Rod Quantock: ... Just to give you a bit of my background, I probably am the only comedian in Australia and I think I'm quite rare in the world who actually devotes all of his comedy shows to issues around climate change, but particularly things like peak oil. But to get to that point takes an awful lot of work. And I spent a lot of time being a political comic, and I have the advantage that most of you don't have; I've got nothing to do during the day. I work for an hour or two hours at night, and the rest of the time is my own. And I spend that time reading what you don't have time to read. And I've had people come to me at the end of a show about politics and people say to me, 'I love coming to your shows every year because it means I don't have to read the newspapers for a year.'
So when I got involved in climate change I applied for what used to be called a Keating Fellowship and Howard changed that very quickly to an Australia Council Fellowship. And I applied for it because I was broke, a condition which is with me constantly. And I thought, well, I've been around a while, I deserve some money. So I was about to turn 60 and I thought, well, what I'll do is I'll apply to them to do a project about the world from the day I was born. I was born in [mumbles], and I just look at the world, where it came from and how it got to where it was, contemporaneous with this application.
So I did that, and I began in 1948, the declaration of human rights, the division of Israel and Palestine, North and South Korea, Velcro was invented in 1948, the first Holden rolled offâ¦you know, the roots of our contemporary world are there and a lot of it is still festering today. I'm not what you'd call a bright person but I'm methodical, and I did it chronologically. And as I went through I started to see things like the impact of chemicals in our environment. I'd been aware of that, but as you march back through time and then push your way forward, these become more and more apparent.
And then I hit the 1973 oil shock when the world economy collapsed through lack of oil. So I got interested in peak oil. But as I got closer and closer to the day, I saw climate change looming and looming and looming larger in discussions. So I took that and I really knuckled down and I read everything there is to read about it, and I came to the conclusion that we are all going to die. That's it.
Now, I have a preconditioned attitude to apocalypse. By the time I was 10, I'd seen black-and-white footage of the Hiroshima bomb, I'd seen black-and-white footage of the Holocaust, I'd seen black-and-white footage of Japanese prisoners of war, I've seen the worst that humanity could do to one another. And so it was very clear to me that climate change is something we weren't going to stop because it's not in our nature to be intelligent and clever about these things.
And then you throw in peak oil and you suddenly realise that the brick wall is approaching very, very quickly. So I thought, what do you do? And I thought, well, you tell people about it, that's what you do. So I did a show called Bugger the Polar Bears, This Is Serious, because people were always thinking it's about polar bears. And I did shows called The People We Should Eat First. I actually have a list of people we should eat first. And when climate change really hits, I want you to remember that the person sitting in front of you is made of protein. Just keep that in mind. And as a general warning to you all, try not to look delicious. I actually used to be 18 stone but I'm trying to get less and less a source of food.
But it's a lot of work to understand it. The basics are simple. CO2 is a greenhouse gas and there's lots of it, more in the atmosphere, so we are heating up. But the consequences, the flow-ons, the shift changes in the state of our environment that can happen very, very suddenly, those sorts of things you've really got to study. And I got to a point where I thought it's all over. And I thought, well, you're a comedian, what would you know? So I rang a professor at Melbourne University, one who shared in the Nobel Prize for the IPCC report and said, 'Can I come and have a coffee with you?' And I said, 'We are all going to die, aren't we?' And he said, 'Yeah, we are.' And I spoke to a few more.
And in the end I rang Robyn Williams because I was going to be in Sydney, and I thought he's the man who speaks to all the scientists, I'll save myself a lot of coffees that I can't afford and go and talk to him. So I went to him and I said, 'Look, are we all going to die?' And he said, 'Yes.' So that's where I got to.
And then turning that into comedy was very difficult.....
Listen to the full show here: "The comedy of climate change" on the Science Show on ABC RadioNational - (direct link to audio)