Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Rio +20: Earth Mover or Green Economy Carnival?

From my post at AllVoices on next year's Earth Summit, Rio +20:
When we go to Rio De Janeiro in June next year, lots of emotional capital will be invested in the success of the Rio +20 Earth Summit. It’s the twentieth anniversary of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Brazil’s iconic city. This time those two elements are brought together as the World Summit on Sustainable Development. 
...Rio +20 needs to be more than a dream. It must come up with more than a platform to negotiate an agreement. It must deliver more that the bare bones ‘institutional framework’.
The summit can be a game changer, an earth mover. It’s over to you!
Rio +20: Earth Mover or Green Economy Carnival

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Global Voices Online: Who We Are

A message from Georgia Popplewell:
'2011 has been an extraordinary year for online content. 
Global Voices has been there as revolutions happened, dictatorships fell, and network effects rippled through the cities and neighborhoods of our contributors reporting from around the world. 
You can help our 530 authors do even more in 2012:
Thanks in advance for your support. 
This video was created, edited, and produced by Global Voices Managing Director Georgia Popplewell. CC Images were sourced with the help of many, many Global Voices contributors - that's how we roll.'
PS. I am a GV author.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Durban Youth: Get it done!


COP17 Durban:

 'Anjali Appadurai, a student at the College of the Atlantic in Maine, addressed the conference on behalf of youth delegates. Just after her speech, she led a mic-check from the stage -- a move inspired by the Occupy Wall Street protests.

"It always seems impossible until it's done. So, distinguished delegates and governments around the world, governments of the developed world: Deep cuts now. Get it done," Appadurai says.' Democracy Now

For more from youth activists: Durban: Gen Y women doing it for the planet

Friday, December 9, 2011

Gen Y Women Champion Climate Justice

One of my posts at AllVoices: Durban: Gen Y women doing it for the planet:

This week in Durban young citizen journalists are challenging the popular stereotype of Generation Y. Gen Ys are supposed to be: self-obsessed; apathetic; disengaged; with limited attention spans; shallow online chatterers and gamers; little concerned for the future of the planet they’ll be inheriting. 
Move over baby boomers! The twentysomethings are at the gates, in particular a new generation of committed and skilled young women activists. Many of them are in South Africa to cover the current United Nations COP17 climate change conference. 
These web warriors are not just reporting the story. Increasingly they are the story, as they lobby to bring about climate action. Meet three of them.
Please click the link to meet Andrea, Kodili and Gemma in Durban.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Across Africa: John Vidal's Road to Durban

Interview with The Guardian's Environment editor, John Vidal, about his trip from Egypt to COP17 in Durban South Africa.

Monday, December 5, 2011

What Global Carbon Emissions? Just Brainfarts!

The National Journal clearly anticipated the latest global emissions news:

The impact of the global financial crisis on reducing carbon dioxide emissions was short-lived, with emissions quickly rebounding to a record level. 
Emissions from fossil fuel burning and cement production grew by 5.9 per cent last year to a record high of more than 9 billion tonnes of carbon, preliminary figures show. This increase overwhelmed the 1.4 per cent reduction recorded in 2009.
Emissions hit record as effect of financial crisis eases (The Age 4 Nov 2011)
I've been looking for a definition of a brainfart - certainly found a perfect illustration of the collective version.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

COP17: Fossils of the Day in Durban


Awarded to the countries who do the most to block the UN Climate Change talks. Hosted by the Australian Youth Climate Coalition.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Climate Change and the Food Crisis: ActionAid


 The message: support women farmers

Climate Change and the World Food Crisis: A Solution is an ActionAid video:
The UN Climate Conference in Durban needs to support women farmers in order to tackle the growing global food crisis. Agriculture is being increasingly threatened by climate change. 
Small scale farmers produce half the world's food and most of them are women. With access to training, technology, financial services and markets - the number of people going hungry could be cut by 15%. With 7 billion people on the planet this year, this solution is more important than ever.
For more, visit HungerFREE or visit the Activista bloggers.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Real Mining Story?

This satirical video of the mining industry in Australia is not very subtle but... then the AMWU has never pretended to be that subtle.

 This is the real story - A paid Extra

The public link has been removed. Have to settle for this:

  This is the real story - Ship in, Fly out

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Andrew Charlton: Balancing Progress and the Planet

A binding agreement on carbon emissions is a totally unrealistic expectation of next week's Durban COP17 climate change conference. So what are the alternatives?

Adam Morton, Environment editor at The Age, explored some solutions with Andrew Charlton, author of the Quarterly Essay Man-Made World: Choosing between progress and planet at the Wheeler Centre on 23 November 2011.

“Progress has its price. Each step of human advancement has left a footprint on the planet. Today our two defining challenges are managing climate change and eliminating global poverty. In Copenhagen we learned that these challenges are inseparable.”

According to Charlton the lesson from Copenhagen is that changing geopolitics mean that the needs of the developing world must be met, as well as those of the developed world.

This will require an enormous effort globally of an unprecedented scale. On climate change, he argues that we need a total re-engineering equivalent to the Second World War. Similar action is required to double food production during this century as world population continues to climb.

He sees ingenuity as the key to the kinds of solutions necessary in both areas. Power needs to be less expensive but more available in developing countries by making clean energy cheaper than fossil fuels.

Current technologies such as wind and solar cannot deliver the kind of cutbacks in greenhouse gases that the Greens believe possible. Nor can carbon prices by themselves. Alternative solutions will necessitate a massive shift in focus to research and development of breakthrough technologies.

Charlton was not without some optimism. He believes that China is misunderstood. Its leaders are driven by four motives that together offer hope:
  • overcoming poverty through development
  • obtaining energy security
  • reducing air pollution
  • tackling climate change
Most of the big gains in technology will happen overseas. Australia needs to collaborate with countries like China on the technological solutions. When questioned about our carbon legislation he stressed that it is necessary, though even the 5% reduction from 2000 levels by 2020 is ambitious since it represents a 30 - 40 % decline from projected emissions.

