Category

Politics

Optimism or Pessimism?

By | Climate Change, Economy, Education, Environment, Health, History, Politics, Society | 110 Comments

This is a shortened version of an address I gave to the Boobooks club in Melbourne earlier this week. The Boobooks is a dining club, the oldest in Australia, founded in 1902 by some young men who later became Sirs, in Fred Eggleston and John Latham. It was an honour to have been asked to speak. The title was ‘Should we be optimistic or pessimistic about the future?’, and in it I revisited ideas that have been rehearsed on this website before. I am not sure whether optimism and pessimism are part of our make-up or the result of upbringing…

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The future for Australia’s Aboriginal people

By | Environment, History, Indigenous, Politics, Religion, Society | 129 Comments

My trip to the Kimberley has rekindled my interest in looking at what might be the case in 2067 with respect to our Aboriginal people. I’m using the ‘A’ word rather than ‘indigenous’, for two reasons. The first is that in the Kimberley and later in Perth it became clear to me that we in the East use ‘indigenous’ because it embraces both Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders, and somehow it has become the politically correct term. There are only a few thousand Torres Strait Islanders on the islands themselves, the great majority of the rest living in North…

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A road trip in the Kimberley

By | Climate Change, Environment, History, Indigenous, Language, Politics, Society | 4 Comments

For much of September I have, with twenty other people, been in the Kimberley, the northernmost region of Western Australia, 0n an Outback Spirit tour. We used Outback Spirit to explore Lake Eyre when it was fullish in 2010, and enjoyed the experience. Our fellow passengers on the Kimberley tour were a pleasant and enjoyable bunch, while our driver Martin was resourceful, dependable and funny. The trip was carefully planned, and Outback Spirit did it all in style. What more could you ask for?  There was so much to see and experience that what follows is only a tiny sketch….

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Books that have been important to me #7 Howard Gardner, Frames of Mind. The Theory of Multiple Intelligences

By | Books, Education, History, Language, Music, Politics, Research, Society | 20 Comments

In the middle 1990s I was asked to give a plenary address at an education conference, and you can find its text here, or if the link doesn’t work, by going in the masthead to my Writings, then to Educational, then to ‘Who Counts?’ What follows here is based on that speech. The beginning of my speech was based on a series of questions that had troubled me throughout my working life, as to just what ‘intelligence’ was, and why it was so important. I was usually near the top in my classes at school, but rarely at the very…

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Two essays on ‘climate change’

By | Books, Climate Change, Environment, History, Politics, Religion, Research | 60 Comments

I have come across two important essays on aspects of climate change, which I bring to the attention of readers. Each is by an eminent scientist of a sceptical bent. I can’t summarise them here, and that would be wrong anyway, because each is well-written, clear and sensible. They are worth reading in full. The first is almost ten years old, and was written by Richard Lindzen, then the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at MIT. It was written in 2008, and you can read it in full here. I can give you much of the Abstract, which should whet…

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Books that have been important to me #6 A. E. van Vogt and science fiction

By | Books, History, Language, Politics, Religion, Research, Society | 11 Comments

The travails of reading English literature as an undergraduate pushed me away from reading good books for pleasure. I found an outlet in science fiction, the text versions of the comics I had enjoyed, like Buck Rogers. I had started as a boy with Jules Verne, and Conan Doyle’s The Lost World. Then came C. S. Lewis’s science fiction yarns, Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra. They were, like W. E. Johns’s Biggles stories, rattling good yarns, imaginative tales that gave you a sense of a much wider and grander world. The war was just over, ‘our scientists were…

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Australia Day and other Great Issues

By | History, Media, Politics, Society | 43 Comments

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that we are having a few tiny issues magnified into Great Ones, gay marriage being one. Now we are having another one, about Australia Day’s being on 26 January. For those who haven’t had a recent dose of Australian history, this is when Governor Arthur Phillip planted the flag on land somewhere near the present Government House at Sydney Cove. He had actually been there for a day, having arrived from Botany Bay, where he left the rest of the fleet, on the 25th, which was to join him on the 26th. No…

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Making sense of the same-sex marriage survey

By | History, Politics, Society | 192 Comments

Depending on when the materials arrive, I may or may not be able to take part in this postal survey (it is not a true plebiscite, a vote of the citizens), because of a likely absence from home. There are a number of options if I am there, and indeed for all citizens. One is to support the proposal; one is to oppose it; another is to write back saying what you think of this method of obtaining the opinion of Australians; another is to feed the materials to our worms, who like paper as well as vegetable scraps, or…

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Not sea levels again!

By | Climate Change, Environment, History, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 119 Comments

I said in my last essay that I would return this week to another theme that is having a big revival just at the moment, post the USA withdrawal from the Paris Accord. This one is ‘rising sea levels’. It was one of the dooms forecast in the NYT Mag article I referred to last time: Barring a radical reduction of emissions, we will see at least four feet of sea-level rise and possibly ten by the end of the century. I can only shake my head in wonderment at claims like this one.  Has there been a dramatic increase in…

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The scary stories get scarier

By | Climate Change, Environment, History, Language, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 87 Comments

President Trump’s decision to pull the USA out of the Paris climate Accord seems to have had an outcome in the intensification of alarm both at his doing so and at what he is thought to have overlooked. I saw a number of examples of this reaction, and will deal with another one next week. But the one I’m focussing on now is a story that appeared in the 17 July New York Times Magazine entitled ‘The Uninhabitable Earth’. I wouldn’t normally have gone to read it, and did so because none other than Dr Michael Mann had panned it,…

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