November 24, 2013

ABC Radio National

Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Scott Stevens:
Pokemon Go is the harbinger of the end of the world as we know it.
(Pokémon Go: Revolution, Fad or Omen?, The Minefield, 7 July 2016)

Scott Stephens:
Dead Poet's Society demonstrates why Aristotle did not believe that you should teach children to think for themselves.
Because the first thing they need to be taught is obedience.
In other words, respect for a master; someone who knows more than they do.
The next thing they need to be taught is the proper place of the moral emotions.
They need to be able to feel what is good, [to] feel what is beautiful, before they should be empowered to think for themselves — much less [to] think critically.
Dead Poet's Society is this orgy of free thinking and the wilful casting off of tradition.
That is the least moral approach [to] how these sorts of things ought to be taught in schools. …
If we're thinking about ethics as critical thinking … or even [of] empowering kids to think for themselves and simply not adopt tradition, or whatever their parents said, especially at an early age …
This is nihilistic.
This is a recipe for disaster.
And, in fact, it's a counter-ethical or anti-ethical position to take.
(Does ethics belong in schools?, The Minefield>, 13 October, 2016)

Alvin Toffler (1928 – 2016):
Herbert Spencer maintained that 'Education has for its object the formation of character', which, freely translated, means the seduction or terrorization of the young into the value systems of the old. (Future Shock, Pan, 1970, p 377)

I Am Special


Lynne Malcolm:
[A] study of 15,000 college students in the US [by Jean Twenge and Kevin Campbell] showed that those from today's generation scored significantly higher on narcissistic personality traits than those from the two generations before.

Jean Twenge (1971) [Assistant Professor of Psychology, San Diego State University]:
[The] key difference between self-esteem and narcissism [is that somebody] high in self-esteem values individual achievement but they also value their relationships and caring for others.
Narcissists are missing that piece about valuing, caring and their relationships, so they tend to lack empathy, they have poor relationship skills.
[Those] communal and caring traits tend to be high in most people with self-esteem but not among those who are high in narcissism. …

[There] is a book called Good to Great that looks at the CEOs of companies …
[It turns out] that the most successful CEOs were not the narcissistic ones, it was those who were humble and hard-working and gave their teams credit.
They were team players, they got along well with others. …

So in a stock market simulation … when the stock market is going up, people who score high in narcissism, they do well, but the minute it goes down they crash harder than everyone else. …

[There is evidence of a] generational shift toward more narcissism … across many age groups …
  • there is more materialism,
  • that plastic surgery rates have gone up so much,
  • that people are buying bigger houses so each person can have more space,
  • that there is troubles in relationships. …

[People who are narcissistic … are actually less successful [in the long run] because they take too many risks, they are overconfident instead of just confident.
[And they] tend to alienate other people because they don't care about others.

[The] key to success, sure, having some self-efficacy, which is different from self-esteem, thinking — yes, I know I can do this — that's beneficial.
Self-control and hard work, that's beneficial.
And perspective-taking, something that narcissists don't do very well, to take someone else's perspective, to think about what it's like to walk around in their shoes.
That is so useful for getting along with people, whether that's at work or in your relationships.
[So it is] those qualities — self-efficacy, self-control, perspective-taking [— that] are actually more likely to lead to success than self-esteem or narcissism. …

[There] is some indication that is a little more interest in social problems and … caring for others than there was five or six years ago.
So the recession … may put the brakes on some aspects of narcissism.
[The] interesting question is what's going to happen when the economy comes back?
Will the caring and concern for others and interest in social problems and equality fade again as the economy improves?

(The Narcissism Epidemic, All In The Mind, 21 December 2014)

Would you like to know more?

November 9, 2013

Australian Centre for Independent Journalism

Green Army: Research and Development

Kim Carr [Minister for Science]:
We don't have to accord superstition and wishful thinking with the same status as science.
This is much more than fairness requires, and much more than reason permits.
(Australian Museum Eureka Prizes, 2010)

Philip Chubb [Associate Professor of Journalism, Monash University]:
… I'm accusing The Australian of ideological bias.
All the evidence is there.
It's absolutely clear.
It has ceased to function as a news outlet according to the ordinary meaning of that term.
(George Munster Award Forum, Big Ideas, ABC Television, University of Technology, Sydney, 2 December 2010)

Wendy Bacon [Investigative Journalist]:
The underpinning of journalism is the pursuit of the truth. …
(Climate Change Policy, A Sceptical Climate, 2011, p 19)

James Painter [Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, Oxford University]:
Australia had the most articles, and the highest percentage of articles with sceptics in them, ahead of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Norway and India.
This finding tallied with a previous report we had published which strongly suggested that climate scepticism was common in the English-speaking media in countries like the UK, USA and Australia.
It is nothing like as common in the media in developing countries, such as Brazil, India and China, and in France.
(Climate Change in the Media: Reporting Risk and Uncertainty, I B Taurus, Oxford)

CLIMATE SCIENCE IN AUSTRALIAN NEWSPAPERS


Wendy Bacon

[No] reports that could be called exaggerated or alarmist were found in this sample [Feb-Apr 2011 and Feb-Apr 2012].
(p 213)

An Australian Purge

[Mike] Steketee examined the [climate change] sceptic claims and found them wanting in evidence and logic.
He then investigated the issue of what interests might be behind them.
This is exactly what a independent and professional journalist might be expected to do.
Some time later, Steketee was told the paper no longer wished to publish his column.
Not long after that he left News Corp. …

Other journalists who had written strong reports on climate science had also left.
One of these was rural reporter Asa Wahquist who left the paper in 2010.
Crikey later reported that she had told a journalism education conference that it was “torture” trying to report climate change at The Australian.

In addition … Leigh Dayton a well respected science reporter who had written many reports on climate science left the paper in 2012.

The Australian’s coverage of climate change has come at a cost.
It has [been forced to sacrifice] some of its best reporters [in order] to pursue its political agenda on climate change.
(p 171-2)

Would you like to know more?


News Corp Australia vs Fairfax Media in Melbourne and Sydney

The newspaper that most actively promotes climate scepticism is also the biggest selling newspaper in Australia, the Herald Sun. …
The next most sceptical publication is The Daily Telegraph
(p 91

[Audiences] of The Age and the SMH are more likely to read news about climate science and reports of peer reviewed research and features quoting a range of sources with competing perspectives.
They rarely receive climate sceptic material and are more likely to have read investigations of the economic interests underpinning climate scepticism. …

[On the other hand, climate] science reporting in the News Corp tabloids [the Herald Sun and The Daily Telegraph,] is dominated by [sceptical commentary and scathing attacks] on journalists and scientists who research and publish material that accepts the climate consensus position. …
Apart from occasional news stories based on press releases from climate research organisations, readers receive almost no information that would enable them to understand the complexities or likely impacts of the impact of climate change domestically or internationally.
The research findings of climate scientists are largely rendered invisible for News Corp audiences [and there is] no critique of the sceptic position.
(p 133)

[In other states,] Hobart’s The Mercury and Brisbane’s The Courier Mail did not promote scepticism [during the study period (Feb-Apr 2011 and Feb-Apr 2012).]
[However, since] Brisbane editorial director David Fagan left News Corp in June 2013, The Courier Mail has begun to publish Andrew Bolt’s columns including a number of sceptic ones about climate change.
(p 211)


Australia Leads the Way

  • Australia … emits more greenhouse gas emissions per capita than any other country in the OECD.

(p 5)

  • Australia may have the highest concentration of [climate change] scepticism in its media in the world.

(p 20)


The Australian

  • Publications targeting high-income readers, the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Australian, provide more coverage of climate science than those targeting lower income readers [ie the tabloids.] …
  • The Australian … is Australia’s only national newspaper targeted at a general audience {[and] casts itself as a national agenda setter.}

(p 11)

  • [Out of 602 articles making a significant mention of climate science published across two three month periods in 2011 and 2012, The Australian] produced 24% … compared to 15% in the Sydney Morning Herald, which had the second highest number of articles. …
  • Nearly half (47%) of the articles and 50% of the words in The Australian’s coverage did not accept the consensus position. …
  • While only 5% of articles [rejected] the scientific consensus about anthropogenic climate change [45%] of articles [questioned] the scientific consensus [or asserted] that its validity was a matter of debate.

