Democracy for Sale: Tobacco Donations

I have, until recently, chosen to remain relatively ignorant to most things political and printed within pop-media. This is an obvious handicap.

That said, last night I was made aware of the excellent work done by the Greens on the website Democracy for Sale. It will remain a new source of fuel for this blog. On that, and with federal election on the Australian doorstep, I used some of the data available on D4S to produce the following graph (note, year values are the start of the financial year). Greens are not included because over the available time span of the data they received no tobacco dollars.

Just a little food for thought… I wonder, with Nick Minchin stepping aside, will the Libs get as much funding in the coming years (Nick being as much in denial over tobacco related illness as he is about climate change).


Australian election of 2010: At best, a non-vote.

I tend to be a very black and white person who seeks out clarity. Ultimately this led me to pursue science rather than more creative development (I was also accepted for an arts degree, based on my portfolio of creative writing and graphic design, but in the end I chose ecology). I’m not a fan of uncertainty and am drawn to pulling things apart to better understand them. Hence, I am aware of my political ignorance, for much of it just doesn’t make sense.

As such, I in advance ask my readers to excuse the meandering fashion of my writing as I drift through the grey fog of politics. As the Australian election looms, I feel compelled to write about it, but am sure that my particular view is one devoid of much ideological understanding.

It appears to me that this election is one not on choosing the best candidate, but rather the least worse.

Tony Abbott quite clearly demonstrates a lack of historical knowledge and scientific accuracy which no doubt would lead Australia into another three years of inaction and radical right-wing conservatism. We can at least be thankful that Nick Minchin will not be part of his team; a man who has on numerous occasions stood for industrial wealth over human health and environmental stability. However, a man that informs school children that it was warmer when Jesus was alive, in my opinion, is unfit as a political leader. Sure, I will admit that Abbott has the strength required of a leader (something Kevin didn’t really demonstrate too clearly), but his dogmatic logic is appalling, to say the least, in the 21st century. It’s certainly okay for Tony to hold whatever views he wishes to within his private life, but to bring it to the public and to misinform students is unacceptable.

Julia Gillard in a lot of ways is a disappointing replacement to Rudd. What upsets me most is the uncomfortable air in her progression to the top job – it feels a little underhanded at best. Not only did the action rob the Australian community of the opportunity to demonstrate their changing views regarding gender equality by electing their first female PM, but she has since proven to be as weak on action as the PM she replaced.

Gillard has been attacked for her redundant use of the slogan, “moving forward,” and has since defended the use by saying, “I’ve used the term ‘moving forward’ because I believe it captures a spirit about Australia. We are a confident, optimistic, forward-looking people.”

However, her spirit of Australia, her forward-looking people, is a citizen consensus on climate change. A handful of randomly selected Aussies to waste a year thinking about climate change and carbon taxing. This is far from “forward-looking”, but more an open endorsement for extending paralysis for another year. Let’s ignore decades of of research and billions of dollars worth of long-term monitoring and the conclusions drawn by the vast majority of related experts and instead gauge what the Average Joe thinks about climate change.

Simply because of her position of governance, this is even worse than Donna Laframboise’s citizens audit (who quotes on her blog that, “climate skepticism is free will” – it is, as much as type two diabetes  skepticism is, but skepticism won’t change the results on an unhealthy lifestyle and family history). Appealing for a citizen consensus demonstrates a lack of  real leadership when, by the simple choice of her chosen career path, Gillard should be willing to lead. When you second-rate have writers being applauded for their unscientific and counter-environmental articles, you should rightfully question the awareness of the public and thus their ability to make informed decisions – not get them to make up your mind for you (see this post regarding Andrew Bolt for example).

So, at the heart of it, we’ve got two political leaders appealing for our votes; one that is at best a mixed bag of contradiction and awkwardness and the other is a pre-Enlightenment dogmatic ultra-conservative. We’ve got the options of either sitting on our arses while a bunch of non-scientists make up their minds over climate science and environmental management or we can choose to take a few steps backward, stick our heads in the sand and pretend that our pockets aren’t getting lighter.

Neither one is moving forward and Julia only seems the lesser of two bad options.

Reflecting on Blogging, Denial, Climate Change and Politics: Small Things

As I’ve spent much of June working on the innovation series, I feel somewhat of a block. I feel, from a strictly “professional” view, that I need to jump straight into building on this foundation (it’s all good and well to talk about the troubles of the world and near fanciful ideal re-developments; but where’s the guts of this?). I wrote the series so that I had the foundation done and could finally move beyond the repetitive debates that  I was being drawn into. I guess I shouldn’t be so hard on myself – it’s not my career (although the ideas I am developing I hope to, in the near future, be carried across into my career path), I did put a fair amount into the series (at the expense of my comic series as well) and over the past week my wife-to-be has been doing her best to push as much enthusiasm into me as she can about hitting the 30’s. I suppose I should stop thinking so much about all this for a couple days and come back fighting. However, this is not my nature either.

