Ecology

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If you’ve been watching my Twitter stream recently, you’ll know that I’ve been complaining about the cicadas. Here’s why.

I recorded the ambient sound here at Bunjaree Cottages about half an hour ago. Please put on your headphones, turn it up full, and press the play button.

Play

Now imagine that going continuously for about ten hours. All day. Every day. You’re welcome.

DiG Festival logo: click for official websiteThis coming Wednesday I’m catching the Shitkansen north from Sydney to Newcastle for the inaugural DiG Festival and Conference: digital plus interactive plus green technology.

I won’t repeat the event’s own website. You can read that for yourself. The key days are this coming Thursday 3 and Friday 4 October 2013.

But I will say that apart from the conference program itself, I’m interested in catching a few glimpses of the city. It’s been three years since I visited Newcastle to speak at the National Young Writers Festival, and four years since I looked around properly and wrote my Letter from Newcastle. So of nothing else, there’ll be an observational essay about that.

There’s a strong-looking conference thread about the future of online payments — could the fact that Commonwealth Bank is a major sponsor have something to do with that? — and I’ll be writing about that for Technology Spectator. It’ll be a nice follow-up to my recent piece about Westpac’s $2 billion invisible bank. And I’m sure I’ll be writing about other things for other outlets.

If you’re in Newcastle at the time, don’t forget to say hi. I plan to stick around until Saturday afternoon.

Here’s a brief video of this morning’s delegation of Crimson Rosellas (Platycercus elegans) at Banksia Cottage, one of the Bunjaree Cottages, which is where I’ve been living for the last week.

If the embedded video isn’t working for you, you can watch it on YouTube.

It’s a relatively warm night at the end of spring here at the Bunjaree Cottages in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney. Quiet? Tell that to the critters down by the dam!

Here’s a brief sound snippet recorded a few minutes ago. I’ll post something longer in due course, because I think it’s worth recording the ambient sound.

Play

Can anyone identify any of the creatures here?

ABC chair Maurice Newman, who is not a climate scientist or even any kind of scientist at all, is pleased to hear more non-scientists talking about climate science. I reckon that apart from being a tool he’s way out of line.

He clearly has no clue about how the ABC, as the national broadcaster, should be helping the public understand this complex issue. And by speaking directly to staff about how they should be covering a specific highly-political issue he’s undermining the role of managing director Mark Scott.

Yesterday Newman (pictured) told ABC staff that the scientific consensus on climate change and anthropogenic global warming was “conventional wisdom” and “group think”.

Judging by the ABC News report, Newman’s speech was riddled with contradictions. He contrasts “wisdom and consensus” with “other points of view”, as if he does understand that there are those with actual knowledge of the field, versus those who just have an opinion.

But later…

“I’m not a scientist and I’m like anybody else in the public, I have to listen to all points of view and then make judgements when we’re asked to vote on particular policies.”

No, Newman, you don’t listen to “all points of view”. You only listen to those who know what they’re talking about.

If I need medical advice, I might seek a second opinion from another doctor, maybe a specialist. But I don’t seek out the views of a kitchenhand, a hairdresser and an architect. For “balance”.

Similarly, if I’m after an understanding of climate science, I ask climate scientists. If I’m the national broadcaster, then I find a good science broadcaster who can turn the complex jargon into a clear narrative. That’s what broadcasters do, and maybe Robyn Williams or one of his colleagues is up for the job.

Climate change is one of the most important issues facing us globally. Even if you still “have an open mind” and are “waiting for proof either way” — and what would that proof have to look like, Mr Newman? — you owe it to Australians to present a clear, reasoned perspective. And that’s not about “balancing” properly-developed scientific knowledge with every swivel-eyed serial fabricator with a media profile.

You owe it to Australians to have the ABC weigh up the validity of these points of view and present the best consensus you can — not just dump an unsorted mess onto the public’s laps and expect them to sort it out.

Yes, the ABC and its staff should be free to say, in their own voices, that some opinions are wrong. They shouldn’t live in fear of being branded “biased” simply for applying rational analysis. That the ABC has become so cowed through endless political attacks is disturbing. As its Chair you should be encouraging greater boldness, not this enfeebled “balance through mindlessness”.

It is outrageous that you’re suggesting we waste more of the public’s time and money on these self-promoting fuckwits. Their little repertoire of cherry-picked factoids has been comprehensively debunked so many times already, and our climate scientists have better things to be doing with their time.