(p 23)

  • While scientists overwhelmingly agree on anthropogenic climate change, The Australian represents climate science as matter of opinion or debate …
  • The Australian was more sceptical in 2012 than 2011 …
    [In 2012,] 59% of the words allocated to climate change coverage either suggest[ed] doubt or reject[ed] the scientific consensus …
    {[In particular, commentary] about climate science … increased in 2012 and was more sceptical [than in 2011.]}
  • A substantial proportion of the articles that [accepted] the consensus position were written in ways that undermined the credibility of climate scientists and those that support climate change policies opposed by The Australian.
    [Articles which ostensibly] accepted the scientific consensus position or specific scientific findings … underplayed their seriousness [and the] need for urgent action. …
    {[Findings] that suggested climate change impacts [might] be less than previously reported [were highlighted. …]}
  • News articles published by The Australian were less sceptical than commentary
    [That being said, the] news articles that questioned the scientific consensus position [were, on average,] 51% longer than [those] that accepted it. …

    {News selection tends to favour angles that are negative towards climate science organisations and climate scientists.
    [Coverage focuses on] scientific findings that suggest less urgency or cast doubt on the reliability of climate scientists and advocates for action.
    (p 145)}

  • Commentary about climate science published by The Australian was almost equally divided between [that which accepted] the consensus position [and that which] did not. …

(p 24, emphasis added)

  • The Australian attacks journalists at Fairfax Media and the ABC who [accept] the scientific consensus position …
  • The Australian promotes … the work of climate sceptics without critiquing their work or the interests they promote. …
  • The Australian frames the climate science in terms of an ideological battle and its critics as dogmatists who threaten free speech and rationality.

(p 25, emphasis added)

Would you like to know more?


CLIMATE POLICY: THE AUSTRALIAN INFORMATION MONOPOLY


Wendy Bacon

Market Share by Readership

(Adapted from Figure 1, p 23)
Ownership
Readership
News Limited3,707,00065%
Fairfax1,439,00025%
Seven West Media547,00010%
Total5,963,000100%

[Conservative / neoliberal newspapers control 75% of the media market including 65% by a single owner.]
News Ltd [the Australian subsidiary of News Corporation,] dominates the newspaper market and in four state capital cities owns the only metropolitan newspaper.
Fairfax controls one national business paper and three metropolitan newspapers, The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Canberra Times. …
(p 61)

The two biggest News tabloids — The Herald Sun and The Daily Telegraph [combined readership 2,282,000 or 40% of the market] — have been so biased in their coverage that it is fair to say they ‘campaigned’ against the [Clean Energy Future package] rather than covered it.
[Furthermore,] The Herald Sun and The Daily Telegraph columnists are syndicated across News Ltd mastheads including some regional ones.
They also publish blogs, which carry a large amount of material in similar vein to print material and regularly appear on television and radio, supported by corporate marketing techniques designed to amplify their impact. …

Bias is an editorial accomplishment achieved through a variety of journalistic techniques including
  • headlining,
  • the selection and prominence of topics and sources,
  • [the] structuring and editing of stories, [and]
  • [the] selection and promotion of commentators, editorials and cartoons or other visuals.
(p 62)

The issue is not one of free speech or the right of a few individuals to push their ideas but the market power of a dominant company to build support for particular policies and ideas. …
Particularly important is the media’s role in determining the visibility or invisibility of groups and sources and the ways in which different audiences are told (or not) what interests are at stake.
[Business] sources were afforded far more access than those of civil society …
Little space was given to sources, including business sources, which argued that the carbon policy would bring economic and environmental benefits.
The fossil fuel business lobby were featured prominently, often with little scrutiny of their claims. …

[That] 31% of news and feature articles [relied on] no more than one source indicates that many sources [were] not held to account. …
[This] opens up possibilities for well-resourced interests to gain high visibility for their views through press releases including commissioned research and consultants reports tailored to the news cycle.
Private power as well as government power needs to consistently scrutinised by journalists.
[The] success of big business sources is certainly aided by their interconnected advertising, public relations and lobbying activities.
(p 63)

The Editors:
For a newspaper to censor or deliberately avoid points of view, such as these, because they conflict with or undermine its own position would be a fundamental breach of trust.
Fairfax editors must hold their readers in such low esteem that they will only share with them information that will help shape pre-determined opinions.
What a deceptive manipulation of public discourse and an insult to the readers.
What disregard for the essence of news and journalism. …
(The Australian, June 2011)
[The] results of this study [indicate] that both the SMH and The Age [are] more likely to be neutral and [evenly balanced] than The Australian. …

It is clear that The Age is a more progressive than The Australian but there is no evidence in this study that The Age engages in censorship.
Indeed it appears to be considerably more balanced than any News Ltd paper. …

To be positive or negative towards a policy does not imply that a journalist loses impartiality, fairness or a critical approach.
Columnists such as the News Ltd’s Mike Steketee, Fairfax’s Ian Verrender and Peter Hartcher wrote a range of incisive pieces making critical points about both sides of the carbon policy debate.
The SMH’s Lenore Taylor held Abbott’s policy and the claims of industry up to scrutiny more consistently than nearly all other journalists.
(p 65)

{[Thirty years ago,] the Norris inquiry into Victorian print media had also found dangerous levels of concentration but no definite evidence of bias.}

[Twenty] years ago, a Parliamentary Select Inquiry investigated the Australian print media and found that while the media was highly concentrated and this had an impact on diversity, the Inquiry could find no evidence that the media, in particular News Ltd was biased. …

Is it in the public interest for a media organisation that dominates the market to ‘campaign’ as The Daily Telegraph and The Herald Sun have done, on an issue which a huge majority of the world's scientists have found threatens the lives of millions?
In what circumstances does a lack of diversity and balance, represent a threat to democracy?
(p 66)

[The evidence] suggests that many Australians did not receive fair, accurate and impartial reporting … in relation to the carbon policy in 2011.
This suggests that rather an open and competitive market that can be trusted to deliver quality media, we may have a case of market failure.

Would you like to know more?

November 7, 2013

American Association for the Advancement of Science

Green Army: Research and Development


A World Without Hunger?


Tim Wheeler & Joachim von Braun

Crop yields are more negatively affected across most tropical areas than at higher latitudes, and impacts become more severe with an increasing degree of climate change.
[Those] parts of the world where crop productivity is expected to decline under climate change coincide with countries that currently have a high burden of hunger.
[There] is a robust and coherent pattern on a global scale of the impacts of climate change on crop productivity and, hence, on food availability …
[Climate] change will exacerbate food insecurity in areas that already currently have a high prevalence of hunger and undernutrition.

(Climate Change Impacts on Global Food Security, Science, Vol 314, 2 August 2013, p 511)

Would you like to know more?


The Human Dimension


Noah Diffenbaugh & Christopher Field

Terrestrial ecosystems have experienced widespread changes in climate over the past century.
It is highly likely that those changes will intensify in the coming decades, unfolding at a rate that is at least an order of magnitude — and potentially several orders of magnitude — more rapid than the changes to which terrestrial ecosystems have been exposed during the past 65 million years.
In responding to those rapid changes in climate, organisms will encounter a highly fragmented landscape that is dominated by a broad range of human influences.
The combination of high climate-change velocity and multidimensional human fragmentation will present terrestrial ecosystems with an environment that is unprecedented in recent evolutionary history.

However, the ultimate velocity of climate change is not yet determined.
Although many Earth system feedbacks are uncertain, the greatest sources of uncertainly — and greatest opportunities for modifying the trajectory of change — lie in the human dimension.
As a result, the rate and magnitude of climate change ultimately experienced by terrestrial ecosystems will be mostly determined by the human decisions, innovations, and economic developments that will determine the pathway of GHG emissions.

(Changes in Ecologically Critical Terrestrial Climate Conditions, Science, Vol 314, 2 August 2013, p 490)

Would you like to know more?