I suppose I want to leave this week by reflecting on the strange world of blogging.

As my first post was only in January, I guess in most respects I’m still a “noob”. Various aspects of my background has left me with an unnaturally strong need to prove myself. After hearing family members put down my work through the teachings of Monckton, I felt that I should offer a voice of reason regarding climate change. As “TrueSkeptic” has since commented, I wasn’t aware of what I was getting myself into.

The power of a word is much more elastic than its truth

It only takes one convincing liar to propagate a baseless view which can take the world by storm. It takes many experts a very long time to even begin to sway popular view to anything reasonable. Look at the efforts it took a professor to undertake to detangle the rubbish of Monckton’s presentation. Yet Christopher feels it justifiable to fight back and in some corners the fake lord is still considered a hero. He had travelled the globe, provided I don’t know how many propaganda lectures and earned who knows how much money before John Abraham provided an irrefutable rebuttal. A while ago, Dr. Andrew Glikson also had a written exchange with Monckton through a journalist which didn’t get as much attention. Either way, all too often parrots of Chris continue to populate blogs and other pop-media. His lies are hard to kill – a bit like a weed that keeps popping up in new parts of the yard.

The lack of attention of Watts recent tour across Australia deserves a pat on the collective Aussie back. His attack on US weather stations has been demonstrated as nothing more than a waste of time and money (in developing new stations). Comparing the data between “good” sites and “bad” sites shows little differences (besides; the process of looking at tends over time largely overcomes many site flaws), and the US temperature record is only a small part of a much larger global data collection. Regardless of this, his blog continues to be a favourite among many groups and is parroted off in pop-media.

For some time, Mike at Watching the Deniers, has been following Jo Nova and Andrew Bolt, and recently Skeptical Science has focused on Nova as well. Jo’s paranoid flavour only seems to appeal to the very crowd that no evidence could ever get through to (anything offered only increases the size of the conspiracy – just look at her wild and somewhat insane attack recently aimed at PNAS). Bolt is known to lie and demonstrate poor journalistic ethics (see Mike’s write up).

Apart from these loud outlets of anti-science, there is another group of people (who I was probably most surprised about) that carry out the most cowardly form of bullying through comments. Some use a name that can be traced back to a blog, but most that throw mud around do so without a face and name. Now, I mentioned earlier that I had near an obsession with proving myself. With dyslexia, it’s been difficult to demonstrate what I understand. In this respect, when I face criticism, I go into overdrive to prove myself; anyone that has blogged for a long time or is in the public eye can obviously spot the danger in my flaw. However, I guess the two most energetic individuals I’ve ran into so far (Roger and Pete) have been good in helping me move passed this. They both demonstrated examples of people unable adopt, adapt and improve. Their views were concrete and void to the greater amount of current understanding.

I’m now at peace with being able to constructively reach everyone in balanced and informed debate.

Because the dangerous power of words have been demonstrated by Monckton, Watts, Nova, and Bolt above and others like Tony Abbott, Donna Laframboise, John Shimkus, and Nick Minchin that I’ve discussed previously, I’ve returned to my academic training and a constant supply of reference papers. Reason isn’t enough – it’s all about having as many expert people supporting your argument as you can get. The people here say a lot of wild things and it becomes very difficult to find where their accusations were borne. Publicly, we need to make it clear just how limited their scientific basis is and demonstrate the greater scientific consensus regarding the changing world.

Indeed a number of these people and their followers will forever ignore or refute the science until their shoulder deep in the results of their ignorance. It eventually becomes trivial arguing with them directly. At some point it must also become equally as meaningless to argue against their wild claims in public. Indulging in these strange little skirmishes also encourages the one thing that they endeavour to achieve; inaction. Political will may be weak (Rudd’s collapse in popularity arguably demonstrates a general climate concern within Australia  that may have otherwise been hidden under the noise of people like Abbott, Minchin, Bolt, and Nova), but there is noticeable opportunity to engage with the public not only on the various impacts, but potential we have to adapt and demonstrate to the world this hard yakka attitude that we Aussies like to hold of ourselves. We don’t need to wait for other countries and we have the resources at hand to be world leaders in development. This could provide a great economic boom than Rudd’s coal spine.

However, I feel that this will be left in the hands of academic and private groups to take the initiative. Are we game enough?

