Archive for the ‘Stuff’ Category

How do we know what to believe?

December 21, 2016

Fake News is in the—er—news at the moment, with Facebook and other outlets assuring everyone they’re going to clamp down on it. So how do we know what, or whom to believe?

I found a new blog recently called Neurologica—your daily fix of neuroscience, scepticism and critical thinking. The writer has a good post up at the moment : Skeptical Questions Everyone Should Ask. I found it really useful and a good follow-up to the FutureLearn course in logical and critical thinking I did recently.

“But there is no substitute for going through the process yourself. The process is also open-ended and is never done. This includes developing a basic scientific literacy and critical thinking skills.”

Unfortunately, like ‘common sense’, scientific literacy and critical thinking are not all that common.

Maybe it is better to believe nothing, apart from what you can see, hear, taste, smell and feel. For instance, I can ‘see’ flowers on my persimmon. I ‘believe’ I am going to be eating persimmons next winter. Yum :

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Questions & answers

February 4, 2016

Back in the dim dark ages, the early 80’s to be exact, I read a book by American ecologist, Paul Ehrlich, called The Machinery of Nature. It was my first introduction to ecology—the study of ecosystems and ecosystem functioning.

It blew me away. While biology had been my favourite subject at school, I had never been taught to consider life on earth from a holistic, systems-oriented approach. Science in those days was inherently reductionist and still is to some extent. Perhaps that’s why I’ve never met anyone of my generation who thinks in systemic terms.

Ehrlich’s book was a library book. I desperately needed a copy of my own, so I could read it again and again. The local bookshop didn’t have it. I seriously considered telling the library I’d lost it and offering to pay for it, but luckily, I eventually bought my own copy. I still read it regularly (somehow I missed the most famous systems-thinking book of the time, The Limits to Growth, published in 1972).

The 80’s and 90’s were a period of growing environmental awareness for me. I read dozens of books on the subject. With an awareness of how human life-support systems functioned, it became obvious that human activities were in the process of destroying them.

I asked myself why would an intelligent species deliberately destroy its own life support systems. I’ve been searching for the answer ever since.

This video goes a long way towards providing answers. It’s long—an hour and a quarter, so perhaps many of you won’t bother with it. But do please share it on social media if you can (perhaps it’s a reason for me to finally embrace the joys(?) of the dreaded Facebook). I think people need to see it and understand where we’re going and why. Then maybe we can make the changes we need to make.

The speaker is William Rees.

William Rees is a bio-ecologist, ecological economist, former Director and Professor Emeritus of the University of British Columbia’s School of Community and Regional Planning. His early research focused on environmental assessment but gradually extended to the biophysical requirements for sustainability and the implications of global ecological trends. Along the way, he developed a special interest in modern cities as ‘dissipative structures’ and therefore as particularly vulnerable components of the total human ecosystem.

Rees is perhaps best known as the originator and co-developer (with his graduate students) of ecological footprint analysis—the expanding human eco-footprint is arguably the world’s best-known indicator of the (un)sustainability of techno-industrial society. His book on eco-footprinting (co-authored with his former PhD student, Mathis Wackernagel) has been published in eight languages, including Chinese. (bio from http://www.postcarbon.org/our-people/william-rees/)

 

 

If you watched right through to the end you’ll have seen this on one of the final powerpoint slides :

“Privileged elites with the greatest stake in the status quo control the policy levers. Ordinary people hold to the expansionist myth. Society remains in paralysis.”

I remembered the photo I’d seen in the morning’s paper. One of the privileged elites. Not his best angle, perhaps. Arrogance personified?

I don’t want my future in the hands of people like this.

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A laugh for Christmas

December 23, 2014

The Plain English Foundation has released its annual list of the year’s worst words and phrases, with 2014 particularly rich in euphemism and spin.

This year the phrase “conscious uncoupling”, used by Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin when the couple announced their separation, topped the list.

The foundation publishes the list to highlight the importance of clear and ethical public language.

Winners are decided by staff votes, chosen from a shortlist of doublespeak, buzzwords and “fancy pants” language.

Winner:

Conscious uncoupling

Gwyneth Paltrow and her husband Chris Martin did not decide to separate. Instead, they experienced a conscious uncoupling.

Corporate spin:

Appropriate financial envelope

Microsoft emailed its employees to explain that the company’s “device strategy must reflect Microsoft’s strategy and must be accomplished within an appropriate financial envelope. Therefore, we plan to make some changes”. Finally, in the eleventh paragraph, the email got to the point: 12,500 Microsoft employees were going to lose their jobs.

Open cut event

Residents of Morwell, Victoria, were left breathing foul-smelling smoke for over two weeks due to a month-long fire, which was described as an “open cut event” in a nearby mine. “Inversion condition” led to a “reversion” in air quality, while firefighters struggled to bring the fire “to its totality”.

Euphemism:

Rapid disassembly

14 million vehicles were recalled this year because their Takata airbags had an unfortunate tendency towards “rapid disassembly”. In plain English, that means some of them exploded.