October 19, 2013

Ministry of Truth

Live Long and Prosper

Edward Bernays (1891−1995):
[The] conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society.
Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government that is the true ruling power of this country.
We are governed, our minds molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. …
In almost every act of our daily lives, whether
  • in the sphere of politics or business, [or]
  • in our social conduct or our ethical thinking,
we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons … who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses.
It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.
(Propaganda, Horace Liveright, 1928, New York, p 38, emphasis added)

George Orwell / Eric Blair (1903–1950):
Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past …
(Nineteen Eight-Four, 1949)

Propaganda:
A concerted set of messages aimed at influencing the opinions or behavior of large numbers of people.
(Wiktionary, 16 February 2013)

Shadows of Liberty (2012)


Thomas Paine:
When men yield up the exclusive privilege of thinking, the last shadow of liberty quits the horizon.
(1776)

Danny Glover:
Every aspect of our lives — from what we buy, what is sold to us, who produces it — all those things are connected.
It's not only a monopoly of wealth, it's a monopoly of information …

Noam Chompsky:
The United States is unusual among the industrial democracies in the rigidity of the system of ideological control … exercised through the mass media.


Political Disposition versus Integrity


Robert Manne: Professor of Politics, Latrobe University

[Paul Keating] made a terrible mistake in the mid-80s …
[He] allowed Rupert Murdoch's … News Limited, to take possession of … 70% of the Australian newspapers …
{[The] Press matters … not only [because it] sets the tone for radio and television news [but also because of its] enormous online presence …}

[Murdoch] combines … his passion for money and his passion for power in a highly original and innovative way.
[In] the United States, with Fox News, he has profoundly distorted the trajectory of the most important country in the world …
[He is] a highly destructive figure …

[The Australian newspaper] took a very strange turn when a very typical Murdoch employee, Chris Mitchell took over in 2002.
[Over the last decade] it has played an extraordinary role [in shaping] the politics of the nation [into what] we've become accustomed to …
[The] overwhelming issue of the age … is climate change.
[And] it has had a profoundly bad effect amongst the elite … on the question of climate change. …
At the heart of democratic politics in Australia is the need to confront the distorting impact the Murdoch press has had on our national affairs. …

[The Australian is] populist, conservative, neo-liberal [and] right wing – absolutely within the framework of Rupert Murdoch's politics …
But is was also a bullying paper.
[There] were certain people, like Tim Flannery, or myself, or various other people, David Marr …
There would be hundreds of articles over the years ridiculing, distorting, so on and so forth. …
There's an indigenous academic Larissa Barendt who wrote a silly tweet …
[For] about a month, her character was assassinated.
And she's not a robust person … she suffered a great deal. …

I felt someone had to stand up against this.
[And that] it was [important] not only to analyse it, but … to appear not to be frightened of the predictable response. …
There were [about] forty or fifty attacks [in response to my Quarterly Essay.]
[There] was one Saturday paper, in which … fifteen or sixteen thousand words [were] devoted to showing what a fool I was.

[For] me, it was very important that I fought back.
[There] is an old joke which says that you can never conduct an argument with any organisation … that buys ink by the barrel load …
… I have tried to show you can.

So … there are [three] elements to The Australian
  • that it's connected to the 70% of the Press in fighting for its causes …
  • the ideology of the paper and …
  • the bullying style [that plays such] a damaging role in the capacity of the country to have a democratic politics. …

[Tim Flannery is] one of the great writers of Australia … a very fine public intellectual and a very fine man. …
News Limited has tried to destroy his credibility.
[I believe] it's very important to resist. …

[There are] two papers that I read a fair bit of:
  • The Australian is right wing,
  • The Guardian is left wing. …
So I have a balanced intake.

[The Guardian] definitely has a bias to the Left.
But I trust it's journalists [—] even to bring up cases which are awkward from their point of view. …
[They] discuss policy.
And they pursue even contradictions within the world of the Left.
Whereas I just don't think that's true of The Australian.

So there's not only the issue of [general political] disposition.
[There's] also the question of integrity …
[If] I read The New York Times, I don't [always] agree with it …
But I know they're [at least] trying to get it right. …

The Australian, in the early 90s, was quite a good paper — when Paul Kelly was the editor.
[We've] just watched as it's gone down hill …

(Media Matters, Perth Writers Festival, Big Ideas, ABC Television, 26 March 20012, emphasis added)


Is News Corp Failing Science?


Union of Concerned Scientists
  • Over a recent six-month period, 93% of Fox News Channel’s representations of climate science were misleading (37 out of 40 instances).
  • Similarly, over the past year, 81% of the representations of climate science in the Wall Street Journal’s opinion section were misleading (39 out of 48 instances).

UCS’s examination finds that the misleading citations include
  • broad dismissals of human-caused climate change,
  • disparaging comments about individual scientists,
  • rejections of climate science as a body of knowledge, and
  • cherry picking of data.

[Much] of this coverage denigrated climate science by either
  • promoting distrust in scientists and scientific institutions or
  • placing acceptance of climate change in an ideological, rather than fact-based, context.

In 2007 … Rupert Murdoch claimed coverage of climate change in his media outlets would improve over time.
[This] has not been achieved. …
(p vii)

UCS calls upon News Corp
  • to undertake a thorough examination of how its media outlets portray climate science …
  • to develop standards and practices for communicating the subject to its audiences [and]
  • to help its staff to differentiate between ideological beliefs and scientific facts …
(p viii)

Would you like to know more?


Media Issues


The context of the turmoil in Australian media ownership in recent years may explain the level of support of Australian journalists for ownership regulation.
There is strong support for statutory limits on media ownership — 82% think the government should prevent increased concentration of ownership in the print media, and 53% feel the government should force Rupert Murdoch's dominant News Ltd group to divest newspapers.
Journalists also favor stringent limits on foreign ownership and cross-media ownership.
Journalists employed by the Fairfax group, recently taken over by Canadian Conrad Black, and by the public broadcast media are more in favor of regulation. …
[Among News Ltd journalists:
  • 72% agreed that "government should prevent increased ownership concentration" and
  • 40% that "government should force News Ltd (Murdoch) to divest in print media newspapers".]

A total of 59% give journalism a high rating for honesty and ethics. …
Most journalists … believe they have a high level of influence on public opinion.

(John Henningham, Characteristics and Attitudes of Australian Journalists, Electronic Journal of Communication, Vol 3, No 3 & 4, 1993)

Big Ideas 2013

ABC Radio National: Big Ideas


The Last Tree


Arlo Guthrie (1947)

I remember bein' a little kid one day, you know, and the teacher said:
When you see the white blast out of the school room window and the mushroom cloud, be sure and get under the desk right away. …
And that's fine, when you're five years old, or six years old.
You have to do what they say.

But when you're 12 or 13 and you start realizing it doesn't matter which way you fry.
That these people are actually insane, or they're just stupid.
And, either way, you're not expected to listen to them any more.
And so there was a time in the 60s, when it seemed like the whole world had a bunch of young people who said:
What else are these people tellin us, that is as ridiculous as that?
And so, we had, what we would call these days … a cultural revolution. …
It didn't change everything.
But it changed enough stuff.

Now we're talking about the environment.
We're arguing about it. …
We weren't doin that 50 years ago.
There was only one way to think about it, and that was:
Pollute to make money is the best way to do everything!
And that's changed.
It's changed because people started askin questions.

It doesn't matter whether they're on the Right, the Left, the this or that …
There needs to be people in every group who ask that group questions that an outsider could never ask.
So it's important to make friends in all the different groups, in all the different cultures, in all the different places …
And so that you support each other by having at least that attitude. …

I hate idea that, if you have enough money, and you have enough wealth, and you have enough influence — that you can influence entire nations, and groups of people, and take advantage of their, either, poverty or their fears, or their whatever … so that you profit by it.
Only for a short run.
You can destroy the whole world, for what?
Money.

