Identity politics 2

September 15, 2018

We are having a lot of announcements from our government that religious freedoms must be protected. There is no doubt that there are areas of the world where religious freedoms are under threat. It is increasingly difficult to be Christian in many Islamic countries, and Muslims in many Christian countries can face daily abuse – in particular women in hijab. Fundamentalist Hindus in India seem to be attacking everyone else. Buddhists in Myanmar are behaving with apparent brutality to Muslims who have lived in the country for centuries. While this level of religious intolerance and violence should not be accepted, there is no evidence I have seen that suggests that Christians in Australia face anything remotely resembling this level of attack or that they are remotely likely to face this level of attack in the future.

The evidence presented does not seem that persuasive either.

The prime minister has mentioned that kids have been stopped doing Christmas plays. He does not present evidence for his statement. He says that Christians have been prevented from discussing the real meaning of Easter. No evidence is presented again. We are told that boards of directors may stop people from being members because of incompatibilities of belief. No evidence is presented, and the PM even seems to think the lack of evidence for it happening now, is evidence for it happening in the future.

If indeed Church groups have been prevented from preaching to their members, or prevented from putting on Christmas plays in the Church, then we do have real problems. But nobody seems to be claiming this. Likewise Christians and others have discussed the meaning of Easter in public with me, with no apparent hinderance. The local newspapers usually have meaning of Easter articles, and editorials, and summarise the various Easter messages from the main churches. There is no one screaming in the papers that Christians should not be allowed to talk about Easter – nothing like the screaming against various right or left wing speakers that seems a regular feature of contemporary debate. Sure people commenting on articles with a Christian slant may be abusive or more likely dismissive, but facing abuse online is a regular event for everybody, and there is often abuse from Christians in return, suggesting atheists are subhuman or deserve to burn in Hell for eternity and often expressing joy at this hypothesis.

We also have continuing tax exemption for religious organisations, even if they seem run for profit or for the income of the leaders. Taxpayer subsidy of religious schools, public money spent on Chaplains to council school children who don’t need any qualifications in counselling, and a total lack of funding for qualified counsellors who are not approved by the local denominations. We still effectively have compulsory religious instruction in public schools – as the NSW government does not allow schools to reveal if they have the substitute ethics courses available. We allow religious schools to sack people if they find them incompatible with their beliefs (ie they are gay, feminist, or the wrong form of Christianity) – oddly this is one area that people say is not strong enough for religious liberty! We have politicians and right wing commentators who have defended the clergy from accusations of child abuse. We have politicians claiming their religion as a matter of course. No one has persecuted them in any effective manner. There is not any movement to curb much of this.

I am absolutely open to counter evidence for impingement on Christian liberty.

All of this, along with the lack of concern for the religious freedoms of Muslims or Buddhists, suggests that there is a level of fantasy in these allegations and they are really about identity politics of a specific group that seeks privilege over others.

Now it is true that the secular state has stopped human sacrifice, religious torture and persecution of other religions. It has tried to stop child abuse by churches, it has recognised rape in marriage, it has allowed women to claim equal rights, and not be beaten in marriage as a matter of religion. It does not allow people to sell their children into slavery, or have them wedded by the age of 12. It has failed to stop male genital mutilation, but that failure is an example of religious power. I would suspect that most Christians and other religious people, can live quite happily with these restrictions.

However it was notable during the debate on whether the State’s category of marriage could be extended to homosexual relationships. No religion was being forced to carry out marriages, just recognise them, as they do other marriages not held in their churches. Many religious people seemed to consider that the attempt to stop them discriminating against others was a threat to their freedom. They naturally did the suggesting that homosexual people were subhuman immoral and deserved to burn in hell line, and seemed surprised that other people responded strongly to these suggestions. Is it that only they should be allowed to abuse others, or that they don’t they see these comments as abuse? Later in the debate when the ‘burn in hell’ lines did not seem to work amongst the general population who don’t think gay people are any worse than other people, they decided to attack heterosexual and Christian marriages as illegitimate if there was no chance of producing children. Naturally they did not put it that way, but that was the logical consequence of arguing that marriage was solely for the production of children. They also kept imagining gay couples will deliberately go to Christian bakers for wedding cakes to upset them. Such are the stands Christians have to take nowadays.

The suggestion of all this, seems to be that Christians should not have to live under the same conditions as everyone else. They demand protection from debate, from having to justify their positions, and from any opposition, even opposition that they have provoked. This campaign, does not seem to be about freedom, but about privilege, and fits the general pattern that right wing identity politics differs from left as it is not about recognising more people’s rights to participate in public life with their full personal identity, but about saying “we are special, and better than others”. It represents an attempt to shut others down. Given Christian history, Christians from minority sects, those who try to live with love rather than condemnation, people from other religions, agnostics etc, should all be worried by this movement.


