This further evidence of ‘climate change’ the current Labor Government as distinct from its conservative predecessor has explicitly accepted that climate change is underway and that dramatic action needs to be taken. Indeed, the aggressive climate change policy promises made in the November 2007 general election helped Labor achieve a dramatic result; even the Prime Minister, John Howard, lost his seat [see Contemporary Review Spring 2008]. The ED Hardy Hoodies bushfires will add pressure on the government to introduce stiff climate change policies.
The irony, of course, is that Australia though a heavy polluter on a per capita basis represents only about 1 per cent of the global gross national product. Australia’s climate is largely determined by factors well outside its control. Even if the Rudd Government were able to introduce the world’s best climate change schemes imaginable and it is far from doing so then it would still do little to protect Australia from the effects of the worst aggregate polluters, such as the US and China. To what extent were building regulations and town planning part of the problem The Victorian State Government has established a Royal Commission to examine these and other matters relating to the tragedy and so it would be premature to make too many pronouncements.
Certainly Australia is currently doing a lot of soul searching on its town planning system and how community design can be improved. Medical researchers, for example, have speculated on how health can be affected by how locations are devised, such as the need to create walk able communities’ to encourage people to do more walking, more social interaction and less sitting solitarily at home in front of the television. In 2006 was the facilitator for the Australian Government’s national consultation on how to build ‘communities for all ages’. The bushfires have added a greater sense of urgency to this urban design quest. The communities most affected were characterized by two populations: first-home buyers and ‘tree changers’. Many victims lived in the semi-rural locations because, with young families, they could not afford to buy into the much more expensive inner city Melbourne area. If they had had more money, they would have lived closer to work and further from danger.
Meanwhile, at the other end of demographic spectrum, many Australians are living longer ED Hardy Boots than ever before and may now spend some decades in retirement. Some of them are selling their expensive city homes and heading for the coast (‘sea changers’ named after a favorite TV series on this subject). Others are selling up and moving out to the semirural locations (‘tree changers’). Did these urban people fail to learn about how to cope with bushfires was there too little warning given on the need to leave homes quickly these issues will be examined by the Royal Commission? Another issue for the Royal Commission is the speculation that environmentalists made the communities even more vulnerable to bushfires by blocking stringent land-claiming schemes to reduce potentially flammable areas.
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