Saturday, 18 August 2007

On wealth and waste...

As reported by Wendy Frew in the Sydney Morning Herald the largest ecological footprints may be found in the most affluent neighborhoods. This should come as no great surprise to most green-minded folk.

What I like in particular are the comparisons between efforts to save energy at home using rainwater storage tanks, solar hot water, compact florescent lighting, public transport, etc. and the impact of industrial consumption manifested through the goods Australians purchase to maintain our standard of living.

New data shows the electricity and water used to produce everything people buy - from food and clothing to CDs and electrical appliances - far outweighs any efforts to save water and power in the home, according to an extensive analysis by the Australian Conservation Foundation and the [Centre for Integrated Sustainability Analysis] University of Sydney.

The analysis from the Australian Conservation Foundation may be found here. Among other information, it includes a Consumption Atlas tool and reports:

The Consumption Atlas shows households in areas straddling the harbour in inner Sydney and the banks of the Brisbane River in Queensland are the country’s biggest greenhouse polluters. These areas are closely followed by: inner-suburban Canberra; Woollahra and Mosman in Sydney; Southbank and Docklands in Melbourne; and Fortitude Valley and Newstead in Brisbane. The lowest greenhouse polluting Australian households are in Tasmania – in the Derwent Valley, Kentish and Brighton areas.

This perspective seems to highlight two potential futures for Australia [and most likely beyond]. One in which people cling to their standard of living, fail to make the daily sacrifices and suffer the predicted effects of climate change. Or another in which people adopt broad lifestyle changes (including substantial sacrifices) for the environment and live simpler albeit cooler lives. Furthermore the authors appear to be admitting that the foreseeable deployment of renewables without nuclear will fail to adequately sustain the current Australian standard of living AND achieve aggressive environmental targets.

I have to wonder; if people fail to make those broad sacrifices, would Australians accept Nuclear Power (as some are proposing we do) or steadfastly refuse it in lieu of the projected environmental challenges. Sooner or later - this very well could be the ultimate decision we will all be faced with.


  1. Glad you're back blogging...

    This is a fascinating analysis which I haven't seen elsewhere; and a question for the "off-grid" green approach to address, I'd say.

  2. It seems clear to me that the energy inputs for consumer and industrial goods are greater than household consumption. It is likely, therefore, that if the cost of energy increases, due to the imposition of a carbon tax, or the mandated use of expensive sources of energy such as solar or wind, then imported goods become cheaper and the pollution cost is shifted to developing nations. Along with the energy and pollution costs being shifted abroad, the manufacturing jobs go with them.

    France, which generates 78% of its electricity using nuclear power, has the cheapest electricity, cleanest air and lowest greenhouse gases in Europe. Whilst France is has many problems of its own, Australia would do well to emulate its energy policy..