What would Satan do?

September 8, 2018

Let us imagine that there is an incredibly powerful evil being who has influence over the earth, and was free for some time to do as he could, for whatever reason.

Well, what would he do?

Well one obvious answer is that he (and let’s be traditional and say he is male) would not try and tempt people one by one. That is a terrible expense of time and effort, for very little result, and he would probably think most humans are contemptible, so why spend time with them? My guess, as to the answer, is that he would try and confuse and corrupt whole civilizations, because its easier – humans reinforce each other’s behavior.

For this purpose he might try to set himself up as the one true God. He could tell his followers that if they obeyed him they would be virtuous and successful, and only they would be virtuous, as everyone else was following false gods. Followers should support each other, and would be rewarded with material prosperity as well. Sounds good, and it reinforces group boundary lines and group loyalties. Then he might ask them to go and kill some people he didn’t like (perhaps they had rejected his claims) and take their land. His followers might object, so he might say he would punish them, so they then decide to go ahead with it, and occupy the land and slaughter the original inhabitants. They would probably not think, “Satan claims to be omnipotent – why can’t he just provide us with unoccupied land, or change some piece of desert into a land of milk and honey for us. Why did we have to slaughter people?” After all obeying Satan is good, by definition, and those who don’t obey him must be evil, so slaughtering these people is permissible.

Satan tells them what they are doing is just. Genocide becomes virtue. Maybe he tells them to kill the men and rape the women. That’s good too, by definition. So Satan gets a war machine. His chosen people, or true believers, can murder, steal and rape with impunity, as long as they keep it under control with each other. He tells them they are surrounded by evil, and they must not associate with non-believers (unless to convert them to be his followers). They should not share food with them, as this is a good way of maintaining boundaries. Non-believers are corrupt and frightening – anything can be said about them, and it is probably true. This further reinforces both group boundaries and the assumption that other people are evil, and deserve persecution.

Some time later he gives up the rewarding followers thing, because well he is evil and its boring, and he tells people he will generally reward them after death. No one will ever find out and bring the real news back. But people now know if the rewards don’t come immediately, with Satan testing their faith, rewards will come in the afterlife, and you should not struggle against Satan’s will, or you might not get the rewards.

However, when things go wrong, he can tell them he is punishing them, perhaps not for their disobedience but for the disobedience of some other people nearby. As the rules are contradictory, or difficult, it is not too hard to find someone (or yourself) to hate and sacrifice to appease Satan’s wrath. That’s good as it produces more terror, although most believers don’t object to terror being the aim, because terror is the beginning of wisdom, or so Satan says.

He then tells people he is a loving and compassionate being. This can confuse people, and as they emulate him, it also shows murder and so on must be compassionate, as long as it is not against fellow true believers. if they worry about that, well Satan is a mystery beyond human understanding. Eventually a few people do think this is incoherent as well. So he responds by telling people he is loving and compassionate and has people who disagree with him tortured for eternity. That can be really confusing. But you had better believe or else you face a dire fate, and you might decide you need to please Satan, and send people to hell to prove you are on his side. If the people you kill are really virtuous, then you can be sure Satan will make it up to them after they are dead. So no worries. If you think hell and compassion don’t go together that well, you must be allied with the forces of real evil, because if you were good, you would have no problems with this teaching, because Satan is good and truly compassionate. He tells us so.

Because they know that by following Satan they are as good as it gets, believers know they are better than non-believers and should rule over them. If they don’t rule over heathen infidels, then they are being oppressed and should strike back. Likewise, men are better than women and should rule over them. Older people should rule over their children. This creates more bad temper, friction and murder. There are few families which are not rent inside, spurring on those evil, vicious and cruel acts, which are (not that) secretly pleasing to Satan.

Perhaps some people come to think that people can be moral without obeying Satan, and that he does not show a very good example anyway. Those people are told that there is no basis for morality other than Satan’s word, and so they are without morality, and should not be listened to, or should be persecuted until they know better. Whatever Satan says is right, and the basis for a good virtuous life. If believers are not allowed to follow Satan’s word exactly, then they are oppressed. Believers also know that rebels against Satan always fail, and are always cursed, because he is the source of everything – so he says. And Satan says he cannot lie, or be mistaken. So that is the end of that. Unbelievers demonstrably have bad morals, as you can see by looking at any society run by non-believers, and they will not be saved – they are not righteously human.

