no comply – the film :)

27 02 2007

just stumbled across this tiny masterpieceatom-files-no-comply.jpg


an inconvenient truth

22 02 2007


modern society considers many acts of metaphorical bell-ringing to be taboo, the proponent tarred with the brush of the boy who cried wolf too many times – particularly if the prescribed actions threaten to detract from someone’s profit margin. it’s as though the merest possibility of overstatement or marginal error were a sin a hundred times worse than that being warned.

i’ll postpone pondering the roots of such a passive status-quo-maintaining culture, but suffice to say, when it comes to this topic, i have no intention of censoring myself any further.

there are 3 film/tv documentaries that have genuinely literally changed my life, each personally epiphanal, for which i hold the opinion (regardless how unlikely) that every single person on the planet should see. the first was Carl Sagan’s Cosmos 8/13-part tv series (1980). when i saw it in ’88, it gifted me a sense of perspective about the natural world and my (our) place within it that formed a lasting foundation for my worldview.

it was a long time between drinks to the second, The Corporation (2004). unfortunately it was instrumental in triggering 2+ years of dysthymic depression, but ultimately painted for me a very clear picture of what’s wrong with our modern world, and what needs to be done to achieve a capitalist society that’s also genuinely fair, sustainable & democratic, rather than one run mostly by stupid greedy white men.

the third, An Inconvenient Truth (2006) helped bring me back to life, & contextualise what i think is the most pressing challenge our civilisation has ever faced.

In An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore pulls together a wide range of examples of climate change, history, political distortion, & human nature that doesn’t just explain what global warming is in simple & eloquent terms, but also why global warming concerns have been ignored, discounted or marginalised for so long, as well as the need for prompt & substantial action.

if you think there is anything remotely resembling a raging equally-sided dispute amongst scientists that global warming is real & caused by our fossil-fuelled emissions, or might instead be some climatic natural phenomenon whose cause we’re still unaware; if you think global warming probably won’t affect you personally all that much; if you think an extra 2 billion Chinese & Indians rapidly adopting the same consumerist lifestyle as ours using the same greenhouse gas-producing power sources & transport won’t make much difference; if you think you can’t make a positive difference, directly & indirectly; then this DVD is for you. it’s for everyone.

some have suggested that Al Gore is using An Inconvenient Truth as a political tool for the 2008 US presidential elections. no surprise i say ‘bring him on!’ – if it hadn’t been for 11+ years of Little Johnny’s politically expedient amorality, i’d still be wondering why American’s kept the Evil Chimp in power for 8 years too. others accuse Gore of scare-mongering. well, quiet little debates in science labs & school rooms, & government scientists being silenced or censored by their own government just isn’t getting the job done.

the dots have been connected.

the nay-sayer climate change ‘skeptics’ (a shameful miscarriage of the term) have been revealed as the self-interested greedy few, or their pandering politicians, posessing little or no scientific merit to justify further inaction (to say nothing of amoral cynical pseudo-skeptic-fanboys like Tim Blair who sprout vitriole & peddle inane examples of cold climates as supposed counter-proof, a policeman for the anti-bell-ringer mindset it would seem).

for many years Earth has been showing major signs that it is reaching saturation point in its ability to process our fossil-fuel emissions, and beyond which corrective action may take hundreds of years to reverse due to a run-away domino effect. almost every biological system on earth is in decline. how bad must it get before we wake up?

how can we possibly convince the rapidly developing world to adopt low greenhouse gas emitting technologies & techniques if we hypocritically don’t follow our own advice?

i’ll cover this more in a separate post, but addressing climate change in a sensible, global, prompt but staged manner holds enormous potential for commercial success, without horrific economic consequences. but to cut to the chase, it ultimately comes down to ordinary consumers becoming aware of the issues & the solutions, taking what steps they can as individuals, AND pressuring their elected representatives to do something. nothing will happen or change until we do. John Howard is living proof that Political Will is a renewable resource that springs from the Eternal Well Of Opinion Polls – all we need to do is point him in the correct direction.

