All posts by Don Aitkin

In terms of temperature, what sort of a year did we have in Australia?

By | ABC, Climate Change, Environment, History, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 480 Comments

For the past decade or so, each January has produced a news headline about whether or not this year has been the hottest ever. It seems to be agreed that 2016 was the hottest ever, but with a statistically insignificant increase over 2015, and only a tiny bit above 1998. In 2015, 2016 and 1998 the spike was due to an el Nino, which subsided quickly. As I have argued before, there is no human being who has ever experienced a global average temperature, unless coincidentally, and for a moment or two. What we want to know is what our own environment…

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Mating, the core of it all

By | Books, Climate Change, Education, History, Politics, Society | 69 Comments

I did a lot of reading over the holiday period, partly because my January  has been consistently hot — not at all with 40 degrees plus — but day after day of around 33 degrees, which gets the ambient heat of our house right up, forces me to put on the air conditioning, and inclines us to sit and read. This essay is the first of a pair, each looking at what seem to me to be the core aspects of human social life, from which everything else hangs. This one is about mating. We human beings rarely have memories extending…

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A good news story about Australia’s past

By | Books, Environment, History, Media, Politics, Society | 20 Comments

Regular readers will have noticed that the website was down for a few days. My lovely website host says that I shouldn’t take it personally. It wasn’t the Russians: … hackers just send out web crawlers to attempt to hack into any site they can — they run scripts over and over to find any kind of vulnerability and it is all automated. This is the second time it has happened, and it is a total bore to everyone, especially my website host, who has to fix it up. So much of our media news is dire that I thought it would be…

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Truthiness and factiness

By | ABC, Climate Change, Education, Environment, History, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 278 Comments

Both of these terms were coined by an American satirist, Stephen Colbert, more than ten years ago. With respect to ‘truthiness’, he said We’re not talking about truth. ‘We’re talking about something that seems like truth — the truth we want to exist’. He thought that the ‘word police’ would object that ’truthiness’ was not a word, but in fact the next year Merriam-Webster pronounced ‘truthiness’ as its word of the year. I’ll leave ‘factiness’ for a moment. What did Colbert mean by truthiness? In an interview with The Onion he expanded on its meaning in this way: It used…

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Is the tide turning?

By | Climate Change, Environment, Media, Other, Politics, Religion, Research | 261 Comments

Even before the election of Donald Trump I had begun to think that there seemed within the body politic to be a move away from the notion that some kind of catastrophic doom faced humanity unless we kept carbon dioxide concentrations to 350 ppm/reduced greenhouse gas emissions/stopped mining coal/all bought electric cars, and the like. Now that President-elect Trump has set out some of what he proposes to do in the ‘climate change’ area, it seems that even in the mainstream media statements are being made that would have been unlikely before that Tuesday in November. What has drawn my…

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Two more books, on an important union, and on climate change

By | Books, Climate Change, Economy, Environment, History, Language, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 89 Comments

This essay is a discussion about two books, widely different in their story. Each was given to me by its author, a friend. They are both excellent accounts, and I recommend them to readers. The first, by Dr John O’Brien, is about a trade union, the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU). O’Brien is an academic who was also an office-bearer in the NTEU. The second is about climate change, and was written by a geologist, Dr Howard Brady, who has some distinctions which flowed from his work, notably about the past climate history of Antarctica. O’Brien’s book, National Tertiary Education Union. A Most…

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The real war on science

By | Books, Education, Environment, Health, History, Language, Media, Politics, Research, Society | 144 Comments

A post in Judith Curry’s Climate etc pushed me to read a long essay from the City Journal Magazine by John Tierney. I hadn’t heard of either of them. The magazine is published by a right-wing think tank in New York, and focuses mostly on urban issues. John Tierney, according to Wikipedia, is a ‘contrarian’, which I see as a dismissive term. Forewarned, I went off to read the piece, and I think it is insightful. But then, I would probably be called a ‘contrarian’ too, by those who don’t like what I write, and believe they have the truth in them…

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What is exceptional about Australia?

By | Books, Environment, Indigenous, Language, Politics, Religion, Society, Sport | 136 Comments

A year or so ago I was asked to write a chapter for a book on Australian ‘exceptionalism’ by the book’s editor, William Coleman, whose father Peter was my local MLA when I lived in Sydney. William is a well regarded reader in economics at the ANU. I was tempted, but I had a lot of other writing on my plate, and finally said he should try others. Well, he did, and they include Geoff Blainey, Henry Ergas, Nick Cater, Phil Lewis and John Nethercote.  The book is out (Only in Australia. The History, Politics and Economics of Australian Exceptionalism,…

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The message still hasn’t sunk in

By | ABC, Climate Change, Economy, Education, Environment, Health, History, Language, Media, Politics | 129 Comments

Nearly a fortnight after Donald Trump became President-elect of the United States we are still reading commentary in the media that suggests the writers still can’t believe it. Something has gone badly wrong with the world, and that bad wrong must be put right. The day after the result Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club (for which outfit, climate change and the need to stop it are more important than anything else) put out this message: This hurts. There’s no way right now to ease the shock and dismay of what we’re facing this morning. The pain is real — and so much…

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Globalism and globalisation (and internationalisation)

By | Books, Economy, Environment, History, Language, Media, Politics, Society | 50 Comments

A good deal of the Trump campaign focussed on ‘globalisation’, and the effects that process has had on, for example, the American car industry. I remember Detroit in the 1960s, a vigorous city, the home of the American car, and shortly to come, as Motown, the home of The Supremes. It had a fine civic sense and fine symphony orchestra. Today it is a civic shambles. The orchestra survives, but about half the city’s 138 square miles is unoccupied. I don’t think President-elect Trump will be able to restore Detroit to its former glory, but he will certainly be trying to…

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