Category Archives: Sundries

Posts on sundry matters of life the universe and everything: Culture, Environment, Life, Politics & Government, Science, Social Science and Society, Technology etc.

Gladys goes. What does that mean for us?

Michael McGowan and Anne Davies had the story on Friday 1 Oct 2021 NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian resigns after ICAC announces investigation:

(Image from Michelle Grattan’s story at The Conversation.)

I think her greater misdemeanor lies elsewhere. However her demise has further trashed politicians and politics in the public mind, opening opportunities for independents, and minor parties in so far as they present as people who are not politicians.

This is not good for democracy. Continue reading Gladys goes. What does that mean for us?

To Deal With China First Learn to Play Go

Conversation Starter: Stan Grant wrote this interesting article on future relationships with China: “Despite what Joe Biden says, we’re not approaching a Cold War. China is not the Soviet Union, for one thing” The guts of his message is that: “China learnt well from Western powers. It has embraced multilateralism and global norms. The international order has underwritten China’s rise. Xi Jinping himself has presented China as a champion of globalization and multilateralism at the very time when America under Donald Trump was withdrawing from it.
The Rand Corporation think tank pointed out in a study in 2018 that there is nothing straightforward about China’s role in the world. China’s engagement with the global order, it says, is a “complex and contradictory work in progress. China sees “multilateral institutions as important, if not essential, for the achievement of its interests”.
This post provides a starting point for a conversation about dealing with China.
DETAILS:
In the past I have been a player of both chess and Go. So I was interested when Stan said: “If the West sees global politics as a chess game, the Chinese see it as Wei-Qi, or Go. Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger summed it up: “If chess is about the decisive battle, Wei-Qi is about the protracted campaign.
China wants to wear us down. As the rules of Wei-Qi point out, it is about “breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting”. This concept is known as shi — creating a strategic advantage. Why would China overthrow an order when it can successfully work within it?”
Key points about chess: Chess uses a variety of pieces that are allowed to make different moves. The game starts with all the pieces on the board in the position prescribed by the rules. The players take turns at moving one piece with enemy pieces being “killed” when an opponent moves a piece to the place where an enemy piece is sitting. The game is won when the winner “kills” the opposing king.
WWI was something like a game of chess with the opponents in contact grinding each other down. The aim was to crush the enemy or convince them that they would be destroyed if they did not surrender.
Key points about Go: One of the players starts with black pebbles, the other white. At the start of the game there are no pebbles on the board. The players take turns to place pebbles on the board. Pebbles are not moved once placed. Pebbles/groups of pebbles are lost and removed from the board when they are surrounded in a particular way by enemy pebbles. The game is won by controlling most of the board. In many cases the final killing off of a group of pebbles is deferred while other groups of pebbles are attacked.
At the start of games it is common for players to start by spreading their pebbles over the board instead of getting into direct conflict. Once these direct conflicts start players may increase their chance of winning direct conflicts by linking with pebbles located somewhere else on the board.
Signs of Go influencing Chinese strategies? Think Chinese:
• Investment and loans to Pacific Islands and other countries that increase Chinese influence?
• China’s belt and road initiative?
• Buying or setting up business in other countries that depend on sales to China and/or parts etc. produced in China.
Your thoughts?

Weekly salon 23/8

1. The cost of pests

I recall we had some discussion about feral pigs, which rate fifth in a research study by Corey J. A. Bradshaw of Flinders University and Andrew Hoskins of the CSIRO in Pest plants and animals cost Australia around $25 billion a year – and it will get worse:

Shamefully, Australia has one of the highest extinction rates in the world. And the number one threat to our species is invasive or “alien” plants and animals.

But invasive species don’t just cause extinctions and biodiversity loss – they also create a serious economic burden. Our research, published today, reveals invasive species have cost the Australian economy at least A$390 billion in the last 60 years alone.

Our paper – the most detailed assessment of its type ever published in this country – also reveals feral cats are the worst invasive species in terms of total costs, followed by rabbits and fire ants.

Here is how they stack up:

It depends where you are:

Red imported fire ants are the costliest species in Queensland, and ragwort is the economic bane of Tasmania.

The common heliotrope is the costliest species in both South Australia and Victoria, and annual ryegrass tops the list in WA.