someone once told me that a reasonable definition of stupidity is always doing the same thing, but expecting a different outcome. someone else once told me “for things to change, first i must change”. and another “think globally, act locally”. they all seem to have currency on this issue. we are all part of the problem, and we all can and need to be part of the solution.

it’s time to walk our talk that we care about the world we live in.

buy, borrow, beg, or download a copy if you must, but please watch this movie. watch it with a friend or two & talk about it afterward. watch the end credits seeded with ideas on how to do something.

like visiting for heaps of ideas we all can do to reduce our impact on global warming. some are easy, some are cheap, some just require a different way of thinking & aren’t really all that inconvenient. some will even keep you fit. ALL of them will make for a better world, a better home, in our own lifetimes.

and stay tuned here for details of my own efforts to reduce my ‘carbon footprint’ :-)

Happy New Year little piggies!

18 02 2007

this little piggy is known for his excesses… ;)

How Green is my Coat?

16 02 2007


few things twist my knickers more than Little Johnny (described by Dubya as “a man of principle” – high praise indeed) demonstrating he has no principles (other than a tendency to foist his Christian doctrine views on Australians), and in its place an amoral stance for the sake of political expediency.

while being interviewed by Tony Jones on ABC’s Lateline 5/2/07, these are a few of his latest words on global warming & what he thinks Australia’s ‘response’ should be, now that he’s suddenly donned on his new green coat:

“We have to play our part, but we have massive advantages because of our fossil fuels. We have uranium and, therefore, the potential of nuclear power, and we want to behave in a way that plays to Australia’s strengths and protects Australia’s employment. We don’t want to give all of that away in some kind of knee jerk reaction that damages the Australian economy.”

“…and the whole focus of our policy should be on reducing carbon emissions in a way that doesn’t damage the Australian economy unreasonably or unfairly”

when asked if he thought coal-fired power stations were a major, if not the major contributor to global warming:

“Stationary power is certainly, yes, all round the world, and that’s why getting cleaner coal, it’s why looking at nuclear, which is the cleanest option of all, to run power stations you can’t run power stations, on the Australian experience, on wind and solar. You either run them on the way they’re run now, it’s predominantly coal or gas or sometimes hydro, or you run them, in the future, with nuclear. Nuclear becomes more viable economically as the cost of running coal fired power stations increases with the adoption of cleaner technology.”

more on nuclear being the “cleanest option” in a later post, but which will it be, PM, “clean” coal (a political tool/term for a technology that doesn’t exist yet), or nuclear? if you think “clean” coal will be too expensive & therefore nuclear is the only way to go, then just shut up about “clean” coal, ok?

“We are lucky as a country because we have the vast reserves of coal, and we’re the largest coal exporter in the world and we employ a lot of people in that industry and I’m determined that any response we provide doesn’t unfairly disadvantage or hurt them. The issue is, how can we, maintaining our economic strength, reduce the amount of carbon we’re putting into the atmosphere? Now, that’s the challenge and that’s why we want to keep the nuclear option on the table, and that’s why we want to look at clean coal technology.”

“lucky”, if you ignore the flip-side that our coal exports are a substantial part of the biggest problem in human history.

how can you even start the decade-long process of replacing coal with nuclear & still not unfairly disadvantage or hurt the coal industry? even using carbon sequestration to delay the inevitable will take just as long to develop, commercialise & roll out as nuclear, & also involves huge infrastructure costs, all of which adds up to higher energy costs for consumers. or is all this hot air about carbon sequestration just to make sure the coal industry vote for you later this year?

when pressed further on the question of whether continuing to export coal for use in dirty power stations (as virtually all of them are) is in Australia’s best interest as regards our share of global warming’s impact, i believe he’s correct – if you keep your morals out of the equation – that doing so would kill most of our coal industry and still not achieve much impact on global warming, as our cheap coal export recipients (Japan takes the lion’s share of our exports, & China is likely to become a major component too) would simply buy it elsewhere &/or use their own…

…unless all coal exporters put their balls on the block & stop selling it at the same time they stop using it themselves; a lofty & unlikely-at-this-stage goal to say the least.

on the issue of carbon taxing or trading schemes, and whether – as an alternative – the government should simply legislate that Australia’s coal-fired power stations adopt the carbon sequestration technologies Howard himself disingenuously espouses:

“That doesn’t sound very much to me like a market mechanism, when you compel somebody to apply a particular technology. It is far better, if you want to keep faith with the market approach, to develop a carbon pricing or carbon trading system”

legislating the population toward self-preservation worked for the transition away from leaded petrol, and away from ozone layer depleting CFCs, to name just a couple off the top of my head for which we & our children are already reaping the benefit. oh, that’s right, it was the former government that lead those changes (in Australia) for the public interest, despite the financial pain.

