Richard Flanagan: Tasmania is burning (link to Guardian)

This is mighty powerful writing about an elemental issue.

 

It is a critique of power when those who hold it lack the depth of intellect and understanding which we expect they would have.

 

This is how to deliver a withering blow.

 

Read Richard Flanagan’s piece HERE.

 

 

Comments

  1. Yvette Wroby says

    Truly terrifying

  2. Mark Duffett says

    Indeed so, though having heard a few of them on the wireless this morning, many tourist and other small business operators would question whether it’s really on to use a phrase like “Tasmania is burning” when said burning amounts to 3% of the state. It’s also pretty unfair to smear “various tourism ventures” in a lump with the Hydro and Gunns as “enemies of Tasmania’s wild lands”.

    Such writing is powerful all right – but from this pulpit it’s the power to trash a lot of livelihoods as well as those wielding the political variety. The case is compelling and scary enough without literature prize winners overegging it.

  3. george smith says

    I’d like a few climate change sceptics to tell a polar bear that the reason he can’t catch seals has got nothing do with climate change and to harden up princess – and then watch them wet their pants and run!

    I guess it gets down to:
    “Who do you twust?” – John Howard or David Attenborough?

  4. If you watch Fox news and see Rowan Dean and Craig Kelly ( the liberal politician that is) debunk man made climate change you could nominate them for the MOSES AWARD. What’s that you ask? well every time one of them opens his mouth the BULL RUSHES OUT. An old joke but a very appropriate one in this case.Andrew Bolt and Bronwyn Bishop must also be considered.

  5. Powerful stuff. Weather and its effects has become apocalyptic. Biblical in its impact on quality of life – whether Townsville, Tasmania, SE “drought” or the Darling’s demise.
    It seems counterintuitive but unarguable that Tasmania is being disproportionately affected. Many wine companies have shifted their vineyards to Tasmania because the mainland was getting too hot for the slow ripening necessary for flavour development. Heat ruins half a crop. Smoke taint ruins it totally.
    20 years ago I told my son that 2 things would profoundly affect his life – climate change and fundamentalism (multiple varieties).
    The great challenge for Australians is what can we do as a small nation in a global ecosystem (political, economic and ecological)? We don’t generate our own weather. If Australia were to act decisively would we just be pissing into a hurricane?
    The greatest photo image of my time is Earthrise from Apollo 8 now 50 years ago. Our first sight of the miracle of the Blue Planet. Paraphrasing McLuhan “there are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. Our children are all crew.”
    http://theconversation.com/earthrise-a-photo-that-changed-the-world-109009
    The scary thing about Scott and Bill is that I have always found them plausible and genuine. Even when he is in direct contradiction of previous positions. Flexible? Spineless? Empty raincoats.

  6. Political expediency.
    Withering account by R Flanagan.
    Reading this I feel tears of despair, frustration, sadness.

    Sadly, climate change should not be too surprising. The Bureau of Meteorology publishes a lot of info on climate change. It is happening.
    Regardless of the Coles v Woolies political choices offered to Australians.

    The Bureau website can be a bit overwhelming but it’s a good place to nose around.
    e.g. http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/change/#tabs=Further-information&tracker=timeseries&tQ=graph%3Dtmean%26area%3Dtas%26season%3D0112%26ave_yr%3D0

    An excellent resource is here:
    https://www.climatechangeinaustralia.gov.au/en/

    Click around here for much info.
    Including “regional climate change explorer”
    Where you can select Eastern Tassie, Western Tassie – look at marine or land-based effects. Rainfall, temperature, sea level, acidification, sea surface temperatures. It’s all there.

    With climate modelling there are an extraordinary number of interrelated variables to consider.
    Feedbacks can catch people by surprise.
    e.g. When global temperature rises this will lead to some permafrost thaw. When permafrost thaws, it releases CO2 into the atmosphere. When more CO2 is released into the atmosphere, greenhouse effect is exacerbated and global temperatures rise further.

    e.g. When the Arctic ice cap melts, there is less coverage of ice. When there is less ice (white colour), there is more sea surface (dark blue colour). Bright white surfaces reflect much incident radiation. Dark colours absorb much incident radiation. So as the Arctic ice cap melts, more radiation is absorbed than previously and ocean temperatures rise faster.