In the Northern Territory, the dothideomycete fungus that causes banana freckle disease brings the greatest economic burden, whereas cats and foxes are the costliest species in the ACT and NSW.

2. Humans are the biggest pest

I remember on our trip down the Rhine in 2008 a tour guide explaining that in Europe ‘nature’ had been mostly pushed into the mountains. Last week Gigi Forster and Peter Martin in the ABC RN program The Economists talk about Valuing nature, which economists mostly don’t. They tell us that humans and their domestic animals make up 96% of mammals on earth, with natural mammals squeezing into just 4%. Apparently domestic fowls make up 70% of the bird population. In the program:

A landmark report has urged the world’s governments to come up with a better form of national accounting from GDP, to reflect the value and depletion of nature. Plus, an update on carbon markets and the emerging field of biodiversity offsets.

Here’s the The Economics of Biodiversity: The Dasgupta Review – Full Report.

See also:

Economics’ failure over destruction of nature presents ‘extreme risks’Humans just 0.01% of all life but have destroyed 83% of wild mammals – study

This is what we amount to;

This is what we have done:

We will have to learn to live respectfully in nature, or we’ll destroy our nest. It won’t be easy. There was to be a UN biodiversity summit in 2020 in Kunming, China. This has now been delayed for third time due to the pandemic.

Can we stop the Sixth mass extinction event, the Holocene extinction, found to be accelerating?

Our future depends on what we do in the next little while.

3. Insects in trouble too

Dr Sanchez-Bayo, an honorary associate at the University of Sydney, undertook the first global review of studies of insect decline across the world and the reasons for it. See Insect population and species decline a ‘wake-up call’, scientists say:

“What we found is that 41 per cent on average of all insect species that we know are declining,” said Dr Sanchez-Bayo.

“Among those, a third of all the species are going into extinction. They’re in danger right now. The rate of extinction in insects is about eight times higher than the rate of extinction of vertebrates.”

Most of the studies surveyed were form the US and Western Europe:

One study, in Germany, saw a 75 per cent decline in insect biomass over 27 years. Another study in Puerto Rico reported losses of between 78 and 98 per cent over 36 years.

The rates of decline are so dramatic — up to 2.5 per cent a year — that Dr Sanchez-Bayo claims that at current rates there may be no insects in those regions within 10 years.

4. There is another story beneath our feet

For a long time now farmers and landholders have been told that storing carbon in soil was not only a good thing to do, it was something they could make money from by selling carbon credits.

Problem is that there is no solid science to back this up. Gabriel Popkin tells the story in A Soil-Science Revolution Upends Plans to Fight Climate Change:

One teaspoon of healthy soil contains more bacteria, fungi and other microbes than there are humans on Earth. Those hungry organisms can make soil a difficult place to store carbon over long periods of time.

It’s a long article, but the short story is that the assumption that carbon molecules stored in soil cam remain there for long periods of time. What we know now is that no such molecules can be found. Everything can be munched, although some do stick around.

Climate modellers apparently ‘simplified’ the issue by leaving microbial activity out. Some scientists are :

pushing to replace the old dichotomy of stable and unstable carbon with a “soil continuum model” of carbon in progressive stages of decomposition. But this model and others like it are far from complete, and at this point, more conceptual than mathematically predictive.

Researchers agree that soil science is in the midst of a classic paradigm shift. What nobody knows is exactly where the field will land — what will be written in the next edition of the textbook.

In short, they are in a muddle.

5. Pests found inside a hill in Canberra

Here it is:

Every week Federal parliament is sitting Tony Burke, leader for the opposition in the house, sends around to party members on his mailing list some pithy comments. Last week he told of one of his constituents, a woman who is 102 and lives in:

Western Sydney, which is the epicentre of the current COVID outbreak. She’s been on the pension for 40 years – and yet the government sent her a letter saying she’d be cut off unless she left the house in the middle of the lockdown zone to present proof of age documents she doesn’t actually have.

Luckily Burke’s office was able to get the matter fixed by Stuart Robert’s office. However, it continues the narrative that there is no blunder beyond the capability of this government. Their fiercest critic however is possibly Dennis Atkins, now retired and liberated from writing for the Courier Mail. He is particularly eloquent about their leader:

Where would this man be without pollsters dictating his every utterance?

