End of month note from God’s waiting room

A phrase I used in a phone conversation not long ago with my sister-in-law, who is about this age… And I am not all that far off.

All of us in Australia are sharing our memories this morning.

In the last years I was around Surry Hills and Chinatown, still doing tutoring practically next to the stage door of the Capitol Theatre, I would see Bert Newton from time to time. I would have a coffee here, particularly on a Saturday morning. The NO PARKING sign is next to the stage door.

Bert was very recognisable.

Not by any means yet in God’s waiting room is Kim Jaggar, my former boss at Sydney Boys High. In fact I spoke to him by phone from City Diggers this time last year, on the occasion of World Teachers Day.

International Teachers Day conversation 1 at Diggers — with Leo Tobin, who was around the teaching traps down here in the Illawarra even before I was. Many a story we swapped about Wollongong High and Brian Downes, the legendary “Basher” Downes! 50 years of memories.

Conversation 2 — by phone — with Kim Jaggar, Principal of Sydney Boys High on his 21 years in the job there. On ticklish issues like what to do about students running away to join ISIS! (Kim was absolutely brilliant and those kids are now OK and no longer kids!)

So much that man has accomplished in the old place.

World Teachers Day came round again last week, and Sydney High published photos on Facebook.

My old workplace — and my former boss.

And here on the blog another month comes to an end. The figures below won’t change much today, so I am sharing them. Glad to see so many of the recent posts doing rather well. They are the ones highlighted with a line on the left.

Our climate ambitions — the “Australian Way!” — and media literacy matters

I downloaded our famous plan. Was I impressed?

I am not alone, it seems.

And: Net zero by 2050 is just snake oil. We need an actual hold-it-in-your-flippers zero plus Australia’s 2050 net zero emissions plan relies on ‘gross manipulation’ of data, experts say.

The government has not released the modelling underpinning the plan, but the strategy document suggests 63m tonnes of carbon dioxide a year could be sequestered in trees and other vegetation and potentially more than 103m tonnes a year could be stored in soil on cropping and grazing land.

Several experts told Guardian Australia these estimates went beyond the upper bounds of what publicly available peer-reviewed science suggested was possible.

Richard Eckhard, a professor of sustainable agriculture at the University of Melbourne, said some of the per-hectare soil carbon storage numbers were roughly double what was likely to be achievable.

“Soil carbon will not be enough to offset agricultural emissions, let alone the coal industry,” he said. “The idea we can bail out the coal industry with soil carbon is just fanciful.”

You will see of course that being myself utterly unqualified to make any kind of meaningful judgement I am relying on others, on the media both mainstream.traditional and social — as most of us do. And this is not new. If you have not already, do search out a classic pioneering discussion of the subject, Public Opinion by Walter Lippmann (1922). Writing 100 years ago now:

In all these instances we must note particularly one common factor. It is the insertion between man and his environment of a pseudo-environment. To that pseudo-environment his behavior is a response. But because it is behavior, the consequences, if they are acts, operate not in the pseudo-environment where the behavior is stimulated, but in the real environment where action eventuates. If the behavior is not a practical act, but what we call roughly thought and emotion, it may be a long time before there is any noticeable break in the texture of the fictitious world. But when the stimulus of the pseudo-fact results in action on things or other people, contradiction soon develops. Then comes the sensation of butting one’s head against a stone wall, of learning by experience, and witnessing Herbert Spencer’s tragedy of the murder of a Beautiful Theory by a Gang of Brutal Facts, the discomfort in short of a maladjustment. For certainly, at the level of social life, what is called the adjustment of man to his environment takes place through the medium of fictions.

By fictions I do not mean lies. I mean a representation of the environment which is in lesser or greater degree made by man himself. The range of fiction extends all the way from complete hallucination to the scientists’ perfectly self-conscious use of a schematic model, or his decision that for his particular problem accuracy beyond a certain number of decimal places is not important. A work of fiction may have almost any degree of fidelity, and so long as the degree of fidelity can be taken into account, fiction is not misleading. In fact, human culture is very largely the selection, the rearrangement, the tracing of patterns upon, and the stylizing of, what William James called “the random irradiations and resettlements of our ideas.”

In today’s world there can be no doubting that media literacy is an absolute basic need. Here are a couple of institutions or projects addressing that need, as does (I am sure) every conscientious school teacher! I know it was a priority in my own teaching from the late 1960s on!