Climate change denial: How the agents of denial will cause de-industrialisation

I’ll most likely avoid blogging over this coming weekend (weekend is family time), however, I feel compelled to end this week by repeating myself ever more bluntly.

As demonstrated above, you give some mice a huge supply of a resource, they don’t just eat until their little bellies are full; they breed and their numbers explode until you have a huge population. Now the resource doesn’t look so big in comparison and soon depletes. What isn’t shown in the video above is the smelly aftermath; the starving death of the masses of mice.

What morons like Minchin, Monckton and others like them fail to see is that discussions regarding changes to our practices that shift us away from fossil fuels are not an attempt to de-industrialise the western world; in fact, it is the very opposite.

I tried to make it very clear in my last post that currently, the process from our primary food production to our plates is one that is heavily dependent black gold. Without fossils fuels, we fail to produce enough fertilizers, fail to power machines to move the produce and work the land, fail to process this raw material, fail to bring it to your local shop and fail to keep it long enough to be used efficiently. Currently we waste a hell of a lot of food, but that’s another topic. Without fossil fuels, we would be forced back to a state before the industrial revolution – and following all the destruction of natural resources and the degradation of landscapes we’ve caused to date, we certainly wouldn’t have the ability to meet the needs of the population. Throw in the effects of climate change, endless population growth and peak oil projections, 2100 is looking a lot like a farm at the tail end of a mouse plague.

It isn’t green so much, that we talk about finding more efficient means to do what we already do, nor is it green to urge that we give more appreciation to biodiversity and the copious services other species provide. No, it is practical.

If the concern is over the required economic shifts, doesn’t it make sense that we start the shift earlier rather than later so that the bend isn’t so sharp and the inertia jar doesn’t cause whiplash? Fossil fuels are a finite supply and we’ve lived too long on easy energy. Yet these days will come to an end over the next century and if our growth in numbers and in personal usage continues, it’ll happen sooner rather than later.

What is required is educated dialogue and practical measures to ensure that we can continue to live and prosper. Our future will not continue to ride on the back of this oily beast; it must be by other methods and will certainly employ more natural services. For instance, it is very energetic to produce fixed nitrogen that is usable for plants, yet legumes do this for us. Compost is also a wonderful source. Together, they cannot meet our current nitrogen needs, but the problem won’t go away by ignoring it and it certainly won’t be addressed while we give paranoid conspiracies the time of day. This is what I mean by open, educated dialogue – not this absurd “balanced argument” the media encourages (putting Monckton in a debate against a climate expert is as balanced as putting a Tono-Bungay salesman up against a medical doctor – who do you believer? A “travelling wonder elixir show” or someone who has earned their title through years of research and study?).

The future can be wonderful and we can continue to be successful as a species, but not on business-as-usual methods. We have been sloppy, but we can change. It is people like those mentioned above and others I’ve previously mentioned in other posts who will lead us to de-industrialisation, not practical measures to improve our actions.

Have a good weekend all!

Related posts;

Jelly Bean Junkies: Monckton screams Biofuel Propaganda

Republican John Shimkus and his bi-polar God.

Confusing the public: “Science” should avoid the denial gravy train.

Ignorance is… A quick review of pointless opposition climate change science

Is Monckton working for an Amish conspiracy? How the future is more than debate over climate change.

The distance in consumption; where should we put our plate?

The ways we choose our fate – the real tragedy of environmental ignorance

Bad journalism and The Agents of Doubt

Ecolomics – a potential love-child between Economy and Ecology?

An unfortunate rebuttal to those who should be ignored

Mr. Minchin and the Enviro-Communist?

This is NO debate – rather science against the smooth talk

Ignorance is… A quick review of pointless opposition climate change science

As yet another environmental issue unfolds, relating to fossil fuels, it seems ever clearer that we need to begin the change in human activity to those of increased sustainability. It is meaningless what any given individual believes to be the case with climate change; there are so many sibling environmental issues that however you choose to look at the situation, you always end up with an urgent need to shift away from fossil fuels (I’ve gone into it here, here, here, here, here, and here).

That said, there are a vast number of trivial movements out there that do little more than encourage a sluggish response to these issues. These movements would be entertaining where it not for the dire situation we find ourselves in. It is also somewhat confusing seeing as many of these individuals come from a conservative and pro-industry camp and what they fight is indeed true conservation and the most obvious progressive thinking (true biological and industrial prosperity).

Here, I will give a few examples that irritate me, to highlight typical critics and the pointless, baseless or simply trivial arguments they use. I do this because, if the reader has children, wishes to have children, cares at all for life as we know it or at the least has some sense of morality, they must see that such behaviour does nothing but stunts our awareness and progression. I made the point here that without innovative thinking, we will lead ourselves down a very synthetic and sick path.