Followers really try to please Satan and even end up fighting other Satan worshipers, over massively important factors of doctrine or history (which look pretty trivial to ignorant non-believers), to preserve the real purity of belief and teaching which is necessary for rewards, and Satan is pleased.

He sits back in his mighty throne and smiles…. It all worked well.

A left wing newspaper covers the Right

August 27, 2018

For those who don’t know, the Right wing government has had a change of Prime Minister. It was agitated for by the extreme right, and he kept yielding to them, until they rewarded him by challenging him for leadership. They succeeded in the overthrow, but not in putting one of their absolute own in place. We still have a neoliberal leader.

Where I live We are always being told by the Right, that the local non-Murdoch newspaper, the Sydney Morning Herald is a left wing newspaper. I thought I’d test this hypothesis by looking at relevant article headlines for the last three days after the Morrison coup. See what you think.

For any confused Americans, ‘Liberal’ in the rest of the world means something like “in favour of capitalism” it does not mean “progressive”.

Morrison snatches top job.

  • [New PM vows to unite party, nation]
  • Podium finish for Morrison after day of Drama.

  • [PM embarks on Campain to heal divisions]
  • PM vows action on Power prices.

  • [no mention of climate change or emissions]
  • Headaches ahead on the policy front.

  • [he will push control of the policy priorities back to the centre right]
  • He promised so much but sadly delivered little.

  • [Peter Fitzsimmons laments Malcolm Turnbull’s failings]
  • Real Malcolm did stand up, too late.

  • [Another peice on Turnbull’s failings]
  • The Rise and rise of a ruthless pragmatist always in a hurry.

  • [Morrison’s career as a moderate pragmatist… His connections with Peter Costello a Liberal stalwart and John Howard. Loyal to Turnbull. Likes football. A bastion of middle Australia. Competent Treasurer. Hailed by business. General moderate good guy.]
  • Down to earth, a good man, a winner, a clown.

  • [8 positive comments on Morrison from voters in his electorate one negative and one indifferent for balance.]
  • No Honeymoon for PM.

  • [Shock jocks still want Abbott/Dutton as PM]
  • The inside story of Scott Morrison’s ascendancy.

  • [Morrison had more application than Dutton. The mess is all the fault of those more conservative than Morrison. He was loyal to the end]
  • The breaking of politics in Australia.

  • [Left wing identity politics, and right wing insurgency is the problem. Steady democracy is on the way out – so the coalitions’ behaviour in the last week is the new normal]
  • Editorial: Liberals choose the sensible centre-right.
    Letters: Turnbull can only blame himself. Narrow victory for the progressives
    Stephanie Dowrick: Rise up and resist the leaders with no vision.

  • [mildly critical, but the ALP are as bad.]
  • Tom Switzer: Popular ideas can help Morrison unite a split party.

  • [Malcolm was never one of us. Morrison must fight the culture wars, political correctness and left identity politics. {presumably the government’s actual policies are not popular.}]
  • Peter Hartcher: Vengeance but no end to madness.

  • [Over a quarter of the peice gives Abbotts attack on Turnbull without comment. Liberals have gone away from conservative base and lost trust.]
  • Sunday
    Morrison to end school Funding War.
    Dutton backers tell PM to show he’s listening on immigration.
    Normal bloke next door is what Australia needs.
    Treasurer turns to Costello for tips.
    Everyone loves the real friendly new first lady.
    No clash of dynasties in Wentworth.

  • [all peaceful in the ex-PM’s electorate]
  • The Roof of the Broad Church may be falling in

  • [Critical of Coalition or Turnbull Government, but implies that the republicans in the US are a populist working class party -NO]
  • Wanted firm political leadership.

  • [critical of both sides]
  • Editorial: If Morrison can be his own man then there’s hope.

    Morrison treads softly in reshuffle.
    Voters warm to PM but turn on Coalition.

  • [Sounds critical but the “coalition has kept core support near the 44.6 per cent it gained at the last election” so they are hopeful of winning. No mention of other polls which show Coalition support collapsing]
  • PM Rewards Allies and restores key rivals to power.
    Morrison did everything for a truce. But one move was too far.

  • [Pragmatic cabinet reshuffle that did not reward Tony Abbott.]
  • Accolades flow for top Foreign minister.

  • [Be nice to Julie Bishop day. Don’t talk about sexism. Bishop was widely regarded as a leadership contender who worked hard for people on her side. She was roundly rejected.]
  • Amanda Vanstone: No wonder the public is annoyed.

