Category Archives: biographical

Blog- Thurs 6 to Sun 9 July

Thursday 6
Around the park  five times
Two hours at microfiche tracking down crucial newspaper articles for the carbon tax 1994/1995 story. Dead useful, developed a couple of new tricks of how to get the info v. quickly
Good meeting with a research librarian, who was super helpful, and put me onto an academic I am meeting up with on Thursday.
Scanning some important stuff (and also pages from John Howard’s  memoir ‘Lazarus Rising).
Cycled home and had three games of scrabble with dad, won two lost one.
Did lots more  grunt work around the stuff I collected earlier today (this matters – if I have learned anything it is the importance of doing the grunt work as you go!!)
Insomnia!
Reading Anna Krien’s excellent Quarterly Essay on coal, coral and climate change.  We’re toast, and she is almost as good as Elizabeth Kolbert, which is High Praise Indeed.

Friday 7
Insomnia – working on thesis at stupid o’clock.  Then, in the morning,  one game of scrabble with mum Lift into town (raining!)  Two hours in State Library – got the hang of some software/hardware, scanned some useful stuff. And some trainspottery stuff. It’s not always possible to know in advance which is which.
Very little/nothing in Keating biographies about climate, which is telling re: what a low priority it was – I don’t think he got involved at all in the spat over the tax itself.  And forestry took up all the oxygen.
Then fantastic meet up with lovely chap who it turns out I had met once before.  Really inspiring and energising to meet someone on the same wavelength.  He’s into Arendt, and a whole lot of other stuff. Looking forward to introducing him to various folks (inc The Wife).  Walked home, making it ahead of the rain.
Meanwhile, that March tweet by Elon Musk was coming true – the one about building a 100Mw power storage facility ‘or it’s free’.
More work (typing up bits of a book I read, then tracking down the relevant factoids. Never underestimate the willingness/brass neck of trade associations to just MAKE SHIT UP.

Saturday 8
Walked around the park times five, followed by scrabble tournament with my ma.  Played 6, won 4 (one by a single point). Got totally totally thrashed in the first game.  Largely enjoyable. People are strange.
A bus up to somewhere to see a film (not very good) and endure a truly excruciatingly bad meeting.  We will never learn, it seems. It was heart-breakingly bad.  Then long wait for a bus back, but that is a first world problem, and one of my own making (I shoulda left earlier).
In the meantime, read a lot of Mark Butler’s Climate Wars, and will be late getting the review written, but only by a day, so not the end of the world…
Got up to watch some Federer, but fell asleep towards the end of each set…

Sunday 9
Backpain, possibly from all that walking with a backpack…  I never learn.  Watched The Insiders, with Lenore Taylor, Shane Wright and Mike Seccombe (all journos I am referencing in my thesis) talking about the week’s events.  Barnaby Joyce trying and failing to minimise the significance of the Weatherill/Musk announcement.  That %#$* Chris Uhlman ripping into Trump (apparently it went viral in DC).
Turns out my Gunther Anders conversation piece has been popping up in different places. Currently over 28k views, putting it second in my most-viewed conversation pieces. Odd.
Then off to the library. Got a bit of reading of Senate stuff done (from the mid-1990s) and borrowed some books I will probably only read about ten pages of  (e.g.  a Joe Hockey biography. Srsly).  Then went through the print-off of the 94/5 chapter and then made changes, added bits etc. This took hours, but was worth it, because now aged female parental has a hard copy that she is very kindly reading. Must iterate, basically.  This can guide what else I do, research wise.  Actually would like to do a couple of interviews….
Thank goodness I had no money on me today, otherwise I would have bought an anthology of Meanjin for $2 and a zombie comedy memoir for 50c.  Cough, cough.

Blog Days 4 and 5

So, Monday night I got the parentals, both former hacks, to proof read an article about the interesting comments of a renewables engineer. They did this with aplomb, and I sent the thing off.
Tuesday 4th

Walked around the park again (5 laps, this time with three logs in the backpack) and then got on with more ‘grunt’ work on the thesis.  Good news then followed – the editor of reneweconomy said yes to running the piece.  Kept gruntworking on the thesis, then cycled in to meet my very smart and kind friend Heather Smith.  A good chinwag ensued about the state of play with renewables in South Australia.  Anyone who tells you that I then went to the Oxfam bookshop on Hutt Street and bought, for two bucks in toto the following

  • Vance Palmer, National Portraits: 25 Australian Lives
  • Nevil Shute, Requiem for a Wren
  • Frank Hardy, But the Dead are Many
  • Blanche d’Alpuget, Turtle Beach
  • Fred Pearce, Green Warriors

And, for $3.50, Best Australian Political Writing 09

is making an outrageous allegation, as the wife used to say.

