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Professor Graham Pyke, from the School of Life Sciences at the University of Technology Sydney, has worked for years with Professor Paul Ehrlich at Stanford University and created the website Sustainability Central. Professor Pyke has just published online a paper that gets to the nub of this concept. Sustainability is doing things today in such a way that future generations can continue doing them as well as we are doing them now. The health of the planet affects the health of all of us so it is beneficial to promote sustainability. There are ecosystems that help to keep our air clean and clean air can mean less health problems like asthma and bronchitis.
The community is not really informed about sustainability and the issue of climate change illustrates the problem. We know with increasing certainty that climate change is real and that humans are largely responsible for it. Yet, measured by opinion polls, the general community stays stagnant or moves in the opposite direction becoming less convinced rather than more convinced. Nobody wants to believe that the world is going to hell in a handbasket. There is also a minority of influential people who peddle mistrust, showing disdain for the scientific process. There was a demonstration a few weeks ago called March for Science but there was virtually no media interest. Lots of people spoke but what was missing was what people might do subsequently. Sustainability stuff is not new and dramatic enough to warrant coverage by the media. It will only get support from politicians when there is general support in the community. Politicians do what is in their interest and they don’t necessarily instigate actions that might save humanity. They won’t move until the general community strongly advocates for the kinds of action required and threaten to vote them out of government.
Professor Pyke believes that the target audience for the issue of sustainability should be senior high school students, partly because they are probably still living at home so they can influence parents. They are also approaching the age when they will be getting jobs, spending money and voting. Their own actions could influence the sustainability cause for humanity. There needs to be a team of experts to carefully craft pro sustainability messages to high school students in ways that will be appealing to them. Those experts would decide whether it would be done by Facebook or Twitter or other social media. This needs money so the sustainability cause really needs a philanthropist to come along and support pro sustainability messages getting to those senior high school students. This is the push at the moment so the Sustainability Central website is on the back burner. It needs to be done this way to circumvent the media because they can’t be relied on to get pro sustainability messages across. Now really is the time to start doing something about sustaining future life. Our future is Now. Professor Graham Pyke was interviewed for A Question of Balance by Ruby Vincent. Images from SMH. Summary text by Victor Barry, June 2017.