week this week in Australia, though you’d be hard pressed to know it
listening to the headlines on the news. And while there are certainly some
important issues being talked about, it’s a shame that homelessness hasn’t had
Since today is the release
date of An Inconvenient Sequel, I’d
also like to see someone link climate change with homelessness and the urgency
to do more about both. And since I haven’t heard anyone do so this week, I’m
going to go ahead and do it myself!
The thing is, that as the
impacts of climate change begin to be felt now with increased frequency and
intensity of drought, fire, flood, and storms/cyclones/hurricanes, the people
least well placed to mitigate the effects are those who are homeless and
disadvantaged. In South Australia we have Blue Alert and Red Alert for cold and
heat extremes but little else in place to manage the massive future impacts of
climate change. People with the least resources at their disposal will be least
able to protect themselves and their children against increasingly wild weather
events. This worries me. A lot. What will happen to people experiencing
hardship if we continue down the path to runaway climate change?
For some parts of the
world, severe weather events are already a threat to life itself, and climate
change can be seen in the rising tide lapping the doors and walls of people’s
homes. Already nations like the Maldives and Kiribati are seeking an
alternative home for their entire population. And there are other peoples of
the world facing similar decisions: to stay in the
face of environmental degradation or go somewhere they might have a future.
It’s predicted that there may be 150 million climate
refugees by 2050. That’s a lot of homeless people.
In the last few decades,
Australia has had a very poor record of helping homeless people from other
countries: refugees. Successive governments seem to have decided to treat
people seeking asylum like people with guns in their hands. Add to that the fact that homelessness
among Australians is significant, and in many states rising, and we have a
perfect storm for a fiery future.
Will Australia help
resettle people who’ve lost their home in the Pacific? We’re the closest developed
nation, so it seems obvious but recent history suggests we’ll do no such thing.
We’ve been a big factor,
per capita, in causing climate change and we have a moral responsibility to be
a part of the cleanup process of it as well as making rapid headway into changing
the energy profile of the planet, starting with our own renewable energy
revolution and the phasing out of all fossil fuels.
What I envisage for
Australians is not a fiery future, full of conflict and exclusion. I envisage
the future of this place we call home, Australia, being a place we can share –
with newcomers, original Australians, and people of all backgrounds – and a
place where we value the land itself and the waters that run through it and around
it; a place we power with the abundant sun and wind and waves of this great
southern land; a place where we value paying taxes to provide us with a myriad
of services for the wellbeing of everyone; a place where we value an affordable
home for everyone more than we value personal negative gearing.
The more scientists learn
about the planet and its machinations, and the more we learn about the potentialities
of the human
mind, the more hope I have that we can create an equitable, sustainable,
and safe future for all. The only thing stopping it, is if we do and say,
This was my home for about 18 months back in 1995. The owners didn’t maintain it, despite repeated requests for repairs. I was never homeless, but I did become close. I remain eternally grateful to Helen Pinchbeck for her help in facilitating an affordable housing option for my Mum and I.
Palitja Moore, text and image, 2017