The Aussie political blog

A while ago, while doing some research on senator Minchin, I came by the blog, Australian Climate Madness, which quite quickly exposes itself as the typical politically motivated dribble. An example of this was just written on May the third under Fallout from ETS dumping continues which illustrates the writers views; “[Climate Change] will sink down in public consciousness again, only emerging briefly when there is some pointless UN gabfest on… Nobody really cares, as more and more people (including politicians) realise that there are more urgent and pressing things to worry about…”

Such a statement exposes the author to have little to no understanding of climate science while only having the capacity to think within the short time spans of political terms. I wouldn’t be surprised if the author would go as far as Donald Trump who believes a snow storm in the middle of winter disproves climate change (my rebuttal to Trump can be found here).

Weather and climate are two different things on two different time spans and regardless of what you believe to instigate the fact, we are seeing a warming trend over time (click here to look at the most recent article of many articulate and well researched posted from Skeptical Science regarding climate warming) and the myriad of environmental issues relating to this change. We have probably hit peak fuel supply and even if we haven’t, with population growth unabated, relying heavily on unrenewable forms of energy and fertilizers, supply will increasingly be unable to meet the demands of our species.

Good policy making should be aware of this and be;

  • innovative to meet the needs of the country while reducing dependence on other countries (a favourite point for the conservatives),
  • embracing of climate studies and how it can be applied to natural resource management and agriculture,
  • positive in the search for other sources of energy – especially renewable forms.

Although petrol might still be flowing from the pump and wheat available from the cereal box within Rudd’s life time, this will not excuse him and others for not taking action sooner rather than later.

Another point made on this blog is that CO2 is harmless. Sure it is a relatively harmless gas produced through aerobic respiration, however,

  • we have developed over a century of understanding that it is one of the more important greenhouse gases that permit life on this planet as we know it (even at such relatively low concentrations),
  • we have added billions of tonnes of the stuff to the atmosphere in a fairly short amount of time,
  • we are seeing a warming patterning in climate (put this and the previous point together if you wish – and should) and,
  • there is also mounting evidence that this CO2 is not so harmless when the bulk of it is then absorbed by the oceans (this is a wonderful resource of peer-reviewed work relating to acidification of our oceans).

To state that CO2 is harmless, well the writer is only looking at the gas from the most politically comfortable angle and not the reality.

A concerned citizen’s group

While surfing, I noticed the headline of a FOXnews piece; Exclusive: Citizen’s group plans extensive audit of U.N. climate report, and just had to read it.

As it’s put in the article, “a leading global warming skeptic recruited a group of concerned citizens to fact-check the sources referenced in the U.N.’s latest climate-change bible — and gave the report an “F.” Now she’s planning the nail in the coffin: a comprehensive audit of the entire report.”

As a leading global warming skeptic, I figured it only fair to visit her, Donna Laframboise, website, Under the heading of Global Warming Theory 101, she endeavours to explain her reason for being skeptical. On this page there are two photographs of people with weather balloons, under which is written; “We can’t predict next summer’s weather reliably. But we claim to know – within a few degrees – how hot it will be 100 years from now.”

This is Ms. Laframboise’s insightful argument; that far off weather predictions are in some way the same as climate predictions. No-one claims to know either weather of climate in the near or far-off future. It’s an ever refining process of modelling based on our ever increasing understanding of weather and climate. Regarding weather; I’m sure Ms. Laframboise grabs an umbrella if the evening news the night before says that there’s a good chance of rain. This is because our models for predicting weather are getting better.  The same goes for climate modelling and climate predictions (different models of course). Her logic is even more baseless than those made in the nineteenth century that a heavier-than-air craft could never fly and are just as counter-productive if applied.

If I was a smoker who denied the medical science consensus that second-hand smoke can cause various medical problems and gathered a bunch of concerned individuals to review the available literature, I’m sure a whole heap of obvious questions would arise; Am I not bias as a selector, more likely to choose “concerned individuals” that agree with my views? Who’s to say that such a review has any relevant training to critically audit such literature? How balanced would such an audit be – ie. would they also give equal weight for the evidence that goes against their bias or simply harp on when they find a spelling mistake? How transparent would the whole process be and what review would it in turn face for merit?

I have the distinct impression that such a review will only highlight the various issues already known and in truth will offer little more than the wonderful argument Ms. Laframboise puts forth on her global warming education page. It seems more a self-promoting act to make noise with the media outlets paying for her advertisement.

