Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Denial? It's universal!

Just watching Kevin Anderson: Climate Change Communications Workshop DCU (With Slides) and in the first few words he coupled with the meme obsessing me these days: Denial! It's universal, it's everywhere. There are climate change deniers. On the other side there are people — some very sweet people — who think that by slathering their roof with solar panels and getting the government to legislate that solar panels be engineered under roads, the problem of climate change will be solved! Hooray! People who believe things like that of course depend on what they think are reliable experts, but these days, reliable experts are very rare indeed. 

What we have instead is all-pervasive PR driven by management imperatives, because almost everything has been corporatised and corporations are run by managers, right? Any smart manager knows the first thing you need to manage are perceptions. And that just comes down to PR, the wholesome face which now covers what has become almost universal racketeering. 

Notice all the insurance ads on TV? Notice all the calls you get trying to sell you insurance? In the words of the late Julius Sumner Miller, a former chocolate salesman who traded on his cred as a science educator, "Why is this so?". Well if you read the financial news and you pick up the soiled edges of some cover sheets over things-people-at-the-top-would-rather-you-didn't-know, you might find underneath that the insurance industry world-wide is suffering from a major cash flow crisis brought on by zero interest rates and a stock market which has become a casino, so that the money which formerly was invested and then drawn on to pay out claims is no longer there. How do you fix the problem if you run an insurance company? Well once you realise you're in charge of a giant Ponzi scheme, you grasp the nettle and try to reel in more marks to pay up-front fees to keep the ship afloat while praying you can cash in your chips and bail out before the whole sucker goes down.
Jim Kuntsler's latest picks up the same theme:
The mystery is at last revealed: why does the field of candidates for president score so uniformly low in trust, credibility, likability? Why are there no candidates of real substance, principle, and especially of real charm in this scrim of political basilisks? (Surely there are many people of substance and principle elsewhere in America — they just don’t dare seek the job at the symbolic tippy-top of this clusterfuck of faltering rackets.) The reason is that the problems are unfixable, at least not within the acceptable terms of the zeitgeist, namely: the secret wish to keep all the rackets going at all costs.

This is true, by the way, of all parties concerned from the 0.001 percent billionaire grifter class to the deluded sophomores crying for “safe spaces” in their womb-like “student life centers” to the sports-and-porn addled suburban multitudes stuck with impossible mortgage, car, and college loan debts (and, suddenly, no paying job) to the deluded Black Lives Matter mobs who have failed to notice that black lives matter least to the black people slaughtering each other over sneakers and personal slights. None of these groups really want to change anything. They actually wish to preserve their prerogatives.
Jim is turning into a grumpy old fart these days and his posts are getting shorter and shorter as he riffs on fewer and fewer old themes. But that doesn't mean he's wrong.

The other day I was talking to a very nice woman whose son I had the privilege of meeting via a film course I was involved in a couple of years ago. He is an intelligent — maybe even brilliant — young guy from an ordinary background. Like nearly every nerdy kid I've spoken to in the past few years he wanted to be a game designer and sure enough he has cracked a uni course leading (supposedly) that way. But like everyone creamed off as the best by the education system, he has been led astray by the denialists running the show. "Work hard, jump through our hoops and the future will be yours!" But there will be no future in the Greenhouse World for over-educated and specialised keyboard thumpers, except exploitation and slavery in one way or another followed by the scrapheap. And of course at some level my friends son realises this and is wobbling on the edge of a nervous breakdown. Because no other path has been shown to him! For Industrial Civilisation, it's double down or death. Of course those at the top are still doing well out of this meat grinder and can rustle up any number of justifications for such criminal exploitation of the vulnerable young. 

So where does this place us individuals? Ok, so you've taken on board that the system is screwed. Then the question becomes, what do you do? Of course the so called 'selfish' types will look after number one. Some will want to commit suicide. I'm going to assume that you've chosen to live. It soon becomes obvious that No Man (or Woman) is an Island. Our survival depends on having a functioning society to live in. At this point many of us get stuck. It seems so much less stressful to go with the flow and bury the evidence piling up. Maybe the SWHTF after we're dead. Whew, dodged that one! But do you have any children? Do you have no younger person you care about who will have to live on, into the alien future bearing down on us? A detached attitude is all very well, but as even the arch-murderer Stalin is supposed to have said, "One death is a tragedy but a million is a statistic." What about that one, or half-a-dozen who you really care about?

