Category

Religion

In weather terms, how did 2017 stack up?

By | Climate Change, Environment, History, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 101 Comments

As regular readers know, I now do this little examination each year, waiting until Ole Humlum, of climate4you, has assembled the global data from all the climate datasets. Most of what follows has been distilled from his latest bulletin. As always there were excitable people who wanted to tell us, even before the end of 2017, that the year would prove to be the hottest ever, and were asking why we weren’t doing something about it. So a few preparatory remarks are in order. First, the planet has emerged from a notably cool period, often called ‘the little Ice Age’….

Read More

The power of grant money

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

I have been reading an excellent book by Stuart Macintyre and others (No End of a Lesson, Melbourne University Press, 2017) about the ‘Dawkins revolution’ and what happened in the ten years after it. Throughout that period I was at first part of the group making the changes, and then, as Vice-Chancellor, someone who had to cope with them. My own Critical Mass really stops in 1991, when I went from the Australian Research Council to the University of Canberra. Reading No End of a Lesson brought back so many memories of life after the ARC, and indeed during its…

Read More

Heretical Thoughts about Science and Society

By | Books, Climate Change, Environment, Politics, Religion, Research | 117 Comments

I have mentioned before, with great approval (here and here), the English-born mathematician, astronomer  and physicist Freeman Dyson, who is 94, and has spent most of his working life at Princeton’s Institute of Advanced Study. I have been to Princeton a few times, but did not meet him, though I have had supper in Albert Einstein’s house there (and that was eerie). Dyson is extraordinarily diverse in his interests, and that may explain why he never won a Nobel Prize, though he has won a stack of other prizes in several fields. His friend, the late Oliver Sacks, remarked that A…

Read More

Climate change and electric vehicles

By | Books, Climate Change, Environment, Health, History, Politics, Religion, Research | 128 Comments

I’ve put the dual citizenship essay on hold for a week, partly because yet another person has decided that he might be at risk. He is only the President of the Senate, but there you are. There may be more, and the issue is getting more important by the day, because of the manner in which the High Court chose to decide the question. Instead I have my eye on a report presented to the relevant Minister in the ACT about the State of the Environment (in the ACT) in 2015. The Commissioner is Professor Kate Auty, and she formerly…

Read More

The future for Australia’s Aboriginal people

By | Environment, History, Indigenous, Politics, Religion, Society | 130 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…

Read More

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…

Read More

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…

Read More

Not sea levels again!

By | Climate Change, Environment, History, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 121 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…

Read More

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,…

Read More

Doing things properly

By | Climate Change, Environment, History, Media, Politics, Religion, Research, Society | 156 Comments

For some time I have wanted to write a piece on the virtue of doing certain things properly, and the final stimulus came on the occasion of a bus trip to Lightning Ridge, which was great fun, educational and most enjoyable. In the bathroom of a certain motel I saw this little sign. Dear Guest, In the course of a year we wash thousands of towels, and doing so uses thousands and thousands of litres of water and tons of detergents that can be harmful to the environment. If you care about the environment as we do, you may wish…

Read More