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Neighbours and the Climate Emergency

Tuesday July 16th, 2019 in Climate emergency, Television | No Comments »

If the world stays on its current trajectory for warming, analysts predict that by century’s end, our planet will not support human civilization as we know it. There is a significant risk of societal breakdown by 2050.

But what would this mean for the Australian drama Neighbours? The effects of global warming include rising temperatures, severe weather events and social disintegration. These are already rampant in Erinsborough. If global warming exceeds 1.5C, these will get significantly worse. Below is a discussion of some of the effects of global warming on Erinsborough.

Rising Temperatures and severe weather events

Erinsborough currently exists in a bizarre Melbourne micro-climate where people relax by the outdoor pool in mid-winter and no one needs a jumper.

This is perfectly pleasant, however, a rise in average temperatures means longer and more severe heat waves. Vulnerable residents will be severely affected. Remember the time Susan tried to go to the shopping centre, her car broke down, her MS was triggered, and she nearly died on the road? It’s going to be like that but there’ll be no one to come to the rescue (see emergency and medical services).

Erinsborough is frequently rocked be severe weather events during which Murphy’s Law is in full operation. For example, during the 2014 tornado Susan had to give Lou an emergency tracheotomy instructed remotely by Dr Karl. Afterwards, the street was a real mess. As these weather events become more frequent due to global warming it will become more difficult to cleanup and rebuild, particularly as insurance systems fail and governments are unable to provide assistance.

Bushfires will also be more frequent and the bushfire season longer. This sort of thing has really ruined picnics for the Neighbours in the past.

Water and food shortages

Reduced rainfall and droughts will lead to food and water shortages. This will be bad because the Ramsay Street residents need to eat and drink. Ordering takeaway with all the trimmings is going to be completely out of the question, even for Terese Willis.

Emergency and medical services

Severe weather events, heatwaves and food and water shortages will create more demand for health and emergency services. At the same time, it will become more difficult for society to organise and pay for these services.

Erinsborough’s emergency services and hospitals are already riddled with corruption and incompetence. Dr Karl spreads confidential patient information like lice in a kindergarten, and once operated on a woman’s skull with a hand drill while intoxicated. Meanwhile, Erinsborough Police’s Constable Mark Brennan alternates between arresting close relatives for breathing, and burning evidence to protect his friends.

The mind boggles at what will happen when resources are stretched to breaking point. Based on past form, Dr Karl will continue to treat everyone even after the medical system has collapsed and this will cause many deaths. Constable Mark Brennan will probably attempt to install a one-man police state and make everyone panic clean as if it will make any difference.

Taking Action

The world is close to a critical tipping point, but it’s not too late. If global warming can be restricted to 1.5C, the worst-case scenarios may be avoided. This will require a massive mobilisation of resources to reduce carbon emission to zero as soon as possible.

Ramsay Street residents frequently lose family members, friends and fiancees in traumatic circumstances. Rarely, but still bizarrely often, these people turn out not to be dead after all. These events cause at least two to three weeks of agonising heartache before a bounce back.

The tenacity and resilience regularly demonstrated by Ramsay Street’s residents has never been more vital. This is an emergency, like a bag of snakes let loose on a suburban street. The Neighbours should act accordingly.

Individual choices

Ramsay Street residents could do many things to reduce their individual climate-impact including; reducing single-use plastic, eating less meat and catching the bus to the Back Lane Bar.

No individual is solely responsible for the climate emergency and the problems can’t be solved by individual actions alone. Global warming is not like the time Finn tried to poison the school so he could become the principal; that really was all his fault and he could have stopped it at any time.

No-one should beat up on the Neighbours for not living a perfect zero-carbon, waste-free life. We can make helpful choices as individuals, but collective action is the critical factor.

Collective action

The Ramsay Street residents are at their most powerful when they work together and remember that next door is only a footstep away, and that door is very unlikely to be locked so you can just walk right in.

The residents should push for the Erinsborough Council to declare a climate emergency, as dozens of Australian local councils already have.

Erinsborough Council then needs to be held to account for its actions to ensure they are consistent with this state of emergency. Constant vigilance and pressure will be needed. Luckily, no one on Ramsay Street has any work to do, so it should be fine.

Individuals on Ramsay Street may be able to leverage their professional skills and experience to support collective action.

Dr Karl could join Australian doctors who have declared a climate emergency and are demanding climate action.

Money-bags Paul Robinson could financially support the climate-action movement and ensure his many and ever-appearing descendants will exist on a a liveable planet.

Aaron Brennan is lucky to own a workout space called the Shed (because it is one). Climate action groups could use this as a space for meetings or workshops if the gym equipment was pushed to one side.

I would suggest Toadie offer his legal services to the climate movement, but I’m on their side, so I won’t.

Protest and civil disobedience

If the last ten years has taught us anything, it’s that petitions and television debates aren’t enough to produce action on climate. It’s time for non-violent protest and civil disobedience.

Residents of Ramsay Street have long recognised the value of direct action and have a long and proud history of protest and civil disobedience including:

It’s fair to say that this activism has had mixed value and results, but clearly the passion is there.

Ramsay Street residents could join a climate-action organisation like Extinction Rebellion Australia and create a Ramsay Street Affinity Group to organise their own actions. Activists should focus on pressuring all levels of government to introduce emergency measures to reduce carbon emissions to zero.

Getting arrested raises the profile of a protest significantly. Most people on Ramsay Street have done time or live with someone who has. Therefore, they know that our justice system is flawed, and prisons are brutalising. Using the justice system to draw attention to the climate emergency is a significant step that individuals need to consider carefully. The good news is that once the decision is made, it’s not hard to get arrested on Ramsay Street, even on your wedding day.

Ramsay Street’s climate activists will be sure to attract a lot of police and media attention if they blockade Lassiters or take the cul-de-sac for a day. Civil disobedience will inconvenience others, and will be criticised by some people. However, we know the Neighbours aren’t scared of confrontation and difficult conversations or they wouldn’t keep starting intergenerational intra-familiar love-triangles.

Energy generation

Shane Pufferfish Rebecchi has invented some ingenious energy-generation devices, notably a piss-powered generator that works by converting urine to water. Puffy’s work is admirable and exciting, however, no one should rely on a new invention to ‘solve’ the climate crisis. The science and engineering needed to meet our energy needs and reduce carbon emissions to zero largely already exist. It’s the political will to implement them that’s lacking.

The good news is that Ramsay Street’s houses are ripe for solar panels. Projections show that the Ramsay Street houses would easily host the current maximum solar system for residences of 6.6kW, which during summer would produce enough power to cool the houses and still export the maximum allowed feed into the grid of 5kW for the brightest parts of the day. The average electricity use for Victorian households is 5,000kW per year and these systems would produced twice that. Karl and Susan apparently have 17 bedrooms, so they may use more, but it would basically be a big carbon saving.

 

  1. Aerial view of suburban cul-de-sac with position of solar panels marked on roofs.

    Potential solar panel positions.

Summary

Frankly, it’s a scary time to be alive. However, that has always been the case in Erinsborough. That community has faced numerous challenges including the highest murder rate in the world, endemic amnesia and regular explosions.

If there’s a group of people who know what to do in an emergency, it’s Neighbours’ Ramsay Street residents. I wish them, and the rest of us, the best of luck.