The Australian Media Literacy Alliance is an unincorporated group of organisations whose objectives in the area of media literacy are closely aligned. The founder members are:

  • ABC Education (ABC)
  • Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA)
  • Museum of Australian Democracy (MoAD)
  • National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA)
  • National and State Libraries Australasia (NSLA)
  • Queensland University of Technology (QUT)
  • Western Sydney University (WSU)

Together, these seven organisations have insight into content creation, information provision, education and media and information usage. They are able to bring other organisations to the table with specific expertise in these and other related areas.

Of the next all I can say is that it looks promising. eSmart Media Literacy Lab. See what you think.

I also commend Peter Hadfield for the following. You learned a lot about him here yesterday, but another thing, apart from his impeccable scientific qualifications, that distinguishes him from most journalists is that his experience of the media is so hands-on that he understands such matters as editing and what it can seamlessly do to what we see, as this demonstrates.

Today you may add to that deep fake technology! This really blows my mind, but also underscores how vital the study of media literacy now is. There are techniques shown here which Peter Hadfield could hardly have imagined when he made his explainer just ten years ago.

Update on the “report” our government is taking to Glasgow

The boffins added up the numbers and – surprise, surprise – we’re already on track to net zero. Is ScoMo lucky or what? The Americans, the Europeans, the Chinese, they’re all still struggling with it, but we’ve got it figured.

Funny thing is, it has the feel of Amateur Hour. Who wrote the report? The experts in the Energy Department? No, it was written by management consultants – McKinsey, and has all the colourful diagrams and big type and blank pages you expect from management consultants.

From very trustworthy commentator Ross Gittins.

Aptly is our PM dubbed so often “Scotty from Marketing”!

I am not a scientist — just a humble BA…

Like this man:

Alan Jones is a graduate of Queensland and Oxford Universities, with majors in English and French language and literature, politics and education.

He has University Blues from both Queensland and Oxford in tennis.

Oxford was a one-year Diploma, by the way.

But it is amazing how apparently so many people think that if he pontificates about anything under the sun he must be right! Take climate change for example. In the program from which that still comes he was very pissed off because he had been made to look such a goose on the ABC’s QandA.

True. The next question is about that. It comes via Skype. It’s from Craig Roberts in Matraville, New South Wales. Craig?

CRAIG ROBERTS, MATRAVILLE, NSW

Thanks, Tony. Look, I saw the radio commentator Alan Jones on TV recently, and he said that 0.04% of the world’s atmosphere is CO2. 3% of that, human beings create around the world, and of that, 1.3% is created by Australians. Alan’s words, not mine. Is that correct? And if it’s true, is human activity really making a difference?

TONY JONES

So, David, back to you to explain this, and then we’ll hear from the rest of the panel. Go on.

DAVID KAROLY

Sure. So, look, Alan Jones is a very well-known radio commentator, but not everything he says is factually accurate.

TONY JONES

He did… When he was on this program, he prefaced his statements by saying, “I am not a scientist, but…”

DAVID KAROLY

Yeah.

TONY JONES

So, you ARE a scientist.

DAVID KAROLY

I AM a climate scientist, and Alan Jones is wrong. And the reason he’s wrong is that, we know that, yes, the greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere – essentially the carbon dioxide concentration now – is 400 parts per million. And this was the one thing he was reasonably accurate on – that that corresponds to…about 0.04% of the whole of the atmosphere is made up of carbon dioxide. All his other numbers were wrong. Because we know that that carbon dioxide concentration, 100 years ago, was about 280 parts per million, or 0.028%. But it’s gone from 280 parts per million to 400 parts per million. It’s grown 120 parts per million, or about 40%, and that 40% increase is due to human activity. We know that for absolute certain. So, he’s wrong about only 3% due to human activity. It’s 40%. And of that 40%, he’s right – Australians have contributed about 1.5%. Now, that sounds like a small amount, but, actually, Australia only makes up 0.3% of the global population, and we’re contributing 1.5%, roughly, of the increase in greenhouse gases. So, is it fair that 0.3% of the global population has contributed 1.5%? We’ve contributed much more than our fair share, if it was equally distributed around the world, emissions of greenhouse gases, contributing to this global warming increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

So armed with his own expert Alan hit back in company with another great authority on everything to do with atmospheric physics, Peta Credlin, Bachelor of Laws.

