People power the way to environmental change
4 June 2009
On the eve of World Environment Day 2009, a Deakin University environmental policy expert has said fear of upsetting corporate supporters and major donors is standing in the way of governments taking decisive action on the environment.
"The 'NIMTO' effect – not in my term in office – is the greatest single threat to Australia's environment," saidAssociate Professor Geoff Wescott. However he believes it is a threat people can do something about.
In his new book Back to Basics: Breakthrough Proposals for the Australian Environment – being launched today – Associate Professor Wescott argues that the most powerful tool people can use to achieve environmental change is their vote.
"The Australian community is ready for decisive environmental action. Ultimately I think both the community and government realise one thing: people vote, corporations don't.
"The greatest individual action people can take is to direct their vote to a political party that has high-quality environmental policies. If people use their voting power to force government and oppositions to take specific action we will see immediate and sustained improvements in our environment," he said.
Associate Professor Wescott believes it is imperative that governments take action now.
"In the book I put forward a number of breakthrough proposals that governments can adopt to address the environmental problems we are facing, from nature conservation to water and waste management to climate change," he said.
They include support for replacing the emissions trading scheme with a carbon tax, ensuring all levels of government spend as much on public transport as they do on roads and implementing existing water policy initiatives.
"The time has come in water policy to stop the blame game and focus on the delivery of the National Water Initiative, based on the work of the Wentworth Group, a nationally derived policy approach that has taken years to develop.
"Some of my other recommendations are the strategic revegetation of Australia, the 'rebirth' of inland towns to attract people away from population-pressured coastal areas and the exploration of energy options such as ocean – wave and tidal – power. Imagine a desalination plant fueled by wave energy rather than dirty brown coal," Associate Professor Wescott said.
While he applauds and supports 'individual virtuous action' on the environment, Associate Professor Wescott says it is not enough on its own.
"Environmental improvement is going to come from governments getting back to basics and acting in the interest of their voters, not lobbyists. We already know many of the practical actions governments need to take – what is needed is the political will to act," he said.
"It is important to recognise tomorrow as World Environment Day, but we need every day to be world environment day if we are to bring about the quantum improvements we need. And that is the message people should be taking to their politicians."
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