  • [Criticises nameless bad people in the Parliament so its all generalities]
  • Cancer eating the heart of democracy.

  • [Kevin Rudd attack Rupert Murdoch and Tony Abbott.]
  • Sources of Social Power 1: Violence (dynocracy)

    August 27, 2018

    Some while ago I wrote about the ten different sources of social power:
    Violence. Wealth. Cosmology. Communication. Organisation. Social Category. Risk. Networked legitimacy. Inertia.

    Today I’ll sketch out something about violence

    Monopoly and organisation of violence are important (organisation is a source of power), but disorganised violence can be effective as when a stronger or more skilled person attacks another without provocation or one person lives in fear of another. Whoever controls (or implements) the violence tries to make it ‘legitimate’, but being able to persuade people of that legitimacy is important. Legitimacy is matter of cosmology and communication (rhetoric). If Apple started using guns to murder people in MS we would probably not cheer at this moment, although court cases aimed at destroying the other company might be acceptable. However, if some news channel lies about people wiping them out of the contest, portrays them as inhuman or subhuman, or supports a military struggle against them, we may be unsure if this is violence (or indeed untrue) unless some rival news channel takes the story up in a different way; and even then we don’t know what is happening. Likewise we may wonder if selling people an addictive substance which will lead to their death is violence. So we also need to decide what ‘violence’ involves, which is possibly not going to be easy.

    In this basic case I’m going to talk about physical injury or the threat of physical injury through the application of force or substances, the kind we usually associate with the military. But there may be other forms of violence (such as speech and categorising) intentional and unintentional. Violence does not have to actually be applied to be effective, indeed sometimes the threat of violence is more effective at maintaining power than the deployment of violence, as the deployment of violence can be seen to be ineffective. For example, the US had a military reputation for success, before they invaded Afghanistan and Iraq -their failures there helped the growth of opposition and the realisation they were defeatable.

    Essentially violence depends upon consent of a kind, as David Hume remarked. If the troops refused to obey their commanders or see obedience as part of the nature of their world, peace might break out, class structures might fall apart. Most humans are not terribly violent (violent yes but not to killing people continually), so armies tend to build loyalties, build group identities, build obedience, or build outgroup identities, so that outgroups can be dealt with as non human. Modern armies can try and destroy a person’s identity in order to build an army identity. To be disobedient, is generally to break with the group, exhibit what the group calls cowardice (a bad thing) and not only to risk punishment but to be alone. Consent to obedience is built into this organisational communicative process.

    Violence as a form of coercion, may further attract particular personality types, and usually tends to be more favoured by men than women, as women are generally smaller, less muscular, and more likely to get hurt. In general, most people do not seem capable of maintaining sustained high levels of violence and death, hence it is always a minority that exerts this form of coercion. This is reinforced because the best weapons, defense and training are nearly always expensive. Again trained, organised and well equipped violence is usually the most effective (although not always).

    When the fighting forces, classes or individuals come together to plan conquest, or demand tribute from the people they defend or terrorise, they begin to form a proto-State. One can think of the relationship between the European State, feudal kingship and the violence of knights, or the Roman State and military expansion. There is perhaps little functional difference between the fighting classes and organised crime, except the fighting classes have managed to give themselves public legitimacy. They offer people (and each other) protection demanding obedience in return. Of course, this protection is generally from other fighting classes, who wish the same of those beneath them.

    Because organised violence is tied in with the State, then as long as there are professional combat forces you will probably have a State, or the violent State, as professional combat forces generally need tribute and some kind of State to organise and extract it. Similarly, if the State spends a large portion of its budget on the military, it implies it is dominated by violent imperatives, rather than democratic ones. Hence, the vital importance of cutting military spending if you are serious about ending State coercion. Of course this is hard to do, while other forms of organised violence, and State violence, still exists in neighbouring territories, as dynocracies are often driven by desires for expansion, either to gain more land to keep the centre from the potential front lines, or the desire to gain more tribute. Violence begets violence up to mutual destruction. Social forms need more than mere violence.

    Dynocracy can also be joined with other forms of power such as theocracy, when the basis of power is religion and violence. It is not a solution to this form of coercion to replace State combat with plutocractic privately organised combat. If you don’t somehow prevent private armies, you may end up back in an even worse place, as those private forces form their own military organisations with no ‘traditional curbs’ at all, and demand tribute. Many forms of organisation can embrace organised combat.

    People, as individuals, or as part of a group or social category, can carry this kind of threat with them, as a mode of display, through visible weaponry and so on. It can be used to defend, increase or enforce economic power. For example, the East India company, the opium wars, the slave trade, rubber in Brazil etc. Over time, the military may become the social elite, and thus responsible for the ‘safety’ of all other forms of power.

