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HomeIssue 30Climate: bicycles, umbrellas, stirring placards, fuzzy feeling

Climate: bicycles, umbrellas, stirring placards, fuzzy feeling

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.


  1. While this report gives a reasonable opportunity for the organisers through Jimmy Cocking to highlight the main messages of the rally I raise exception to a couple of comments made.
    The rally may have been attended largely by the “converted” (not all from Old East Side) but it aims to carry a message to everyone, “that climate change is real, is largely induced by our actions and that urgent action is required”. Any warm fuzzy feeling would come from coffee not hearing this message.
    The likelihood of flood damage from 1:150 year or greater flood is real but not necessarily related to climate change. It is not clear to me what climate change may mean for flood risk in Central Australia. Investigating the value of mitigation measures and planning for larger floods than we have experienced in the last 150 years should be part of prudent disaster planning.

  2. Jimmy the more you talk about things the more you prove that you lack any common sense approach to facts.
    The recreation dam idea is an outcome from our more environmental use of sewage ponds waste other than environmentalist view of contaminating the swamp area with raw sewage.
    Environmental vandalism rubber stamped by environmental groups such as yourself. The mitigation dam could be both yes with facility to empty when needed. The first idea is to stop environmental vandalism by Power and Water. The second to assist our town in case do severe flood.

  3. Across the country 60,000 people attended National Day of Climate Action Events and the fact is that the majority of Australians want stronger action on Climate change than what our government is currently proposing. Although this event was moderately sized, it was not just preaching to the converted, and no, Erwin, not everyone was from Old Eastside.
    But yes, more can be done to involve the community more generally. At other rallies, firefighters and other emergency workers had a huge presence. Why didn’t our local emergency workers attend? Why didn’t parents (whose children will grow up in far more eratic climatic conditions than what we have today) attend?
    And what is the Alice Springs News doing to get information about these events out to the public before the event rather than using any environmental news to push your own agenda and (odd?) ideas about flood mitigation and burning rubbish?

  4. It might be interesting to re-float the idea of a flood mitigation dam. Would the opinions expressed twenty years ago by politicians, traditional owners and the general public still hold today, or have perceptions changed?
    Twenty years ago the whole idea of climate change was still mostly theoretical. In the intervening years, the reality of big weather events has become part of our take on the world. Without getting into the debate on whether or not the globe’s climate is changing due to human activity, is there anyone who still thinks the weather today is just like it was in years past?
    It could be argued that to not take preventive action where possible, such as in a mitigation dam north of the Old Telegraph Station, is irresponsible.

  5. Climate change is real. It doesn’t matter how journalists and editors try to downplay the seriousness or frame questions to distract from the reality. It is happening.
    The rally on the weekend was part of a national response to the Abbott government’s attempts to derail the sensible approaches for Australia to ‘deal’ with the problem.
    A price on carbon pollution is essential if we want to reduce emissions. Charging companies money for polluting and placing a cap on total emissions nationally will drive efficiency and innovation in the industrial sectors.
    It will also provide funds for the federal government to allocate to increasing the uptake of renewable energy and drive technological breakthroughs that can be exported overseas.
    Erwin’s article and his consistent approach to interviewing ALEC staff is always driven towards his own agenda – but that is Erwin’s style. Damming dry river beds and burning rubbish for power are two of Erwin’s suggested solutions from previous editions.
    ALEC would like to see the NT Government take a leading role in developing regional adaptation action plans that will take into consideration disaster response plans required to deal with the growing threats from climate change.
    These plans would also include aspects of the desertSMART Roadmap which would build the resilience of our town to climate change and other challenges.
    The rally on the weekend signified that 60000 people across the country care enough about climate change to hit the streets. The movement is building nationally and we really need to thank the Abbott government for waking the population up to the fragility of the gains made under the previous government.
    Abbott says he has a mandate to repeal the carbon price. He doesn’t. Abbott didn’t win the election, the ALP lost it due to their public infighting. More than 2/3 of people agree that we need to price carbon to reduce emissions quickly enough. There is plenty of evidence and support for a carbon price from the Australian business community.
    Where to from here?
    Forwards … going backwards is expensive and creates uncertainty for business and the economy. The movement for climate action is growing and I expect that in coming months that number of people on the streets will grow tenfold in defense of strong climate policies.
    I hope the NT Government will step up to take on the challenges rather than the current approach which is supposedly … open for business. Business costs now are cheaper than they will be in the future and averting dangerous climate change is everyone’s business. We need action from all levels of government.
    It’s time to get involved, send me an email at and I can add you to the climate action list – first meeting on next Thursday November 28.
    And lastly, we do need to reduce the evaporation from the sewage ponds. Not by creating a smelly recreational lake or wasting cleaned ‘waste water’ for an evaporation dam.
    The water would be better used productively – perhaps there are crops that would serve dual purposes – store carbon and provide other beneficial uses – Dept Primary Industries, Power Water Corporation partnership? – the eucalypts didn’t do so well.
    Collaboration – which means working together is how society will navigate through the greatest challenge of this generation. Businesses, the community sector, government and citizens are all partners in the outcome.
    I hope that makes sense.

