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I thought I’d get in early with a list for 2013. The problem lies with the definition of hot. So forgive the meanderings between what’s hot and what’s not. It all depends on where you’re coming from.

What’s Hot

1. War. War has been hot for a long time, certainly as long as I can remember. I was born in 1968, so I’ve lived through lots of wars. None of these were directly aimed at me, but without a doubt they’ve impacted on everyone’s psychic well-being in some way. Images of war have pervaded the media since Vietnam, yet not all the wars that have occurred have been recorded or recounted. The 36-year ‘civil war’ in Guatemala, for instance, with its estimated 700,000 deaths or disappearances, never made the TV screens.

I can’t physically post the list of wars since 1968, because it would take me a decade, but you can begin a count here. What is war good for? The military/industrial complex, that’s what it’s good for. And for the old US of A. They have been the primary beneficiaries of war over the last 150 years (without winning one since the early 1800s in their own right). The annual military budget for the US is in the realm of $700 billion. “War is hell. War stinks. BJ, can I borrow your cologne?” “Sure. I’ll trade you for some clothes pins.” (Hawkeye to BJ in M*A*S*H)

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2. Fukushima. Fukushima is hot – really, really hot. Radiation poisoning is no joke and, as yet, there are no clear indications of the amount of people or animals or marine life that are going to be affected by the massive amounts of various types of radiation that have leaked from the ‘disabled’ nuclear power plant since March 2011. Worst case scenario is what David Suzuki talks about here. Best case scenario … well there really isn’t one. What we know, which is all the Japanese Government is letting us know, is that this is a man-made disaster on a grand scale. And Pacific Ocean sushi is probably off the menu for a long time to come.

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3. Urban Farming. As the answer to ‘food security’ for the ever-expanding urban metropolis, urban farming seems like a a good plan. If it arrives at the expense of our agricultural sector, as in at the expense of those farmers who have been feeding us (in Australia), often with their health and livelihoods on the line, for the past 150 years, then urban farming seems like just another middle-class fad. Fact is, there is absolutely no way urban farming can replace agricultural production as a source of food for a growing population. Now is not the time to abandon our farmers to their fate by celebrating the potential of urban farming; now is the time to protect and fight for our agricultural history and our farmers, against the twin giants of Monsanto and the coal and CSG mining industries. Watch the documentaries Urban Roots and Gasland in the same week – the ironies will not escape you. De-industrialised cities turned into farms: farms turned into gasfields. Urban farming is one answer, no doubt. But it’s not the only answer. A better answer would be a holistic approach to food production and environmental preservation, but that would seem to be too much to ask from the vast majority. Our minds seem to be limited to what’s outside our front door; if we wake up to magpies and the swish of the ocean, then the reality of a coal mine two kilometres down the road is outside our ken; just as 10,000 dead in a typhoon is not as compelling as who triumphs on MasterChef.

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4. The Planet. This planet called Earth is hot, and getting hotter. At the current rate of human-induced climate change, and without the necessary attempts at abatement/mitigation, we’re heading for a 4 degree warming within the next 27 years. That, unfortunately, is in my lifetime. It’s definitely within my kids’ lifetime. So I have to prepare my kids; for what? None of us really know what this next phase in the history of human habitation means (oh, if only it were just that) – some are calling it the sixth extinction phase. And it is well nigh. I’ve just finished reading Nevil Shute‘s On the Beach, having recently seen Fallout, the documentary about the making of the 1959 movie by Stanley Kramer. In 1957, Shute’s attitude, through his exemplary characterisation, is that the world is being left empty for a more deserving species. I quote from page 269, in the thoughts of Dwight Towers, one of the last remaining Americans, living out his final days in Melbourne: “Soon they too would be gone; summers and winters would pass by and these houses and these streets would know them. Presently as time passed, the radioactivity would pass also; with a cobalt half-life of about five years these streets and houses would be habitable again in twenty years at the the latest … The human race was to be wiped out and the world made clean again for wiser occupants without undue delay. Well, probably that made sense.”

What’s Not Hot

1. Fracking. CSG mining is both hot and very uncool. If urban dwellers don’t start supporting our fellow Australians (Canadians, Americans, British, Irish, Scottish, Greenlanders, Icelanders, etc, etc, etc) in the fight against this insidious industry, and do it soon, the idea of urban farming will come down to rainwater tanks and compost. And we can’t feed 7 billion plus people on rainwater and compost and urban farms. We just can’t. If all were right with the world, which it isn’t, we would be looking to these folks, our farmers, who have learned lessons from the climate and landscape over 100+ years and we would be asking for their guidance. Instead, in Australia (I can’t speak for the rest of the world) there is an overwhelming sense, from those farmers who have maintained our high standard of living and the quality of our food in the urban centres for so many years, of abandonment. And we have abandoned them to that other and pernicious thing that has kept the so-called economy chugging along – mining. We all owe our relative wealth to mining, and it is mining that threatens our environment, our water supply and, in the end, our continued existence on this planet.

