Friday, 15 February 2019

Why I Have no Faith in Leftish/Liberal Intellectuals.

So far, New South Wales had been spared the bushfires that in the last three months devastated all the other east coast states of Australia: Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania. No longer:

Crews rush to contain northern NSW bushfires before hot spell arrives
  • Firefighters working through the weekend as blaze destroys 22 homes and damages 15
By Australian Associated Press, Sat 16 Feb 2019 09.14 AEDT

After a PR exercise meant to highlight their conservationist bona fide and save some 100 Murray cods, after leaving hundreds of thousands if not millions to die, WaterNSW decreed the death of the Lower Darling, to free more water for large irrigators in northern NSW and southern QLD:

All the Lower Darling's fish 'could be dead by the end of summer', 
with flows from lakes now cut
By ABC 7.30 and national rural and regional correspondent Dominique Schwartz and the Specialist Reporting Team's Penny Timms. Updated Thursday at 2:50pm

And here I have to deal with American liberal/leftish intellectuals. Madness may be infectious.

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Sydney Research: Insect Population’s Catastrophic Collapse.

The recently published article “Worldwide decline of the entomofauna: A review of its drivers”, by Francisco Sánchez-Bayo from the Sydney Institute of Agriculture in the School of Life and Environmental Sciences (University of Sydney), and Kris A.G. Wyckhuys (University of Queensland and the Institute of Plant Protection, China Academy of Agricultural Sciences) has received abundant popular news media coverage and it has created justified anxiety among the public.

I think it is always a good idea to refer readers to the source. So, these are the highlights of the paper and its abstract, verbatim:

  • Over 40% of insect species are threatened with extinction.
  • Lepidoptera, Hymenoptera and dung beetles (Coleoptera) are the taxa most affected.
  • Four aquatic taxa are imperiled and have already lost a large proportion of species.
  • Habitat loss by conversion to intensive agriculture is the main driver of the declines.
  • Agro-chemical pollutants, invasive species and climate change are additional causes.

Friday, 8 February 2019

Malcolm Harris: “Kids These Days”.

This is a different post. It may sound too pessimistic, even by my own already pessimistic standards, but that’s not what makes it different. What makes it different it that this is also a rather personal post. That may make it less than interesting to the general reader. More sensitive readers may find it depressing.

At any rate, I understand if they leave at this point.

Menindee Lakes: Chronicle of a Death Foretold.

While we were distracted by the Banking Royal Commission fizzer -- which not for predictable was less attention-grabbing -- Michael McCormack and Niall Blair demonstrated why they are successful politicians and why it will take radical changes to our society if we want to save the Australian environment and our civilisation and ourselves.

Yesterday the news started with a PR exercise:


Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Jon Mott: “Tough Talk, Soft Recommendations”.

Or “The roaring mountain just gave birth to a mouse!”

By now, readers of this blog have heard heaps about the SA Murray-Darling Royal Commission. Now it’s time to hear about its bigger sister, the federal and formidably named Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry, whose final report was tabled with great fanfare last Monday, days after its humbler South Australian counterpart.

That’s all the rage among the cognoscenti.

For about a year inhabitants of this Great Southern Land have nightly witnessed dramatic exchanges between counsels assisting the Royal Commission and financial big wigs; we’ve all learned of heart-breaking victims of financial wrongdoing. The drama only reached a climax in the act of delivery of the report, when Royal Commissioner Kenneth Hayne refused to shake the very visible hand of Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg (who just a few days earlier had praised the invisible hand of capitalism).

So, as I like to ask in circumstances like this, what happened? What was done?

Monday, 4 February 2019

Water: War of the Words.

SA Centre Alliance Senator Rex Patrick believes growing cotton for export in a dry country like Australia doesn’t make much sense and proposes to have cotton export legally banned.

From a broader, collective perspective, he certainly has a point: cotton consumes too much water. There are, however, other considerations. For one, cotton isn’t the only large water consumer. There’s also rice (yes, rice, which grows in flooded paddies, believe it or not) in the valleys of the Murrumbidgee and Murray rivers, in NSW and Victoria .

Sunday, 3 February 2019

Reality versus Prediction: Too Much, Too Little?

Too much rain in north-east Queensland:


Too little in Tasmania and Victoria (and South Australia and New South Wales). The cake, however, went to Tassie and VIC: the dry and hot conditions led those states straight into protracted and geographically extended bushfires.

Friday, 1 February 2019

The Menindee Fish Kill Whodunit: Solved!

