Rudd: Is it clever to call back an angry mob?

Rudd quickly made the call out to Australians, most notably, young Australians, urging them to again be politically engaged.

From my discussions with others in recent weeks, I must conclude that this will largely fall on deaf ears. People that generally share similar views to myself are, put basically, over it. Without doubt the media circus of the past year has stirred up the pot to boiling point and, just like any mob, reason is left somewhere overshadowed by the desire for blood.

Not only are many people resigned to an Abbott government post-2013 federal election, but increasingly, I’m finding people defending it. Why? From the best I can understand, simply because it’s all they feel they have.

Apparently, the ALP, in the public eye, has done nothing but carry on in a like fashion to Neighbours since 2007 and the public seem only too happy to parrot off Abbott’s point about Gillard bringing in a carbon price after saying she wouldn’t (what’s the bet Mr Abbott will now go on and on about Rudd saying that he wouldn’t run against Gillard, only to be repeated by such faithful parrots). Equally, people seem to forget the 2010 election when repeating Tony again in complaining that Australian’s have been denied the chance to vote for their PM twice (obviously incorrect – we voted in 2010 and will so in the coming months).

I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!

The truth of the matter has been that in recent years, the current political arena has been largely successful. Even with a wilfully ignorant, if not intentionally hostile media base, more concerned about personalities than policies and in a hung parliament, Gillard’s era saw in 485 new bills, which included the controversial carbon pricing. In such a hostile environment, Gillard did more than most people could.

The type of criticism I’m hearing reminds of that cliché image of the overweight spectator screaming advice at athletes out on the field, spitting out chewed fragments of hotdog along the way.

The inconvenient truth here is that such commentators hold an unreasonable and uncritical distaste for the ALP in general which has done little but inspired a loathsome character to be seen as the lesser evil – about the best he could hope for.

Which brings me back to the point of this piece; the mob is out for blood – ALP blood. I’ve found that people shy away from critically reviewing Abbott’s position or rapidly foam at the mouth when forced to face it.

I’ve come to the conclusion that, with so many abandoning the ALP, they choose to stubbornly support the Coalition… No matter what. To face up to the truth – that Abbott is no Messiah – leaves them in a political void. Where does one turn if they have rejected the apparent wreckage of the ALP and the decidedly unAustralian policies of an Abbott led Coalition?

A sense of unity may help Rudd in his appeal… but then again, it may not. The townsfolk have their torches lit and are sharpening their pitchforks for whatever date this election ends up being held. The print nailed to every door whispers a more tantalising story to reality and could lead us to being the first country in the world to genuinely try to run the economic model of the liberatrians, failing on each step to improve the lives of the majority in favour of the wealthy minority. Only then may the public realised that they were duped by self-serving interests and be forced to own up to the type of parliament that their blind rage voted in.

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Australian Spills in the Hope We Won’t Slip

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It was said that mining interest brought down the previous Prime Minister and it is probably equally true that the media helped to bring down the following one. More concerned with her fashion, personal life and internal party rivalries than her policies, it’s difficult to see how anyone could stand against such sledging and remain popular.

It’s troubling to think that the media can have such a biased sway over democracy, but it also provides a niche for independent media, with sections of the audience in search of transparent news sources.

Courageous?

While some within the ALP were calling themselves courageous for their continuous support of Julia Gillard, many observes were shaking their heads.

Firstly, this is not an attempt to kick Gillard while she is down – I’m finding myself defending her more often than I ever thought I would in personal conversations (on NewAnthro, I’ve provided my fair share of criticism of many ministers, Julia included). She did her job as best she could and was no better or worse than her predecessor. Both were better in many ways from Howard before them and are leaps and bounds above the current challenger; Tony Abbott.

Yet, for Gillard, there simply was no future. Gremlins within the media had chewed through the break line and if they stayed on that ride… annihilation. It is not courageous to give the country on a platter to an Abbott government.

