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How will Australians be coping in five years time

denis's picture

I decided it may well help to get the coming situation into perspective to speculate on what will happen here in Oz in a hypothetical, optimistic behavioral scenario. So I am looking at what may be the situation in say five years time assuming a number of premises, namely:
1 There is not a major war as this could make nonsense of the speculation
2 The vulnerable American financial market does not crash so rapidly that the resulting global Greater Depression makes nonsense of the speculation.
3 There is no major global reduction in the rate of GHG emissions because of the continuing emphasis on economic growth in China, India and Brazil, the intransigence of the US and the muted response of the EU. This means that the level of GHG will continue to climb at a rapid rate. Policies adopted in Oz with respect to GHG emissions will have no impact on climate change.
4 Federal, state and community governance responds to the developing scenario as best they are able in a sound fashion, stimulated by the attitudes and suggestions of many community groups like ROEZ. Remember, this is an optimistic speculation with no pretence of being realistic!
5 Taxation is varied to make the essentials like food, water, sanitation, housing, education and care affordable to the poorer in the community while providing the necessary money for infrastructure development and maintenance and some environmental remedial action. This would mean that the well off would have their ability to consume stuff reduced.
6 There is growing recognition that the first priority should be to try to maintain a sound fundamental structure for the operation of society. This includes fostering the skills in farming, sound resource utilization, nursing, teaching, policing and caring. There is a consequent trend away from advertising, marketing, development and real estate. There is a growing demand for adult education of many of the past, useful skills without dependence on diminishing resources.
7 the growing appreciation of the importance of sound water supply and treatment requirements for the cities and for the rural areas is leading to appreciable debate but little action, largely because of the interdependence of water supply and energy availability, compounded by the claims that GHG emissions should be reduced.
8 There is emerging widespread appreciation of the problems that will develop due to the oil supply limitations causing an ever-increasing cost of transportation fuels.
9 Measures are put into place to encourage changing from agricultural crops and methods that are inappropriate because of their heavy water usage or damage to the environment. This trend is seen to be appropriate due to climate change and the declining export market for grains.
10 There is growing recognition that Australia’s sustainable population is limited by our paucity of the crucial natural resources, fertile soil and useable water. There is the realization the natural population growth increases the ecological debt so is to be discouraged as we have a moral obligation for some immigration due to the global over population problem. Taxation is used to discourage large families.
11 The growth of mining of our mineral wealth to obtain money by exporting is seen to be against the long-term good of the community. The mining giants show some overt signs of responsibility to the community while they hide the declining ability to ectract the lower grade ores.
12 The real cost of owning and operating cars has had a major impact in both the cities and the rural areas, particularly amongst the less well off. The rising cost of fuels has encouraged the trend to smaller and fewer cars. Growing transportation costs have had a significant influence on the standard of living of all except the well off. It has had the beneficial effect of fostering bike riding.
13 The push for ‘renewal’ energy measures has grown amid misinformation and disinformation about the need and the capability but this has not matched the growth in the requirement for electricity despite some movements towards more efficient use in homes and industry.
14 The failure of many investment funds has decimated the superannuation of many, so increasing the load on social benefits as well as fostering the decline in social morale.
15 The continuing recession has reduced the ability of many people to partake of international tourist trips. This has resulted in only a limited boost to local tourism because of the recession.
16 This, together with the trend for business people to reduce overseas trips because of the increasing security measures and pressures to reduce GHG emissions has had a major impact on the airline and airport businesses.
17 De-urbanization is another growing trend due to the increasing accent on the need to sustain food production and the impracticalities of living in the outer city suburbs.
18 Some businesses focusing on energy efficient houses, the manufacture of simple, durable tools and other measures to manage the new realism are booming.

