Saturday, 27 December 2014

Massacre at the Eureka Stockade December 3rd 1854.

The official abridged version:

Extract from the Book:

Peter Fitzsimons

When trooper William Revell of the Mounted 40th goes after one pike-bearing digger, Thomas Dignum – born and bred in Sydney – who to this point had also 'fought like a tiger [and] repented not of having put on stretchers a couple of Redcoats,' the Australian suddenly turns on Revell and thrusts his pike at him. Though it misses, the pike strikes home into a Redcoat mate beside him, whereupon the enraged Revell instantly strikes the Australian on the head with his sword. Dignum goes down with a heavy wound to his skull.
Some 20 minutes after the first shots, however, as more diggers fall and others flee, the worst of the fighting is over. And yet, even after it is clear that the resistance of the diggers has ceased, that the government forces have won the day, still the killing does not stop. A terrible kind of madness appears to have overtaken some of the uniformed men and they continue their murdering and maiming, hunting down every digger they can see, whether or not he has even been involved in any of the hostilities. The worst of the murderers, cruel revenge for the humiliations they have suffered in recent times.
By now, many of those diggers not killed in the initial assault or its aftermath have taken refuge back in their tents, but this presents no problem for the conquering forces. As it happens, Martin and Anne Diamond have not been remotely involved in the uprising beyond having had their place sequested for some crucial meetings of the Council for the Defence. Their whole presence within the Stockade is no more than a geographical quirk, as the boundaries of the Stockade left their half-in and half-out of it. None of this registers on the soldiers and troopers. As the couple run out of their tent to try and get to the relative safety of the bush, Martin stumbles and falls flat on his face. He attempts to rise when the first soldier reaches him and triumphantly impales him in the back with his bayonet, and the soldier is soon joined by police, who slash at him with their swords. Diamond is dead within a minute, all of it in front of his screaming wife.
There must be a lot of others in those tents? Well then, says Sub-Inspector Carter, 'Set the tents on fire!
The order is instantly obeyed as Carter's foot police take the cool ends of some burning logs and sticks from one of the fires in the middle of the Stockade and run from tent to tent, setting them alight. (Oh so very strange, these British, how they love to put the torch to anything that will burn.)
One of the first tents to go down is Diamond's store, which blazes in an instant after a 'Vandemonian-looking trooper' – though this frankly describes most of them – sets fire to the northern end and lets the rising wind from that very direction take care of the rest. In short order, dozens of tents are ablaze, along with the wounded, who are burnt alive. As Carboni would recall, 'The howling and yelling was horrible.'
That will bring them out once more.
And so it does, as the fires soon illuminate screaming, coughing figures rushing out into the open air. Who knows if they have been involved in the rebellion or not? It doesn't matter anymore. The butchering goes on.

Up on the courthouse verandah back at the camp, Samuel Huyghue and other officials see the flames and smoke billowing from the Stockade with some relief. The soldiers have clearly made it inside and are now destroying whatever it is they have found.

As other diggers and their families rush from their tents, the troopers inevitably knock the men down and let the screaming women and children go where they will. If the men resist and try to fight back, their end comes quickly. If they submit, they are immediately arrested and dragged away. When one group of diggers falls back to some tents near the blacksmith's workshop, those tents are quickly torched, smoking the rebels out, and another furious outbreak of violence takes place – hand to hand, pike to bayonet, dirty rebel to loyal servant of Her Majesty Queen Victoria. This group of diggers fights well, but the weight of numbers against them is so strong that it is not long before they are quelled.
'When we were in that helpless state, an unconditional surrender ought to have been proposed to us,' digger John Lynch would later recall. 'It would have been accepted, and the future spared many bitter memories. But the spirit of revenge was uppermost, and revelled in a fierce saturnalia of carnage. More than half the loss of life took place after resistance had ceased. A few, who surrendered on challenge – and very few got the chance – were placed under guard; but as the wantonness of destruction on the one side grew with hopelessness of resistance on the other, the guards had enough to do to save their charges from being shot or hacked to pieces'.
Still not content that they have wrought enough destruction, many of the Redcoats now decided to spread the inferno to other tents well outside the Stockade walls. After all, they took fire from some treasonous diggers in those canvas caves. They must be put to the torch also.
In all the madness, atrocities abound. One 23-year-old digger, Henry Powell, has had nothing to do with anything – he had come over the day before from Creswick to visit a friend. Curious about the shots and screams, he has just ventured from his friend's tent and is in the open when soldiers on horseback come roaring over the rise. At the first sight of them, Powell realises the danger he is in and starts to run, something that automatically makes the police – the scent of victory in their nostrils – pursue him hard and bring him down. All is chaos and quick-fire, but at least Powell recognises one of the horsemen, a young fellow called Arthur Akehurst – a Clerk of the Peace, usually seen in the Ballarat courthouse inside the Camp – notable for his fair complexion and reddish hair.
Not only is this no time for pleasantries, but Akehurst, who has been sworn in as a special constable just that morning, is violently aggressive from the first.
'Stand up in the Queen's name, you bastard,' he says.
'Very good, sir,' the frightened Powell replies, now with as many as 30 troopers surrounding him. 'Very well, gentleman, don't be alarmed, there are plenty of you.
There is no fight in him at all – just fear and the earners hope that he will not be hurt. Alas, with nary another word, Akehurst takes his three-and-a-half-foot sword and strikes him a fearful blow on the head.
Powell first falls down, then gets up, bleeding, only to have one of the troopers now fire into him and shout, 'There, you bugger, that shows you!
Even as the young man screams for help, the other troopers take their horses back and forth over him, their hooves inflicting cruel damage. When he again tries to rise, they first fire pistols and then slash viciously at him with their swords, and again he falls. Thomas Pierson would write of such acts in his diary, 'It was a most cowardly disgraceful Butchery, worthy only of such scamps as those who instigated it.
In their own tent inside the Stockade, Matthew Faulds and his heavily pregnant wife, Mary, cower in terror. Mary is due to give birth at any moment, fleeing is out of the question, and all Matthew can do is have her lie on her back, roll two logs either side of her for protection and put a blanket over her as they pray for a miracle. A mounted trooper suddenly slashes open the tent, the flooding light revealing the situation. He turned and leaves them be. Their daughter, Adeliza, is born not long afterwards.
Ah, but there are many more atrocities to come, as recorded by Samuel Lazarus: 'Another man, a considerable distance from the Stockade . . . went out of his tent in his shirt and drawers and seeing the savage butchery going on cried out in terror to a trooper galloping by, “For God's sake don't kill my wife and children,” his prayer may as well have been addressed to a devil. He was shot dead on his own threshold. Not far away and only shortly afterwards, former Ballarat Times and Melbourne Morning Herald correspondent Frank Hasleham turned digger and part-time reporter (he provides information to the current Geelong Advertiser correspondent) is trying to find a safe place away from the danger of the Stockade. He happens upon a quiet gully when he looks up to see three horsemen heading his way.
'One of them,' he would later recount, ' who rode considerably ahead of the other two arrived within hailing distance, [and] he hailed me as a friend.
The trooper now addresses him, asking pleasantly,'Do you wish to join our force?'
'No,' Hasleham replies a little uncertainly, surprised by the question. 'I am unarmed, and in a weak state of health. I hope this madness with the diggers will soon be over.'
Ah, but there is some madness yet to go: at a distance of just four paces, the trooper raises his pistol, points at Haslehham's breast and shoots.
Hasleham falls hard, bleeding heavily. The trooper isn't done, however. Dismounting, he handcuffs the innocent man, who lies there for the next 'two hours, bleeding from a wound in his breast, until his friends send for a blacksmith who forces off the handcuffs with a hammer and cold chisel'.