He emphasised that the 'balance of risks' has moved on both climate change and poverty. Despite his misgivings that the risks are real, nuclear power must be part of the solution for many countries. Similarly GM crops have the capacity to meet the food challenge, as organic farming cannot deliver the necessary increases. We must be alert to the possible dangers without ruling out these unpopular options.

Needless to say, Andrew’s views were not popular with many in the audience, especially those supporting approaches such as the Beyond Zero Emissions plan, which he contested during the session.

Political leadership will be a decisive factor. Our leaders must focus on the cost of not acting.

Charlton’s presentation had the desired effect. It will be weekend reading. Watch this space or buy a copy.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Climate Caravan Concert in Uganda

Latest post from Kodili in Kampala, Uganda about the arrival of the Trans African Climate Caravan on its way to COP 17 in Durban:
One of the events carried out was the climate justice concert. This was mainly to attract the attention of young people and educate them about climate change as they were being entertained. This concert was graced by the Vice President of the Republic of Uganda who pledged his government’s support in addressing the effects of climate change.
The power of music in saving the climate 15 Nov 2011

View The Trans African Caravan of Hope in a larger map
Love to be there!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Taking Hope on the Trans African Climate Caravan to Durban

Benadette Chandia Kodili is a Swarm Blogger with ActionAid Activista from Uganda. It has been my pleasure to work with her as part of the Global Voices youth mentoring project.

She is the Secretary for Female Affairs Uganda National Youth Council and a Member of Activista International.

This is her latest post:

Sunday 13 November 2011

The African Caravan of Hope is finally in Uganda. The Caravan team is made up of a number of Community Organisations that are moving by road from Burundi to South Africa for the COP 17. It set off on the 9th November and arrived in Kabale on 11th November 2011. When in Kabale we had a march through the town to the Municipal council grounds. Here we had a chance to interface with a number of people on climate change issues and have them speak up for climate justice.


This they did by signing a petition to be presented in Durban during the COP 17 to the world leaders.

I spoke with Alex Byamukama, a 17-year-old first born boy to a mother of two. He told me that his mother had to spend money on water for domestic use. The family used to rely on rain water harvest. But because the rains were no longer regular they were left with no choice but to buy water which is expensive for his mother.

In addition, Alex explained how neighbours and friends have all been complaining of a general decline in production, especially in sorghum which is one of the stable foods in Kabale, due to low rain fall.

To deal with the situation Alex's mother had resorted to being a house girl since their father died two years ago. After the death of his father Alex’s Uncle took over the little land his father had left, leaving Alex’s mother nowhere to cultivate any food. When Alex is olde enough, ownership should pass to him but until then Alex, his brother and mother remain landless.

"You told me you are going to South Africa to a climate conference. How does that benefit me?"  Alex asked me.  I had spoken to him as an adult, but this question all of a sudden made me see him as little boy. If only the world leaders would listen to the voices of those whose lives are a constant struggle and whose future is so uncertain, such as this brilliant boy, it might help them remember to reflect on the plight of the individual common person and consider the effects their decisions have on ground level before prioritising their own selfish interests.

My simple answer was, "We hope the World Leaders will sign a fair and legally binding climate agreement."

"What would you tell them if you could make it to South Africa?" I asked.

Alex replied,

"They should use other methods of development other than the ones polluting the environment!"

"I will carry this message to Durban, Alex" I said.

Good luck, Kodili!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Remembering the Twin Towers

A repost from 2008: Man on Wire: Twin Towers Tightrope


Frenchman Philippe Petit walked between the World Trade Center twin towers in August 1974. He had not asked permission of course. He was arrested and handcuffed. The authorities wanted to know why he did it and sent him for a psychiatric assessment. Watch this documentary in a cinema if possible. It's the last question you'll ask yourself.

Philippe had practiced between the pylons of Sydney Harbour Bridge and the towers of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

It was one small step...

One Saturday morning in August 1980 I took these photos from the second top floor of one of the towers. I was visiting Bill Gates, a teacher mate from Up-State New York. We stayed at a Manhattan apartment of one of his friends whose husband worked on that floor. It was a long weekend so we had the place to ourselves. We were parked on the street opposite the buildings in the first picture. While we enjoyed the view, someone stole the car radio. I dragged out the old photos because the Statue of Liberty resonated so strongly with ones from the film.

I'll spare you our tourist snaps from the top of the bridge and the cathedral.

cinematakes1 More film reviews at Cinema Takes

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Jay Rosen Video: Why Political Coverage is Broken


 From the Melbourne Press Club:
Professor Jay Rosen, one of the leading thinkers in new media and the founder of the public journalism movement in the USA, explains why he thinks political reporting is broken. 
This speech was delivered at Melbourne's BMW Edge on August 26, 2011, as part of the Melbourne Writers Festival and the Public Interest Journalism Foundation's New News Conference. 
The Melbourne Press Club filmed and livestreamed a number of New News sessions over the two days of the conference. Watch them on our website. A transcript of Jay Rosen's speech is available on his blog, Pressthink.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Women Writin’ Science For Themselves

One panel session that was easily overlooked but a real gem at this year’s Melbourne Writers Festival was Writing in Lab Coats :
Dr Elizabeth Finkel (The Genome Generation), journalist and publisher Jane McCredie (Making Girls and Boys) and award-winning Age journalist Jo Chandler (Feeling the Heat) talk to Radio National's Natasha Mitchell about what makes great science writing (and what makes great science).
The Cube at ACMI was packed with a very appreciative audience for these three authors. The session title seemed a misnomer. So did the asymmetrical venue that is cramped, dark and much smaller than the presenters deserved.

None of the authors works in a lab. Elizabeth was a professional research scientist in biochemistry before becoming a science journalist with publications such as Cosmos Magazine.  Jo and Jane are both journalists with extensive backgrounds working in the media. Neither claims to be a scientist.

In fact Jane spoke of the need to find her voice and establish “authority” as a non-scientist. Her time as an editor at the Australian Doctor must have helped. She sees herself as a critical friend of science, a questioning observer. Jane’s book has a descriptor ‘inside the science of sex’ but it’s the nature of gender that she explores. What is gender identity? What makes us boys or girls?