I tried, when I first realised what was going on, to help my local community figure it out. I have little faith in committees but I was persuaded to form a Transition Group. It didn't work, as far as I was concerned. The concerned citizens who joined didn't think the way I thought. It ended up folding, much to my relief, as I felt my main job had become keeping the group going instead of doing something useful. Additionally I held three public meetings, one of which Nicole Foss of the Automatic Earth addressed. Maybe those meetings had some effect but it's difficult to know. No-one talked to me about it afterwards. I had one friend who said I was being way too negative on this blog. Fair enough. Anyway that last public meeting was just over four years ago and I felt I'd done all I could usefully do, without becoming regarded is yet another cranky weirdo, which is no way to be regarded if you want people to listen to you.

All that has remained for me has been to go on living and acting, as far as I am able, in the knowledge of what is coming towards us. There are heaps of analogous situations, some of which can be a bit disheartening. How would it have been to be a Jew and have the Nazi Blitzkrieg rumbling towards you in the Ukraine in 1942? One the other hand there is the example of Saint Augustine, bishop of Hippo in North Africa, former Roman good time boy, who when he saw the way things were with the Empire, sat down and wrote The City of God in the early 5th century AD. From each according to their ability you may say. There are lots of contemporaries doing the best they can in their own ways.

I've been preoccupied for the past three years with building a house and working, so my community involvement has decreased to almost nothing. I've resigned as secretary of the Chamber of Commerce, the committee on public transport in the Shire which I was on wound up, I spent nine years on the Secondary College School Council until my last kid had left. I had some involvement with a local alternative energy group but realised when I went to their last get-together that I was in grave danger of saying something which would threaten the Consensus among the Alternatives (see this & this). I'm not powerful enough to make unnecessary enemies and I hate to hurt my friends. Hell, I've even become nervous about what I post here. Maybe I should post anonymously?

My problem personally is that I am a classic nerd whose people skills are not terribly well developed, so I must be very careful not to offend people through some stupid oversight which any ten year old could avoid. And when you are dealing with a whole society of other people in various stages of denial, that's not easy to avoid! But we will soldier on and see what the future allows.

Monday, September 7, 2015

My thoughts on Naomi Klein and her speech: Capitalism and the Climate, Festival of Dangerous Ideas 2015

First, my character assessment of Naomi Klein who is (from Wikipedia) the "Canadian author, social activist, and filmmaker known for her political analyses and criticism of corporate globalization and of corporate capitalism". I think her heart is in the right place, she genuinely cares deeply for her fellow human beings and she is intelligent and articulate. She made a speech to the Festival of Dangerous Ideas several days ago which is below. I encourage you watch it, for its own sake and because it will better equip you to understand what I'm about to say.
Ms. Klein had some interesting things to say about how capitalism works its wonders in the world, particularly her description of the fate of Nauru, which is a comprehensive multifaceted human clusterfuck in microcosm, very illustrative of the ills of the System.

At the end of the speech is a question and answer session where in answer to the inevitable "But what can poor little us do, faced with such overwhelming horror etc?" she says, get in rooms full of people like you who want to do something about it. All very good, up to a point. And if we watch the Youtube clip above, we have indeed spent an hour in the company of Ms. Klein and mostly like-minded types (although the first question is from a climate change denier who seems so dumb, he must surely have been a plant in the crowd to get everyone a bit rowdier and on side), groping for understanding and solutions.

So accepting the motivations were good, the crowd was (mainly) adoring, and the exhortation to get cracking with like-minded others was fair enough, what was the problem? Well, it comes down to her vision of how the world works, as compared to how it actually works. Naomi sees the world being exploited by Capitalism, which is run according to her by nefarious characters, the cartoonish archetype being Rupert Murdoch, the Prince of Darkness, plus a supporting cast of lesser demons such as Tony Abbott, our esteemed Prime Minister, oil company executives and so on down the line. Whereas, if only us good-minded types were in charge, in a trice we could have the whole system running on renewables built by worker-controlled co-ops. Without her explicitly stating it, the answer is to get a revolution happening, have Rupert and his cohorts dangling from lamposts and then the chaps with wider necks than their heads who (in consultation, of course, with the scattered remnants of the Original Persons of each continent, with their Deep Understanding of the Spirits of the Earth etc) can get cracking with their lathes and welders knocking up wind generators and solar panels.