Ever since the Menindee catastrophe happened our beloved leaders have offered their explanations for the mystery: dats Shtraya, mite, sometimes it dont rain (Michael McCormack); Phillip Glyde would probably say something about “evaporation”. Perhaps we should pray to Gawd, would be Scott Morrison’s wisdom.

Well, mystery solved.

Cotton farms at Bullamon Plains, Queensland. This
farm is a Cubbie style operation. Image Credits: Rex Patrick.

The Moonie river passing Bullamon Plains
farm and the offtake channel. Image Credits: Rex Patrick.

Vast expanses of cotton fields and associated
water storages in Queensland. Image Credits: Rex Patrick.

You be the Judge.

Asked by [ABC TV Question and Answer show presenter Tony] Jones if he believed the drought was linked to human-induced climate change, [high-school graduate, National Party MP and Federal Agriculture Minister David] Littleproud said: “Look, that’s a big call.”
“I don’t give a rats if it’s man-made or not,” he added, saying that people were already under financial pressure and could not afford higher power bills. (source)

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Murray-Darling Royal Commission Reports.


The shock of this latest Menindee mass fish kill distracted me from other matters. Apologies to readers.

Monday, 28 January 2019

A Prayer.

Earthrise. [A]

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. (Genesis 1:1 KJV)

With those words, Bill Anders, lunar module pilot of the Apollo 8 mission, began the crew’s Christmas Eve 1968 message to the peoples of the Earth. That blue and white sphere, so beautiful and tiny and delicate, emerging from beyond the grey and lifeless lunar horizon, greeted Apollo 8 as it finished its flight over the dark side of the Moon.

Anders himself took that photo.

Sunday, 27 January 2019

Water and Death and Fire.

28-01-2019. Third mass fish death in Menindee in less than two months.


What that photo shows is not scum floating on the water. It’s small fish, dead.

Witnesses to both events give their impressions:
“This is likely worse than the last time,” said local Graeme McCrabb, who on Monday morning was down at the water’s edge at the back of the township, above Weir 32. (here)
What we are seeing is probably the last lot of fish that are here now,” he said. “There will be none left.” (here)
Frankly, I’m lost for words. We may have seen how a river dies.

Saturday, 26 January 2019

Menindee Fish Kill: Questions and Answers.

Maryanne Slattery and co-author Rod Campbell, for The Australia Institute, released a week ago a paper structured as a question and answer session about the Menindee environmental catastrophe. Regrettably, their release was given scarce media coverage. I could find only Anne Davies’ brief account (January 19).

Friday, 25 January 2019

… And that was Then.

Do you remember the table showing new temperature records from the previous post? This table:

South Australia,
January 2019
Town         Temperature
Adelaide          46.6ºC
Ceduna            48.6ºC
Leigh Creek       46.9ºC
Minlaton          45.7ºC
Port Augusta      49.5ºC
Port Pirie        47.8ºC
Whyalla           48.5ºC

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Australian Extreme Heatwave: this is Now …

The weather news in the last few days before Australia Day:



New Records:

South Australia, 
January 2019
Town         Temperature
Adelaide          46.6ºC
Ceduna            48.6ºC
Leigh Creek       46.9ºC
Minlaton          45.7ºC
Port Augusta      49.5ºC
Port Pirie        47.8ºC
Whyalla           48.5ºC

Remember those records. Tomorrow you’ll see why.

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Northern Territory: Mass Death of Brumbies.


In the same note: informal reports of mass death of camels (!) near Docker River. Both brumbies (feral horses) and camels are introduced species.

24-01-2019. Rangers culled another 55 struggling horses.

Tim Clancy, from the NT Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said that according to the latest data available, there could be up to a quarter of a million brumbies in Central Australia. Although charismatic among the public, brumbies cause significant environmental damage, particularly during droughts, when they concentrate around waterholes, contributing thereby to erosion and damages to the vegetation.

25-01-2019. Western Australia:


Sunday, 20 January 2019

Bits and Pieces: Australia-2019, Europe-1919.

I wasn’t aware that last year South Australia had a State-level Murray-Darling Basin Royal Commission. It’s due to formally report no later than February 1.

The royal commissioner, Bret Walker, proposed to extend the inquiry to cover the recent Lower Darling mass fish kill. The SA Government (National-Liberal Coalition), through its Attorney General, Vickie Chapman, declined the offer.

