I went to get myself a coffee, wearing my Sea Shepherd T-shirt.
A man in a ute said: 'You're wearing the right shirt.'
'They just got themselves in a whole lot of trouble,' he added.
'Someone's got to,' I said.
'I wish they'd had a cannon on board,' he continued, 'to blast the Japanese out of our waters. You've got to respect boundaries.'
'I wish they'd bombed them out of the water,' I suggested, perhaps getting a little carried away.
He was talking territorial waters, while I was talking moral boundaries. But he cheered me up no end. He'd engaged, you see.
It was hard not to feel downhearted yesterday after reading the results of the fourth CSIRO survey, details of which were published in The Age (above), into Australians' attitudes to climate change. The subject ranked 14th in a list of 16 issues of general concern – obviously way below items such as cost of living and electricity prices – and 7th out of 8 in a list of environmental concerns (which, bizarrely didn't include loss of biodiversity). More than 80 per cent of those questioned believed that the climate was changing, although a quarter thought temperatures were stable and would remain so, obviously deaf to the findings of the World Meteorological Organisation (2013 was the world's 6th warmest year on record) and Australia's own Bureau of Meteorology (last year was the warmest in Australia in a century of record keeping).
Many participants inflated assessment of their own efforts to improve the environment compared with other Australians – a phenomenon known as a self-enhancement bias. While more than 50 per cent recycled household waste and had switched to using more environmentally friendly products, only 10 percent had engaged in a political campaign about an environmental issue or contacted a member of the government about climate change. And there were no questions such as, 'Have you reduced the number of vehicles/dogs you own in order to minimise your carbon footprint?' (I include dogs here not because I am dogist but because there are 50 million more dogs than all other domestic animals put together in Brisbane and just feeding them increases carbon emissions significantly.)
Yesterday I had a chat with a lady from the Wilderness Society who called to see if I could help, financially, with their campaign to fight plans for coal mining in the Fitzroy River catchment in The Kimberley, WA. Premier Barnett – he of shark-culling fame – would love his legacy to be that of transforming his state on the back of mining. The Kimberley styles itself as Australia's last great wilderness – which I thought was Tasmania's claim, I must confess – and its pristine beauty has long been on my list.
This renowned landscape is under threat from a number of potential transformations, however. Shale gas exploration companies can't wait to get their hands on seemingly vast supplies in the Canning Basin, having got the nod from the WA government. The LNP has a dream to dam the Margaret River, a tributary of the Fitzroy, to help water their fantasy of Australia's 'northern food bowl'. And then, almost inevitably, there's coal.
Rey Resources' Duchess Paradise Project will comprise a 'low-impact' slot mine with a life of about ten years, and then possibly an underground mine (for another ten years). I'd never heard of a slot mine, which involves a trench (or slot) being cut into a coal seam at an optimal point where the seam is closest to the surface, thus minimising the stripping ratio (the ratio of overburden to mineral deposit). This Project would also include an accommodation camp, a coal handling and preparation plant, a 30-km access road to the Great Northern Highway and development of an export facility at Derby.
Environmental assessment of this Project is ongoing, and Rey Resources don't have a mining lease yet, so it's early days. The Wilderness Society need to prepare, however, hence their calls to members now.
There seem to be many environmental campaigns to wage; threatened communities – of people and animals and plants – to be supported; in old mining regions and in new. Some days I don't know where to start; which to choose to research and write about; how best to allocate time to be of help to whom. And some days the whole business of trying to get the Australian people on side seems like a hell of an uphill struggle.
But I take heart from a groundswell of realisation† that the Coalition is 'taking an axe' to the environment, in the words of Labor Opposition spokesman Mark Butler. Australia's global reputation has become embarrassing since the LNP came to power: I can't put it better than The New Zealand Herald who this week asked, Is Australia the world's most environmentally unfriendly country?
I almost feel pity for Greg Hunt, the Feds' environmental man. But you need to speak out, man. You surely don't want to go down in history with the rest of a bunch of goons peddling denial and disingenuity as the men who trashed Australia's extraordinary landscape for the short-term gain of their mates in mining. And get this country's fine scientists back on the job while you're at it.
The man in the coffee shop knew what had been happening in the Southern Ocean. He knew his government had promised to send a ship to sort the Japanese slaughterers and then diverted it to stopping some other boats.
(Note to self: wear Sea Shepherd T-shirt more often.)