Her geography seems as woozy as her social modeling — she seemed to think the horror du jour, poor little 3 year-old Aylan Kurdi, was found drowned off the coast of Kurdistan. I think I'd be telling her agent not to bother booking any lectures in Turkey.

So what's wrong with this picture of the Problems of Capitalism? Well, I could launch into the analytical issues resulting from the over-simplified dualistic thinking which runs through Judeo-Christian culture and even back to Zoroastrianism. After pages and pages (with footnotes) we might get somewhere, with talk about how Weberian social analysis is a more subtle and useful tool than classic Marxism. Blah blah blah.

But suppose instead I postulate an alien ecologist, who makes a study of Earth and deduces the rules of human ecology are really no different from that of yeast. Yeast expands in its container until it uses up all the food source or is poisoned by its excretions. Then it dies off. Ditto humans — of course, we have some more complicated internal mechanisms than yeast, but the functional result is the same. Humans have leaders whose heads remain on their shoulders just as long as they can keep things organised enough to bring home the beef. Lately we've discovered this huge store of fossil fuel underground and boy, have we had a party! Now, as a result of this bonanza, there's billions of us, but boo-hoo, the energy is running out and it wont be replaced by chicken farts, extracting sunbeams from cucumbers or chopping the heads off the current captains of our destiny. There's way too many of us! As our alien scientist explains to the faculty back on Betelgeuse 9a, there may be all kinds of wonderful thoughts running through the heads of these human creatures, but they are beside the point when the model for the growth of yeast explains the whole thing!

As far as we know, yeast cells may be full of deep wisdom. Unfortunately I don't think Naomi Klein is, although I wish her well.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

So where to now? Who do we ask: David Holmgren, Jim Lovelock or Guy McPherson?

It's been a long while since I lasted posted. In 2012 I came to the end of long train of thought and exploration. My thinking has been changing in emphasis, but it's taken me a while to be able to articulate this change. So where am I and where are we, at the beginning of 2014?

It's obvious to me that we are in an accelerating process of decline of industrial culture. For a few years, dear little Australia seemed proof against the travails affecting the rest of the world, but now we too are on the big slide. All our automotive manufacturers have announced they will no longer build vehicles in Australia. One of our aluminium smelters is to close. Shell is selling its refinery in Geelong and its service stations. The Federal government is beginning to slash spending — no matter that it's a conservative government which is doing this — the same process would have taken place had the left-wing Labor party retained office. Tax revenues are declining and as unemployment starts to rise, the revenue from income tax and the goods and services tax (GST) will continue to fall and so the slashing will necessarily go on.

Of course the history of industrial culture has been a constant tale of birth, growth, decline and death of technologies, businesses and whole industries. But it has been a tale of growth  — "Progress" — which has seen living standards rise in general. Consequently the bulk of the population is loyal to the system. It has fed us all, so we send our children off to school to be indoctrinated, disciplined and turned into reliable employees.

Downturns in the economy have been periodic features of our civilisation for hundreds of years. Like an overgrown garden, we begin to choke on our own growth, there is a collapse and many businesses and occupations are swept away while new ones are thrust into being, now that new opportunities open up. Every downturn temporarily slows or stops growth, but every upturn which follows sees growth rebound to yet higher levels. This has lead to economic theories which ignore the constraints of natural resources. After all, we seem to have come up with substitutes every time some resource has become exhausted.

When Britain had cut down all its trees for energy, suddenly there was coal. When the limitations of coal became apparent — boom! — suddenly we had oil. An even bigger boom ushered in the atomic age which promised electricity too cheap to meter! Atomic energy fell a long way short of its promise but the cheap oil continued to flow, especially after the oil crisis of the seventies and the consequent rush to exploit offshore resources. Now that we are entering another downturn, brought on by the end of cheap oil, there will be another winnowing of inefficient, aging industries and occupations followed by a resurgence powered by…nuclear fusion? Windmills and solar cells? Zero-point energy? Algae farming? Unfortunately this time, the outlook doesn't look so good.