Abbott Policies are not in our favour

Abbott’s Direct Action Plan is doomed to fail (perhaps intentionally designed to fail). Even if he relied upon the more robust method of carbon sequestration – tree plantation – the scale of the project would see annual wood production grow by more than 300% in the most optimistic measurements. Most concerning, the Direct Action Plan takes our tax dollars and hands it over to private industry for their benefit, not the actual tax payer (more here).

Should our tax dollars go to replacing the light globes in Gina Rinehart’s office? And we’re not talking about something as small as light globes, but millions of dollars.

The Great Northern Development again is a pipedream. Sure, it will not fail as the Direct Action Plan will, but like the plan, this development is entirely about funding profits for private industry.

Beyond the resource boom available in the north, the climate, soil and water security all ensure that whatever infrastructure is built up north – especially in northern WA and NT – will become too costly to maintain by a large community without further avenues of revenue accruement.

Put basically, farming will not be the cash cow for a large northern population, so with mining cash gone post-boom, how will this population afford to fix roads and dams (and there will be a lot of them to ensure enough water supplies in the harsh north) and maintain hospitals and schools? Most resources will need to be shipped in at greater expense (more here).

Soon, the climate and expense of life out there will become too much for most, who will then return to the south. So the infrastructure investment in the north will only be to support mining communities so that these resources can be extracted as quickly as possible. Not for the Australian community mind you – especially if Gina gets the mining tax removed – but entirely for private wealth creation.

And it doesn’t even stop there. Rinehart complains about sharing her profits with labours – implying that Australians don’t want to work because they cannot afford to for less than $10 per five-day week.

Why Mention Rinehart so much?

Why does this matter? An Abbott led government wishes to secure Rinehart’s profits, by removing taxes and making it easier for her to hire such workers.

So, not only are the Direct Action Plan and the Great Northern Development funded entirely by you and I to pay for the needs of wealthy private industry, these same industries, under an Abbott led government, will get tax-breaks and free rein to outsource labour; moves that would remove income to the commonwealth and Australian jobs.

This is why it is not courageous to grip onto your favoured PM as the ride hurtles towards destruction, but insane that someone would place favouritism ahead of a very troubling future where Abbott has no counter-weight to temper his, quite frankly, unAustralian policies.

The election ahead

While I don’t align well with any Australian party, I have to say that I share the sentiment coming from supporters of this Rudd-exchange that an Abbott led government is very concerning. It is a threat to our way of life and the general prosperity of this country. Apart from everything else, what remains is a serious challenge to maintain some resistance against the worst of his policies. If he cannot be defeated entirely, we will need to grit our teeth until the general public wake up to the reality of an Abbott government and vote him out again, but at least, with Rudd, there is a chance for a counter-weight unlike there ever could be with Gillard.

Call Now To Vote For Your Favourite Pollie: Spills and Games of Political Media

Is anyone really convinced that the situation with the ALP is purely internal?

Sure, Australian’s felt a bit off over how Rudd was pushed out, but few seem to remember that public support for him was pretty low before the move. He championed himself on an Obama styled float that left the audience with stars in their eyes…

Something that was largely fantasy, to be quickly eroded when he stopped being a show boat to outdo Howard and got down to work. Work he did too, although mundane as it was to the voter.

Yet Gillard too was popular enough – enough being the key word here… enough and also lucky in gaining the support of independents. Work she has also done as well.

Nothing we are witnessing within the media reflects much in the way of governance, but rather trumpet boys and girls doing little more than the annoying host of a reality show screaming at the audience to pick up their phones to vote for the person they wish to save.

Would there be so much talk about polls and popularity if it wasn’t the same noise over and over again each morning in the papers and morning news? Obviously no, you cannot have talk without the talkers.

Corinne Grant wrote the most refreshing article on the subject yesterday. In short, it’s a nightmare zombie of reality TV pushed on the political arena. The Coalition is enjoying the show, because they are largely on the sidelines, effectively fuelling the fire. But they should be equally concerned if the limelight is swung onto them this coming September.