Elizabeth spoke of the amazing “new universe” that we’ve been catapulted into since the mapping of the genome. Her book, which has yet to be released, is an exploration of its “new cosmic laws”, as old scientific dogmas have been left by the wayside. She aims for a "judicious, calm voice" like a “judge in a courtroom… weighing evidence”. Easier done than seen to be done. She is no stranger to the “combative corner” as her earlier work into organic food and genetically modified foods copped criticism for its findings.

When researching her book on climate change, Jo sometimes felt “like a non-scientist asking dumb questions”. That research took her to the rain-forests in Namibia and stunning vistas of Antarctica. She asked "what is balance in coverage and what is authentic storytelling".  She rejected the “objectivity lie” where the journalist tries to leave the self out. In her “overcorrecting” Jo has tried to go into her research as “confused”, like war correspondents going to the front without a particular agenda. There are parallels with embedding as she “inserted into research teams” in the field. She described it as “an epic adventure… going off the edge of the known universe”.

From Chapter 3 Buried Treasure:
The modern quest to dig into the ice is driven by the urgent need to see into the future, to track how the planet has behaved through history when the atmospheric composition has swung through sometimes dramatic cycles of change, when tipping points have been crossed. Here the consequences of change are written in mysterious script into the chemistry of the ice.
I haven’t had the opportunity to read their books, except for the sample chapter of Feeling the Heat that is online. Put these three writers who are ‘ringing on their own bells’ in your non-fiction shopping cart for some spring/summer reading.

(Unfortunately there was no video but hopefully ABC Radio National will broadcast it later in the year.)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Australian Media in the Broken Looking Glass

The past week has seen the media at its worst: Channel 9 staff dismissed for faking a helicopter cross; radio shock-jock Alan Jones abusing all and sundry including journalists and police; The Australian newspaper apologising to the Prime Minister for a sleazy slur by senior journalist Glenn Milne.

You’d think that it’s time to spotlight these roiling rabbits. Hardly. “The community should look in the mirror… If you’re dissatisfied with the media, then fundamentally you’re saying you’re dissatisfied with yourself.”

That was Fairfax CEO Greg Hywood’s advice to the audience at the Australian Media Leaders Held to Account panel. Their groans said it all. The session on Saturday was part of the New News Conference at the Melbourne Writers Festival. Also on stage were chair Maxine McKew, Mark Scott (ABC Managing Director), Sophie Black (Editor of Crikey) and myself representing Our Say members.

Jay Rosen in his keynote presentation, Why Political Coverage is Broken, and numerous other New News presenters and audience members had surveyed our bleak mediascape for two days thanks to the Public Interest Journalism Foundation. Rosen argued:
By the production of innocence I mean ways of reporting the news that try to advertise or “prove” to us that the press is neutral in its descriptions, a non-partisan presenter of facts, a non-factor and non-actor in events. Innocence means reporters are mere recorders, without stake or interest in the matter at hand. They aren’t responsible for what happens, only for telling you about it. When you hear, “don’t shoot the messenger” you are hearing a journalist declare his or innocence.
If you watch the video of the panel session, you’ll hear those very words. My Our Say question, ‘What skills will be essential for journalists in the newsroom of 2050?’ was intended as a starter for exploring how the mainstream media should foster a working culture where young journalists can learn their trade. An environment where they can learn how to resist unethical behaviour when it’s expected of them, speak up within their organisations when it’s unpopular, challenge tired norms and refuse to produce what Julia Gillard called “crap”.

Some of broken bits raised during the two day conference included:
  • opinion as news;
  • fabrication, distortion, manipulation or just plain inaccuracy;
  • phoney balance such as the climate change coverage; agenda-driven news and vendettas;
  • 24 hour news cycle – one hour repeated 24 times;
  • personality politics and trivialisation;
  • lack of in-depth treatment of issues and policies;
  • politics as entertainment or a game;
  • savvy insiders as control filters.
Afterwards I met a first year journalist who has worked with one of the large media organisations for three months. Her response: What training, what mentoring, what professional development. Her reality was confirmed later by a media graduate who works for an NGO. Her peers are crying out for the kind of support that should be the common experience. I suspect the ABC is one of few with a structured development program for its journalists.

Mark Scott is optimist, “You’re going to have more voices and more choices. Tremendous opportunities for audiences”. We have a long way to go if those opportunities are going to mean quality journalism.

Of course the elephantine cliché in the auditorium, News Limited, was not represented despite being asked. Except for the electronic media, they are arguably the worst offenders in Australia. Jay Rosen suggested that there is a worldwide culture of denial amongst Murdoch staff. Indeed, The Australian’s usually sharp George Megalogenis was not just defensive at another Festival event, The Spin Cycle. He also belittled Fairfax as a lifestyle company who send dating emails to their subscribers.

At the Journalists and Trauma session Marysville resident and survivor of the Black Saturday bushfires, Di James, shared her mixed experiences of the media coverage of thse tragic events. On balance she was positive but still cannot forgive the ongoing use of video of people’s houses and photographs of dead bodies. She believes that reporters who asked insensitive and “stupid” questions immediately after the fires desperately need training.

Jay Rosen’s four quadrants (facts v. arguments, realities v. appearances) for presenting political coverage struck a cord with his audience. Easy to place Jones, Bolt and many others. Perhaps it will make a useful tool for young journalists and those not yet consumed by cynicism.

Personal disclosures: I’m a Crikey subscriber and sometime contributor (that’s not why I’ve spared Sophie); The Age is home-delivered daily for the incredible sum of $99 thanks to a deal between Fairfax  and the St Kilda FC (how long can that last?) and we’re ABC junkies at our place (Hi Fran!)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Australian Media Leaders Held to Account

Melbourne Writers Festival's Australian Media Leaders Held to Account panel:

Maxine McKew (Chair) Mark Scott (Managing Director, ABC), Greg Hywood (CEO, Fairfax Media) and Sophie Black (Editor, Crikey) answer questions from the public, joined by Red Bluff's Kevin Rennie, whose question for the three media leaders asked on received the most votes.

The session was part of the New News Conference. The elephantine cliché certainly applied to News Limited's absence. Video thanks to the Melbourne Press Club.