On the plus side however, this could provide at least an afternoon’s light reading before the next IPCC report to ensure that silly little mistakes don’t again take the attention away from obvious concerning trends to trivial debate.

The unqualified mentor

The last for this article will be one I’ve often talked about and is often considered the darling of the climate change skeptics; Lord Christopher Monckton. This only needs to be brief.

  • He seems to accept that there is mounting evidence that the climate is changing (although he tends to talk this down); his beef seems to be more with what is causing this (which he argues cannot be CO2). So he cannot have a problem with people who are involved in adaptive landscape science, relating to natural resource management and agriculture under the changing climate.
  • Sure, he probably won’t live long enough to see the end of fossil fuels, but he too (like Rudd etc mentioned above) must appreciate that this is unsustainable long term and nitrogen fertilizers too will be increasingly difficult to obtain once we have depleted the natural gas resource. So he really shouldn’t have a problem with research, development and policy changes to obtain more sustainable technology and life styles unless he really wants future generations to truly suffer.

Why the hell is he making such a noise about it then? He isn’t even a scientist in any form and one argument that he has made about biofuels (that I’ve mentioned here, here and here) is irrelevant to the quest that he’s on, because he isn’t the champion of the starving people in the wake of biofuels, he is the hero of tea parties and pointless debate. As with Laframboise, his too must be a self-serving act.

For what these people claim to stand for, they do the opposite and willing stand in the way of progress and development (I also argue that here). This defies logic and, I fear, sends us further up the river without a paddle with these people somehow thinking we’ll eat ourselves out of any problem; that growth solves all. That’s going to be difficult with 9 billion people, no fossil fuels left, once fertile agricultural lands now dust fields and all relevant study long since mocked and stunted by people who could only see up to three steps in front of them and not down the path they wished for us to head.

Is Monckton working for an Amish conspiracy? How the future is more than debate over climate change.

If a GP told me that a mole on my skin looked questionable and that it would be best to have it removed, would I then ask a geologist, meteorologist or my mate, whose sister in-law has a cousin who is a nurse, for a second opinion?

As much as the scalpel scares the hell out of me, I trust that the GP to know better than the others or myself and quite frankly, I don’t want to run the risk of fighting cancer if I can avoid it.

I did something that in retrospect caused me more frustration than what it was worth and began reading the comments posted in response to a number if excellent blogs. The lucidity of these blogs is beyond question, however, in the comments, there is a lot of room for misinformation and it is very disheartening when otherwise intelligent people ignore the blatantly obvious for what is little more than an inappropriate and overwhelmingly pointless debate, fuelled by the wrong people for the wrong agendas.

Over the past few months, I’ve moved away from this debate, while (hopefully) keeping the common sense approach for change. The call I hear a lot in my field lately is one of increasing conviction and avoidance of the debate over climate change because of the very reason stated above.

Regardless what we choose individually in regards to this argument, very few of us are climate scientist, and very few of us have even done any relevant analysis or read from the bulk of mounting research. It really doesn’t matter what we choose to believe, what matters is that the world is undoubtedly changing (land use / clearing, species loss, water course pollution and diversion, unsustainable farming / fisheries, greenhouse gas concentrations, ocean acidity etc) and that we are greedily chewing up non-renewable resources that we’re heavily reliant on (ie. fossil fuels for energy and nitrogen fertilisers).

It’s a lot like what I witnessed in someone close to me recently who is incredibly sceptical of medical science (especially vaccinations and medications), but the first to fall into the doctors lap, pleading for a wonder drug to be administered NOW, when they felt as though they were dying.

The fight is far less costly and far less energetic the sooner we address the problem – it’s the old “prevention is better than a cure” which we all know yet all too often ignore. I’ve heard many different arguments of why we often ignore this wisdom, although they hardly apply to this situation; many of the point’s addresses above are irrefutable and we have the technology and research capabilities to begin the shift to an increased sustainability, yet we continue this slow square dance with the people that will have us do nothing.

A couple examples;

Recently, we had Monckton in the country. Unfortunately he was given air-time to debate climate science with Dr Ben McNeil (who has actually earned the right to discuss the science through years of training, rather than being nothing more than a good public speaker). Monckton made the point that biofuels (the result of climate change hysteria) are starving millions of people.

Without even considering climate change, I argue that, if we continue down Monckton’s black brick road, fossil fuels will deplete – leaving combustion engines solely reliant on biofuels, natural gas currently used to create nitrogen fertilizers will cause first a massive increase in food costs (as it becomes rarer) and secondly as the gas is used up completely, an inability to meet food demands, and lastly with  increase transportation costs in a fossil fuel depleted world, this expensive food will be even more expensive further away from the farm: all of which will make a much hungrier and expensive world and certainly one with greater divergence from food to biofuels. Read here for an example on our reliance on non-renewable nitrogen sources.

