In the same week that Sydney was hit with the equivalent of a ‘category 2 cyclone‘ and a once-in-a-generation hailstorm, something else was happening over the other side of Australia. Powerful sections of society – the scholars, the political elites, the media and the corporate sector all weighed in to the debate over the funding of ‘climate contrarian’ Bjorn Lomborg’s climate ‘think tank’ at the University of Western Australia by the Australian government. All parties involved, unsurprisingly, had different views on the highly contentious matter. Despite the furore over the think tanks’ $4m price tag (juxtaposed against the slashing of science funding across the board) and the inconsistent message from the government as to who’s idea the whole thing really was, the main focus is just how seriously the Abbott government takes the threat of climate change (the answer: not very). According to James Hansen (a previous Director of NASA) the threat of climate change is so severe that the Earth might suffer what he calls the ‘Venus Syndrome‘. He describes it as an energy imbalance so great as to heat up the earth to something like Venus – which is too hot to sustain any form of life, at you know, about 400°C. For him, the end-game of climate change is potentially apocalyptic, rather than simply fucking disastrous – that’s if mankind proceeds to burn all available fossil fuels (which we’re on track to do). So if the threat is so bad, why aren’t we really doing anything about it? (more…)
With ANZAC Day this Saturday, I thought I would try and honour those who died for this country by not saying anything at all. Lord knows there’s more than enough media coverage surrounding the 100th anniversary of that fateful landing of our troops in Gallipoli to test the endurance of the most seasoned media consumer and ANZAC aficionado. But something about the whole thing has bugged me this year, more than it has other years. I’ve always felt a bit uncomfortable playing two-up (contemporarily called ‘three-up’ now, for a quicker, more entertaining game!) whilst sinking copious amounts of piss to commemorate the dead. I would usually bite my tongue when people would describe how they would be ‘celebrating‘ (what the fuck are you celebrating, exactly?) ANZAC Day, or further bite my tongue when they would casually relate the day to some faux-patriotic/nationalistic sentiment (thereby completely missing the whole point of the commemoration).
But this year, with the commemorative spirit notched up to fever pitch, it struck me. (more…)
I want you to do me a favour. Open up your wallet, take out a note – any denomination, it doesn’t matter. Now, try and eat it – will it give you the nutrients you need to survive? No. Try another experiment for me. Scrunch that note up and place it in the fuel tank in your car. Can you run your car on it? No. By now you have either choked to death on the plastic note, or you’ve clogged your fuel tank with the cash – so thanks for playing. The purpose of this exercise was to demonstrate that what we perceive as something tangible, something real – like money, is not really a commodity, but something that represents the possibility of a commodity – like food or fuel. This was a concept expanded upon by the famous American-Hungarian economist Karl Polanyi, who referred to land, labour and money as ‘fictitious commodities’. So what’s so important about what Polanyi was talking about, and why do I feel like talking about it today?
The American economist David Bollier sums it up much better than I can in his article Why Polanyi Matters, where he defines the real importance of Polanyi and his fictitious commodities concept:
Yet that [his humanistic vision of economics] is precisely what I find so appealing about Polanyi and what makes him so relevant today: He understood that the modern market economy is a special, historically rooted form of social organisation. It is not a natural, universal system for organising societies, as its champions assert. It is, in fact, an historical aberration in the long sweep of human history – one that has produced many benefits, to be sure, but it has also introduced deep structural tensions that always threaten to overwhelm human societies. (more…)
I went and saw Frackman: The Movie a couple of nights ago and my consciousness was well and truly ‘fracked’. It had everything you would want in a film – drama, suspense, humour, tears and even a love story. However, it was missing one thing: concrete evidence. This isn’t to detract from this stellar film though, as The Guardian noted “… given the subsequent increased awareness about the effect fracking [the process of fracturing the earth via drilling to access trapped gas deposits] has on the environment, Todd [the director] felt the film didn’t need to go deep into science and opted instead to concentrate it around his dyed-in-the-wool subject.”
This emotive approach may leave the viewer in a state of flux, as if the film hadn’t quite dealt the irrefutable killer blow. Just to bring you up to speed, (more…)