Perhaps they should be even more concerned if they plan to run with the Direct Action Plan, the proposed 100 new dams, oh and also the Great Northern Development. Such ventures are riddled with nonsense, bad arithmetic and wishful boasting.

And what of climate change; the sudden elephant in the room after Obama’s recent speak? Hard to call climate “crap” now, I would imagine.

The Coalition will be grilled by this substitute for media, harder than the ALP ever was over the Gillard-Rudd tiff.

Which leads me to why I’m currently writing… another spill is in the air tonightoh lord (sorry Phil).

I cannot help but feel that there is a level of sexism involved. Corinne Grant points to evidence of such in her piece, but even more than that, Gillard speaking at the “Women for Gillard” get-together hurt her standing with male voters, if these endless polls are to be believed. Looking through the media, the imagery they choose to use of Gillard also seems more emotional… perhaps weaker… than is ever the case for Rudd or Abbott (both whom always seem to be glaring or talking forcefully – “men of action…”).

Moreover, is the media concerned about anything political except for the ALP tiff or smug comments from the likes of Pyne, Hockey or Abbott? From a casual observer’s point of view, I cannot help but conclude, “no”.

I have heard next to nothing in the way of critiquing the Coalition’s propositions (many of which fail simple mathematics) or some of the comments Abbott seems to stand by. If he is to be the next Prime Minister, you would think a good profile of the person would be in the public eye, but yet he seems to have realised that he is more popular when he largely isn’t seen and the media have been quick to accommodate.

Seriously?

And so we find ourselves, for the umpteenth time, on the cusp of yet another spill, largely because the reality show model that the media has portrayed is sinking in. Regardless which of the two is in leadership, either one will work. Regardless which person from either side of politics is PM, they will be unpopular.

The show, as we are spoon fed it, is far more entertaining than if it stood on the merits of values, effort, results and leadership.

Face-Lift Politics: Why The Aussie Voter is Unimpressed

It’s truly disappointing that the term of Australia’s first female Prime Minister (well over due as it is) will be marred in history with enough drama to embarrass Neighbours. With the ALP failing to gain grounds in popularity, even with a fairly successful history, again the knee-jerk reaction is to seriously talk of yet another face-lift.

A quick look around at Hollywood ought to give these detached politicians the necessary slap to the face; plastic surgery isn’t the answer and the more you do, the uglier the results.

By all rights, the ALP should have an easy ride to an election win, with the alternative being an individual screaming of the 1950’s, with a colourful history for sexist comments, scientific ignorance (examples here) and flawed understanding of 21st century technology and yet, this black and white stereotype has even managed to convince the audience that he is a man for Australia’s future.

How on earth has he done it while the supposed more progressive party has managed to look more like the foaming mass from some primary school volcano experiment?

The answer is probably more obvious to the audience, somewhat removed from all the meetings and chest-beating. The ALP has totally lost its way.

To anyone whom has thought about it, it must seem strange that a senior minister stands by her party while they reject her equal rights for acknowledgement of her relationship.

While the party has brought in reforms that ought to be in the best interest for the country – such as forcing barons to part with a small part of the wealth obtained from common resources and implementing a mechanism suitable to bring us into the 21st with a decreasing carbon-based economy – each step forward comes with two backwards.

Major changes to societal structure requires strong, decisive leadership. What we have instead is a paranoid body quick to run for a “nip and tuck” at the faintest hint of a negative word.

The “party line” for either the ALP or LNP is effectively the same nowadays to the voting body. Our vote goes instead to the lesser evil rather than the greatest good.

Neither a Gillard or Rudd leadership is the answer. The answer is to provide a political ideology that people would be proud to support. What is it that they stand for and how is that something that would improve the lives of the average Aussie?

You could kiss the heads of every baby within this country and it wouldn’t help. The answer for the ALP, indeed both major parties, is to draw a deep line in the sand and make it clear what the individual is voting for, or against, with full knowledge that it isn’t simple rehearsed script to be taken with a pinch of salt, but instead a declaration from someone willing to roll their sleeves up and lead.

