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Wednesday, 03 August 2011 04:38

Values are crucial to safe climate says senator

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Speaking at CRA's National Assembly, the Deputy Leader of the Australian Greens and Senator for Tasmania, said values were crucial to securing a safe climate.

Senator Milne said she came to this realisation after attending a meeting on climate change in the Cook Islands.

"We had presentation after presentation on the science of climate change, which is indisputable. After it was over a local man said to me, 'you can tell us all that but the people here are not going to do anything about it'. He said the people of the Cook Islands are very religious and every Sunday they are told at church that climate change represents the second coming and so we should bring it on."

Senator Milne said that when it comes to competition between information and beliefs, people are hardwired to go with their values and what they innately think is right.

"They also won't believe in new things unless they have personal experience of them."

Since returning from the Cook Islands, Senator Milne has been very active in talking to the Council of Churches, the Catholic Church and the Bishops and other faiths on ratcheting up the narrative of the stewardship of caring for the earth.

"Essentially this is our job to look after creation. As religious leaders you are central to helping the science of climate change by introducing an ethical framework to help people examine the issues."

Senator Milne said that more than any other time in history we have the information, the science and the technology to tackle climate change.

"As a result of greenhouse gas emissions the world has warmed significantly over the last century and continues to warm, the carbon content of the ocean is increasing and the oceans are becoming more acid, which has appalling consequences for coral reefs and communities that depend on fisheries.

"So what is the matter with us as a society that we find every excuse not to act?"

Senator Milne's view is that we need to ask, as Socrates once asked, 'what ought one to do?'

"This is the question we need to ask — not what we in Australia can afford to do, not what we want to do, not what is expedient or popular to do but what ought one to do."

She said that in answering this question the values that are at the top of the hierarchy of values held by an individual or community are really explored.

"And what I would ask religious communities to ask of the people they are working with — what ought we to do in this situation."

Senator Milne said Pope John Paul II's commentary on the Earth Charter provides a great basis for discussion.

"If we can elevate the Earth Charter as a document that faith communities can use to discuss caring for the earth and climate change then we will be helping people to work out what we ought to do."

With the perception in the community that taking action on climate change will result in Australians being 'worse off', she also encouraged Religious to initiate discussions around what this means.

"Is working long hours to support a lifestyle, spending hours in traffic, having no time to spend with your children and being defined by what you look like better off?" Senator Milne asked.

She said at every level there were things people could do to live a low-carbon life.

"The key thing is helping people to redefine themselves not by what they have or what they look like but on who they are and what they contribute.

She said the idea of being happy because you are leading a worthwhile life was back in vogue.

"Now a lot of young people want to pursue work that is worthwhile — it's not just all about making money.

"So we need to engage our communities to talk about what would make them happier and healthier and what would make the world better."