“Australia’s population is so insignificant,” he hurls at me over his beer, “that if we were to reach carbon neutral the effect on global warming would be only a fraction of a degree! Why the hell should we ruin our economy for that?”
“How un-Australian,” I start. “By your logic, we shouldn’t even bother investing and competing in international sports, such as cricket, soccer, the Commonwealth Games and the Olympics because our population is too small to cause a ripple.
“Yet, I bet you’re among the first to get goosebumps when you see Australia’s finest walk out to greet the international audience and can’t help but come over all patriotic when they break records and earn the respect of the wider world.
“And what about ‘Clean Up Australia day’? I have no doubt that the type of person most likely to take part is the same person least likely to litter. Why do they do it? Because it’s the right thing to do. Because it sets a valuable example for their children. Because they care about the beauty of this wonderful country. They don’t turn their back on the problem because they’re not the biggest contributor, but face it because they’re better than that.
“What about the Anzacs? The Aussies and New Zealanders who fight for freedom, not because they had the biggest and best armies, but because they knew it was the right thing to do in the face of oppression. Do you simply use the public holiday for another excuse to get pissed and spend the minute of silence with one finger up your nose digging for treasure or do you realise just how lucky you are for the actions of a minority fighting for the betterment of everyone?
“You’re kind of defeatism is appalling, it’s short-sighted and it ignores the best qualities of being an Aussie. When each one of us has a larger personal carbon foot print than pretty much any other person from most other countries, we have a personal obligation to set a good example or risk losing the best iconic Aussie qualities.
“Who knows, if just one political leader demonstrated any substance, it could be a damn good investment – a new wave of cleaner technology to overtake the increasingly outdated fossil fuel dependent tech which we could then sell to the world. Creating jobs. Creating wealth.”
All of this, I said to myself. Not as outspoken in person as I am online, I refrain from such a reply.
“I challenge you,” I instead reply, “to visit a busy mall over the coming Christmas season. Hold out both arms and run.
“One person can make a hell of a difference through the amount of room and resources they take up. We’re among the worst polluters per capita and living on such an arid landscape, we are also more vulnerable than many in a warming world. The money and security is in the inevitable change and we’d be stupid to leave it until we’re buying the tech from someone else.”
It didn’t have the same flare as the internal monolog – probably further evidence that thinking small is detrimental – which I was later kicking myself about.