All you have to do is sign up

All you have to do is sign up

Ever wondered why, despite all the conferences, treaties, international agreements and other excuses to travel around the world to expensive hotels, nothing seems to get done.

Targets are set and not met, only to be reset again.

And the process of resetting requires another swag of conferences to thrash out the new agreement.

Once the convention wording is agreed upon, often, we are told, in the early hours of the morning by emotional delegates who have put their hearts, souls and grandmas pension into the negotiation, the countries sign up. 

Here are the signup rates for a baker’s dozen conventions and international agreements since 1971.

graph shoing the rate of countries signing international conventions

There are 195 countries in the world today. This total comprises 193 countries that are member states of the United Nations and 2 countries that are non-member observer states: the Holy See and the State of Palestine.


Most countries sign up on the day—one-time offer deals that make you look bad for any hesitation. These are the steep curves on the graph like the UNFCCC, UNCCD and the CBD. Everyone in the room will notice if you skip past the table with the dude offering the fountain pen.

Some agreements are hard to make, especially if you are morally or politically compromised by what they expect. These are ok to dodge for a while or not sign up to at all—for example, the Ramsar convention on wetland or the conservation of migratory species. 

Heads of delegation smile, offer platitudes, thanks, and support for the premise of the agreement, “but we don’t have any wetlands or birds in our country”.

A quarter of countries avoid signing half the agreements, presumably not the same countries each time. Although some likely suspects do emerge as repeat non-signatories. In other words, it is acceptable to ignore a convention if needs must.

Signing up on the day and not signing up seems the opposite. But if the conventions do not achieve any results—settled science tells us that biodiversity loss is accelerating and greenhouse gas levels are increasing steadily—then both options come from the same place. 

Both responses gain kudos, the national equivalent of an ego stroke. 

Because if everyone signs these things but nothing happens, we healthy sceptics are left to conclude that the elusive ‘goodwill’ of putting disparate nations in a room together every few months for some wine and cheese is the extent of the outcomes.

Let’s hope this, plus a few trade deals on the side is enough.


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Remembering armchair activism from the 1980s

Remembering armchair activism from the 1980s

When I went to university in 1979, there was plenty of noise. British students were boisterous.

We shouted and boycotted Barclays because it was the biggest high street bank in South Africa. We listened when the Anti-Apartheid Movement campaigned against Barclays because it helped finance the Cabora Bassa dam project in Mozambique.

Then, after James Callaghan’s minority Labour government lost a no-confidence motion by one vote forcing a general election that elected Margaret Thatcher, we had some local politics to get us lefties agitated. We crowed when the new conservative government introduced means-tested student loans. A few of my buddies estranged from wealthy families suddenly had to fund their education.

I remember that the first black-led government of Rhodesia in 90 years came to power after the power-sharing deal of Ian Smith in the soon to be independent Zimbabwe. I didn’t know that I would live in that beautiful country a few years later.

Alloporus at the University of Zimbabwe, 1987

The handsome young fellow at the start of his academic career, Zimbabwe, 1987

1979 saw the One-child policy introduced in China with significant political and population consequences.

Meanwhile, in the United States, McDonald’s introduced the Happy Meal.

By 1979, protests to end the Vietnam war were over. But their residue left a slightly cantankerous youth still able to muster an occupation of the university administration building. I can’t remember why.

What I do remember was that protest was inherently political. 

It meant something to throw challenges and abuse at the politicians because these were the people who made decisions. Whether that was Margaret or PW Botha, the last prime minister of South Africa before the State President was given executive powers under the new post-apartheid constitution, politicians were the target.

What I didn’t feel was any danger. 

My generation railed for others because we had it lucky. The world was our oyster, and we were enjoying a fabulous education heavily subsidised by the state.

Not so much now.

It is much harder everywhere, with more obscure prospects and a clear risk of system collapse. Even the fundamentals of the social contract are crumbling.

School strike for climate placcard

Photo by Callum Shaw on Unsplash

Activism skipped a few generations before it landed in schools. 