In a previous post, I’ve suggested that synthetic food will most likely be our only option on the present road.

Although it’s at times hard to hear Ben, he makes the point clear that the science behind climate change is not about promoting biofuels, but one to address our unsustainable actions and as far as I’m concerned, Monckton is basically addressing logic with fear propaganda.

Another example is one that I hear from America a fair amount and one obviously shared with Nick Minchin; it is that climate change is a fear tactic by communists and socialists in an attempt to de-industrialize the west. Every time I hear such nonsense, I can’t help but be reminded of the Seinfeld episode with the communist santa or Monty Python’s “American defence against international communism” advertised with crelm toothpaste in “And now for something completely different”. I’m glad to have been born after the paranoia of the cold war had dropped a few notches. That said, this fear obviously still lives in the hearts of many people around the world.

It’s easy to address Nick’s fears however; when fossil fuels are too expensive for the vast majority of people, I can’t help but question how industrial the world could remain when most of us can no longer afford fuel to drive or power for the house or food from the shops. Maybe the truth is that these do-nothing dropkicks are really on the payroll of the Amish; because they will probably be the best suited to a world without fossil fuels where we took little to no effort to move away from an non-renewable and depleting source of energy!

These two examples did not even require climate change as a motivator and if Monckton is not opposed to general warming pattern that we are seeing in climate, as he seems to suggest in the video liked above (rather the cause of it is in dispute in his eyes), then why is he kicking up a stink against the climate scientists who are in the business of understanding our climate better which would lead us to better decision making regarding improved agriculture?

In every respect he and others like him are nothing but the instigators of a future of hardship rather than being tomorrow’s heroes; saving us from the World Bank and a global government, that others label them as today.

I guess all that remains is a simple question; when you notice a new mole on your skin, whose advice will you trust, your GP or Lord Monckton and the do-nothings?

Bad journalism and The Agents of Doubt

Desmog Blog posted an excellent piece calling for the various media groups to officially apologise and make corrections within their articles over the hacked university emails following the investigation into “Climategate” by the UK House of Commons Science and Technology Committee. Clive Hamilton also wrote an excellent piece that can be found here, which went into more detail of the findings.

I personally couldn’t agree more and feel that everyone else should also make the demand for media outlets to be held accountable for their misinformation, as they themselves demanded of the scientist involved.

As Morgan Goodwin writes; “Legitimate news organizations have standards of accuracy to uphold and should correct the record.”

What sparked off my desire to write so much of late was a weekend of debate with family members who were entirely educated on the subject of climate science by the media, and due to the doubt industry, were incredibly sceptical of the whole field. They also thought passive smoking did no harm (oh, people like Nick Minchin would be proud!).

When I mentioned my training and field of work the response was, “Oh, so you must know that all this climate change is nonsense then?”

Once, I had a door-knocker who, when I mentioned my work in biology, replied, “Oh, so you must know that evolution is rubbish then?”

…I don’t like being so heavily argumentative in general, however, when I witness such things, I cannot help but plead to logic and commonsense…

On climate science, we have the knowledge that;

It seems a no-brainer that our actions are causing damage and that we know enough to both see what’s happening and to take steps to be more sustainable. We are accountable for what we do and will have no excuse for inaction to future generations.

As communicators to the general public, media outlets should be ethical and moral with their representations of events or, as we see, propaganda such as is sprouted by many people who deny climate science, is taken as legitimate and unfairly damage the reputations of hardworking scientist. At Climate Shifts they make a point that many of the sceptics themselves lack scientific credibility (I think I’ll probably reference to this fairly often as it’s a point I like to make). Many of them are taken to have authority on climate science and trot around the world labelling climate scientists whatever will scare the audience (Minchin puts climate science in with de-industrialising communism and Christopher Monkton has, on a number of occasions, made Nazi comments in relation to climate science, to name two such individuals).  Unfortunately, a number of respectable scientists have been forced into public debates with such people which, unfortunately seems gives them some sort of borrowed credentials without ever deserving them. We, as the general public, allow this to occur and media outlets that indulge in promoting such individuals make themselves little more than trash entertainment.

The whole “Climategate” situation has without a doubt caused a great deal of damage to the trust that the public have in the science community and the two groups largely behind this are the media and the climate change doubt machine. Morgan makes the point that there will never be an apology made by the latter group, but certainly we should expect better from the former.