    However, where there is no organized violence, or class of violent people, violence can be used to destroy the formation hierarchy, relatively painlessly. Where there is such an organized class, it is much harder, and more likely to fail.

    Identity politics

    August 25, 2018

    There is a lot of bad press being given to left wing identity politics at the moment, but strangely right wing identity politics seems to be ignored, or people pretend it does not exist, even while it is particularly virulent. Perhaps the right wing media use this identity politics in an attempt to get people on side with right wing policies which are not popular….

    Now as far as I understand it, left wing identity politics is people saying something like “I’m gay, black, working class and redneck and I demand respect on all counts, stop disrespecting me, or excluding me for being any of these things.” Sometimes it sounds a bit incoherent, but if you accept the idea that we are all equal in principle, then its pretty straightforward: “Yep that’s ok. I’ll do my best.” This is not to say people on the left are universally tolerant (who is?) but that the movement of Left identity politics is expansive and aims at recognizing people who are usually ignored or actively repressed as worthwhile human beings.

    Right wing identity politics, on the other hand seems to go something like “everyone who is not like me is inferior, and they should shut up and listen to my wisdom and worship”. In general it seems the hard right will not tolerate any difference from their own position, which ever one it is they have chosen at this time. If anyone is different, or says anything different, then they must be expelled, or silenced as they are overtly inferior and corrupt.

    Despite commentator Jordan Peterson’s optimistic proposition that the Right excludes racists, being the same ‘race’ as them is often important – although they may say that ‘whites’ are discriminated against, presumably for not being approved of for slurring blacks or Muslims or whatever… (Muslim is not a race, they say, so if they insist all Muslims are evil, its not racist). Sometimes it seems that right wing Christians claim they are discriminated against because they can’t burn people at the stake any more, and expect applause for that act.

    This kind of identity politics almost automatically appears to makes most of the right inclined parties seem more and more deeply intolerant and self-involved, especially when they have the support of right wing media. This media also tolerates no difference and tells them how those on the Right are oppressed by, say, leftwing gay people wanting equal rights to marry or to hold hands in public. It was interesting that during the anti-gay marriage campaign, the right often argued that marriage was about children and therefor no marriage which could not have children was legitimate – thus narrowing the number of people (even heterosexuals) who should marry even further. The Right appears to believe that those who are not joined to them are sinful and should not be heard.

    In Australia, this kind of identity politics is why the Australian Liberal party (Liberal in the sense of pro-capitalist Victorian liberalism) is moving away from being what it used to claim was a ‘broad church’. The hard right appears to be trying to get rid of anyone who does not believe in exactly the same set of policies they believe in, even when both sides are happily ‘neoliberal’ in terms of the economy. Neoliberalism, involves nannying and protecting the corporate sector, and ignoring wage theft, pension theft and financial fraud from the corporate sector if it can, while trying to prosecute unions and cut wages and conditions for ordinary folk. Hence they were outraged at the last Coalition prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, because he admitted that climate change might be a problem, and that politicians should occasionally listen to the concerns of other people – even when he consistently yielded to their concerns. Yielding was not enough, he should never have thought otherwise in the first place. This refusal to accept him was effectively a form of violence towards Turnbull, and any Australians who might have agreed with him.

    While at the moment some people may vote for the Liberal and National Coalition out of habit or out of fear, there is a risk that it will become a minor authoritarian collection of parties driving off everyone who might question the identity that their hard right promotes.

    After all, how big is the intersection between those people who want to promote climate change, kill off gay marriage, incarcerate people fleeing tyranny, and lovey up corporations at the expense of ordinary people? Probably not that many.

    So in terms of social category theory, left wing identity politics seems to be trying to expand the categories of what is considered equal humanity, while right wing identity theory seems to be trying to narrow the categories of what seems human, and increase the strength of their identity boundaries and distinctions from others. The higher and harder the barriers they erect, then the more they will probably feel persecuted by the others (‘we-categories’ rarely recognized themselves as persecutory) and the more ruthless and potentially violent they will likely become to preserve that purity.

    The path to social disaster and fragmentation becomes clearer.

    Stratospheric Aerosol Injection

    August 15, 2018

    Stratospheric Aerosol Injection is a form of Geoengineering, which is being considered because the climate situation is getting desperate, with extremely high temperatures in the Antarctic, and massive bush fires around the world.

    It involves injecting particles into the upper atmosphere. There are problems with using this technique to modify climate – some technical and some political and some both. This post describes some of them. It incorporates parts of an earlier post on this site.