Until either party stands up, both can expect a fickle voting body.

To Sophie Mirabella: “Meh” is a Loaded Word.

I know this is a little late, but circumstances as they current are do not allow me to write as much as I would like. Anyway, about a week ago, Liberal minister Sophie Mirabella wrote the article Politics of the “meh” generation just won’t cut it.

Using a recent Lowly Institute poll that found a little over a third of Australian young adults (18-25) don’t seem to care too much about politics, Sophie goes on a wild attack – which I can basically sum up as, “children these days!”

Personally, I think; can you blame them?

About a fortnight before Sophie’s article, I had my own little rant about the state of Australian politics and certain attitudes among groups of Australians. I’ll largely save the reader from repetition, however I have to say that if the young people are less concerned about politics than their social media and technology, it is the fault of Australian politics and nothing more.

I share much of this growing apathy and the minority government we’ve endured in recent years is also, in my opinion, Australia at large expressing the same feelings.

From the outside, the Australian political arena looks more like war for popularity among cola brands. The leaders of the two dominant brands are personally ambitious and apparently paranoid mostly about their brand. I suspect that brand association with real world cola products share a similar result; in that the market is fairly equal overall, with minority buyers dabbling in other brands.

Which will be the last cola brand standing? My guess; stalemate as it really doesn’t matter

If one’s choice does not bare much difference in the result, why should the selection matter?

Likewise young people (and arguably, most voters) are telling the government that they do not see much variation in result for voting in favour of one leader over the other. In either case, it’s another three years of petty squabbling, successful / unsuccessful challengers to the leadership, Abbott complaining ad nauseum about “the boats”, whichever pollie has now been caught out doing something (another reason in itself to lose interest – of course, if it is someone from his own party he insists we let the investigation be completed before casting stones) and the “great big tax on everyone” or Gillard going gladiator on Rudd and boring the rest of us stupid all the while.

If young people are disinterested in democracy, it’s only because they have grown up in an age where it has barely been expressed within Australia. Their living memory consists almost entirely of the Howard years and the petty war since his demise. All they know of mass demonstrations is the sedate and ill-defined “Occupy” movements: if people sleeping in some square are enough to set the police off, could you imagine the result of anti-war protests like those of the 60’s and 70’s?

How could you be anything but apathetic if that constitutes your experience of democracy?

It’s the age old question of nature verses nurture. Clearly we are not witnessing a genetic shift with the next generation and so we are left with environmental factors. I think it is mistaken – if not an intentional scapegoat – to blame this apathy entirely on modern relativism and an over-attachment to newfangled technology and facebook.

No, the blame should rest squarely on the shoulders of the Australian political arena. If young people say, “meh”, it is only because they couldn’t imagine being paid a similar wage to act in a way that should have been left in the playground. If young people do not understand democracy, it is only because they haven’t witnessed it.

It has been a long time since we have had strong leadership, unafraid to make the hard decisions and debate down opposition. It has been decades since the two major parties really polarised and spoke for a distinctive group of Australians in a way that gave true democratic debate meaning. It has been outside of the life time of most young people that politics were about running the country more than marketing a brand.

Sophie has it entirely wrong in my opinion. Maybe she has misinterpreted the meaning of “meh”. It is not simply, “I don’t care”, but rather, “why should I care?

To this question the Australian government has yet to give a convincing answer.

Monckton and the Confusion of Stage Show Denial

I hadn’t realised, until this ever day, an interesting fact regarding the posts of the Moth Incarnate Blog. Of all the many thousands of words and various graphics that I have produced over the past nine months, by a large stretch, the posts of enduring popularity – which on lazy days can count for nearly my entire hit count – are the couple of commentary posts relating to John Abraham and Christopher Monckton. Were I a shallow, stats-driven writer (believe me, the readership here is, unfortunately, low at best), I could easily focus on more sensational spits between reason and misinformation, highly dramatising each blow sent, each eye poked and each dirty word said, or implied… but I may as well use such skills (or in truth, lack there of) for producing scripts for some brain-melting midday soap. Hell, at least I’d be getting paid, I suppose.