We now have a monstrously large human population which has been enabled — is in fact a consequence — of the cheap oil of the last hundred years. We are not going to return to business as usual powered by methane digesters running on chicken shit. We are in fact heading into a long, painful and bitter decline in which the human population will necessarily shrink back to something the planet is able to carry.

The mouthpieces of conventional economic wisdom with their constant chants of "returning to growth soon" are sounding more and more like the quacking of ducks. And we are experiencing a crisis of faith in our leaders.

This was all predictable years ago, when the implications of the peaking of conventional oil production world-wide and the consequent rise in oil price made the course of future events quite clear. My original intention with this blog was to blow the warning hooter: "Danger, danger, peak oil. Get ready people…" but now we are into the consequences and my warnings are somewhat beside the point. The question is now, What Do We Do? A subsidiary question must inevitably be, Who Should We Listen To?

On the up-and-up, everyone is fat, happy and full of love for their fellows and glad to give disinterested advice. On the downslide, things are different. Biases and special interests tend to come to the fore. People want to protect their family, their business, their community, their beliefs, their culture or their scam. It is important to develop an acute nose for these biases, because they can distort and devalue advice from even the most previously reliable gurus and sages.

First, David Holmgren. David has been a wonderful visionary and proselytiser for his Permaculture. As the crisis approached, he set up his peak oil web site, Future Scenarios, which had a big influence on me back in the day. David walks the talk. Recently he has published Crash on Demand which has caused a big stir in peak oil circles. I recommend you read Crash on Demand. David has reached something of a crisis, as many of us in the loose Peak Oil movement have. He sees that the industrial system has not crashed and is likely to become much more destructive as it fights for its survival. Remember we are all current members of this system! So his not-very-hopeful reaction is to call on aware, middle-class people who are interested in Permaculture to take the big step, disengage from the system as far as possible and maybe that lack of support will bring it down quicker, thus (maybe) saving us from the worst of the coming climate change.

So what is the problem with this? Some people are not at all happy with David's suggestions. Rob Hopkins, the genial mover behind the Transition movement, is unimpressed by David's abandonment of engagement with the powers-that-be at a local level: local government, unions etc. Others think he hasn't gone far enough. I think he's just doing what he knows best: being a responsible social activist. However I think being a responsible social activist at this point in history is a waste of time. Just because someone listens to you doesn't add up to effective action. David's remarks have stirred up the blogosphere but does that amount to anything? And at a practical level, would a small percentage of the global middle-class withdrawing their savings from banks bring down the system? I hardly think so! David has been prodded by something into making a stand outside his normal range. That's understandable, but it's important to realise that he is making his statements as a normal, private individual. I don't believe he has any more authority or special knowledge in this area than you or I.

On to Jim Lovelock. The grand old man of the Gaia hypothesis is a kind of living god, really. And he can grab the headlines, as in this Guardian online article. Jim has been an advocate of nuclear power for some time and has adopted a few contrarian positions, some of which I agree with. He doesn't appear to owe anyone any favours and so speaks his mind freely. And he's a nice man. But why the nuclear power advocacy? I think it's important to understand where Jim (and David Holmgren for that matter) are coming from. They are products of the academic system. They are highly educated members of the middle-class, however anomalous their current independence from that class's preoccupations appears to be. So at some level they want the part of the system which produced them to continue on — namely the university system. And that can only continue in a society which has the surplus to support it. Now I may be drawing a long bow here, but I'll stick with my opinion. Jim and David are talkers: that is their business as they see it.

This tendency or bias is much more obvious with people like Guy McPherson and his guest posters. Guy woke up from his academic slumbers, realised the game was up and went on a kind of intellectual rampage. Guy is basically an intelligent, good-natured fellow who is very angry. He has tried various alternative living arrangements but it hasn't been wildly successful. He feels trapped and has turned this into the most doom-laden viewpoint in the blogosphere. Humanity is screwed, the planet is a few years away from shrugging us off and there is nothing we can do about it. He has attacked Nicole Foss over a line from Nicole's voluminous essay on David Holmgren's Crash on Demand. His guest posters are pretty similar. The difference between Jim Lovelock and Guy & company is that the latter have given up all hope. They all worked so hard to climb the academic slippery pole, they out-studied the lazy and stupid ones, then arrived at the summit to find — desolation! Theirs is the tragedy of over-investment. Lazy swine (like me) dropped out early when we saw the game was rigged and went on to have a life.

