On munching onions and climate science

Our former Prime Minister is or has been over in London addressing an unscientific think tank called the Global Warming Policy Foundation . You may read everything he had to say here. This bit hasn’t been highlighted in the media:

Just a few years ago, history was supposed to have ended in the triumph of the Western liberal order. Yet far from becoming universal, Western values are less and less accepted even in the West itself. We still more or less accept that every human being is born with innate dignity; with rights, certainly, but we’re less sure about the corresponding duties.

We still accept the golden rule of human conduct: to treat others as we would have them treat us – or to use the Gospel formula to “love your neighbour as you love yourself” – but we’re running on empty.

In Britain and Australia, scarcely 50 per cent describe themselves as Christian, down from 90 per cent a generation back. For decades, we’ve been losing our religious faith but we’re fast losing our religious knowledge too. We’re less a post-Christian society than a non-Christian, or even an anti- Christian one. It hasn’t left us less susceptible to dogma, though, because we still need things to believe in and causes to fight for; it’s just that believers can now be found for almost anything and everything.

Climate change is by no means the sole or even the most significant symptom of the changing interests and values of the West. Still, only societies with high levels of cultural amnesia – that have forgotten the scriptures about man created “in the image and likeness of God” and charged with “subduing the earth and all its creatures” – could have made such a religion out of it.

Um, there is of course Pope Francis, whose views rather contrast with the onion-muncher:

Pope Francis’s encyclical on ecology, Laudato Si, says that climate change is real and mainly “a result of human activity.”

The problem is urgent. “Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last two hundred years.”  We must all change our day-to-day actions to live more sustainably.  “Reducing greenhouse gases requires honesty, courage and responsibility.”  On a larger scale, our leaders must be held to account. “Those who will have to suffer the consequences . . . will not forget this failure of conscience and responsibility.”

Solving climate change means protecting the planet and vulnerable people, and we must hear “both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”  Faith can guide us. “The entire material universe speaks of God’s love, his boundless affection for us. Soil, water, mountains – everything is, as it were, a caress of God.”  

The problems are big and urgent. But hope remains if we act in honesty and love.  “Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home . . . Truly, much can be done!”

I fear that the good word on Mr Abbott lately is pretty much as Eleanor Robertson put it last year:

Not a jot of cosmic humility, religious or otherwise, is detectable in anything I have read or heard Abbott write or say. He doesn’t speak in these terms, even obliquely; I wonder if he fears death. It’s this, I think, that people find weirdest about him: how can you trust the judgement of a man so utterly immune to the animating psychic horrors of the human condition? As the woman from the focus group pointed out, everything he says is tainted, even his experience of something as quotidian as the weather. Abbott contains an absence, a conspicuous and upsetting lack, and as long as he hangs around Australian politics, he’s going to make us all stare straight into the void.

So far as his pronouncements on climate change in London go — and they are crashingly unoriginal — see in rebuttal the Eureka Prize winning site Skeptical Science and on the Sydney Morning Herald site Five charts that show Tony Abbott is the one who has lost sight of the science. This is one of them:

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Reject Chicken Little!

This morning’s Sydney Morning Herald has a Chicken Little from former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, whose sister, you may recall, wrote an excellent but opposite piece in the same paper recently. She wishes to marry her partner and hopes the law will change to allow that to happen. Be interesting for Tony going to that wedding; indeed I gather brother and sister do in fact get on quite well.

Before saying more about Tony Abbott’s piece, which is absolutely typical of the way the NO case is being run, let’s remind ourselves of the fact that we are being asked in the Postal Survey a very simple question: should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry? The NO case I have called Chicken Little-ism, and we have had case after case of it from the Australian Christian Lobby through ex-PM John Howard to last night on The Drum where we had ponderous journalist Paul Kelly and some Canadian Catholic academic whose name escapes me. Everything short of earthquakes and asteroid strikes it seems will follow if YES gets up!

Tony Abbott seems to have looked at Benjamin Law’s Quarterly Essay, to which I referred in the last post. Or rather, he has mined it for a telling quote: “it might be stating the obvious but same sex marriage is far from the final frontier in the in the battle against homophobia.”