The various examples made by both Morgan and Clive, as well as the countless others that have jumped on the Climategate truck, branding pitchforks and torches should be at least asked to do what’s right by both apologising for their baseless accusations and correcting the errors in their statements. Those who do so should continue to be part of what is worth reading. Those who don’t obviously expose themselves as agents of doubt and should be ignored as such so that we can get on with addressing those problems mentioned above as well as the myriad of other issues related with sustainable practices.

Let’s hope the days of the investigative journalist are not over; we still require honest writers willing to go to the front line and report the truth of the situation, not a lot of puppets who cannot sense the change in their climate-controlled shoeboxes.

Mr. Minchin and the Enviro-Communist?

Anyone who knows me knows that I tend to avoid news. This is mainly because I become something not unlike a football fanatic and it is not a good habit to yell wildly at the television. The main reason for this comes down to the general lack of quality of news as I see it in Adelaide. I am uninterested in scandals and which celebrity has done this or that. I cannot be bothered by the ins and outs of various sports and fashion. As for politics… I tend to wonder where money trickles in from as the pop-media ‘articles’ are often little more than fluff or pathetic attempts at an attack (whichever bias the money has paid for).

As much as this habit is valuable to my blood pressure, it puts me at an obvious disadvantage.  I’m often last to hear what would otherwise be excellent fuel for my comics and occasional rants. A good example of this that I recently read here was regarding absurd comments made by Senator Nick Minchin late last year. I’m almost tempted to find as much as I can and start a visual rebuttal… maybe later.

Anyway, the short and skinny of Minchin’s view on climate change was this; “For the extreme left, it provides the opportunity to do what they have always wanted to do, which is to sort of de-industrialise the Western world. The collapse of communism was a disaster for the left and, really, they embrace environment as their new religion.”

Yeah, he said that…

To begin with, I’m not going to go into much in the way of a climate response, as I have in the past and there are also far more knowledgeable individuals out there that can do an ever better job than myself.

That said, surely Mr. Minchin himself would be annoyed if one of his children went into the kitchen at night, grabbed themselves a drink from the fridge and didn’t bother the close the refrigerator door again. Surely if a neighbour used a leaf blower and let all the rubbish fly into his yard, he would be rather irate – and even more so if this neighbour later couldn’t see any problems with his actions once Minchin had tried to discuss the issue with him. It’s a simple principle of cause and effect. You don’t get something for nothing and you simply cannot collect millions of years of captured carbon and pump it back into the atmosphere in a couple centuries and expect no change – especially when it’s in the form of known greenhouse gases. Being ignorant enough to be unable see the potential harm is nothing but dangerous stupidity.

Ok, that was my ever repeated little rant on climate change… Now I would like to get back to this amazing statement.

On the whole left or right, I guess it might be difficult to say where I truly stand. On the play ground, if I was asked to pick which side as part of some game, I’d would, without a doubt stand with the lefties. I think, for the most, we find ourselves at the same resultant, but often through different means.

I know that I am certainly not conservative, but what they pride themselves on – those wholesome family values – many of them I would sway towards, but for radically different reasons again.

For instance, I can understand many of the rights view regarding law and order. Many people need or want it.

The people that want it are typically the type that will advocate religious morality as a good thing by stating that they fear what they could be capable of if it was not for their faith. These people tend to also be quite fearful of different religions and especially those who claim no faith at all. They do not seem capable of true self management and higher virtues for the simple reason of self-respect over their true basic animal instincts. That, or they simply are not smart enough to make empathetic, altruistic and humble choices based on enlightened reasoning and common sense.

Then there are those who blatantly need to be controlled. I’m talking about those charming individuals that think it’s quite reasonable to let off a couple rounds in the privacy of one’s own front yard. Of course again it is a matter of animal instincts, however unlike the group above, for environmental and/or social reasons, the simple question of personal ethics never arose to be personally questioned by this individuals.

As we cannot make different laws for different people, we must submit to such trivialities in order to provide safety to the majority. It’s as simple as that.

Hell, we could become a ridiculously liberated society, where all forms of polygamy, gun-toting, drug availability and a whole host of other stupidities where legalised and even promoted and I would still aim for the same goals as now. I am not restricted by faith or law, my morality and my virtues are my own and are based on reason, respect for myself and for other and most importantly, common sense.

I believe in the rights of an individual over their own life and happiness, but concede that too many others exploit the lives of those around them and thus, some measure is required to tame greed to something closer to an acceptable level.