You know, there's an old Cree Indian saying …
After you've poisoned the last lake,
And you've cut the last tree,
And you've killed the last river,
Only then will people realize that you can't eat money. …
I don't want to wait for that.
It's important to get out and talk about that.
You don't have to be right.
It's not a matter of bein right.
It's a matter of not being … herded, like some mindless cattle herd just goin down the road, goin along with the program, without at least askin.
And that's when things change.
When people are at least not afraid to ask.

(Big Ideas, ABC Radio National, 15 August 2013)

October 18, 2013

Working Life 2

Belinda Probert


Housework as a Female Occupation


The home, which is [your husband's] paradise, is
  • your handiwork,
  • your refuge,
  • your pride,
  • your castle,
  • your very, very own,
  • your actual self,
  • a part of you inseparable.
It is your heart and brain translated into the arrangement of daily life.

(The Australian Housewives' Manual, 1885)


The Future of Work


[Technological] change is not a neutral process driven by scientific progress or an abstract concern with efficiency.
On the contrary, specific technologies are developed and applied as a result of pressure form identifiable social groups pursuing their particular [interests.]
Nor is it the case, once these technologies have been developed, that the way they are used will be shaped by considerations of broad social benefits.
Rather, the use that is made of them is determined by the economic and social relations within which they are introduced.
(p 164)

[Whether the] labour-saving potential of new technology [will be realized or not] is not something which will be democratically decided or fairly shared if [the existing system of] economic, social and political [relations] remains unchanged.
(p 171)

It is more likely that technological change will lead to permanent unemployment for some … rather than shorter working hours for all.
(p 172)

October 7, 2013

Sectoral Impacts

World Bank: Four Degree World


Ecosystems and Biodiversity


Analysis of the exposure of 185 eco-regions of exceptional biodiversity … to extreme monthly temperature and precipitation conditions in the 21st century … shows that within 60 years almost all of the regions … will experience extreme temperature conditions …
[Large-scale] loss of biodiversity is likely to occur … with climate change and high CO2 concentration driving a transition of the Earth´s ecosystems into a state unknown in human experience.

(Turn Down the Heat, 2012, p 53)

August 23, 2013

Working Life 1

Belinda Probert


Labor and Capital


… Australian trade unions face increasing attacks from both militant employers [seeking] to exclude unionists from their [enterprises] and the ['neoliberal'] or 'dry' faction [of the] Liberal Party which hopes to see trade union influence … greatly reduced.
(p 50)

These groups [fundamentally oppose] the ideals of Justice Higgins [— ideals] which underpin the arbitration system.
For them there can be no minimum wage based on civilized standards — only [a] wage that [maximizes profit in a] competitive global economy.
(p 51)

August 12, 2013

Climate Briefing 2

John Houghton


Action Required


[Actions that could] be taken now to slow climate change … at little or no net cost and that are good for other reasons [ie 'no regrets' policies, include:]
  • a reduction of deforestation,
  • a substantial increase in afforestation,
  • [measures to reduce] methane emissions,
  • an aggressive increase in energy [efficiency, and]
  • increased implementation of renewable [energy sources. …]
[At] the current state of knowledge the range 400-500 ppm in carbon dioxide concentration is where further detailed consideration of costs and impacts should be concentrated. …
[Stabilisation] of carbon dioxide concentration by 2100 … will require very rapid growth in … non-fossil fuel energy sources [along with technology transfer to developing countries to enable them to industrialize in a sustainable manner.]
(p 264)


World energy demand and supply


The two billion poorest people in the world (less than $US 1000 annual income per capita) each use an average of 0.2 toe [tonnes of oil equivalent] annually …
[The] billion richest in the world (more than $22,000 annual income per capita) use … 5 toe per capita annually [— almost twenty-five times as much.]
The average annual energy use per capita [globally] is about 1.7 toe [or] 2.2 kilowatts (KW).
The highest rates of energy consumption are in North America where the average citizen consumes an average of about 11 kW. …
(p 269)


The support and financing of renewable energy


Renewable energy of [a scale sufficient to stabilise carbon dioxide levels] will only be realised if it is [cost] competitive …
[Currently fossil fuels are subsidised at an average cost of US $40 per tonne of carbon.]
(p 306)

A start with incentives would be [to redirect such subsidies to renewable alternatives. …]

Government R & D, averaged worldwide, currently runs at about ten billion US dollars per year or about 1% of worldwide capital investment in the energy industry [ie one trillion dollars.]
On average, in developed countries it has fallen by about a factor of two since the mid 1980s.
[However, in the UK,] government sponsored energy R & D fell by about a factor of ten from the mid 1980s to 1998 when, in proportion to GDP, it was only one-fifth of that in the USA and one-seventeenth of that in Japan. …
[Sustained] growth of 30% or more per year … in wind and solar energy [if required if carbon dioxide levels are to be stabilised at around 450 ppm by 2020.]
(p 307)

Policy instruments
  • … energy pricing strategies (carbon or energy taxes and reduced … subsidies)
  • reducing or removing other [agricultural and transport subsidies] that ten to increase … emissions;
  • tradeable emissions permits;
  • voluntary programmes and negotiated agreements with industry;
  • utility demand-side management …
  • [appliance and fuel economy] energy efficiency standards …
  • research and development [into] new technologies …
  • market pull and demonstration [projects …]
  • renewable energy incentives during market build-up;
  • [education and training] directed [at] necessary behavioural changes …
  • accelerated depreciation or reduced costs for consumers …
  • technological transfer to [and capacity building in] developing countries;
  • ['no regrets'] options that also support other economic and environmental goals.

(Global Warming: The Complete Briefing, 2004, p 309)

July 28, 2013

The Age of Consequences

CSIS-CNAS: Security Implications of Climate Change

Winston Churchill (1874 – 1965):
The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to a close.
In its place we are entering a period of consequences.

Implications of Global Climate Change

  • Soft power and north-south tensions will increase
  • Migration and immigration will rise, producing a strong backlash
  • Public health problems will grow
  • Resource conflicts and vulnerabilities will intensify
  • Nuclear activity will increase, with attendant risks
  • Challenges to global governance will multiply
  • Domestic political repercussions and state failure will occur
  • The balance of power will shift in unpredictable ways
  • China’s role will be critical
  • The United States must come to terms with climate change

(p 106-8)


Environmental and National Security Implications of Three Climate Scenarios


Assumptions


Expected (2010-40)

  • Average 1.3°C warming
  • 0.23 meters of sea level rise
  • Approximately 30 year time frame


Severe (2010-40)

  • Average 2.6°C warming
  • 0.52 meters of sea level rise
  • Approximately 30 year time frame


Catastrophic (2040-2100)

  • Average 5.6°C warming
  • 2.0 meters of sea level rise
  • Approximately 100 year time frame


Environmental Stresses


Expected (2010-40)

  • Water scarcity affects up to 1.7 billion people
  • Changed distribution of some infectious disease vectors and allergenic pollen species
  • Up to 3 million additional people at risk of flooding
  • Up to 30 million more people at risk of hunger due to crop failure


Severe (2010-40)

  • Water scarcity affects up to 2 billion people
  • Increased burden from malnutrition, diarrheal, cardio-respiratory and infectious diseases
  • Up to 15 million additional people at risk of flooding
  • Changes in marine and ecosystems due to weakening of the meridional overturning circulation


Catastrophic (2040-2100)

  • Water scarcity affects 3.2 billion people
  • Increased morbidity and mortality from heat waves, floods, and droughts
  • Approximately 30% loss of coastal wetlands
  • Up to 120 million more people at risk of hunger due to crop failure
  • Possible collapse of the meridional overturning circulation


Security Implications


Expected (2010-40)

  • Conflict over resources due to and driving human migration
  • Immigrants — or even simply visitors — from a country in which there has been a significant disease outbreak may not be welcomed and could be subject to quarantine and lead to loss of national income from restricted tourism
  • Dissatisfaction with state governments could radicalize internal politics and create new safe havens [for violent extremists] in weak and failing states
  • A strengthened geopolitical hand for natural gas exporting countries and, potentially, biofuel exporting countries …
    [A] weakened hand, both strategically and economically, for importers of all fuel types
  • Social services will become increased burden on central government where available
  • The regional positions of Turkey and others will likely be strengthened as a result of the water crisis