“It’s a question of how you do it and it’s a question of ensuring that Australia doesn’t become the international mug and introduces a system that penalises us, to the disadvantage of this country internationally. That’s why I’ve been very keen to link what we might do here with what is done internationally.”

i’m suddenly reminded of the two dorks interviewed in The Corporation who paid for their college tuition fees by announcing to the mass media “hi, we’re proud to be sponsored by <major coporation name>!”.  It was a totally unsustainable technique for anyone stupid enough to follow their footsteps when the media ceases to give a shit after the first stunt.  One of them (not the blond one!) went on to say “I have alot of faith in the corporate world because it’s always going to be there so you may as well have faith in it, because if you don’t then it’s just not good”.  nice to see those corporate funds creating some insightful future Suits poised with undoubtely more unsustainable tactics with which to take the world by storm.

when not placing their faith in a system that allows a collection of people to behave typically amorally, and sometimes totally imorally (by legislation requiring the bottom line to be put ahead of all other interests, even the public good), economists sometimes talk about the need for “destruction” to make way for “creation” in economic markets. and they would be right. as a society & its needs mature, old industries die out and new ones replace them – it’s been a frequent reality throughout industrial history. you do what you can for the displaced employees, but ultimately their jobs have to go, whether they’re blacksmiths, whalers, photolab film developers, or coal miners, whether it’s because we don’t need, or don’t want, their industry. when baking the cake kills you AND your neighbours, it doesn’t matter whether it’s an Australian or a Chinaman doing the eating.

it seems to me that John Howard:

  • doesn’t have much faith in the economic benefit of carbon sequestration for coal-fired plants & merely talks about it because he needs to be seen talking green instead of just Nuke Nuke Nuke.
  • will lead us invariably to nuclear power despite its massive infrastructural costs which we the consumer will ultimately pay for, all the while the “not in our backyard” mentality towards locations for both generation &, critically, the storage of nuclear waste permeating every Australian electorate (from hypothetical local consumption, as well as from that we already export) – especially South Australia which already has vast areas cordoned off from WW2 nuclear testing and some of the most geologically stable areas of the continent, good safe water port access, & despite loads of money to be made from providing world-class much-needed storage facilities.
  • has no intention of setting the stage for a prompt but graceful move from coal to any other technology (other than decade-hence nuclear, or hypothetical clean-coal) for fear of losing coal votes while he is in office, & obviously leaving that political suicide job to the next guy.
  • as usual intends to play Follow-The-USALeader, having no intention of being a leader of Australia, or on the world stage, by seriously & promptly encouraging the commercialisation & roll-out of proven renewable technologies, in deliberate preference to insisting that an alternative to coal has to fit with the existing Big Power generation paradigm & infrastructure (refer to my previous post on the decentralisation & democratisation of renewable technologies).

in other words, John Howard is STILL putting short term Big Business interests way ahead of the long-term sustainability of Big Business & the habitability of the country in which they & we reside.

this issue is too important to be influenced by comparatively insignificant political concerns & partisanship. if we do not address the issue now, there will not be a pleasant blue-green planet on which to play the game of politics. yet political posturing is the best John Howard can come up with – yet again.

next PM please.

Goliath vs countless Davids

14 02 2007

i’m suddenly struck by the parallels between “old media” vs “new media”, and the fossil fuel vs the renewable energy industries.

