Archive for the ‘environment’ Category

Fires on the whole…

January 8, 2013

In a thread on the Grauniad about the bushfires

It’s about time we Australians really had a long, hard look at ourselves. Our attitude to the planet is disgusting and a national embarrassment. Just when the rest of the world begins to take environmental issues more seriously, we seem hell bent on appearing to care less and less.

I’m so ashamed of being Australian. We’re a nation of complete bogans. We are uneducated, unsophisticated. Even our prime minister is proud of speaking like a bogan. We essentially stole our country from the aborigines and we continue to insult them by marginalizing them into alcoholism and petrol sniffing.

It’s shameful to be Australian in these times.

And then this

@GordonLightfood –

Australia is full of lots of people, sure it has working class people but which country doesn’t or does bogan mean something else to you?

Australians are quite well educated with significant proportions holding tertiary qualifications, like most countries.

Whats wrong with the Prime Ministers working class accent? Love her or loathe her, I cant think of many countries with an atheist, unmarried and female leader from a working class background, can you? I think that says something about ‘meritocracy’, remember that word?

How one can judge sophistication or for that matter taking environmental issues seriously is harder to respond to but I believe the link below may make you smile. Lets not get too carried away..


Empty land? Empty hopes

September 25, 2011

The country itself had no travel-established identity for white people, and its quality as a blank slate was internalised by the immigrants as a basis for their own reconstructions. Those anxieties were also projected on to the land, as Paul Carter has argued in his profound book The Road to Botany Bay. Carter shows how places were named for whites and their ideologies, from Melbourne and Sydney after peers of the governmental realm to places like Mt Disappointment and Mt Misery where the explores’ noble hopes were dashed. More than that, naming and interpreting the land were forms of fictionalising, rewriting the alien land mass into a familiar fable of Europeanicity.

Page 154 of Stephen Knight “The Selling of the Australian Mind”

Film Review: Crocodile Dundee

August 20, 2011

Watched this for the first time since, well, 1987 or so. What a set of myths it taps into/sprays around!

The Rugged Outback hero, a bit of a conman, but with a core of competence too.  (Most Australians live in towns or cities).

Tarzan, pure of a state of nature, going to the big city where the confusions of race and gender and class don’t baffle him for long. (After the ‘now that’s a knife’ scene, Linda Kowslowski’s character actually references Tarzan)

The Fugitive healer, who teaches a woman What’s Important (and saves her from life with an effete journalist).

That this was such a huge hit says/said something about a) the jokes (which were relatively funny) b) Australians’ need/wish to see themselves as Dundees and c) The wider world’s desire for these kinds of myths, I guess.

Best stuff I ever read on this was by Meaghan Morris, in her wonderful collection “The Pirate’s Fiancee

Still unsettled

June 28, 2011

As Steve Dovers from the Australian National University put it recently, after two centuries we still seem to be struggling to settle Australia. We haven’t resolved the first vexing questions presented to us by a unique continent – the original owners, the fragile land, the scarce resources, the capricious climate, remoteness and the insecurities this generates. These first challenges to the settlement project just keep coming back, some of them in ever more frightening forms.
Griffith Review 20
Waking from The Dream
Brendan Gleeson

Book to read: Hugh Stretton’s Australia Fair

June 26, 2011

In 1970, Hugh Stretton, Australia’s first great urbanist, wrote and self‐ published an urban best‐seller, Ideas for Australian Cities. The book disdained the anti‐suburbanism of elites and offered a much more intelligent assessment of suburbia’s strengths, weaknesses and possibilities. His most recent book, Australia Fair (UNSW Press, 2005), addresses the environmental menace and concludes, as I do, that some form of resource rationing will be forced upon us. Reflecting on the great rationing exercises that saw us through World War II and its reconstruction phase, Stretton believes that their success can be repeated: ‘But it is likely to depend, now as then, on three achievements which look unlikely as this is written. We must believe the dangers are real and deadly. We must hope to survive them by radical action, self‐restraint and sacrifice. And we must attract the necessary solidarity by a serious reduction of our inequalities.’