Today, the teenagers have taken up the chants and populated the demonstrations because they are worried. And I don’t blame them.

They point to the risk of environmental collapse and ask for urgent action.

Only the groundswell of justice that pushed my generation onto the moral high ground is, at best, a trickle of support. The political elite has insulated themselves from the noise in the fantasy land of their parliaments and used the media to make blunders like Brexit into great victories.

They are all deaf, dumb, blind and crap at pinball.

Even when the best of the schoolkid activists addresses them, all they can say is “go back to school”.

“Many of you appear concerned that we are wasting valuable lesson time, but I assure you we will go back to school the moment you start listening to science and give us a future.”

Greta Thunberg, Houses of Parliament, UK, April 2019.

Guardian columnist and writer Zoe Williams sums it up.

And then, in the matter-of-fact simplicity of youth.

We are sick of conference upon conference as if that alone is the solution.

Ella Simons, 15-year-old high school student from Melbourne, Member of the School Strike for Climate movement.

Each generation lives with noise. 

In hindsight, my late baby boomer peers had few moral dilemmas to chant about; the reality was far away in another land. We were unhappy with one in ten and danced with Rankin Roger as he implored Margaret to stand down, but these issues were never existential.

Today’s generation has its very future in the frame.

The ‘them, not us’ response to climate change

The ‘them, not us’ response to climate change

A recent opinion poll in the US had 70% of respondents agreeing that global warming was happening. 

Fair enough. 

After a decade or more of IPCC reports and any number of respected scientists pointing to the evidence, not to mention the school kids gathering in the streets, the message appears to have landed with a significant majority.

Climate-related disasters worldwide that grabbed headlines helped, as did the heavy-duty local weather events that everyone has experienced in the last few years.

Of course, that 70% changes on party lines. Almost all Democrats, some 89%, accept the science of a climate emergency, whilst 42% of Republicans agreed that global warming is a reality and a third deny it altogether. 

When it came to what causes climate change, two-thirds of Democrats went with a human cause. One in five Republicans agree humans are responsible, many citing disagreement among scientists as the reason for doubt. No matter that a separate survey of scientists had near-unanimous agreement (99.9%) that the climate emergency results from human actions.

All this is pretty predictable and has been in the wind for a while.

Report after report has carried the evidence. 

In 2021, the United Nations World Meteorological Organization (WMO) State of the Global Climate 2020 reported carbon dioxide levels at 413.2 parts per million in 2020, rising more than the average rate over the last decade despite a temporary dip in emissions during COVID-19 lockdowns.

After the long and hostile climate denial wars that still linger in some parts of the world, notably in the Australian government, most people are convinced that something is happening. However, Greta would be quick to say that we are not concerned enough about the crisis.

A single barrel of oil has the energy equivalent to four years of labour by a healthy human. Photo by Carl Nenzen Loven on Unsplash


The blame game

Back to the original opinion survey in the US where there is a statistic that explains the delay and the lack of urgency.

More than 60% of respondents said oil and gas companies were “completely or mostly responsible” for global warming.

Ah, yes, the ‘them, not us’ response. 

The majority now believe in the science that says climate change is real but another majority reckon it is the fault of the fossil fuel industry.

It is worth a pause here.

Let that response sink in.

Close to two out of three people blame the oil companies for global warming.

Only those companies, who admittedly are out to maximise shareholder value, the same objective of just about every other for-profit organisation on the planet, are extracting and selling a resource. They can do this because they have buyers.

Now those buyers are other companies that convert oil to energy or put the refined oil into their aircraft and commercial vehicles or refine the oil into a host of products that end up on the shelves of retail outlets.

We buy the products and a ticket to put our butt in seat F3 of the Airbus A380.

I think this ‘them, not us’ dissonance is more critical than taking a decade to get the science.

It explains why the youngsters are so frustrated at the ‘blah, blah, blah’. They know that rhetoric panders to this avoidance of responsibility.

Luckily, it is all fine because we have Boris, Scotty, and Donald. Oh my lordy.