Severe (2010-40)

  • Wealthiest members of society pull away from the rest of the population, undermining morale and viability of democratic governance
  • Global fish stocks may crash, enmeshing some nations in a struggle over dwindling supplies
  • Governments, lacking necessary resources, may privatize water supply …
    [Past] experience with this in poor societies suggests likelihood of violent protest and political upheaval
  • Globalization may end and rapid economic decline may begin, owing to the collapse of financial and production systems that depend on integrated worldwide systems
  • Corporations may become increasingly powerful relative to governments as the rich look to private services, engendering a new form of globalization in which transnational business becomes more powerful than states
  • Alliance systems and multilateral institutions may collapse — among them, the UN, as the Security Council fractures beyond compromise or repair


Catastrophic (2040-2100)

  • Migration toward US borders by millions of hungry and thirsty southern neighbors is likely to dominate US security and humanitarian concerns
  • A shrinking Russian population might have substantial difficulty preventing China from asserting control over much of Siberia and the Russian Far East …
    [A high] probability of conflict between two destabilized nuclear powers …
  • Rage at government’s inability to deal with the abrupt and unpredictable crises
  • Religious fervor, perhaps even a dramatic rise in millennial end-of-days cults
  • Hostility and violence toward migrants and minority groups
  • Altruism and generosity would likely be blunted
  • US military’s worldwide reach could be reduced substantially by logistics and the demand of missions near our shores
  • Electricity generation and distribution highly vulnerable to attack by [violent extremists] and rogue states


(Adapted from Table 3, p 104)

July 26, 2013

George W Bush

Blue Army: Persons of Interest




(Acts of War, Afghanistan — Inside Australia's War, Episode 1, ABC Television, 2015)

John Kennedy (1917 – 63):
I will never compromise the principles on which this country is built, but we're not going to plunge into an irresponsible action just because a fanatical fringe in this country puts so-called national pride above national reason.
(Chris Matthews, Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero, Simon & Schuster, 2011, Reader's Digest, 2013, p 215)

Proverbs:
Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting, get understanding.
(4: 7)

Jonathan Haidt (1963):
[Ignorant] people see everything in black and white.
They rely heavily on the myth of pure evil and … are strongly influenced by their own self-interest.
The wise are able to:
  • see things from others' points of view;
  • appreciate shades of grey; and
  • [choose] a course of action that works out best for everyone in the long run.
(The Happiness Hypothesis, 2006)

Peter Singer (1946):
[It] is a mistake to divide the world neatly into good and evil, black and white without shades of grey, [because it] eliminates the need to learn more about those with whom one is dealing.
For an unreflective person to have a sense of "moral clarity" that disregards the shadings in human motivation and conduct can be a vice, not a virtue.
(The President of Good and Evil, p 250)

Dennis Howitt:
[The] thinking of terrorists exhibits the sort of cognitive distortions that are often found in people who commit other sorts of violence.
These … include the tendency to over-generalize the enemy's perceived failings to encompass the entirety of the population.
Perceptions are also dichotomised so that they are either good or they are bad with no shades of grey in between.
(Introduction to Forensic and Criminal Psychology, 4th Edition, Pearson, 2011 / 2012, p 229)

George Washington (1732 – 99):
The nation which indulges towards another an habitual hatred or an habitual fondness is in some degree a slave.
It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest.

George W Bush (1946):
[Iran, Iraq and North Korea] constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world.
(State of the Union Address, 29 January 2002)
Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make.
Either:
  • you are with us; or
  • you are with the terrorists.
(2001)

Theodore Roosevelt (1858 – 1919):
He who is not with us absolutely and without reserve of any kind is against us, and should be treated as an alien enemy …
We have room in this country for but one flag.
We have room for but one language.

William Clifford (1845 – 79) [Philosopher and Mathematician]:
Men speak the truth to one another when each reveres the truth in his own mind and in the other's mind …
[But] how shall my friend revere the truth in my mind when I myself am careless about it …
[When] I believe things [simply because] they are comforting and pleasant? …
The credulous man is father to the liar and the cheat. …

Charles Wesley (1707 – 88):
A charge to keep I have,
A God to glorify,
A never dying soul to save,
And fit it for the sky.

To serve the present age,
My calling to fulfill,
O may it all my powers engage
To do my Master's will!
(George W Bush, A Charge to Keep, 1999)

George W Bush (1946):
The liberty we prize is not America's gift to the world; it's God's gift to humanity. …
(2001)

I looked [Vladimir Putin] in the eye [and] I found him to be very straight forward and trustworthy.
We had a very good dialogue:
I was able to get a sense of his soul.
(Taking Control, Putin, Russia and the West, 2011)

Bush's Ethical Failure


This book [attempts] to cover all the possibilities.
When Bush speaks about his ethics, he is either sincere or he is insincere.
If he is insincere, he stands condemned for that alone.
I have started with the opposite, more generous assumption: that Bush is sincere, and we should take his ethic seriously, assessing it on its own terms, and asking how well he has done by his own standards. …
(p 267)

Whether [or not] he really believes in the … rhetoric that he uses … it is clear that Bush has no real interest in the policy details needed to achieve the aspirations he has voiced.
He has failed to follow through on most of the commitments he has made to work for a better, more just society.
He has said that deep, persistent poverty is unworthy of America's promise, but the number of Americans living in poverty increased in both 2001 and 2002.
(p 265)

Instead of combating that increase, Bush has pressed for tax cuts that hobble the government's capacity to do anything about it.
Rather than ensure that the nation he leads is a good global citizen, Bush has spurned institutions for global co-operation and set back the task of making the rule of law, rather than force, the determining factor in world affairs.
He has launched an unnecessary war, costly in [blood and treasure,] with a final outcome that is still uncertain.
His protection of the steel industry and his signature on a law authorising the largest-ever subsidies to American farmers shows his strong rhetoric about free trade to be a brutal hypocrisy that is driving millions of impoverished farmers in other countries deeper into poverty.
A comparison between the size of these subsidies and Bush's proposed increase in foreign aid makes his compassion look stingy.
(p 266)

He speaks of America's calling to promote democracy around the world, but his administration reacted positively to the first reports of an apparently successful coup against the left-leaning, but democratically elected, Venezuelan government of Hugo Chavez.
Following the Enron scandal, he pledged to increase enforcement against corporate rip-offs, but his 2003 budget actually reduced funds for such enforcement by $209 million.
[If] a candidate campaigns by stressing his moral character and his honesty, and then fails to make even a serious attempt to implement his campaign promises, he has damaged the moral fabric of democracy.
(p 257)

Handicapped by a naive idea of ethics as conformity to a small number of fixed rules, he has been unable to handle adequately the difficult choices that any chief executive of a major nation must face.
(p 266)

(The President of Good and Evil, 2004)


Saving Lives


[In] 2003 Bush … became convinced of the need for a major US initiative to tackle HIV/AIDS at a global level …
The bill he signed stipulated only that
  • one-third of the funds going to prevention should be set aside for programs that exclusively promote sexual abstinence until marriage;
    Scientific American:
    [The US spent $1.4 billion] over a 10-year period from 2004 through 2013 promoting abstinence … in sub-Saharan Africa.
    [According] to the most comprehensive independent study [to date] the money was more or less wasted. …
    Instead … one of the most important factors associated with lower levels of risky behavior was the number of years women remained in school. …
    [In addition, previous studies] showed that … at least a million lives [were saved] by making anti-HIV medications more widely available …
    (August 2016, p 12)
  • the remainder was available for use in programs promoting condom use. …
(pp 126-7)

