opinion

OPINION: Everyone cares about the environment. Until they're alone in the voting booth.

Now that the overwhelming embarrassment has begun to settle over the 2019 federal election – after every poll in the land was proven astonishingly wrong – we are left to grapple with the questions.

Wasn’t this meant to be the climate change election?

Several experts said that for most Australians, for the first time in history, the environment was the number-one election issue.

More than 60 per cent of Australians were found to agree with the sentiment: “Global warming is a serious and pressing problem. We should begin taking steps now even if this involves significant cost.”

At least that’s what they told us.

2040 is the documentary that will make you feel better about the future. Post continues below. 

But when Australians entered the voting booths on Saturday, the truth was laid bare.

It appears we do not care about climate change quite as much as we like to say we do.

Labor’s climate change policy was not perfect. The Australian Conservation Foundation rated it 56/100. The Greens received a rating of 99/100.

The Coalition, however, who not only won the election but will likely form a majority government, received a score of 4/100.

Four.

It was just last year that the United Nations warned we have 12 years to address the climate change catastrophe, before we significantly worsen our risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people. Have we just knocked another three years off?

At this point, we can choose to believe one of two things.

The first, is that Australians deep down, don’t care. We like to be seen to care – because it signifies that we are moral and virtuous. But when it comes down to it, when we are alone and no one is watching, we are selfish and we are greedy.

The second, is that Australians deep down, do care. They just care about other things more.

Earlier this month I spoke to Dr Jane Goodall, the 85-year-old conservationist famous for her groundbreaking work with chimpanzees. During our conversation she remarked that when people are desperate, the environment cannot be their primary concern.

ADVERTISEMENT
jane-goodall-future
Jane Goodall. Image via Getty.

They do not have the luxury to ask if something was made ethically, and they will cut down the last tree in order to grow more food for their children.

There are Australians who voted the way they did on Saturday, not because they want our planet to burn, but because they are scared about losing their jobs. And if they lose their jobs, they cannot support their families.

After elections as divisive as this one, it is easy to remain polarised, dismissing those who did not vote exactly as we did.

Mia Freedman, Holly Wainwright and I debriefed on the election results on today's bonus episode of Mamamia Out Loud. Post continues below. 

Already, the sledging has become vicious, as though voting for one party was somehow more 'moral' than another.

But aren't we all just doing the best we can? And voting based on our own personal experiences and distinctive struggles?

People who did not vote to address climate change in this election had their reasons, and ones we ought to hear out. Some just couldn't bear to vote for Bill Shorten or believed money would be taken directly from their pockets.

The decision has been made.

So now, we must do the best with what we've got.

The planet - the only home any of us have - is a bipartisan issue. If we're going to save it, we need our government to commit to reducing carbon emissions and to invest in renewable energy.

And Scott Morrison?

Whether we voted for him or not, he is now the only man for the job.

00:00 / ???