A climate of local opportunity for 2015


2037 Jimmy Cocking & Tanya Ha
(pictured with TV personality Tanya Ha)
2014 was the hottest year on record and 2015 is likely to trump it.
There is no denying the thermometer of global mean temperatures, nor that man-made emissions are the cause of it.
As emissions continue to rise, so too does the prospect of life getting harder and hotter for all species that call this planet home. The problem is that despite everybody knowing this, even though some refuse to believe it, our economic system is increasing risk and supporting a more dangerous future for all of us.
The Northern Territory with all of its complexity is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
The Top End has the complication of rising oceans and cyclones, whereas we down here can expect longer dry-spells, increasing numbers of hot days, increased variability in relation to rainfall and as a result, increased intensity of fires.
The other, not highly publicised risk for the Territory is growing inequality and the disparity between the “haves” and the “have nots”. This growing disparity is what will determine how Central Australia fares as the impacts of increasing temperatures are felt.
Central Australia has three distinct advantages in dealing with climate change on a local level.
We have relatively abundant underground water supplies; unequalled abundance of solar energy and people whose ancestors have lived here through great climatic changes of millennia past.
By planning and managing our use of groundwater; investing in renewable energy and building efficiency; while ensuring that communities are prepared for the impacts through education and developing and implementing community and regionally-specific adaptation action plans, we might be OK. But that depends on a number of factors.
The current lack of political will, or more worryingly the increasing pressure from vested interests has the potential to squander our natural advantages.
The poisoning of progress by creating a false competition between jobs and the environment will impact on all of us. The mantras of “open for business” and “Developing the North” may create short-term gains for shareholders in global corporations, but the rest of us will be left high and dry as a result of this myopic economic agenda.
In a changing world, the economics need to reflect the times and not extremist ideologies based on increasing the power of the market, reducing corporate taxes and shrinking government responsibilities.
The reality is that the boom is over. Commodity prices (oil, coal, iron ore etc) are crashing, causing geopolitical tensions and pressures globally and locally. Now is the time to invest in the future and not squander opportunities chasing pipedreams and economic fantasies.
The key going forward is ensuring that investments are targeted to generate economic development that builds on our ability to cope with a warming world.
This is an all-inclusive opportunity to ensure that future generations not only have a reason to live here, but more importantly, are able to. This requires holistic thinking and actual planning for the region.
Alice Springs is the capital of outback Australia, servicing communities across South Australia, Western Australia and of course the Northern Territory. We need to think of development as a regional issue, not just concerning ourselves with the Alice Springs CBD separate from the rest – but as a collective whole.
What are our assets?
What are the threats?
What are our opportunities?
How can we overcome the barriers?
These are questions we would expect our decision-makers to be considering. However, the narrowness of vision sees our assets as something to be sold off; threats to be ignored or gambled with; opportunities created for friends and party donors; while barriers to development are removed by limiting community participation in policy development under the guise of “consultation”.
The real assets in Central Australia are not the minerals in the ground or potential for gas extraction. It is the ingenuity of the people living here: Those who persist and persevere against the odds. Those who have mapped, studied, observed and acted in the interest of the people living here.
The threats to the people living in Central Australia are related to ideological policies that will see internal dislocation and relocation of people into unsustainable communities.
The potential pollution of our aquifers from unfettered shale gas exploration, the industrialisation of our landscapes that locals and visitors treasure: These are the threats being gambled with at present. Not to mention the climate impacts of massive leaking and burning of methane.
The opportunities for sustainable development are plentiful. Rather than building carbon intensive skyscrapers across the Alice Springs CBD; retrofitting homes and businesses for energy and water efficiency would create lasting jobs, as would supporting movement towards more than 10,000 roofs in Alice Springs equipped with solar panels and water heating units.
Overcoming the barriers to this require government investment.This means supporting community and business-initiatives to reduce and adapt to the impacts of climate change, not exacerbate them.
But first, the government needs to acknowledge it by having a policy that seeks to mitigate emissions and support communities to adapt to the likely scenarios presented by the scientific literature.
2014 was a year of going backwards in many ways. The Federal Government scrapped the carbon price and mining tax, created uncertainty in renewable energy investment, handed over environmental assessment powers to the states and territories, cut funding to environmental groups and community legal centres, scrapped the National Water Commission and gutted departments and committees working on climate change including cuts to the CSIRO.
The Northern Territory Government sold off TIO; voted for and then put down an independent political donations inquiry; continued approving exploration that involves fracking while conducting an inquiry into the process (report yet to be released), cut funds to environment groups and social support agencies; started a bidding process for a gas pipeline and belligerently supporting a “development at all costs” agenda.
Meanwhile, iron ore and bauxite mines have closed across the Top End; the Macarthur River Mine continues to release sulfur dioxide (key ingredient for acid rain) into the atmosphere; the Minister for Land Resource Management (and Mines and Energy) Willem Westra Van Holthe was taken to court for water licensing issues; and investment is drying up due to shaky commodity markets.
Despite all this, the NT government remains committed to its economic agenda but is failing to recognise the signs of the times.
Climate action makes economic sense, preparing for the long term while immediately stimulating activity on the local level. Climate policies are a necessity for any government, left or right.
This global issue is beyond politics and planning for it needs to be incorporated into all levels of governance.
There are an abundance of opportunities to create work for people through supporting investment into building efficiencies and renewable energy.
The promise of gas wealth is narrowly distributed. Locally, some contractors may get jobs out of it, but mainly it will be a fly-in fly-out (FIFO) workforce who will contribute minimally to our local economy.
The impacts of climate change require thinking beyond the election cycle and quarterly statements. By investing in our environmental balance sheet (clean air, clean water and clean country) we will provide better opportunities for future generations.
Through investing in our people and their innovative potential, we can share the benefits with the world. Utility and household scale renewable energy; building efficiency (lifetime energy and water costs) in arid environments; remote recycling and small-scale industry; sustainable dry-land agriculture and horticulture; cultural knowledge and understanding; arts, events and tourism; large-scale land management and biodiversity conservation; water sensitive urban design; climate adaptation and social activism. These are but some of the words that provide a lens for a sustained future out here.
This coming year I hope we see more substance and less spin in the realm of policy making. I hope we see more equitable development and support for vulnerable people and communities in central Australia.
But most of all, I hope more people recognise, respect and stand up for our shared rights to a safe climate, clean water and healthy landscapes. The failure of government becomes the responsibility of communities – if we love this place, then we must protect it.