But the slaughter is still not over, as there remain many other targets for the soldiers to go after. The soldiers, as recorded by Captain Pasley, 'hated the insurgents . . . for having wounded a drummer boy, and dangerously wounded Captain Wise, [and] were very anxious to kill the prisoners and it was with great difficulty, that they were restrained by the offices from doing so'.
When Pasley comes across a party of prisoners who are about to be bayoneted by their guards, he takes out his revolver and declares, 'I will shoot the first man who injuries a digger who has surrendered.'


All around him are scenes that no man who believes in a just God should ever have to witness – much of it powered by the devil in the dynamic between victor and vanquished. And just as many of the police have enjoyed boosting their income by purloining a good chunk of the fines levied on the diggers when they were alive, so now do many of them loot the bodies of the dead. And not just the police, for Redcoats, too, rifle through the corpses and the prisoners, taking everything they can get as they 'search' for hidden weaponry – from pound notes to small collections of gold. One wounded rebel even has two Redcoats kneeling on his chest, holding him down, while another goes through his pockets.

Finally, however, one of the officers has had enough and gives a sharp command to his soldiers, who instantly obey. Taking their pistols from their holsters, they clear the Stockade – under pain of being shot on the spot – of everyone bar the prisoners, the dead and the dying.   

Helping the poor April 27, 1895.


Bystanders' Notebook.


The poor ye have always with you” - then how shall we make their lot less unhappy than it is? That is the problem that has been trying the wits of our thinkers in the Government for many months past. The outcome of some of this putting on of the thinking cap may be termed the chief item of news since I last wrote you, and its importance gives it the pride of place in my epistle. The method of dealing with our unemployed during the coming winter propounded by the Seddon Cabinet is well worthy the title given it by one of the opposition papers – a big scheme. It involves the expenditure of plenty of money: but what of that? Is not money for man's use, not his plaything? and that being so, I for one rejoice that there is a possibility of a sum of five figures (I would it ran well into us) being expended in so good a cause as that which first of all provides men with work, gives them, secondly, a chance to set up a permanent home, besides tending to burat up large estates in favour of small farms, opening up virgin country and giving settlers good roads. Money could not be put to better use; and I note that even those Conservative members of the community who sit upon our charitable boards – who generally think that nothing good can come out of the Government – are raising their voices in praise of this scheme. It is said that the Minister of Labour got an idea of the scheme during his recent trip totherside while inspecting the works at the Kooweerup Swamp in Victoria, where the men are employed fortnight about in draining a very large area of swamp, so that on the conclusion of the drainage works they will be established as village settlers.
During his present tour in the Wairarapa, the Minister of Lands will endeavour to push on the scheme. The following may be taken as a condensed statement of the scheme:- The government proposes to proceed with important road works between Auckland and Taranaki, including the Stratford-road, on an adapted system of partial time, allotting the men sections for the settlement of their families in the vicinity. The Stratford-road, for instance, will be cleared 10 chains wide in readiness for settlement. Other extensive road works are to be inaugurated between Wellington and Napier, and in the South Island, and the improvement and roading of Crown lands, is to be gone on with on this principle wherever suitable blocks are available, preference being given to married men who will settle at once with their families upon the sections which are allotted them, and which they will improve. The timber on the various blocks is to be utilised by the erection of Government sawmills, and the cutting out of blocks for the supply of timber to the Home and Australian markets, in view of the improved demand now existing, the mills and works generally being conducted as far as possible on the co-operative system. The scheme now being elaborated will, it is believed, absorb the whole of the deserving unemployed of the colony, who, when the works are finished, it is hoped, will be comfortably settled upon improved small farm and village settlement holdings, where they will be in a position to maintain themselves, and taken completely away from the streets of the cities, benefiting themselves and increasing the productiveness of the country.

* * *


The working out of the scheme is in the hands of the Lands and Survey Department, assisted by the Labour Bureau, and in allotting work preference is to be given to men who will settle down at once on land in the vicinity with their wives and families, working partial time on the road; and after this preference will be given to married men not at once prepared to take their wives and families with them. The first class will receive four day's work on the road and two days on their sections in each week, and the three days on the sections. Single men are to have two days on the road and four days on their sections. Thirty men are also being sent by the Labour Bureau to the northern end of the Alfredton-Weber-road, to take up sections and work half-time on the road construction. They will be reinforced with eight men from Pahiatua, and five from Palmerston North. Twenty-five residents of the Forty-mile bush are to be selected immediately for work on the Eketahuna-Woodville railway.

Wellington, N.Z.                                                                                                                Tom L. Mills.