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Adherence to neoliberalism is a risk to life and limb

Adherence to neoliberalism is a risk to life and limb

In the early 1990s, I lived in southern Africa. Specifically, the newly prosperous country of Botswana. What an experience. 

I should say a privilege because that is what it felt like to spend seven years in such a magnificent country. Read any of the 22 Alexander McCall-Smith novels about the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, and you will get the idea of what it was like—slow, relaxed and, well, African.

The No. 1 Ladies Detective, Mma Ramotswe, didn’t mention as she tootled along the dirt roads in her tiny Nissan, that road travel in Botswana was risky. Even today, Botswana is well above the global average for road fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants.

Back in the 1990s, this was not surprising. 

Locals were driving for the first time. Most were first-generation vehicle owners at the wheel of brand new Toyota 4.2L landcruiser wagons, many with a fondness for sorghum beer and the art of binge drinking. Then there were the donkeys, cows, and goats spread randomly on the highways plus the perils of keeping traction along the corrugations of the dirt roads. You have to drive faster than seems reasonable or the beer shakes itself.

I was cautious in the car, but those donkeys refused to step aside for anyone so I decided that my second-hand hi-lux needed insurance against the chance of damage. My colleague at the University was from Belgium, and he had a very different take on the risk to his vehicles. He saved thousands on insurance premiums not paid, but neither of us had an accident or nefariousness over vehicles in 10 years. 

So much for risk management. It is just luck, good or bad, and there is nothing to do. Only a fool pays the premiums.

Skip forward to 2015 and 8,000 km northward to continental Europe.

In Paris, 196 Parties entered into a legally international treaty on climate change designed to “limit global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels”. This temperature goal is about a climate neutral world by mid-century and is like the insurance policy I took out to travel African roads. It makes perfect sense.

Science has established that greenhouse gas emissions are warming the climate. Anything above 2 degrees Celcius will put the entire global food system at risk from drought, flood and more intense weather events.

196 parties represent most of the jurisdictions and most of the people in the world. Many of those people are concerned the agreement is not enough and that more action is needed. They have missed school to protest.

This lengthy preamble introduces a decision by the Australian government in a budget statement a few weeks out from a general election in 2022 to cut climate spending if returned to power at the election

The 2022-23 budget papers show funding will fall from $2bn next financial year to $1.9bn, $1.5bn and $1.3bn in three years. The fall represents a 35% annual cut over four years.

There are many rants about the Australian government and its politicians not reading the room or being out of touch or going to Hawaii when monster bushfires are impacting your constituents. Still, this one is so whacky that it cannot be a bungle. They must have done it on purpose.

So why did they?

I have been listening to an excellent podcast by Nate Hagens called The Great Simplification and unreservedly recommend it. In conversations with several of his academic colleagues and senior political leaders, Hagens asks about why humanity has been incredibly successful and at the point of simplification—a euphemism for collapse.

The bottom line is that humans have leveraged the energy in fossil fuels for a free ride to prosperity and vast numbers. 

The planet now has close to 8 billion people who use energy, equivalent to another 500 billion people if humans were doing all the work done by oil, coal and gas. In other words, our bodies and our societies are the product of fossil fuel use. And this is before we get to the use of oil for making stuff.

We are good at resources, technology, and making the most of opportunities. We have forgotten the flip side of opportunity because modern economies have little choice but to run with the fossil fuel story. We are stuck in the paradigm of ubiquitous, cheap energy, polluting the planet and changing the climate. 

Our risk is growing as fast as our debt.

Only none of this can be real. It fails to fit the neoliberal paradigm, which has wormed its way into most heads, that growth is the only way. It gave us wealth and can keep on giving so long as we stick with it.

The Great Simplification explains why this is nonsense. Limitless growth is impossible on a finite planet, no matter how clever the technology or lucky it was to have an old energy battery under the ground.

Alright, so why did the Australian government decide to cut climate spending? The simplistic answer is that they cannot give up their religious adherence to growth. Only the reality is the lack of a credible alternative paradigm to maintain wealth creation at the rate generated from the gift of fossil energy. Renewables will be cleaner, but they are far less efficient than oil because they cost money to make, maintain and replace. Plus, energy replacement is only part of the story. Where are the alternative materials for all the stuff we make from oil?