[Started] under President George W Bush in 2005 the President's Malaria Initiative, or PMI, is … one of the best run and most effective of the US's worldwide health efforts. …
[The WHO has estimated that] 4.3 million fewer malaria deaths occurred between 2001 and 2013 [than had been expected based on] malaria patterns in 2000 …
The PMI accounted for a substantial part of [this ~47% reduction in mortality.]
The Program is based on four interventions:
  • insecticide-treated mosquito nets,
  • indoor spraying,
  • testing and treatment with artemisinin-based drugs, and
  • preventive treatment of pregnant women.
The next phase of the strategy, under the Obama administration, [seeks] to reduce malaria deaths by a [further 30% by 2020] in 19 target countries in sub-Saharan Africa and in the Greater Mekong region of Asia. …
Efforts will even aim to eliminate the disease in some countries. …

The secret to the initiative's success [is its logistical rigour.]
PMI's approach is holistic: [taking] responsibility for every link in the chain, from procurement to quality control.
[It] is a model [of] sustained focus on a limited number of targeted interventions in countries with a high burden of disease. …

[Nevertheless,] the overall global budget for malaria control is still projected to lag by more than $2 billion a year compared with what the mission requires …

(Global Role Model: A successful malaria program enters its second phase, Scientific American, May 2015, pp 16-7)

July 24, 2013

Competition and Morality

Bertrand Russell: Power

Edward Gibbon (1737 – 94):
The various modes of worship, which prevailed in the Roman world, were all considered
  • by the people, as equally true;
  • by the philosopher, as equally false; and
  • by the magistrate, as equally useful.

Walter Bagehot (1826 – 77):
The best reason why Monarchy is a strong government is, that it is an intelligible government.
The mass of mankind understand it …
It is often said that men are ruled by their imaginations …
[But] it would be truer to say that they are governed by the weakness of their imaginations.
(The English Constitution, 1867)

Competition


To the unphilosophical propagandist, there is his own propaganda, which is that of truth, and the opposite propaganda, which is that of falsehood.
If he believes in permitting both, it is only because he fears that his might be the one to suffer prohibition. …

[However, for the philosopher,] any useful purpose which is to be served by propaganda must be not that of causing an almost certainly erroneous opinion to be dogmatically believed, but, on the contrary, that of promoting judgement, rational doubt, and the power of weighing opposing considerations …
[This purpose can only be served] if there is competition among propagandas. …

[The philosopher] will advocate that, as far as possible, everybody should hear all sides of every question.
Instead of different newspapers, each devoted to the interests of one party and encouraging the dogmatism of its readers, he will advocate a single newspaper, in which all parties are represented.
(p 154)


Moral Codes


Morality … has had two divergent aspects.
  • [Positive morality] has been a social institution analogous to law …
  • [Personal morality] has been a matter for the individual conscience.
(p 156)

[No] nation of antiquity recognised any legal or moral limits to what might be done with defeated populations.
It was customary to exterminate some and sell the rest into slavery. …
The vanquished, having no power, had no claim to mercy.
This view was not abandoned, even in theory, until the coming of Christianity.

Duty to enemies [remains] a difficult conception.
Clemency was recognised as a virtue in antiquity, but only when it was successful, that is to say, when it turned enemies into friends; otherwise, it was condemned as a weakness.
When fear had been aroused, no one expected magnanimity: the Romans showed none towards Hannibal or the followers of Spartacus.

In our day, almost equal ferocity has been shown towards the victims of the white terrors in Finland, Hungary, Germany, and Spain, and hardly any protests have been aroused except among political opponents. …
The terror in Russia, likewise, has been condoned by most of the Left.

Now, as in the days of the Old Testament, no duty to enemies is acknowledged in practice when they are sufficiently formidable to arouse fear.
Positive morality [is] only operative within the social group concerned, and is therefore … in effect, a department of government.
Nothing short of a world government will cause people of pugnacious disposition to admit, except as a counsel of perfection, that moral obligations are not confined to a section of the human race.
(p 164)

Broadly speaking [positive morality …]
  • is on the side of the powers that be …
  • does not allow a place for revolution, …
  • does nothing to mitigate the fierceness of strife, and …
  • can find no place for the prophet who proclaims some new moral insight. …

The world owes something to the Gospels [—] though not [as] much as it would if they had had more influence.
It owes something to those who denounced slavery and the subjection of women.
We may hope that in time it will owe something to those who denounce war and economic injustice.
In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it owed much to the apostles of tolerance [and,] perhaps it will again in some happier age than ours.

Revolutions against the mediaeval Church, the Renaissance monarchies, and the present power of plutocracy, are necessary for the avoidance of stagnation.
Admitting, as we must, that mankind needs revolution and individual morality, the problem is to find a place for these things without plunging the world into anarchy.
(p 165)

July 13, 2013

Categories and Dimensions

Live Long and Prosper


The Needs of the Many


Our administration favours the many instead of the few.
This is why it is called a democracy.


Pericles (c495 – 429 BCE)




(Adapted from Dan Kahan & Mary Douglas)








(Adapted from Shalom Schwartz in Tim Jackson, Prosperity Without Growth, 2nd Edition, 2017,
Figure 7.2, p 136)


Left Wing

Right Wing

ProgressiveLibertarianConservative
SociallyLiberalLiberalConservative
EconomicallySocialistLiberalLiberal


Progressive

Conservative

CommunityIndividual
Utopian FutureMythical Past
Long TermShort Term
CooperationCompetition
TrustFear
Prisoner's DilemmaZero Sum
SolidarityInsecurity
CohesionAtomization
WeMe
OursMine
Stakeholder ValueShareholder Value

JusticeFreedom
ReciprocityFreeriding
ProductivityRent Seeking

PoorRich
PovertyWealth
ViceVirtue
UndeservingDeserving
DisadvantagePrivilege
LeanersLifters
ParasitesProducers
DeterrentsIncentives
SticksCarrots
Spending CutsTax Cuts

Social InsurancePhilanthropy
RedistributionSpur of Poverty
Fair SharesWinner Takes All

PowerlessPowerful
WeakStrong
LosersWinners
VanquishedVictor
SlaveMaster

InclusionExclusion
UniversalismParochialism
CosmopolitanismExceptionalism
DiversityConformity
DevianceNormality
MulticulturalismNativism
IntegrationAssimilation

InterdependenceIndependence
Enlightened Self-interestNaked Self-interest
FairnessInequality
SchoolsPrisons
ParticipationAlienation

Social DemocracyLiberal Democracy
Communist OligarchyPlutocratic Oligarchy

Free SocietyFree Market
Positive FreedomNegative Freedom
Freedom as Non-dominationFreedom as Non-interference/td>
NeorepublicanNeoliberal

Public InterestPrivate Interests
Effective GovernmentIneffective Government
Weak CorporationsStrong Corporations

CivilityPolitical Correctness
SolidarityNanny State
OptimismPessimism
Openness to ExperienceThreat Sensitivity

ConfidenceUncertainty
CitizensConsumers
AbundanceScarcity
Risk ToleranceRisk Aversion
HarmPurity
RefugeeEconomic Migrant

GovernmentCorporations
RegulationMonopoly

AutonomySecurity
RedistributionTrickle Down
InterventionIsolation

EducationEnterprise
Human RightsProperty Rights
ExpandersPunishers
MeliorismFatalism

RightsResponsibilities

DiversionIncarceration
Judicial DiscretionMandatory Sentencing
DecriminalizationProhibition
PreventionDeterrence

Equality

Hierarchy
AffiliationDominance
RevolutionRestoration
MeritHeredity
RuledRulers

FollowerLeader
PopulismElitism
MercantileFeudal
ProletariatBourgeoisie
LaborCapital

Gesellschaft

Gemeinschaft
SocietyCommunity
ModernityTradition
ScienceReligion
CommerceLand
Free LaborSlavery
Natural RightsInherited Rights
MechanizationManual Labor
IndustryAgriculture
ManufacturingFarming
UrbanRural
DemocracyAristocracy
RepublicMonarchy
ReformReaction
ChangeContinuity
ProgressStability
GrowthStagnation


Bertrand Russell (1872 – 1970)


The philosophy of the Greeks reveals throughout its stages the influence of a number of dualisms.
In one form or another these have continued to be topics about which philosophers write or argue.
At the basis of them all lies the distinction between truth and falsehood.
Closely connected with it … are the dualisms of good and evil, and of harmony and strife.
Then there [are the dualisms] of appearance and reality … mind and matter, and freedom and necessity.
Further, there are cosmological questions concerning whether things are one or many, simple or complex, and finally the dualisms of chaos and order, and of the boundless and the limit. …

Truth and falsehood are discussed in logic.
Good and evil, harmony and strife, are questions belonging … to ethics.
Appearance and reality, and the question of mind and matter, might be set down as the traditional problems of the theory of knowledge, or epistemology.
The remaining dualisms belong to ontology, or the theory of being.

