26 September 2023

Quarterly Essay: The Wires that Bind

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Reviewed by Rama Gaind.

By Saul Griffith, Quarterly Essay/Black Inc., $27.99.

We don’t always contemplate the “miracle” that brings us heat, light and convenience. The Wires That Bind reveals the world that awaits us if we make the most of Australia’s energy future.

Engineer and inventor Saul Griffith writes an electrifying essay in which he points out our electricity network is the largest machine Australia has ever built. It physically links every single household and every single Australian.

“Just stand outside your home, look up and you will see coated wires that stretch from your house to the pole nearest your house.” Those wires don’t just connect you to every other Australian.

“They also connect you to the future of our energy system, and to our principal solution in tackling climate change: the electrification of everything. But the role of community and the participation of the household in this revolution must be just as concrete.”

The country is at a crossroads, and here’s a compelling vision of a green energy at a local level.

“We need a realistic and achievable vision for the future because the future is coming fast. We have only about one-quarter of one century, twenty-five years, one human generation, to get ourselves out of this climate quandary. If we get this right, if we design the incentives and the policies and the regulations correctly, communities will thrive. Every Australian will benefit economically, socially and even health-wise. So let’s hit the road.”

Griffith paints an inspiring yet practical picture of empowered local communities acting collectively when it comes to renewable energy, and benefiting financially. He considers both equity and security – an end to dependence on foreign oil, for instance. He explores the rejuvenation of regional Australia, as well as the rise of a new populist movement driven by Australian women.

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