Indeed Benjamin Law does say that, though hardly as the threat Tony Abbott makes it appear by quoting the line out of context. Go to pages 41-42 of Law’s essay and read on. Let me offer just a sentence extra to clarify:

…in the United States, where same-sex marriage is legal and consistently supported by the majority of Americans, the organisation GLAAD found 29 per cent of Americans are still uncomfortable seeing a same-sex couple holding hands, and 28 per cent would be uncomfortable if they learnt their doctor was lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. It might be stating the obvious, but same-sex marriage is far from the final frontier in the battle against homophobia.

You can see this has no relation at all to what Tony Abbott is suggesting!

I think a point well worth repeating is that the Postal Survey is NOT about Safe Schools, or “gender theory”, or religious freedom, or the possible existence of the thylacine in the 21st century. It is about whether the STATE should recognise those same-sex couples who wish to commit to marriage to a life’s partner. Some will, maybe many won’t. But they will have the option. They do not at this time have that option in this country.

And whatever the outcome of the Postal Survey, refining the way we talk about and understand sexuality and gender will continue. Voting NO will not stop NO RELIGION as being the greatest religious growth area in Australia, nor will it stop people questioning whether “male and female created He them” is any longer an accurate formulation of the facts of human diversity.

What we can be sure of is that voting NO will profoundly affect the lives of quite a few families in our country that are still struggling to gain full dignity in the eyes of the law.

See also Legalise same-sex marriage for the ‘common good’, says Catholic priest Frank Brennan.

And here, courtesy of norrie, are my friends from South Sydney Uniting Church.

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And that reminds me. Tomorrow is R U OK Day. To me that this should be 14 September is particularly poignant. I wonder, were he still alive, what Rob would have had to say about it all, and I reflect on the fact that his mother and her partner were, in 1989, among the first same-sex couples I met – but under such sad circumstances in which homophobia had undoubtedly played a role. In my story Rob is “J”.

Did you know J was bashed last year?
Yes, he told me.
So much hate.
You know he told me a year ago he didn’t think he was going to win.
The most he could hope for was to live with it.
So much love.

When the Reverend Fred Nile and his fundamentalists march into Oxford Street set on a bit of cleansing I am out there with the crowd. I wear my Mardi Gras T-shirt with additions:

FOR JAY

Sept. 1961-Sept. 1989

‘Gone where fierce indignation
can lacerate his heart no more.’

AND FOR LUKE
WHO LOVED HIM

Fred has his thousand, harmless-looking folk pushing strollers, mingled love and fear on their faces as they march up Oxford Street.

But we have five, ten thousand voices chanting NO MORE GUILT! NO MORE GUILT!

Come to think of it, how many same-sex couples do you know/have you known? I can think of at least ten off the top of my head. And you? When I reflect on it, I would say the first couple I met was in the 1940s! They were friends of my aunt.

Update:

I must be careful how I put this, as I have met the person involved and liked him for his eccentricity.  Since writing the post I have read David Flint’s piece in today’s Daily Telegraph. It saddens me. I have also read Miranda Devine’s version of Benjamin Law. I find it, to adapt her characterisation of Law, utterly unhinged.

If that is the best the NO camp can do, God help them! And us, if they succeed.

 

June gone already! And what a time for news!

Just as well you aren’t depending on this blog to keep you up-to-date, as there has been a bit of a break here as I nursed my remaining data allowance. And in that time we’ve had so many things happen, most recently the charging of Cardinal George Pell for alleged historic sex offences against children. He will be fronting court in Melbourne next month. I can’t help wondering what an old internet friend, Father Ken Sinclair, who died in 2005, would have had to say. Back in 2001-2 he was foreshadowing some of this stuff in conversations we had on ICQ. See my post Back to very early days–and the strange immortality of the internet.

Then today we have had Donald Trump showing what a small-minded vindictive arsehole he really is. no great surprise surely. Presidential? Pull the other one… And we’re supposed to trust the judgement of this person on the most important issues in the world? God help us all!