    1) We have to rely on models for our predictions and understanding of weather, climate and ecology, and models can be wrong.

    2) The system we would be trying to modify is complex and not predictable in specific. So we do not know the exact results of putting the particles into the stratosphere – we would have to find out through doing.

    3) The chances are high that some areas would suffer significant weather changes after the particles reached the stratosphere and these changes would not be uniform. The effects usually discussed are changes in rainfall. For example protecting Europe could lead to major drought in north Africa.

    4) Geoengineering is based in social systems which are also complex systems, and GE could disrupt those systems and their balances.

    5) For example, unintended bad weather effects could lead to massive people movements, which as we know can be considered potential ‘take overs’ and increase social stresses and tensions….

    6) This together with unpredictability, might lead to accusations of weather warfare, whether it was or not, and this might then spill over into more orthodox forms of warfare.

    7) GE is cheap in some sense, in that it might only cost billions a year to implement. While this suggests rogue corporations or states could begin GE, it also suggests that there could be fights over funding. Would those who contributed the most want the best results for their countries as opposed to others?

    8) GE requires some form of international governance to avoid arguments, which has been shown to be hard to establish even with simpler objectives

    9) I have not seen any viable self-supporting GE proposals. Nearly all of them require massive tax-payer subsidies, and some appear to need massive cross-national governance and regulation. We could give massive subsidies to private enterprise and hope they do they job without any oversight, but I doubt that will appeal even to the pro-corporate-power lobby. There is no apparent profit in Geoengineering, other than the potential to threaten people with bad weather. So it is unlikely that corporations would persist with it.

    10) GE once begun must be continued, but warfare, or economic collapse could lead to rapid discontinuation, and hence extremely rapid climate change, which might further reduce biodiversity, as the change would be so rapid. Decline in biodiversity = decline in ecological stability.

    11) It is extremely likely that once GE was implemented, people in power would breathe a sigh of relief and say “oh we don’t have to stop burning fossil fuels anymore”, so the situation gets worse, but they stay in power.

    12) The rational solution to climate change is to lower emissions – we have known this since the 1980s at least. We have the technology to do this now, and it largely seems to work. That we don’t do this, shows we have a destructive set of social organisations and rivalries, and GE will be implemented within this destructive organisation and probably further destruction.

    13) The assumption of GE is that it is easier to modify the complete climate and bio ecologies of the planet without serious unintended effects, than it is to lower emissions. This, in practice seems unlikely.

    14) GE does not stop or ameliorate the results of high levels of CO2, thus ocean acidification and ocean death would continue – which would be calamitous.

    15) The particles which people usually suggest we use are sulphites, these have the potential to further damage the ozone layer. There are plenty of other ecologically destructive actions GE does not ameliorate or stop.

    16) People who support GE tend to be those who deny we should do anything about climate change, consequently the likelihood of point the points about continuing destruction, rather than lessening it, increases.

    Short summary: Stratospheric Aerosol Injection is a largely uncontrollable, unpredictable process embedded in destructive social organisations, that will delay any chances of fixing climate change. Fixing climate change requires changing our social organisation and reducing emissions.

    Skepticism and Evident climate change

    July 30, 2018

    I guess everyone interested in climate change will have encountered people who state three things. One; that climate change is not evident, Two; that climate change has happened in the past and is part of the natural cycles, and Three; that we cannot predict exactly what will happen…

    Changes that happen slowly are rarely evident to bare human sensory apparatus. We acclimatize, and declare it has always been this way – despite the record of above average temperatures we have been registering (and of course averages are undermined by people’s experience of variations, and by their desires to keep seeing normality and experience tranquility) People who move from cold countries to hot countries may soon feel that temperatures which would have once been ‘hot’ feel ‘cold’. Unaided senses may not always be accurate enough to detect climate change, that does not mean it is not happening. When we can detect climate change with unaided senses it will probably be too late.

    After saying that Climate change is not evident, then people may point to previous incidents of climate change and imply it is relatively harmless, or that we cannot do anything about it, and it has nothing to do with us. While I think the idea that climate change has happened in the past is probably correct, the rest may not be.

    I particularly have no idea how the concept that “the planet has been going through heating and cooling waves for millions of years” can be considered ‘evident’ in itself – especially if contemporary climate change is not evident. The concept of previous climate change is based on a whole lot of theory, interpretation and data gathering.

    Most of that theory is part of the web of theory which also suggests that the current climate change (even if natural) will be rapid (in geological terms) and devastating for ecologies and human civilization.