Sinodinos and the shuffling of deckchairs

Extract from ABC The Drum

Finally one barnacle has been removed from the Abbott Government, and just in time for Christmas: Arthur Sinodinos is gone as assistant treasurer, writes Mungo MacCallum.
After months of procrastination, Arthur Sinodinos has been informed that his resignation as assistant treasurer has been accepted, whether it was offered or not. And to seal the compact, the resignation was leaked immediately, just in case there could be any second thoughts.
The embattled senator, it will be recalled, was invited to the ICAC to shed some light on the shenanigans involving Australian Water Holdings (AWH), the dodgy company promoted by disgraced entrepreneur Nick Di Girolamo and his ally Eddie Obeid. The Commission was particularly interested in the fact that large sums of money had been remitted from the firm to the federal Liberal Party, and felt that Sinodinos, in his joint role of AWH director and Liberal Party Treasurer, might be able to help.
But alas, Sinodinos knew nothing - an important qualification for a front bench position within the Abbott Government. And he is convinced that, in the end, he will be vindicated and indeed reinstated. He may be right: the only certain things against him are plausible denial and insensate greed, the latter from the hope and expectation of a multi-million dollar windfall from a shonky deal he was pushing on behalf of AWH. As far as his political colleagues are concerned, these are certainly not serious offences - indeed, they are more matters for congratulation.
But in the meantime Josh Frydenberg takes over as back up for Joe Hockey, recently crowned in the polls as the worst treasurer in a generation: something of a poisoned chalice, but a chalice nonetheless - prospective ministers can't be choosers. And Sussan Ley gains promotion, but mainly through headlines reporting her as a second token woman as female company for Julie Bishop - Abbott has played the gender card again. There is some movement among the junior ranks, but at the top it looks more like a case of rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. The big loser is David Johnston, dumped in spite of Abbott's fulsome (in the correct sense of the word) praise just a fortnight ago. Kevin Andrews and Peter Dutton have been moved to Johnston's political death zone of Defence and Scott Morrison's demolition area of Immigration respectively and Morrison himself gets Social Security with an opportunity to prove that he can be as brutal with welfare recipients as he has been with refugees. And so the ship founders on.
Sinodinos must be hoping to emulate Julia Gillard, who has now been officially cleared not only of criminal conduct but also of knowledge of criminality by the Heydon Royal Commission into trade union corruption. And this, in the words of The Australian's chief prosecutor Hedley Thomas, is where the Australian Workers Union slush fund saga reaches its natural end.
Or at least where it should end. But Thomas, who has pursued the former prime minister with an obsessive diligence worthy of a better cause, is still reluctant to let it go. There will be great differences of opinion, he avers, among voters, lawyers, politicians and journalists about Gillard's role and knowledge. Well, among some journalists and politicians, certainly, and perhaps even among some lawyers. But among the voters? I very much doubt it.
If they considered the 18-year-old case at all, it was probably in the context of a stitch-up by the Abbott Government. The Royal Commission into the unions was in itself seen as something of a witch hunt used to damage the ALP, but at least that could be justified in the light of thuggery and bullying in the workplaces - although it also needs to be said that many of the employers were willing accomplices in paying out the money allegedly extorted. After all, they could, and usually would, pass the cost on to their customers.
But to attempt to embroil Gillard in the process was naked spite and vindictiveness. And after all the sound and fury, all the accusations and innuendo, it failed: the worst Gillard was found guilty of was a bit of "casual and haphazard" work as a young solicitor - a bit of legal jaywalking which, she admits, she would, in retrospect like to have had her time again. No doubt she would; no doubt she now regrets hooking up with Bruce Wilson, who was the instigator of the apparently illegal slush fund, in the first place. But a romantic misjudgement is hardly a criminal offence either.
Gillard also says that she would like and apology from Abbott and his ministers who, under parliamentary privilege, accused her of committing a crime. She is unlikely to get one, which might be a matter of premonitory concern to Sinodinos. After all, if political payback is to be the norm, what is to prevent a future Labor government from setting up its own Royal Commission into Liberal Party rorts and fronts to launder political donations which, the ICAC found, were administered during the time Sinodinos was the Party's federal treasurer?
And we cannot finish the week, or indeed the year, without a mention of the Martin Place siege. For my money, the police behaved impeccably. All too often they can be impetuous, even reckless: a matter of shoot first and ask questions afterwards, and if there any accusation of impropriety, lock the bastards up and throw away the key. But this time, they did it by the book: secure the area and try to wait it out. And for 16 long hours, it seemed to work.
In the end, of course, it ended in tragedy - but it probably always would have. At least the cops did their level best. If they had stormed the place immediately it might have come to a climax sooner, but it would almost certainly have produced the same result, if not a worse one.
There is now, inevitably, a series of inquiries and soul-searching, including arguments about whether or not the gunman was really a terrorist, and whether he was insane. Frankly, it hardly matters. He was an evil and dangerous man who was never going to become reconciled with the country in which he had chosen to live. Whatever his motives and psychology, he was always going to end badly - as it does with all of those nurturing hatred, bigotry, delusion and a lack of human empathy.
For all of them, bah humbug. For the rest of us, season's greetings: I'll ride with you.

Mungo Wentworth MacCallum is a political journalist and commentator. View his full profile here.

