Blogging the 2010s — 57 — June 2014

A Chinese flavour to these….

Megafires, Tiananmen, and a sad #QandA on Monday

Last night’s Catalyst was in my opinion far from sensational – in fact the excited prepublicity may have done it a disservice.

Over the past decade, there has been an alarming surge in large, uncontrollable fires across the world. We live in a time when mega-fires are reshaping landscapes in ways unprecedented in human history. Even iconic forests especially adapted to burning are being wiped out. In a climate of rising temperatures and shifting rainfall, amid debate about whether fire disasters are natural or man-made, what does the rise of mega-fires mean for life as we know it? In this Catalyst special, reporters Anja Taylor and Mark Horstman travel to opposite sides of the planet to find out. In the ‘sky islands’ of New Mexico, which have experienced frequent fire for millennia, pine forest ecosystems are suddenly being decimated by huge, tree-killing fires. In the ‘mountain islands’ of the Australian Alps, 90 percent of this 500 kilometre long bioregion has been burnt this century, as changing fire intervals over the last ten years destroy large areas of mature eucalypt forests. Ultimately this is a story about climate change, told through the prism of fire.

Though climate change was indeed a very significant part of the story, even more interesting was what was shown about ill-informed ideas of “pristine wilderness” in fact magnifying the likelihood of megafires!

Compelling stuff, first rate I thought, and supported on the page linked above by additional material and outside links. The fact the program was not, as is so often the case with bushfire stories, merely parochial also helped.

Mentioning climate change segues into last Monday’s #QandA, though that was just one matter raised. It was not one of the better episodes – so bad in fact that I turned it off in exasperation after about 30 minutes. It did have its moments, however…

One of the main things wrong with this episode in fact was Senator Bernardi. To call him “outspoken” is a euphemism.


Cory Bernardi – channelling a well-known pioneering climate change activist, without knowing it.

….And that’s where we will leave the sad spectacle that was #QandA last Monday, except to add that Rowan Dean was not an asset, while on balance Lucy Turnbull probably was. Catherine King hardly made an impression at all. Next week looks reasonably promising though.


That publicity shot for last night’s Foreign Correspondent shows people associated with the Australian Embassy in Beijing in 1989. The gist of what we saw is in this story: Tiananmen Square crisis station: the Australian embassy in 1989.

Jailed Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiabo was offered asylum from Australia in 1989 but turned it down and went on to become China’s most famous dissident.

Following his role in supporting student protesters in the run-up to the brutal crackdown that year, the literary critic turned philosopher and agitator would be imprisoned and tortured.

After the Olympics he was picked up again and this time given an 11-year sentence for “inciting subversion of state power”. He won the peace prize from behind bars and it was awarded symbolically to an empty chair.

The Australian embassy in Beijing’s cultural counsellor at the time, Nick Jose, had become a good friend of Liu Xiaobo in the run-up to the crackdown on June 3-4 when the People’s Liberation Army opened fire on protestors to reclaim Tiananmen Square.

“I took him in my car from my flat to the embassy gates and I said ‘Well this is it, we can drive in, the gates will open and the gates will close and you will have effectively sought asylum from Australia or you can go and find friends who live nearby’, friends I also knew,” Mr Jose said.

“He thought about it, he looked at me and said ‘Thank you, but no’, he would stay in China, he was Chinese, China was his country, China was his fate…

Nicholas Jose, Claire Roberts and M at M’s Chinese New Year Party, Redfern, 2009

Another week in paradise — 1

…which serves to introduce a new photo set taken around Steelers and the Illawarra Brewery yesterday. The Red Dragon at Steelers has a new authentic Sichuan menu. I tested it with D and M on Saturday, and returned yesterday with Chris T. We are all well pleased!  Here is the beef hotpot:


With a little candle underneath.

Afterwards I visited the Illawarra Brewery, with its comfortable seats, cool music, home-brewed beer and wonderful views.