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With the 70s comes a seriousness that pervades not only international politics but internal politics as well. Corporate and government corruption becomes a major concern, typified by the Watergate scandal. Discontent continues to build with the Vietnam war and seems to be the coalescing force behind a bone-deep dislike and suspicion of all politicians – a cynicism that remains with us even today.

The decade in AQ is marked by the increased dissection of public policy, nothing above scrutiny, the minutiae under the microscope. We’ve found the most interesting articles from this tempestuous period.

The Carter Administration: Myth and Reality

Political commentator heavyweight, Noam Chomsky, writes for AQ in an epic interrogation of the administration of the then-US President, Jimmy Carter. If you like Chomsky’s writing or you’re an avid fan of US history this article will supply you plenty of fodder.

Read the article from March 1978: The Carter Administration – Myth and Reality

Political Asylum in Australia

These days it seems like the asylum seeker issue has always dominated Australian social and media psyche, yet as hard as it is to believe, our current xenophobic fixation is new. We used to be a welcoming country.

In this article from 1970 we look back at the relatively new concept of political refugees. And here it was not the far flung Afghans and Iraqis that were knocking on our door but our neighbours through South-East Asia. The article is an very interesting look back through the evolution of asylum right back to ‘primitive’ times.

It also makes the important point (for all our sworn Christian leaders) that: “The Christian Church, almost from its foundation, accepted the principle of the individual’s right of asylum from persecution, made it an object of canon law, persuaded the secular authorities to respect churches, monasteries and shrines as places of asylum, under the direct authority of the Church, even to the extent of meting out punishment to fugitives who deserved it, and of excommunicating those who violated the immunity of these places.”

And it’s amazing how time dulls our memories and our guilt, even in the 70s forefront in their minds were “the six million Jews who could not get out in time, and the many millions more in Europe, Asia and Africa who, over the last few decades, for political reasons, have been senselessly slaughtered. They may have lived if an escape hatch [political asylum] could have been held open.”

Read the article from March 1970: Political Asylum in Australia

The Politics of Pollution

“One of the most remarkable results of the “environmental crisis” and the recent discoveries about the extent of pollution is that we have been forced to look at the world in a completely different way – through smog-tinted spectacles, as it were.”

These 1970s echoes of today’s climate ‘crisis’ are unmistakeable. Yet the tone is markedly different. The opening sentence of this article from the second half of 1970 indicates no debate about the effect modern living was having on our society. Facts had been discovered, the extent of pollution was evident and the world was forced to acknowledge it.

Such certainty could hardly be farther from the dogs breakfast of a debate we see over climate change. Was it a matter of science having more credence, fewer vested interests in the status quo, or was it that smog and the direct effects of acid rain could be seen with your eyes?

In the early 70s pollution first entered onto the political menu, and hasn’t been off since. The environmental/hippie movements of the late 60s had persisted long enough that the typical slow-burn of politics was beginning to catch up. In the US Nixon created the EPA, and pollution was beginning to be regulated, and Clean Air and Clean Water Acts were legislated.

Will the same happen with climate change, are we slowly pushing up the hill of acceptance, waiting for our political tipping point? A great article to read and see the first seeds of climate change concern, before global warming was a buzz word.

Read the article from Sept 1970: The politics of pollution

Bikeways for Australian Cities

As a cyclist myself I found it intriguing to read about a time when a road having a bike lane was worthy of comment. In fact, according to this article, cyclists were all but made extinct by the availability of cars and only in the 1970s were cyclists beginning to reappear. And even the author of this paper seems vexed by the possibility.

So if we modern cyclists feel that there remains a stigma around bikes on the road, and an obstinance toward improving bike infrastructure then we can directly trace it back to the early 70s. Another reminder of how slowly things change…

Well worth a read!

Read the article from June 1974: Bikeways for Australian Cities