Maybe we will develop a better social structure one day, although it seems unlikely due to genetics and history…

That said, I must, more less be a relatively strong lefty at least at the finish line;

  • I am certainly in favour of legalising gay marriages (we should be teaching future generations the worth in working for a strong committed relationship, rather than what gender is acceptable – that seems more reasonable to me than the current “sleep-around” culture popularised);
  • I am in favour of legalising euthanasia, with the obvious policies and psychological support in place (it is, in the end, one’s own body and to be left a prisoner, in endless pain and/or to dissolve into a horrible prolonged death is far from dignified as far as I’m concerned);
  • I believe abortion has a role in our society, again with the required policies and support (there are a wide range of reasons why it is the most logical conclusion in certain cases and, like euthanasia, it cannot be taken lightly, however, support, understanding and well thought out polices rather than simply making it illegal must be the correct approach);
  • I am an agnostic (preferring to learn what I can about the myriad of religious and spiritual aspects of humanity rather than adhere to something that I cannot prove or disprove);
  • and Mr. Minchin, I am very much aware of our changing climate and fear what our actions now may cause in the future.

That said, I personally do not wish to de-industrialise the Western world.

Far from it; the way forward is not to head back. Without the industrialised west, we would not have the wonders of modern medicine, we would not have the means to feed such a ridiculous population (arguably, do we? I tend to think that we are capable of feeding humanity, yet tend treat our food stocks inefficiently and thus let far too much spoil while many starve – all the while we know that we are capable of incredible storage and shipment of this food.. so it is debatable, true), we are able to travel further/quicker, protect ourselves better from the elements and natural disasters and when political jargon is given a kick up the arse, we are also able to move quickly to assist others following such events.

I personally love Adelaide’s night life; seeing live music or a comedian, getting a nice meal at one of the great restaurants on Gouger St or Rundle St; wondering around while the Fringe is on and capturing what I can of the local and worldwide art. I love the modern west Mr. Minchin and most of the wonders available to us came about through the same principles that have led to our understanding of our changing climate; you got it – science! Science is the building blocks of the industrial world.

I could not imagine anything worse than trading a bag of carrots with the neighbour for a lamb, which I then have to kill and gut myself. I like my jeans and my various t-shirts over skins and roughly woven threaded cloth. This lefty certainly isn’t advocating the destruction of the industrial west!

Sure our system of economy breeds gluttony and greed and this tends to cause the occasional trip-up (euphemism, yeah I know), but it more or less works as a baseline and can be improved upon. This won’t come from the ideology of the ultra-conservatives, nor will it from fantasies of utopia or wonderful little hobbit-styled villages.

It must be the work of open-minded experts across a wide range of fields and experiences that debate over the principles of western society that take us beyond this point and to a more sustainable, industrialised society better prepared to meet the needs of our environment and society. By experts I mean scientists, policy makers, industry leaders and the people that have the feet of the ground; the farmers, many different public servants, even parents. It would take all these people working together and trying to understand their part in the larger picture.

You don’t need to say anything; I realise just how unlikely that is to occur – it’s hard enough to get two people to see eye-to-eye.

De-industrialising our societies will just lead to our extinction or eventually ending up at this point again… I don’t think any reasonable individual truly believes that returning to a life style centuries old would lead to a great improvement (this obviously includes individuals with dogmatic fantasies of an Omni-potent protector). Just take a good look at history; the majority died young, suffered malnutrition, were victim to a whole host of infections and a tyrant had a better chance of being ignored by other countries while brutalising the locals.

Believing that we have improved on that is different to believing that we’ve achieved our goals. We’re still growing, learning and evolving as societies and this makes sense.

The collapse of communism was a lesson into what not to do. There may or may not be benefits in communist principles as there may or may not be in any social structure – that has been debated elsewhere and will no doubt continue to be. We’re learning and that’s a good thing… “See no evil” conservatism just leaves us ignorant and unable to better address social issues, thus unable to improve.

As for the “extreme left”, Mr. Minchin; there are also people that can be considered the “extreme right” who believe that the worldwide scientific community have secretly developed a massive conspiracy, stretching generations, all to one day grow fat on the fear of global warming… the sheer logistics make it completely ridiculous and yet there are enough of these idiots on blogs, in news media and even self-proclaimed “experts” country hopping in an attempt to spread this gospel of epic mad science.

In any case, extremists should be ignored, but not reason, logic and common sense!

To sum it all up;

  • I am in the strong left,
  • I worry about our changing climate and our ability to meet these changes,
  • I do not wish to de-industrialise the west, rather build on our industrial success and knowledge to become more sustainable and adaptive,
  • I personally couldn’t care less as to what social structure is successful or not – it is all part of our development and achieving a more efficient system.

And no, Nick Minchin, the environment is not my religion, it is the place in which I live and just like any home, I believe in caring for it in a meaningful way so it will remain in the best possible condition for as long as it is in my care.