  6. Why is it that this publication and regular contributors to it (namely Steve Brown and Hal Duell as the most prolific) find it perfectly acceptable to advocate for the destruction of sacred sites?
    There are countless comments and articles in this publication that explicitly advocate for activities that would impinge on the religious and cultural rights enshrined by the United Nations for all human beings.
    Erwin’s defense for allowing the vilifying remarks of SB is one of freedom of speech. But when we talk about freedom of religion or cultural expression – through respecting the millenia of connection to sites and country- we’re called do-gooders or irresponsible people.
    It is irresponsible to advocate for activities that will cause undue stress and negatively impact on people’s livelihoods. The destruction of a church or other holy site in the aid of economic development would create a massive backlash for any developers.
    The issues for flooding here are largely to do with the bottleneck at the Gap and the poorly designed Taffy Pick crossing.
    Stop trying to distract from environmental issues of real concern to push your own anti-indigenous rights agenda!
    Equality is an important thing – to be respected regardless of creed, colour or religion.
    This land is sacred and to advocate the destruction of Aboriginal sacred sites for the benefit of newcomers (non-Arrernte and other surrounding indigenous nations) is to advocate for the destruction of the soul of this country.
    Floods will come and go. Destruction of cultural heritage burns on in hearts forever.
    The local tribes have survived climate change of eons past – surely we can learn something if we’re open to it.
    Stop the racist attacks on sites of significance. We can’t dam or dig our way out of climate change. It will require deeper thinking, not deeper holes.

  7. “It might be interesting to re-float the idea of a flood mitigation dam. Would the opinions expressed twenty years ago by politicians, traditional owners and the general public still hold today, or have perceptions changed?”
    @Jimmy Cocking
    Posted November 19, 2013 at 4:36 pm
    If you read what I said carefully, Jimmy, you will see that I am not advocating the destruction of anything. Why not look at the idea again, and consider the most responsible way forward given that big weather events are now a part of our lives?
    Please don’t try to put words in my mouth. I don’t recall ever attempting to do something like that to you.

  8. It may be news to Erwin, but being part of what feels like a very small, fairly powerless minority who are concerned with the very real prospect of global climate change but face opposition in political obstinance and complacency at every turn, despite the overwhelming mountain of evidence suggesting that we have a very small window in which to act to avert the worst case scenarios, does not give me a particularly warm or fuzzy feeling. Nor does seeing a local news organisation more attentive to deriding and pigeon-holing those concerned about climate change rather than taking to task those in power who are currently burying their heads in the sand and abrogating their governing responsibilities. I’ll get all warm and fuzzy when the spineless excuses we have for political ‘leaders’ wake up and start doing something about it. Right now I feel pretty despondent.
    On the subject of flooding, from reading some of the past literature it seems there was broad agreement a couple of decades ago, including that of the AAPA, that a flood mitigation dam north of the Telegraph Station would be acceptable with regards to the level of impact on sacred sites. But to have this double as a recreational dam would mean that certain sites would be permanently inundated – a scenario vehemently opposed by traditional owners. If we are talking climate change and flood mitigation, then perhaps a dam is a potential solution if managed correctly – but why anyone is pushing the entirely unrelated agenda of a recreational lake in connection to this, knowing full well the only way to do this is to destroy sacred sites, is beyond me. Add to that the proposed location being outside ASTC municipal boundaries, how would it be managed and at what cost, to who?

