Thursday, December 8, 2011

Between Wilderness and Garden

Thinking people everywhere  are right to identify humanities widespread  failure to look after the place of wild things in our world. Men have taken over the territory of others without thinking of anybody but themsleves - let alone the wild things that might also have their home there. 
Is the problem then just the West's alone ( we seem to be the most critical of what has happened in both spaces ).  Western critics  have been  the first to notice and the first to retreat  from the idea of dominion because the job has not been done well . But i do not accept that to dismiss humanities  engagement in restoring/maintaining a balance between wild place and cultivated  space is  right either .We can and should often be up against each other as true neighbours. We should be agreeing to some sort of fence, not ignoring the need for one.  We no longer need more land to feed ourselves ( did we ever?). The very failure of human beings to both see and to care for this issue of reasonable territory  is complex, but only human beings can really improve the situation - and they can do a lot to do that .  


As always , how we define our terms is critical to developing a discussion that takes us somewhere. There are probably many ways to define the above 2 terms,  and the places in between .
Because the Biblical tradition sets the scene for the West so strongly ,  I am going to try  to  limit myself to 2 commonly used  terms in there ( lots of variation even so for eg "when is a wilderness a wasteland ")    I am also just interested here in relation to the place question  . I am assumming therefore that the major issue is not size or content, but that the right  space should exist for each .( first base only but its a good start!)  The reason I am doing that is because the place/space  question it seems to me is the critical foundation for maintaining and improving our respect for the world around us.
While the content of these terms varies across the natural land systems of the world ( and there is much to be said for defining them in that context  whether grasslands , tundra , Mediterranean Tropical , temperate woodland or forest ) I think the argumnets from the historic  Mediterranean experince apply across the board in many ways .
Lets' assume ( whether its right of not) that humans have enough intelligence to innately know that full exploitation of their environment is counter productive . Why then do some individual and cultures go close to doing just that?


There is an argument that men taking over the territory of others is in recognition that they have infact reached /passed a level of unsustainable occupation in the territory they currently occupy . I am here to challenge that both as a very poor response and excuse,  and as an unsustainable answer .  Whatever reality is in the imperative argument , its a desperate one and not the only one .  Acceptance of space limits is a important skill for retaining and developing resilience and prosperity in all areas of life .  

Fortunately for us now in 2011, the above argument looks shallow . The earth can feed itself and Japan wouldn't have gained much by occupying the territory they sought to control in WW2. Somehow the earth works best when understood as an ecosystem of separate organisms with their own spaces than as a large organisation with a large territory. 
We can't evidently do justice to these complex matters  here, except for me to say that no modern human community should assume that it can't both feed itself and look after the wild spaces in its  neighbourhood .
 Respect for space is critical and effective and governments need to reinforce this small scale approach and not undermine it as they sometimes do .( trade and energy resource concerns add to but do not justify ignoring the constraints of governments with their first obligation to the rural/ food production  sector)  


The intellectual excuses used to undermine our respect for each other's spaces are the subject of another blog .

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Accountancy Ascendancy

AN Whitehead  knew the problem we are talking about  here was coming - he stated so nearly 100 years ago .
It was in his area of interest ( maths ) as it was also Bertrand Russell's. The point is ----in some of the more challenging professions mere stats leads to more stupidity than it  is worth .
WE all know ( those of us who have to justify with endless columns of statistics ) that all the numbers don't always make sense . The focus on the qualitative has left out the qualilitative somehow .Sure  we  scientists  love "Excel",  but its only a tool and quality product  means tools ( incl graphs) should only be used by qualified tradesman.( scientist using the method in a fixed and defined area )

There is a rat in the woodpile and few there will be that find it( mere accountants haven't got a hope )- despite the smell being thoroughly obnoxious right   across the western world.   The dummies in charge think growth is in numbers when all the time its in quality of service - something that often defies the collection categories.
The ignorance of human nature here too is appalling - as if the desire by management to get small  numbers will not build small increases in and of the desire ( at a cost to some other quality measure considerations)  .

My suggestion : Too many years of basic maths means we have a management class who know nothing else?  The stultification of society by the two column ledger brigade  "The Accountancy  Ascendancy" A  great mathematician , Whitehead, saw the dumbing down dilemma (  real world problems often  have at least 10 columns in the ledgers )coming but no one could understand what he was saying ?
Thank God , The Creator is not only a great programmer, but he knows how to hook up which wires to which connections and not trip anyone up in the process.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Too much information

