On October 8th I heard that an Australian billionaire, Gina Rinehart, in a video, had told girls at her old school that ‘humans do not cause climate change’. She is also wanting to mine coal in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. But she had been challenged. Good.
I had intended my next blog to pick up the danger in the power of wealth to undermine the intentions of governments that appear to have real concern for the future of their nation. The International Monetary Fund is worried. But the fact that this woman, with very great wealth, dared to dismiss all the evidence of climate change as ‘propaganda’ made me decide to concentrate on her actions here – in that video, and against the government in Canada.
I do not accept the view of patriotism that you see when Prime Ministers and Presidents make claims in front of national flags. A nation to be worth our full support needs to be one that shows, through its actions – in a democracy – that it has integrity.
On September 30th, I began to ask questions. Who has heard of ‘green washing’? The abuse of their customers by corporations pretending they are on the right side, the ‘green’ side for the planet. I am in Adelaide, ‘Down Under’ and I have heard of it. A friend in USA has not. I ask people to check on plastics companies that say they are ‘going green’. In Australia, a developer might have got permission to build on a World Heritage wetland. A Minister for the Environment had gone against the recommendation of the experts in his Department and was going to choose the less rigorous regulations to let him do it. We know wetlands are essential for bio-diversity on the coast. Luckily, this time it didn’t happen. But so much can happen under the cover of COVID!
On September 28th I went to sports clubs doing their bit for climate change since the connection of a revised Gettysburg Address – thinking of how Lincoln might see the turmoil we are in and the battle for the planet we are facing – with Glasgow raised no eyebrows. In the UK Forest Green Rovers and in Australia ‘Cool Down’ sports people from 30 clubs doing more to promote positive action about climate change than our national government. That raised no eyebrows.
September 21st 2021. It seems COVID 19 and Delta have taken away any concern we might have for anything else. Those in power who want to bring about changes that advantage one group against another are using this time and this preoccupation to get away with it. Our Prime Minister just got the Prime Minister of the UK to remove any climate concerns from the Free Trade Treaty we have been negotiating with the UK government! We are not vigilant. We are anxious. While modellers of ‘living with Covid’ might give numbers for those who die and those who have been forgotten, they are people. We feel for them. But there is a process going on at the same time that is harming us in a way some of us have yet to feel. I always go back to Shylock, crying out in ‘The Merchant of Venice’. The curse never fell upon our nation till now. I never felt it till now.‘ So, I have moved on from ‘Not Afraid For The Future’, that I hoped would bring the kind of response we need. Instead, in the hope that visitors might feel it, I offer you an alternative Address by a great Australian, Barry Jones, in homage to, and built upon, the Gettysburg Address by one of the greatest of the American Presidents.
September 2021. I should probably have put a question mark after ‘Not Afraid For the Future’. I am trying to be optimistic again as the two Australian professors are. They are the focus of this blog because they are using their knowledge, their concern for the future for everyone, to bring their genius, their capacity of cooperative learning to the fore.
This is at a time when the Australian Coalition government has decided to concentrate on changing partners as far as the provision of submarines is concerned. They are more concerned with submarines than the oceans in which they will hide. Their focus is not on the future of the oceans which are so vital in the writing of Dr Sylvia Earle and Dr Edith Widder. Dr Widder has told us about ‘the eye in the sea’. It is a machine that enables scientists to observe without intrusion. We have done so much exploitation, through over-fishing, deep sea mining and using the oceans as a dumping place. She says, at least, where space is concerned, we have explored before we began to consider how we could exploit it. We know so little about the bio-diversity from surface to the ultimate depths and we care too little about what global warming is doing to our lives.
Two people in USA have gone back to an earlier blog ‘There is Hope in Hell’. We have to hope that is the case. But in democracies, when people can forget the long term climate future, we are subject to how they vote. Fine imaginative novelists can present us with possibilities for the future. That is what Jules Verne did in ‘Twenty Leagues Under the Sea.’ That is what H.G. Wells did. Most of all, just now, that is what E. M. Forster did for us when he wrote ‘The Machine Stops.’
