At the moment you realise, optimism and anticipation instantly gives way to shock and sadness. You want to punch, cry and curl up into a ball whilst spewing forth an almighty howl.

The hope you imagined is no longer possible. The prospect of wonder dashed onto the rocks. You feel cheated and sad at the same time.

Before long grief at the loss of anticipation rasps at the throat and anger erupts at hope’s sudden departure.

So much goes on that all you can feel is the knot in your stomach and a body about to burst.

You are disappointed.

Disappointment is such an ugly word, full of sharp edges and too many syllables. Somehow single syllable feelings: love, joy, sad and fear are truly simple by comparison.

Built like a saw to describe convoluted emotions it may be one of the most painful words around.

Of course there are things that are only mildly disappointing.

A poor performance by your favourite soccer team or rain on the day of the cricket can trigger the emotion to appear but never for very long. A quick rant with your mates at the referee and it passes. Such mild episodes also leave little behind.

When you feel let down on important matters then the feelings are not so easy to banish. The visceral response from your limbic system will pass as life moves you on but there is a legacy. The saw leaves emotional scars across your once smooth fabric.

Partners, true friends and family are the most acute source of these bigger events. Not when they rile or frustrate you but when your vision of them is shattered. The best person can never live up to your expectations for or of them. Soon enough they falter and you are wounded and sometimes the gash is fatal.



Blinded by the disbelief of another prime minister sworn in on the back of 54 party room votes I almost missed the real political change last week. After 5 attempts in as many years Australia has an optimist in charge.

Once the claimer of moral heights Kevin Rudd capitulated over climate policy and we realised that he could get things done for Kevin but not for everyone else, Australians have been led by negativity. Julia Gillard tried her best to be positive but the bloodied knife she carried was just too heavy for progress to prevail. Then she was knifed too.

Mr Abbott who squeaked past Mr Turnbull in 2009 by one vote to become party leader is supposed to be a nice guy. He works for charity on his time off and is loyal to a fault but every phrase he uttered in the top job came from a place of fear.

Stop can be a positive word but from Tony Abbot it was never really clear why things had to stop. They just had to. Anything that should be positive —more jobs, more growth, less deficit — came across as a justification. As if proof were always needed that the government was doing well, when they were just scared.

Then yesterday for the first time in many a year a prime minister of Australia stood up at parliamentary question time and said that the country has a great opportunity and that times are exciting for the nation. Mr Turnbull was positive. He almost led a rendition of ‘yes we can’ and it felt like he wanted to.

This is momentous.

If he can keep it going, and admittedly that is a big if, we could see some confidence return. We might actually join the many other countries with far worse economic outlooks and social challenges than Australia who are finding solutions because of a belief in the best of their people.

As a social centrist myself I would rather this breath of fresh air to have come from the left side of politics. Mr Turnbull may look trendy but he is still a brown. But the labour party are mired in their own brand of negativity that cannot hide the fact that they spend too much time playing with knives.

So instead I will take Mr Turnbull at his word for confidence has great power to do good. And we really need that.

Fear or morality

I recently watched a documentary on the rise of ISIS.

It was shocking. The graphic footage of bloodlust was visceral and brutal.

How can a man place a gun to the back of the head of another bound and helpless in the dirt, and pull the trigger? How could he? He is a human being and I am a human being.

Instant fear.

Not for the prospect of being the victim but for being the perpetrator. There but for the grace of god anyone goes.

Fear that such moral depravity is possible, that we are capable of inflicting such pain on ourselves. For the pain is held by the living not the helpless victim. His is, at least, short-lived.

This horror is not to make people scared. Instead this was domination through callous and morally bankrupt behaviours.

But it was scary to see what a man is capable of doing to a countryman who follows the same religion, just not the right variety.

These killings are Illegal acts under any civilised legal code even those that apply when countries are at war. Killing in cold blood is and always should be criminal however it might be dressed.

And yet what to do about it presents a huge moral challenge.

Standing back and pretending it is only an internal problem condemns the victims and effectively condones the actions. Stepping in with guns blazing did not work the first (or the second) time, so who can say it would this time.

Military aircraft are something of a compromise at least strategically and politically. I am not sure where it leaves our morals for how far from the gun to the back of the head is the red button that releases the air to ground missile?

The most worrying of all was footage of ISIS flags flying atop American tanks and armoured vehicles so brand spanking new they didn’t have a scratch — hardware acquired when the Iraqi army forces were overrun. Now the bloodshed is aided by equipment sold for profit.

No matter how they were acquired, that is moral depravity too.

So next time the media try to frighten you with the prospects of terrorism in your hometown or the government comes across so proud to make a big deal of apprehending a handful of alleged recruits at the airport, have a think.

Just imagine an American tank rolling through a conquered city draped in a black flag.

This is the real deal and I don’t know if we are up to tackling it.

Greenwash or not…

Check out this glossy video from Conservation International

Interesting message isn’t it.

Nature doesn’t need us folks, but we really need her. In fact we will die unless we pay attention. Nature will persist whatever we throw at her for she can adapt and evolve.

Even a nuclear holocaust would see some microbes survive and allow nature to resume her business of converting energy and nutrients into biology.

