JANUARY 2015

Australia Day
Pearl Beach Australia Day 2015

The Winds of (Climate) Change. (Harold MacMillan)
Carbon Crash-Solar Dawn (Paul Gilding)

The Winds of Climate Change
Hand in hand New Year Festivity and ‘unnatural’ disaster moved through Australia. In the first days of 2015, roaring plus 40 degrees   winds sand blasted bush fires in the Adelaide Hills and western Victoria. Trawling through the disaster records over the past 30 years (1985-2015) indicates the first years of the 21st century require explanation and are a cause for concern. Natural Disasters in Australia (australia.gov.au) highlight terrible events in two fifteen year tranches. The information speaks for itself
* 1985-1999  (No significant bush fires)
1990              Wide spread floods in Qld and NSW
1991-95       Drought in north-east NSW and Qld
* 2000-2015
2002-07     Drought, severe and wide spread
2003            Fire storm, Canberra
2006            Cyclone Larry (Cat.5), north Qld
2009            Fire storm, Black Saturday, Vic
2010             Floods, Brisbane, Bundaberg and districts, Qld
2011            Floods, Vic.    Cyclone Yasi (Cat.5), north Qld
2013           Bush fire , Blue Mtns., NSW. Cyclone Oswold, Qld
2015            Fire storm, Adelaide Hills, SA and western Vic
These ‘unnatural’ disasters occurred along side El Nino events, rising sea surface temperature and  heat waves. Meteorological  data from 2000 show Australia has in the past twelve years suffered the highest prolonged summer temperatures since readings commenced. What does this apparent increasing ‘unnatural’ disaster frequency mean for Australia?

Carbon Crash—Solar Dawn ( ABC Science Show 5th January)
Once again the Australian Government is shown to be out of step  on global issues. Three experts on sustainable energy R Slaughter (Futurist), P Gilding (ex CEO Greenpeace) and S Holmes a Court (Community Energy) discussed renewable energy,  Australia’s damaging policy and the coming Carbon Crash to be followed by a Solar Dawn. In dollar terms. some $300 billion is being  invested globally in new energy sources while major coal-gas utilities have lost 50% of their value, around half a trillion dollars. In misty northern Europe, Germany and Denmark lead the world in solar power generation. There is a global move towards households taking control of their own power; this will initiate a death spiral of the big power companies.
Under Australian government encouragement five years ago some 5000 homes were fitted with solar panels, there are now 1.2 million homes producing solar power and selling it back to the grid. The irony is that now during hot weather peak usage big generating companies are losing profits to solar powered homes. With Prime Minister Abbott’s scare tactics  on the carbon tax this drove more people to embrace solar power and thereby made matters worse for the coal fired power stations.Within the renewable energy industry the rate of change is rapid and chaotic, people are changing but the old established companies are not. Out of Cambridge University evolved the observation with regard to progress “Nothing should ever happen for the first time”, this certainly applies to to the renewable energy explosion. Gilding asserted the world is no  longer dealing with the future, it is upon us and the future is ugly but if mankind drags its feet the future will be very ugly.
It is Slaughter’s contention the future has darkened and that humans cannot just muddle their way through the global problems. Governments will have to be more proactive  and enforcers. Holmes a  Court described the Hepburn (Victoria)  cooperative wind turbine power station which has made the local community independent of the power grid. Denmark has built 2100  wind farms. Since Abbott testifies “Coal is King” the Australian government is not materially assisting this new growth industry.
The CEO of the Australian Solar Council (Environment ABC RN) states the government is winding back renewable energy:
**the solar roof program abandoned
**the reduction of the renewable energy target
**terminating funding for the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.
It appears Government policy is to reduce the impact of renewables on existing coal fired power stations thereby protecting big coal interests. To this end the California Energy Commissioner has stated “Australia is actually starting to fight the future, this is a mistake as Australia has a wealth of renewable energy resources. Who in our Parliament has recognised this bigger picture?

Towards the Final Hour
Not another medical condition!! At a routine post operation check up with my consulting oncologist he diagnosed an incipient case of gynaecomastia (Greek, gynae-woman, mastos-swelling), a slight swelling of the breast. This condition occurs in one third of older men and is due to a ratio change between testosterone and oestrogen. In my case the origin lies in the legacy of my excised cancerous adrenal gland. No treatment advised.

