Locally we see evidence of positive change. Increasing numbers of our neighbours and fellow U3A students have solar panels on the roofs of their homes and are considering ways in which to ‘retrofit’ to make their homes more energy efficient. Group members recently participated in a council sponsored tour of recycling facilities -- Frank reports holding discussions in his neighbourhood about the latest initiatives afterwards. We are now becoming accustomed to classifying our waste and putting out our red and green bins; then yellow and green bins, on alternate weeks in response to local council recycling initiatives to reduce the amount of landfill. It is pleasing to hear these initiatives are already proving successful in doing so!
Benalla Sustainable Future Group recently worked with Benalla Rural City to organise another successful Sustainable Housing Forum at BPACC which a number of U3A members attended. In another initiative, the ‘Rec-less – Less Water, Less Often, More Resilient Open Spaces’ project, which aims to better manage public spaces such as parks, sports grounds and gardens as climate change occurs, Benalla Rural City is asking for community feedback through an online survey available at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/RS2CWH6. Please consider completing it.
We always greet with enthusiasm positive research reports of strategies to address climate change. We can visualise local dairy cows receiving the minute dose of a dietary supplement which suppresses methane production by ruminant animals without suppressing milk production; the adoption of strategies to reduce the frost risk caused by El Nino events; and the acceptance and spread of new bladeless wind turbines developed by Spanish company Vortex Bladeless (*Developments in renewable energy – can bladeless wind turbines mute opposition? Guardian, June 1, 2015.).
At State level, we read that Daniel Andrew’s government is ‘unashamedly pro wind power’, has condemned the instructions by the Abbot government to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation not to invest in wind projects, and is to announce plans for the renewable energy which will bypass federal government policies. This is particularly significant given that our state is the heaviest producer of ‘dirty’ brown coal sourced electricity. We will have the chance to hear more about directions being taken by the Victorian Government at the Annual General Meeting of the Benalla Sustainable Future Group on August 27 when guest speaker Dr Nicholas Aberle, Safe Climate Campaign Manager for Environment Victoria, will speak about "6 Steps to Climate Leadership: The path to a cleaner, healthier and more prosperous Victoria".
It is in considering events at the national level that we spend much time and continue to ‘shake our heads’ in stunned amazement. We read a plethora of research based reports suggesting the need for policy to support renewable energy and the longer term transition to a zero carbon energy environment; yet our Federal Government’s policy responses at the national level remain relatively tentative at best, and at times obfuscatory. With elections coming up in both the USA and Australia and the Paris talks imminent internationally, climate change issues are clearly on the political agenda. Our class discussions in ‘Towards a Sustainable Future’, sustained by well researched articles selected by our facilitator, John Lloyd, will undoubtedly continue to be lively and informative!