  1. I just came back from a holiday in Alice Springs and what I see is that you need to promote tourism up there more so.
    Also, man made global warming has been thoroughly debunked but we certainly need to look after our environment and knock off fracking and uranium mining etc. as we won’t have a future if it continues.
    This guy’s idea about having solar on every roof is great.
    Also, to my shock every day I was in Alice they were chemtrailing the sky (like they do daily here in Adelaide) and if anyone thinks chemtrails are a conspiracy check out any of the 50,000 plus youtube vids on it by googling “Chemtrails Youtube” or such docos as “What in the world are they spraying” which is freely on the net.
    Lastly, I noticed the locals did not seem as happy as they were when I last visited there (probably because of the poison in the chemtrails) so check out my site http://www.answerstofreedom.com and some of the posts on there will help. Alice Springs is still a wonderful place but it should be advertised more to the other cities and internationally which will bring in more money.

  2. Thanks Jeff for your comment.
    I just need to point out that climate change is real. It is not debunked.
    More than 97% of scientists agree that man made emissions are driving global warming, ice cap melting and the acidification of the oceans.
    There is only speculative “evidence” surrounding “chemtrails” and I think that by subscribing to this and deferring responsibility to the powers that be you do in fact disempower yourself and absolve yourself of any responsibility to the rest of us.
    Climate change requires all of us making an effort from the grassroots, to the transnational corporations and governments of all persuasions.
    I do not agree with geoengineering. I think we need to fix the problems of our civilisation before the earth fixes itself without us and many other species on it. And I agree … it starts with us as individual people who care.

  3. Very perceptive, Jimmy, and very appropriate suggestions for a sustainable future.
    As you allude in your article, the biggest hurdle to The Alice moving forward is indeed our myopic political leaders, at all levels of government, who really, really need to “get out more”.
    Our town trumpets its solar credentials, but our effort is puny compared to the extent of solar farming here in the Italian countryside.
    I get the feeling here that, although Europe is presently going through some economic difficulties, it has invested in a more sustainable and affordable future through good long-term planning, something sadly missing in our town.
    I wish readers a very prosperous New Year, and not only in financial terms. Arrivederci presto.