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2. Water. As humans, we are but water, which is why Nevil Shute called his novel On the Beach, and why the characters spent their last days in the sea – swimming, sailing and, in the end, sinking. And in this, the driest continent on earth, water is our most precious resource. Yet, our Great Artesian Basin is being drained by mining; this is where we all get our water from in eastern and southern Australia. It feeds the Murray-Darling system; it has fed our ‘food bowl’ for 150 years. We can’t have urban farms without a water supply, and with reduced rainfall due to climate change, we have to get our water from somewhere. Mining, and particularly CSG mining, is digging deeper and deeper into a limited supply of water that should be utilised for irrigation, drinking or feeding livestock. At the same time they are producing a massive amount of waste in the form of brine – “Water water everywhere nor any drop to drink.” Just because Melbourne’s dams are 80% full doesn’t translate into an abundance of water across the country: quite the reverse. Thirty plus years ago ‘they’ mapped the underground coal seam gas and shale reserves across Australia. The map is readily available on the Internet. The ‘fracking frenzy’, as I call it, is not something that has come out of nowhere; it’s been in the pipeline for a long, long time. ‘We’ have just been too comfortable to complain. Next year, when our gas prices go through the ceiling, when Australia starts exporting all those natural gas reserves, we might start feeling the pinch. Sometimes I think that complacency, not hypocrisy, is the greatest luxury.

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3. Knowing Your Rights. Something I have gained from talking to farmers, particularly those from the Western and Darling Downs, where fracking and coal mining is a daily affront to health, livelihoods, honesty, and to the desire to protect and preserve the land, is an insight into how to protect the rest of the ‘nation’ from the travesties that have been allowed to occur in the name of economic wealth. Here’s how it goes in the Land of Oz. Unlike many states in the US, in Australia your freehold title is only about six foot deep. Once you allow mining companies or their representatives on to your land to ‘explore’, they have the ‘right’, by law, to extract whatever resources they ‘discover’ as a result of their survey. Firstly, they already know what’s there (see map above). Secondly, once they have a foot in your door, they have the right by law to extract it. They’ll give you about $100 for an exploration hole and possibly offer about $2000 to build a well, dependent on how strong you are and how wised up to the rhetoric you are. Once you have a well, or two, or three, on your property, you’ll begin to notice the environmental impacts of mining on your land and health. Try to make a claim against the mining companies for any loss incurred as a result of their activities and you’ll truly enter the Land of Oz. My advice is, and the advice from farmers in the Western and Darling Downs – don’t let them get a foot in the door. And the most effective and legal means to do this is to post this sign, citing Plenty v Dillon on your gate, with details altered as relevant. Nothing like citing a High Court case to circumvent imminent invasion.

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4. Original Nations sovereignty. This is really not hot, but hotting up. As it should be. In a climate of change, fundamental change should be embraced. We have to start taking on new modes of being, to step outside the blacks & whites, the ideologies and narratives that have led us to the critical edge on which humanity sits. We have to start entertaining the greys. I hold onto a desire that we will do this with the same pride and sense of a shared history and story as the characters in On the Beach. We took this land illegally; there is still no legal covenant for the government of Australia – it has no legal claim to the country it claims to represent. Australia is a corporation owned by ‘Her Majesty’, and the rampage of the mining companies across this beautiful land is further evidence of this. A conversation needs to begin, quite urgently, between the sovereign nations and the farmers, as I think, from what I hear, that the same desire to protect this country from the ‘corporation’ exists on both sides.

He said, “You’re mighty lucky to have a home in country like this.” She glanced at him. “We like it alright. Of course it’s frightfully dull living out here.” He stopped, and stood in the road, looking around him at the smiling countryside, the wide, unfettered views. “I don’t know that I ever saw a place that was more beautiful,” he said. (From On the Beach, page 127-8.)

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This post is dedicated to Robyn and David McCabe, Darryl Bishop, George Bender, Karen Auty, Wayne Blackwattle, Paul Collis, Viv Malo, Susan Rankin, Robynann Morgan, Drew Hutton, Marg Thomas, Nevil Shute, Stefan Morris, and my children, Ruby and Max McKenna. And to Daisy the cat and Albie the dog.

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