Opinion, Discussion, Dissent

INTERVIEW WITH MICHEL ROCARD, Inventor of the Carbon Tax

In environment, Politics on January 12, 2010 at 11:26 pm

First published in Messages, the Newsletter of the French charity Secours Catholique whose world-wide humanitarian organisation is called Caritas, this interview was conducted by Catherine Rebuffel and translated from the original French by Marilyn Kay Dennis.


Michel Rocard, the inventor of the carbon tax, has seen his idea transformed into legislation.  He defends the necessity of penalising the production of greenhouse gases on a world-wide scale.

The idea of a carbon tax is very much frowned upon by public opinion.  How can it be defended?

Michel Rocard: Public opinion is free to want the Earth to become a frying-pan in seven or eight generations, or to see life become impossible…  We are going to have to completely change our way of living.  We need to use airtight heating, consume food products which are economic in greenhouse gases or methane, develop electric or biocarburant cars.  The role of the tax will be to incite people to change their way of living.

Isn’t the introduction of this tax an admission of the failure of the greenhouse gas emission permit market invented in Kyoto ten years ago?

M.R.:  In fact, the European Union is the only group of countries in the world which applied it.  On top of that, this system is the object of an appalling speculation by businesses, whose aim is to make money out of it, instead of changing their way of doing things.  As it only concerns businesses which are primary producers of greenhouse gases, it doesn’t take into account the transport sector, for example.

For the last thirty years, governments have largely favoured road transport.  Today, road users will be the first to be penalised…

M.R.: We are in a democracy and governments are the elected representatives of the people, with mission to transform into law the wishes of public opinion; as long as public opinion doesn’t want it, nothing is possible.  On the other hand, the expert opinions of the scientists is conclusive.  And they took more than twenty years to reach an agreement on this question.  I would add that France has the great advantage over its neighbours of producing 90% of its electricity by nuclear power, which emits practically no greenhouse gases.

Certainly, but the debate on nuclear waste remains…

M.R.: It is true that nuclear activity produces radioactive waste which lasts from 10 to 100,000 years.  But the greenhouse effect will make life impossible in less than one thousand years!  The scale is not the same!  From now until then, we will have learned perhaps to better re-treat the waste.

Won’t the idea of applying a carbon tax to countries which make cheaper products without worrying about their energy use penalise the countries of the South even more?

M.R.: The question of knowing if they have the means to produce “cleanly” is not the right one.  The problem is that we are in the process of killing the possibility of life on this planet.  That is what we need to avoid.  We need to encourage them to develop solar energy, because they have a lot of it.  We must arrive at world penalisation of the production of greenhouse gases.

Has this solution any chance of being accepted at the Copenhagen summit?

M.R.: As usual, it will be done too late, not very well, and not in harmony.  One of the unhappy things about our civilisation, is the loss of the sense of time.  Images have replaced texts in the formation of the collective mentality.   And images are looked at only if they transmit emotion.  Also, television avoids transmitting any information which might possibly be boring.  In other words, we no longer think long-term.  The habit of thinking in half-centuries has disappeared from our collective mentality.  It’s a pity.  But it is however the half-century which is the realistic working unit of time for the subject we are talking about.  To prefer one’s own personal comfort only to die from excessive heat, rather than accept a few small short-term sacrifices, is quite simply criminal.


Climb a mountain

In Politics, Uncategorized on December 23, 2009 at 4:04 am

Limiting population growth is not only necessary in Australia;  it is necessary world-wide.

We all appear to be sitting too close to the ground; we need to climb a mountain, or at least a tree, to see farther.

This planet is very small.  Some parts of it can sustain more people, and other species, than other parts of it.

Australia can work out what it can sustain without wiping out all of the other forms of life which, with ourselves, make up the delicate state of environmental balance in this country.  The more lop-sided this balance becomes, the more unliveable our country becomes, and the more it contributes to environmental imbalance in the world.

We can sustain a much higher population only if we are able to restrain our wasteful, polluting life-style, limit our urbanised territory, and do our best to re-green part of our dry landscape.  At the same time, our unique flora and fauna have to be preserved, so we need to keep some dry areas.

Until we understand that we are only one species among a whole lot of others on this Earth, we are going to continue to breed like – well, rabbits (who had the brilliant idea of introducing those into Australia?) while at the same time shooting kangaroos because there are too many of them.

Once we know how to balance population (of our own species as well as others) and environment in the world, we will be home and hosed – depending on water restrictions in your area, of course.

Meanwhile, Australia has to revise its thinking on encouraging people to have more babies.  The reason that birth incentives are in place is so that we have someone to pay for our retirement.  In view of all of the above, I find this policy very short-sighted.

James Freeman Clarke once said:  “A politician thinks of the next election;  a statesman thinks of the next generation.” This country needs a few more statesmen.

If birth incentives are removed, and humanitarian immigration numbers are reasonably raised, we might be able to contribute to limiting the world population explosion while, at the same time, have enough people to pay for our retirement.

Everything on this Earth is linked.  It is time for us to climb that mountain;  greater vision is urgently needed.

Artist Profile: Alan Blackshaw – Singer/Songwriter

In Arts & Entertainment on May 2, 2009 at 10:33 am



Nowra singer/songwriter Alan Blackshaw is a person with many stories.  Alan writes from his own experiences and observations. His songs cross the border between Country and Folk Music which he has been writing and performing for over twenty years Alan has performed at numerous folk festivals and country music festivals.

Alan is active in the South Coast Country music scene and actively supports opportunities for all performers to have a stage for their work.

His musical interests are broad and includes the protest writers of the 1960’s, traditional country music, folk rock, folk music, contempory country music, blues. He cites performers like Johnny Cash, Neil Young, Bruce Cockburn, Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, The Strawbs, The Carter Family and Pat Drummond as major influences.

Alan’s songs reflect a keen sense of observation and cover a range of themes from the everyday to much deeper issues of concern. These include everyday themes like buying a house, sailing on the weekend, childhood memories, love as well as more intense themes including the treatment of people with a mental illness, feelings evoked from visiting war memorials and historical themes.

He views lyrics as being of central importance and is quite proud of the strength of many of his lyrics.



After many years of “thinking about it” Alan has released his debut album, the appropriatley titled “Maybe This Year.”  Independently recorded and produced, “Maybe This Year” is an interesting collection of very personal human and social themes.

For more information please visit: http://www.alanblackshaw.com.au