Earth needs saving but are people stuck in a long-gone irrelevant era?

By Shepparton News

Just a moment ago, it seemed, I was with several teenage mates drifting down the River Murray at Echuca on a large log.

It was a warm summer day and we had walked upriver from Bower’s Bend, one of the town’s most popular river spots in the 1950s, spotted the giant log, hitched a ride and thoroughly enjoyed a near hour-long languid and memorable cruise downstream.

That “moment ago” defies all logic as it was about 60 years earlier and yet I can still feel the warm sun, the cool water, hear the chatter of my mates, and sense the huge mass of the log; a log that had become our momentary vessel and which, for me at least, was etching indelible tracks on my memory.

I was born two years after the Second World War and so grew through decades rich with social democracy.

And although saddled with a huge war-time debt, the times were good as we emerged from that tragic time.

Being just a kid, I was not aware that many in my community had been left emotionally scarred by violence from the conflict and so could only see good times ahead.

Good times are relative and for a poor kid from the wrong side of the tracks, floating down the river on a log, on a sunny day was about as good as it got, and it was great!

But my log drifting days are gone, or at least the innocence of those emotionally comforting times.

Everyone, it seemed, was somewhat innocent in the 50s, particularly with regard to the human-induced changes to our atmosphere; changes which are now unfolding much quicker than anyone, including our best climate scientists, had thought possible.

But I rush ahead.

The then Echuca Technical College was where I went for my secondary education and considering that through the clarity of hindsight, it was clearly the wrong place, not that there was anything inherently wrong with school itself, rather for me it was a poor fit.

Memories of my school days are many, but predominating among them was the education system’s failure to ask the right questions; well, the questions were OK, but the answers they wanted, answers considered correct, were for me only a small part of the answer demanded by the question.

Struggling with the intellectual misfit of my schooling, I stumbled, at the end of Year 11, into a reporting job with Echuca’s local newspaper, The Riverine Herald.

I didn’t know any reporters, was unaware of what they did and although I had never considered it a career, that sheer chance led to me being a reporter all my life, beyond a couple of years doing a few other odd things.

Curiosity that had been stifled during my education, burgeoned as a reporting gave me social permission to ask the questions I felt needed answering.

Let’s go back to those log-floating days and then jump forward to today.

Little did I know that those lazy log-floating days would lead, because of a curiosity without relief, to a fascination with the damage we are causing to Earth’s atmosphere.

There was little public knowledge in the 50s about what today is known as the “climate emergency” nor had anyone thought much about alternate ideas; ideas that today abound.

Most people care about what’s happening to Earth’s climate system (that’s according to evidence-based research from Sustainability Victoria) and most want our governments to act.

And just last week, I talked with co-leader of the Climate Change and Resilience Research Program at RMIT, Associate Professor Lauren Rickards, who wondered why all those people of influence, who clearly know about the causes and impact of climate change, do nothing.

I too wonder, but maybe their curiosity was killed by an education system which has had its reason stolen by a dynamic that puts profit ahead of people.

Or maybe, just maybe, those decision makers are ideologically and intellectually trapped in some sort of untimely and personal log-floating day from a long-gone irrelevant era.

Rob McLean is a former News editor.