Then I got on a train. Not quite the right train, it turned out, and thus had some extra cycling and navigating of suburban cul-de-sacs to do, before arriving at the site of an old car factory which is being repurposed (palimpsests, eh?) for the next economy.  An hour and a half of thesis reading followed by a two-part tour.  The building was 11 hectares, now reduced to 8.  There will be mixed used, student accommodation, better transport links etc.  The tour guide was understandably cagey on when the site might finally have 6,000 employees, but that’s the (aspirational) target.  The other tour guide, showing us around the other half of the building was much more blunt, and pointed out a series of decisions/actions which undercut the general green patina.

The point of the evening though was the hosting of a ‘conversation’ about sustainable buildings and the circular economy.  Hmmm.  If you only schedule an hour, then having a late start, a long lead in and then five (rather than the three advertised) speakers, means that there ain’t gonna be much conversation, now is there?

I stuck my hand up first, because I had to be on the (last) train out at 7.10.  A two header, offering speakers the chance to pick either the easy or hard one.  Easy one – “how is circular economy anything new, compared to typical make-do and mend, traditional ‘conserver’ economies.”  Hard one- “where is the sense of urgency, I heard nothing about changing the rules of the game. We’ve lost the reef, the arctic, the Antarctic is going…”

One chap chose the hard one and said yes, economic growth can’t continue.  Another person answered a totally different question. The author of a report on the Circular Economy went for the hard one and the answer is worth relating and commenting on.  In precis – yes, accepting the scale of the problem.  But Rachel Carson predicted doom, Ozone people predicted doom, didn’t happen. Therefore we need to work ‘with’ business to get anything done, can’t go around scaring people.

Hmm.  Actually, Carson offered possibilities, then action followed. Ditto on Ozone- if we had kept spewing CFCs up, then there would have been real trouble.  But beyond this historical inaccuracy, there is the point that it cuts both ways. “We” have been sucking up to business since the 70s, and where has it got us other  than [redacted on legal advice].  Where is the step change? Where is the game changing? Because on current trajectories, we are toast.

So, had to walk out during the  answer from a panellist, which was awkward, but there’s a podcast apparently… Train then cycle home, more grunt work.

Weds 5th

Walk around park again, scribbling on my thesis – first empirical chapter.  Then work at home.  Then went to this event in the city centre.  It was rather good. Home via shops (there’s only so long you can use an airline provided toothbrush).  Was supposed to be going to a community energy event with Heather, but I stuffed up the address, she couldn’t find me, so had to head on.  Pretty groggy though (a bit of jetlag) and probably good I wasn’t there (snoring in the front row a bad look).  So, a bit more grunt work on the thesis, and to bed…

“That was a good meeting “– what the heck are your criteria?

So, went to an activist meeting that was dominated by a small core of people.  Afterwards they were heard agreeing that it was an excellent meeting.  And you have to wonder, what were their criteria. I think these.

  • “I got to speak a lot/display my virtue and or intelligence/be the centre of attention”
    (see also ego potlatch)
  • “Issues that were uncomfortable were not aired”
  • “There were agreed doable outcomes that the ‘group’ can do that will lead to benefits for the group and me.”

Other criteria, which would be regarded as irrelevant or hippy nonsense by those who found the meeting ‘a success’ but might actually make the whole damn thing sustainable.

  • Everyone present was given enough information and opportunities to ‘warm up’ so that they could both more easily absorb what was being said at (sorry, ‘to’ ) them and also participate in the conversation afterwards
  • The initial promises of interactivity and time-keeping were kept
  • People were not just encouraged to participate but the meeting was consciously structured in ways that lowered/eliminated the invisible barriers that are in place due to status, information differentials etc
  • The meeting was not dominated by a small core of high-status individuals who have the confidence/cultural and social capital to interact with each other over the heads of a silent observing group of people treated as ‘ego-fodder’

(e.g. in a group of 14 people, 5 people did all the speaking [bar one invited speaker and one self-serving ‘question’] for the first 105 minutes of a 120 minute meeting.  By the end of the 120 minutes, only 9 of the 14 people had said anything (and 3 of them had spoken only once).

 

The obvious retort is that by trying to abolish hierarchy you are pissing in the wind, futilely defying millions of years of evolution.

The retort to the retort is that no, we’re not trying to abolish it, just lessen its impact, and that by that argument, nobody ever managed to knock the rough edges of absolute dictatorship etc etc.   How come slavery was abolished, men can no longer ‘legally’ rape their wives etc  etc.

Manchester and the ‘what to do’ question…

Manchester is famous the world over for its football, its music and now, sadly, for being the latest in an ever-lengthening list of European cities that have suffered terrrorist atrocities- Madrid, London, Oslo, Brussels, Berlin, Nice, Paris – in recent years. (And globally the list takes in Oklahoma City, Boston, Mumbai, Baghdad and so very many others).

Manchester has had terrorist incidents before, (such as the IRA bombing in 1996) but Monday night’s atrocity is on a different level of horror.