Republican politicians aren't climate scientists or responsible leaders

Extract from The Guardian

“I’m not a scientist” has become the latest popular response among Republican politicians for refusal to address climate change
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April, 13, 2010.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April, 13, 2010. Photograph: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP
Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is hoping to become the Senate Majority Leader after the forthcoming election on November 4th, although despite hailing from conservative Kentucky, McConnell is in a very tight race. The Cincinnati Enquirer editorial board recently had a long discussion with McConnell and tried to pin him down on the subject of global warming.
McConnell wouldn’t directly answer whether he believes in climate change.
Enquirer’s editorial board volleyed several questions about what it would take to convince him of climate change. He turned the subject every time to jobs. McConnell said he believes imposing regulations to reduce greenhouse gases blamed for climate change would only hurt America and not mitigate what other countries, such as China, are doing...
“We can debate this forever,” McConnell said. “George Will had a column in the last year or so pointing out that in the 70s, we were concerned the ice age was coming. I’m not a scientist. I’m interested in protecting Kentucky’s economy.”
Leaving aside McConnell’s reference to the 1970s ice age myth, the cop-out about not being a scientist is a strange and dangerous one. Most members of Congress aren’t scientists, or doctors, or military experts, or teachers, and yet they set our country’s science, health care, defense, and education policy. Usually they do this by listening to the experts in each subject, which is the smart approach.
For example, as Lee Papa has pointed out, McConnell had no hesitations in expressing his opinions about dealing with the threat of Ebola and deferring to the experts at the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),
I’m not an expert on this, but it strikes me that it would be a good idea to discontinue flights into the United States from that part of the world ... I think we ought to listen to what the CDC thinks they need either in terms of financing or certainly they’ll decide the procedures for travel and all the rest. I think we need to follow the advice of the experts who know how to fight scourges like this
These comments stand in stark contrast to McConnell’s unwillingness to take a position on human-caused global warming, or to listen to the climate scientist experts on the subject.
McConnell is far from alone – this refrain has become one of the most popular responses among Republican politicians when asked about the climate. “I’m not a scientist” is used to abdicate responsibility for mitigating the immense risks posed by climate change. This abdication would be considered unacceptable in the face of other threats like ISIS and Ebola, and the same should be true for global warming.

When it comes to climate change, the expert consensus is clear. Humans are causing global warming, and the resulting climate changes (more damaging extreme weather, for example) on the whole are harmful and dangerous. There are ways to reduce carbon pollution at a lower cost than paying for the immense damages caused by unabated climate change. In fact, there are small government, free market solutions that appeal to political conservatives and would reduce carbon pollution while growing the economy.
The good news is that the Democratic Party is taking climate change seriously. President Obama has shown strong leadership on the issue in his second term, Democratic Senators are drawing increasing attention to it, and many Democratic candidates running for office are speaking up about the need for climate action. Climate Hawks Vote has a good list of those candidates.
Unfortunately, many Republican politicians receive substantial campaign funding from fossil fuel companies. Many also rely on the most conservative Americans as their voting base, and those voters have been misinformed about climate change by the conservative media.
Because of that media bias, climate change is treated as a political, cultural, and ideological topic in the United States instead of a scientific and risk management issue. In the rare case where Republican politicians show responsible leadership in trying to tackle global warming, their jobs are threatened. Thus rather than showing leadership to address our greatest long-term threat, Republican politicians resort to abdicating responsibility.
However, as Neal deGrasse Tyson says,
The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.
The consequences of climate change are becoming more and more undeniable. It’s only a matter of time before climate denial becomes a losing political position, and the Republican Party pays the price for its years of obstructing climate policies. The question is whether anyone in the party will step up and demonstrate responsible leadership before it’s too late for the GOP and the climate.

Scientists connect the dots from identifying to preventing dangerous climate risks

At the AGU 2014 fall meeting, climate and social scientists gathered to share their latest research
This undated artist’s interpretation provided by the Nature website shows the High Arctic camel on Ellesmere Island during the Pliocene warm period, about 3.5 million years ago. Arctic temperatures were much higher than today’s during the mid-Pliocene and mid-Miocene despite similar atmospheric CO2 levels.
This undated artist’s interpretation provided by the Nature website shows the High Arctic camel on Ellesmere Island during the Pliocene warm period, about 3.5 million years ago. Arctic temperatures were much higher than today’s during the mid-Pliocene and mid-Miocene despite similar atmospheric CO2 levels. Photograph: Julius Csotonyi/AFP/Getty Images
Last week, over 20,000 Earth scientists gathered at the annual American Geophysical Union (AGU) fall conference. They shared their scientific research, ranging from identifying the causes of past climate changes, to estimating the risks of the changes we’re causing now, to how we can successfully communicate the need to mitigate those risks.
Richard Alley (the host of Earth: the Operator’s Manual) summarized the scientific community’s consensus about the threats of abrupt climate change from various potential “tipping points.” Scientists aren’t too worried about a huge methane burp from the ocean or shutdown of the thermohaline circulation (which would cause dramatic cooling in Europe) happening anytime soon. On the other hand, a collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and large associated sea level rise are becoming increasingly worrying.
This tied into paleoclimate research presented by Aaron Goldner. Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels were at similar levels to today’s (400 parts per million) 15 million years ago during the mid-Miocene period. However, the Earth’s climate was very different. Geologic records give us estimations that sea levels were 25–40 meters higher than today, global mean temperatures 3­–6°C hotter, and there was very little sea ice relative to today.
As Goldner and colleagues showed in a 2013 paper, climate models couldn’t reproduce that hotter climate very well; especially the extreme heat at the poles. However, the Community Atmosphere Model his team used was recently improved, in particular to better simulate cloud properties. Goldner showed that this newer version, which is more sensitive to the increased greenhouse effect, more accurately reproduces the high global and polar temperatures during the mid-Miocene. The difference is that in the newer simulation, more clouds form at the poles, trapping heat, causing the sea ice to melt.
Today, we’re already seeing Arctic sea ice vanish at an alarming rate. The worry is that we may be approaching a tipping point that kicks us into a climate regime with significantly less ice, higher sea levels, and hotter temperatures, like the mid-Miocene or mid-Pliocene when atmospheric carbon dioxide levels were similar to today’s, but for an extended period of time. We’re on the verge of entering a hot climate state not seen in tens of millions of years.
There were many AGU talks about the climate impacts we’re already seeing. For example, human-caused global warming is amplifying many types of extreme weather like drought, heat waves, and storms. There’s uncertainty about just how bad these impacts will get, and how fast. Stephan Lewandowsky gave a talk discussing the problem that although more uncertainty translates to greater risk and urgency, people perceive the opposite. People often think we don’t need to act until uncertainty is gone, but that means letting the problem get worse in the meantime. As Andrew Dessler said in one of his AGU talks,
Uncertainty is the hammer policy advocates use to smash scientists over the head.