Is there any clearer indication that this “climate debate” is nothing more than an entertaining past-time for a large proportion of the blogosphere than that the Abraham vs. Monckton episode still works the search engines?

Anyone who still holds any delusions of Christopher Monckton’s credibility in climate science has either been living under a rock for much of 2010 or is so deep within some paranoid fantasy that Christopher seems sensible… as sensible as little green men controlling the UN to lead the world into new age of oppression, slavery and ultimately part of the spread placed out for our galactic overlords (enter L. Ron Hubbard…). In that regard, I’m a much happier bloke than I was when I set out on this blog – that people where taking Monckton seriously was incredibly disturbing to me. However, as much as many others have wasted so much time going to great lengths to untangle his lies, we see no real ramifications to Chris, personally, for his spread of misinformation. But enough of that.

Over at Watching the Deniers, in a comment stream the other day, an individual whom I can only describe as a troll said something that actually struck me as being dead right, “…the public is saturated and they don’t want to hear about it anymore. So perhaps the deniers are losing now, but the war is already won.”

Indeed, I’ve been wondering where the interest has gone. For, with the scandals debunked (ie. Climategate, exaggeration of the errors in the IPCC’s 4th report etc) and with the aggressive, self-righteous louts of denial de-fanged and dismissed, why is it that the science is now communicated to a much emptier and unenthusiastic space? Most Aussies roll their eyes when they hear about Gillard’s ridiculous climate change committee, but otherwise, few seem to want to talk about climate change at all – or even sustainability. This is incredibly concerning seeing as we’re witnessing many records being broken this year; be it ice loss, coral bleaching events, the global temperature anomaly… We’re also around the apex of peaking oil – probably the most important of the fossil fuels for current human activities. The picture should merit for more action than a simple shrug of the shoulders.

Yet, the bozo troll above most likely got one thing right about the denial movement. Many celebrated deniers probably knew, at least at a subconscious level, that eventually they would be found out – I mean, the hero of denial was a bloody puzzle maker (and what a horrid puzzle he developed to keep many great minds busy for many months). Yet the whole affair, especially over the past year, did it’s job in smothering the public in the climate debate. I think the weak will that we witnessed in Copenhagen and closer to home (Rudd’s back-flipping on tackling climate change, for instance) also helped to provide disillusionment. In short, most felt let down, confused and eventually fed-up with talking about climate change altogether.

Yet, I do not feel that we few who continue to discuss the host of challenges facing this coming century are merely beating a dead horse. A better analogy would be that we’re trying to push a stubborn mule. Sure, the blasted animal might move if it saw the dust storm on the horizon, but at that point, it would be unlikely to outrun the wall of fast approaching sand.  What we need to do is get the ol’ carrot on a stick. Again, I make the call that industry is the only major driver left capable of providing the carrot.

The prevailing paradigms all come back to fast-turnover consumerism. This exposes itself in everything – from electrical devises that have a short lifespan than a pair of shoes, well, from tires having a shorter life span that most peoples shoes if the truth be known, to excessive personal waste and poor quality housing (cheap, pretty, thin-walled suburbia that employs none of the learnt tricks of yesteryear passive heat management and durability, but instead increases the rate of sprawl and requires almost constant climate control). Buy up! Buy up fast!

There are numerous ways around this.

Would people pay more, at least over time, for higher quality, durable technology that is upgradeable and ultimately reclaimable/recyclable (may also include some reward to the user, not unlike the bottle return depots of South Australia)? I believe so.

Would people pay less (at first, possibly a small amount more, but within a decade definitely less) for locally grown produce and other produce that reduces manufacturing costs by reducing and simplifying packaging? I believe so.