Many thanks to all those who supported my question at Our Say. It was a real hoot being on the panel!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

New News Conference Day 2

Journalists and Trauma

Dr Denis Muller of the Centre for Advanced Journalism and bushfire survivor Di James host journalists who report trauma, the survivors of disasters and the public.

Denis Muller

2009 Victorian bushfires research: Black Saturday: In the Media Spotlight

Ethical dilemmas

Impact of media on survivors'consent and survivor autonomy"

  • "informed consent' impossible in "considered' sense
  • surprise at being in media, unaware that personal info given
  • 'instinctual' consent
  • Q of recognition  & respect of autonomy (eg getting them to cry)
  • autonomy a 'crucial factor'
  • survivors dependent on others not much left but autonomy
  • research: survivors believe that exposure to media more good than harm
Di James

Agrees with DM's finding
Overall positive feelings in months after bushfires

Focus on first 48 hours:

Stayed in Marysville during fires - too late to leave
Left own house, went to neighbours, lost phone, drove to oval where large group gathered, spent night there, some 'catatonic', some 'hyped on adrenalin' incl Di. Helicopter came but not emergency services but media chopper. Evacuated by convoy.

First contact with journalists on oval - approach gentle and appropriate. What was broadcast was the tears.

Debris all over the road. Car stopped. Mic and camera through car window, followed by stupid Q and sharp reply. Q broadcasts with Di's closeup image in back seat - seen by son at Adelaide airport who was shocked. Very distressing experience. Images of Di comforting neighbour used for 6 months as publicity. family still shocked by recent use.

Photos of dead bodies from bushfires in the media still traumatising, esp for families of dead.

Media's reporting intensely important but needs to be balance with sensitivty and awareness. What does the public need to know?

Swing in front garden. Di desperate to remove it before the media got into Marysville. Fortunately this happened.


Good Qs?? About experiences, about what happened, not feelings.

How do we teach ethics to journalists?

How do we get media to focus on what happened not people's private trauma?

What does the public need to know, not just want to know?

Democratic Media - Populism or powershift?

How do we balance public participation in news media without pandering to populist prejudices and political hacks? How do we inspire the community to promote and prioritise the issues they are concerned with and have politicians and CEOs publically respond to those issues? Come and contribute ideas to the team behind, a website connecting you with the people in charge. Discussion led by OurSay.

Latest Climate Change Questions: attempts to hijack for own agendas (eg Andrew Bolt) interesting development.

Security & privacy issues?? Very personal. How anonymous?

  • First comment moderated last week.
  • Getting people to own and take responsibility for their own Qs.

How to move this kind of online forum into the real world?

  • Make incentives for participation. 
  • Public events like Brunswick State election forum. 
  • Breaking into traditional media.
Is Our Say open to being hijacked by groups with own "facts" such as Tea Party-like organisations? Is it open to manipulation?
  • Risks and perceived risks can cause outrage
  • Transparency & engagement as weapons

How to avoid gossip and opinion that are not fact-based? Is it too rational?

People who answer the Qs??

  • Chosen and publicised beforehand. 
  • Choice could be risky. 
  • Roles change eg Lindsay Tanner resigned.

Friday, August 26, 2011

New News Conference 2011: Day One


Margaret Simons (Public Interest Journalism Foundation)

Tipping points:

  • NotW - end of Murdoch era;  Future of 70% of papers owned by News Ltd? 
  • Journos and trauma 
  • Crisis for journalists/media? 
PIJF Positives for new media:
  • Arab spring
  • Wikileaks
  • Open govt 
  •  Possibilities for journalism and its audience 
 Twitter: #newnews #newnewsA #newnewsB


 Panel: Lindsay Tanner, Samantha Maiden, Greg Jericho, Jay Rosen, Steve Harris (MC)

 JR (PressThink):

 Toxic elements: politics as entertainment, management of impressions (appear to be doing things when cant' take action) permanent campaign, managing (spin) the story as content, politics as a game

These are starting to substitute for real politics.

 Verification in reverse: creating doubt eg climate denialism, secrecy via complexity - political dialogue can't cope with the complex

Media: audience makers, content - attention, business - advertising

Murdoch party line: news not in conspiracy with editorial line

Echo chamber: flight to those who agree with you  may be search for authority by both media and audience

 LT (Former Labor Member for Melbourne):

Not a conspiracy. Nature of modern media. Routine for media to distort for entertainment, personality/celebrity politics, little serious discussion of issues
"Unions officials at war" a beat up - Health Services Union split business as usual
Regular impugning of good character without evidence eg Nick sherry & bank guarantee

No absolutes - still lots of good things
Fragmented rather than common areas fo discourse. Parallel worlds.

 GJ (Grog's Gamut):

 Easy out for poor journalism - politicians give them crap. No necessity to take crap as truth.

Daily Telegraph: Julia's shoes not up to wearing out shoe leather; Swan ruling out congestion tax ignored in scare story

Next election shaping up as the worst thanks to media crap.

24 hour news cycle - one hour 24 times.

SM (New Ltd):

 What's working: freedom of information laws; internet cuts both ways but great for reporters and readers - more/faster; use of 'new' data eg cost of living;informing people eg child care rebate entitlements and proposed changes.

Not all frivolous or trivial.

Fortress Australias - Unhealthy to only read/watch what reflects your views. (GJ Fortress Australian?)

Phoney online MSM blogs without real audiences and interaction.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Global Voices: Malaysia No Solution to ‘Boat People' Politics

My latest web roundup for Global Voices Australia: Malaysia No Solution to ‘Boat People' Politics:
The Australian government’s attempt to take a hard line on people smugglers and asylum seekers arriving by boat has hit a major snag. In December 2010 approximately 50 asylum seekers were drowned at Christmas Island when their boat was smashed on the rocks. A legal challenge has postponed a swap of refugees with Malaysia.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Activista Swarm: Some Fresh Faces

Meet some fresh faces from the Activista Blogger Swarm who are doing their bit for our collective future.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

New widget: U.S. High Temperature Records

A new U.S. High Temperature Records widget via PBS News Hour:

'Using data collected by the NOAA's National Climatic Data Center, the PBS NewsHour has set out to track the number of high temperature records set each day of the year across the United States. We've built this widget so our viewers can understand the significance of the heat, not only in terms of raw degrees, but in a format that compares today's temperatures to previous record highs. The widget is built to be embedded into any website, and the data behind it will be updated every day.'
New Widget Tracks Record-Breaking High Temperatures

It's just data - people can draw their own conclusions (and will).