So is Nature Bats Last right? Are we all screwed? A little early to say for humanity as a whole — I have my doubts — but I can say one thing for sure: we're all gonna die! It comes with the job of being a member of the human race. One other thing I'm reasonably sure of too: the academic world — as we know it — is toast. Sorry.

The best essay I've come across today is from Erik Lindberg. His essay is entitled Agency On Demand? Holmgren, Hopkins, and the Historical Problem of Agency. It's a long, thoughful piece at the end of which he says
Beyond this, I have very little to offer at this time.  I don’t know what I should do, nor how I should recommend my friends and family to act and react.
Great! Exactly how I feel. But I'm having a go, building a new house and workshop in town, looking around for a recession or depression proof business (who knows, something's got to work!) and smelling the flowers. Look, life is fuckin' hard! Evolution proceeds through the death of the unsuccessful and the breeding of the successful. But you can't live in the future (or the past). Life is now, the fleeting but endless moment before death. The future is made by people living and reacting in that moment: not by solemn committees composed of the cleverest and holiest of humanity deciding what's best for us all. We simply don't know enough to run anything but our own lives, for better or for worse.

 I distrust leaders, because I grew up with one. "Men are sheep. They need to be lead!" he would thunder. But leaders make sheep of us all.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Don't send your children to the mines

From Michael Pettis' finance blog, a dose of cold water on the vaporous conceits of our bloated miners…in two years time this will be old news and we will have adjusted to the new realities, but for now it is amusing although rather chilling to see our treasurer, Wayne Swan and Glenn Stevens from the Reserve Bank strutting around as though they are personally in control of our current good fortune. It will be interesting to see how they behave when the rug is whipped out from underneath them.

The problem is of course the shortness of human memory and our brief life span. I'm old enough to have lived through three recessions, but if you're under the age of forty-five you will have never experienced one as a responsible adult, and if you spent your young adulthood in tertiary study, raise that age to fifty.

Even when the evidence of past disaster is around you, it can be hard to notice it for what it is. When I was at university at the beginning of the nineteen-seventies I lived in Carlton, which was a suburb built in the eighteen-hundreds. The whole area had narrowly survived complete demolition as an intractable slum in the nineteen-sixties. Carlton was on the up and up when I lived there: Fitzroy, the suburb to the east was still grim, poverty-stricken and Dickensian. Yet both suburbs had been prosperous when built. They were clobbered by the depression which started in 1873 and which ran through until 1896 — the first Great Depression. Seventy-five years later they were just beginning to emerge from that disaster! Of course prosperity had returned and disappeared several times since the initial disaster but it had happened somewhere else: other suburbs were built from the fruits of prosperity while Carlton and Fitzroy were largely forgotten. Now, they are both very much up-market, one-hundred and twenty years later!

So be aware of the transitory nature of human affairs and trust not in the utterances of the mighty! The real story is written in other places. Don't worry about Gina Rinehart's crazy public bloviations: they will soon be amusing footnotes to history.

Be warned: don't send your children the mines!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

A cool view of our current economic situation

For a good current view of the Australian situation, check out this PDF. from Variant Perception (an independent global macroeconomic research service). This is investment advice, but don't be fooled by the title, "Australia: The Unlucky Country". Despite the short-term pain we're going to suffer, the longer view is still better than a lot of other places!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Guy McPherson

I just came across this guy. He has a blog which I've added to my blog list. Check out his talk: it's dark but good…

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

When the system hits the wall

I've just watched a presentation by Jeremy Rifkin — a very clever and articulate man — which is below. It's long but engrossing — go on, watch it, I'll wait!
If you watched it you will see what I mean. But did you also see how it is a piece of theatre, rather than a closely reasoned argument? He presents us with a view of human progress which, to condense Jeremy's argument, equates pretty much with increased energy consumption! Ergo, we must keep up the energy level! And then he pulls a whole lot of techno-speak out of the air, equating distributed information with distributed energy generation (see, one works, so the other must too!) and sketching out a sexy-sounding future with the whole world of little home generators linking together, busy making their contribution to the betterment of the human species! The young people know all about this kind of stuff 'cause they're on Facebook and Twitter! So lets get them all going on it.

