The Cicadas! The Cicadas!

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.

Visiting Newcastle for DiG Festival

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.

At night, quiet bushland not so quiet

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 Newman out of line on climate change

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.]