Change in my lifetime

I was taken by Jim Belshaw’s recent post A certain weariness of the spirit.

The second is just accommodating to the pace of change. I was born at the end of the war. I have been though the fifties, sixties, seventies, eighties, nineties and now into the 2000s. Institution after institution, belief after belief, new vision after new vision, has been discredited and replaced.

Mind you, when it comes to teaching/education I am perhaps even more frustrated by the phenomenon of the same often silly arguments recurring decade after decade — the teaching of reading being just one example. But that is not my point today.

This intrigued me: As the apartment boom peaks, these are Australia’s most densely populated suburbs. (Link fixed!) Now for context, bear in mind that Australia at large has a population density of just 3.5 per square kilometre. When it comes to cities compare Shanghai with 2,059, or Singapore with 7,909. And here are the most densely populated incorporated places in the United States. New York City has 10,431.

So look at these, from the article linked above, where they are interactive:

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The figure for Melbourne CBD is amazing! Those recent changes are just one element in the changes over my lifetime, but somehow these days I seem more sensitised to it. The Sydney of my mind these days seems more and more to be this one:

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That’s Eddy Avenue, Central Station, in 1956. I was 13 then… Remember it well. Don’t know what the population density was then, but the total for Greater Sydney was 1,902,000 and for all Australia 9,425,563. You might recall that in August/September this year we hit 25,000,000.

Now that opens up a possible discussion of population in Australia — very much a live issue at the moment too. But I will pass on that right now, except to say 1) I feel the changes, for good and ill and 2) with old age comes nostalgia. And I know that can be a deceptive feeling.

And back to Eddy Avenue. That perfectly good tram line was dug up in the 1960s. Now, way over time and way over budget, a new tramline is appearing in that right-hand lane!

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More from the world of the Postal Survey

First, just to make it plain, I do not believe that every opponent of same-sex marriage is a homophobe. Indeed there are examples of same-sex couples who will themselves choose NO in the current Postal Survey. Nor do I think that Israel Folau has no right to his views compared with David Pocock, to confine ourselves to Rugby players for the moment. Naturally, though, I do hope that there are many more David Pococks in the Postal Survey!

Second, I commend careful reading of Legal Eagle’s thoroughly thoughtful post.

But when it comes to the NO case as it now so often appears, I still cannot but see it as other than rampant Chicken Little. Or slippery slope-ism. That the question is essentially a simple one seems to get lost. See my previous post for more.

I particularly can’t get – though John Howard can – the argument on religious liberty. Legal Eagle helps.

It’s true to say (as some of my Yes vote advocate friends have said) that religious freedom and freedom of speech are different questions from the question that is being asked in the survey. Part of the problem stems from the fact that we don’t even know what we’re voting on – they won’t prepare a Bill until we vote on whether we want the law or not. But I think that any provision for same-sex marriage should make it clear that it will not force religious groups to conduct same-sex wedding ceremonies. Some of my religious friends are worried about what the position may become if a Yes vote stands, and cite the example of the Tasmanian pastor and preacher who have been the subject of complaints to the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner. They fear this is the beginning of a greater trend. They are concerned that the acceptance of same-sex marriage will mean anti-discrimination legislation can be used to make religious people suppress their views, and to have to conduct same-sex marriages against their will. And then, of course, there’s the services cases (involving flowers or cakes for same-sex marriages).

As an aside, I have never understood why a person would wish to force a reluctant florist or baker to provide for a same-sex wedding. If I were in that position, I would rather not give the service provider money, nor have them anywhere near my wedding. But this may be something to do with my private law background – as a general principle of law, courts are usually unwilling to specifically enforce contracts for services because of the coercive nature of such relief (see eg, JC Williamson Ltd v Lukey (1931) 45 CLR 282, 293 (Starke J), 297–98 (Dixon J); Byrne v Australian Airlines Ltd (1995) 185 CLR 410, 428 (Brennan CJ, Dawson and Toohey JJ)). The rationale for the rule with regard to contracts for services is that it’s inappropriate to force parties who don’t get along any more to work together. And I guess that’s a greater point. As my co-blogger Skepticlawyer has pointed out, you can’t use the law to force people to like you or accept you.

