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22 November 2015 |
The safety features of self-driving cars could save many lives. But driving also involves making decisions, including ethical ones. Imagine you're in your self-driving car, travelling at speed on a highway. Suddenly an oncoming road train swerves into your lane and thunders head-on towards you. You may just be able to swerve, but unfortunately five men are standing on the side of the road, and you will surely hit them. Should the self-driving car kill five people, or stay the course and kill you?
17 November 2015 |
It's no surprise that three of the federal government's shortlisted sites for the proposed national radioactive waste facility are in South Australia, the 'expendable state'. And it's disturbing to find that the owner of at least one of the sites has been misinformed, believing 'It's basically only a medical waste facility.' In fact the farmer and Indigenous opponents of the sites are right to be concerned. The intermediate level waste housed at such a facility will be hazardous for thousands of years.
11 November 2015 |
In recent reflection on the future path of Australia the common good has made a welcome return. At the same time the Turnbull Government has transferred responsibility for water resources, including the Murray-Darling Basin, from the Department of the Environment to the Department of Trade. The two things seem to be unrelated. But the concept of the common good has been embodied robustly in the Murray-Darling Basin plan and survives in the midst of continuing conflict.
10 November 2015 |
The UN Climate Change Conference in Paris is set to become the last opportunity for meaningful global action. The signs so far bear optimism, as the impetus for a binding international agreement to tackle the severity and effects of climate change has taken a turn. In order to better understand why, and appreciate the difference that a few years can make, it is worth revisiting why Copenhagen was such a disaster. The most meaningful difference between then and now involves leaders.
05 November 2015 |
Francis does not pretend to have answers to the big questions which will confront world leaders when they gather in Paris. But he does think the science is IN, and the evidence is clear that much of the climate change, loss of biodiversity and water shortages are the result of human action. We are blessed to have a pope who speaks to all the world about the prudence, justice and empathy required so that more people on our planet might enjoy integral human development.
04 November 2015 |
In the early 1990s London engineer Allan Jones took the suburb of Woking off the grid by establishing a system of tri-generation, which reduces waste by generating power locally. The Sydney City Council employed Jones in 2009 to bring the same approach to Australia. But regulations from previous eras that greatly favour the incumbent power companies are preventing any meaningful change. Once again we find that the main challenges with tackling global pollution are not technical, but political.
03 November 2015 |
Environmental justice will be part of the discussion in Paris this month. The principle of justice says each person is of equal value no matter which nation or ethnic group they belong to. Each Australian contributes 16 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, while each Bangladeshi contributes a little more than a third of a tonne. If the principle of justice is applied, Australia will have to move from 16 tonnes per person to about a third of a tonne, roughly equivalent to what a Bangladeshi emits now.
01 November 2015 |
When Chinchilla farmer George Bender took his own life, it ended a ten year struggle with the coal seam gas industry that has wreaked havoc on his property and that of his neighbours. Despite mountains of paper regulations, despite a well-resourced Gasfield Commission and Gasfield Compliance Unit, people in the region feel abandoned. It seems that government bodies are enablers and facilitators of the industry rather than regulators and protectors of the people, the soil and the water.
10 February 2015 |
Better infrastructure such as dedicated bike lanes helps to avoid cyclists being injured. But the road is not a battleground and increased armoury is not the answer to our need for safer roads. A more gracious attitude to each other on the part of both motorists and cyclists is just as important.
26 January 2015 |
It is no coincidence that Pope Francis chose to visit the Philippines before he releases his encyclical on the environment, and that he made a point of visiting Tacloban, which was ground zero for super typhoon Haiyan. This follows the recent UN climate talks in Lima, where Australian negotiators so regularly blocked consensus that they won us the 'colossal fossil' award for 2014 from environmental observers.
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