Its all in the brief mate . If you make it too simple ,thinking people walk away , and if you ask for everything ,people will only stay if they have a lifetime available to listen to YOU .
Tony Burke must be wondering what he's got to do to get the discussion back on track about the Murray Darling . He needs to look no further than Europe - paid public servants who expand agendas instead of expounding on the short one.
Never trust someone whose ideas don't stand still . Tony Burke won't ask Wong because she's mooved on to solving ecocrises of another kind.
The point is , there is an air of esoteric around - "we can do this ". Sorry,  but the truth is when you don't KNOW enough  , you know neither the problem FIRST  or the solution still way down the track somewhere. You write rotten briefs . Good for roving consultants , but as clear as only invisible clothes can be.
No sorry mate,  without knowledge you can have a budget as big the USA's and still blow it finding out things.
Tony Burke must be wondering what he's got to do to get the discussion back on track about the Murray Darling - after all we all agree,  "its ALL a mess" isn't it ?  .
Well NO ..sorry we don't agree about that . Its not ALL anything  . Its SOMETHING We agree that , for one thing its " flows - just from time to time" and "just in relation to the channel involved"  or  "whether the States should prevent people taking water at very specific times " :
As always,  the polys set too wide a brief and get too general an answer. In attempting to solve everything they solve nothing .
Burke can't win on this either unless he sets the brief in believable terms - eg . what infact is an environmental flow and when should they occur , and how big ? . Not in numbers but in terms a diversion officer or instrumentality can understand .The States used to know and its only with a revival in them  that the Feds will have a place to go ( Its also naked stuff  to stand around in a stiff breeze " in charge ....but with no one to blame" )
Credible improvement  is best managed by supporting diversion inspectors, not paper legislators and GRAND PLANS .With a few principles to hand,  its PEOPLE ( not PLANS)  who know enough to effect change .
In Heaven and on earth , we have angels , In Canberra they believe they can do it all themselves 

Monday, October 31, 2011

The scourge of education in Australia

Sometimes it takes some strong words from people on the edge to unsettle the comfort zone of PCpredjudice in the soft centre . Opera man Richard Gill on qanda tonight ".standardized testing is the great scourge of education in Australia".
Who promotes this simplicity  ? Narrow focused People who think by subdividing the subject they have mastered it  unfortunately this seems to be all the major parties who have lost sight of greed management and envy and think only the market knows what its doing .If our leaders think they are just treading water for industry , perhaps they should resign and go back to myopia where problem solving is indeed easier..
 Real human power and greater knowledge only comes if you believe in it.  
Gill is very welcome on qanda because he knows his limits - great artists and scientists don't assume they know "the answers" unlike many of those who can't see the simple false  presumptions of the program.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The shifting sands of consensus talk

Other blogs of mine in recent times reflect on the increasing occupation of positions of high office by children or trusting souls who move where angels fear to tread .  My faith knows no such territory either here on earth or in families . Such places are pure fiction supported only by the plethora of smoothed over television equivalents of fantasy  that  try to tell us what we don't want to hear -- we are not all friends and we don't all like what we do to each other
To try pack them in under the rafters is to risk certaing an almighty explosion - in real life .

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The high cost of promoting good behaviour

So pleased to hear Productivity Commissioner Gary Banks talk at the Tax summit yesterday about the loose thinking  that is promoted as the only true gospel for motivation - taxes and incentives ."He's calling for the right way and the right extent".
The whole idea is outta control because nearly all poly's now worship at the Church of market mechanisms  ( where Government mustn't do anything,  and price control is the only option)
The bureaucracies just love the idea of developing budgets for behavioural control .( not their own unfortunately )
I wonder when the hypocrisy of believing in yourself , and not believing in yourself,  will hit home .


Some previous blogs where I have called for SPECIFIC PLACE AND TIMING  as one who used to administer incentives and concessions are
http://designwithnature.blogspot.com/2011/06/whatever-happened-to-appropriate.html#links

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Lost causes

The riots in England last week thankfully raises a bit of interest in causes .Like our engagement in a car crash we are suddenly transported to another  world where we are more interested in our car speed excesses  than we normally are;Ignoring real causes is a real risk in the best of times.
Normally we can make excuses and blame someone some distance away.At home its harder to get away with blaming another. Doesn't stop us trying,eh!
A lack of personal responsibility is in there and a big cause but....... no we are not allowed to make anyone feel guilty .so we go looking for secondary causes .
When things are going well or when ongoing problems go unreported (eg loss of good teachers from schools) we can be tempted to assume things are going ok  for the world that nurtured feeds and clothes us .
Max Hastings and Peter Hitchens pointed summary of causes won't be welcomed by many, but the limp fisted list in BBC list of ten highlights that if a problem is coming for Austraila we will still be arguing/ researching it when it hits us.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Scaremongering - a phenomenon that is far too common


When you accuse others of scaremongering and you move beyond the key question ,you need to check yourself first ; the growing audience of skeptics out here ,hears all this emotion and goes " takes one to know one?' 
Thinking people need to show much more respect for science that they do. When you or I weigh in to " mere observation " arguments , we must be very careful - you need to test things properly . 
Flannery has done the cause of sound science great harm by talking about water shortages , islands flooding and so on -all things clearly outside of his expertise and his practical grasp of physics and science in practice.   I'll say it again . Q&A (ABCTV) in its current form, will go down in history as entertainment and tokenism to science . At least Ellul and Whitehead would agree with me - though it seems not many others - I can handle that . 
Time perhaps if you have a bit of skeptic still left in you,  to ask a few scientists YOU KNOW (who know something about physics ) what THEY think about testable and settled science and how well we do it TODAY. 



