Icebergs ahead


The other day a container ship ran aground north of New Zealand. Have to be specific because these events happen over and over. As do the scenes of people trying to clean beaches of toxic oil, wash living seabirds and bury dead ones. As do the unseen scenes on the rocks and under the waves, as fish and molluscs and crustaceans and micro-organisms die, and ecosystems stop functioning. As do the press conferences from prime ministers and ministers promising inquiries and revenge and to make sure it “never happens again”. As does media interest. Until the media cycle is over and the cameras disappear to some other newsworthy event.

Until the next time. Because the outrage from public and politicians lasts only a short time and then the event is forgotten. And outrage is reserved for any environmentalist who dares to suggest a bit more regulation of shipping to stop these events happening. Will be dismissed contemptuously by media and politicians alike as a greenie trying to get in the way of profits and jobs, a throwback who doesn’t understand that shipping companies do a much better job of self-regulation and governments should get out of the way.

Then another ship will grind to a halt somewhere and the whole sequence will start all over again.

A demonstration the other day outside Parliament House (a quiet and civilised one in contrast to the “anti-carbon tax” nastiness) about Alzheimers. Bravo to Ita Buttrose for supporting this cause. Small numbers at the protest, just the tip of the iceberg of sufferers now, and as the Australian population ages (including me) the number of Alzheimer’s patients will grow larger and larger. More expense, more carers needed, more anguish for the patient and their family. Another case where an ounce of prevention is worth several tonnes of cure, and the protesters were calling on more research (from scientists of course) to improve treatment, establish causes, and, one day, find a cure (or cures, there are a number of different forms of dementia apparently).

Governments, of all persuasions, everywhere, seem psychologically unable to spent small amounts (relatively) of money now in order to prevent large problems (costing large amounts) later. They especially seem to hate funding research. So they keep blundering along in the dark, driven either by ideology or faulty information (usually both), trying to do patch up jobs, solve a bit of a problem here, a bit there, leaving most of it for successor governments to deal with (or not) at some later date.

Takes a long time and a lot of research to find out where the icebergs are, plan a course, slow and turn the Titanic, no matter what the major environmental or social problem. It’s time governments started funding research, and re-regulating business, to prevent disasters.