Enviro portal

29 01 2010

Traditional print media have always filtered the news through the various sections of the paper – Business, sport and so on.  And it has always worried me that there is no “environment” section in most newspapers.

Almost as frustrating was the termination of the Earthbeat programme on ABC radio national some years ago.

Finally, however, the ABC (Australia’s public broadcaster) has introduced an environment portal which aims to gather all of the relevant stories and resources from across the network of TV, Web and Radio stations.  Added to the expansion of it’s Web and TV presence, “Aunty” is  having a cracker of a year.

It’s here:



Oceans of Acid

21 11 2009

Here’s  a nice article from Australia’s Cosmos magazine.  It’s nominated for an Earth journalism award.  You can vote for it here.

Oceans of acid

Pickrell, John
Cosmos Magazine (2009-02-06)
Read the original report (online, press)


As global warming wreaks havoc on coral reefs, evidence is mounting that another problem caused by carbon dioxide is an even bigger threat. But is it too late to fix?

It’s six o’clock on a Sunday morning and I’m sitting on Queensland’s Four Mile Beach. There’s still a night chill to the air. Though the light is dim, a red glow is building on the horizon as the Sun is about to emerge from beyond the Pacific Ocean.

I’m playing with the sand between my toes and fiddling with a small piece of coral rubbed smooth by the tide.

I’ve spent the preceding few days out on an Australian government marine survey vessel snaking its way along the Great Barrier Reef. The trip has given me a lot to think about, both good and bad, and this morning I’m mulling over everything I’ve experienced.

In late July, the CSIRO invited me to join a team of 14 scientists, led by oceanographer Bronte Tilbrook and climate modeller Richard Matear, as they collected data to predict the future health of the reef.

The issue on their agenda is ocean acidification, commonly referred to by those in the know as “the other CO2 problem” – separate, but linked to climate change. Though acidification has had a lot less press, there is mounting evidence to suggest that it will be a bigger problem for marine life than the warming of the oceans themselves.

Our waste carbon dioxide (CO2) is mostly maligned for causing climate change as it builds up in the atmosphere, trapping heat, but for the past 200 years it’s also been quietly dissolving into the oceans, slowly making them more acidic.

Continued here.

A growth is a bad thing isn’t it?

3 12 2008

Here’s the ABC’s journalists talking to each other about some economic data from Australia today.  I’ve taken the liberty of adding my own reflections.  My comments are in purple.

GDP shows economy barely growing

The World Today – Wednesday, 3 December , 2008 12:10:00
Reporter: Stephen Long

ELEANOR HALL: But first to the grim news about the economy, the latest national account figures show that Australian economy is barely growing at all. [For whom is it grim?  Most species would probably think that humans are consuming plenty enough already without increasing their share.]

The country’s gross domestic product rose by just 0.1 of one per cent in the September quarter; and the non-farm economy is already going backwards. [Going backwards.  A loaded term surely.  If people are buying almost as much stuff as last year, I would think that we’re pretty keen shoppers still]

Joining us to analyse the latest numbers is our economics correspondent Stephen Long.

So Stephen, how worried should we be about these GDP figures? [She might have asked, should we worry at all about these abstract numbers?..but easier to go for the leading question]

STEPHEN LONG: Well they’re very weak Eleanor, they suggest that the economy recorded virtually no growth, was just in positive territory, almost grinding to a halt in the three months to September.  [That’s a rather odd thing to say.  If people are consuming a little bit more than last year then consumer activity hasn’t really ground to a halt.  Even if people bought half what they did last year….that isn’t grinding to a halt.  What a strange turn of phrase.]

But if you take out the, if you look at the non-farm economy which is where more than 90 per cent of the activity takes place and where most of us live and work, well that was going backwards significantly. So they are a worry. [The thing is the non-farm economy is not a place.  We don’t live in an economy….it’s just an abstract way of trying to sum up commercial exchanges in a place.  There’s an implicit suggestion that to not consume more than last year is to “go backwards” in some profound and overarching sense of the phrase.]

They suggest the economy was in bad straits before the worst of the global credit crunch hit and before we saw the world’s powers coming together to say we had to take drastic action to rescue the world economy, things were already looking pretty bad.

ELEANOR HALL: So what was slowing the economy so much then?

STEPHEN LONG: Household consumption was one of the main things; you’ve got a situation where basically consumers were on strike. [Geez Mum, you only bought as much crap as you did last year.  Are you on strike or something?] So you had just 0.1 per cent seasonally adjusted growth in household consumption.

But that’s a bit misleading because that was driven up by rising rent, up 0.6 per cent, rising insurance and financial services costs in the quarter [So because there’s a reason, then we leave that stuff out – if its explainable then it doesn’t count]. Purchases of vehicles were down eight per cent, people weren’t spending money in hotels, cafés and restaurants, that sector went backwards. [Really?  Not a single cafe, hotel or restaurant sold anything.  I’ll be damned!]

And you also had a big rise in inventories which peculiarly is counted as a positive contribution to economic growth but actually suggests that companies couldn’t sell stuff. [Not as bloody peculiar as spending on burglar alarms, deadlocks, road accidents,  fighter jets and kidney transplants which we count toward economic growth] So that suggests that consumers were on strike [yep haven’t seen a shop for about four months myself], there’s a couple of things going on.

Bear in mind this pre-dates the huge round of interest rate cuts that we’ve seen over the past four Reserve Bank meetings in the past three months. And also the fall in petrol prices.

So people were getting whacked at this stage by high petrol prices [sorry – what’s this climate change thingy?] and relatively high interest rates but also it suggests that consumers were getting very, very worried about the state of the economy and companies couldn’t sell things.