The Communication Problem

Climate and social scientists have struggled to communicate this urgency to the public. While most people accept that humans are changing the climate, few understand the urgency of mitigating these risks. This is particularly a problem for ideological conservatives.
Among social scientists, a consensus is forming that more climate-specific knowledge translates into greater acceptance of the science and support for mitigation. However, facts are more effective when ideological barriers are first weakened. For example, conservatives are more likely to accept the science when presented with free market solutions, as opposed to government regulation.
Scientists John McCuin, Katharine Hayhoe, John Cook, Daniel Bedford, and Scott Mandia reported success in climate education through misconception-based learning. People form mental structures of the world, and debunking a misconception can leave a gap in those structures. As it turns out, people would rather have a complete but incorrect understanding of the world than an incomplete but more correct understanding. Thus, the most effective education and communication must explain why a person’s misconceptions were formed and why they’re incorrect, replacing the mental gaps with factually correct information.
Misconception-based learning replaces a myth with a fact by explaining the origin and fallacy of the misconception.

Misconception-based learning replaces a myth with a fact by explaining the origin and fallacy of the misconception. Created by John Cook.
In April 2015, the University of Queensland will be hosting a free online course (MOOC) taking this approach to teaching climate science. At AGU, my colleagues and I recorded many lectures for that MOOC, and John Cook interviewed a ‘who’s who’ list of climate rock stars. In those interviews and during other talks and events, I heard about the attacks many climate scientists have faced for having the temerity to do their jobs.
Ben Santer was attacked for summarizing the evidence behind how we knew humans were driving global warming in the 1995 IPCC report. Michael Mann and Malcolm Hughes spoke of the incessant attacks they’ve faced since publishing their “hockey stick” study over 15 years ago (a result since replicated dozens of times). Katharine Hayhoe (quite possibly the nicest person on Earth, and one of the most influential) was attacked for writing a chapter about climate change for a book Newt Gingrich was writing. Naomi Oreskes, for publishing the first study in 2004 on the climate consensus.
My colleagues and I got a taste of those attacks after we published our follow-up consensus study last year. Fortunately, as Mann and Hayhoe and others noted in a terrific climate science communication session that I had the privilege of speaking in, they’ve borne the brunt of the storm. Young climate scientists today can do their research and communicate with the public with less threat of being attacked, thanks to those groundbreaking individuals and groups like the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund.

Making Policy Reflect Science

As Katharine Hayhoe pointed out in one of her AGU talks, our infrastructure and society are constructed based on the assumption of a stable climate, but we’re in the process of destabilizing it. We’re not doing enough to protect our investments, security, or future well-being.
Andrew Weaver spoke about his decision to shift from science to politics, quipping,
We need evidence-based decision-making. What we have is decision-based evidence-making.
Similarly, Aaron Goldner started working for Senator Sheldon Whitehouse after finishing his doctorate in paleoclimate research. He told me,
After you study past warm climate intervals, it becomes quite clear where the world can go when you continuously add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. I feel like the next 10 years are the most critical in changing our trajectory in terms of temperature change.
I decided to follow a public policy path and go to D.C. because it’s important to understand the system as a whole, and also the role of a scientist in this political system. Scientists are respected and needed in policy discussions, and I believe I will ultimately be a better scientist the more I understand how to get the best information to the decision makers who can move us in the right direction.
Within the fire hose of information presented at AGU 2014, the connecting thread was clear. Human-caused climate change poses a serious threat; the Merchants of Doubt have obscured that threat in a shroud of disinformation and attacks on climate scientists; but social scientists are making progress in learning how to effectively communicate the urgency of the problem to the public. Their work is crucial, because the next decade is critical in determining which climate path we take.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Governments can't create community spirit, but they can support inclusion.

Assisting people into work, making cities that are well designed, and supporting non-government groups and volunteers: that’s what Australians expect from their governments
‘A good way to get people to become full participants in what life has to offer – including the dignity of work – is to help them engage with their local communities.’ Photograph: flickr
“Just because you’re better than me, doesn’t mean I’m lazy.” So sang a young Billy Bragg in his song, To Have and To Have Not, in 1983.
The context of the emergence of progressive artists such as Billy Bragg was a potent reaction to the British government of Margaret Thatcher.
A few years after Bragg’s song, Thatcher famously declared “there is no such thing as society”, as she sought to ideologically justify policies that left people to fend for themselves.
Implicit in Thatcher’s bleak worldview was the idea that if you were disadvantaged, it was your own fault. That’s heartless and absurd. Ignoring or marginalising people who are disadvantaged, or even dysfunctional, will do nothing to improve their circumstances.
Indeed, a good way to get people to become full participants in what life has to offer – including the dignity of work – is to help them engage with their local communities.
However, I fear that this trend toward pushing people down rather than lifting them up will escalate in coming months with the appointment of Scott Morrison as minister for social services.
Assisting people into work is a common objective because we have all seen the harm welfare dependence can lead to. But the hidden message in Morrison’s appointment is that he is about to be unleashed on people who allegedly refuse to work.
Newspapers have been briefed to expect “welfare reform” under Morrison. Columnists and editors are already using terms like bludgers and rorters.
In the lead-up to Christmas, the Abbott government has announced funding cuts to non-government organisations like Shelter Australia, Blind Citizens Australia, Deaf Australia and Down Syndrome Australia.
Such groups play a vital role in supporting communities. And their success is usually driven in part by community volunteers.
Although there are those in the Abbott government who subscribe to Thatcher’s doctrine, we’d do well to remind ourselves that it is completely inconsistent with Australian values.
The values of mainstream Australian are on display right outside your door right now – out in parks, pubs and churches where people are coming together to celebrate Christmas.
In the real world, far away from our nation’s parliaments and tabloid hotheads, people are giving each other a fair go. They are dropping in presents to their neighbours. My family looks forward to our next door neighbour’s annual gift of a homemade ginger bread house.
Right now, people are rejoicing in what unites them. They are encouraging each other, not blaming each other. They are embracing their common humanity and trying to develop human interactions in ways that enrich their lives.
Instead of setting people against each other, governments would achieve more if they did more to nurture communities.
Governments can’t create a community spirit. They can’t make people be tolerant of each other, except through the personal example of political leaders. But one thing they can do is deliver a physical environment that promotes community engagement.
Promotion of inclusion through support of communities is one of the drivers of federal Labor’s determination to develop comprehensive policies on our cities. For too long, Australian governments have shown inadequate interest in urban policy and the way in which well-designed cities facilitate the human contact that people crave and which enriches their lives.
We spend so much time designing our buildings that we give inadequate thought to the spaces between those structures. If properly designed, these spaces can provide focal points for local communities that encourage interaction and inclusion.
It might be as simple as providing more shade around buildings and more parks in our neighbourhoods. Greater use of mixed precincts that include residential and public or entertainment space would also help bring people together.
We need more parks, public areas and entertainment options that deliver the environment in which communities flourish. We need well-resourced libraries where people can come together to share interests.
And we need to do all we can to ensure that hubs where people cross paths most often – like shopping centres and train stations – also include places where people can interact.
Some dismiss such ideas as not the province of the Commonwealth. There is a role for commonwealth leadership to assist state and local government as well as non-government organisations, to make our cities more productive, sustainable and liveable.
When governments don’t value communities and when they treat people as little more than economic units, people become alienated. Of course, better urban design of itself won’t stop welfare dependence. Governments should seek to encourage people into the workforce by providing adequate resources for education and training and by eliminating welfare fraud.
But better urban design will certainly help more than treating welfare recipients like cannon fodder in the political debate.
Thatcher was simply wrong when she said there was no such thing as society.
It’s right outside our door and we are all part of it. If we make our communities work in positive ways, their power far exceeds that of the sum of their component parts and can be used to achieve great social outcomes.
But first we need to reject the idea that anyone on welfare has given up and does not want to work. As Billy Bragg sang more than 30 years ago, “Just because you’re going forward, doesn’t mean I’m going backwards.”

