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We Can Do This

By Dr Marjorie O'Neill on November 11, 2021 in Other

Let’s keep it clean. Photo: Theresia Hall

As we settle into spring, looking forward to summer and awaiting some return to a new form of normal, it can be tempting to focus on issues that uplift us. So many people in our community have done it tough over the past year and a half or more. Since the pandemic disrupted our lives, every one of us has been required to refocus our attention and priorities, and some of us have experienced enormous health, economic and emotional loss. There is a part of all of us that just wants to get on with life, have some fun with family and friends, enjoy our beautiful environment and not engage in talk of doom or the worries of the world. Fair enough, but there is just one small caveat on this optimism. We need a physical environment that can sustain us, with fresh air, water and basic food at the very least.
Although we have held environmental concerns for a long time and tried to do our bit to help, it is abundantly clear that we urgently need to do much more. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in its Sixth Assessment Report, provides a rationale and well researched analysis of the current state of the climate, how it is changing and the role of human influence. The need for urgent and meaningful action on climate change is well documented and undeniable.
In our community, as in Australia and the world generally, we see evidence of the IPCC findings. We have witnessed our growing levels of waste, encountered plastics on our beaches, smelt pollution in the air and experienced more extreme weather conditions. Without real action, in the Eastern Suburbs and other coastal regions we will see the impacts of rising sea levels, increased coastal erosion and even more water pollution at our beaches.
At a macro level, all levels of government need to work together to achieve net-zero carbon emissions as soon as possible, and this can be achieved through initiatives including increased sources of renewable energy and batteries, facilitating safer active transport such as walking and cycling, improved access and affordability of public transport, slashing of inefficient taxes to making electric cars cheaper, reducing waste including banning single-use plastics and packaging generally, increasing genuine recycling of all consumables but plastics in particular, as well as the preservation of our forests and promotion of green spaces.
As your State MP, in 2019 I supported the NSW Labor bill to ban the use of single-use bags in NSW (the only state yet to ban the bag). This bill was sadly defeated by the Liberal-led government. Through our School Safety Survey, I have been working with our local schools to help identify and remedy the obstacles that local families are facing while bringing kids to school via active transport means. As a member of the NSW Parliamentary Transport Committee, I recently and eagerly took part in the inquiry into the electrification of our bus network. While there are still some safety issues to be sorted out, electric is the future, particularly if we can ensure it is also being sourced from clean green energy. I have also supported solutions to the Coogee stormwater problem that would see greater reuse of water.
Our local governments have been leading the way in environmental sustainability and protection, with Waverley Council setting net zero emissions targets for 2030 and Randwick Council now diverting 40 per cent of our waste from landfill, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and using the waste to create compost that can be used in farms, parks, sports fields or even in our own gardens through their food organics & garden organics (FOGO) waste program.
While government has an important role to play, every one of us can contribute to ensuring that the environment we leave behind is sustainable. Our purchasing and transport choices provide major points of influence. Each time a tree is cut down and replaced with concrete, it contributes to urban heating. Our daily simple choices have significant implications for the environment, which we hold dear because its health will determine the quality of life for us, those we love and for future generations.
As we move beyond the immediate threat of COVID-19, our focus must be upon ensuring a healthy environmental future and this requires action at government and at individual levels. We can do this.