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Editorial Peter Whiting
The tree outside my window is showing the first promises of Spring. The white blossom is just emerging, and with a few warm days will be in full flush, declaring winter gone for another year. Hopeful signs are also emerging that, here in Victoria, the pandemic is coming under control, albeit still at a level of concern within the community. We need hope to bear the burdens and discomfort required to address the pandemic. We need the hope of a return to something like ‘normal’ to feel again as though we are free agents determining our own way forward.
The mental health of young people – already teetering on the precipice of a health crisis – has surely been pushed over the brink with the onset of Covid-19.
A recent Swinburne University survey found that, in June, more than 40% of 18 to 24-year-olds surveyed thought at least once in the past month that they would be better off dead, or wished they were dead. Almost half. Those in other age groups have also shown increases in depression, anxiety, and stress, but not the catastrophic increases of rates in young people.
The Grattan Institute has estimated that those aged 15 to 24 will be the hardest hit by the unemployment crisis: in the past four months, 11.8% of the jobs worked by those under 30 have disappeared.
An alliance of Australia’s leading industry groups has called on governments to commit to reaching zero net emissions by 2050, warning that without a “coherent national response to climate change the future prosperity of the nation will be at risk”…
“The starting point for climate debate is not policies or targets, important as they are, but climate impacts. What do we have to endure? And what are we trying to avoid? The evidence is deeply concerning. Huge climate costs face Australian businesses and the communities, infrastructure and workers which they sustain and rely on,” Australian Industry Group Innes Willox said.
Francis is in no doubt about the ‘catastrophic’ threats of climate change, and reflects the overwhelming views of climate scientists. Laudato Si’ was launched in Rome on 18 June 2015 by one of the world’s most eminent climate scientists, Professor Schellnhuber of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.
Francis continues to insist on the critical importance of Laudato Si’, speaking about it in hundreds of talks and speeches, giving copies to eminent visitors and political figures, and, in collaboration with other churches and religious traditions, urging everyone to focus on these issues as matters of utmost urgency.
Pope Francis said on 19 August that the world must find a cure for the terrible virus which has brought the world to its knees, but “we must also cure the virus of social injustice, inequality of opportunity, marginalisation, and the lack of protection for the weakest”.
Review of To Live Life to the Full: Mental Health in Australia Today, prepared by the Social Justice Office of the Australian Catholic Bishops.
In so many ways, the COVID-19 pandemic has caught us out, and laid bare the broken social systems essential to providing a healthy, well-functioning, and genuinely just society. The aged care sector springs immediately to mind at this time, revealed now as a system broken from years of neglect and profiteering.
Mental health is another. Exacerbated by the pandemic, the inadequate provision of mental health services in Australia has been exposed, yet its failures have been flagged by mental health professionals for years.
Nearly 90 percent of young people say they feel unprepared for future climate disasters and want politicians to give them a bigger voice on climate change, a new report finds.
While 66 percent of young people were found to be taking steps to reduce their environmental impact, such as switching to reusable water bottles and coffee cups, and avoiding unnecessary purchases, an overwhelming majority of survey respondents (90 percent) said they did not feel heard by leaders in government.
The National Farmer’s Federation says Australia needs a tough policy on climate, and is calling on the Morrison government to commit to an economy-wide target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
It’s quite reasonable for the farming sector to call for strong action on climate change. Agriculture is particularly vulnerable to a changing climate, and the sector is on its way to having the technologies to become ‘carbon neutral’, while maintaining profitability.
In January 2020, the journal Bioscience published a brief but data-rich paper World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency. This article had five principal authors, but was endorsed by 11,285 scientists from 153 countries. It commences: “Scientists have a moral obligation to warn humanity clearly of any catastrophic threat and ‘tell it like it is’. On the basis of this obligation and the graphical indicators presented below, we declare — clearly and unequivocally — that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency”.
Although well-intentioned people of goodwill continue to talk about limiting global warming to 1.5⁰C in accordance with the Paris Agreement, this is probably no longer an option, and we face global heating in excess of 2.0⁰C. In Arctic regions, warming of 2-3⁰C has already been experienced.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has suggested we look to the Reagan and Thatcher legacies for inspiration to climb out of the Covid-19 recession, ie supply-side economics. In his terms, this means bringing forward tax cuts, increasing workplace flexibility, and reducing green tape.
Thatcherism and Reaganomics were characterised by huge transfers of income and wealth from the poor to the rich. During Margaret Thatcher’s 11 years in power, the spending power of the poor actually fell, while that of the top 10% increased strongly. Low-income groups only maintained their spending by borrowing.
Photo No Planet B Melbourne 2018. John Englart. flickr cc.