Adherence has another benefit. 

The neoliberal paradigm blinds us all to the risk, so we decide, like my friend in Botswana, not to pay the premium and take our chances with the donkeys.

When to register a patent

When to register a patent

A patent is a right granted for any device, substance, method or process that is new, inventive and useful.

A patent is a legally enforceable right to commercially exploit the invention for the patent’s life.

Once applied for and granted, it gives exclusive rights for an invention to make, use and sell the design for a limited period, typically 20 years. The patent grant excludes others from making, using, or selling the invention and does not start until the actual allocation of a patent.

Patents are handy in business, and they are lodged when an individual or a company believes they have invented something “new, inventive or useful” and ideally lucrative when commercially exploited.

So what would you say to the fact that patents were lodged for oil tankers and mobile drilling platforms that could navigate a melting Artic by the following companies in the 1970s 

  • Exxon in 1973
  • Texaco In 1974 
  • Chevron in 1974 
  • Shell in 1983

When to register your patent

The date you first file a patent application for your invention establishes what is known as a priority date. Potential competitors who file an application later for the same design will not be entitled to patent it due to your earlier priority date.

So what were these oil companies up to in the mid-1970s?

Protecting their technologies to get oil out of the Arctic when the ice was melting. Did they know that climate change was a potential risk 50 years ago, and they hedged as all smart businesses should do?

Just in case they needed to be the first with a stable platform to drill for oil on unstable ice, they invented and patented their own platforms.

No matter if they never built them. They were prepared.

It is a shame that the rest of us are less prescient.


Worried about the future, what will happen to our food, environment, and safety? Get some accurate information and ideas at sustainability FED.


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When the beds are burning

When the beds are burning

Along with countless others, I am distressed and annoyed at my inability to change minds. 

Of course, this feeling of frustration is a weakness on my part, an inability to realise that others minds are their own, and it is no business of mine to go in there and change anything.

But there are times when the zen-like clarity of ‘what will be will be’ fails me.

One such time occurred recently. I read an article entitled ‘For humanity to survive, we must make Australia’s politicians feel our fear and rage’. And so we should. The article contained some solid statements about how Australia and especially its politicians must wake up to a changing world and the reality of climate change.

My frustration built then boiled over when reading this paragraph that quotes, with great moral fortitude, the words of the school strikes movement.

I agree wholeheartedly with the premise… just do your job.

The source of the frustration was that the article’s author is Peter Garrett AM, minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts from 2007 to 2010 in the Rudd and Gillard governments.

I just can’t take the irony anymore.


Hero image modified from photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

We do not live in Narnia

We do not live in Narnia

Narnia is the fictional land invented by CS Lewis where he took Alice for epic brawls between good and evil. 

A Goodreads reviewer described Narnia as a land where magic meets reality, and the result is a fictional world whose scope has fascinated generations

Magic crashing into reality.

Fiction is absorbing because it could be true. All we have to do is suspend our disbelief long enough to identify with the characters in the story and we are invested, even with a white rabbit that talks. 

Where the rabbit hangs out, we believe too.

Thank goodness

Life would be strange, but not half as fanciful without fictional lands imagined for our entertainment.

As my wife reminds me, we are in and of this world. That is the real one that we inhabit every day. The one that throws up challenges, curveballs and exposes everyone to COVID.

Sometimes it feels imagined when everyone in the neighbourhood locks down, and the bustle suddenly stops. There are no cars, few buses and dogs taken for more walks than they ever thought possible.

Then previously unacceptable rates of infection that made lockdowns essential are ok after all. Case numbers can grow exponentially. It feels like a 180 because it is — the race that was not a race is not a race again.

Maybe it is Narnia.

CSIRO seem to think so.

In this mythical land, payments for environmental services such as carbon sequestration, clean water and habitat for wildlife would be 80% of the roughly $65 billion in agricultural production worth 6% of GDP.