These changes in attitudes and methods are expected to foster society adjusting to the reality of having to live with what is available from the ecosystem. However, these adjustments cannot occur over night. It is quite likely that:
1 There is difficulty in adapting to climate change particularly with respect to food production and water supply due to the intrinsic uncertainties as well as embedded conditioning. There is widespread community resentment that Australia, with other countries, is suffering as the consequence of the misjudgment in the large industrial nations. There is little recognition that we are, in principle, just as blameworthy. Many are upset that they have modified their energy usage at the suggestion of governance for no useful purpose. The appreciable uncertainty about how climate change will affect Australia is clearly having a major impact on governance and business.
2 The right to have a large family is a very controversial subject although there is growing acceptance of the view that Earth is not coping with the current population level and a decline is inevitable. The developed countries are trying to come to terms with their declining birth rate coupled with the needs of their aging population. Governance in Australia still has to allow for an increasing population, particularly in regional cities.
3 Many in the community, especially business people, find it difficult to accept a lowering standard of living is becoming the norm. They still have the belief that technology will provide solutions to the depletion problems and that market forces will correct the emerging problems. This misperception amongst the powerful is still being fostered by unsound claims for proposed substitution technologies.
4 There is growing acceptance amongst some of the young that there is a major challenge to make the best possible use of what is still available from the ecosystem but there is still widespread resentment that their forebears have wasted so much. The inability to realize on their plans for overseas travel does not help.
5 Community confidence in governance is clearly declining. Questions are being asked about why Peak Oil was not recognized by the ‘authorities’ at the time so that some appropriate remedial measures put in place. The continuance of building more freeways is now seen as sheer stupidity by those supposed to know better.
6 The car revolution has caused much angst with the beneficial effects being largely forgotten in the perceived loss of ‘freedom’. The reduced congestion in the cities is accepted but governments are blamed for building freeways rather than public transport.
7 The necessary increased dependence on public transport, particularly in the cities, has not been matched by implementation of improved capability, so adding to community worries and criticism of lack of foresight by governance.
8 The increased popularity of using bikes has not been matched by the modification of roads and the provision of bike trails.
9 Competition in the airline business grows bitterly as the ordered A380s and Dreamliners come along as passenger levels fall drastically. Cheap fares are a boon to those who can still afford it but many in the industry are being put off with a loss of entitlements as numerous airlines go bankrupt.
10 ‘Globalization’ has become a dirty word in business. Localization is emerging in an endeavor to reduce fuel costs. The proposal to deepen Port Phillip Bay has been dumped; to the delight of the environmentalists and also businesses that have had to re-align their business plans to cope with the emerging reality that importing is becoming too costly. There is widespread resentment in Tasmania that the pulp mill built at Bell Bay has caused harm to environment in the Tamar while not helping the local economy because the market for pulp has collapsed.
11 Many of the well off privately welcome this trend as it means they do not have to cope with crowds and congestion in satisfying their indulgences. Nevertheless, they actively resist the usurping of their ‘rights’ to a luxuriant life-style.
12 The limited trend towards acting as communities has been more than offset by the growing sense of resentment and bewilderment amongst the working class. Civil disruption has grown, particularly in the suburbs.
13 The slowness of the education system at all levels to adapt to the changing operation of society is inhibiting adaptation by the populace at large. The universities have been loath to abandon research advancing the frontiers of knowledge for improving the understanding of fundamentals, like the maintenance of soil fertility. Improvements like home cooking, permaculture and organic farming are still having little impact because so much as to be re-learnt.
14 there is growing recognition amongst the knowledgeable that the best that can be done is to adopt measures that will mitigate the decline of many aspects of civilization. They accept that the elite will be able to pursue business as usual to the detriment of the community as a whole. The current adulation by the masses of the ’achievements’ of the rich, powerful celebrities will be replaced by abhorrence at their greedy ravaging of society and its life support system.
15 The farming communities are doing their best to adjust to the changing circumstances but the transformation is being inhibited by pragmatic and financial constraints compounded by increased uncertainty. Renewing widespread recognition by urbanites of the real worth of the farmers does help, however. Those in the cities like to be fed!
16 The attempt to remedy the dire situation in the Murray-Darling Basin has made little progress because of its impact on scarce resources, particularly the fuels used in transportation and the machines. The ecological and irrigation processes have continued to deteriorate despite some progress in the farming revolution.
17 Governments face a difficult situation due to the heavy demand on social security due to blossoming unemployment and the crash of some superannuation finds. They have to prioritize their reduced taxation income to meet these demands while implementing measures to cope with the growing environmental and urban problems.
18 Manufacturers and retailers are having difficulty in adapting to a reduced demand for throwaway stuff and an increasing demand for simple, durable tools and materials.
19 The housing market, particularly for large, energy in-efficient homes in outer suburbs, has collapsed. Developers have largely disappeared from the large cities and have adopted a more pragmatic approach in the developing regional towns.

It seems to be quite clear that even with the most optimistic view of what will happen in the near future, most in Australian society will have to face up to a dire, traumatic power down at a disconcerting rate. It is to be hoped that emerging people power will rise to the challenge of easing the process as much as possible. What happens, however, will also be very dependent on overseas developments.

Denis Frith