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Adapting to Converging Crises

By Dr Ben Habib, WATCH (Wodonga Albury Towards Climate Health)

The sustainability movement has for many years been preparing to confront converging environmental, energy and financial crises.  That moment is now here.  To adapt with as little disruption as possible, it has never been more important to embrace living lightly.

Riots in Athens may seem half a world away from Albury-Wodonga, yet the fate of Greece is likely to be the first domino to fall in a chain of events that will impact on us directly.

Australia’s banks are not lying when they talk about increasing costs of lending.  In a globalised world, a Greek debt default is likely to trigger a cascade of national defaults and bank failures that will bring international credit markets to a standstill.

In credit-driven economies like ours, curtailed lending means decreased economic activity.  Economic contraction leads to further loan defaults and more pressure on banks, further restricting lending, in a vicious cycle.

Energy insecurity is not just about paying higher prices for petrol or electricity.  For example, because global oil consumption is now outstripping production, higher and sometimes volatile oil prices are making some economic activities unviable and increasing the risk of long term investments.

Think about how important oil is for our economy.  Picture all the things you own that are either made from oil or made using oil in their production processes.  Consider how you get around and how the goods you consume are shipped from their point of origin to point of sale and on to your home. 

Now factor in the direct costs of the more frequent and intense extreme weather events that Australia has suffered in recent years.  Even if a natural disaster occurs on the other side of the country, we still pay for disaster recovery through tax levies, increasing insurance premiums and higher food prices. 

Think about what this means for your household or business.  Living lightly means minimising unnecessary consumption, operating within your means and avoiding reliance on credit.  It means sourcing things locally and taking responsibility for growing more of your own food.  It means nurturing your existing social support networks and creating new ones.

Living lightly is not about crafting a green utopia.  It is about taking sensible, practical steps to adapt to the growing hardships imposed by financial, energy and environmental crises, so we can ensure the well-being of our families and the social cohesion of our community.