Let's leave behind the age of fossil fuel. Welcome to Year One of the climate revolution

Extract from The Guardian

Tiny towns standing up to Big Oil. Gigantic marches taking on the future. Technology that works. We started to save ourselves in 2014, but we must make 2015 worth remembering – before it’s too late
peoples climate march crowd photo
The People’s Climate March in September was something. Were we insane to worry about celebrities and political scandals and anything else? Photograph: Jason DeCrow/AP
It was the most thrilling bureaucratic document I’ve ever seen for just one reason: it was dated the 21st day of the month of Thermidor in the Year Six. Written in sepia ink on heavy paper, it recorded an ordinary land auction in France in what we would call the late summer of 1798. But the extraordinary date signaled that it was created when the French Revolution was still the overarching reality of everyday life and such fundamentals as the distribution of power and the nature of government had been reborn in astonishing ways. The new calendar that renamed 1792 as Year One had, after all, been created to start society all over again.
In that little junk shop on a quiet street in San Francisco, I held a relic from one of the great upheavals of the last millennium. It made me think of a remarkable statement the great feminist fantasy writer Ursula K Le Guin had made only a few weeks earlier. In the course of a speech she gave while accepting a book award, she noted:
We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings.
That document I held was written only a few years after the French had gotten over the idea that the divine right of kings was an inescapable reality. The revolutionaries had executed their king for his crimes and were then trying out other forms of government. It’s popular to say that the experiment failed, but that’s too narrow an interpretation. France never again regressed to an absolutist monarchy and its experiments inspired other liberatory movements around the world (while terrifying monarchs and aristocrats everywhere).
Americans are skilled at that combination of complacency and despair that assumes things cannot change and that we, the people, do not have the power to change them. Yet you have to be abysmally ignorant of history, as well as of current events, not to see that our country and our world have always been changing, are in the midst of great and terrible changes, and are occasionally changed through the power of the popular will and idealistic movements. As it happens, the planet’s changing climate now demands that we summon up the energy to leave behind the Age of Fossil Fuel – and maybe with it some portion of the Age of Capitalism as well.

A little revolution in a Big Oil town, a fracking ban in the Big Apple

To use Le Guin’s language, physics is inevitable: if you put more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the planet warms, and as the planet warms, various kinds of chaos and ruin are let loose. Politics, on the other hand, is not inevitable. For example, not so many years ago it would have seemed inevitable that Chevron, currently the third biggest corporation in the country, would run the refinery town of Richmond, California, as its own private fiefdom. You could say that the divine right of Chevron seemed like a given. Except that people in Richmond refused to accept it, and so this town of 107,000 mostly poor non-white people pushed back.
In recent years, a group of progressives won election to the city council and the mayor’s seat, despite huge expenditures by Chevron, the corporation that also brought you gigantic oil spills onshore in Ecuador and offshore in Brazil, massive contamination from half a century of oil extraction in Nigeria, and Canadian tar-sands bitumen sent by rail to the Richmond refinery. Mayor Gayle McLaughin and her cohorts organized a little revolution in a town that had mostly been famous for its crime rate and for Chevron’s toxic refinery emissions, which periodically create emergencies, sometimes requiring everyone to take shelter (and pretend that they are not being poisoned indoors), sometimes said – by Chevron – to be harmless, as with last Thursday’s flames that lit up the sky, visible as far away as Oakland.
As McLaughin put it of her era as mayor:
We’ve accomplished so much, including breathing better air, reducing the pollution, and building a cleaner environment and cleaner jobs, and reducing our crime rate. Our homicide number is the lowest in 33 years and we became a leading city in the Bay Area for solar installed per capita. We’re a sanctuary city. And we’re defending our homeowners to prevent foreclosures and evictions. And we also got Chevron to pay $114m extra dollars in taxes.
For this November’s election, the second-largest oil company on Earth officially spent $3.1m to defeat McLaughin and other progressive candidates and install a mayor and council more to its liking. That sum worked out to about $180 per Richmond voter, but my brother David, who’s long been connected to Richmond politics, points out that, if you look at all the other ways the company spends to influence local politics, it might be roughly ten times that.
Nonetheless, Chevron lost. None of its candidates were elected and all the grassroots progressives it fought with billboards, mailers, television ads, websites and everything else a lavishly funded smear campaign can come up with, won.
If a small coalition like that can win locally against a corporation that had revenues of $228.9bn in 2013, imagine what a large global coalition could do against the fossil-fuel giants. It wasn’t easy in Richmond and it won’t be easy on the largest scale either, but it’s not impossible. The Richmond progressives won by imagining that the status quo was not inevitable, no less an eternal way of life. They showed up to do the work to dent that inevitability. The billionaires and fossil fuel corporations are intensely engaged in politics all the time, everywhere, and they count on us to stay on the sidelines. If you look at their response to various movements, you can see that they fear the moment we wake up, show up and exercise our power to counter theirs.
That power operated on a larger scale last week, when local activists and public health professionals applied sufficient pressure to get New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign legislation banning fracking statewide. Until the news broke on last week, the outcome had seemed uncertain. It’s a landmark, a watershed decision: a state has decided that its considerable reserves of fossil fuel will not be extracted for the foreseeable future, that other things – the health of its people, the purity of its water – matter more. And once again, the power of citizens turned out to be greater than that of industry.
Just a few days before the huge victory in New York, the nations of the world ended their most recent talks in Lima, Peru, about a global climate treaty – and they actually reached a tentative deal, one that for the first time asks all nations, not just the developed ones, to reduce emissions. The agreement has to get better – to do more, demand more of every nation – by the global climate summit in Paris in December of 2015.
It’s hard to see how we’ll get there from here, but easy to see that activists and citizens will have to push their nations hard. We need to end the age of fossil fuels the way the French ended the age of absolute monarchy. As New York state and the town of Richmond just demonstrated, what is possible has been changing rapidly.

