Sri Lanka’s hiatus

The Sustainable Hour no. 425 | Podcast notes

Our guest in The Sustainable Hour on 17 August 2022 is Tevin Witharana, a young freelance film maker from Sri Lanka.

When we first made contact with Tevin, knowing that his country was in turmoil with its economy in great peril and people in the streets demanding that their president step down, we expected tales of doom and gloom, but boy, were we surprised when he started talking to us.

Tevin doesn’t shy away from the reality of what is happening in Sri Lanka, but he is very positive about the choices his country faces as they look for a way to move the country forward. He speaks of the positives that have been emerging from being forced to slow down because of the prevailing economic situation: Less traffic means cleaner air, which means more people are outside taking advantage of that, and high prices for food means that community gardens have become very important places for people to learn new life skills as well as to socialise. These are important elements in the climate hiatus that the entire world would be rushing towards if we understood and acknowledged how urgent it is that we protect ourselves and future generations from a complete climate breakdown.

In fact it was at one such community garden event that we first came across Tevin — at Metta Garden, one of these community initiatives in Colombo, the capital city of Sri Lanka, which in founder of the garden Kanchana Weerakoon’s words is “a space for all beings while practicing loving kindness”. Tevin was there to film the event.

Tevin is a delightful young man with such a positive attitude. He has agreed to be our Sri Lankan reporter and will come on time to time. We look forward to these ‘climate hiatus reports’ as his beloved country charts its course to a safer, more just, inclusive and healthy existence.

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We start this week once again with Antonio Guterres, head of the United Nations. This time he warns us about the consequences of us not moving away from fossil fuels: “incinerating the Earth”.

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Music can amplify social issues and inspire people to care about new and sometimes unexpected topics. But can it take something as dire as climate change and make it mainstream? In his TedTalk ‘How hip-hop can make climate action cool’, the clear message from social entrepreneur Samir Ibrahim is: Yes it can! With artists MyVerse and Kristen Warren as an inspiring opening act, Ibrahim suggests hip-hop and its stars can help us move from talking about the problem to rapping about and acting on solutions.

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Mik Aidt went along to the YMCA solar launch recently. Today he files this report from his live stream of the event, where among others Member for Geelong Christine Couzens gave a speech. The solar installation at the YMCA Stadium in Newtown, Geelong, is projected to save the YMCA in Newtown $14,000 a year on their energy bills. The event was also a launch event for Geelong Sustainability’s Community Energy Revolving Fund which provides interest-free loans which are paid back into the fund from energy savings over a five-year period, ensuring they remain net positive for the cycle of the loan. The loan is then reinvested to fund other community energy projects.

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Mik also refers to the International Energy Agency’s new 10-Point Plan to cut oil use. The International Energy Agency is not exactly the world’s most progressive or revolutionary body, and even so, it says we should lower our oil consumption and shows us how we can save almost three million barrels of oil a day. It’s still not enough to where we need to go, but it is a good start for the transition to a fossil free society. It is a start to change the story. The agency’s full report is here.

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“Focusing on the things that give meaning,” we play Formidable Vegetable Sound System‘s ‘Earth People Fair’.

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Colin Mockett‘s Global Outlook this week begins in the Pacific, where one of the resolutions that came from the forum of Pacific nations is set to see nations that take inadequate action on climate change taken to the International Court of Justice for breaching the human rights of islanders. The proposal was put by Vanuatu and passed at the forum — and here’s the twist: the Australian government is backing it even though it’s most likely to see us in the dock.

Speaking in Fiji, Australia’s Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Pat Conroy, praised the campaign by Vanuatu saying “We are supportive of the process. This is a really important resolution that will help increase momentum for action on climate change.” If the resolution passes the UN General Assembly, the Internal Court of Justice would have the power to consider whether countries have breached human rights by failing to cut emissions.

Staying in our region, Nicki Hutley of the Australian Climate Council has released a study that found the cost of extreme weather disasters in Australia has more than doubled since the 1970s. It has reached $35 billion in the decade to 2019, and economic damages per person are around seven times the global average. The study estimated that the 2019 Black Summer bushfires cost about $100 billion, and that’s roughly 14 times the economic and social costs of the 2009 Black Saturday fires.

The full cost of the recent floods in New South Wales is still being finalised but it will run into billions. The study also found health costs were not previously counted, but are now starting to be recognised and counted. Hutley’s report showed that “the 2011 heat wave saw a 14 per cent rise in ambulance callouts and a 13 per cent increase in excess deaths.”

