Weekly salon 9/9

1. World pollution kills more people annually than wars, disasters, hunger

    Environmental pollution — from filthy air to contaminated water — is killing more people every year than all war and violence in the world. More than smoking, hunger or natural disasters. More than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined.

    One out of every six premature deaths in the world in 2015 — about 9 million — could be attributed to disease from toxic exposure, according to a major study released on Thursday in The Lancet medical journal.

The worst affected countries are in Asia and Africa, with India topping the list.

Australians are not immune, according to University of Queensland researcher Professor Peter Sly:

    “While we are not Beijing or Delhi, we can still measure and demonstrate health impacts of pollution on the Australian population, and water contamination from firefighting foam is just one recent example.”

One out of every four premature deaths in India was attributed to pollution in 2015, in China it was one in five, with Bangladesh, Pakistan, North Korea, South Sudan and Haiti following close behind.

That was a study published in the Lancet, reported by the ABC. The Guardian has a different tale in Air pollution causes ‘huge’ reduction in intelligence, study reveals.

That was a study conducted in China, but is relevant everywhere because it found that more than 95% of the global population breathe unsafe air.

If that wasn’t enough:

    A recent study found toxic air was linked to “extremely high mortality” in people with mental disorders and earlier work linked it to increased mental illness in children, while another analysis found those living near busy roads had an increased risk of dementia.

    The new work, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, analysed language and arithmetic tests conducted as part of the China Family Panel Studies on 20,000 people across the nation between 2010 and 2014. The scientists compared the test results with records of nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide pollution.

    They found the longer people were exposed to dirty air, the bigger the damage to intelligence, with language ability more harmed than mathematical ability and men more harmed than women.

That’s not all, and I’m reminded of my post last June CO2 is scrambling our brains, but will it kill us all?

2. Life expectancy improvement faltering?

Life expectancy at birth has improved considerably over the last 50 years in Australia, as this graph shows:

However, an article in the New Scientist (pay-walled) expresses concern that the improvement is faltering, and may even go into reverse in the UK and some other countries, including Australia:

According to this ranking, Denmark is poor for a developed country ranked at 47, but Japan and Italy are among the best. Reasons given include the following:

  • Because we don’t die of other things more of us suffer dementia. People with dementia are more likely to catch pneumonia and people with dementia often have difficulty swallowing, which leads to food entering the airways, triggering infections.

    Australia is about seventh in the world, better than many of our peers, which increases our chances of living long enough to get dementia.

  • Austerity and inequality are problems:
    • In 2017, its economic growth [in the UK] was the fifth lowest in Europe at just 1.7 per cent. We know that economic collapses elsewhere have shortened lives. The most well known occurred following the fall of the Soviet Union, which saw life expectancy for men plunge from 63.8 to 57.7 between 1990 and 1994.
  • The golden oldies are dying off. These are the ones who experienced beneficial changes in the 1920s, such as improved nutrition, better sanitation and the advent of vaccines for diphtheria and tetanus.
  • Obesity is an issue. However, in spite of doctors’ warnings, you have to be fairly obese before it takes a significant bite off your life-span.
  • I’m old enough to hear my celebrity peers popping off at the rate of several a week. I’m curious as to which ‘me’ would be preserved if there is life after death. Being preserved in a state of decrepitude may not be fun.

    If you’d like to work out how much time you’ve got, this site may help.

    3. The strange case of Denny, who belonged to two human species

    According to a series of articles in the the New Scientist, reports are surfacing just about every week of new discoveries of ancient hominins. The bottom line is that there were more advanced hominins around the world during the last million years than we knew about. Almost certainly the story of how homo sapiens emerged is going to be significantly altered, but a clear story is yet to emerge.

    The latest find was the 90,000 year-old remains of a 13 year-old girl they are calling Denny, for Denisovan, except that she was a first generation hybrid of a Denisovan father and a Neanderthal mother. We can tell that from one small piece of bone, shown here from four angles:

    The chances of finding a first generation hybrid are vanishingly small, but that doesn’t mean that there were a lot of them. Denisovans and Neanderthals were quite distinct populations.