ELEANOR HALL: Now these figures are for the September quarter, can we expect things to be better or worse in the current quarter?

STEPHEN LONG: Well forecasting is a difficult game, I always stick by the maxim of the late American economist J K Galbraith that the purpose of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable [some truth and sense at last]; but it is quite possible that growth could go backwards and we could record negative growth in the December quarter. [Backwards growth…negative growth…does he mean shrinkage, contraction, decline, diminution… is that what he means..funny language].  That’s the forecast of a lot of economists [as if we trust them anymore].

In a sense it depends really how much the huge fiscal stimulus that the Federal Government pumped in, $10.4-billion actually feeds into spending and how much the rate cuts feed into consumption. And we did have relatively strong retail sales compared to what the market was expecting with the numbers out yesterday.

But it’s quite possible that the economy could quite formally go backwards in the December quarter. All of this is moot though in a sense [in a very bloody accurate sense], whether we actually technically hit a recession with two quarters of negative growth or not, the fact is, things are looking grim [unless you have an interest in the wellbeing of your grandchildren or the survival of hundreds of thousands of species of life on Earth. And ooh, there’s that euphemistic “technical recession” phrase again – had to squeeze it in there somewhere]

If you go back a year ago, we were recording a one per cent growth rate in the September quarter, now we’re down to 0.1 of a per cent in the September quarter. So things have slowed rapidly and we’ve seen a situation where employment growth is one-third of what it was if you go back to that stage. [Hang on, you’re saying that we’re still making new jobs!]

Unemployment is going to go up [hmmm.  what are the astrologers saying on that one?], as I said the non-farm economy is going backwards [so the farm economy must be doing very bloody nicely thanks]; it will feel and smell like a recession for most people [how does a recession smell?  I think I’ve forgotten.  Perhaps it the smell of fresh air, or lavender or something quite lovely]

ELEANOR HALL: And a year ago too we were very reliant on the resources boom, have we got to give up on that at this stage? [No Eleanor, we ought to just keep digging shit out of the ground like there’s no tomorrow.  Why care?]

STEPHEN LONG: Yes and one of the other things here is that, you’ve had a fairly strong contribution to economic growth over the year by capital investment from business and that’s going out the window. There was also a reasonably strong contribution in the quarter from public spending, we’ll be expecting that to go up but it shows you how weak the private economy is.

ELEANOR HALL: So how is the Treasury forecast of two per cent growth over the year to next June looking now? [Well, Eleanor it is probably as good a number as any]

STEPHEN LONG: Well I think it’s looking pretty shaky, I think it’s looking very optimistic. Of course they’ll be banking on these massive interest rate cuts by the Reserve Bank feeding into higher consumption and the Government throwing money into the economy to generate spending to get them over the line with that two per cent growth forecast. But it’s looking very ambitious right now.

ELEANOR HALL: Stephen Long our economics correspondent thank you.

Apologies for the cynic in me but I tire of opinion presented as analysis.  The agenda has been set and we know what we’re allowed to think before the interview hits its stride.  And this, from the national broadcaster.  But at least they didn’t interview Bill Evans– chief economist of Westpac, or the ubiquitous Saul Estlake of ANZ or any other number of vested interests.

Skype junk mail

27 11 2007

Just slightly annoyed to receive this Skype message this evening from someone called Li.

hello.I am Li from china. we are the factory to produce the flat speaker. we are the only one here in china to produce the flat speaker. because only we have the technology. If you are interested in it, please contact me.

The story of the internet (and probably communications technology in general) seems to be one of explosive, creative ideas which later become subverted (ruined?) by the desire of some to make a quick buck. We might look at email, blogging, video sharing and social networking as classic examples of this tendency. How many of you remember the internet before advertising became the in-you-face visual pollution that it has become? (especially those friggin’ bandwidth wasting video ads and flash content).

The ability of interested amateurs to shape the internet has always seemed to be its great strength over traditional media and many feel that it is a truly democratic technology in this sense. All of this can be compromised by corporate influence and control.

Fortunately, the little guy hasn’t been squeezed out altogether and independent opinion still flourishes for the most part. In the battle between the individual and the corporation, the corporates have so far always trailed behind, ever slow in capitalising on the latest internet trend. May it ever be the case.

Recent attempts to introduce differential pricing for content providers suggest that there are many in the corporate world who would like very much to exercise unacceptable levels of control over the ether. The effects would be wide ranging and toxic to freedom of expression and undue influence.

Monbiot on UN report and the BBC

31 10 2007

Never one to hold back, the British author and intellectual discusses the latest UN environment report and decries BBC self-censorship.

Buried on page 148, I found this statement. “If present trends continue, 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity by 2025, and two thirds of the world population could be subject to water stress.” Wastage and deforestation are partly to blame, but the biggest cause of the coming droughts is climate change. Rainfall will decline most in the places in greatest need of water. So how, unless we engineer a sudden decline in carbon emissions, is the world to be fed? How, in many countries, will we prevent the social collapse that failure will cause?

and later,

Who will persuade us to act? However strong the opposition parties’ policies appear to be, they cannot be sustained unless the voters move behind them. We won’t be prompted by the media. The BBC drops Planet Relief for fear of breaching its impartiality guidelines: heaven forbid that it should come out against mass death. But it broadcasts a programme – Top Gear – that puts a match to its guidelines every week, and now looks about as pertinent as the Black and White Minstrel Show. The schedules are crammed with shows urging us to travel further, drive faster, build bigger, buy more, yet none of them are deemed to offend the rules, which really means that they don’t offend the interests of business or the pampered sensibilities of the Aga class. The media, driven by fear and advertising, is hopelessly biased towards the consumer economy and against the biosphere.

Read the whole article here.