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Herald Sun: Be Afraid, Very Afraid!

It's not easy being an expert with an agenda. At the Herald Sun today, Terry McCrann's prediction of a rate rise fitted very well with their hip pocket scare campaign:
THE 'solving' of the US debt crisis leaves the Reserve Bank with no choice. It must lift its official cash rate today and I'm confident it will.
Debt deal should unleash rate rise

In case you missed it, his confidence was misplaced. But if you were one of the Hun's battlers with a hefty mortgage, you might have had a troubled morning before the reserve Bank left interest rates on hold:
PEOPLE battling soaring bills will learn today if they face more pain from an interest-rate rise.

Industry groups have warned of a "perfect storm" if the Reserve Bank defies expectations and increases the cash rate, potentially putting jobs at risk, ...

St Vincent de Paul Society president Tony Tome said increased mortgages would hit Victoria's growing number of "working poor".

"It's just another straw on the camel's back and for some it certainly will be the straw that broke the camel's back," he said.
Battlers Warned As Rate Rise Looms

Of course, it wouldn't matter if this 'crap' was buried in the Business section but it was Page 3 in the print version if my memory is accurate.

Anyway they can trot out the doom and gloom next month. Perhaps Terry will have better luck next time.

Activistas: Blogging for Their Future

Some excellent news amidst all the gloom lately. Introducing the Activista Blogger Swarm:
Today we announce the names of 10 Global Voices bloggers and 11 activists who will be working together virtually over the next months as part of a new mentoring initiative developed by Global Voices and Activista, the youth network of international development organization, ActionAid.

Activista has selected activists from 10 countries on five continents to form part of a “Blogger Swarm”which will be blogging on the Activista website over the next 12 months. Their goal is to get youth around the world involved in discussions about development, and especially food and climate justice
Global Voices Bloggers to Mentor Youth Activists from 10 Countries

It is my pleasure and privilege to be mentoring one of the bloggers, Benadette Chandia Kodili, from Uganda. Kodili's first post on the Swarm is not about climate change or the food crisis but another aspect of food altogether:
For a moment I wished people who are out there advocating for women’s rights were here to witness this magical moment: we were being served by an African man as the women looked on!

It may be a small gesture, but for those who know how women have always been treated in most African traditions, men as the boss and women as servants. This moment was precious.
What makes a man a real man?

Please support the Activistas by reading and joining in their conversations.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Australian Media Leaders on the Spot

Please excuse this promo but it’s too good to pass up.

Our Say (Democracy is Not a Spectator Sport) has a challenge:
Senior executives from media organisations will answer the most voted question at the 2011 New News Conference on Saturday 27th of August.

Not only that, the person who asks the question voted most popular will be invited to join the media leaders on the panel (click here for details). Ask and vote for questions, you want answered by the people who run our media organisations.

You could be sitting with Mark Scott (Managing Director of ABC), Greg Hywood (CEO of Fairfax Media) and Sophie Black (Editor of Crikey) to discuss issues with media, journalism and the coverage of politics in news. This is a unique opportunity for you to keep Australian media leaders to account.
My question: ‘What skills will be essential for journalists in the newsroom of 2050?’
You could vote for it here or post your own question.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Glad I Don't Pay for the Herald Sun

Is the Herald Sun's Miranda Devine indulging in eating some of Rupert Murdoch’s humble fare?

Trying to silence opposition by smear and slander, abuse and suppression of unpleasant facts is just treating the public like suggestible morons.
Juila Gillard's declaration out of line

Good heavens no, she’s attacking the government. The Herald Sun isn’t running a ruthless anti-Gillard campaign for regime change in Australia. They are just telling both sides of the story fearlessly. If you believe that, then your head must be stuck in the wrong end of the proverbial dead bear.

Perhaps Devine wouldn’t have had the chance to read the ‘news’ piece on page 3: Prime Minister Julia Gillard under fire for Christine Nixon's book deal

It’s a classic piece of agenda journalism. Former Liberal Premier and current AFL football club president is an unbiased source of the lowest order:

Mr Kennett said he was surprised Prime Minister Gillard was launching the book. "I guess one could only explain it as the sisterhood at work," he said.

Perhaps his jockstrap was too tight during the interview.

There was some kind of balance with two against and one supporting Nixon/Gillard. This one would have to be a swinging voter:

Flowerdale mother of four Laine MacDonald said of Ms Nixon: "I don't have anything nice to say ... It's a disgrace that she is getting people like that (Ms Gillard) to back her." My emphasis.

Incidentally, according to their own story, the PM is under fire for attending the book launch not for anything to do with the ‘book deal’ itself as the headline implies.

Nothing personal intended, of course.

Anyway, this bit of sycophantic sludge should get Miranda a Christmas bonus:

In any case, the Murdochs' contrite appearance at the UK hearing was a triumph of decency, humility and lessons learned.

And while they spoke, News Corp shares rose 5 per cent. So there.

Tony Abbott: Carbon dioxide 'weightless'

When I read this artcile by Barry Jones in The Age this morning, it seemed worth checking the quote. Not that you can't trust journalists to be accurate, of course:

People are better educated than ever yet debate is dumbed down.

AN ARTICLE by The Age's Michael Gordon titled 'He says She says' last week, included a disturbing paragraph in which he quoted Tony Abbott, in South Dandenong, answering a question about how CO2 emissions are calculated: ''It's actually pretty hard to do this because carbon dioxide is invisible and it's weightless (my emphasis) and you can't smell it.''

This striking observation probably reflects his understanding. If carbon dioxide is invisible, odourless and weightless, in a world outside measurement or analysis, then attempting to control or limit it is pointless.

He appears to take a mediaeval scholastic view of how the universe works. He has forgotten that legislation setting strict standards for emission accounting was passed under the Howard government, in which he was a senior minister.