    There is a chance, however, that neither species went extinct as such, but were absorbed into larger homo sapiens populations.

    4. We don’t know the story about Emma Husar

    On Sunday 2 September Labor frontbencher Clare O’Neil went on Insiders saying that unlike the Liberals, Labor has anti-bullying processes. In the process she defended the party’s handling of the Emma Husar complaints. This was written up in The Guardian – see Australian parliament ‘toxic’ for women, says Labor’s Clare O’Neil.

    O’Neil argued that the Husar case was entirely different from the widespread bullying that occurred during the Liberal leadership imbroglio, which saw Julia Banks finally decide to leave parliament.

    The Husar case and O’Neil’s comment, are now routinely being spun as evidence that there is a bullying problem on both sides, which is somehow meant to ‘normalise’ what happened in the Liberal Party.

    I want to emphasise that we don’t know what happened in Husar’s office. We do know that after the slut-shaming published in Buzzfeed, allegations taken without checking and excused as journalism, she felt she had to go.

    We do have Husar’s own account in an interview with Leigh Sales. We are told that there were 44 complaints, almost half from one former staff member, Jeremy Anderson, who had to be counselled over poor performance. The remaining complaints were anonymous.

    So there was one complainant, a male. Probably there were more, but we don’t know.

    I mention this because we are going to hear a lot about bullying in the next week as parliament resumes sitting, along with Liberal spinmeisters routinely trying to divert attention elsewhere.

    5. Manufacturing strong

    In the popular mind manufacturing is dead in this country. Everyone knows that. Yet on 4 September we have an article in the AFR, Australian manufacturing on the cusp of two years uninterrupted growth:

      Manufacturing is on the cusp of two years of uninterrupted growth, but energy and commodity prices and the drought are inflating costs, the latest figures from Australian Industry Group show.

      Ai Group’s performance of manufacturing index climbed 4.7 points to 56.7 in August, indicating an increase in growth across the sector. Anything above 50 points indicates an expansion in activity, with the distance from 50 indicating the strength of any increase or decline.

      The index has now been in positive territory for 23 consecutive months – the longest run of recovery or expansion since 2005.


      Ai Group’s average wages manufacturing sub-index rose 4.1 points to a record high 64.7, indicating stronger wages growth in the manufacturing sector compared with depressed growth in other areas of the economy.

      The manufacturing export sub-index also increased by 8.5 points to 58.4, representing a shift into growth from July.
      Further growth expected

      An increase of 8.5 points to 59.6 in the new orders sub-index suggests further growth in manufacturing on the horizon.

      Five of the index’s eight sub-sectors recorded growth in August, including food and beverages, wood and paper products, chemicals, non-metallic minerals, and machinery and equipment.

      Food and beverages, the largest manufacturing sub-sector, increased by 0.8 points to 61.7, continuing an expansionary trend which started in 2013.

    Just thought you would like to know.

    23 thoughts on “Weekly salon 9/9”

    1. There is a risk that accusing people of bullying can simply become another form of bullying. The same can be said of some forms of PC.
      Sometimes the right thing to do is call out bullying but there are other times when helping people to handle bullying can be more useful than trying to block out the bullying.
      Exposure to too much bullying can destroy or weaken people. Too little exposure may make people more vulnerable in later life.
      Someone should have the skills and personality to handle the Trumps and Putins of the world.

    2. The link between air pollution, and mental disorders and deficits, surprised me.

      What also surprises me is how little use is made of a pair of cheap buckets, a wire hook or piece of rope and even cheaper, very simple, home-made Millbank filters in reducing the amount pollutants in drinking water. It’s simple: suspend the Millbank filter by the wire or rope, pour filthy river or pond water from the first bucket into it, wait for the roughly filtered water to be collected in the second bucket; turn the Millbank filter inside out to dump all the crud and then dry it in the cleansing sunshine for the next time; take the semi-demi filtered water home – oh, and never ever get your buckets mixed. Alright, the result is not within a bull’s roar of being purified water but it’s a lot safer than straight water out of the contaminated sources.