In a generation, the budget will somehow shift to pay 6% of current GDP on environmental services.

First, let’s make a few context numbers available.

As of 2020, agriculture accounts for 

  • 55% of Australian land use (427 million hectares, excluding timber production) 
  • 25% of water extractions (3,113 gigalitres used by agriculture in 2018–19);
  • 11% of goods and services exports in 2019–20;
  • 1.9% of value-added (GDP) and
  •  2.6% of employment in 2019–20

In other words, Australian agriculture is conspicuous without being the backbone of the economy. 

Services deliver a steady two-thirds of GDP and industry a quarter, whilst in dollars, mining provides around $200 billion.  

The big employers in Australia are health care, retail, professional services, construction and retail, who all have more than 3x the number of workers as agriculture.

Australia is one of the most food-secure nations in the world. Not only is agricultural production diverse across the varied climate and soils of the continent, with an array of nutritious foods grown, but Australia also produces more food than it consumes, exporting around 70% of agricultural production.

As of 2020, around 3.5 million people, 14% of the population, live in rural areas. This population has declined as a proportion of the total population but has doubled in absolute numbers since 1960.

https://data.worldbank.org/share/widget?indicators=SP.RUR.TOTL&locations=AU

In summary

Not a big deal for the economy or employment, already growing enough food with a stable rural population.

Not too many of these fundamentals suggest the need for an environmental market. 

A $48 billion environmental market

Climate change is the only driver to promote a market equivalent to 80% of the agricultural sector.

Somehow, society would decide to seed emissions offsets and other environmental credits to kick start a market where consumers and taxpayers pay for actions that deliver fungible environmental credits.

This would be a fantastic outcome.

Farmers and landholders would be paid to put carbon back into soil and vegetation, hold water on their land, restore habitat, fence off streams and restore habitat for wildlife.

But we fund all of these activities already. Only it is done with a few dollars at the margins.

So what would be different in the next 20 years that has not already been the case for the past 30?

The rhetoric about climate change perhaps?

Delivering on commitments to the Paris agreement?

A 180 on climate policy?

A young girl named Alice falls through a rabbit hole into a fantasy world?


Hero image from a photo by Szymon Fischer on Unsplash

Progress is possible if we are patient

Progress is possible if we are patient

Photo by Ameer Basheer on Unsplash

Back in 2010, Australia was about to legislate a carbon price. Not the ‘great big tax’ that haunted the Gillard government but its predecessor, the Climate Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS), an attempt at emission control when the political climate still had a whiff of progress about it.

The CPRS, a cap-and-trade emissions trading scheme for anthropogenic greenhouse gases proposed by the Rudd government as part of its climate change policy, was voted down by the Greens. Under Bob Brown’s leadership, they decided it was too little, the targets were too weak. The perfect getting in the way of the good.

Instead of a start, there was no price on carbon and an open the door to the naysayers who ambled their way through for a good laugh and some appalling behaviour.

What followed was a decade of inaction, political assassinations of prime ministers, and the mess we are in now with the current PM not wanting to go to COP because he is held ransom by a bunch of clowns who think a $250 billion public purse to prop up coal mining is an idea. I could go on.

In the end, he went and tried to make climate change about submarines.

Progress is a process. 

I know progress can be slow when there are values at stake. It takes time to test the water, convince the recalcitrants and avoid failure from unforeseen consequences. 

And in politics, most important, do not scare the horses. 

The reality that the Greens missed so badly back in 2010 is that some good is possible along the slow path to the perfect. 

For example, when 136 countries sign up to a minimum corporate tax of 15% we should all applaud and pat the negotiators on the back. And yes, even if one of them is the forever on the nose Mr Cormann.

The agreement means that countries would legislate a global minimum corporate tax rate of at least 15 per cent for companies with annual revenues over 750 billion euros ($1.2 trillion), the big end of town. Then, if these big players have earnings that go untaxed or lightly taxed in one of the world’s tax havens, their home country would impose a top-up tax that would bring the rate to 15 per cent.

No more squirrelling away revenues from IP and other intangibles in the Cayman Islands without paying up.