Intelligent discussion all but extinct

Found quick corroboration but at an unlikely source:

On the Liberal Party's website:

And imagine the administration costs of doing that? What’s the point of it if you take it away with one hand and give it back with the other?

Exactly right. Even if they were trying to give it all back to you, there would still be the deadweight costs, all the extra bureaucrats. See, one of the things that people haven’t quite twigged to is that carbon dioxide is invisible, it’s weightless and it’s odourless. How are we going to police these emissions…

I don’t know.

…I mean, how are we going to police these emissions? This carbon cop is going to be an extraordinarily intrusive instrumentality, running around trying to make sure that all these businesses aren’t actually emitting given that you can’t actually see, smell or touch what’s going on.

Well, I just don’t know how it can be measured.

Well, it can be measured but it’s a very difficult process.

Tony Abbott interview with John Laws - Julia Gillard’s carbon tax; live cattle export ban

It's great to know that Party Headquarters are so proud of their Tony's Science homework, even the mistakes. It gives extra meaning to 'snollygoster' when applied to Abbott.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Oz Politics: Some Gems on the Net

Some Australian politics gems from the last week that shouldn't be missed:

A couple of blog posts

Australiar and the f*cking idiot dilemma by Geoff Lemon of Heathen Scriptures
There are definitely times when you wonder if light-fingered alien doctors have been handing out mass lobotomies while we sleep. Or there really is something in the water.
I am confused, I do not understand by 'Catching up' at Café Whispers
I am a little confused about Australian politics today. The following is what I understand the situation to be.

We have a legit elected minority government that on all accounts is performing well. We have a strong economy, employment, trade balance and stable interest rates.

There are problems with a two or multiple speed economy. I believe the proposed tax on miners is important in bringing some balance to the economy.

We do have a problem with lack of confidence in the economy. I wonder how much of this lack of confidence can be sheeted home to the negative and down talking of the economy of the leader of the Opposition. There are concerns of what is occurring overseas, in Europe. The Asian region which we are a part of is still seen as going strong.

...Have Australians become too lazy or disinterested, that they refuse to take the time or effort to listen for themselves and accept unquestioning much of what is written and said in the media.

From the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Radio National's Background briefing - The Lord Monckton roadshow 17 July 2011
The Scottish peer Lord Monckton has been raising hell against the carbon tax in barnstorming rallies and public meetings around the country. But just who is Lord Monckton and who are the forces behind him? Chief amongst them a mysterious group called the Galileo Movement and mining magnate and now media player Gina Rinehart. Reporter Wendy Carlisle
Audio and transcript available.

Media Watch Personal or policy? You be the judge 18 July 2011

A look at the very unbalanced radio station 2GB.

Video and transcript available.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Regime Change Rupert Murdoch Style

My latest post for Global Voices:

Australia: Regime Change Rupert Murdoch Style

It is a sign of the times when John Hartigan, News Limited’s head in Australia, has to defend his newspapers’ aggressive approach to the Gillard government. Murdoch’s Oz media have been accused of abusing their power with a campaign for regime change. The announcement of the carbon pricing and emissions trading scheme is the latest battleground.


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Murdoch Press Ignore 4 Degrees Climate Change Conference

Try googling 'Four Degrees or More' or 'Schellnhuber' to see how much coverage the FOUR DEGREES OR MORE? Australia in a Hot World conference received this week. Fairfax had a series of articles and the ABC interviewed him on TV and radio.

The sole contribution from Rupert Murdoch's News Limited stable ignored the science and picked up on the sensational. The story in today's Australian is headed: Climate anger dangerous, says German physicist If you were expecting some of his global warming tipping point scenarios, forget it. Somehow they heard about the stoush at his Keynote address on Tuesday night:
ANGER against scientists involved in the climate debate is reaching dangerous levels and it's only a matter of time before one is murdered, says leading German physicist Hans Schellnhuber.

...While he was opening a recent climate conference in Melbourne, a man in the front row waved a noose at him. "I was confronted with a death threat when I gave my public lecture," Professor Schellnhuber said.

"Somebody got to his feet and showed me a rope with a noose.

"He showed me this hangman's rope and he said: 'Mr Schellnhuber, welcome to Australia'."

The man and three friends went on to interject during the lecture.
It's amazing that it took two journalists, Brendan Nicholson and Lauren Wilson, to write such a short piece.

They could have had the exclusive if they'd turned up, but reporting the arguments in favour of strong climate action is not part of Murdoch's agenda to destroy the carbon tax and the Gillard government.

Shame! Rupert, Shame!

Even Fairfax's Maribyrnong Weekly had coverage: Too hot to handle: can we afford a 4-degree rise?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Jackboot's On the Other Foot

Recently Lord Monckton, displaying a swastika, called Ross Garnaut a fascist. If you’re German and a climate scientist then you’ve probably come to expect the term Nazi to be thrown at you but not necessarily a noose.

The scene:

Melbourne University 7 PM 12 July 2011

The event:

The Critical Decade, the keynote address for the FOUR DEGREES OR MORE? Australia in a Hot World conference

The speaker:

Professor Schellnhuber, Head of the Potsdam Institute of Climate Impact Research and Chair of the German Government's Advisory Council on Global Change

The protestors:

4 Citizens Electoral Council members

The Stoush:

As we entered the building, people were handing out leaflets for and against climate action. It didn’t take much grey matter to work out there would be some political theatre coming up. As the good professor began to speak, a protestor leapt to his feet in the second row and waved a very large noose. He yelled about a climate conspiracy involving Queen Elizabeth, the royal family, and green Nazis. He was taken by the arm by a senior academic who vigorously escorted him from the auditorium.

A series of interruptions followed. Next up was Doug Mitchell, a familiar face from Ross Garnaut’s recent talk at Melbourne University about the 2011 Update to his 2008 Climate Change Review. Mitchell had started a provocative verbal assault on Garnaut during question time but was relieved of the microphone by another assertive academic before getting to his question. I captured the incident on video:

This time he ran down the steps towards the stage, yelling slogans and accusations. He too was removed.