An unrelated study from the Climate Council released a couple of days later found that particulate emissions from dirty petrol have been causing multiple deaths annually in Australia, which it suggests should be counted as part of the road toll. It dates back to the Morrison government, which locked our nation into using nearly the dirtiest petrol of all countries in the OECD until 2028, by refusing to embrace global vehicle emissions standards. So even if we could buy a Euro 6 Emissions-compliant car in Australia, it probably wouldn’t make it out of the showroom on our petrol. The Morrison government also committed billions to the foreign oil refiners operating in Australia to keep the refineries open, only to see several of them close after taking the money.

Colin then zooms us to Europe where the wildfires spreading throughout the continent are said to show that the climate crisis is not a future or far away problem. It is here it is now. 2021 was the second-worst wildfire season in the European Union since 2000, when the European Forest Fire records began. The report finds that large and extreme fires affected many countries, especially in the Mediterranean Basin and warns that the current wildfires are considerably worse. In 2021, fires were observed in 39 countries, of which Turkey was most affected.

And finally, some lighter news from the United Kingdom and our favourite football club, the vegan carbon-neutral Forest Green Rovers, which won promotion to the English Division One last year. They have built a new team over the summer under a new manager — and had their first try-out match against a Division One opponent at the weekend. They played Swindon Supermarine in Swindon – and Forest Green won 2-1.

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That’s it for TSH#425. We’ll be back next week with more solution seekers — people who have popped up as we search the world for inspiration for all of us to find the way that we can positively contribute to the climate revolution.
~ Anthony Gleeson

“Sustainability has two sides. As in: Yes, it should take care of the environment, but it can also serve our basic human needs. Because of the volatile nature of the [Sri Lankan] politics, it’s not a choice we have to make. People are dying, people are starving, there’s a lack of nutrition. So sustainability isn’t some sort of a fairytale for us. But the crisis has created massive positive changes for the environment, so hopefully this will be a transformation where we will stick to these enviro-friendly, eco-friendly practices while fulfilling our basic needs as well.”
~ Tevin Witharana, Sri Lankan filmmaker

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We at The Sustainable Hour would like to pay our respect to the traditional custodians of the land on which we
are broadcasting, the Wathaurong People, and pay our respect to their elders, past, present and future.

The traditional owners lived in harmony with the land. They nurtured it and thrived in often harsh conditions for millenia before they were invaded. Their land was then stolen from them – it wasn’t ceeded. It is becoming more and more obvious that, if we are to survive the climate emergency we are facing, we have much to learn from their land management practices.

Our battle for climate justice won’t be won until our First Nations brothers and sisters have their true justice. When we talk about the future, it means extending our respect to those children not yet born, the generations of the future – remembering the old saying that, “We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors. We borrow it from our children.”
The decisions currently being made around Australia to ignore the climate emergency are being made by those who won’t be around by the time the worst effects hit home. How disrespectful and unfair is that?

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→ The EmboDegrowth Lab – 8 July 2022:
Embodying degrowth and turning the movement inside out
“The degrowth movement has both the potential and a mandate to go beyond a distributional and ecological critique of GDP growth, and to include a broader reflection on what constitutes an existentially meaningful mode of being interdependent with the planet.”

→ Post Growth Institute / Medium – 17 June 2022:
We Are The Economy
“Once we see that we are the economy, we realize we can change it — and when we change it, we change the world.” By Post Growth Fellow, Amanda Janoo

“We’ll get rapid change when enough people accept that burning fossil fuel causes global heat and global heat kills people, therefore burning fossil fuel kills people. When this happens policies and culture will shift fast. E.g., flying will become a social negative.”

Peter Kalmus

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The IEA’s 10-Point Plan to Cut Oil Use

1. Reduce speed limits on highways by at least 10 km/h

2. Work from home up to three days a week where possible

3. Car-free Sundays in cities

4. Make the use of public transport cheaper and incentivise micro-mobility, walking and cycling

5. Alternate private car access to roads in large cities

6. Increase car sharing and adopt practices to reduce fuel use

7. Promote efficient driving for freight trucks and delivery of goods

8. Using high-speed and night trains instead of planes where possible

9. Avoid business air travel where alternative options exist

10. Reinforce the adoption of electric and more efficient vehicles

Read the report

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Events we have talked about in The Sustainable Hour

Events in Victoria

The following is a collation of Victorian climate change events, activities, seminars, exhibitions, meetings and protests. Most are free, many ask for RSVP (which lets the organising group know how many to expect), some ask for donations to cover expenses, and a few require registration and fees. This calendar is provided as a free service by volunteers of the Victorian Climate Action Network. Information is as accurate as possible, but changes may occur.



List of running petitions where we encourage you to add your name

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