitalism humans”, collates the diabolical outcomes of this insanity, acknowledges the disconnect that this causes many of us and finally demonstrates how those highlighting these dangers are often identified as mad themselves!

Australia still in the midst of its own “culture war” is seemingly finding exquisite agony in addressing this predicament. We seem at present, incapable of having big, important discussions without disintegrating into armed camps. Are the culture wars to blame here?

The “culture wars”, a weapon so beloved of our present crop of political leaders, arose in the vacuum left from the demise of the “cold-war”, were forged in the “history wars” of the 1990’s that highlighted disagreements in recording the treatment of First Nations People by colonial settlers, were exacerbated during the refugee debates of the 2000’s and are now being played out over dealing with environmental decline and climate change. Bereft of visionary, wise policy leadership we are sucked into these silly cul-de-sac’s and falter again and again.

Australia unfortunately is now clearly in the wrong column and in bad company when it comes to environmental performance. Along with Kuwait our carbon emissions per capita are so high that it is estimated that five earths would be required to support the global population if all lived as we do. We share with Brazil the honour of being the best at clearing forests and are fourth in the world at animal extinction rates and clearly worst for mammal extinctions.

We also keep unusual company in the energy stakes. In a world which is supposed to be striving hard to meet the Paris Agreement driving down our GHG Emissions, we should know that Australia through coal and gas exports of over 1.1 bn tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, sits third only behind Saudi Arabia and Russia as exporters of fossil carbon.
Our response to these challenges is curious. In the 2021-22 budget the federal government effectively reduced spending on the environment. In the area of climate change the effective spend has reduced from a measly .03% or 30 cents per $100 budget dollar to .02% per $100 budget dollar. But through a torturous web of tax breaks, subsidies, cash handouts and tax credits federal and state governments on our behalf are spending more than $10 billion a year of tax payers money to support the fossil fuel industries. In the 2020-21 budget the federal government put aside $7.8 Billion for the Army.
Of course we are not alone in this dilemma. Most countries around the world are struggling to varying degrees to accept the reality that we have reached and now passed our collective limits to growth, that our old economic systems are no longer fit for purpose, that the political mechanisms that we use to facilitate effective communication and find negotiated outcomes are now so gummed up with vested interest they no longer seem to serve humanity, and that we have already passed enough environmental trigger points to put our own survival at risk.
A grim picture indeed. But as a way of progressing let us as individuals not make another mistake. Lets not allow the “otherists” to have their way. Lets not in our grief or fear, fall into an “us and them” mindset. Let’s start thinking about these important questions and then lets discuss them together; what do we want the future to look like? Who makes decisions anyway? How do we make sure our future is inclusive? Which are the critical issues to address first and how do we come together collectively? Lets begin now.
** Griffith Review 72, “Delusions of sanity: Deconstructing madness in an insane world.” Samuel Alexander https://www.griffithreview.com/articles/delusions-of-sanity/

This article was first published in The June 2021 Kuranda Paper #332.