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Economy v environment is no zero-sum game

  • 15 April 2019


In the back and forth of party politics, one phenomenon we have seen is a slow uptick in support for independents. Divisive figures and small parties have gained a level of support unforeseen under previous governments.

Why has this happened? What is it that both major parties are missing that makes Australians feel unheard and unseen? Is it the constant polemics of the 24 hour news cycle? In an increasingly educated and cosmopolitan society, is our generation of leaders simply out of touch?

Whatever the cause, we are not debating the issues that really matter. Into this void, civic action groups and community coalitions like the Sydney Alliance have stepped up. The recent 'Voices for Power' event, held at Sydney Town Hall on 14 March, brought together 1901 leaders and citizens, including the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney and the St Vincent De Paul society, to lobby for, among other things, solar gardens in suburban Sydney and more sustainable electricity sources.

When Pope Paul VI wrote Populorum Progressio, the seminal work on Catholic social teaching in 1967, he injected a dose of sobriety into the feeling of anticipation and excitement that accompanied the booming material development of the west. 'Neither individuals nor nations should regard the possession of more and more goods as the ultimate objective,' he said. 

'Every kind of progress is a two-edged sword. It is necessary if man is to grow as a human being; yet it can also enslave him, if he comes to regard it as the supreme good and cannot look beyond it. When this happens, men harden their hearts, shut out others from their minds and gather together solely for reasons of self-interest rather than out of friendship; dissension and disunity follow soon after.'

In our region, we see this Australian longing for a more just use of resources, especially an investment in renewables, echoed by our nearest neighbours. For the Federation of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Oceania, the question of renewable energy sourcing is not esoteric or theoretical: it's one of life and death.

'Every day our people are suffering from the negative — indeed sometimes disastrous — effects of global warming,' the Oceania bishops said last year. 'These include rising sea levels, rising ocean temperatures, acidification of waters and coral bleaching. We therefore ask, is our people's cry for change drowned out by the din of commercial lobbying and greed? Why is it that notwithstanding the indisputable negative