The pattern is familiar now – the attack, the rolling media coverage, the hashtags, the facebook ‘safe status’ search, the heartbreaking circulation of photographs of the missing – young, innocent people – the tales of heroism, the diligent professional work of the emergency services, the skill of the medical staff, followed by speculation about the perpetrators and their motives, the resolute sombre speeches of national leaders, and the solidarity expressed by other politicians, especially those from cities recently afflicted.

Also there are vigils. Last night thousands of us gathered in front of the Town Hall for a much needed vigil and show of solidarity, unity. The city had been on edge all day. Sirens and helicopters, people compulsively checking updates on social media and news feeds. The now all-too-familiar messages of solidarity from other cities that have been the subject of attack in the recent past. And when (not, sadly, if) the next attack happens, then Manchester’s leaders will themselves be signing condolence books and sending tweets.

I was with my wife and friends, and although we heard some of the poem, we heard little of the speeches of assorted political and religious leaders (it was a bit like that opening scene in Monty Python’s Life of Brian – blessed are the cheesemakers).

Of course, the words were not the point. The point was that Manchester rejects the idiocy of hate, divisions based on class, religion or race.  Manchester is cosmopolitian, and very determined to say that way.

What can we do?

The blood banks are full to overflowing – for now. But giving blood is a really good thing to do, part of the gift relationship. A work colleague wrote yesterday “Fear of needles not withstanding, I tried to give blood this morning because I am O-. However, they are a bit overwhelmed and can’t register me yet. I should have registered before. Anyway, if you are a registered, universal donor, you are exactly who they are looking for right now!”

Perhaps put a note in your diary for a fortnight, or a month’s time from now?

I personally don’t think the choice of target – where young women gather to hear about women’s power – was an accident. Neither do people like Australian commentator Greg Sheridan. So, continuing to support increased opportunities for everyone (while recognising the historical and systemic barriers that women have faced)

Contesting some of the ways that this atrocity will be used. I think there are two things here. Firstly, people outside the UK (and within it) have some very weird (by that I mean “wrong”) ideas about how things are. Remember the terrorism “expert” who claimed in 2015 that Birmingham was a ‘no-go’ zone?

To quote a wise friend

please push back against people with very transparent agendas who will use this event to talk about Manchester as some kind of “war zone”, or make references to “no-go zones” where lots of South Asian immigrants live. I’ve already seen people pushing that narrative, and it couldn’t be more wrong. Manchester is a beautiful city full of sports, music, and history, and it is made all the better by its diversity….. Muslim taxi drivers offered free rides to get people away from the arena. Muslim doctors worked overtime to help the victims…. And today, as the smoke is clearing, people are dusting themselves off, helping and comforting the victims, and getting on with their lives. Manchester is resilient and it will survive this.”

My wife, who speaks both Arabic and acerbic spent time yesterday doing precisely this kind of ‘push back’ work on Twitter and Facebook, against those who want to stir up hatred and stupidity.  It’s a Sisyphean challenge of course. Or perhaps, more like cleaning out the Augean stables.

Secondly, the attack may be used as part of the ongoing power grab by the State, for ever more control, surveillance. This is really tricky, because on the one hand there is a need for more frontline staff, but at the same time swelling budgets end up swelling the scope of the state’s reach into private lives. Troops on the streets is, at the very least, ‘unsettling.’  Those who try to exchange freedom for safety often end up with neither.

When you think climate change, think “dam”…. #3MT

Here’s me giving my spiel in the “Three Minute Thesis” heat at University of Manchester

Here’s the slide I used.

hoover dam3

 

And… I’m through to the Three Minute Thesis Final to be held on Wednesday June 7, between 2pm and 3:30pm in University Place Lecture Theatre A. You can register for a (free!) ticket

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/university-of-manchester-three-minute-thesis-final-2017-tickets-34791162303.

 

 

Learning by doing – it’s the only way…

Case. Study. Bloody. Research.  Still, it meant I read

Stake, R. 1995. The Art of Case Study Research. London: Sage,

And on page 35-6 there is this gem-

One century ago, philosopher Wilhelm Dilthey argued that science was not moving in the direction not helping humans understand themselves:
Only from his actions, his fixed utterances, his effects upon others, can man learn about himself; thus he learns to know himself only by the round-about way of understanding. What we once were , how we developed and became what we are, we learn from the way in which we acted, the plans which we once adopted, the way in which we made ourselves felt in our vocation, from old dead letters, from judgments on which were spoken long ago… We understand ourselves and others only when we transfer our lived experience into every kind of expression of our own and other people’s lives.

 

Which puts me in mind of Jason Bourne in the second Bourne movie (The Bourne Supremacy) – while he is Goa, static, the memories are not coming clearly. Only when he moves do things begin to unlock…. (Compare Redford in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid – can only shoot well when moving…)