CHARLES Dickens begins A Tale of Two Cities with the remark that it was the best of times and the worst of times.
As 2017 draws to a close, Dickens’ words are a good fit with the state of the planet today.
The world’s scientists continue to amass and publish devastating information about what we humans are doing to our only home; at the same time, human ingenuity and adaptability allow hope that we may just survive our own hubris.
According to NASA, 2017 was the second-hottest year on record, the result of climate change caused by human activity. (2016 was hotter due to the El Nino effect.)
Alarmingly, the “leader of the free world”, Donald Trump, is not just refusing to listen to scientists but taking a wrecking ball to the science itself. Shooting the messenger is just a bit of fun to him.
Closer to home, chief scientist Alan Finkel’s Clean Energy Target was thrown out by the Turnbull government in favour of the more coal-friendly National Energy Guarantee.
Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who still gets wide media coverage, followed the latest climate-denialist line by slipping from “it’s not happening” to “if it’s happening it might not be a bad thing”.
At times, in the midst of all this, pessimism can take hold. So what about the best of times?
You might already have guessed where I’m going with this.
Yes, renewable energy is part of the solution. It is taking hold all over the world, including, thankfully, in the rising industrial powers of China and India.
Australia’s experiment with the Tesla battery in South Australia – which has already saved the day twice when coal-powered infrastructure failed - shows that technical barriers to going 100 per cent renewable are falling fast.
Meanwhile, the infrastructure needed to make the most of renewable energy is spreading.
Here in Bathurst, existing electric car charging stations at Abercrombie House and the Showground are set to be joined by another charging station on Council-owned property.
If you go to the Electric Vehicle Council’s online charger map, you can see charging stations spread right around the edges of the continent. Zoom out, and you can see how they’re spreading all over the world.
The age of fossil fuels is rapidly drawing to a close.
But the technofix is not the only solution to our planetary crisis. Simply switching to a lower carbon economy and leaving everything else as is, is not enough.
Rising, industrialising populations are eating into the finite resources of the planet, destroying habitat as they go. We need a new sensibility about our place in the great web of life on this planet.
We need less mastery, more humility, in our attitude to nature. Sometimes slowly, sometimes in leaps and bounds, I do believe we are heading in this direction.
This year, in Bathurst, a team of volunteers moved a mob of kangaroos off Mount Panorama and transported them to a new home away from racing cars.
Many scoffed (and continue to do so) but many also applauded the project. It showed that we can be different, we can try new things, as we adapt to living on this beautiful, finite planet.