(Wisdom of the West, 1959, p 14-5)

July 12, 2013

Climate Briefing 1

John Houghton

James Lovelock (1919):
[Gaia] is no doting mother tolerant of misdemeanors, nor is she some fragile and delicate damsel in danger from brutal mankind.
She is stern and tough, always keeping the world warm and comfortable for those who obey the rules, but ruthless in her destruction of those who transgress.
Her unconscious goal is a planet fit for life.
If humans stand in the way of this, we shall be eliminated with as little pity as would be shown by the micro-brain of an intercontinental ballistic nuclear missile in full flight to its target.
(The Ages of Gaia, 1995, p 212)

The Unity of the Earth


The Gaia scientific hypothesis [helps us] to recognise two things: …
  • the inherent value of all parts of nature, and …
  • our dependence on the Earth and on our environment …
(p 204)


Exploitation


Tropical forests … contain perhaps half of all Earth's biological species.
[Only] about half of the mature tropical forests that existed a few hundred years ago still stand.
At the present rate of destruction, all will be gone by the end of the twenty-first century.
(p 198)

[The] amount of fossil fuel that we now burn worldwide every year [injects about a million years worth of fossil carbon into the atmosphere.]
(p 199)


The world's forests and deforestation


The total area covered by forest is almost one-third of the the world's land area, of which 95% is natural forest and 5% planted forest.
  • About 47% … are tropical,
  • 9% subtropical,
  • 11% temperate and
  • 33% boreal.
[The] net loss of forest area during the 1990s was an estimated 940,000 km^2 (2.4% of total forest area.) …
Deforestation of tropical forests averaged about 1% per year.

(p 250)


Environmental Values


In the methodology and the practice of science are many assumptions of value. …
  • that there is an objective world of value out there to discover,
  • that there is value in the qualities of elegance and economy in scientific theory [and]
  • that complete honesty and cooperation between scientists [is central] to the scientific enterprise.
(p 206)


Stewardship — Dominion


[The story of the Garden of Eden leaves us] with a picture of the first humans as 'gardeners' of the Earth …
[Seeing the world as a garden suggests] four things:

  • A garden provides food and water and other materials to sustain life and human industry. …
    The Earth provides resources of many kinds for humans to use as they are needed.

  • A garden is to be maintained as a place beauty. …
    Humans are to live in in harmony with the rest of creation and to appreciate the value of all parts of creation.
    [A] garden is a place where care is taken to preserve the multiplicity of species, in particular those that are most vulnerable. …
    Gardens are meant to be enjoyed.

  • A garden is a place where humans [can express their creativity.] …
    [Scientific] and technical knowledge coupled with the enormous variety of the Earth's resources … create new possibilities for life and its enjoyment [as well as great] potential for evil …
    [Good] gardeners intervene in natural process [only] with a good deal of [cautious] restraint.

  • A garden is [a place] to be kept so as to be of benefit to future generations.

(pp 208-209)


The Will to Act


We are not short of statements of ideals.
[What is lacking is] the capability and resolve to carry them out. …

[Action] addressing environmental problems depends not only on knowledge … but on the values we place on the environment and our attitudes towards it. …
[What we must recognise is] that, just as
  • the totality of damage to the environment is the sum of the damage done by a large number of individuals,
  • the totality of action to address environmental problems is the sum of a large number of individual actions to which we can all contribute.
Edmund Burke (1729-1979):
[No one makes] a greater mistake than [he who does] nothing because he could only do so little.
(p 211)


The Precautionary Principle


[Significant] anthropogenic climate change is not an unlikely possibility but a near certainty …
[It] is no change of climate that is unlikely.
The uncertainties that … have to weighed lie in the magnitude of the change and details of its regional distribution. …

An argument … sometimes advanced for doing nothing now is that by the time action [cannot be avoided, better] technical options will [have become] available. …
But [this] argument works [both ways.]
The thinking and … activity generated by considering appropriate actions now … will itself be likely to stimulate the … technical innovation that will be required [later.]
(p 229)


Climate Insurance

[There is a greater than 66% probability that unmitigated] climate change [will,] in the long term … exceed the capacity of natural, managed and human systems to adapt.
(AR4, IPPC, 2007, p 65)
With typical levels of [global] economic growth being between 2-4% per annum, [six economic models have estimated] the cost of [stabilising carbon dioxide levels] at 450 ppm [at] less than one year's economic growth over fifty years [ie < 2% per year].
(p 235)

(Global Warming: The Complete Briefing, 2004)

July 7, 2013

Background Briefing

ABC Radio National

Malcolm Turnbull (1954):
I regret to say, that a number of the state Labor governments have, over the years, set priorities and renewable targets that are extremely aggressive, extremely unrealistic, and have paid little or no attention to energy security. …

Tony Wood [Director, Energy Program, Grattan Institute]:
The policy that drove the 40% of electricity in South Australia coming from wind was actually a federal government policy introduced originally when John Howard was Prime Minister under a Coalition government for the Renewable Energy Target. …
[Industry then capitalised on the renewable energy target by building wind farms in the state with the most wind, that is, South Australia.]
So I would say that if you wanted to place blame on anybody for undertaking an aggressive renewable energy target and not thinking through the consequences, that blame could just as easily be laid, if not more so, at the foot of the federal government than the state government.
(System Black, 6 November 2016)

Climate Antiscience


There is currently no published scientific evidence to positively link wind turbines with adverse health effects. …
The evidence on shadow flicker does not support a health concern. …
[Wind] turbines of contemporary design … produce very low levels of infrasound. …
The risk of blade glint from modern wind turbines is … very low.
[The] closeness of the electrical cables counters the electromagnetic field [generated by wind turbines], as does shielding with metal armour. …
[Evidence is limited, therefore] it is recommended that relevant authorities take a precautionary approach and continue to monitor research outcomes.

(NHMRC Public Statement, July 2010)


Table 3 (Adapted): Typical A-weighted sound levels for different sources

ActivitySound pressure level (dBA)
Busy general office60
Car travelling at 64km/h at 100m55
Typical wind farm (at moderate wind speed 7 m/s)*40 ± 5
Background noise in rural area at night30 ± 10
*Based on sound level measurements taken from multiple resident locations near two Victorian wind farms, at distances 500–1,000 m from the nearest turbine.

(p 8)


Table 4: Examples of sources of infrasound

Natural environmentHousehold and industryHuman body
Wind
Waves
Waterfalls
Air conditioning
Rail traffic
Power plants
Breathing
Chewing
Heart beat
Head movement


Infrasound from wind farms has been found to be well below the hearing threshold of 85 dBG, and therefore inaudible, even as close as 185 m from the turbines.
(p 10)

(Wind farms, sound and health — Technical information, Victorian Department of Health, April 2013)

Would you like to know more?

July 2, 2013

Values and Virtues

Live Long and Prosper




Abraham Maslow, (1908 – 1970)


Peterson and Seligman

VirtuesCharacter Strengths
WisdomCuriosity
Love of learning
Judgment
Ingenuity
Emotional intelligence
Perspective

Courage

Valor
Perseverance
Integrity

Humanity

Kindness
Loving


Justice

Citizenship
Fairness
Leadership


Temperance

Self-control
Prudence
Humility


Transcendence

Appreciation of beauty and excellence
Gratitude
Hope
Spirituality
Forgiveness
Humor
Zest


Moral Foundations Theory

(Jonathan Haidt)
CareHarm
FairnessCheating
LibertyOppression
LoyaltyBetrayal
AuthoritySubversion
SanctityDegradation

Martin Luther King Jnr (1929 – 68):
Ultimately, it isn't so important how long you live.
The important thing is how well you live.