    Often projections are presented in terms of likelihood.

    Western Tas
    https://www.climatechangeinaustralia.gov.au/en/climate-projections/future-climate/regional-climate-change-explorer/sub-clusters/?current=SSTWC&popup=true&tooltip=true

    Eastern Tas
    https://www.climatechangeinaustralia.gov.au/en/climate-projections/future-climate/regional-climate-change-explorer/sub-clusters/?current=SSTEC&popup=true&tooltip=true

  7. Sigh! This broader discussion on climate change infuriates me. Shrill pieces like this from Richard Flanagan, that are sensationalist, over-hyped and almost squealing at the reader don’t help. If I question climate change (not disagree, but merely question), I am a witch or something. Its pathetic. I think everyone needs to calm down a bit.

    If I’m a scientist and I’m given a grant of, say, $1m to prove climate change then guess what? I’ll prove climate change. And the opposite is also true. The point is that the science is never “in”. Science, by its very nature, is forever questioning, probing, uncovering new theories and facts and methods. Its never “in”. It’s like a garden. A garden is never “done” because trees grow and die and change shape. It is forever evolving. Was the science “in” when women took thalidomide in the 60s and 70s? Was the science “in” when we were told that the world would descend into another mini ice age in the 70s? Was the science “in” when we let cane toads loose in QLD?

    The world’s food production has never been higher, the world’s people (in general) have never been more prosperous, people are living longer. Its not all bad!Fires are no more fierce than they’ve ever been (the results can be more devastating as more people choose to live in fire prone areas), cyclones are not more ferocious (in fact I read recently that the number of cyclones is decreasing across northern Australia), floods are as they have always been, droughts will forever come and go. These natural occurrences are not evidence.

    All I ask is that we don’t close our eyes! Are humans impacting the environment of the planet? Yes. But the biggest issues are heavy metals dumped into oceans, plastics killing the marine life, the loss of forests and animal habitat, polluted rivers, rogue chemical dumpers, wars, famine, and, as PB rightly says above, fundamentalism.

    I think we need to take the religious zealotry out of this debate. People should read widely and with an open mind. If the mind is closed then nothing new is learned. As Einstein once said, “Few are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts”.

    Lets question everything.

    ,

  8. george smith says

    It’s always the right that “questions” – then chucks a tanty. If a lefty does it we are accused of being a communist. Again check your sources – are Andrew Bolt, Rupert, and John Howard paragons of truth?

    Remember Melbourne 40 years ago, they chucked offal and other chemicals straight into the Maribyrnong River . That’s just how it was…

    Remember the hysteria over passive smoking – how there was nothing to worry about, boy, they got that one wrong! But “the jury is still out” according to Lord Monckton, leading climate change denialist.

    is David Attenborough a religious zealot? he has probably seen more of the planet than any of the so called experts put together.

    Sometimes I think “the jury is still out” is code for “what’s in it for me?”

    Vietnam, Brexit, tax avoidance, Right Wing Catholic Regimes, when is the right going to get any thing right?

    “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Yep they got that one wrong too! There was no gate outside Jerusalem to unload your camel, to get it through the gate. Like most things, they made it up, in order to make rich folks feel better!

    Bloody rednecks, they’d kill Jesus Christ himself if there was a quid in it. Oh that’s right, they did!

  9. Footy is so much easier – or it was. Darts is easy now.

  10. Dips, I dips me lid to you for having the courage to express (and quite elegantly at that) a viewpoint at variance with the more partisan ‘gospels’ of the opposing sides of the so-called ‘climate debate’. Your piece made me recall another example, Paul Erlich’s book, ‘The Population Bomb’, from the late 60s/early70s when I was an impressionable young bloke. It was easy to be swept up in the flow. In theology, it was the era of ‘liberation theology’, a feel-good movement in the West, as opposed to a grim existential struggle in Central and South America, which had more to do with an intriguing notion of liberation than it did with theology. Its limitations were exposed by Oscar Romero – ironically so given his assassination by forces at the other end of the political spectrum.