The fan who posted the video to YouTube wanted to share it because it was such a powerful testament to truth:

Alan Jones and Peta Credlin expose the lies being promoted by the by the IPCC. Former IPCC Chair for the Sea Level committee Dr. Nils-Axel Mörner opens up too Alan Jones and completely spills the beans on how the world is being lied to by the UN and the climate change activists. Solar activity is currently the key contributor to any climate variation. Copyright © Jones & Co, SkyNews, 2GB

My emphases.

Dr Nils sadly passed away in 2020. Not wishing to speak ill of the dead, but I do have to point out he was a controversial figure — for example see Nils-Axel Mörner is Wrong About Sea Level Rise.

So how does Mörner explain the global sea level rise record, in which both satellite altimeters and tide gauges show average global sea level rise on the order of 3 mm per year (Figure 1)?  It’s all a conspiracy, of course:

“In 2003 the satellite altimetry record was mysteriously tilted upwards to imply a sudden sea level rise rate of 2.3mm per year…This is a scandal that should be called Sealevelgate. As with the Hockey Stick, there is little real-world data to support the upward tilt. It seems that the 2.3mm rise rate has been based on just one tide gauge in Hong Kong”

Obviously this conspiracy theory is utterly absurd, and is easily disproven by simply examining the IPCC Third Assessment Report (TAR) published in 2001, two years before Mörner’s accusation of falsified sea level data, which shows an approximately 10 to 15 mm rise in average global sea level from 1993 to 1998 

Alan Jones in full flight does not bother us with such quibbles. He never does.

You may get a rather different perspective on these matters by paying attention to someone who does have science credibilty, unlike Jones, Credlin, me — or Andrew Bolt, who features in the next video.

I refer to Peter Hadfield, though he too is a journalist who has even at times worked for Rupert Murdoch, but also for New Scientist. Yes, I posted about him here a few days back, but so impressed have I been with one particular video that I posted it pinned on my FB feed, and now share it here.

Uncompromisingly logical and crystal clear — no wonder he annoys quite a few woolier thinkers and pundits! Sadly I missed this when it came out — or FB’s algorithm kept it from my feed — but never too late, as it is still totally relevant. 🥰

Or should I have said ESPECIALLY relevant? That is why I have chosen to pin this item. It is a MUST! Peter Hadley now lives in Australia, even if he pronounces Bourke as Bork! That aside, if you watch this you will never again take the likes of the magnificently unqualified Alan Jones or Andrew Bolt seriously on the subject of climate change! Only a goose could!

And in my view Hadley is using the methodology of a true conservative! But he does not suffer fools gladly, whether they are Right, Left or Green! I totally admire his approach.

The topic is the awful bushfire season we experienced here 2019-2020. Some faces sadly only too familiar to Australians do figure in the video:

All on the great echo chamber I call Sky Is So Dark. Now, do watch the video. You may even get to understand a lot more than any of the above offer on what factors are in fact behind such a bushfire season.

Rather than posting more samples of Hadfield’s work, I urge you to visit his channel. Well, OK: one more — a salutary reminder about what science actually is.

Gong Clubland yesterday…

Gradually things are coming back.

The Gong is getting busier with more places opening up, and I am aging disgracefully…The menu in the renovated coffee shop (now Pape’ete) is more promising to my budget and taste…
This is for next week’s Melboutne Cup.

What I had was a chicken and smashed avocado toasrie — quite filling, and acceptable… But the true highlight was after lunch when a friend came in — one who has connections both the The Shire and Shellharbour, and that led to me staying a bit longer and having one more Shiraz. Great conversation. But whether the glamorous-looking new bar that has replaced the old coffee shop really is better is debatable. I am told some old regulars miss the way it was — and all those wonderful cakes!

The way it was…
The way it is…

Meanwhile FB has been throwing up memories of a great night eight years ago at Collegians — the main club, that is. It was the 2013 Reunion of Wollongong High’s Class of 1983. One of them, Gary Kemper, took this photo:

“In addition to the 25 of us, a huge thank you to Neil Whitfield English Teacher who was there.” — Gary Kemper.

Collegians now runs my favourite club in recent days, Illawarra Leagues — which alas has still not re-opened post-lockdown. I do miss their bargain and delicious lunches! But the main Collegians has just posted this. I hope soon this will also be at Leagues, but in the meantime I am tempted, even if Collies is just a little of my usual bus route.

Unfortunately Collegians Illawarra Leagues will be closed while we work through our re-opening plan. We hope to re-open Collegians Illawarra Leagues as soon as possible.