It is expected the report will include “adverse assessments of many governmental decisions and processes”. After being urged by Walker to publish the report immediately after delivery, AG Chapman did not guarantee a publication date, causing concern among SA-based politicians. They fear the SA Government could delay the publication of the report until after the NSW State elections, scheduled for March. Gladys Berejiklian (National-Liberal Coalition) is the incumbent NSW Premier.

Friday, 18 January 2019

Australia’s Capitalist Climate Change Diplomacy.

PM Scott Morrison is touring Australia’s Pacific neighbours Fiji and Vanuatu, to kick-start bilateral talks with their governments. An unusual move for an Australian PM, it was prompted by concerns over the expansion of Chinese influence in the South Pacific.

Traditionally, Australian governments have followed a more charity-like approach in their attempts to foster goodwill (or project soft power, if you prefer) among our poorer neighbours. Historically, this took the form of international aid and/or disaster relief. As the Commonwealth cuts international aid budgets, the idea now is to counter Chinese political and economic clout with small Pacific nations by more business-like means.

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Heatwave in Images.

After a slow start, summer hit Australia with a vengeance.


Dats Shtraya, Mite.

Acting PM Michael McCormack offers his scientific assessment of the Darling River disaster: Sometimes it rain, sometimes it dont. Dats Shtraya, mite.

The man blabbered the official party line and that’s it. End of story. No mismanagement, no water over-extraction, no climate change, no nothing. Everybody did their best. That’s nobody’s fault. It just didn’t work.

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Monday, 14 January 2019

Menindee: an Act of God?

Screen capture from ABC Broken Hill website, taken at 18:41 (AEDT)

Yesterday Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud met with the water “managers” of the affected states in the Murray-Darling Basin to decide what to do about this mess, report Carrie Fellner and David Wroe, from the Sydney Morning Herald.

Judging by Littleproud’s announcements, not much:
He said he’d offered NSW “any assistance it requires as it responds to these incidents, and to rebuild fish stocks when it rains” and announced $5 million for a native fish management and recovery strategy that would come from MDBA coffers.
$5 million.

Given the high temperature and luminosity prevailing in regional NSW, a new algal bloom is being forecast any time in the next few days. More mass fish death is predicted.

Saturday, 12 January 2019

The Devil in the Details: Algal Blooms.

It is accepted that the recent mass fish kill in the Darling River was triggered by an “algal bloom”. But what on earth is an algal bloom?

Believe it or not, I think some basic, high-school level science could throw considerable light on the whole catastrophe, counter some misconceptions about it and offer valuable, if sobering, lessons for the Left.

Thursday, 10 January 2019

The Darling Dilemma.

2018 annual rainfall compared to historical
rainfall observations. (source)

The Darling River is no longer flowing for lack of water and what little water there is for human and non-human consumption is contaminated with masses of rotting dead fish.

NSW independent MP Jeremy Buckingham’s personal account of the situation around Menindee:

NSW MP vomits after witnessing mass fish deaths in Darling River
By Rachel Clun. 10 January 2019 — 11:35am.

Monday, 7 January 2019

Second in Less Than a Month: Mass Fish Death.

A second mass death of Darling River fish -- just reported by ABC News Online -- comes less than a month after the events of December 20th -- mentioned here -- and it appears to be of larger proportions. ABC News reports up to a million dead fish, versus ten thousand in December.


Sunday, 6 January 2019

“Losing a Third of the Species on a Hot Afternoon”.

I try to keep up to date with environmental news. Yet, I missed this one:


09-01-2019. Importance of flying foxes (Department of Environment and Science, Queensland Government):
Flying-foxes are crucial to keeping native forests healthy. They play an important role in dispersing seeds and pollinating flowering plants. Because flying-foxes are highly mobile, seeds can be moved locally and over great distances. (...)
High mobility also makes flying-foxes very effective as forest pollinators. Pollen sticks to their furry bodies and as they crawl from flower to flower, and fly from tree to tree, they pollinate the flowers and aid in the production of honey.

Friday, 4 January 2019

L'Apocalypse des Animaux.

I stole the title of this post from an old Vangelis album.


The dramatic Queensland bushfires monopolised the public’s attention during a few weeks in late November/early December. That’s understandable. Events of such magnitude, where human lives and property are visibly at stake in our own TV screens, have a way to grab our attention. The media coverage was extensive.

At about the same time, however, the Australian media reported other events. Although I’ve discussed them with some friends, I doubt the wider public really noticed, for they didn’t receive the same level of coverage.

Still, I feel obliged to not let those perhaps deceptively little tragedies pass unacknowledged.