From Brendan Gleeson’s essay “Waking from the Dream” in Griffith Review 20

Tony Abbott, human weathervain

March 18, 2011

sorry, vane. Easy mistake to make…

This from the Age, Thurs 17 March is amusing/scary. It’s Katharine Murphy’s “Nuclear rethink over before it’s begun.”
Having ripped the piss of Julia Gillard and the governing Labor Party, she finishes with the following observation –

Tony Abbott’s stance on nuclear, and for that matter on climate, has been populism itself.
Having been a cabinet minister in the Howard government, which took a considered look at the nuclear issue and resolved that Australia needed to add nuclear to the energy mix, Abbott now says he has ”no policy” on nuclear power plants.
I wonder where the old policy went? Presumably the way of Howard’s proposed emissions trading scheme.
The Opposition Leader cannot seem to make up his mind whether he accepts the climate science or not. One minute he does, the next minute carbon dioxide is not a ”villain”. Abbott, according to a highly irritated Malcolm Turnbull, once confessed he was a ”weathervane” on climate change. Recent comments from the Opposition Leader indicate that self-criticism was about right.

The Liberals chucked their last leader (Turnbull), who would have wiped the floor with Labor, because he committed the mortal sin of having a consistent line on climate change (It’s happening and we had better do something about it).

Melbourne’s Monthly Argument – a little less talk, a little more conversation please

March 11, 2011

Well, I went to a meeting last night all about solar energy. “How did it go?” you ask. Let’s just say that the sun didn’t shine out of anyone’s arse…

It was part of a let’s-try-and-reinvigorate-civil-society series (an admirable goal) called “the Monthly Argument.” Held in a pub (food, beer – preconditions for any rational discussion, IMHO), it SHOULD have been an engaging babble of thoughts and opinions and beginnings-of-friendships/adversarial relationships.

From the get-go though, it was obvious this was to be Bizzzzness as Usual, if not outright Ego-foddering.
There was a perfunctory welcome, no invitation to mingle/exchange names with the person sat next to you or behind you.
The first speaker – Matthew Wright – then launched into a 30 minute (yes, thirty goddam minutes) slide show about the wonders of solar energy, diverting briefly to slag off the Nuclear Option). All this is via the “Beyond Zero Emissions” (BZE) group.
I stayed awake, manfully, and learnt that a carbon price of between 20 and 70 dollars (per tonne) is merely going to push energy providers to gas, which is NOT the desired outcome.

The second guy – who used to be called Albert Langer but has changed his name to Arthur Dent (geddit?) – started out better, at least insofar as he actually tried to get a sense of what the audience knew, and who had read the report, or at least skimmed it.
His main point seemed to be that the BZE group were acting in bad faith, that they hadn’t refuted the rebuttals from various sources, and were being creative in their accounting.
He name-checked three critics – the bravenewclimate group (nuclear funded), Ted Trainer who is an “agrarian wind-downer” and the Ministry for Resources, Energy and Tourism (so joined, according to Matthew Wright, so the Tourism-heads wouldn’t be able to scupper anything the Energy-heads wanted done, as apparently has happened in the past).
He and Wright seemed happy to be wrangling about this or that statistic, this or that scaled up demonstration project. There was no end in sight. It was like listening to Vogon Poetry, only without the happy prospect of being thrown out of an airlock…
For me the nadir (at which point I invoked the law of two feet) was when Arthur Dent queried some BZE statistic, saying it wasn’t clear what what it referred to. Matthew Wright pounced like a starving leopard. He rattled off various permutations, all of which the BZE group had clearly considered. That’s fine, and having details at fingertips is as it should be. It was the smugness and self-satisfaction, and his (perhaps unconscious) look to the audienc for validation of his extreme cleverness which really left me feeling cold and old. Have I been guilty of this exact same dickishness? Hell yeah. Will I do it ever again? Sadly, probably yes. Would I deserve to be walked out on? Abso-fucking-lutely.

Look, there is a missing moral dimension in the debate. Australians, with their enormous per capita carbon footprints and their wealth built on the export of coal, should not be choosing the “cheapest” energy system, but the one that minimises their dumping of carbon into the atmosphere. They also should not be choosing any system that leaves the long-term legacy of nuclear waste on their descendants. But within the incredibly narrow boundaries of “cost-benefit analysis” that these two speakers seemed happy to debate, broader discussions like this considered illegitimate. But these are the sorts of issues that NEED to be raised, and that inspire people to be involved in movements. And we aren’t going to figure out to cope with the shitstorms that climate change will bring down upon us without vigorous social movements that grow, learn, organise and win.