In the shadow of terrible news from scientists, new technology that works – and a new kind of activism

polar bear iphone

New technologies are only solutions if they’re implemented and the old, carbon-emitting ones are phased out or shut down. Photograph: Andy Katz/Andy Katz/Demotix/Corbis
If you look at innovations in renewable energy technologies – and this may be an era in which engineers are our unsung heroes – the future seems tremendously exciting. Not long ago, the climate movement was only hoping against hope that technology could help save us from the depredations of climate change. Now, as one of the six great banners carried in the 400,000-strong September climate march in New York City proclaimed, “We have the solutions.” Wind, solar and other technologies are spreading rapidly with better designs, lower costs and many extraordinary improvements that are undoubtedly but a taste of what’s still to come.
In parts of the United States and the world, clean energy is actually becoming cheaper than fossil fuels. The price of oil has suddenly plunged, scrambling the situation for a while, but with one positive side benefit: it’s pushed some of the filthier carbon-intensive, cutting-edge energy extraction schemes below the cost-effective point for now.
The costs of clean energy technology have themselves been dropping significantly enough that sober financial advisers like the head of the Bank of England are beginning to suggest that fossil fuels and centralized conventional power plants may prove to be bad investments. They are also talking about “the carbon bubble” (a sign that the divestment movement has worked in calling attention to the practical as well as the moral problems of the industry). So the technology front is encouraging.
That’s the carrot for action; there’s also a stick.
If you look at the climate reports by the scientists – and scientists are another set of heroes for our time – the news only keeps getting scarier. You probably already know the highlights: chaotic weather, regular records set for warmth on land and at sea (and 2014 heading for an all-time heat high), 355 months in a row of above-average temperatures, more ice melting faster, more ocean acidification, the “sixth extinction”, the spread of tropical diseases, drops in food productivity with consequent famines.
So many people don’t understand what we’re up against, because they don’t think about the Earth and its systems much or they don’t grasp the delicate, intricate reciprocities and counterbalances that keep it all running as well as it has since the last ice age ended and an abundant, calm planet emerged. For most of us, none of that is real or vivid or visceral or even visible.
For a great many scientists whose fields have something to do with climate, it is. In many cases they’re scared, as well as sad and unnerved, and they’re clear about the urgency of taking action to limit how disastrously climate change impacts our species and the systems we depend upon.
Some non-scientists already assume that it’s too late to do anything, which – as premature despair always does – excuses us for doing nothing. Insiders, however, are generally convinced that what we do now matters tremendously, because the difference between the best- and worst-case scenarios is vast, and the future is not yet written.
After that huge climate march, I asked Jamie Henn, a cofounder of and communications director for, how he viewed this moment and he replied, “Everything’s coming together while everything’s falling apart,” a perfect summary of the way heartening news about alternative energy and the growth of climate activism exists in the shadow of those terrible scientific reports. This brings us to our third group of heroes, who fall into the one climate category that doesn’t require special qualifications: activists.
New technologies are only solutions if they’re implemented and the old, carbon-emitting ones are phased out or shut down. It’s clear enough that the great majority of fossil fuel reserves must be kept just where they are – in the ground – as we move away from the Age of Petroleum. That became all too obvious thanks to a relatively recent calculation made by scientists and publicized and pushed by activists (and maybe made conceivable by engineers designing replacement systems). The goal of all this: to keep the warming of the planet to 2°C (3.5°F), a target established years ago that alarmed scientists are now questioning, given the harm that nearly 1°C of warming is already doing.
Dismantling the fossil-fuel economy would undoubtedly have the side effect of breaking some of the warping power that oil has had in global and national politics. Of course, those wielding that power will not yield it without a ferocious battle – the very battle the climate movement is already engaged in on many fronts, from the divestment movement to the fight against fracking to the endeavor to stop the Keystone XL pipeline and others like it from delivering the products of the Alberta tar sands to the successful movement to shut down coal-fired power plants in the US and prevent others from being built.

From Texas to Keystone and another tunnel in Canada, this movement is bigger – and better – than it looks