It totally out of order to add MORE and BIGGER storms, droughts and floods to a discussion that is even unclear regarding something as ephemeral as a simple rise in air temperature . 
Basic physics and geology tell us that when  we have ice ages ----we have less rain - not more . This "more floods "scenario came forward when we pointed out to dills like Flannery that global warming could be expected to result in more rain,(more clouds) not less . As for droughts  - we  know the practical stuff well enough to know we didn't need a desal plant -didn't stop another set of dills determined to deal dumbly with their fears and make our children pay money for nothin .

Follow the wannabes if you want , but don't be surprised if their fears are due to blatant ignorance or predjudice or both . 

Monday, May 2, 2011

Cleaning up our rivers by controlling our people

Getting some perspective on the environment
Tonights qanda may have illustrated why qanda makes so much noise,  but provides so little satisfaction . Intelligent people everywhere, but the ambition of the program is all wrong ; its quickfix - scientists know that simple solutions to complex problems are usually wrong , but do the public ? The environment is not simple;  let alone the human element on it .
In a move which seemed to me to symbolise the failure to put sound science competency before technology of action,  the correct plea by the university man to get researchers back in the bush seems to be ignored by Windsor. We've all seen wasted science effort ( so why does Tony mention the Cmas?)the point is - don't throw science out because you are impatient or cynical .
Windsor's hope appears to be in technology,  not science . That confusion and focus makes him likely to be a member of popular politics - -but it puts the possibility of sound science policies for resolution,  health and reasonableness in environment  on hold ( How dare they talk of localism when the only brand they are interested in is one size fits all solutions ; illustrated  by overpromoted NBN etc) - export of sound science on rural development to asia and china and the 3rd world is back on the back burner while we try vainly to clean up our rivers with nets and filters .Good science practice is prevention focused - much more efficient than always talking about problems !

Monday, March 14, 2011

Worry warriors need a reality check

 The unecessary negative effect of misapplied worry by non scientists and a desperate media is something readers should resist. Ignorance driven stuff  by the noisy and nosy reduces our children's faith in science and technology and therefore our ability to manage risk and build real resilience .
Its wrong too when people who are not practical  try to speak for those that are .A sound knowledge of chemistry and geology will limit the extent to which you worry about real disasters and work towards preventing another.  

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Time to get serious about poverty and property politics

Pressures on people who try to live off the land are some of the most destabilizing influences in our world .The problem is that such strongly degraded land systems  are still far too common and they need not be .
My plea here is to abandon the traditional defence of left and right on the issue of property politics and recognise there is a way forward for rural communities ( particularly those in Asia and Africa who are still overly vulnerable to unecessary pressure on land ) that can be advanced by observers in the West . That is,  its specific technical  and objective but its , to warn , you very resistant to the technological fix mentality that characterises recent generation failure.
After watching my generation meddle in weighty matters of environment and agriculture,  its clearly time to offer a more objective view of how to help precarious agriculture communities become more sustainable and settled . Huge Agricultural and Environment political interests compete for public attention BUT do not work in each others best interests .The earth deserves better than the current cul de sac extremes of exploitation or enshrining. Current fashion is to offer societies self correction, but this is not objective and creates only more failure down the track .
I am aware as a long term practitioner in science of capability evaluation that there is great value in the practice of objective land science being used at a government level because some coercion and more objective vision is necessary for sustainable developments anywhere in planet earth - and for its sake


What's stopping the west from doing more about poverty problems in the east ? ( My point here is that we can't blame the Taliban for the problem because they are too close to it .The problem I have as a highly experienced and effective environmental risk management specialist is that so much aid and technology offered to the poor is STILL inappropriate and mistargeted.


The reason why my generation has done so little to reduce poverty in rural areas is simply because prejudice,  patronising and poor objectivity have driven our efforts .
 Once we understand and accept our need for place and space  we can help others find something sustainable for themselves.  Ask me if you want to know more . Lots of citations .
The government I worked for for 33 years has now lost sight of  how to be positively engaged in this matter and only an independent research review , to my mind , could revive it . I had one of the best jobs in the world and it would be great if even a few people could continue work in this area.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Moving targets for Carbon action speak of sham

Lomborg has reminded Australians this week that MOST actions taken by other governments have not worked ( Danish windmills predicted to reduce the onset of a unhappy concentration target by ...... 7minutes ) and that a carbon tax will not solve the problem of direction and have great externalities ( pricing carbon to reduce  the use of it , Like Brumby has done in Victoria for water , is a shallow and pathetic piece of interference in an eco system they clearly do not understand )
Best of all , he has pointed to the ONLY reasonable consensus issue here - that we want to encourage research into alternative energy sources . Too many unthinking wannabes  see CO2 fears  as the way  to motivate this change.   Julia blames the opposition for running a fear campaign - not convincing : takes one to know one ?