Looking Back on the 1992 Rio Earth Summit

World leaders and government officials as well as representatives from NGOs and the corporate sector are currently convening in Rio de Janeiro, for “Rio+20: The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.” The conference is timed to coincide with the twentieth anniversary of the seminal 1992 Rio Earth Summit. It is therefore worth looking back on the achievements of the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 to remind ourselves of what can be achieved when parties from around the world unite to address global environmental problems and highlight the obstacles and limitations of international multilateral processes in pursuing environmental objectives.

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Living Lightly: Reciprocal Bonds and the Trust Horizon

BY BEN HABIB. One of the exiting aspects of living lightly is the opportunity it provides for community building and connecting with other people. Strong social networks will become increasingly important as we grapple with environmental problems, energy insecurity and financial turmoil at the end of the age of growth. As a specialist in international relations, I look to Chinese culture for ideas on building social cohesion during tough times.

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The End of Infinite Growth: The Economic Face of Natural Limits

BY BEN HABIB. This article delves into the terrain of macroeconomics, political economy and energy. Human societies, along with the economies that facilitate the exchange of goods and services within and between them, can only grow to the extent that the physical limits of the natural world will allow. Systemic breakdown is likely if these limits are exceeded, a reality with which we are beginning to grapple as ecological, energy and economic crises coalesce into a perfect storm.

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Video Review: ‘Lester Brown – The Planet’s Scarcest Resource is Time’

In a recent class activity, members of the second/third year undergraduate subject International Politics of Climate Change: Triumph or Tragedy at La Trobe University’s Albury-Wodonga campus engaged with a video presentation delivered by emminent American environmentalist Lester Brown. The following excerpts are a summary of the class discussion on what Lester Brown has to say in the video clip.

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Initial Analysis of the Gillard government’s ‘Clean Energy Future’ Proposal

BY BEN HABIB. On Sunday 10th July, 2011, the Gillard government announced the details of its long-awaited carbon tax—the Clean Energy Future scheme. The hype surrounding the announcement was justified; for a number of reasons, this was one of the most important public policy announcements since Federation. I have a cautiously favourable view of the scheme, based on clear scientific evidence about the seriousness of the climate change threat and expert analysis indicating that a market-based carbon price is the cheapest and easiest way to achieve comprehensive nation-wide greenhouse gas emission reduction.

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The Carbon Pricing Debate — A Battle for Australia’s Soul

BY BEN HABIB. In the past fortnight, Australian political discourse has been dominated by the debate over the pricing of carbon. The Prime Minister’s announcement of a draft carbon pricing policy with the Greens and the independent members has sparked off a vicious volley of hyperbole from those who would object to carbon pricing. The electorate has vacillated somewhere between cautious and hostile on the policy announcement. The ALP has not helped its cause with four years in government characterised by inaction, hot air and spin. We sit now poised at the beginning of a debate over a great systemic reform that will shape our nation for years to come. In many ways, this debate is a battle for Australia’s soul.

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Making Climate Action Happen—Part I, The Plague of Manufactured Consciousness

BY BEN HABIB. Climate change is an existential threat to human civilisation, a threat which we ourselves are contributing to as individuals and as members of various social collectives. The damage we are doing is a product of destructive behaviours that are underpinned by ideas and assumptions that are not our own, which originate as the propaganda of our economic systems.

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Wodonga & Albury Toward Climate Health — An Interview with Lizette Salmon

Lizette Salmon from Wodonga & Albury Towards Climate Health (WATCH). WATCH is an apolitical community group which advocates for sustainable climate solutions through engagement with political leaders and the local community. It promotes activities and events in the local community to meet, discuss, establish informed views and take appropriate action on climate change.

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Questioning the Sustainability of ‘Perpetual’ Economic Growth

Part of living lightly involves acknowledging that some of our ideas that have served us well in the past are no longer appropriate for the times we are moving into. One of these sacred cows is the concept of perpetual economic growth. On a finite planet, bound by the laws of physics, chemistry and biology, perpetual economic growth is impossible without the severest of consequences human societies and the ecosystems that support them. We need to be honest about our current predicament, educate ourselves about possible alternatives, and work together to build the foundation for a post-growth economy.

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Transitions Towns and the Post-Carbon Future of Albury-Wodonga — An Interview with Ian Longfield

In this edition of the Our Voice: Politics Albury-Wodonga podcast we’re joined by Ian Longfield from Transition Towns Albury-Wodonga. Ian has campaigned on peak oil issues since 2007 after becoming aware of the problems of energy descent during a 2005 land planning seminar. It was through his professional involvement in property development and agency that he became increasingly concerned at our unsustainable pattern of urban development, incompatible with a future dominated by peak oil and climate change. Our interview discussion ranges from geopolitics to individual action and everywhere in between, so buckle up and enjoy this engrossing conversation.

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Various perspectives on the asylum seeker debate

BY BEN HABIB. Regular readers of Our Voice: Politics Albury-Wodonga will note that the asylum seeker debate has received regular attention on this blog. With the race card well and truly back on the poker table of Australian politics, now seems as good a time as any to examine the many different angles on the asylum seeker story. Like all complicated public policy problems, this issue is far from black and white (no pun intended).

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Federal Election 2010: Candidates Forum for the Electorate of Farrer

Podcast interviews with each of the candidates for the seat of Farrer in the 2010 federal election: Sussan Ley (Lib), Christian Emmery (ALP). The candidates were asked a set of similar questions on local issues, the state of political debate in Australia, climate change, the economy, and border security. This framework provides a basis to directly compare the positions and policy proposals of each candidate and the party they represent.

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Federal Election 2010: Candidates Forum for the Electorate of Indi

Podcast interviews with each of the candidates for the seat of Indi in the 2010 federal election: Sophie Mirabella (Lib), Zuvele Laschen (ALP), Jenny O’Connor (Greens), Mark Carey (Dem), Alan Lappin (Ind). The candidates were asked a set of similar questions on local issues, the state of political debate in Australia, climate change, the economy, and border security. This framework provides a basis to directly compare the positions and policy proposals of each candidate and the party they represent.

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