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And here in Oz Tony Abbott is in full feral mode. Rather liked former leader of his party John Hewson on this today.

…say what he likes, Abbott is still quite bitter and twisted about Turnbull seizing his job, and getting worse with time. His IPA speech this week was a clear example of “disloyalty”. Sure, he dressed it up as a speech of “principle” and “conviction” and true conservative “ideology”, but it was blatantly a direct attack on Turnbull, and his more “centrist” strategy, designed to undermine, and constrain Turnbull.

And a major part of the data from the 2016 Australian Census was released this week. That part concerning religion interested quite a few of us. Here are a couple of graphics from the Daily Mail.

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41CA08B500000578-4641728-image-a-1_1498523288531The Daily Mail and the Sydney Daily Telegraph made much of a “surge in the number of Muslims”. As you might expect these days.  Headline:

Muslim population in Australia soars to 600,000 as religion becomes the nation’s second-biggest – a 77% jump in the past DECADE, according to Census

Soared to 2.6% of the population, of whom “radicals” must constitute… Well, you guess…

The really interesting figure was the rise of “No Religion” — whatever that might actually mean.

But now for the really important stats: in June the most viewed posts on this blog have been:

Home page / Archives   614 views in June 2017
Friday Australian poem: #NS6 – Mary Gilmore “Old Botany Bay”  21
Testing for English competence?   18
A week of multicultural yums   17
On terror — just for the record   15
65 years on I recall Vermont Street  12
Otto Warmbier’s death underlines plight of thousands of North Koreans  12
Tangible link to the convict ship “Isabella” and the immigrant ship “Thames”   11
Going, going… Myers in Wollongong  11
Neil’s Family Specials — a reminder   10
Wollongong High: more on the centenary More stats 10
Flowers and grief: for my mother  9
Tom Thumb Lagoon   9
Some great stories, and some of them new to me…  9

Well, the mad uncle is out of the attic now…

That quote from an Australian government minister refers to the latest self-promotion by former but currently disgruntled Prime Minister, Tony Abbott.

Tony Abbott has told Liberal defector Cory Bernardi he hasn’t given up hope of a return to leadership, but would not make a public tilt for Malcolm Turnbull’s job…

Mr Abbott’s supporters are describing the Turnbull government as ‘the Malcolm vanity project’, a reference the former PM alluded to in a speech…

A Liberal minister has told Sky News Mr Abbott has little support in the party room for any challenge.

‘Well, the mad uncle is out of the attic now. But Abbott’s got no support,’ the minister said.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, who was a strong supporter of Mr Abbott throughout his prime ministership, told Sky News he was saddened by his decision to provide ‘more and more destructive’ commentary.

‘He’s not helping our cause, he’s not helping our country, he’s not helping himself, much of what he says is either wrong or inconsistent with what he did,’ Senator Cormann said….

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See also Tony Abbott’s five-point plan for the ‘winnable’ next election will infuriate Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott: Coalition in danger of becoming ‘Labor lite’

FORMER Prime Minister Tony Abbott has penned a highly critical analysis of the Turnbull Government, highlighting voter “despair” and concerns “the Coalition has become Labor lite.”

In a stark manifesto, the leader of the Liberal Party’s Right said the next election was winnable and outlined his own plan that would take the Coalition to victory, from “scaled back immigration”, to scrapping the Human Rights Commission and ending the pandering to climate change theology.

Mr Abbott also acknowledged the disappointment in his own Government and said he could understand why support was surging for One Nation….

Suggesting policy changes, Mr Abbott declared: “The next election is winnable.”

Controversially, he suggested the Government “scrap” the Human Rights Commission and refuse to be an ATM for the states, to allow micro-economic reform in schools and hospitals.

“If we stop pandering to climate change theology and freeze the RET, we can take the pressure off power prices,” he said.

But see also Tony Abbott’s spray against Turnbull Government policies dismissed by senior ministers.