    I try to listen, read, observe and ruminate, block out the hyperbole, filter it all though my own worldview and come to my own conclusions. Mostly, I tend to keep my own counsel, preferring to be thought a fool rather than opening my mouth and removing all doubt.

    And from a purely inquisitive perspective, I’d be interested to hear more from PB (we’re about the same vintage) about his take on ‘fundamentalism’ in its various forms

  11. Hi Dips,
    We have different ideas on this topic. It worries me that the communication of climate science has resulted in us having such disparate views. (It worries me too, that climate concerns have become politicised. Climate science needs to be above (outside of) politics. It needs to be more widely discussed; understood. In constructive ways.) Part of me wants to leave your comment alone (“You can’t change anyone’s mind”), but part of me needs to address what you wrote. I’ll take your response bit-by-bit:

    ==
    “Sigh! This broader discussion on climate change infuriates me. Shrill pieces like this from Richard Flanagan, that are sensationalist, over-hyped and almost squealing at the reader don’t help. If I question climate change (not disagree, but merely question), I am a witch or something. Its pathetic. I think everyone needs to calm down a bit.”

    Well, “shrill” is your word. It’s your interpretation. As is “squealing.” Nobody said you were a witch.
    ==

    “If I’m a scientist and I’m given a grant of, say, $1m to prove climate change then guess what? I’ll prove climate change. And the opposite is also true.”

    Scientists are not given grants to prove things. That is fundamentally not how science works. Maybe it is how business works. But not science. When a scientist receives a grant, the money is used to investigate something. Questions are asked. Experiments are designed. Hypotheses are tested. Your comment seems to cast doubt on science generally.
    ==

    “The point is that the science is never “in”. Science, by its very nature, is forever questioning, probing, uncovering new theories and facts and methods. Its never “in”.”

    Science is a discipline of human questioning based on evidence, reason and data. The Enlightenment occurred because of the human desire to understand (lightning, gravity, the moon, health, communications, each other). There exist more than a few examples of the science being ‘in’. (The fact that you and I can correspond via this medium from whatever distance is one of them).
    ==

    “It’s like a garden. A garden is never “done” because trees grow and die and change shape. It is forever evolving.”

    I take it you mean that scientific understanding is always developing, always improving. That is probably to be expected. Standing on the shoulders of giants, increases in computing power, communications all playing important roles. And if we take that as true, then we can assume that science we have today is the best there has ever been.
    ==

    “Was the science “in” when women took thalidomide in the 60s and 70s?”

    [I don’t know these examples, but I address them for completeness] If adequate scientific testing had been conducted, no one would have taken thalidomide. I don’t know the motivation for people taking it. I guess it may have been a scenario new to science. Science rapidly found a recommended approach.
    ==

    “Was the science “in” when we were told that the world would descend into another mini ice age in the 70s?”

    [I don’t know that one. Who gave that message? Without knowing more it is impossible to comment.]
    ==

    Was the science “in” when we let cane toads loose in QLD?

    Great example. The cane toad example stands as a folly of ignoring scientific method. Previous methods proposed for dealing the cane beetle underwent cautious testing, but the toads did not. One worker from Qld Bureau of Sugar Experiment Stations pushed the idea, having heard that it had worked in Hawaii. Toads were released August 1935. Unlike for previous proposed controls, there was pretty much an absence of scientific risk-assessment. Lobbied with this info, the Director-General of Health banned further release of toads in Dec 1935. But pressure from the sugar cane industry saw the PM Joseph Lyons overturn a short-lived ban in Sep 1936. The science was fine. Its application by decision-makers was not.
    ==

    “The world’s food production has never been higher, the world’s people (in general) have never been more prosperous, people are living longer. Its not all bad!”

    Yes, a minority of people live very comfortably. The majority world less so. Anyway, this is a separate argument. Nobody said it was all bad.
    ==

    “Fires are no more fierce than they’ve ever been (the results can be more devastating as more people choose to live in fire prone areas), cyclones are not more ferocious (in fact I read recently that the number of cyclones is decreasing across northern Australia), floods are as they have always been, droughts will forever come and go. These natural occurrences are not evidence.”

