BY ISSY STUART
There's only one way to start an article with this title and that's with this question...
FFS…What has ScoMo done now?
We cannot escape the seemingly never-ending news of bad decisions made by our world leaders. This month’s astonishing announcement was PM Scott Morrison’s unveiling of a $150million investment to support President Donald Trump’s mission to Mars.
The reasoning behind President Trump’s baffling decision to go to Mars is unclear. As the POTUS himself so eloquently put it, “Hey, we’ve done the moon. That’s not so exciting…So we’ll be doing the moon. But we’ll really be doing Mars.”
Butchery of the English Language aside, what Trump is trying to say here is he wants to send astronauts to land on the moon, which will then be used as a launch pad to the “more exciting” target of Mars. Whilst this egotistical act from Trump is, at this point, unsurprising, Scott Morrison’s support of a climate-denying leader is disappointing to say the least. On Saturday September 21st, NASA added the Australian Space Agency to its cadre of moon partners and the Australian Government announced its investment of $150million over five years to join NASA’s mission.
A giant leap for mankind? Not so much….
Climate change is happening. To save our planet we need immediate action, and to deny this is to deny science. Yet this is exactly what our leaders are doing. By catering to the super rich elite, by pursuing greed and by persisting in burning fossil fuels for profit, our leaders are avoiding action right when we need it most.
Is there any intelligent life on earth?
Scott Morrison has shown his apathy for the planet through his decision to skip the United Nations Climate Change Summit in New York, instead choosing to support President Trump on the U.S. election trail. Australia was not invited to speak at the summit because of a lack of an ambitious emissions-reduction target (Australia’s emissions have in fact continued to increase over the past five years) and Morrison’s absence at the summit was a national embarrassment.
Morrison has even dismissed Greta Thunberg – the teenage climate activist sparking climate strike movements across the globe - as causing our children “needless anxiety” without “context and perspective”. Meanwhile 300,000 Australian children joined the September 20th school strike for climate change - proof that our children really do have more sense than our leaders.
Forget about Mars, here’s a list of 10 better ways to spend $150 million.
1. Fix Australia’s recycling system
Australia’s recycling system is a mess. China’s ban on the importation of 24 types of recyclable materials sent Australia’s recycling system into crisis in January 2018. Since then, the 1.3 million tonnes of recyclable waste generated in Australia per year has been piling up in landfill. So why hasn’t this been fixed yet? The Waste Management Association of Australia came up with an action plan to solve the crisis, including plans to develop better methods to process and re-use more recyclable materials domestically, rather than exporting it overseas. But to implement this the recycling industry needs a government investment of – yep you guessed it - $150 million.
2. Save a rainforest
Whilst Morrison was pledging $150 million to Mars, an investment of the same amount in an effort to fight climate change was announced by Norway. At the New York Climate Action Summit – the same one Morrison opted to miss – the Central African Forest Initiative announced that Gabon will be paid $150 million in international funds to preserve its rainforest. Norway will support Gabon with the funds to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and battle deforestation.
3. Provide clean water for two million children
How can we look for water on Mars when there’s humans living without water on earth? One in ten people on our planet don’t have access to clean water close to their home, and millions die every year from exposure to dirty water. At WaterAid, a donation of just $140 can provide clean water for two children. That means a donation of $150 million could change the lives of over two million children, providing a sustainable supply of clean water for drinking, washing, cooking and cleaning for the poorest and most marginalised people.
4. Rescue four thousand children from world hunger
As we know, the environmental impact of food waste is significant: producing, transporting, storing and cooking food uses energy, fuel and water and the food waste that ends up in landfills produces the powerful greenhouse gas methane. As well as being bad for the environment, food waste also contributes to global hunger. One in seven people are going hungry, meanwhile a third of our food is wasted. Charities like Food Aid Foundation enable manufacturers, retailers and companies to donate unused food to be distributed to charitable homes, welfare organisations and poor families. They predict that $150 million could rescue four thousand children from world hunger, for life.
5. Provide solar energy for marginalised communities
In July 2017, the World Bank gave $150 million to enable marginalised communities in Kenya to access modern energy services through off-grid solar. In contribution to the objective of attaining universal access to electrification by 2020, the Off-grid Solar Access Project gave 1.3 million people in 277,000 households across 14 counties access to energy, reaching homes, schools and health centres.
6. Save an endangered species
Rising temperatures and sea levels, less rain and more droughts means every species is impacted by climate change. It has been predicted that by 2100, 50% of all the world’s species could be extinct because of climate change. But $150 million could be enough to save an endangered species, as has been proven in India where conservation efforts have shown promising results for India’s endangered tigers. India spent $150 million in 2008 to save its tigers, and it was recorded in July 2019 that their wild tiger population had increased by more than 30% in four years.
7. Plant 150,000,000 trees or protect 60,000,000 acres of rainforest FOR LIFE
The One Tree Planted organisation is an environmental charity on a mission for global reforestation. Its commitment to plant one tree for every $1 donated led to 1.3 million trees being planted in 2018. So, a donation of $150 million would plant 150,000,000 trees!
Earlier this year, Halfcut.org raised $219,509 through the #Halfcut challenge, protecting 87,804 acre of threatened rainforest! Just $2.50 can protect an acre of rainforest for life, through the non-profit's partnership with The Rainforest Trust 'Saving Insigenous Land in The Amazon' campaign, which focuses on western part of the Amazon basin (also known as Andes-Amazonia). $150million sure could protect a whole load of rainforest, Mr Morrison.
8. Double Australia’s donation to renewable energy projects
In 2017, the government of South Australia announced it would invest $150million in renewable energy projects, in an effort to reduce emissions under the Paris climate emission agreements. However, despite the country’s commitments to reduce pollution by 2030, total national emissions continue to increase every year. Another donation of $150million would double Australia’s investment in renewable energy, giving Australia a better chance of meeting the 2030 emissions target.
9. Clean up the plastic in our oceans
We’ve all heard the shocking prediction that by 2050 our oceans will contain more plastic than fish. Over 5 trillion pieces of plastic currently litter the ocean, with trash accumulating in five ocean garbage patches. The Ocean Clean Up is targeting the largest of these patches, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, with its clean up technology System 001. The total cost of the system is $24.6 million . So, with a donation of $150 million, this technology could be used remove all the plastic from our oceans.
10. Provide drought aid for Australian farmers
Climate change brings hotter temperatures and drier weathers. In drought-hit parts of Australia, rainfall levels have been in the lowest 10% of historical records and warnings of water shortages and bushfires have been issued for the approaching spring and summer seasons. The advocacy group Farmers for Climate Action is calling for a national strategy on climate and agriculture. $150million could provide much needed aid to farmers affected by drought.
Men are from Mars? Some of them certainly seem to be…
We think any of these problems might be more important than landing a spaceship on Mars and it would probably be a sensible use of resources to address them first. But of the many words we can use to describe those in power, sensible is not one of them. Unless our leaders actually want to live on Mars, they need to start making our planet a priority. Climate change cannot be ignored in the pursuit of profit and greed.
The world needs our help and there is no Planet B, not even Mars.
Cover photo by NASA on Unsplash
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
During her time studying at the University of Exeter, Issy Stuart discovered The Clean Collective through an internship. Enthralled by the company’s ethos, she became committed to protecting our beautiful planet and inspiring change amongst her peers. In her free time she enjoys yoga and meditation to promote mindfulness, which she believes is central to good mental health and wellbeing.