All Posts By

Don Aitkin

My mixed feelings about the Eucalyptus

By | Other | 14 Comments

My mixed feelings about the Eucalypt A few days ago some Canberra citizens in newly planned suburbs  asked the ACT Government not to plant eucalypts as street trees. My sympathies were entirely with them. I don’t dislike the trees at all, but I think they have no place in streets or backyards. In a bushfire the oil in their leaves becomes volatile, catches fire easily, and a strong wind behind the flames can send fire travelling at frightening speed. In the great Canberra bushfire of 2003 hundreds of houses were lost because of this tendency. More, eucalypts are territorial, and a…

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What would it take for me to cease being a sceptic about the horrors of ‘climate change’?

By | Other | 319 Comments

W I wrote an essay on something like this subject a few years ago, but I don’t seem to be able to find it. I felt the need to write another one, anyway, and if I can find the earlier one, I’ll be able to see whether anything much has changed.  Because I have been a data-monger since my early twenties I regard good data as the essence of any attempt to assess the value of a proposition, accompanied by good and relevant argument. What I see as the lack of both good argument and good data in the domain of…

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On Sympathy, Empathy and Action

By | Other | 8 Comments

This is the last of a series of essays dealing with some social issues that emerge again and again in our society, not just Australia’s but in the ‘developed’ Western world. Concepts like sympathy and empathy are built into other concepts like ‘poverty’, ‘inequality’ and ‘care’. Indeed our whole social welfare system, the details of our education system, and the mammoth public health services, constantly growing, make no sense unless there are real meanings for sympathy and empathy, and the action following these sentiments. In 1958, my History Honours year, I studied a difficult book, The Idea of History, by the…

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How the message gets embedded

By | Other | 390 Comments

Somewhere in this or a recent thread an alarmist asked me did I think there was some massive conspiracy involving learned societies, universities and governments, all of whom were missing the points I was making. I said No, I don’t have much truck with conspiracies, small or massive. The notion that the choice was binary — either you thought there was a conspiracy, or you accepted the alarmist position — stuck in my mind, and this essay is a response to that common orthodox position. First, there has to be a message, and it has to be of some moment,…

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Thinking about things

By | Other | 314 Comments

Thinking about things When I was an undergraduate I was not excitedly exploring the life of the mind. Far from it. I was studying in order to become a high-school teacher, like my parents. I was doing the subjects that would equip me in time to become a subject master, and I did whatever my teachers required me to do. It was not until my honours year (and I was lucky to get into it) that I began seriously to ask questions about life, nature and the rest. My History teachers had equipped me for such work: I was always…

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On Poverty

By | Other | 111 Comments

  This essay was foreshadowed in a recent essay on Inequality, and it has something of the same problems. For ‘poverty’ is an over-used word, meaning whatever the speaker or writer wants it to mean, which may not be at all what the audience or reader understands by it. As a word, poverty comes to us through French from the Latin paupertas, and we still have ‘pauper’ in English, where it means someone very poor. Poor in what? In everything, income, health, life expectancy, food, shelter, you name it. Like inequality, poverty is best seen in relative terms. I am poorer than you…

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What the EU elections might tell us

By | Other | 74 Comments

WW The recent EU elections, so close to our own, have prompted me to write about the climate-change business from a different perspective, and I have drawn on a piece by Ben Pile, who is not a warmist at all, and writes at Spiked. What he points to in his essay is the sheer confusion around the energy issue, with all sorts of claims being made. Much of it is relevant to us in Australia. These EU elections, not much reported here, showed a continuing rejection of the major parties that we have been witnessing in our own country. Who…

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Some more thoughts on ‘inequality’

By | Other | 18 Comments

Website essay 84:  29 May 2019 A few days ago I had a long and interesting discussion with a friend about inequality. He was exercised about the unfairness of some people’s being extremely rich and others being extremely poor. He thought that inequality was increasing. What could we do about it? He thought that the return of death duties and their equivalent would be a good start. We needed to level the playing-field, he said, so that each child was given an equivalent chance. It was his mission, and he wanted to draw me out on it. My response was not…

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How did Labor get it so wrong?

By | Other | 230 Comments

WH As I write, the Coalition is close to having 76 seats, and might get 78, which the ABC is tipping. I’m not concerned with these final numbers, which won’t be known for a week or more. Rather, like so many others, I expected a Labor victory, a close one, I thought. The actual result was a major surprise, and a dreadful one for Bill Shorten and his team. So, how did they get it so wrong? First, the ALP seemed to coast along on what the polling organisations were saying, and had been saying for a couple of years….

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The Magic Pudding Moment

By | Other | 36 Comments

At a recent family event one of the absent cousins rang in something of a state: she had been going to vote Labor, but a Green had told her that if she didn’t vote Green, and the Greens didn’t get in, then we would all be dead in twelve years! What should she do? She was reassured by the family. Where did that twelve-years nonsense come from, I wondered. The originator seems to have been the Democratic Congresswoman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who later said that her words were mis-characterised, whatever that meant. Thankfully, neither of our political leaders has been making…

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