    Sure, individual storms/ floods/ fires cannot alone amount to evidence of climate change. This is because of the well-known variability of weather. Weather changes daily. Hourly. By-the-second. Climate changes much more slowly; usually over thousands of years. So no one weather event can be conclusively DUE to climate change. But an event can be thought of as MORE LIKELY to occur due to climate change (as with the Tasmanian fires). Global climate models require many inputs to run. When global climate models are run using variables that DO NOT assume climate change is occurring, their outputs DO NOT match observations. Only when global climate models are run using variables that DO assume climate change is occurring, does their output match observations.
    In scientific studies it is very useful to have a “control” in your experiment. This is the “do nothing” actor. E.g. in a study investigating the effect of caffeine on the growth of a broad bean plant, the control plant in the experiment may receive only water, whereas other individual plants in the experiment may receive caffeine plus water. Researchers would compare characteristics of the control plant with characteristics of the plants given caffeine – in order to determine the effect of caffeine on the growth of broad bean plant. Studies would be written up. They would be able to be replicated.
    With global climate of the earth, we have no control planet. So global climate models offer us the best alternative. Global climate models are improving all the time. Their outputs have consistently suggested climate change is occurring. (Indeed, scientists now talk about degree of impact).
    Yes fires, floods, droughts previously happened. Yes, both the spread of people across the earth and the coincident improvement in communications has raised both the frequency of people being affected, and our awareness of when they are. Yes, they have happened as long as we know about (A few hundred years? A thousand?) – but this does not discount the fact that climate change is occurring.

    ==
    “All I ask is that we don’t close our eyes! Are humans impacting the environment of the planet? Yes. But the biggest issues are heavy metals dumped into oceans, plastics killing the marine life, the loss of forests and animal habitat, polluted rivers, rogue chemical dumpers, wars, famine, and, as PB rightly says above, fundamentalism.”

    Opening our eyes is absolutely the first step of science. I look forward to the collective opening of our species’ eyes; accepting objective scientific findings. This took a while with a sun-centred universe, and with tobacco as a carcinogen, but we go there. Absolutely, all of the things you list are big concerns. None bigger than our climate. Our climate, in which everything lives, operates in quite a narrow “goldilocks” zone.

    ==
    “I think we need to take the religious zealotry out of this debate. People should read widely and with an open mind. If the mind is closed then nothing new is learned. As Einstein once said, “Few are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts”.”

    I can’t see any religious zealotry here. I encourage reading widely and with an open mind. Response to climate change was an issue in the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth was released in 2006. It is now 2019. I welcome all questions, all queries. All seeking to understand.

    ==
    “Lets question everything,”

    Yes. This is what scientific understanding promotes. And after we have questioned, let us accept answers. Why ask if we do not accept answers? Why train and support a global cohort of experts in climate science if we disregard what they say?
    Questions are only worth asking if their answers will be accepted. After the questions have been asked, after the answers have come in, I hope that people choose not to disregard them. Or to misrepresent them. I hope enough people and powerful people and people able to make decisions of consequence act on those answers provided by the experts on our planet.

  12. Thanks ER. Incredibly detailed answer and I’ll read it very carefully. Harmsy is right, footy is much easier.

    I still think Flanagan’s piece was hyperbole. Its doesn’t help meaningful discussion. I haven’t said anywhere here that humans are NOT impacting the climate, but I do call that impact into question. But no matter how often I articulate this point I’m still regarded as a maverick. Why? Surely I’m allowed to question?. I was listening to the radio recently and Richard Di Natale accused someone of being “a climate denier”. What on earth was he talking about? What does that mean? Nothing. Its unhelpful. That’s the sort of childish name-calling that this debate doesn’t need. Its emotive nonsense.

    My point is that we need to discuss this, as you quite rightly say, constructively.

  13. Earl O'Neill says

    Climate has been changing for millions of years and will continue to do so. We can’t control it.
    We can control how we adapt to it.
    Humanity tends to leave these things until the last minute but, like Dom Sheed or Nick Malceski, we fix it when it really counts.

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