Tony Abbott has certainly guaranteed that I will never support him or his approach, but that is hardly surprising. Take his pandering to the denialists with “we stop pandering to climate change theology.” Goes down well with the house columnists at the Telegraph of course. But such phraseology is so quaint in 2017. I commend Skeptical Science again, explaining climate change science & rebutting global warming misinformation. And here is one for Catholic Tony:

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Revisiting June 2016 – via 1959

A nostalgia hit for me, published yesterday on the Shellharbour Pictures page on Facebook:

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Shellharour with jetty: 1959 My grandfather rebuilt the jetty in 1909. Compare 1934.

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Now to June 2016.

End of June, and looking forward to voting KAOS!

Posted on June 30, 2016 by Neil

Second things first. It appears, as William Bowes’ Poll Bludger indicates, that Mr Turnbull’s party will get back in on 2 July, but with a reduced majority.

Daylight has finally opened between the two parties on the BludgerTrack poll aggregate, without quite freeing the Coalition from the risk of a hung parliament.

The Senate should be fun all round.

Bear in mind what is hiding in the basement, should Mr Turnbull get up. The influence of such should be proportionately stronger if Mr Turnbull is weakened.

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Here be monsters!

Following Mr T’s awful warning, if not quite in the spirit it was offered, I am definitely opting for KAOS all round! Exactly how is my business…

Interlude: M of Venice

Posted on June 26, 2016 by Neil

Or rather, M in Venice. One of a set he posted on Facebook on 24 June, though by then he was no longer in Venice. He was in Florence a few days ago.

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Great photo!

Very incomplete personal takes on Brexit

Posted on June 25, 2016 by Neil

“Certainly going to be interesting to see what happens in the UK in this coming week” I wrote here on 21 June. Well, that was a bit understated, eh!

Now I’m wondering if they should be dusting off the Honours of Scotland.

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Perhaps because I am conscious that the greater part of my ancestry derives from Scotland and Ulster (maternal and paternal lines), I still tend to see the UK through that lens.

The Brexit vote showed interesting divisions on those lines.

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See more maps here.

I must admit this aspect rather pleases me: “People gathered in Edinburgh and Glasgow to demonstrate against the result and show support for migrants.” Then there is this:

[Scotland’s First Minister] Ms Sturgeon said: “After a campaign that has been characterised in the rest of the UK by fear and hate, my priority in the days, weeks and months ahead will be to act at all times in the best interests of Scotland and in a way that unites, not divides us.

“Let me be clear about this. Whatever happens as a result of this outcome, England, Wales and Northern Ireland will always be Scotland’s closest neighbours and our best friends – nothing will change that.

“But I want to leave no-one in any doubt about this. I am proud of Scotland and how we voted yesterday.

“We proved that we are a modern, outward looking and inclusive country and we said clearly that we do not want to leave the European Union.

“I am determine to do what it takes to make sure these aspirations are realised.”

Here is a personal take from Edinburgh.

Amelia Baptie, 36, a mother of twins, said she was “heartbroken and devastated” by the result, as were most of the parents she spoke to in the playground.

She said: “I think if it was about hope on the Leave side then some good could come out of it, but it was about hatred.

“I am upset and worried. I don’t know what has happened to England. They have gone so much to the right and Scotland is being pulled along. My parents live in France and they are very worried now if they can stay, and about their income.”

I worry about some of the types in Europe who have been rejoicing about the UK’s choice – the likes of Le Pen and Wilders.

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See Exploring my inner Scot

I really do think we might see another Scottish Independence referendum not far into the future.

Another element in the UK vote was generational. This 21 June article by Chris Cook on BBC foreshadowed that.

A new piece of evidence on this has been released by Populus, a pollster that is doing a lot of work for the Remain camp. Their data suggests:

  • People aged 65 and over are 23% more likely to vote Leave than the average voter. Voters aged 18-24 are 37% more likely to back Remain. Those aged 25-34 are 19% more likely to back Remain than the average voter, the poll suggests
  • Students are 54% more likely to back Remain than the average person. Graduates are 21% more likely. Meanwhile, people with no formal qualifications are 48% more likely to back Leave…

After the event see  ‘What have we done’ – teenage anger over Brexit vote.