If local councils, instead of forking out for new infrastructure in new development plots, paid to upgrade the infrastructure of the neighbouring developed area, promoted apartment construction, localising of industry, better public transport to other close by business districts and used that undeveloped area for minor agriculture, manicured parks and rehabilitated native environments, would they provide an area more attractive, liveable, and economically healthier than the current sprawl mentality? I believe so.

The following graphic always stuck in my mind:

The suggested energy curve of our species, but certainly a good representation of our relationship with fossil fuel oil

This also should represent the current consumerism paradigm. The ideas are already around us, but seemingly as distant to the general public as the buzz of discussions that enriched many European coffee houses of yesteryear. Unfortunately what has created this rift is a stage show, as ludicrous as Monty Python’s ‘Confuse a Cat’, that came in the form of Christopher Monckton, Anthony Watts, Jo Nova, Donna Laframbiose, Andrew Bolt and many others. Now, not only are the general public uninterested, but we who still discuss the problems facing our future seem to feel the need of going around in circles, continuously addressing the same tired lines of denial.

The troll made a valid point. We all fell for the side show of denial. It’s not a new technique; we who employ scientific reasoning encourage debate and free-speech and thus must make time for other ideas. Stephan Lewandowsky made an excellent point yesterday about the contradictions in denial and to adopt another Monty Python quote, we must “stop it! It’s just getting silly!”

It’s clear that denial is baseless and we should feel the right to ignore nonsensical arguments and instead move on to the next phase (a place that we were arguably at already a few years ago) and start asking how are we going to meet this future?

~

Talking Climate Scepticism: Changing the Language of Science

It seems that the science community is finally ready to address “scepticism” appropriately, but so far this has deniers celebrating.

Last week, in Between Science, Media and Sceptics: Do we have a chance? and Honesty, Climate Change and Forgotten Rewards: Meeting a Changing World, I discussed this requirement for re-evaluating just how science is communicated to the public – especially with topics as politically sensitive as climate change. Since the release of the forth IPCC report, we’ve seen a massive movement against science, which has employed countless tactics to confuse and misinform the public, all to stir up and induce paralysis, in a time where change is requires. As an excellent example, this whole strange affair has rightly been associated in Australia to the rise and fall of Kevin Rudd.

The InterAcademy Council (IAC) has just released this review of the IPCC, providing with it numerous suggestions to improve upon what amounted to weaknesses within the politically motivated public arena (another review here, by Gareth Renowden). The hope of these suggestions is to provide a fifth report that is as scientifically compelling (if not more so) as the former reports, but also avoids as many errors, inconsistencies (ie. addressing scientific uncertainties) and ambiguity (to a lay audience) as humanly possible. As we saw with Climategate – one sentence out of millions can lead to a novel of doubt. If we are to be effective in addressing climate change and changing energy sources to maintain our standard of living into the foreseeable future, we need to reduce the room available for Misinformers to exploit for business-as-usual promotion.

I would suggest also a public summery version of the report, which draws heavily on the technically rich full report, but only to a level that is necessary to inform a general reader (but also direct the reader to the technical explanation within the full report, if further information is required). But that’s just my suggestion.

With the style of the IAC review, however, I anticipate people like Jo Nova will soon report a “win for the sceptics”, as she has done in Head of Australian Science Academy issues decree from Pagan Chieftans of Science. Here, Jo has found in the The Australian, an article titled Humans affect climate change. That The Australian publish Andrew Bolt is, in my opinion, a detrimental mark on the paper’s credibility, but that’s beside the point (this article isn’t so bad).

The article points out that the Australian Academy of Science (AAS) has put it’s experts up against anthropogenic climate change (ACC) sceptics, which Nova retorts with, “They finally admit (by inference) that there is a debate. Since we amateurs are beating them in the debates and asking questions they can’t answer…”

Of course there is a debate, as the IAC review also states, “an increasingly intense public debate about the science of climate change…”

The key word here which cannot be overlooked is that the debate is a public debate, rather than scientific in nature. If it were a scientific debate, you would see greater engagement between the participants and stimulating discussions amounting from that. The reason that answers cannot be provided is because the rules applied to both sides are uneven (see Dr. Gliskon’s argument regarding this here). To further illustrate this, Jo later mocks the AAS for attempting to produce a document to clear up common misconceptions (which again stresses the opening point to this post and the call for improved scientific communication) and later she writes, “explain why you are right. Present any evidence. Convince us.”

