Category

Religion

Another passage to India

By | Books, History, Humour, Language, Music, Religion, Society | 3 Comments

While I have been at least twice to every Asian country save Mongolia and North Korea, South Asia has passed me by (vice versa, more accurately). I’ve not been to Pakistan, Bangladesh or Afghanistan, I visited Sri Lanka only briefly and a long time ago, while India I’ve been to once only. There’s no good reason. I had a very bright Indian doctoral student who has remained a friend through life, my eldest daughter travelled over India on her way home from London (which made her vegetarian for a decade), I think Virat Kohli is a superb batsman, and I have…

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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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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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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 sort of prediction one should never make

By | ABC, Climate Change, Education, Environment, History, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 176 Comments

Apart from the banal exercise of predicting that the sun will rise tomorrow, or that I am 90 per cent likely to have a cappuccino in the next day or so, I do my best to eschew predictions. They so often fail spectacularly, and I wrote an essay about failed predictions about climate change some time ago. But I recently came across such a beauty of the kind that I thought it was worth following up. On August 1st 2008, more than eight years ago, someone called Andrew Simms wrote a piece in The Guardian which told an apprehensive readership that there were…

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‘Global warming’ or ‘climate change’?

By | ABC, Climate Change, Environment, History, Politics, Religion, Research | 88 Comments

At the beginning of the home page’s Perspective on Climate Change I wrote (in 2015) as follows: I have written a large number of essays on ‘Anthropogenic Global Warming’ (AGW) and its later sister ‘climate change’, a term which came into use in about 2004, when dedicated Climate Botherers could see that warming was refusing to rise as it had done, while carbon dioxide accumulations in the atmosphere were indeed rising as they had done. A couple of commenters took exception to my statement that there had been a shift in the use of these terms at that time. On re-reading (and…

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What caused the great SA power outage?

By | ABC, Climate Change, Environment, Health, History, Media, Politics, Religion, Research, Society | 111 Comments

I write about this event with some personal involvement, because my wife and I are in it. We left Robe, on the southern coast of South Australia, to pay a brief visit to a winemaker at Cape Jaffa, who told us that he too was going to Adelaide, to collect his children early (a couple of days before the holidays) because of the big storm that was coming. We knew from the press that some weather event was in prospect for us, but at that moment the sky was blue, the air was crisp, the sun warm, and the notion of a storm that…

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Books that have been important to me #3 The novels of C.P. Snow

By | Books, Economy, Education, History, Language, Media, Politics, Religion, Society | 62 Comments

You don’t hear much about C. P. Snow these days. When I was young he was an important figure, both in the literary world and in the world of policy. Born in 1905, the same year as my father, he came from a poor family, and made his way through excelling at school and university to become a fellow of a Cambridge college, then a senior civil servant, and at last a famous writer. I think I first heard of him in connection with his Rede lecture ‘The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution’, a lament from the 1950s about the…

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