Fault Lines between Cultures
2015 has opened badly  but unfortunately represents a natural progression from the December blog. An Islamist zealot burst into the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine, and killed twelve and injured seven staff. The magazine had published an image of the Prophet Muhammed. Western intelligence agencies confirm the IS is planning more attacks on the West.
Leaders of France, Britain, Germany and other national representatives met in Paris in mid-January to discuss this fault line between Islamic and Christian faith. The French President, Francois Hollande, in a speech declared  that Islam is compatible with democracy but there would be no compromise with French commitment to freedom of speech. The massacre generated very large mass gatherings across Europe in protest. Predictably there were large gatherings in the Moslem world in support of the action to preserve the sanctity of the Prophet. In south-west Sydney several hundred Muslims gathered to support the prophet Muhammed.
There is a growing awareness that a new deal must be generated to improve integration into Western culture for the twenty  million Muslims living in Europe; young Muslims are living badly and unemployment is an immense problem, (Professor John Keane, University of Westminster). Western Governments will have to start tempering ‘terrorist’ rhetoric with firm proposals for a more inclusive society. There has been much comment on ‘radicalisation’ of Muslim youth. This is not a condition that just happens, within Australia  there must be ‘cells’ where inciting and stiffening recruits are carried out. Government policy must be to engage more closely with Muslim authorities, ‘somebody must know something’. As President Bush once infamously said “You are either with us or against us”. Those Muslims who recently demonstrated in western Sydney, where do they fit into this quotation?
A German ex-politician, Jurgen Todenhofer, has returned from a ten day sojourn with IS forces in Iraq. At a CNN interview he indicated 5000 fighters are embedded in Mosul among the three million inhabitants. Coalition air power cannot dislodge them. He states many of the fighters are intelligent, educated and articulate. It was said some fighters returning to Europe are considered losers. Todenhofer is concerned the West is not fully aware of the strength, capability or objectives of IS with respect to the domination of the Islamic world and its intended expansion into Europe. Is this a clever subterfuge by IS, or maybe Western Governments are not aware of the true situation or information is being withheld from citizens of the Western democracies?

Bravery Awards
The Sydney Morning Herald has run the information the Prime Minister  has written to the Governor General recommending bravery awards for those killed in the Martin Place siege  in December. For those who escaped prior to police intervention citations are recommended, besides suffering a traumatic experience and perhaps eventually stress syndrome the escapees were unharmed
To present awards to these escapees belittles the bravery of our military who faced the enemy at Gallipoli, Western Front, Pacific Theatre, North Africa, Vietnam and Afghanistan. By all means present low key ‘certificates of survival’. Considering such presentations sets a dangerous precedent  of recognising other civilians who escape from other traumatic events. It is essential Australians do not dishonour our armed forces who died bravely facing the enemy.

Global Economic Recovery?
The decision by the Swiss Central Bank to remove its cap on its currency against the euro is serious and does not bode well for global economic recovery. The Swiss frank soared 30% against the euro to create enormous repercussions for global markets, currency stability and international trade.  The suddenness of the move has caused losses of millions of dollars in the foreign exchange markets  and  probably bankrupted thousands in Europe holding Swiss loans.
The significance of the move is that the Swiss Central Bank has lost faith in the European Central Bank and its ability to protect the euro, there is a fear the euro zone will descend into deflation. Pressure has been placed on the euro by the financial disaster that is  Greece. The national debt now exceeds the national economy. Greece is slated to default on its debts, which will put pressure on the euro and the possibility is then Greece will return to its debased currency. the drachma.  As the financial power house of Europe there will negative repercussions for Germany if Greece does revert to the drachma.
The Swiss bank is also well aware that despite the marginally improving American  unemployment figures of 6.2% the real unemployment rate is 12.6% as reflected in the US government ‘U6’ report (under employed and unemployed), future trends are not encouraging. The move by the Swiss Bank does not auger well for the economic stability in the foreseeable future,

Rural Bliss
With the confused state of the world swirling above the yellow box tree tops on the farm my feet are firmly on the ground in sweltering heat as I continue to slowly chain saw my way through fallen timber and enthusiastic secondary regrowth. In hot dry weather the ground and timber debris is a lifeless miasma of pulsating  radiant heat. After rain, logs and timber debris are cautiously moved as potentially unfriendly life teems, white ant larvae,  scorpions, millipedes, goannas and snakes are ready to jump, pounce or bite. Great care is taken reducing fallen trees as branches may be trapped crossbow taught; injudicious cutting can result in a head severing whip lash missile. I have conclusively proved that chain sawing is not an advisable activity for older men but against all odds I have survived intact and have not added to my medical scars.

Australia Day 2015
Pearl Beach is a community in harmony, relaxed with itself and family visitors. On this day no politician declaimed the benefits of multiculturalism or Australia’s destiny. It was a morning of sporting activities on the beach for enthusiastic children and adults discarding their inhibitions. The Gosford Brass Band was the backdrop, along with the encircling sandstone cliffs, to an uplifting rendition of Advance  Australia Fair by a passing fair young vocalist. The Australia Day oration described the traditional owners of the Pearl Beach locality, the Guringai tribe and its famous son, Bungaree, This amazing aboriginal  twice circumnavigated Australia, first with Matthew Flinders (1801-03) and again with Parker King (1817), his responsibility during the voyages was to smooth the contact between the explorers and the local aboriginal tribes along the way.
This public holiday, if free of political manipulation, could remain  a deeply significant day for the smaller communities  round Australia. It has become a day to mix, converse and fraternise: to cross our cultural boundaries and indulge in unaccustomed  bonhomie.