August 2021. Undoubtedly, the Delta variant has taken the focus off global warming and I am not surprised. So much happens across the globe everyday. Earthquakes, political upheavals, a year’s rainfall in two days, and all the events large and small that take our attention off the ‘big picture’, that just goes on.
This time, thoroughly connecting science and poetry, I ask those who visit – if they do nothing else – to listen to Mark Tredinnik’s poem, ‘Litany. En Elegy’. Children born today must deal with the planet we create. We can’t escape to Mars. In Adelaide, a play ‘Hibernation’ is looking at a future for 2030.
July 2021. I have just received a reply from a friend in the UK to my latest blog ‘Civil Society has power’. The title is the result of the interview of Professor Peter Newman of Curtin University in Western Australia by Robyn Williams, presenter of the ‘Science Show’ on Australia’s ABC Radio National. The contrast between an honest public broadcaster and the Murdoch media is so great. In the UK, in Australia, and through Fox News in USA, we have to deal with Murdoch’s Sky News. In the UK, it deliberately ignored the fact of the hottest temperature in Northern Ireland. He also directed me to an article in The New Statesman‘ on ‘The Politics of Lies’.
June 2021. i have made a connection with Sustain blog. They have given me information about the ‘whole-of-government, all-hands-on-deck approach of the Biden-Harris Administration. They know that is what climate change needs. If only we had such commitment and investment from our Federal government here in Canberra.
My blogs appear to be connected with Home/Archives in a way I had not intended. Visitors from other lands go to the blogs and name them. I know what has attracted their interest even if for very short periods of time. I think it is mainly those in Australia from whom I receive no idea of where their focus lies. From USA many care about the ‘third F’ after Flora and Fauna’. I’d like to know where the focus lies. Then I might be able to make further connections that might have an impact, in democracies, on the way citizens decide to vote.
Geoff Boyce has provided this information about me.
‘Erica has devoted her life to advancing the quality of life for all through education.
“Good education is a fundamental part of a fulfilling life.
“I don’t have children. If I had children maybe I’d put my energy into them; but I put it into what I care about most, which is giving everybody, particularly Indigenous people, equal access to education.
“Education allows people to discover what they want to do for themselves. It allows them to change their minds, to understand that error is not a sign of failure and is just part of the process of learning and developing.”
Education, for Erica, means making connections and healing the rift between areas of knowledge rigidified in academic silos. Education means drawing on the reservoir of human understanding, inspiring new life and new opportunities for all.’
I was the Founding Secretary of the SA History Teachers Association and a member of the Social Studies Teachers Association encouraging the cross disciplinary approach connecting economics, social, historical, geographical, political elements to increase understanding of the foundations of contemporary society. Contributed to Social Studies text books in the early 1960s.
Teaching in the UK, Sept 1966 – June 1967, visiting schools in USA 1967, made me aware of the need to connect across disciplines in the humanities and sciences after reading ‘The Two Cultures’. Dangers in separation were made clear by the Cold War. Back in Adelaide, Deputy Principal, Mitcham Girls Technical High School and completing a major in English at the University of Adelaide to add to my Hons degree in History, I decided to change direction.
Encouraged to go to the Flinders University, to pursue an MA in English Literature, from 1970 I taught part time at Brighton Boys Technical High School where the separation of Technical Studies from the study of literature and social studies was apparent in attitudes. This was the beginning of my conviction that ‘subjects as silos’ decreased the avenues needed to develop the quality of community-based connections across a country.
In 1975 the single-sex boys school became the co-educational Mawson High School as a result of the end of the binary – academic or vocational – secondary school structure that had existed from the beginning of secondary public schools. Connecting the academic and the vocational was one of the important possible developments in these comprehensive schools. They were the result of the Freedom and Authority Memorandum of the Director-General of Education, Dr A.W. Jones. Principals could develop curricula appropriate for local needs. For the first time, public schools now had a second Deputy Principal, one for Curriculum. Integrated programs could be taken up by progressive schools.