  4. For those of us who believe the Government is on the wrong track with housing and construction as the saviour of our economy please look up Macrobusiness.com.au which should be compulsory reading for all politicians and is directly applicable to what is currently happening here.
    Climate change is real but the government is not looking around. It flows into so many of the things that are happening here but ignored.
    RBA and Government have been concerned for years about the growing imbalance between investment property mortgages and owner occupiers, with the investment side now at dangerously high levels and growing, while investment in industry and production is falling.
    We are building more and more houses to sell to ourselves. Moreover most of this bank lending is sourced from overseas and backed by resources sales which are declining rapidly.
    The message is, investors in property – beware. Yet Govt see this as the ultimate source of economic activity.
    I have recently been in the Eco village at Aldinga and the Christies Close facility in Adelaide looking at what else was possible, but ignored here in Alice. There they are taking climate change seriously and planning their housing accordingly. A similar story exists with tourism where here in Mclaren Vale it is obvious that Alice Springs is years behind.
    As Jimmy points out, Government seems completely blind to what is happening around us and from which we might gain benefits. There is a looming world wide shortage of phosphate and potash both of which are here in good proportions. Yet I see no major project status, or acknowledgement of their importance.
    In other places there is a major push to recover these from sewerage, and we have a golden opportunity here to advance that and market the technology but we ignore it.
    Similarly with water recycling (Israel), breeding plants with low phosphate requirements (India and Africa).
    There are many more examples. I see here desert pea seedlings grown in Mt Gambier and quandongs from the same area, and bush tomatoes from Renmark. Climate is changing and we are not taking advantage of it or even acknowledging it in what we do or where we want this place to be in 20 or 30 years’ time.
    The TIO sale is yet another example of lack of long term foresight. No-one noticed what Norway has done with its resources, selling its resources on Norway’s terms not the major oil companies’, and establishing sovereign funds for development, not selling assets to fund these. The US is busy developing varieties of stone fruits and other foods with low chill requirements as the planet warms.
    If ever there was an acknowledgement that things are changing, but why are we not willing to jump in and do it here?
    The Chief Minister’s comment recently about worshiping the ground that Santos walks on was obviously made before he read their balance sheet, which shows massive overseas borrowings to the point of it being looked at suspiciously by the investment community.
    Similarly if he is putting his faith in mining as a substitute for sound diversified planning he needs to look no further that Macquarie Bank’s involvement in the demise of Western Desert Resources and the long term devastating effect of a pipeline through the Simpson.
    There are much better ways of getting gas to NSW. I suspect that the other play not yet announced (AS is the usual practice of this Government) is to allow access to the massive coal resources under the Simpson.
    That announcement will probably come 10 minutes before Clive Palmer announces his railway from there to the coast, as he planned to do three years ago. Or perhaps three days before an election.

  5. Sorry Jimmy, I would just like to point out “man made climate change” is false, promoted by the nuclear industry of which you are possibly a shill forhttps://homelessholocaust.wordpress.com/2014/12/04/the-political-agenda-behind-the-man-made-global-warming-movement/

  6. And chemtrails are not real Jimmy? HA HA HA.
    Try checking out the 50,000 plus youtube videos showing chemtrails and the plethora of youtube docos on them such as “What in the world are they spraying”.
    Even the government has admitted they are real and I saw them being sprayed every day when I was just in the Alice.
    Here is a vid of a guy who recorded them in the N.T.

  7. Jeff, I reject your assertion. I suggest reading this book which looks at both climate change, economics and geoengineering http://thischangeseverything.org/.
    Referenced, thoroughly researched and highly recommended.
    Do yourself a favour, get a copy and read it.

  8. I used to be really interested in all this stuff once, but unfortunately, as you grow older you see things that you don’t really notice when young.
    This is not about climate change or how we should manage our future, it’s just about boring, boring, boring politics.
    There is nothing here for me in this discussion. I’m still interested in how the planet works, but I now read New Science and other science magazines and try and work it out for myself.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here