nebraska keystone pipeline sign

Small-town Nebraska, alongside the would-be XL pipeline, has been one of many leading areas of activism leading the fight against Keystone development. Photograph: Nati Harnik/AP
If everyone who’s passionate about climate change, who gets that we’re living in a moment in which the fate of the Earth and of humanity is actually being decided, found their place in the movement, amazing things could happen. What’s happening now is already remarkable enough, just not yet adequate to the crisis.
The divestment movement that arose a couple of years ago to get institutions to unload their stocks in fossil fuel corporations started modestly. It is now active on hundreds of college campuses and at other institutions around the world. While the intransigence or love of inertia of bureaucracies is a remarkable force, there have been notable victories. In late September, for instance, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund – made fat upon the wealth of John D Rockefeller’s founding role in the rise of the petroleum industry – pledged to divest its $860m in assets from fossil fuels. It is just one of more than 800 institutions, including church denominations, universities, cities, pension funds and foundations from Scotland to New Zealand to Seattle, that have already committed to doing so.
The Keystone pipeline could have been up and running years ago, delivering the dirtiest energy from Alberta, Canada, to the US Gulf Coast with little fanfare, had activists not taken it on. It has become a profoundly public, hotly debated issue, the subject of demonstrations at dozens of presidential appearances in recent years – and in the course of this ruckus, a great many people (including me) were clued in to the existence of the giant suppurating sore of sludge, bitumen and poison lakes that is the Alberta tar sands.
Canadian activists have done a similarly effective job of blocking other pipelines to keep this landlocked stuff from reaching any coast for export. One upshot of this: quite a lot of the stuff is now being put on trains (with disastrous results when they crash and, in the longer term, no less disastrous outcomes when they don’t). This exceptionally dirty crude oil leaves behind extremely high levels of toxins in the mining as well as the refining process.
As the Wall Street Journal recently reported:
The Keystone XL pipeline was touted as a model for energy independence and a source of jobs when TransCanada Corp. announced plans to build the 1,700-mile pipeline six years ago. But the crude-oil pipeline’s political and regulatory snarls since then have emboldened resistance to at least 10 other pipeline projects across North America. As a result, six oil and natural-gas pipeline projects in North America costing a proposed $15 billion or more and stretching more than 3,400 miles have been delayed, a tally by the Wall Street Journal shows. At least four other projects with a total investment of $25 billion and more than 5,100 miles in length are facing opposition but haven’t been delayed yet.
The climate movement has proved to be bigger and more effective than it looks, because most people don’t see a single movement. If they look hard, what they usually see is a wildly diverse mix of groups facing global issues on the one hand and a host of local ones on the other. Domestically, that can mean Denton, Texas, banning fracking in the November election or the shutting down of coal-powered plants across the country, or the movement gearing up in California for an immense anti-fracking demonstration on 7 February.
It can mean people working on college divestment campaigns or rewriting state laws to address climate change by implementing efficiency and clean energy. It can mean the British Columbian activists who, for now, have prevented a tunnel from being drilled for a tar-sands pipeline to the Pacific Coast thanks to a months-long encampment, civil disobedience and many arrests at Burnaby Mountain near Vancouver. One of the arrested wrote in the Vancouver Observer:
[S]itting in that jail cell, I felt a weight lift from my shoulders. One that I was only partially aware that I have been carrying for years now. I am ashamed by Canada’s withdrawal from the Kyoto Treaty and our increasingly contemptible position on climate change. If these are the values of our society then I want to be an outlaw in that society.

This is the biggest of pictures, so find your role

limate climate beach

Earlier this month, hundreds of Peruvian children formed the image of a tree on the beach to send a message to the world. It’s a start Photograph: Martin Bernetti/AFP/Getty Images
Just before that September climate march in New York, I began to contemplate how human beings a century from now will view those of us who lived in the era when climate change was recognized, and yet there was so much more that we could have done. They may feel utter contempt for us. They may regard us as the crew who squandered their inheritance, like drunkards gambling away a family fortune that, in this case, is everyone’s everywhere and everything. I’m talking, of course, about the natural world itself when it was in good working order. They will see us as people who fiddled while everything burned.
They will think we were insane to worry about celebrities and fleeting political scandals and whether we had nice bodies. They will think the newspapers should have had a gigantic black box above the fold of the front page every day saying “Here are some stories about other things, BUT CLIMATE IS STILL THE BIGGEST STORY OF ALL.”
They will think that we should have thrown our bodies in front of the engines of destruction everywhere, raised our voices to the heavens, halted everything until the devastation stopped. They will bless and praise the few and curse the many.
There have been heroic climate activists in nearly every country on the planet, and some remarkable things have already been achieved. The movement has grown in size, power, and sophistication, but it’s still nowhere near commensurate with what needs to be done. In the lead-up to the UN-sponsored conference to create a global climate treaty in Paris next December, this coming year will likely be decisive.
So this is the time to find your place in a growing movement, if you haven’t yet – as it is for climate organizers to do better at reaching out and offering everyone a part in the transformation, whether it’s the housebound person who writes letters or the 20-year-old who’s ready for direct action in remote places. This is the biggest of pictures, so there’s a role for everyone, and it should be everyone’s most important work right now, even though so many other important matters press on all of us. (As the Philippines’s charismatic former climate negotiator Yeb Sano notes, “Climate change impinges on almost all human rights. Human rights are at the core of this issue.”)
Many people believe that personal acts in private life are what matters in this crisis. They are good things, but not the key thing. It’s great to bicycle rather than drive, eat plants instead of animals, and put solar panels on your roof, but such gestures can also offer a false sense that you’re not part of the problem.
You are not just a consumer. You are a citizen of this Earth and your responsibility is not private but public, not individual but social. If you are a resident of a country that is a major carbon emitter, as is nearly everyone in the English-speaking world, you are part of the system, and nothing less than systemic change will save us.
The race is on. From an ecological standpoint, the scientists advise us that we still have a little bit of time in which it might be possible, by a swift, decisive move away from fossil fuels, to limit the damage we’re setting up for those who live in the future. From a political standpoint, we have a year until the Paris climate summit, at which, after endless foot-shuffling and evading and blocking and stalling and sighing, we could finally, decades in, get a meaningful climate deal between the world’s nations.
We actually have a chance, a friend who was at the Lima preliminary round earlier this month told me, if we all continue to push our governments ferociously. The real pressure for change globally comes more from within nations than from nations pressuring one another. Here in the United States, long the world’s biggest carbon-emitter (until China outstripped us, partly by becoming the manufacturer of a significant percentage of our products), we have a particular responsibility to push hard. Pressure works. The president is clearly feeling it, and it’s reflected in the recent US-China agreement on curtailing emissions – far from perfect or adequate, but a huge step forward.
How will we get to where we need to be? No one knows, but we do know that we must keep moving in the direction of reduced carbon emissions, a transformed energy economy, an escape from the tyranny of fossil fuel, and a vision of a world in which everything is connected. The story of this coming year is ours to write and it could be a story of Year One in the climate revolution, of the watershed when popular resistance changed the fundamentals as much as the people of France changed their world (and ours) more than 200 ago.
Two hundred years hence, may someone somewhere hold in their hands a document from 2021, in wonder, because it was written during Year Six of the climate revolution, when all the old inevitabilities were finally being swept aside, when we seized hold of possibility and made it ours. “Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings,” says Ursula K Le Guin. And she’s right, even if it’s the hardest work we could ever do.
Now, everything depends on it.