Noam Chomsky (1928):
[We] have two choices:
  • we can decide to be pessimistic, decide nothing's possible and quit and help guarantee that the [worst] will happen, or
  • we can put in whatever effort we can as individuals to try to improve things and maybe it will make the world better. …
That's not much of a choice.
(Noam Chomsky, American linguist, philosopher & activist, Sunday Profile, ABC Radio National, 6 November 2011)

John Stuart Mill (1806 – 73):
[The] utilitarian standard … enjoins and requires the cultivation of the love of virtue … as being above all things, important to the general happiness. …
(Chapter IV)

The entire history of social improvement has been a series of transitions by which one custom or institution after another, from being a supposed primary necessity of social existence, has passed into the rank of a universally stigmatized injustice and tyranny.
So it has been with the distinctions of
  • slaves and freeman,
  • nobles and serfs,
  • patricians and plebians;
and so it will be … with the aristocracies of color, race, and sex.
(Utilitarianism, Fraser's Magazine, 1961, Chapter V)

Karl Popper (1902 – 94):
Instead of the greatest happiness for the greatest number …
[One] should demand … the least amount of avoidable suffering for all …
(The Open Society and Its Enemies, Volume 1: The Spell of Plato, 1945)

Russel Hardin:
The moral impulse of utilitarianism is constant …
[But] our decisions under it are contingent on our knowledge and scientific understanding.
(Morality within the Limits of Reason, 1990)

G E Moore (1873 – 1958):
An ethical law has the nature not of a scientific law but of a scientific prediction …
[It] is always merely probable, although the probability may be very great.
(Principia Ethica, 1903)

Immanuel Kant (1724 – 1804):
To help others where one can is a duty, and besides this there are many spirits of so sympathetic a temper that, without any further motive of vanity or self-interest, they find an inner pleasure in spreading happiness around them and can take delight in the contentment of others as their own work.
Yet I maintain that … action of this kind [has] no genuinely moral worth [because] its maxim lacks moral content, namely the performance of such actions, not from inclination, but from duty.
(H J Paton, Translator, Kant, The Moral Law: Kant's Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals, Hutchinson, 1966, p 10, emphasis added)

Neal Stephenson (1959):
It is upon moral qualities that society is ultimately founded.
All the prosperity and technological sophistication is of no use without that foundation …
(The Diamond Age, Penguin, 1996, p 322)

John Rawls (1921 – 2002):
The natural distribution is neither just nor unjust; nor is it unjust that persons are born into society at some particular position. These are simply natural facts.
What is just and unjust is the way that institutions deal with these facts.
(Quoted by Michael Sandel, Justice: What's A Fair Start?, February 2011)

June 24, 2013

Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson

PBS American Experience


Theodore Roosevelt (1858 – 1919):
We must handle the water, the wood, the grasses … so that we will hand them on to our children and children's children in better and not worse shape than we got them. …

Americanism … is a question of spirit, of conviction and purpose, not of creed or birthplace.
The test of our worth … is the service we render.

David McCullough (1933) [Biographer]:
[TR] thought that what would destroy America was the 'prosperity at any price' attitude, the love of … 'soft living,' and a get-rich-quick theory of life. …

Roosevelt felt that a war would be good for the country.
It would stir up blood.
It would bring us together.
It was a noble aspiration, rather than the kind of self-serving grimy business of commerce and the mercantile ambitions of the country. …

Somebody once said of him that if you took all of Theodore and put it in a pot and boiled it down and down, what you've have at the bottom of the pot after that all was over was the preacher-militant. …

David Grubin:
… Roosevelt believed it his duty to urge people to do better.
He called the presidency 'a bully pulpit.'

Theodore Roosevelt [Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Naval War College, June 1897]:
Cowardice is the unpardonable sin.
No triumph of peace is quite so great as the supreme triumphs of war.
The Nation must be willing to pour out its blood, treasure, and its tears like water rather than submit to the loss of honor and renown. …
(David Grubin, TR, PBS American Experience, 1996)

Woodrow Wilson (1856 – 1924):
Modern industry has so distorted competition as to put it into the power of some to tyrannize over many and enable the rich and strong to combine against the poor and weak. …
[The] President of the United States is [no] mere department of the Government [—] he is a human being trying to cooperate with other human beings in a common service. …

Jay Winter [Historian]:
Wilson's notion [was] that democracy was not only good for America but … good for the world …
[He entered the] war in 1917 because [he believed] the cause of war … was the existence of aristocratic, militaristic regimes, whose interests had nothing to do with the people.
Give the power to the people, Wilson believed, and wars would be impossible.
A democratic world would be a world without war. …
(Carl Byker & Mitch Wilson, Woodrow Wilson, PBS American Experience, 2002)

Ken Burns & Lynn Novick:
[World War I and] the anti-German propaganda produced by the Wilson administration's newly created Committee of Public Information set off a wave of hysteria about Germans and German Americans.
Sauerkraut was renamed 'Liberty Cabbage'.
Dachshunds were stoned to death.
Schoolchildren destroyed their German textbooks.
And an Illinois mob lynched an American citizen who's only crime had been speaking German over a neighbour's fence.
(A Nation of Drunkards, Prohibition, 2011)

A New Nationalism


[At 51, Theodore Roosevelt was] still ambitious, still driven to wield power, yet he held no political office and had little hope of one.
William Howard Taft was now President, and Roosevelt himself had put him in office, but he believed that Taft was turning against him, siding more and more with the conservative wing of the Republican Party, crippling many of the reforms for which Roosevelt had fought so hard. …

[In the summer of 1910, TR] called for a 'New Nationalism,' …
The New Nationalism … implies far more governmental interference with social and economic conditions.
Every man holds his property subject to the general right of the community to regulate its use. …
[He] attacked the courts as pro-business, advocated taxes on income and inherited wealth, stronger conservation measures, workman's compensation laws, the prohibition of child labor.

In June 1912, the Republicans met in Chicago [and nominated President Taft to run for a second term. …]

Roosevelt's [break-away Progressive Party] endorsed a sweeping charter for
  • votes for women,
  • a minimum wage,
  • abolition of child labor,
  • unemployment insurance,
  • old-age pensions.
John Morton Blum [Historian]:
He came out for a social welfare program far more advanced than anything the nation was going to know until the 1930's.

William Harbaugh [Historian]:
Here is the inception … of Social Security, even of Medicare in that platform. …

Theodore Roosevelt:
We stand for a living wages.
Wages are subnormal if they fail to provide a living for those who devote their time and energy to industrial occupation.
A standard high enough to make morality possible, to provide for education and recreation, to care for immature members of the family, to maintain the family during periods of sickness, and to permit a reasonable saving for old age.
We hold the seven-day working week is abnormal and hold that one day of rest in seven should be provided by law. …

William Harbaugh:
There was no possibility whatever that the Progressive Party could actually win the election.
It's simply inconceivable that, on its first run, a third party should have polled enough votes.
Roosevelt lost in a landslide, and the Democrats [under Woodrow Wilson] captured both houses of Congress. …
His defeat struck a blow to the [progressive wing of the Republican Party] from which [it] never recovered …
His rebellion had made a Democrat President, and the Republicans would not forgive him.


A World Without War


[Wilson and his advisors envisioned] a new world order based on democracy. …

[Key] Republicans, led by Senator Henry Cabot Lodge [were] determined to voice their opposition to giving up US sovereignty to [proposed the League of Nations. …]

Wilson warned that the League was the only hope for reconciliation among Germany, Britain and France.
Without it, he prophesied that there would be a "Second World War."
Woodrow Wilson:
I do not hesitate to say that the war we have just been through, though it was shot through with terror of every kind, is not to be compared with the war we would have to face next time.
What the Germans used were toys as compared with what they would use in the next war. …
[Cabot] Lodge introduced a series of amendments … that severely limited American commitments to the organization.
[When these proved unacceptable to Wilson] the League of Nations went down to final defeat in the Senate.