Thinking space–and some recent reads



I first referred to this on A whiff of sanity (2 January 2009). I will follow that up in at least one later post.

Three things read in the past day

1. Ross Gittins on terrorism

Not his usual topic.

… The sensible question is, are the gains in security worth the amount we’re paying? Or, in the words of one risk analyst, ”How much should we be willing to pay for a small reduction in probabilities that are already extremely low?”

The fact is, despite the escalation in our fear of terrorism, and despite the considerable publicity given to cases where the authorities have foiled bungling terrorist intentions, there’s been no great increase in terrorist attacks outside war zones.

In 2005, after years of well-funded sleuthing, the FBI and other investigative agencies admitted that they had been unable to uncover a single al-Qaeda sleeper cell anywhere in the US.

So any terrorist threat derives from small numbers of home-grown people, often isolated from each other, who fantasise about performing dire deeds and sometimes receive a bit of training and inspiration overseas.

Home-grown Islamist potential terrorists are estimated to represent one in every 30,000 Muslims in the US. Muslim extremists have been responsible for a 50th of 1 per cent of the homicides committed in the US since 2001.

Around the world, the number of people killed since 2001 by Muslim extremists outside of war zones is 200 to 300 a year. That’s 200 to 300 people too many, of course.

But it’s less than the number of people in the US who drown in bathtubs each year…


2. Rowan Dean, Gruen Transfer panellist, freelance writer and advertising creative director on pro- and con-gas exploration campaigns,

… First the industry lobby group, the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, launched a TV blitz to sell us the positives. With a juicy budget funded by numerous energy companies, their ads are now airing nationally.

In the opposite corner, the online lobby group GetUp! has made an ad highlighting the negatives, and are pleading for donations to put it to air.

Both campaigns have a very simple goal. To force us to make up our minds about fracking, the process whereby natural gas (a greenhouse-friendly source of energy) is extracted from rock formations by injecting fluids and chemicals into fractures and splitting them open…

3. Guy Pearse, The Climate Movement: Australia’s Patrons of Climate Change Activism

… For all Gillard’s hype that a carbon price will “turbo-charge” clean energy, projections show almost no increase in renewable energy deployment prior to 2020 beyond what’s required to achieve the existing 20% renewable electricity target. With coal exports doubling and coal seam gas exports growing faster, renewables would by 2020 still account for less than 2% of energy produced in Australia.

In truth, there’s much less difference between the two major parties than either side makes out: both have a 5% target; both price carbon – Labor through a carbon tax and emissions trading, the Coalition by effectively running a national tender process for emission reduction; both cosset fossil-fuel addiction – the Coalition mainly by paying farmers to increase carbon storage in soils, Labor by importing carbon credits.

Ask people in the movement why everyone’s cheering for a plan you’d expect them to stomach under sufferance and the responses all begin the same way: “This is strictly off the record.” Most cite partisan bias, driven more by Pavlovian habit than ideology. While relations with the Coalition have usually been acrimonious, Labor has delivered various groups their biggest wins and political influence. A former insider of the Climate Institute tells me its unofficial mission when established was to “get rid of John Howard”. Post-Howard the CEO is said to have defined its new role as being Labor’s “mine-sweeper”. A “Say Yes” campaign insider recently told me: “People are so desperate to get something rather than nothing that we’re all running cover for Labor; so, rather than getting a better scheme from them or the other side, it’s all about helping Gillard sell the scheme.”…

… Money explains the behaviour of many campaigning against Gillard, as those in her corner are quick to highlight; the proudly sceptical and coal-friendly Institute of Public Affairs, for example, has admitted they rarely take a position different from the “dozen energy firms” who contribute funds to them, because “otherwise they’d stop funding us”. Should we expect different from those funding big-brand green groups? It might seem like a diverse range of groups are all concluding independently that Gillard’s carbon price equals clean energy future, but they’re largely funded through two wealthy farmers: Robert Purves and Mark Wootton.

Robert Purves is the former chair and major shareholder of health group DCA; Mark Wootton is married to Eve Kantor, Rupert Murdoch’s niece. Through the Purves Environmental Fund (PEF) and the Poola Foundation respectively, they bankroll most of Australia’s best known environment groups, including many of those behind the “Say Yes” show….

With many a fascinating detail after that.

2 thoughts on “Thinking space–and some recent reads

  1. Pingback: A short mention – Neil on debate versus dialogue « Rousing Departures

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