In today’s news we read Church cancels wedding because bride and groom supported gay marriage on Facebook.

Presbyterian ministers and churchgoers are under clear directions to oppose same-sex marriage. Mr Wilson, who is also moderator-general of the Presbyterian Church of Australia, published a blog post committing the church to the “no” case and calling on attendees to campaign actively.

“There are many powerful voices clamouring to tear down what God declares to be holy. The church must not be silent on this,” Mr Wilson wrote.

However, other church sources suggested the Ballarat experience was uncommon. Darren Middleton, convenor of the Church and Nation committee and a Geelong minister, said it was the first such case he had encountered.

“This is a decision for individual ministers to make. My guess is most probably would have let the wedding go ahead,” he told Fairfax Media. “It’s not normally a requirement to get married that you subscribe to particular views. I would want to talk to them about their views … but that wouldn’t be a bar to them getting married. That’s a separate issue in my mind.”…

On Facebook Trevor Khan MLC NSW (National Party) has commented:

So, let’s be clear:
1) This demonstrates that churches, now, have an absolute discretion (enshrined in the Marriage Act) as to who they chose to marry, and
2) Neither side has a mortgage on “crazy”.

My background, by the way, is Presbyterian.

And here is something else we can well do without.

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That is  former prime minister Kevin Rudd’s godson, bashed during an argument about same-sex marriage.

Now some personal notes. I am not TELLING people how to answer the survey. VOTE is apparently not the right word, by the way. But I am hoping that the majority do choose YES because, as I keep saying, it is the right thing to do. First there are all those same-sex couples I have known, not all of whom would have opted for marriage personally, though I suspect all would have supported the right of those who did so choose to have that option. Second there is my own relationship commencing in 1990 — yes, 27 years ago — with M. We did live together for over ten years, and still mean a great deal to one another. M was at my side at my mother’s funeral in 1996. One memory is of M sitting ensconced with my Aunt Beth at Kay and Roy’s place in Sutherland after that funeral. M’s own mother and younger sister have passed away this year.

Another highlight was the following year, when M, who is from Shanghai, gained his Australian citizenship. William Yang recorded it.

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Fast forward to 2012 here in Wollongong:

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Please! Ignore the Chicken Littles on “freedom of speech”, “freedom of religion”, and weirdness like the Revenant of Oz and her nonsense about not being able to call your Mum and Dad Mum and Dad! Choose a kinder Australia when you mark your survey form!

Midnight Shift bar is now history

Thanks to James O’Brien I learn that the downstairs bar of Oxford Street’s Midnight Shift is being pensioned off. Do look at James’s post where there are some great memories and photos.

Here are some archived images of my own.

 The Empress and Kiwi Nick emerge from the Midnight Shift, late afternoon Sunday
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January 14, 2009

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No flash; I wanted the tank itself to provide the light. What do you think? Yes, it’s grainy – but I don’t mind that.

 January 31, 2011

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A recommendation from ten years ago

The post from June 2007 which follows needs updating: Strange Maps is still around and just as good, but has moved.

Maps

27 JUNE 2007
I love maps. Always have. You’ll notice that I now have a map as my masthead, and yes my place is in there somewhere, so there you see my little everyday world. Last April I referred to a marvellous blog called Strange Maps, which is often one of the top blogs here on WordPress.
Here are smaller versions of a couple of recent ones. You must visit Strange Maps to see them bigger, read about them, and start exploring the other maps.
First, 130 – A Ten-State Australia, which should interest Jim Belshaw and horrify John Howard, I suspect.

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Second, 131 – US States Renamed For Countries With Similar GDPs.

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Fascinating site.

Hot Sunday

This morning in The Gong it is a comfortable 18C, and yesterday was not too bad. But statewide and indeed in just about all Eastern Australia we had this.

Meteorologists were predicting NSW would set a state-wide record for February warmth during the current heatwave but few would have tipped the mark would be broken two days in a row.