  9. @Hal Duell Posted November 19, 2013 at 10:37 pm
    As in my previous comment I would suggest that it is a mistake to discuss flood mitigation in the context of climate change. Recent reports, based on analysis of historical evidence suggest that there is a likelihood that a major flood event from a large rain event will cause serious damage to the town. Hal and the editor’s coverage of this potential should be welcomed. If the town and my home flooded tomorrow I would not know where to go for safety. Is there a plan? And is there a hierarchy of measures that could be taken to mitigate such a flood? Would a flood mitigation dam be effective against a high flood?
    Climate change is also a serious issue but not one that will happen one day in the next 1,000 years, probably. It is one that is creeping up on us now and is likely to have catastrophic effects in less than 100 years.
    I look forward to more discussion and debate on both issues.

  10. Sorry to the emotional lefties, but the science is far from settled.
    When quantification of the total amount of energy affecting the planet from the sun and our orbital position is known, then we will be in a much better position to determine variability and man’s contribution.
    Dragging racism into it is a predictable lefty ploy.
    We’re all over it.

  11. The reality is climate is always changing. Many factors earth axis, proximity to the sun, seasons , shifting of plates , volcanic activity and many more not caused by man. The elephant in the room is human population that is man kinds contribution to pollution. But the flat earth religious group believe with money we can buy our way out of climate change.
    The science with climate change is real and big hello to you all that is because the earth is a living planet. As I said the elephant in the room is population as we increase in population so does pollution. But as science has also stated our impact is really less than .000001 . Yes we need to address pollution but a carbon tax or ets is not the answer. So tell us what volcano you are going to visit to pay the money to. Reminds me of the days of sacrifice to the fire god so the volcano did not erupt. The current liberal government have ideas to promote research into cleaner energy. Reduce pollution. We all want that. Your way just pours free truck loads of money into the stock market and pockets of those who are polluting. Great brain wave.

  12. In the earliest post on this thread, the word prudent was used. Good word. It pretty much wraps up one half of this story. It would be prudent of us to consider whether or not a flood mitigation dam would be effective in minimising the damage to Alice if a major weather event hits in our Todd catchment area and unprecedented flooding occurs.
    As for climate change, I think the wave has already started to break. I suggest we are in for some major changes. I don’t know if that makes me left or right, and quite frankly, I don’t care. I also hope I’m wrong, but consider that “airpocalypse” is now part of our lexicon. Google it and read something really scary. Or try the increased acidification in the oceans and the implications of that.
    Janet Brown has quite correctly, in my opinion, tagged population. There are now over seven billion of us (and counting), and to expect it to be business as usual strikes me as naive. Depleted water resources, degraded crop land, the list goes on. Whatever is happening in the global picture, of course we have had something to do with it.

  13. Crikey, No Name Nimby and Janet peddling ‘science’, is there any hope for rationality in this discussion?

  14. @ Janet Brown Posted November 21, 2013 at 7:22 am
    Janet again takes a swipe at people who have concern regarding climate change and categorises them as a “flat earth religious group”
    I again would like to make Janet aware of “Cleantechnica” to be found on Facebook or website to see just how many “flat earthers” are out there. Many of them are republican governors in the USA and also include Prime Minister Cameron and the British Conservative party.
    Anti carbon pricing is found significantly in Canada and Australia – carbon energy rich countries with related industries seeing their financial interests at risk. You may have heard of Clive Palmer.
    I recommend you think carefully if their interests are really the same as yours and mine.

  15. Latte at the Rally? Sure hope it was certified Fair-Trade, organic coffee. Otherwise people’s labour is exploited and toxins damage the soil and I couldn’t sleep.
    Of course the bikes ridden to the rally and umbrellas did not come from a developing country that exploits labour.
    I watch the Gen Y climate zealots here in my office who clearly believe it’s more of a government than a personal responsibility. The number of computers whirring and monitors left blazing all weekend confounds me. I respect those who live the dream and despise the others.


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