There were two more subdued outbreaks. They had obviously either skipped or failed Agitator Histrionics 101. As indicated in an earlier post, Professor Schellnhuber is clearly used to this kind of protest and seemed a bit surprised that the count stopped at four. Unfortunately, I could not find the incidents on the official video of the address.

As they were ejected, they accused the organisers of not letting them speak. The audience applauded when they were forcibly removed. It seems they came to listen to rational discussion not hysterical insults. The use of the noose was a reminder that some of the scientists in the hall have recently received death threats. To their credit the protestors were not hiding behind anonymity. Nor do I mean to imply any connection between them and the death threats.

Was it a case of quashing political dissent or a defence of the right to speak in public without harassment or abuse? More likely it’s just a healthy, if somewhat bizarre, part of our democracy. Both sides undoubtedly thought that the jackboot’s on the other foot. We lowered the bar of public behaviour when highly offensive and personal comments were not loudly condemned during the Murray Darling plan consultation meetings in October 2010.

But as they say, if you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the limelight. Most of the audience seemed more concerned with the threats posed by the global warming scenarios explored by the professor.

When I edited my video Million of Low Carbon Jobs, I left out the incident above. The mainstream media are already obsessed with theatrical sideshows and stunts without adding more. Fringe dwellers like the CEC don’t need extra oxygen or carbon dioxide for that matter. But after Tuesday night, it seems impossible to ignore the low level of ‘debate’ that Australian politics has descended to. A couple of examples from their literature should suffice:

Anyway it wasn’t the most dramatic piece of stagecraft I’ve seen at a political meeting. WhenJohn Gorton launched his 1970 half-Senate election campaign at Springvale Civic Centre, a group of anti-Vietnam war demonstrators displayed large cardboard coffins they had snuck into the hall in pieces. Some Young Liberals attacked them. Guess who was arrested? A very young Laurie Oakes told me that he had threatened to make the police front-page news on The Sun newspaper if they didn’t release the protesters. Which they did.

Some of the more extraordinary views that surface during public debates, such as those of the CEC, are cause for reflection. What tortured paths bring one to the realisation that global warming is a monarchist, green nazi conspiracy. Why are some people drawn to gurus such as the CEC’s idol Lyndon LaRouche?

Just goes to show that there’s no such thing as normal.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Climate Change: Critical Decade or Fumbled Future

If the world manages to achieve the kind of international agreement that is needed on global warming, it could be down to the fact that German Chancellor Angela Merkel is a physicist. According to Professor Hans Joachin Schellnhuber, she even understands some of the mathematics.

The Critical Decade, the keynote address for the FOUR DEGREES OR MORE? Australia in a Hot World conference, was not all doom and gloom but it is difficult to recall the optimistic bits.

The Professor maintains there is “something revolutionary happening in Germany”. It has taken a U-turn on nuclear power as the answer to reducing carbon emissions but “will honour its climate protection pledges” through renewable energy and other measures. He hopes this "post fossil-fuel/nuclear era" will be a step in the transition to a low carbon world.

He stressed the pressures on traditional democracy. We need to "extend or even transcend traditional democratic processes" to take into account the interests of “the generations not yet born …across space and time”.

He stressed that these processes must be “guided by insight” - in particular the insight of science but also of economics.

He presented a number of tipping point scenarios, some involving runaway greenhouse dynamics that 4+ degrees could bring:
  1. Collapse of the Greenland Ice Sheet
  2. Permafrost melting
  3. Methane Hydrates release
Each of these would be irreversible in the short term. He was talking about 1000+ years.

In response to audience questions, he contended that use of natural gas is the best transition but not for the long run without capture and storage by carbon sequestration. He also sees use of biomass as part of the solution. His view on the future of nuclear energy is that it is too expensive if all the real costs are taken into consideration.

If "generational" democracy is the key to embracing real action, the preponderance of baby boomers at the address is a major concern. Gen X and Y - where are you?

For more on the The Critical Decade, please visit Climate: Taming the Unchained Goddess

Update: Professor Schellnhuber was interviewed on ABC TV's Lateline: A carbon price label is all-important: Schellnhuber:

There is also a transcript at the link.

Climate: Taming the Unchained Goddess

The Murdoch media, the shock jocks and TV breakfast shows and much of the other mainstream media are obviously too scared to leave home at night as a result of the carbon tax fear and loathing they’ve been spreading. Perhaps it's the dreaded bird-brain flu.

Or ironically it may have just been Melbourne University’s cold winter evening that kept them away. One way or the other they missed out on lots of sensational footage when Professor Hans Joachin Schellnhuber gave his public address for the FOUR DEGREES OR MORE? Australia in a Hot World conference. The Age had a report on his worst-case scenarios from earlier in the day. There was plenty of gloom mixed with formidable science:
Agricultural systems have broken down, crops yields decimated. Human health is tested by extremes beyond the endurance of many citizens. Shorelines and the island homes of Pacific neighbours - communities who have contributed nothing to rising greenhouse gases - are consumed by rising tides. Coral reefs erode and lifeless oxygen-starved ''holes'' grow in the ocean depths, the physics and chemistry of the water having been utterly changed.

Professor Schellnhuber, the director of the Germany's Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and chairman of the German Scientific Advisory Council, conjures up the future with a selection of graphs and tables composed from observations and modelling.
The end of the world is nigh? It's just a matter of degrees, says one expert (The Age 13 July 2011)
The cameras would have loved the contribution from four Citizens Electoral Council alternative thinkers whose series of loud interruptions included a very theatrical noose and accusations of a conspiracy lead by none other than Her Majesty ERII and her “green Nazis”. They underestimated the senior academic who vigorously escorted the ringleader out of the auditorium. Professor Schellnhuber is head of the Potsdam Institute of Climate Impact Research and Chair of the German Government's Advisory Council on Global Change. He is clearly used to this kind of protest and seemed disappointed that the count stopped at four. Anyway more about this challenged band of activists in another post.

There was lots of stuff about tipping points and runaway greenhouse dynamics but I’ll also leave that to the next post.

As we choose our future, it must be an informed choice not one based on political and economic populism and propaganda.