The blast of summer heat has placed south-eastern Australia on the map as the hottest place on the planet.

Residents of Richmond saw the mercury climb to 47 degrees on Saturday, placing the town on the north-west fringe of Sydney within less than a degree of the title of global hot spot – Ivanhoe Airport recorded a maximum of 47.6 degrees.

Before Friday, NSW had never had a February day above 42 degrees, based on averaged maximums in the state, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

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And over 80 bushfires mainly in the northern half of the state.

Most of the small community of Uarbry has been wiped out by a bushfire burning near Dunedoo, residents say, as the New South Wales Rural Fire Service (RFS) continues to battle blazes across the state.

Residents told the ABC nine of the dozen or so homes in the community were destroyed when the Sir Ivan fire bore down on them yesterday.

Paul Devonian was supplying bulk water to fire crews on the ground and said the conditions were the worst he had seen in 25 years of fighting fires.

“You couldn’t walk forward, it’d near blow you backwards, the wind,” he said…

The mercury in Walgett, near the Queensland boarder, reached 47.9 degrees Celsius yesterday while Taree (45.7C), Port Macquarie (46.5C) and Kempsie (46.4) also set new benchmarks.

Firefighters were not helped by firebugs, authorities said.

A man, 40, was charged after allegedly lighting a bushfire at Mangrove Creek, on the Central Coast today. He was refused bail…

And in Queensland: Queensland heatwave brings record temperatures and odd sea creatures. But in Western Australia: Perth weather: Record rainfall as over 100mm falls in 24 hours.

On Saturday Jim Belshaw noted:

While I generally accept the arguments about climate change, including the role human related emissions are playing in the process, my experience with previous heatwaves and the response to them makes me very cautious about attributing particular climatic events to climate change. It has lead to some very silly policy responses, especially in NSW. What we can certainly say is that this type of heat forces behavioral responses including cancellation of sporting events, a rush to buy fans and air-conditioners and to get some place cool. In turn, this has placed some pressure on the electricity supply system.

I live in a house without air-conditioning or, indeed, any fans. I’m also working from home at the moment, so the heat is especially trying. For that reason, my only practical response lies in managing the house to create breezeways and minimise sun impacts.

Climate change was not the main thrust of Jim’s post, but I do commend to you this from the Scientific AmericanYes, Some Extreme Weather Can Be Blamed on Climate Change.

..how do scientists know that global warming influenced a specific event? Until recently, they couldn’t answer this question, but the field of “attribution science” has made immense progress in the last five years. Researchers can now tell people how climate change impacts them, and not 50 or 100 years from now—today.

Scientific American spoke with Friederike Otto, deputy director of the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford, about how attribution science works and why it’s a critical part of helping communities prepare for and adapt to climate change…

ARE SCIENTISTS MORE CONFIDENT OF CLIMATE CHANGE’S CONTRIBUTION TO CERTAIN TYPES OF EXTREME WEATHER EVENTS VERSUS OTHERS?

There are events where we expect to see an increase, like heat waves and extreme rainfall. In particular, the signal is already quite large with heat waves. Other events are much more complicated. With droughts, for example, the feedback with the land surface plays a huge role, and the atmospheric circulation plays a much more important role. There are also events like hurricanes, where you need very high-resolution models to be able to say something about it—that’s a situation where the technology is just not there yet.

Just saw this on New Scientist:

Homo sapiens now rivals the great forces of nature. Humanity is a prime driver of change of the Earth system. Industrialised societies alter the planet on a scale equivalent to an asteroid impact. This is how the Anthropocene – the proposed new geological period in which human activity profoundly shapes the environment – is often described in soundbites.

But is it possible to formalise such statements mathematically? I think so, and believe doing this creates an unequivocal statement of the risks industrialised societies are taking at a time when action is vital.

Following the maxim of keeping everything as simple as possible, but not simpler, Will Steffen from the Australian National University and I drew up an Anthropocene equation by homing in on the rate of change of Earth’s life support system: the atmosphere, oceans, forests and wetlands, waterways and ice sheets and fabulous diversity of life…