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Finally, a different, wider viewpoint: The Long Road to Brexit.

Markets are stunned. Commenters are shocked. But future historians may view this moment as inevitable…

The debate has cut across the usual divisions of Conservative, Labour, and Liberal Democrat. There are left-wing Brexiteers (who dislike the EU for its lack of democracy and enforced economic austerity) and left-wing Remainers (who like its internationalism); right-wing Remainers (who see the EU as a huge market) and right-wing Brexiteers (who see it as an affront to national sovereignty). There has also been a national dimension: The biggest supporters of Brexit have been the English, and now suddenly the Welsh; the Scots and Irish, for different reasons, have taken the opposite view.

The campaign has highlighted differences too among generations, among regions, and perhaps most importantly among classes and among cultures. Supporters of the “Remain” campaign were disproportionately the young, educated middle classes, who saw the EU as both in their interests and as the political equivalent of motherhood and apple pie. Supporters of Brexit were disproportionately older, less educated, and less wealthy, and think their voices are more likely to be heard in an autonomous national state. Attitudes to immigration from the EU — unrestricted under EU law and running at nearly 200,000 per year — became the shibboleth. Remain saw immigration as a token of enlightenment, economic freedom and cosmopolitanism. The “Leave” campaign saw it as a cause of depressed wages, stressed public services, and long-term danger to national identity. The EU question has become more polarized ideologically in Britain than anywhere else in Europe…

Where indeed will it all end?

Post script

Have been reading heaps of posts. This one stands out: Called back to the present by Scottish physician Bob Leckridge, now living in France.

… and Jim Belshaw:

I watched the UK’s Brexit vote first with interest then with fascination and then with a degree of  horror. I was opposed to the original decision to join the EEC, but after forty years membership unpicking the whole thing becomes difficult. Further, the campaign itself and the consequent vote played to and accentuated divides in the UK….

Alas!

Yes, Jim’s post has disappeared! But now it’s back!

And finally…

Look at Steve Cannane, Brexit: Is Scotland brave enough to defy the UK? and Ian Verrender, Brexit will deliver a few home truths, both on ABC.

HSC 50 years on

Posted on June 20, 2016 by Neil

Featured in today’s Sydney Morning Herald:

There were no calculators. Cigarettes were puffed on the school oval at lunchtime. One-third of students took French. And the most controversial musical you could study was West Side Story: that was the Higher School Certificate half a century ago.

This year marks 50 years since the first group of students exited the Victorian-era Leaving Certificate and entered the uncharted territory of the HSC after the Wyndham report changed the face of education in NSW.

And also in this year’s HSC Study Guide supplement:

This year marks the HSC’s 50th year. Since 1967, more than 2.3 million students have successfully completed the HSC and used the skills and knowledge gained to embark on the next stage of life at university, TAFE or work.

The HSC has evolved to reflect a constantly changing world, growing from 29 courses to 104 courses with exams. The first HSC included Sheep Husbandry and Farm Mechanics. The 2016 HSC includes Software Design and Development and Information Processes and Technology.

Students today are enrolled in five English, four maths, five science, eight technology, 63 language and 13 Vocational Educational and Training (VET) courses and 27 Life Skills courses…

Sheep Husbandry was not on offer at Cronulla High School where I as a newly minted English teacher fronted what would be the first 3rd Level (i.e. bottom) English Year 11 class in 1966. So strictly speaking this year it is 49 years since that first HSC, which was sat in 1967.

I did return to Cronulla back in 2011. See these posts: How young we were! (and do read the comment thread!) and Here I am at the Cronulla High 50th!

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Revisiting Cronulla High in 2011

See also my 2013 post If the jacarandas are out, the HSC must be coming… and my 2015 post Educational opportunity in Australia – 2015 and 1965.

Orlando

Posted on June 14, 2016 by Neil

There is no way I can hope to do justice to the horrific events that played out at The Pulse in Orlando. Let me first share Sydney’s response.

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See Candlelight vigils held across Australia to honour Orlando shooting victims….