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Provocations – Monbiot talk at the University of Melbourne

Posted in Events, Research by Ferne Edwards on July 3rd, 2007

Last night provocative speaker, George Monbiot, spoke on how to deal with global warming at the University of Melbourne. Monbiot, known for his work as an environmental reporter for The Guardian as well as author of the popular book, Heat, presented his talk via satellite, supporting his belief that plane travel must be dramatically reduced to negate climate change. At the start of his talk, Monbiot stated that it is imperative that if the world is not to suffer serious consequences from climate change that we need to achieve zero carbon emissions by 2030. Although a confronting thought, Monbiot believes that this outcome is possible by restructuring many current systems and by using current technologies on the whole – we simply need to learn how to use it better. However, air travel is the one area that would need to be seriously reconsidered. Monbiot also stated that we need an overriding national framework to guide and lower emissions with carbon rationing as one tool that would help to do this.

Other outstanding points mentioned by Monbiot during his presentation included:
how we could create a broad diversity of renewable energy systems that could be linked by a super grid (ie. ‘distributed systems’)
how we could reclaim ‘motorways from cars’ by restructuring bus paths to make bus travel a viable alternative to cars
how the appearance of ‘carbon ration action groups’, a new form of community group in the UK, show that low-carbon lifestyles are possible and desirable – contesting government belief that the public is not prepared to address environmental issues seriously

Monbiot also responded to a question about China’s contribution to greenhouse gases by stating:
1. that until we as a first world nation can show that we are environmentally-friendly that we have no right to criticise others’ behaviour
2. that the Chinese have 1/8th of carbon emissions than produced by Australians
3. that the Chinese government is taking environmental issues more serously than our government
which I thought were some very interesting points!

The evening offered an insightful perspective as to how the rest of the world views Australia and our approach to the environment while offering us hope that the solutions to our problems already exist with our current resources and technologies – we just need to use them better (except for air travel!)

For more in-depth discussion of the issues raised in Monbiot’s talk, read his book, ‘Heat‘, available in most good bookstores; Monbiot, G. (2006) Heat. Camberwell: Penguin.