To finish, a little bit of Frank Capra’s 1958 The Unchained Goddess that the prof shared with us:

Update from the conference:

A media release from the CSIRO +4ºC scenarios for Australia's future climate:
A CSIRO Climate Adaptation Flagship climate researcher, Dr Whetton said that, compared to annual average temperatures recorded in 1850, a 4ºC warming might occur by the end of this century if greenhouse gas emissions stay high.
"Rapid global warming of 4ºC would be unlike anything experienced before by modern human societies – presenting us with huge challenges in terms of our ability to adapt," Dr Whetton said
She said according to a review of recent climate models by CSIRO and Melbourne University, Australian climate changes at 4ºC or more of global warming include:

  • Temperature increases of about 3ºC to 5ºC in coastal areas and 4ºC to 6ºC in inland areas
  • Likely declines of annual rainfall in southern Australia, particularly in winter, of up to about 50% but uncertain rainfall changes in other regions
  • Marked increases of potential evaporation of about 5% to 20%
  • More droughts in southern Australia
  • Snow cover duration falling to zero in most alpine regions.

Update 2: The video and audio of the address are available at: Live @ Melbourne

Monday, July 11, 2011

First Net Reactions to Carbon Pricing Package

Cross post of my Global Voices roundup on the first web reactions to Julia Gillard's announcement of a carbon price and clean energy package:

Australia Unveils Carbon Pricing Package

Australians remain divided after Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s announcement of aClean Energy package with a carbon price of $A 23 per tonne and an emissions trading scheme from 2015. Crikey had an early summary, and the rest of the local blogosphere was also quick off the mark.


Monday, July 4, 2011

Car Insurance Fine Print a One-Way Street

Catch 22 Car insurance clause. We recently had our car stolen and it was not recovered. Our insurance through APIA (Australian Pensioners Insurance Agency) was paid out. In fact they are agents for AAMI for car insurance.

When I asked if there was any refund for the remaining 7 months the answer was no. If you pay annually you lose the lot. If you pay monthly, the remainder is deducted from your pay out. It is in the Policy booklet. I was told it's not fine print. It's on Page 31. You can't transfer the leftover to a new vehicle either.

It was suggested to me when phoning to register a complaint that it would be a waste of time complaining or trying to get it changed. It's apparently LAW law. Every insurance company does it. I checked a Commonwealth Bank (CommInsure) policy booklet and they have a similar statement but it is less specific - not mentioning monthly instalments just 'unpaid premium' (Section 6.4.10).

When the insurance company takes ownership of an uncovered vehicle when they pay out, they collect the remainder of the Registration and Third Party fees. It does not get added to your pay out.

It is a one way street.

Just glad I'm a Senior and not a Pensioner.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Facing the Fourth Degree: climate change media project

Seeking funding for my Climate Change citizen journalism project - Climate Change: Facing the Fourth Degree Please help to give the Science a voice.

Choose your future.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Ross Garnaut: Millions of Low Carbon Jobs

Professor Ross Garnaut talks about the 2011 Update to his 2008 Climate Change Review. Speaking to an public audience at Melbourne University on 16 June 2011, Ross predicts that millions of low carbon jobs will be created in Australia. They will come from "everywhere'.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Swear-In: Fine is a Four-Letter Word

From my Global Voices post about the Victorian on-the-spot-fines for swearing :

Melbourne has just had a swear-in outside Victoria’s State Parliament to protest against new laws for on-the-spot fines for swearing.

...This issue has caused a lot of web chatter in places other than the usual suspects: mostly outrage or disbelief, mixed with a lot of humour.

The swear-in rally drew a smaller crowd than had indicated their intention to attend on Facebook. Perhaps the f**kwalk on 25 June, 2011, based on the recent slutwalk, will have more success.
Australia’s Swear-In: Fine is a Four-Letter Word

Monday, June 6, 2011

What Price Carbon Pollution - Melbourne Say Yes Rally

Thousands of Melbournians rallied on World Environment Day 5 June 2011 to Say Yes to putting a price on carbon.

Speakers included MC Corinne Grant, Jenna Farrington and Don Henry (Australian Conservation Foundation).

Music by Blue King Brown.

For those who are into omens, the sun was shining. For unreconstructed rationalists like me, the arguments were compelling.

If your YouTube is blocked, please try this one:

Friday, June 3, 2011

Brazil’s Belo Monte Dam Dilemma

From post for Civicus World Assembly's Climate Justice track:
Hydroelectricity, like nuclear power, is seen by many as one of the answers to reducing carbon emissions. However, negative impacts on the environment such as deforestation and river systems degradation are almost inevitably accompanied by the destruction of local communities. China’s Three Gorges Dam is a contentious example.

Mitigation, conservation and development can clash head-on, sometimes disastrously. The Belo Monte dam is shaping up as a classic dilemma.
Brazil’s Belo Monte Dam: Classic Development Dilemma


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A cartoon is worth a thousand...

The Age has two of the best cartoons of the year today.

Firstly, vintage Michael Leunig:

Then a very biting piece from John Spooner. It's not the state of Oz politicians or the dumbed-down media that he's ripping into - it's their audience and his:

SlutWalks Spread the Word

My roundup of the Oz blogosphere for Global Voices:
Following Toronto’s lead, Australians have started a series of SlutWalks with Melbourne’s first march on Saturday 28 May. The catchcry: Make it known that those who experience sexual assault are never the ones at fault.
Australia: SlutWalks Spread the Word


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Cate Blanchett Cops Flak For Saying Yes to Carbon Price

This ad promoting a Carbon Price for Australia has been criticised by opponents for using Cate Blanchett. She's a rich celebrity so her view shouldn't count apparently. Rich mining magnates on the other hand can make as many ads as they like.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Journalist Arrest Over Facebook Photo

My post for Global Voices re Ben Grubb arrest in Queensland:
Australian journalist arrested and iPad seized! No it’s not Julian Assange.

But Ben Grubb’s brief encounter with Queensland authorities raised several serious cyber issues including social media privacy and security, police powers of arrest and confiscation of digital devices, plus journalists’ rights.
Australia: Journalist Arrest Over Facebook Photo


Monday, May 16, 2011

Carbon Action: Say Yes Australians!

Please spread the word. Time for carbon action is now!

The campaign on Facebook: