It’s not easy being green.Kermit the frog, Bein’ Green song, by Joe Raposo 1970. I guess sometimes it is easy being green.Kermit the frog in an advertisement for the Ford Escape Hybrid, 2006.

Supporting sustainability can be very depressing. There are huge forces ranged against you in Australia - let's call it the ‘brown dogma’. But something dramatic is happening right now. Sustainable initiatives - the ‘green karma’ - are in the ascendancy. This week we reached a tipping point, where the green karma ran over the brown dogma. What better day to celebrate than numerical palindrome day (22/02/2022)?

Brown dogma

Australia leads the world in the ‘brown dogma‘ of climate change denial. The Prime Minister brings a lump of coal into parliament. Right-wing government members (Canavan, Christiansen, Kelly et al) are rabid climate deniers and boosters of coal mining. Billionaires Gina Reinhart and Clive Palmer are hugely wealthy from coal, cynically nasty in waging war against climate action (and their families).

This is gold-class denial, dressed up as ‘can-do capitalism’; trusting ‘technology’ and the market to maintain coal’s premium, until they got mugged by the reality of renewables - then advocating government intervention to build coal fired power stations in the best socialist tradition, all the while saying they want government out of people’s lives.

Green karma

For so long the great green ideas, innovations and initiatives, the green karma, have seemed ineffectual against this tsunami of climate change haters. But all that changed this week, when half a dozen events showed that the tide has turned: coal, gas and oil are finally on the way out. We can now chart how Australia is on a path to a more sustainable future. Here’s some good news.

Green karma energy

Origin Energy closing ‘Eraring’ seven years early acknowledges that renewable energy is now so cheap that coal fired power stations can no longer compete. They didn't tell the federal government; they’d seen Andy Vesey disgracefully forced out of AGL (and Australia) and didn’t want a repeat.

The energy industry wanted the minister, Angus Taylor, he of the forged documents and phony arguments, to develop a transition plan. But they waited in vain.

So, they went ahead and made their own. Emphasised by Mike Cannon Brooks of Atlassian and Canadian investors Brookfield offering to buy AGL this week. How galling for the right that there are now left-leaning billionaires. Shades of Graham Wood and Jan Cameron buying and closing the Triabunna pulp mill. Times five hundred.

As I’ve noted, it's ironic that Australia's deeply unsustainable suburbia has redeemed itself with the world's highest growth in rooftop solar. Today’s tipping point is 25% of all rooftops have PV panels, contributing to the 30% of all energy being used coming from renewables. There’s no going back to old king coal.

Green karma electric vehicles

Currently there’s a huge increase in the uptake of EVs, or electric vehicles. They were vilified in the last election; now, not so much. Morrison and Cash deny what they said and lie about the lie. Pure brown dogma.

Most EVs are still expensive, and unlike Norway, there are no government incentives. But more models, some smaller and cheaper from China, are available. But it is not the car price that is driving sales, but the oil price. An impending war and other market forces has us paying through the nose at the bowser, and the electric car is suddenly a viable alternative particularly if it's fired up by solar panels.

It's only when people get into the electric car that they discover how much better it is than a conventional ICE (internal combustion engine) car. The tipping point comes when market forces make the alternative seem mainstream.

Green karma COVID lessons

Covid created many changes in our society, many having sustainability outcomes. Working from home reduced the amount of commuting time, money and greenhouse gases. International travel was not possible for two years, so many discovered the delights of being tourists in our own country, saving international flights and their atmospheric destruction.

We reached a tipping point when there were nine zoom meetings for every meeting-in-person, reducing the need for travel and flights, again saving time, money and greenhouse gases. The ‘shadow lockdown’ that should have finished now, continues. We will never go back to those profligate ways.

Green karma vegetarians

Meat production has huge greenhouse gas outcomes in CO2 and methane. Eating more plant-based food is the direct way to address the issue. We reached a tipping point recently when estimates had 15% of Australians saying they ate a vegetarian based diet, up from 2% only 20 years ago. Dedicated ‘locavores’ and personal choice is one thing, but what about ‘mass fast food’?

This week in Surry Hills the burger chain ‘Grill’d’ deleted real meat entirely from its menu, with only plant-based options in its burgers. Their other restaurants have meat and plant-based options, but for how long? The tipping point comes when McDonalds announced this week a review of their systems. Coming soon to a burger joint near you: a healthier person and a healthier planet.

Green karma politics

This week has seen the federal LNP, brown dogma in chief, self-destruct. It’s been on a slide since last year’s Glasgow conference exposed the irreconcilable gulf in the extremes of the party on climate change action. The low aim for 26-28% reduction in greenhouse gases is the OECD’s worst, and Australians could clearly see the disdain in which we are held. Lies? ‘I don’t think, I know’ as Macron said.

The mood, the polls, the zeitgeist, the commentators (except Murdoch) all say the LNP are failing. When the venerable Ray Martin of ‘60 Minutes’ fame says that this is the most incompetent government he's encountered since he began with Menzies, you know there's been a tipping point.

Let me bell the cat. The Labor party will clearly win the federal election on 21 May. I’m saying by about 80 seats, with about 12 independents, leaving about 60 seats for the LNP.

Forget Morrison’s win in 2019. If you exclude Queensland in that vote, Labor had a clear win (every state and party except WA voted Labor). The government was returned because Queensland voted LNP 23 to Labor 6. And that was a result of One Nation’s grip, Clive Palmer’s millions and Bob Brown's caravan of hubris. Not ‘miracle’ but ‘malfeasance’. This time round Pauline Hanson has faded, Clive Palmer is thrashing his money indiscriminately and the Greens will stay in their earth-covered underground bunker.

A key change this time is the rise of powerful women candidates in electorates of LNP moderates. This week sees confirmation in a by-election in Willoughby in NSW of an 18% swing to an independent who had little preparation or funding. There can be no greater portent of what is to come in the ten electorates where more time, money and preparation, not to say quality, can be brought to bear on the brown dogma lies.

If I’m right the bloodletting will begin on Sunday 22 May as the extreme right eats itself. The Liberals, having lost many of their moderates, including leadership aspirant Frydenberg, will take out their anger on Barnaby Joyce’s Nationals for cruelling their chances in city seats. It may take two or three electoral cycles to return to the centre, giving Labor the remaining years of the twenties to make their changes.

These are the tipping points that all happened this week. The needle shifted. We have moved from ‘shoulda’ to ‘coulda’ to ‘woulda’. Massive change is in the air, which feels very similar to 50 years ago as Gough Whitlam called ‘It’s Time’. The optimist in me feels that the green karma has finally run over the brown dogma.

Postscript. In ToT 108 I lamented how few architects are in state or federal politics, but here are two more who are standing in the coming federal election. In Hughes, independent Linda Seymour is against Craig Kelly. She’s an “architectural design and communications specialist”, although she's not a registered architect. In Queensland, Elizabeth Watson-Brown, an exceptional architect, is standing for the Greens. Good luck to both.

Tone Wheeler is principal architect at Environa Studio, Adjunct Professor at UNSW and is President of the Australian Architecture Association. The views expressed here are solely those of the author and are not held or endorsed by A+D, the AAA or UNSW. Tone does not read Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or Linked In. Sanity is preserved by reading and replying only to comments addressed to [email protected].