“old media” (large monolithic tv/radio/newspaper organisations) are feeling the threat of “new media” – smaller (sometimes tiny) nimble online sites serving news & insightful commentary & entertainment, from various styles of social-networking sites (in words, pictures & video) to millions of networked blogs & podcasts.

new media‘ and ‘Web 2.0′ are a democratisation of media at a time when old/big media amalgamated ownership elicits even greater conern about diversity & vested interest. it’s an enabler for anyone sufficiently motivated to reach to a hitherto inaccessible public audience (and talented enough to keep them!). this is a time of transition & experimentation, and the end-point – if there will ever be such a plateau again – is unknown, and certainly old media will reinvent itself (it already is) to adapt to our rapidly evolving preferences for how, when, & where we ‘consume’ media. i suspect the already slightly fading line between old media and new media will disolve into a continuum that offers the best of both worlds more seamlessly than it does now.

the fossil-fuel industry – despite being fundamentally entrenched in almost every facet of modern life & will fight like hell to stay there – is facing the question of its fundamental long-term viability (global warming) & sustainability (Peak Oil). we & they know it’s just a matter of time. in the orther corner, we have the renewable energy industry, who, rather than waiting for the hard ground to meet our fall, are slowly but surely proving – most on a small scale – their viability as substitutes for fossil-fuel sources.

in particular, renewable energy’s ubiquitous, small-scale, distributed nature flies in the face of the few large monolithic power stations, distributors & retailers. it promises to give consumers greater choice, and less reliance on a few god-like utilities, for some even complete independence from ‘the grid’ or even the ability to feed their excess back into the grid.

renewable energy represents a much finer-grained redistribution & democratisation of the energy industry, from selection of type (solar, wind, tidal, geothermal, etc) according to the natural capacity of the local environment, to choices of source – from an installation small enough to fit in your own back yard or roof, through facilities powering a neighbourhood or town, right up to massive systems rivalling fossil fuel output.

and you can bet the thought of this has the fossil fuel industy’s knickers in a huge twist!

Happy Valentine’s Day fossil fuel industry. but i just don’t love you any more! please don’t be offended, it’s not you, it’s me…

FALSE LIES by Exhausted

12 02 2007


while channel-surfing past a re-run of the ABC’s “4 Minute Wonders” segment late one night recently, i watched the music-video “FALSE LIES” by Exhaused. it wasn’t the music but the video that caught my attention – some local guys did the captivating annimation of an annimated LeggoLand-style young man being drafted into the Iraq war. although the war (& this video) is old news now, it’s still far from over.

Watch the music video here.

Skool nights

1 02 2007


sunday night will be my first genuine “school night” in about 15 years! …although my classes start at the end of the working day, 5:30-9:30pm Mondays & Wednesdays.

having kinda changed careers from electronics design engineering to technical middle-management in ’96, and then after an interstate relocation in ’00 to self-employed IT consulting with the occasional forray back in electronics, i’m setting the scene for another career change in the not too distant future. as yet, my exact destination is unknown – all the more reason to enjoy the journey.

i’d electrocuted myself and nearly burned down the house at an age i can’t even remember. then my grandmother (RIP) gifted me my first Tandy Electronics 75-in-1 Electronics Kit when i was about 7 (followed by the 150-in-1 several years later!). at first i used to think there must be an amazing rats-nest of wires underneath that board to make it do all those things, until the penny dropped that i was the one who had to make all the connections :). i remember being fascinated by solar photovoltaics from about 10yo, & at 11yo up the front of my class gave an oral presentation of what i’m sure for them was a tediously technical assignment :). after saving all my pocket money for what seemed an eternity, i still have & regularly use the Micronta digital multimeter i bought around the same time also from Tandy Electronics (back when they, like Dick Smith who followed their footsteps, were a real hobbyist electronics shop). btw, i’d love to see a Fluke DMM of that era last this long in the prerilous hands of a kid-tinkerer ;)

anyway! solar (and other renewables) always seemed like an incredibly obvious way to go, although i later learned it wasn’t going to be quite so simple to replace the fossil fuel industry :(. 25 years on, the world’s a bit different, and the need to seriously employ various renewable energy technologies appropriate to the location has become an obvious imperative.

so too the need to drag our Government kicking & screaming to the same conclusion…