This is a tiny step toward a more even distribution of wealth creation through governments legislating some trickle down to slow the charge to wealth inequality that grips the world. Recall that would be the trickle of wealth that the neoliberals claim is an inevitable consequence of successful economic growth.  

Sure 20%, even 40%, would be better and more realistic. But 15% is a start.

Some developing countries and advocacy groups say the 15% is too low and leaves far too much tax revenue on the table. And although the global minimum would capture some $205 billion in new revenue for governments, most of it would go to rich countries where many of the big multinationals are headquartered.

This is a similar argument the Greens spouted when they couldn’t let the big emitters get away with it under the CPRS. They wanted justice right away. 

Too far too soon.

The point here is that progress needs time and increments. It can do leaps, but the circumstances must be just right for rapid advances to stick. Waiting around for those opportunities is a luxury that humanity lost when it found fossil fuels. 

Stick at the process

The option to wait for the leap that can only happen when the stars align and the wind is blowing away the smell is no longer risky, it is suicidal.

We have to stick at the process of incremental change. It is painful to support such a puny percentage as 15% but it’s way better than waiting for donut economics to appear and change the whole game.

What the Greens did in 2010 was irresponsible, even for them. What the leaders have done since is on a par.

But a carbon price back in 2010 would have seen a small but effective change in the emission trajectory and a far greater chance of reaching any targets that the world would have us set now.

The risks of normative science

The risks of normative science

Photo by Elevate on Unsplash

Scientists are expected to be objective. After all, we are highly trained sceptics using our curiosity to unpack the problem, ask the right questions, and find evidence for the best possible answer. 

This process of enquiry was honed over the generations into the scientific method. Our philosophy colleagues have mulled over and chewed to the point that most of them agree that the deductive method is our best approach to evidence. 

So when a scientist gives in to emotions, it’s intriguing, given we are trained not to. Right from the start scientists are told that emotions are rarely objective and our job is to be objective and deal only with evidence..

In a recent essay in response to Australia’s recent Black Summer of unprecedented wildfires, Joëlle Gergis decided to go against this principle. The fires that burnt through an estimated 18.6 million hectares (46 million acres; 186,000 square kilometres; 72,000 square miles) of mostly forest and open woodland were some of the biggest in recorded history. Fire destroyed over 5,900 buildings (including 2,779 homes) and killed at least 34 people. As we all lived through this event it was hard not to be emotionally affected.

Dr Gergis is an award-winning climate scientist and writer based at the Australian National University. She is a lead author of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment report and an expert advisor to the Climate Council. 

Here is a flavour of her essay

I’ve gained terrifying insight into the true state of the climate crisis and what lies ahead. There is so much heat already baked into the climate system that a certain level of destruction is now inevitable.

And then later…

Australia’s horror summer is the clearest signal yet that our planet’s climate is rapidly destabilising. It breaks my heart to watch the country I love irrevocably wounded because of our government’s denial of the severity of climate change and its refusal to act on the advice of the world’s leading scientists.

And her conclusion…

As a climate scientist at this troubled time in human history, my hope is that the life force of our Earth can hang on. That the personal and collective awakening we need to safeguard our planet arrives before even more is lost. That our hearts will lead us back to our shared humanity, strengthening our resolve to save ourselves and our imperilled world.

It’s an essay, a medium that allows a certain normative tone. What is interesting though is the level of emotion in the piece — the opinion and emotion that went into the writing show the author grieving for nature that she knew well, changing in front of her eyes. A terrifying insight indeed.

No matter that the dance of evolution on the planet has been continuous for three and a half billion years. Or that fire is just part of the choreography, an immediate disruption that is detrimental only to a certain worldview and, of course, open to projection and blame, towards politicians especially, for not preventing it. 

Part of me is disappointed in this kind of thinking. And part of me is empathic for her situation and why she would want to write such things. It would make her feel better to have communicated the truth from her soul, rather than what her profession would have her do, that is to present only the facts. 

It is unfair to be critical because in these challenging times we all need an outlet to process change that we couldn’t have seen coming. 

