17 Group: “The Lucky Country? Reinventing Australia”

The next meeting of the 17 Group will take place on Wednesday the 6th of April at 7 pm in unit 6 at 20 Drury St, West End. It will be addressed by scientist and author Emeritus Professor Ian Lowe on the topic of his latest book, “The Lucky Country? Reinventing Australia”.

Ian’s summary:
I was inspired by the forgotten warnings of Donald Horne’s iconic 1967 polemic ‘The Lucky Country’, to reflect on where Australia is now and where we are heading. Horne warned that we need to recognise where we are on the map, develop a modern economy rather than persisting with the Third World model of exporting commodities, and discuss what sort of country we want to be in the twenty-first century. These warnings are still relevant today, after fifty years of being ignored by what Horne saw as our second-rate leaders. We also now need to recognise that we have serious environmental problems that must be addressed if we are to achieve our stated goal of living sustainably.

We should be playing a responsible independent role in the Asia-Pacific, rather than being the mindless client of the USA. We should recognise that there is no long-term future in exporting low-value commodities to pay for the goods and services we are not smart enough to produce for ourselves. We should also question the presumed priority of economic development and the implicit belief that all our social and environmental problems can be solved by economic growth. In fact, the scale of population growth is causing serious problems, affecting the quality of life in our cities. We also need to recognise our debt to the original Australians and should move forward to being an independent republic.

A sustainable future for Australia is still possible if we make appropriate choices in the next few years. The future is up to us: will we continue to blunder on, irrespective of the facts and the mistakes of the past? Or, will we start to limit our resource use, curb our economic development and stabilise our population, with the key focus on maintaining the integrity of our unique biodiversity and our natural ecological systems?

Short biographical notes:
Ian Lowe is emeritus professor of science, technology and society at Griffith University in Brisbane. He is the author of several books, most recently A Big Fix, Living in the Hothouse, Why vs Why? Nuclear Power, A Voice of Reason: Reflections on Australia and Bigger or Better? Australia’s Population Debate. He has been involved in a large number of advisory bodies to all levels of government as well as international agencies. [Another perhaps surprising aspect of his international work may be seen by consulting the attachment.]

Leon has, like most of us, been following developments in this area of climate and so on, changing with the times, so he’s annoyed a bit when people try to hold him to some of his former statements, e.g. this from 1924:

“The present distribution of mountains and rivers, of fields, of meadows, of steppes, of forests, and of seashores, cannot be considered final. Man has already made changes in the map of nature that are not few nor insignificant. But they are mere pupils’ practice in comparison with what is coming. Faith merely promises to move mountains; but technology, which takes nothing ‘on faith’, is actually able to cut down mountains and move them. Up to now this was done for industrial purposes (mines) or for railways (tunnels); in the future this will be done on an immeasurably larger scale, according to a general industrial and artistic plan. Man will occupy himself with re-registering mountains and rivers, and will earnestly and repeatedly make improvements in nature. In the end, he will have rebuilt the earth, if not in his own image, at least according to his own taste. We have not the slightest fear that this taste will be bad….”

He was particularly pissed off when he caught up with this bit of video:
http://townhall.com/video/ny-times-friedman-compares-climate-change-deniers-to-trotsky-marxists-n1819735 and he was only moderately mollified when he was defended this way:

“In wringing his hands over drought conditions and ensuing water shortages in North Africa and the Middle East (i.e., desert regions), New York Times columnist Tom Friedman writes:

… If you ask “what are the real threats to our security today,” said [resource scarcity alarmist Lester] Brown, “at the top of the list would be climate change, population growth, water shortages, rising food prices and the number of failing states in the world. As that list grows, how many failed states before we have a failing global civilization, and everything begins to unravel?” Hopefully, we won’t go there. But, then, we should all remember that quote attributed to Leon Trotsky: “You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.” Well, you may not be interested in climate change, but climate change is interested in you.”

He bridled a bit when we re-quoted this last bit to get him to consider coming to the meeting, but you, gentle reader, should not, if we earnestly say it to you. For this will be a great meeting to attend, even if it turns out once again, to our now customary loss, to be Leonless.

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