    Current climate change is also compounded with widespread ecological devastation from human sources (deforestation, over-fishing, chemical pollution, depletion of phosphorus etc.), all of which are likely to make the change even more violent and which were not present in previous ‘natural’ periods of change.

    The further assertions that because the planet has had changes of climate many times before we should not be worried about it this time, do not seem evident at all to me. Especially as rapid climate change in the past does seem to have been harmful for species.

    The third point about uncertainty of what will happen is true; the future is always uncertain. However, because the future is uncertain does not give us the right to assume that the least unpleasant events are the most likely. That is actually a refusal to accept uncertainty.

    So what is evident? To me it is evident that we depend on ecologies, and creatures depend on each other (I do not live alone in a vacuum) – this is also backed up by many studies, which give what I would call evidence. Other people may deny this for whatever reasons. But if you accept that some kind of mutual dependence is evident, then continually messing up, destroying and injecting waste into these ecologies is evidently harmful to us all, and likely to result in catastrophic change past a certain point. So its probably best to stop doing it, and try something else. Harm may also result from these remedial actions, but that harm is not evident – it is supposition.

    Is it evident that a bullet through the chest will kill me? No, not until it happens – and if it is evident, then there will probably be no me for it to be evident to. There is a level at which it may be best to work with some supposition.

    Nuclear Energy

    July 18, 2018

    People keep praising nuclear as the way out of out climate and energy problems but I’m not convinced. So this is a quick list of well known problems, which I will expand as more come to mind.

    a) Expense. The new cheap small reactors which people talk about, don’t seem to have been built yet in anything resembling commercial operational conditions. Real reactors which are under construction appear to keep going up in price.

    b) Finding a location. Nobody wants them built near them or, if they are neutral, near cities where they are vaguely economical. If we put them in the desolate outback, hardly anyone will voluntarily go to work there, and the power loss through cables may become significant. They also need water for cooling, so we are not going to put them in the outback, probably on the coast, which may significantly change coastal ecologies.

    c) They seem to take a long time to build, although there are massive divergences in the figures people give (5 to 25 years!). Certainly anyone who says they can be built quickly and safely is probably being optimistic. Hinkley Point in the UK which is probably a fair comparison with anything that would be built here in Australia, is both massively over budget, and quite late.

    d) Accidents may be rare but when they happen can be catastrophic. Insurance companies will not cover them. So taxpayers are up for even more expense, and may have little input into safety when they are built by private companies using cost cutting to make money (as they won’t be responsible for insurance).

    e) Disposing of waste. No one has yet solved that problem yet.

    f) The promised price of electricity from the UK’s yet to be built reactors is far greater than that of renewables or coal now.

    g) When a reactor gets old, it has to be decommissioned. This can be a very expensive and dangerous process, with large amounts of radioactive waste. It is rarely added to the cost of use, because the cost is bourn by taxpayers. As usually costs are socialized and profits privatized.

    h) They use massive amounts of concrete which is a source of greenhouse gases.

    i) Thorium reactors. Nice idea but it has apparently failed once before and does not seem to be in use anywhere. So we are probably looking at 20 to 30 years before they become commercially available, even if we were doing any research into them.

    The National Energy Guarantee

    July 17, 2018

    The Australian Federal government is pressuring States to sign the National Energy Guarantee (NEG) by August 10. Many people are saying the States should sign because it is the only offer there will be. The Labor party is looking friendly towards the NEG on the grounds it is better than nothing.

    The question is, “Is it better than nothing?” That was the subject of a business seminar run by the Smart Energy Council, that I attended this morning.

    The NEG sets an unchangeable emissions reduction target in the energy sector of 26% by 2030. One problem is that this reduction will already be achieved by 2020, factoring in current renewables development, so the NEG effectively sets a target of no further emissions reduction for 12 years. There is no formal requirement to build any renewable energy between 2020 and 2030. It seems to be expected that reductions to meet Australia’s promises under the Paris agreement, will have to come from farming, transport and mining which are much harder, although they should be reducing as well. The probability is that the Government will simply abandon the targets altogether.

    We have no explanation or comparative analysis from the government as to why the NEG is good policy. At one stage the emissions reduction target was changeable over time, now it is not and we do not know why. The NEG is also not finalised. It could be changed in the Government’s party rooms after the States have agreed, so the States are signing blind. Of course the short period for consideration is also a way of avoiding good policy and good discussion – which does not suggest the government is interested in the best policy.

    We are told the NEG will fix reliability. However, despite political and Murdoch Empire based assertions to the contrary, the energy supply is well over 99% reliable, and faults so far have resulted from distribution not generation (except when the coal stations fall over because it was too hot).