Pavement failure

When a recent Qantas flight was delayed by an hour, the explanation was as baffling as it was frustrating for passengers. There had been a “pavement failure”, which meant that a pothole on a runway had to be filled-in before the plane could take off.

Political spin:

High value targeting

“High value targeting” is a more pleasant way to describe killing an enemy of importance. This term hit the news in December when WikiLeaks released a CIA report on the practice. This came in the same month a US Senate Intelligence Committee report highlighted the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques”.

Efficiency dividend

Senator Mathias Cormann told Australians that the cut in ABC funding was an “efficiency dividend”. “We are not making cuts,” Senator Cormann explained. “The ABC has been exempted from efficiency dividends for the last 20 years, efficiency dividends which apply to every other department in government.” The government later admitted that funding was, in fact, cut.

Non-apology of the year:

The physical result of a bite

Uruguayan footballer Luis Suarez issued a non-apology for biting his Italian rival in a World Cup soccer game: “The truth is that my colleague Giorgio Chiellini suffered the physical result of a bite in the collision he suffered with me.”

Silly sign of the year:

Potential for dangerous aquatic organisms

Gold Coast City Council erected some helpful warning signs about the “potential for dangerous aquatic organisms”. According to Daryl McPhee of Bond University, this means the waterways could be “physically penetrate[d]” by bull sharks. Luckily, the sign included a picture.

Frankenwords:

Collabition

An awkward mangling of the words collaboration and competition – not to be confused with its close cousin, “co-opetition” which describes businesses working with their competitors, to everyone’s advantage. Neither case is supposed to be confused with “collusion”.

Couplies

Selfies are so 2013. This year it’s all about the “couplie” (a self-portrait with your significant other).

Marketing buzzword of the year:

Normcore

Normcore is a fashion term that describes wearing unpretentious, plain, average-looking clothing. Like normal clothing, but more fashionable. Apparently normcore seeks the freedom that comes with non-exclusivity. It finds liberation in being nothing special, and realises that adaptability leads to belonging.

Mixed metaphor of the year:

“Let’s fix our roof while the sun is shining because we’re on a course to hit the rocks and we have to fix it.”

The Australian National Commission of Audit member Amanda Vanstone clarified Australia’s “budget emergency”.

Grammatical error of the year:

Sorry for any incontinence caused

An East London Tesco store made the news last July when its management posted an unusual apology for its broken freezers: “We are trying to get this problem fix as soon as possible and are really sorry for any incontinence caused, Management.”

Building resilience….

August 9, 2014

….in an era of limits to growth.

I didn’t get to see Nicole Foss and David Holmgren on their recent tour of Australia. For those not in the loop, Nicole Foss is a Canadian finance and energy analyst who has been touring the world in recent years trying to wake people up to the impending financial collapse and energy decline (aka peak oil). She is co-founder of the blog The Automatic Earth, although has been too busy to write much there now.

David Holmgren is, of course, the co-originator of permaculture.

Anyway….I just caught up with a radio broadcast of one of her talks in this country. I’ve downloaded and saved it to listen to, over and over.  The financial system is so complex that I need multiple listens to get it all straightened out in my head.

Find a quiet spot and have a listen. You’ll need the best part of an hour for it.

Water: tank vs tap

August 7, 2014

I’ve been drinking tank water (and cooking with it), since we put in our tank 14 years ago, although we do have town water on tap also. The tap water gets used for washing, because the tank isn’t plumbed to the house and there’s not enough of it to do everything.

The main reason for doing so is that fluoride is now added to our water supply. I did some research at the time, decided that it was a poison and that I didn’t want to put it into my body any more than was necessary (remembering though, the well-known saying that the ‘poison is the dose’).

I did some more research some time ago, because someone commented in a letter to the daily paper about a TV program on fluoridation, complaining that it was all up-market, feel-good stuff and the downsides weren’t mentioned. The writer said it accumulates in the body and that made me sit up and take notice. I hadn’t remembered that.

The jury still seems to be out on the benefits/problems with fluoride. Dentists are way in favour of it, my own included, but there are still many people who are against it. Not all countries fluoridate their water supplies. Here’s the Wikipedia entry on water fluoridation in Australia.

Getting back to that comment that ‘the poison is the dose’, makes me wonder:

  • what about people who drink a lot more water than others?
  • what about children and babies? They’d be getting a lot more fluoride relative to body weight than adults. Has that been considered?
  • what about elderly people, probably already coping with numerous co-morbidities. What’s the effect on them?
  • how rigorous is the quality control of the addition process?  (In Ipswich, Queensland, 12 months ago, a double dose of fluoride was accidently added to the city’s water supply).
  • if its only benefit is for dental health, what about people who no longer have their own teeth?

Another reason for walking away from town water supplies is that I just don’t agree that the government—any government—has the right to decide what I put into my body. That should be my choice and my choice alone. It’s one of the reasons why I want to produce as much of my own food as possible and why I’m such an avid reader of supermarket labels on the food I do have to buy.

