Bordering on the Political

The wind blew and blew last night. The horizon is dusty and smoky with distant bush-fires. Or not so distant – when I woke up this morning there was a distinct smell of smoke in the air. There is a complete fire ban – anyone stupid enough to light a fire deliberately will be hit with a $5500 fine, unless it causes damage, where the fine will be a little larger at $110 000. The grass is so crisp and crackly it competes with the new season bindi-eyes to poke holes in the kids feet. Ah, spring.

My son’s school has just had 14 solar panels  put on the roof – at midday yesterday, they had converted a sunny spring day into 4500 W energy, which is enough to power the entire school. All of that electricity is pumped into the grid. Imagine, just for a minute, if every roof, on every building in Australia was covered in solar panels.

Solar Panels on a car park roof in Germany. Germany gets how important solar energy is.

Let’s not forget about the wind. South Australia receives 25% of its electricity from wind power. Except on particularly windy days like they had yesterday, where between 55-85% of their electricity came from wind. At one point, they made so much electricity from wind that they had to send it over to Victoria! What a terrible problem to have. Imagine, just for a minute, that alongside the solar panels on every roof was a mini wind turbine.

We have our Local Government elections today. One of the candidates contacted me and asked me to put her sign and how to vote cards up for her at the polling site. I am happy to help, as she is one of the four candidates I want to vote for. Unfortunately, there are four other seats to fill, as well as the position of Mayor. Political talent is a little thin on the ground in my neck of the woods.

To be sure, there are plenty of people in my valley who I would love to see represent me in local government, but the enticements of incredibly low pay, the snails pace of bureaucracy and the problematic working conditions (and colleagues) kind of puts them off. They prefer to effect change from the outside of government rather than from the inside. Still, I’ve got a soft spot for local government, and I can’t imagine it would be easy to be a Councillor in the Nambucca Valley, or anywhere else for that matter.

The Bear thinks I would make a great politician. Depending upon the day, he means this either as high praise or deepest insult. When he is praising me, he thinks I would make a good spokesperson for the community and a worthy adversary in council. When he’s insulting me, he says I twist facts to suit my own purpose and befuddle opponents (him) with semantic arguments and deliberate misrepresentation. Well. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, right?

Truthfully, I couldn’t stand the constraints of being a politician. The constant, careful monitoring of words and facts. The uncomfortable compromises, the gradual loss of integrity. Tell me, is it possible to retain authenticity while dealing with the pragmatic realities of office?

An issue that is current in my local area at the moment is mining. This area has a long history of small-scale antimony mining. Every 30 years or so, when the price of antimony would rise on world markets, Joe Bloggs and his five sons would grab their picks and shovels and do a bit of mining at the old antimony mine on their property. The little bit of income was a welcome addition to their hard-scrabble lives, and likely didn’t do too much damage to the environment. I don’t think the mining company that has just applied for a mining exploration licence in the hills around where I live are going to be mining in that way. In the next valley over from us, their river was polluted and fish killed when the mine sediment erosion control dam leaked arsenic, antimony, copper and zinc into the water. According to council records, it cost the Federal Government over $700 000 to put in a water treatment plant at Bellbrook. This is in addition to the additional $700 000 of transporting water to the area over a 5 year period.

Their local council didn’t protect them (nor did the State or Federal Government for that matter). Our council won’t protect us, either. Our governments, at all levels, act as a mirror. They reflect us back to us. Mostly, it’s not a pretty sight, is it? We get the government we deserve. The will to effect change has got to come from the people and move upwards to government, not the other way around. We cannot expect our government to care about things that we don’t care about. That’s why community advocacy groups like Get Up, Avaaz and Lock the Gate are so important. They give the community a voice, and through that voice the will of the people is heard by governments.

It serves no purpose being angry with politicians for not being enough or doing enough. Ask yourself this – are you doing enough, being enough? How are you contributing to change in the issues you care about?

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