However, anyone familiar with Jo Nova is also aware of her Skeptics Handbook as well as John Cook’s reply, A Scientific Guide to the ‘Skeptics Handbook’, which Jo, bizarrely, concludes failed to address her questions (I compare both handbooks here). If anything, I feel that Jo has provided an excellent example as to how science has been fallen short in communicating ACC with the general public and allowed people like herself to confuse and misinform in a way that cannot, by scientific debate, be addressed, which returns us to the IAC review.

From the review:

“Operating under the public microscope the way IPCC does requires strong leadership, the continued and enthusiastic participation of distinguished scientists, an ability to adapt, and a commitment to openness if the value of these assessments to society is to be maintained,” said Harold T. Shapiro, president emeritus and professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton University in the United States and chair of the committee.

At no other time has effective science communication been more imperative to meeting the challenges that face our future and as such, it’s good to hear that many establishments are beginning to discuss how to avoid misinformation from corrupting the general message. The first aspect, however unfortunate it is, is to accept the reality of Misinformers – which, as Jo Nova demonstrates, they will celebrate in being acknowledged. As Dr. Glikson discusses and both Jo Nova and Christopher Monckton demonstrate, a public debate cannot follow because one side of the debate is restricted by rigorous rules and the other just doesn’t care about (or understand) the science. What needs to happen is a shake-up on how science and scientists are seen in the general public, how the work is done (ie. to clear up what the peer-view process is, funding etc) and what the conclusions drawn through investigation actually mean (as I discussed late week – we need to explain uncertainty better and on what basis the a scientific consensus can be drawn etc). There is little doubt remaining that non-medical sciences can expect the same level of trust as the local GP, for instance and whatever “ivory tower” that may exists needs to be demolished.

Clearing up the confusion over what climate science is telling us begins with clearing up what science is. Jo Nova doesn’t call to be convinced by the results (although she may not be aware of this), but rather the legitimacy of climate science itself.

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.

Mining Super Tax and the fragile economy

Firstly, this is a subject that I’m far from being an expert on. The closest I have come to mining is once looking into jobs involved in land restoration following a dig. Friends that were somewhat closer to the industry than myself slapped some sense into me – for restoration is often far from adequate, being little more than greenwashing of a destructive habit. That said, I offer my views as an average Joe who is subject to the near endless political hype on either side and am more than willing to debate over the finer details.

I must say, I think that the typical line of opposition that, “this will kill economy and crush our growth,” is beyond saturation so much that it is nothing more than cliché. Whenever any political point is made, the opposition always uses this as a default argument that never seems to amount to more than a “the sky is falling!” scare in retrospect.

That aside, from my understanding, this is aimed at an industry that has quite good profit margins. That is to say, some company is given the rights to dig up a part of the country, pull useful stuff out and then sell it back to us and to interested groups abroad and make a killing on the rates that they sell it for. It’s as though you had a bunch of alpacas and your neighbour says that he has the equipment to shave the animals for you, but not only chops up your field running over it in his tractor, but then sells some of the wool back to you at high rates and the rest for even higher rates to the wool products company on the road to town. He and his advocates tell you that the profits merit the risk he takes on, but still he is making a packet on the wool your animals are growing.

In the case of the mining companies, they do take on risk, but that would be part-and-parcel of their risk management (and insurance) planning, not their profits. They decide the price they sell the material for and manage high profit returns – seeing as they are one of few providing the raw material, it sounds a bit like a monopoly to me. If I found out that the bloke next door was making a killing on my wool, I’d either ask for a bigger cut of the sales to the company down the road or demand more wool at much lower prices per weight which I would then sell off myself. I wouldn’t deny him a profit for his work, but I would expect some returns for my stock. Excuse me if I’m wrong, but isn’t this a simplified version of Rudd’s argument?