Now this is quite a shift for most conservationists. Their usual message is preservation and protection. Save the rhino, that specific one right there on the savanna, and not just rhinos in general. The admission that nature doesn’t care if there is a rhino or not is heresy.

When I mention similar things to conservationists I usually get my head bitten off — Awkward News for Greenies was not a best seller.

Just recently I pointed out to a gentleman that whilst I could agree that we are in a mass extinction event, nature sees these all the time — at least six big ones in geological history — and yet she manages to come back with more diversity than before. The current mass extinction began with more species on the planet than ever.

More significantly, nature really does not care about how many species are lost. She will meander along providing a space for evolution to work its magic and create new species to replace those that go extinct. Admittedly that takes time, but it will happen.

He was not happy at all with that.

So why would Conservation International get in some famous voices and throw a bunch of money at slick presentations of this message?

There are similar Conservation International pieces on oceans, water, soil and Robert Redford as a redwood

The message is similar in all of them. We can do what we like and nature couldn’t care less. But rape and pillage her and we are the ones in trouble.

Clearly Conservation International are trying to say it is all about us. About people and the choices we make. Watch all these pieces in sequence and you will start to feel just a little guilty, maybe a lot guilty.

That is an interesting tack. Hone in on emotions and personal integrity. Imply that it is personal responsibility, or our lack of it, that will determine our collective future.

And they are right.

Ultimately patterns of resource use, levels of pollution, biodiversity loss, and a host of specific environmental issues are the collective effect of individual decisions people make.

Only they are forgetting one crucial thing. Do we actually have a choice?

In the economic system that we live under it is very hard to choose integrity and live in the system. Go off grid and grow your own might work for some, but there is nowhere near enough space for us all to do it. Use less, buy less and only what you need is possible but again it is hard not to leave a hefty footprint even from modest consumption — take one plane ride and you have just about shot your embedded energy quotient.

And what of the billion or so people who live in poverty, they actually need more resources not less. The billion rich folk could give up a lot but the net resource use wouldn’t go down that much.

Pause for a moment and think greenwash — the talking up of an activity to claim environmental or green credentials when in reality there is none.

This message could just be the ultimate greenwash, a brilliant ruse by corporations to externalize their impacts by shifting their responsibility onto individuals. It is the customer’s fault.

Sorry Ms Roberts, I don’t buy it.


gathering-evidenceUnder English common law the accused is innocent until proven guilty. The onus is on the prosecution to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the person in the dock committed the offense.

This usually means that details of what happened to perpetrate the alleged crime is amassed and presented to the court. Information designed to established who did what, when, and where. Often there will also be an explanation of why the person did it for context is important too.

In short the court will hear evidence.

Indeed the quality of the legal system is determined by the amount and reliability of evidence amassed and the integrity with which it is used. A court that relied on hearsay and opinion in the absence of facts would scare most sane people.

Step outside the court and the logic that underpins the legal system should still apply.

Decisions made from evidence should be smarter, more efficient and lead to more consistent outcomes than decisions made on a whim.

Unless I was crazy thirsty I wouldn’t pay $100 for a beer once I know that the going rate for a beer is $5.

Jumping on a train makes no sense unless I know where it is going… “The train on platform 10 is an all stations to the back of beyond”.

Clearly we gather, store and use evidence all the time.

Wait a moment.

This tsunami of logic is all very well if it was true but it is a ruse. Recent experiences suggest to me that we actually prefer to be without evidence when we make decisions. Our egos rather like seat of the pants choices that require us to think fast and punt on our hunches.

Instead of careful massing of information, turning it over with evaluation skills and maybe project a scenario or two, we guess.

If the gut says yes, then yes it is.

How else could a handbag be sold for $5,000, a third of the worlds population be eating themselves into disease, or climate change be denied?

I think that massing evidence, filtering it out and taking the time for an informed choice is just too hard for most of us, even when it is about the important stuff.

As a purveyor of evidence this really pisses me off.

Guilty your honour.

A suggestion

There are 7 billion people in the world right now. If you make it to the end of this post it will take you a minute, time enough for another 130 more to be added.

The FAO and UN estimate that almost 800 million of these people are malnourished and hungry on a daily basis. Meanwhile over 2,100 million or so wealthy people are overweight or obese — many more in emerging economies are on their way to joining them.

It is an odd juxtaposition. A sixth of the world’s people are too thin and nearly a third are too fat. Go figure.

Recently Conservation International made a series of short films asking us all to make important choices. Do we care enough about nature to keep her sweet? If not we are in the proverbial poop.

So here is a suggestion.

What if the overweight people choose to give half their food to the thin people? Those eating to much would get massive health benefits from eating less, as would the famished who would soon be properly fed.

There are many benefits to this simple plan. The biggest is hastening the demographic transition that Hans Rosling explains is essential to avoid 7 billion becoming 12 billion. The irony of poverty is that birth rates are always high and only slow to replacement rates with wealth creation.

Admittedly death rates would fall too, increasing life expectancy. Keeping people alive means more resource use but it would at least be more evenly distributed.

So would you do it?

Would you volunteer to buy less food and have what you didn’t purchase shipped off to needy folk half way across the globe?