Australia is burning.
Is this finally a time for action?
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - FIRE AND RESCUE PERSONNEL RUN TO MOVE THEIR TRUCK AS A BUSHFIRE BURNS NEXT TO A MAJOR ROAD AND HOMES ON THE OUTSKIRTS OF THE TOWN OF BILPIN ON DECEMBER 19, 2019 — IMAGE: SS STUDIO PHOTOGRAPHY.Editorial to issue 006Normally in our LivingNow editorials we take the opportunity to do a run-down of the edition – and this issue is a bumper one with 26 great articles. But right now, it’s a little hard to act 'business as usual' – even for a business-focussed edition, when faced by the enormity of the calamity much of the country has been facing.As at Jan 8, 2020, over 2200 homes have been destroyed, 28 people have lost their lives, an estimated one billion animals have been killed and some endangered species are now threatened by extinction. 10.7 million hectares have been burnt – an area 6 times bigger than the Amazonian fires of 2019 and California fires of 2018 combined. It’s an area 80% of the size of England.My home town of Melbourne was been engulfed by smoke haze for more than last two weeks, with some days reaching hazardous levels. I noticed stinging eyes, nose, and a sore throat. Other major population centres experienced similar conditions. But, really, it’s been a minor inconvenience compared to the hardship that many are facing.Over the last decade Australia has seen record breaking temperatures and dry spells. Last year was the hottest average year on record, with an average 1.5 degrees above normal. With the resulting forest fuel loads of dry trees and undergrowth building up, fire authorities predicted extreme fire danger conditions, as early as April 2019.It is no surprise that, with the disastrous outcome following that alarming prediction, climate change has now become a leading topic of discussion. While Australia has always had drought and fires, the projection is that climate change will contribute to a worsening of conditions. Indeed the warnings about the conditions we are seeing were made in former government adviser Ross Garnaut’s report presented a decade ago. It is therefore frustrating that with so much to lose, Australia has been dragging its feet with dealing with both the scientific evidence and policy responses, both domestically and abroad.The problem is, the climate change debate has become a political tool, rather than an evidence based discussion about the realities, and risk minimisation. Policy has been controlled by a relatively few science-deniers and political opportunists. Tony Abbott used the backing of climate change deniers in his party to topple Malcom Turnbull from the leadership of the opposition party, and then went on to win an election based on misinformation and fear mongering over the carbon pricing scheme that had just been introduced by the Gillard government. In an opinion piece in Time magazine Mr Turnbull wrote: "This issue has been hijacked by a toxic, climate change-denying alliance of right-wing politics and media (much of it owned by Murdoch), as well as vested business interests.More misinformationOne of the disturbing trends of the current debate is another misinformation campaign promulgated via social media, and Rupert Murdoch’s mastheads. These include allegations that the fires were caused by arson – and the accusation that fuel load reduction by controlled burn-offs was prevented by ‘greenies’.The first allegation has been thoroughly refuted by fire authorities who say that less than 1% of the area burnt has been caused by arson, and the second accusation logically discounted by noting that apart from a few inner suburban local councils, no government in Australia is greencontrolled, are all of the current fire zones have been under the control of state liberal and labour governments. In addition, fire experts also discount this theory for a number of reasons, including the fact that the dry winter didn't allow for safe controlled burns.These allegations need to be seen for what they are –a deflection from the real debate we need to have, the one about climate change – and they’re promoted by those who have vested interests in not having that debate.It should be seen as a wake-up call to be wary of ‘information’ peddled through social media, and opinions that are represented as facts. Indeed, it’s time we also monitored the influences that create our own opinions. Martin Oliver’s article on ‘Shock Jocks’ provides a timely study on one facet of opinion making in contemporary Australia, and how we as consumers might be able to influence the influencers in turn.Perhaps it’s time to turn away from those who foster those opinions, and encourage others to do the same. It’s time to shift our perspective away from opinions based on self interest, greed and fear, and towards those based on values that facilitate our personal development and that of our communities.Australia's contribution. Or lack of it.Another deflection used by those wishing to stymie action on climate change is that Australia contributes only 1.3% to the worlds total emissions (although if the contribution made by the coal that is exported to be burnt else where is factored in, it’s considerably more). It’s a weak, and even unpatriotic argument.The concept of being a small contributor didn’t hasn’t stopped Australians from wanting to make a significant difference on the world stage before. Australia only contributed 1.3% to the total forces in World War II, and those contributions were, and still are, taken very seriously. It was heartening on Jan 6, to hear Julie Bishop, former foreign minister and deputy party-leader in the previous Morrison government say, “If a country like Australia fails to show leadership, we can hardly blame other nations for not likewise showing leadership in this area.”LeadershipOn this note, maybe we could apply this concept of leadership on a personal basis and individually accept a leadership role in our own lives – not just for environmental concerns, but for anywhere we’d like to see the world, or our community be a better place. Jo Wagstaff’s article on Authentic leadership might provide some inspiration, as well as the articles we have on boundary-setting.While we created this issue primarily for the benefit of business, I believe that the concepts and values we’re discussing in this edition, like ethics, purpose, service to the community, mindfulness, and yes, leadership, transcend the division between business and the personal worlds.A positive responseIn response to the fire disaster, it’s heart warming to see examples of individual leadership and action happening. Celeste Barber, the Australian comedian, writer, actor, has raised more than AUD$50 million to support the NSW Rural Fire Service as she announced hosting a concert for national bushfire relief. At the same time, 4000 registered tradies and 5000 volunteers signed up with Tradies for Fire Affected Communities to play their part in restoring damaged homes and helping those in need. And, during the New Year celebrations that I attended – along with 130 other party goers, one inspired leader instigated a spontaneous minute of silence to recognise and send wishes to those who were suffering, and to give gratitude for our own good fortune.It was spontaneous, heartfelt, and profound.Thank youOf course recognition should be also given to the amazing efforts of emergency service workers, and defence force personnel, especially those giving up holidays, or paid employment to help out fighting fires, or providing support. We live in a truly wonderful country. And even though I sometimes feel disappointed with some of the decision making in this country, there’s no denying the generosity and humanity of the Australian people.Just maybe this disaster will be the turning point for a proper, informed discussion on climate change - it’s causes, potential effects, and the action that needs to be taken to reduce carbon emissions and plan for a new world where more extreme weather conditions will become increasingly common.Wherever the future takes us though, one thing is certain, and that is the role business will have in our lives. As we hope to make the world a better place, it’s important that business reflects our values. This is fundamentally what ethical business is all about.A starting point might be aligning business with purpose; fittingly this is the starting point for our collection of amazing articles. There are too many to mention here, but special mention must be made of the interviews with Paul and Masami of B1G1, doing business for good all around the world, and the inspiring Liam Foldi, who at the age of 16 is already making a wonderful contribution both locally and globally.I hope you find this, our sixth app edition -a bumper one – inspiring, nurturing and empowering. And I wish you, a deeply satisfying and successful 2020.David David Durance, MD and deputy editor.

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