Even if you have doubts, the risk analysis is so simple even a merchant banker and “close personal friend of John Howard” could understand it. If you don’t get it in that 10-minute video, try the follow-up.

The risk of not acting on real climate change vastly outweighs the risk of having spent money on addressing climate change which then turns out to be false — because the worst that’ll happen is we end up with a safer, more efficient society anyway.

Or if an amateur video isn’t your thing, try today’s piece in The Drum, Climate debate: opinion vs evidence, where Stephan Lewandowsky explains why your notion of “balance” is just plain wrong.

And once you’ve done that, Mr Newman, butt out. Directing the ABC’s staff is the Managing Director’s job, not yours. Your job is to somehow move beyond the blatantly political nature of your appointment and ensure the proper corporate governance of the ABC. For all Australians, not just your old mates at the Australian Stock Exchange.

[Update 9.30am: I've just discovered that there were more of Maurice Newman's comments on last night's edition of PM.]

Self-appointed whale-defender media whores Sea Shepherd always provide great photos of their “direct action”, so it’s no surprise that when their boat Ady Gil was damaged by Japanese security ship Shonan Maru 2 yesterday it looked spectacular.

Sea Shepherd of course claim it was a deliberate attack. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. Thing is though, guys, if you don’t want to be involved in a collision at sea, don’t fucking well deliberately put your boat so close to another.

I won’t say any more about this specific incident today. I have other things to do, and I’ve already written about my opinion of Sea Shepherd two years ago — along with plenty of references to material which points out that things are all much murkier than Sea Shepherd makes out.

If you’d like to comment on this issue, do please do so after reading the material over at my original post. I’m very interested in separating out the emotion-laden rhetoric and the zealotry surrounding whaling from the practical environmental and legal issues, and I think Sea Shepherd are a noisy distraction.

So, I’ll close comments on this post, and you can comment over there.

As an aside, the life and beliefs of Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson make for an interesting read too.

[Update 8 January 2010: To clarify, yes, comments are closed on this post — not to limit the discussion, but to ensure that all comments relating to Sea Shepherd are collected over on my January 2008 post. Sorry if there's been any confusion.]

Photograph of Hummer vehicle

A year-old post HUMMER to WANKER, originally a silly little piece of wordplay, has triggered a fascinating stream of comments today.

Does a suburban family of four — two adults and two children — really need a big vehicle like a Hummer to get around? I recall that as a kid we didn’t. A normal-sized Holden station wagon, which would even be considered small by today’s standards, did just fine for two adults and two kids and the everyday business of running a farm

Even with a farm, we didn’t need 4WD for the car. That’s what we had a tractor for.

If you want to have your two cents’ worth, do feel free to comment over at the original post.

Crikey logo

Tanzania’s climate seems to be shifting dramatically. Reporting from a World Meteorological Organisation meeting, attended by meteorologists and climatologists representing 187 countries, freelance journalist Amanda Gearing writes in Crikey today:

More rainfall seasons have been failing since the 1980s, severely affecting food supplies of people who are mostly subsistence farmers on small farms.

“If (the short rains) fail it means their survival is threatened and this becomes worse when the second rain fails because it means the whole year is a total failure and we’ve had the government intervening more often to give food assistance to the people,” Tanzanian principal agro-meteorologist Deusdedit Kashasha said. “They produce on small farms which may not be enough for a year in a good season so if they don’t even have that small amount produced it becomes pretty dire.”

Australians are meant to know about drought. We’ll see soon enough, I guess.

[Update 26 May 2008: Quite a few commenters have decided to tear this article apart. Some are "the usual suspects", sure, but others...]

Jamais Cascio’s excellent reminder from yesterday’s Earth Day: “The grand myth of environmentalism is that it’s all about saving the Earth. It’s not. The Earth will be just fine. Environmentalism is all about saving ourselves.” A nice little essay. Hat-tip to Memex 1.1.

23 April 2008 by Stilgherrian | 1 comment

My gut impression was that last night’s Earth Hour in Sydney was less about individual involvement this year, more about corporate sponsors ostentatiously turning off lights at head office. Agreed? There was little visible effect to be seen as my train approached the Sydney CBD just after the 8pm start time, and while walking past bars and restaurants in Surry Hills there was little difference apart from a few token candles at some eateries. Oxford Street looked pretty much as usual. Last year I had lengthy thoughts. This year I agree with the usually-irritating Helen Razer when she says A Blaze of Conceit Will Light up the World.

30 March 2008 by Stilgherrian | 3 comments

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