A good question. Michael Pascoe this morning asks another in a must read piece if you want to understand what is going on with COVID messaging and posturing:

The COVID political ground is shifting – is an election moving it?

Here are some other recent Atkins pieces:

Scott Morrison will weaponise climate crisis in pursuit of re-election

As Scott Morrison tries to ‘get out of Dodge’, Australia needs a political reckoning

Will the IPCC finally come to terms with climate risk?

The IPCC Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) is planning to release the first of four reports in its 6th Assessment Report (6AR) on Monday, 9 August, 2021.

I believe the largest question will be whether the IPCC, this time, adequately accounts for risk. Continue reading Will the IPCC finally come to terms with climate risk?

TIME TO PANIC ON CLIMATE ACTION

Brian and I have agreed to try running some posts as short conversation starters instead of the much longer posts we have both produced in the past.

This conversation post was prompted by “The climate change panic button is coming” by Allan Kohler. It looks at climate change from a financial risk perspective, in particular how the rising number and size of climate change disasters is making is making it harder and harder for the insurance industry to the point where more and more insurance will become unaffordable. Banks will not lend money to projects that cannot be insured.

This post asks you to discuss what might be done to avoid or survive a future of shrinking insurance, shrinking loans and a deteriorating environment.

It is suggested that you read the Kohler article before commenting. Continue reading TIME TO PANIC ON CLIMATE ACTION

COVID crisis in NSW

Lock down hard or you’ll be stuck where you are until Christmas, NSW has been told by the Melbourne Burnet Institute, who did the modelling which helped Victoria escape its long lockdown in 2020.

Let me say at the outset that I agree with Professor Catherine Bennett, Deakin University’s Chair in Epidemiology, who said in an article in The Age that:

    harsh measures like a nightly curfew and kilometre limit might not be required in NSW.

    “I do think that the routes of transmission that they’re seeing in NSW should guide the interventions, not just putting things in place because they’ve been used elsewhere,” she said.

Back on June 24 Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant told us Why a snap COVID-19 lockdown won’t work for Sydney’s Bondi outbreak. The Delta variant was already well and truly abroad and could not be reined in by a three-day lockdown like those other states had used.

Less than three weeks later with all of Sydney plus some adjacent areas locked down, harder than before, new cases rose from 11 to over 100. The virus was winning in the community:

Continue reading COVID crisis in NSW

Affordable Home Ownership

Too many Australians are struggling to find secure, affordable accommodation in places where they need/want to live. This can be true for those seeking to own a house of their own as well as those seeking rental accommodation.

This post focuses on affordable home ownership. (It does not include apartments. I have negligible experience with apartments.) Continue reading Affordable Home Ownership

Barnaby is back

When Warren Truss was leader of the National Party from 2007 to February 2016, just about no-one in the general public knew who he was. That was one of the reasons why Barnaby Joyce succeeded him.

Now lots of people know a lot about Barnaby for a variety or reasons, and a saw enough of his successor Michael McCormack this week to realise he was simply not up to the job. The numbers that matter are the 21 members of the federal National Party room. More than half prefer Barnaby Joyce, warts and all. So we have Barnaby Joyce victorious in Nationals leadership challenge.

I have to say that his deputy, David Littleproud, looked absolutely miserable next to Barnaby on TV, although he says he was just cold. Word is that Matt Canavan moved the spill motion, and Littleproud’s support made the difference, in the interests of longer term stability.

If so, strange thinking. As Jennifer Hewitt says in the AFR today:

    The public will now have a front row seat at Joyce’s more explosive brand of political fireworks. And he does bear grudges.

Continue reading Barnaby is back

Asylum seekers become human

Every-one not living under a rock knows that the Biloela community loves the Tamil family Nades and Priya Murugappan, and their daughters Kopika and Tharunicaa, who were taken from their homes in March 2018 in a dawn raid without warning the day their bridging visa expired, and have now been banged up in Christmas Island for several years.

Biloela wants them back, some Liberal backbenchers want them back, even Tony Abbott, when he was still in parliament in passing on a letter of support to then minister Peter Coleman, annotated the letter saying that the family could have a case “if they have as successfully integrated as it seems, there is a … case for giving them [permanent residency].” Continue reading Asylum seekers become human