However, it is impossible to go back to the pre-industrial era and say “no, we won’t use coal and then no we won’t use oil”. At that point in human history those energy sources were a miracle. They fuelled the engine behind what everybody at the time wanted. And if you were living at that time, you’d want those things too. 

Industrial development eventually improved food security, job security, the opportunity to grow yourself and your family. The privilege of the wealthy for a long time did trickle down to the masses thanks to the cheap energy from coal and oil. 

Saying fossil fuel use was a bad decision is very easy in hindsight. But the counterfactual wouldn’t have happened. People at the time would have found another way and would have ended up with coal and oil anyway. Lamenting or criticizing the current for consequences that no one could have prevented is disingenuous but perhaps necessary in emotional responses. 

Maybe this was a good thing for this particular scientist. Express feelings in this way for a reset and then return to objectivity. 

But this begs two bigger questions. 

Can scientists be objective and ignore their emotional selves? 

Unlikely. Arguably an emotional response will kick in at some point no matter how objective we try to be with our day jobs. Scientists are people after all.

Is it a good thing to try and be objective? 

Perhaps the emotional response is a requirement to get the message across. If we fail to tap into our normative selves then the messages lack passion. To actually make a difference, people need to  believe the message. 

For me, it’s more about knowing that these two sides of us exist. The process is I think from the science through my emotions to an objective point of view. Compartments certainly but also to know when to mix them together. 

At times  objectivity must speak for itself without any emotive words. And at other times emotions must be out for a full account of feelings. And then there are important moments, perhaps the critical ones, when the two come together. When objectivity is fueled by emotion and feelings. 

In other words, scientists should use emotive words and let feelings and passions spill over to promote evidence. Embrace emotive capability to engage people with the evidence and then let the evidence speak for itself. 

This is a nirvana that many scientists would love to be in. We do feel deeply about many of the issues that we study. Otherwise we wouldn’t be interested in them in the first place. So to arrive at a situation with no emotion. No empathy for this for the consequences is unrealistic. 

But in these challenging times, the evidence must also speak for itself.


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A different message from Sir David

A different message from Sir David

Sir David Attenborough has made another wildlife documentary. No surprise there, the legend has made dozens of them over his long and distinguished career.

What is different about this one is summed up in his final sentence

“What happens next is up to every one of us.”

David Attenborough’s, Extinction: The Facts

For the first time, BBC programmers and Sir David decided we were big enough and brave enough to hear the truth of the matter. All the habitat loss, the pollution, the poaching, climate change impacts, expressed as wildfire impacts, and the inevitable species extinctions.

It is all true.

It is happening every day and in Sir David’s lifetime, there has been more than enough time for even the blind to see the consequences of human appropriation of net primary production, the landscape changes and the, well, the consequences of nearly 8 billion of us.

Of course, we do not want to be told, at least that’s what the TV producers decided.

Only against expectations, the viewing numbers in the UK screening were good and got better as the show progressed. It seemed like we were up for the messages after all. Perhaps we are ready for the reality of what we have done.

The interesting part is the last postulate at the end of the show that will no doubt become a classic

What happens next is up to every one of us

Here is what we need to do next

  • Feed an average of 8 billion souls every day for a hundred years – that means around 23 trillion kcals a day for 36,500 days at least.
  • Change the trajectory of our diets so that this calorie and nutrient challenge is achievable
  • Pay attention to soil and learn all we can about how to keep it healthy everywhere
  • Rewild up to a third of the land area and a third of the surface ocean volume to give the remaining global biodiversity a chance to survive, but also to maintain critical ecosystem services
  • Adapt through innovation to inevitable climate change impacts whilst transitioning to carbon-neutral economies
  • Be positive and hear the messages even when they are frightening, then act

And to achieve all of these there is one more thing…

  • Vote for progressive politicians.

I know this last one is the most difficult, for just now politicians with ideas are like hen’s teeth, exceptionally rare and hard to spot. But with necessity, they will appear and will stand out.

You’ll know them instantly.

Best of luck to us all.