In 1981 I became the Deputy Principal, Curriculum, to Brian D. Hannaford B.Sc, AM, FACE, who, since 1975 had been changing the academic Marion High School into a comprehensive school offering effective programs for all who attended for the full five years. He understood the dangers of subjects as silos, encouraged connections of different kinds, even establishing a multi-disciplinary resource centre as well as outdoor education and English-Second Language centres, a computing centre as well as the traditional library/resources centre to complement, enhance and counter the narrowing focus of mainstream study. The school had 30 different nationalities. In 1984/85 it was chosen by the Federal government as a ‘lighthouse’ school for South Australia. As early as 1986 schools were aware of the impact of ‘the green house’ gases and environment increased in importance in secondary as well as primary schools.
in 1990 I was elected as a representative of the graduates to Flinders University Council. In 1996 I would be asked to join the university’s Academic Senate and served there until 2002. Efforts were being made to connect across the sciences and the arts through the philosophy of science. From 1998 I had been working with U3A groups – University of the Third Age – on connections between poetry and science.
In 2000, the Australian Council of the Deans of Education had put forward a charter. ‘New Learning: A Charter for Australian Education. It emphasised the increasing necessity for interdisciplinary engagement. And schools increased the process of picking up cross-curricular connections. Awareness of insufficient graduates in the areas of the sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics encouraged – in this acronym driven madness – a focus on STEM.
The Federal Coalition government showed little interest in the information increasingly available about global warming. Members of the government, including the Minister for Science, were not prepared to accept the advice of those who had been studying climate. The story of The Carbon Club, by Marian Wilkinson, published by Allen & Unwin, 2020, tells the story of the collaboration between carbon-producing corporations in Australia and the USA to undermine any progress in decreasing our focus on carbon – coal, gas and oil. Read the opening of it before the Kyoto Conference in 1997. It is a most depressing story of ‘How a network of climate sceptics, politicians and business leaders fought to control Australia’s climate policy’. The Howard government was in office from 1996 – 2006.
The carbon lobby had its impact on the following Labor governments. First Kevin Rudd’s government, then the one led by Australia’s first female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, covering the period from 2007 – 2012/2013. There was a decrease in emissions in this period.
In 2008, I felt the time was right to bring back the connections between the humanities and the sciences. In 2010, Robyn Williams, the long time presenter of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Radio National’s Science Show, launched it at the State Library of South Australia. The quality of our emotional response is central if we, in real – sort-of-real – democracies, are to vote for a future that takes into account the impact of global warming. Challenging the Divide: Approaches to Science and Poetry had the support of internationally renowned scientists. I wanted it to help in education to encourage the quality of emotional and intellectual connections in those citizens, the voters, decide future directions.
In 2013 Australians chose a Prime Minister who claimed, as the institute of Public Affairs did, that ‘climate change is crap’. The IPA, with very wealthy donors, had invited sceptics to support that view. The IPA was formed in 1943 and like an American Enterprise organisation, wanted government to favour business at all cost. We have had Coalition governments since then. And the coal and gas lobby still influences Federal government decisions.
In educational terms, the situation was made worse after 2015 by the review of the national curriculum for Australian pre-tertiary schools which rejected the cross-curricular, interdisciplinary approaches considered essential in 2000. For me , it has been as if there has been a deliberate effort to undermine the very thing we need to face the global warming future. Australia’s current Prime Minister since 2019, once brought a lump of coal into the House of Representative and told us not to be afraid of it.
Geoff Boyce understands that, for me, change has to come with knowledge. The acronym STEAM – if we must have these dangerous oversimplications – brings the Arts – the humanities, literature, philosophy, music, visual arts into the story. These blogs are my efforts to encourage connections in the minds and hearts of those voting, at different times, for the future of the nations. How we vote will determine the future for our children who do not have the right to vote. I offer the best information from the knowledgeable and courageous people, opposing these profit-first corporations and governments, about the many inter-connected aspects of our lives and the planet.