I’m not going to put links here to pro/anti fluoride websites (and there are plenty); I think it’s better if you do your own research and make up your own minds. Let me know what you think in the comments box.

It concerns me, that for something as vital as water, we don’t have a choice.

Damn & blast!!

May 29, 2014

Steve Marsh Loses His Case to be GM Free

I really thought he had a chance.

All the more reason for growing your own GM free food.

It makes me angry to think that his nasty, selfish neighbour has gotten away with it!

 

 

Why you should grow your own food

May 10, 2014

Years ago I read this essay by Jared Diamond, and so began my hatred of the industrial agriculture model and my determination to escape from the toxic effects of it.

Here’s another really good post which goes into further detail, in particular with the use of poisons and GMO’s which Diamond didn’t mention, as it wasn’t such a big deal when he wrote his essay.

The woes of industrial agriculture.

Send this to your friends who are still dependent on supermarkets for their food. Commit this information to memory and try to wake people up. I’m sure the average Joe knows none of this. The need to walk away from industrial agriculture has never been more urgent.

Systemic collapse is just over the next horizon.

R.I.P. Mike Ruppert

April 16, 2014

Sad to read, at Dmitry Orlov’s blog, of Mike’s passing, especially that he took his own life. Peak oilers will know of Mike, of course. I could write more, but Mike Stasse, at Damn the Matrix, has said all I could say. His introduction to Mike’s writings was like mine. As Mike (Stasse) says, people  who carry the burden of what Richard Heinberg calls ‘toxic knowledge’, have to struggle hard against the ignorance and complacency of the general public and the politicians. I know, because that burden is mine, too. I read recently that Ruppert was suffering from depression, so maybe the news is not so surprising.

While you’re at Damn the Matrix, take a look at this post on the stupidity of the proposed new airport for Sydney. There is simply no future in fossil fuel-powered flight. None at all. Toxic knowledge indeed!

He told us so

January 14, 2014

<anger>

Back in 1896 the Swedish chemist Arrhenius warned that if we continued to burn fossil fuels we would heat the Earth.

And we didn’t listen. We never listen. We continued to burn fossil fuels with a vengeance. And because of that, in Melbourne at the moment, we are experiencing 4 consecutive days of temperatures above 40 °C. The weather bureau claims that in 150 years of recording, we haven’t even averaged one 40 degree day a year. Now there are four in a row.

I thought I was watering adequately. This morning I covered up some of the more tender-leaved vegetables with shadecloth. I watered all the others. I stayed inside all day, only venturing out to hose down the soil in the chookyard and to keep up a supply of iceblocks in their drinking water (it’s said they won’t drink water that’s above their body temperature and if they don’t drink they’ll die). The Girls were stressed out, panting. I apologised to them for the human stupidity and ignorance that had caused their discomfort.

After dinner I went down the back to check on the food forest. The leaves on the five tamarillos were hanging limply beside their stems. I can’t afford to lose them. They’re covered in developing fruits.

The leaves on all the citrus trees were curled up and burnt. The redcurrant leaves were crisp and crumbled away when I touched them. The developing apples were all showing burnt spots. They will rot away on the trees. Luckily I had the foresight to pick all the plums, even though they weren’t properly ripe.

I put a thermometer on my workbench in the shade. It went straight to 44 °C and stayed there. I connected the hose to the tap (the tank is too slow) and watered everything. There are two more days of this to go. It is unprecedented. It is the future.

I’m angry.

Thirty years ago I learned about the connection between fossil fuel burning and climate change. I went out of my way to use less energy and tried to encourage other people to do the same. I was called ‘ratbag greenie’ for my trouble.  I won’t ever forget or forgive those stupid, ignorant morons for that. I hope they’re still around, still living in Melbourne and that their gardens are burned to a crisp like mine. Not that they’d care. They’re probably living in air-conditioned luxury and shopping at the supermarket. Why trouble to grow your own food when the shops are full of it and you can drive there (wasting fuel) just for a litre of milk (like my neighbour does).

I watch the people around me still using energy stupidly, still either unconcerned or too stupid to make the connections. I don’t own an energy-guzzling air conditioner or a plasma TV.  I keep driving to a minimum, I’ve just installed solar, I will never fly again.

What’s the point? Why not just join the masses in their energy-guzzling lifestyles. It may cause the human race to drive itself extinct just that little bit sooner.

And that will be a good thing.

</anger>

I’m off to bed. To try and sleep in a room where the temp is 36 °C.

Understanding collapse

January 4, 2014

Gail Tverberg over at Our Finite World has another really excellent post about Why a Finite World is a Problem.

I wish more people, particularly the world’s brain-dead  politicians, understood this stuff.

Meanwhile, those of us who do, can only continue to prepare for the coming crises as best and as quickly as we can, by becoming self-sufficient in food, water and energy and encouraging as many people as will listen, to follow suit.