It was a lovely morning: The medium-sized crowd had pedaled from the Old Eastside to the council lawns.
Some had umbrellas, as had been suggested for the local manifestation of the national Climate Change GetUp Rally yesterday.
GetUp’s campaign director Carl Harris was in attendance, happy to pose for a snap with Jude Mapleson (photo below, left), campaigning for the release of the Arctic 30 banged up in Russia for … whatever their offence is this week.
One of the captives, 59-year-old Colin Russell, is her first cousin. The clothing was colourful, the placards stirring and the speeches generated that warm, fuzzy feeling in the tummy. There were even cappuccino and latte available!
So who cares that the outcome was slim: Another organisation will be formed which will, well, hold meetings. Alice Springs News Online editor ERWIN CHLANDA today spoke with Jimmy Cocking (at right, addressing the crowd), CEO of the Arid Lands Environment Centre, one of the event’s organisers.
NEWS: Do you subscribe to the principle: Think global, act local?
NEWS: In that respect, what action has come out of yesterday’s meeting?
COCKING: A consolidation of local people concerned about climate change. A group will start to get organised and meet regularly.
NEWS: You recently expressed concern that products from the proposed salt mine near Alice Springs may contribute to Asia becoming a drill rigs pin cushion, yet you’ve made no comment on the Alice Springs rubbish tip which has been described as probably the town’s worst polluter.
COCKING: The biggest polluter would likely be the power station, and the landfill would be a lot smaller than that. I have spoken to Paul [Darvodelsky] about that. I’m keen to look into it more. There are risks in incineration [when rubbish is used as a fuel for electricity generation].
NEWS: Mr Darvodelsky is suggesting that the tip’s methane emissions are the main problem.
COCKING: I’d rather have methane, to be honest, than dioxins. There are no dioxins produced at the tip except what leaks out of plastics. If there is a failure in the flue [of a garbage burning power station] that would produce cancer-causing molecules. I’m yet to be convinced that’s the answer, but I’m looking into what the experience is in Sweden and other parts.
NEWS: The ferocity of Typhoon Haiyan further underscores that climate change is increasing the likelihood of a flood that would wipe out much of Alice Springs’ CBD and kill many people. What does your group recommend should be done about that?
COCKING: We’re looking at flood mitigation by reducing emissions and adaptative measures including local food production. We’re looking at flood mitigation. That’s an issue the government needs to be dealing with. I don’t think the answer is destroying cultural sites of the Arrernte people and other groups whose song lines go through a place where a dam has been suggested. We need to find ways of working with Aboriginal people. Aboriginal people are more likely to drown when the big rains come. I don’t think people would want to trade off a really important cultural site for flood mitigation. We need to find ways of adapting to floods of those proportions. It’s part of the reality of living here.
NEWS: What are these ways?
COCKING: That’s what yesterday was about, building strong communities and reducing divisions, I suppose. Have more socially inclusive policies. If there is going to be a flood there is going to be a flood. Some people are saying they want a recreational dam and some want a flood mitigation dam. It’s one or the other.
NEWS: You can have both.
COCKING: How can you have a recreational dam that’s sitting full, and when flood rains come thorough, that’s not going to bust open and probably provide more of a danger?
NEWS: You keep an eye on the weather forecast and drain the dam as rains approach.
COCKING: The destruction of important cultural sites is not the way of building a strong and inclusive society.
NEWS: With climate change water in Central Australia is going to become available in wildly fluctuating quantities, with floods and droughts alternating. This suggests both a need for exploration for water, and storage of it. This will require pumping which in turn requires electricity. Where will we get it from?
COCKING: Have as much solar power as the place can hold, which is 80% to 90% in 20 years, with gas back-up. This will maintain our gas supply for a lot longer and our electricity will be produced more cheaply in the long run, and not be subject to the whims of mining companies negotiating with the NT Government to get more and more of our gas reserves.
NEWS: What part should nuclear power have?
NEWS: The film Pandora’s Promise will screen in Alice Springs in December. There will be talks from both sides of the nuclear power debate. Will you be taking part?
COCKING: Yes, if I’m available.
NEWS: Yesterday’s rally was, as usual, preaching to the converted. What will you do to get your message out to more people, and to those who have a different viewpoint?
COCKING: There are larger issues. The fact that the national rallies were held on Sunday meant church goers were less likely to be there. Climate change is a big issue to comprehend. Our message is, yes, we can do something about it. It’s a matter of getting informed and working together.
NEWS: How will you make the Finke mob, for example, the 12,000 people who camp along the track and watch the desert race, how will you get them into your fold?
COCKING: There are a lot of people in Alice Springs who have taken action on climate change over the past five years, for example all those who’ve put solar cells on their roofs, or participated in energy efficiency audits. Turning up to a rally is not the only thing you can do.