    Our government is a proclaimer of the virtues of free markets, so of course they say the NEG is not regulatory. However, the speakers from the industry this morning, thought the NEG as it stands was highly regulatory, and indeed the points about ensuring possibly unnecessary reliability for everything, means that people have to go through all kinds of hoops they don’t have to at the moment – but it looks like fossil fuels don’t have to, not because they are more reliable, but because they are defined as reliable. So it regulates one part of the industry and not another part.

    The Government also says the NEG is technology neutral, but as already implied it is not. Because it set extremely low levels of emissions reduction for 2030 -which will by most accounts be achieved by 2020 – it is not technology neutral it favours greenhouse gas emitting energy sources. It continues the Government’s ideal of apparently sacrificing the environment and climate for fossil fuels.

    The view of the speakers at the forum was that the NEG is worse than nothing. It would be better not to have it. Consequently, they advised that even if the government offers nothing else it should be rejected, unless it has a decent emissions reduction target.

    At the same time as all this the ACCC is recommending the end of the small scale feed in tariff scheme. This along with other recommendations will massively increase the price of household solar which has so far been very popular. While the parliament had previously agreed this scheme would last until 2030, the government is now refusing to deny that it will end the scheme very soon.

    What the NEG does do is probably increase the price of food if targets are imposed on agriculture, and destroy jobs in the renewables business, which have been amongst the growth areas of the economy. It also over regulates the industry. The NEG attempts to lock in a particular market which allows high levels of emissions. This benefits high polluting power companies.

    If the NEG gets through we are left with three options.

  • 1) Hope that despite all the subsidy losses, and subsidies already present for fossil fuels, people will want to build renewable power,
  • 2) Find that people won’t build any power at all and when the coal stations close in 15 or so years, find we are without power, or
  • 3) use taxpayers’ money to refurbish or build new coal stations.
  • The technology neutral position seems to prefer option 3. The government voted for something like this in the Senate recently, so we can assume that is the aim.

    Winnie the Pooh and Climate Change

    June 25, 2018

    I recently attended an insightful presentation by Nick Drew called ‘Crisis response in the Hundred Acre Wood’ which obviously made use of Winne-the-Pooh, in particular the story “In which Piglet is entirely surrounded by water”. Nick is not to blame for the account’s inadequacies and inaccuracies.

    If you don’t know the story, it can be found online say at

    One of the main points of the presentation was the story described four possible responses to climate change, present in each of the characters.

    Piglet: was worried and frightened. He fantasizes about being in comfort with others and discussing the situation. He was concerned about others, but thinks they will all be alright, and was convinced there was nothing he could do for himself other than get rescued. So surrounded by water he put a message in a bottle and threw it out the window – relying entirely on chance. Luckily he was in a story and it worked out.

    Christopher Robin was quite excited by the flood, and measured the rise of the water with care each morning. Yes it was rising. Despite being mature and knowledgeable one, he was not really that concerned about anyone else – he was thinking about them and where they were, but he was safe on his high ground and it was fun.

    Owl was stuck in abstract and largely irrelevant knowledge and vocabulary. He had absolutely no concern about others, he was not empathetic to their plight and was unafraid, there was no real problem – after all he could fly. His comfort of piglet is notable by his complete unawareness of its failure.

    Pooh, works with the situation as it develops. He acts first through finding his feet wet, then through hunger and then narcissism – thinking the message in the bottle with all the ‘P’s in it must be about him. Determined to read the message he invents a boat (which naturally he calls “The floating Bear”) – which doesn’t quite work as it should, but it works well enough (“For a little while Pooh and The Floating Bear were uncertain as to which of them was meant to be on the top”). He is not scared of getting lost. When he gets to Christopher Robin who reads the note and finds Piglet is in trouble, Pooh decides to rescue Piglet and how to do it…. The message is that this is the way to respond. Because of Pooh’s inspiration others co-operate to help even if badly.

    One of the things we might want to consider is that before the flood, everyone is wrapped in their own concerns, but after the flood, as seems to be the case in many disasters, people co-operate and come together – and indeed Nick narrated how after some flood this had been the case – although the flood was much worse than that in this story – people were told not to drink the water even after boiling. This cooperation is not what our apocalyptic movies suggest. In them people fight and perhaps even eat each other. Indeed, in movies often it is other people also trying to survive who are the main problem, not the disaster.

    So Winnie-the-Pooh may be more accurate and useful. In this case, the disaster is unavoidable, so how do we create more Poohs to help afterward and possibly to act beforehand?