      Waiting for more Denisovans to come out of hiding. Exciting, isn’t it?

      Bullying: suspect the gig economy rewards bullying whilst punishing good human resources management practice.

      Sorry but the only way I’ll believe that manufacturing in Australia has been decriminalized is if it is revealed that China has exported polluting businesses offshore to this South Pacific colony.

    3. The ABC News theme at present is that only the Dutton camp (so-called) was engaged in bullying.

      They cannot be serious!!
      All politics at that level is nasty, brutish and short.

      Look at the faction system in another large Party.
      Strong-arm and patronage.
      Shifting alliances.
      If you want loyalty, buy a pet dog.

      I don’t suggest bullying is pleasant to experience, or the best way to behave in dishing it out.

      Just that young John, above, is more realistic and practical than some of the OTT comments published recently.

    4. Ambigulous and John D.:
      Wise words there on bullying.
      I think teaching young people to cope with and deflect bullying would be far more useful than merely shouting all over the place that bullying is bad, bad, bad. Wonder if what is being taught in schools to counteract bullying might be ineffective but merely make whoever runs the program feel good that they are doing something.

    5. Graham Bell (Re: SEPTEMBER 10, 2018 AT 1:30 AM):

      The link between air pollution, and mental disorders and deficits, surprised me.

      Tetra-ethyl lead (TEL) in petrol (gasoline) is a known airborne pollutant that produces accumulative neurotoxicity. TEL exposure is linked with increased violent tendencies and lower IQ and cognitive ability. That’s why it has been phased out in automotive fuels in most countries (as well as protecting catalytic converters that catalyses tailpipe carbon monoxide and unburnt hydrocarbon emissions into less toxic emissions).

    6. Graham, on manufacturing, I heard the other week that we now have 250,000 jobs in the biomedical area in Oz with plenty of new startups. The biggies are CSL, Resmed and Cochlear, which are world leaders.

      Most of the new ones will have to attach themselves to a larger firm to get global reach, but most are now more savvy about retaining a stake in the IP and having an ongoing income stream.

      Food processing is still the biggest, and probably was even before we chased the car makers out, but you could take a look at aluminium boats where we are probably world best.

      The US Navy buy some of our boats, but can’t use them in the US because of the Jones Law.

      Did you know my young son’s flatmate works for Boeing here in Brisbane where they have a research centre and make stuff? She told me what she was doing once, and I didn’t understand a word of it.

      In recent times I’ve bought a bed made in Brisbane, an office chair (they call it a ‘task’ chair) and now a visitor’s chair that I can use as a dining chair. All high quality stuff, able to specify modules, fabric, colours, with excellent ergonomics and don’t cost an arm and a leg – kind of mid-range.

    7. The Construction industry could also be considered a manufacturing industry.

      As could the film industry and the dairy industry.
      Is there something you’re trying to tell us, or are you just luxuriating in the richness of the English language?

    8. I wouldn’t put the dairy industry in there, they’re a primary producer.
      And the film industry is more service industry.

      Although my comment wasn’t aimed at flushing out a brainless petulant response, evidently it did.

      Unfortunate, but not within my control.

    9. I wouldn’t put the dairy industry in there

      Neither would I, but I also wouldn’t lump construction under manufacturing.
      I ask again, was there a substantive point you were trying to make?

    10. Hhhh..no zoot, the house you live in put itself together organically.
      But if I must answer to the blog sheriff then here’s a point, the art of manufacture is alive and well in the construction industry.

      Don’t suppose you’d have a substantive point your sharing do you ?

    11. Builders use manufactured goods and assemble them. As I understand it, they make houses.

      There are industries associated with dairy farming that produce items needing processing: yoghurt, cheese, butter, milk powder but I think foodstuffs aren’t usually regarded as ‘manufactured goods’.

