Making Things Matters
Viv has a degree in Applied Science Geology and is a Fellow of the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Recent headlines exulted: “Real estate makes bigger profits than mining”.... This is an omen, not a signal to celebrate.
In peacetime, societies may survive without making “things” providing they have valued skills, assets to sell or barter, or savings in sound currencies. But during military or financial crises, “things” may not be available unless they are made locally. Then we must rely on the primary producers of new wealth - miners, farmers, foresters, fishermen, engineers, builders, tradesmen and skilled workers.
Back in war-torn 1943, Australia had ration cards for petrol, food and clothing, and insufficient copper to make cartridges for our own defence.
Now, because of the war on carbon, Australia will soon have no oil refineries to produce fuel and lubricants for our tractors, ships, tanks and cars. Mines and base-load power plants are closing. There are fewer smelters and refineries producing steel, copper, aluminium, lead or zinc, and no factories making engines, rifles, ships, planes, cars, trucks or dozers.
Our children are more skilled in soft options and electronic gadgetry than in maths, science and engineering; too many despise trades, soldiering, farming and manual work.
This industrial decay will become obvious one still, dark, winter evening when wind turbines stand idle, solar panels have logged off, batteries are flat, and overloaded standby generators fail. There will be no power for trains, lifts, heaters, stoves, fridges, traffic lights, retail checkouts or electronic money. With every addition of intermittent electricity (wind/solar), and every closure of reliable base-load power (coal), this blackout danger increases.
Real estate speculation, bureaucracy, parliamentary debates, games, entertainment, and arts are froth on the river of basic industry where things are made.
That river is running dry.
Making things does matter.