I just don’t get this sort of event. First off, I don’t get the hosts of “the Monthly Argument.” They go to the time and effort and cost of hosting topical discussions – the next is the oddly worded “is it time for dictatorship to be made illegal”. Presumably they believe in the intrinsic and/or practical benefits of a robust and dynamic civil society/informed citizenry. Why go to the effort of staging events if they don’t include efforts to get strangers to talk to each other, and create weak links?
Second, I don’t get Matthew Wright. He seems to think that the shiny technology will speak for itself. He seems to think that by blamming graphs and charts and pictures at people they will become advocates for his technocratic plans. I wonder if he’s tried a control experiment – of listening and engaging with audiences like last nights, and then seeing if he gets more expressions of interest about becoming volunteers, speakers etc. That would be the scientifical way of going about it, wouldn’t it?
Only the third actor – Albert Langer/Arthur Dent do I understand, if not agree with. He obviously takes pleasure in being contrarian. That’s not automatically a bad thing. Intelligent contrarians force you to think, force you to make sure you’re not just seeing the world the way you want/need to see it. Of the three, at least his behaviour was consistent with his motives.

A word on the gender politics. We had three (white middle-class) men on the platform and women doing the sound, and reminding the men frequently to speak into microphone. What is this, 1966?

How it could have been done
A genuine warm welcome to all, and an invitation/encouragement to people to talk with someone they didn’t already know for a couple of minutes (as an “activation phenomenon”)
“Shows of hands” poll around who thinks what in the room at the outset about the issues at hand
A “hard ceiling” maximum of 20 minutes per punter, with “clarification” questions from the floor after each section Thirty minutes is Too Long.
Structured q and a, with short answers from the speakers and further “show of hands” about the questions from the floor.
“Shows of hands” poll at the end over who has changed their mind on hearing the evidence.
Finish on time with an emphatic invitation to people to stick around and discuss further (this may well have happened).

See also
Meetings from Above

Quarterly Essay – meh.

February 20, 2011

Now or Never: A Sustainable Future for Australia?
Tim Flannery
Quarterly Essay 31, 2008

The title would lead you to think that the essay would be about the current situation in Australia, the balance of forces, the allies and opponents of moving towards “sustainability”. You would be wrong. This is instead a broad brushstroke picture of the history of the planet, its carbon pollution problem, it’s oceans etc. And a few random thoughts about geo-thermal and eating meat thrown in at the end. Sorry, but I learnt very little from it. Glad I got it from the library rather than shelled out 20 bucks.

“Pave the cities” or “Make Room, Make Room”

January 25, 2011

This from the front page of The Australian, 25 January is something I’ll have to pursue:

Urban sprawl threatens lifestyle
by Ben Packham
Julia Gillard’s vision for a sustainable Australia is under threat from immigration-linked urban sprawl that will more than double the size of the nation’s capital cities by 2050.
Research for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship has warned of dramatic effects on quality of life and cuts to food production unless migration levels are cut.
The National Institute of Labour Studies report finds that Sydney and Melbourne will each require more than 430,000ha of new land for housing if net overseas migration remains above 260,000 a year….

Make Room, Make Room“, as the book that became Solyent Green went…

See other DownUnderstanding posts with the “population” tag for further links…

NBN, Coal and Carbon

January 20, 2011

Various clippings from the 18 January Australian Financial Review that speak for themselves. Am halfway through reading very interesting journal called “Policy”. Disagree with lots of its assumptions, but loads and loads of useful info, and well written…

NBN Co keeps news to itself by David Crane
The government company building the national broadband network has claimed an exemption from Freedom of information laws, setting itself apart from other big federal agencies just as parliament searches for new ways to scrutinise the project

Coal mines face big transport delays
Restoring transport links to Queensland coal mines is likely to take weeks, the industry has warned, extending losses from the floods beyond the $2.3bn estimated so far.

[meanwhile, BP has exploration permits to go a drilling in the South Australian bit of the Great Australian Bight]

Lack of a carbon price handicaps projects
The race for $1.5bn of federal government funding to create commercial wind farms is tightening, with Spain’s Acciona dropping out because of continuing uncertainty over carbon pricing.