      Then there would be companies manufacturing dairy equipment, milk cartons, milk tanks, milking machines, etc.
      So the dairy farmers and milk processors support some manufacturing.

      Luxuriating in the richness and subtleties of English is a pastime to be treasured, zoot m’Lud!

      Sancho Panza
      faithful manservant

    12. To the peasant Sancho Panza

      Why, oh why
      do you allow yourself to be
      Sucked in, when I have
      Instructed you to step aside
      When the hostelry doth wax
      Noisy and boisterous at eventide?

      Attend to the Donkey!

      el Don Quixote
      Master of Very Little

    13. Ambi, I think processed foods, in tins, packets, plastic, bottles etc has always been reckoned as part of the manufacturing industry, although I haven’t looked in detail at the demarcation.

    14. Maybe a more direct approach would have demonstrated my substantive point.
      Standby for take two:

      The Construction industry could also be considered a manufacturing industry.

      So what?

    15. Brian: Australians are usually pretty good at innovative, high-quality manufacturing but with all the artificial barriers and unnecessary hobbles applied against manufacturing here, it is hard to think of it being anything but outlawed. Everyone points to the freebies and disgraceful handouts to the now-vanished car industry, as though that near-corruption for the benefit of foreign companies was the norm for all Australian manufacturing.

      You mentioned aluminium vessels. Yes, we are probably the best in the world. It wasn’t just U.S. law that stopped us selling our locally-made vessels to the U.S. Navy, it was Australian moral cowardliness, timidity, over-politeness, lack of tenacity, absolutely no street-smarts and no toughness.
      If we just announce that we are going to sell a fleet of them to the DPRK Navy, The Donald will be on the next plane to Canberra to cut a deal for us to build them for the U.S.Navy instead.
      Australia could have built whole regiments of self-propelled 155mm guns, similar to the South African 155mm or the Czech 152mm ones and with full NBC warfare, anti-tank and anti-aircraft protection for the crews, for a small fraction of the cost of that handful of the American “go-nowhere” Abrams Ornaments (formerly called main battle tanks)with their main armament pop-gun. No, the Yanks just off-loaded their scrap-metal onto the Australian weaklings and fools at gold-brick prices: we got their rubbish instead of a highly-mobile weapons system and a real deterrent to potential aggressors, and we missed out on hundreds of real local jobs in manufacturing as well.

    16. John

      Can’t quite catch the difference between assembling something in a factory and assembling something on a block of land.

      Exactly, that’s all I said.
      Zoots response may be different to you,
      Or more likely no response at all.

    17. Can’t quite catch the difference between assembling something in a factory and assembling something on a block of land.

      I can, but I don’t claim to be an authority.
      Half a century ago I worked at the ABS and that experience tells me there would have been a good reason why that agency made the distinction between “Building and Construction” and “Manufacturing”. Unfortunately I was not privy to the decision making process but I am confident it wasn’t based on pedantry.
      That said, I am quite happy to refer to Jumpy as a manufacturer if that is how he wishes to be identified.

    18. Zoot: What I really liked about working in construction was that I had a role producing some large, tangible things. Much more satisfying that coming home each day after helping produce so many xxx’s. Much much more satisfying that preparing studies that said doing X was a waste of money.
      Then again you must be some satisfaction from driving Jumpy to the point where he wants to be known as a manufacturer.
      If you keep it up he could end up voting Green.

    19. Then again you must be some satisfaction from driving Jumpy to the point where he wants to be known as a manufacturer.

      Haha, zoot can’t take credit for driving me anywhere.
      I’ve always seen Construction as a form of manufacturing. And a form of art. In some cases a health service. Other times in tourism. All the while in education ( Practical University )

      And no, I won’t be voting green through collectivist identity politics. Perhaps if they change all their candidates and 90% of their policies.

    20. John: All three really. 🙂
      I was the “Office Services Clerk” (printing publications; managing stationery; handling the mail; supervising the typists and comptomerists; etc etc etc)

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