The argument that these companies would move off if we asked for a fairer cut for the minerals that they extract from our soils is one I shrug off for obvious reasons; if they can continue to make a profit, they’ll continue to mine, if not, there are still a number of benefits to be made.

If mining lost its steam in Australia, it would lead us to shift back to a farming country rather than the pothole country that we’re becoming. Unlike mining, farming at least has the option of remaining viable and sustainable (pending more work and a shift away from European methods employed), where mineral extraction is limited and finite. We, as a world community, would also be forced to look seriously at our habits as well, where mining wasn’t so prolific.

We’ve lived near a century and a half of excess; cheap and easy energy sources and ample mineral sources and increasingly efficient means to collect and convert it. This has led to an economic model where we use it up hard and fast. The amount of energy used to create what we tear open and throw out is nothing short of madness. The amount of useful material that makes its way to the tip is ridiculous. As supply of the raw materials shrinks, we would be forced to adopt much more reuse and would recycle as much as possible. I’d argue that this is our inevitable future regardless. One day a company cannot laugh that making a products that lasts is bad for business.

It would force economic models to give ever more appropriate value to material rather than whatever price an extraction company wishes to charge for it. If we continued to upgrade our technology every few years, it would force industry to produce material that can be recaptured and reused easily.
Unlike my alpaca metaphor above, what materials take from the soil can only happen once and is limited in supply. The fossil fuel stuff we extract is eventually burned or converted into fertilizers, plastics and other materials. The minerals we collect from the earth are generally converted into other substances and become the bulk of the constructed environments in which we live. Too often this process is a one way road back to a dump somewhere.

It’s not that I’m green in my thinking; it just seems that we’ve become too far unattached from the life of struggle that our ancestors endured as part of day-to-day life that any form of humility is stripped from our psyche, leaving us like Pac-man on speed without a next level once we’ve consumed all in our current maze. There is no long term planning, just a lot political hot air about a fragile, insatiably hungry economy ever waiting to die if we even hint of improving our practices.

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

Whilst driving in this morning, I heard about a grey whale being spotted in Mediterranean waters (see here and here) and some are saying that scientists suggest that this is the result of climate change (see here for an example). This troubles me as it does nothing to help assist public awareness of climate change and such statements tend to be nothing more than sensationalism which should be left to the baseless opposition; the denial camp.

Sure, if we see a pattern change over time, then one could conclude that this is the work of climate change. Freak events such as this and rain fall in the Arctic this April are, at this point, single observations and although strange, not conclusive evidence of our changing climate.

This is the confused type of thinking that leaves people like Trump publicly saying absurd things like a snowstorm disproves climate change, or Donna Laframboise’s ridiculous “education” regarding climate science, or Jo Nova’s 1959 Navy sub coming through the ice (an excellent review is found here).

Stooping to such sensational statements undermines the reality of climate change in the public eye and indeed gives such stupidity as that stated above validity through association, much like Monckton’s “expertise” regarding climate science being nothing more than the result of true experts publicly debating with him (ie. “Well the experts discuss it with him, so he must know his stuff…” No he doesn’t. “We’ll they both say these events prove or disprove climate change, so what am I to think?” In both cases: They don’t! Climate change is long term differences, not a single freak event).

By making these statements, we in fact encourage the denial camp to demonstrate the same “evidence” in rebuttal and further confuse the public, which we could argue helps the agents of doubt.

Clear and concise education is required and in response to such stupidities, a simple and clear message that freak events, single or short term observations are NOT indications of climate change in either direction. In doing this we can strengthen public awareness, allowing their cynicism to be based on the best of our understanding of the natural world rather than the result of any given think tank.

This will mean that they could quickly write-off the ignorance illustrated above and wouldn’t stand for religiously inclined political leaders such as Tony Abbot providing their children a baseless education lesson (highlighted here).