Only it's all a crock of — well — crap, I'm afraid. His argument for human progress is so thin, so grossly over-simplified and ridiculously reductionist as to be no better than the sort of thing that pops into your head when you've smoked some really good weed after dinner. And then to use it as the justification for leading the young people of the world off on a campaign of technological positivism, based on about as much technical savvy as in a Jetson's cartoon, is to my mind, positively criminal. To me, the underlying game here is "Keep my scam going (and my books selling) for as long as possible". From the blurb on Amazon that goes with his book The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power Is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and the World:

Jeremy Rifkin is president of the Foundation on Economic Trends and the author of eighteen bestselling books, including The Hydrogen Economy and The End of Work. He has been a guest on Face the Nation, The Lehrer News Hour, 20/20, Larry King Live, Today, and Good Morning America. The National Journal named Rifkin as one of 150 people in the U.S. that have the most influence in shaping federal government policy. He has also testified before numerous congressional committees, and since 1994, Mr. Rifkin has been a senior lecturer at the Wharton School’s Executive Education Program at the University of Pennsylvania.
Rifkin is chairman of the Global CEO Business Roundtable, which includes IBM, Cisco, Cushman and Wakefield, and has served as an adviser to various global leaders, including Nicolas Sarkozy of France and Angela Merkel of Germany. His monthly column on global issues appears in many of the world’s leading newspapers and magazines, including The Los Angeles Times, The Guardian in the U.K., Die Süddeutsche Zeitung in Germany, Trud in Bulgaria, Clarín in Argentina, and Al-Ittihad in the U.A.E. He lives in Bethesda, MD.
 So this dude is a heavy hitter with influence. Maybe he is a "nice guy". But what he says, if you strip away the flashy factoids, the glossy visions and the dodgy science is no better than a high-class advertisement for himself. God help you if you take anything he says seriously (for a cogent critique of his book "The Hydrogen Economy" look here). Keep him away from the children!

On to my next guest. This is Margaret Alston, a holder of an Order of Australia, Professor of Social Work and Head of Department at Monash University and Director of the Gender, Leadership and Social Sustainability research unit. Chair of the Australian Heads of Schools of Social Work. Much less flashy than Jeremy Rifkin, much more earnest, lots of academic credibility. This is a talk on Radio National's Big Ideas program, which is a broadcast of the Sidney Myer Rural Lecture (click to get to the page with the podcast) entitled "Rural Education…Shaping Leaders for the Future".

She is a lady with a sweet voice who is trying to Do Good Work. She starts off well by talking about the problems facing rural areas with climate change, the economic crisis and peak oil, and how leadership has to come from within rural communities rather than be imposed from outside. At about the eleven minute mark she strays off overseas, running through a number of international projects she has been associated with. The classic moment comes with her description of a conference at the Prado campus of Monash University in Italy, to do with gender and climate change. The thought of all those earnest folk (mostly women?) arriving by jumbo jet from far-flung places, trailing clouds of glory fairly impressive carbon footprints, brought a faint smile to my lips. I'm sure lots of important resolutions were passed, and great thoughts were — well — thunk. And her book about it will be out soon. Then we're off to Bangladesh which is of course full of problems, but the village people are passionate that their children be well educated even though they themselves have nothing and live in villages that get washed away every time you turn around — kablam! Just like that.

But here we have come to the meat and potatoes of the good professor's talk: education! As it is for the Bangladeshis, so it should be for us country folk in Australia! Then follows a long discussion of the problems down on the farm. Rural youngsters don't get as much education and tend to rush off to the city if they've got any brains. And how do you get young teachers to go happily off to Lake Boga to Spread the Word? Dear dear dear. With enough resources, we could be leading the world with all these brilliant country youngsters, who instead are drinking Jim Beam & Coke, crashing their utes, watching Biggest Loser, beating each other senseless or shagging in their time off from fixing fences or cleaning at the motel.

I think I've got the good Professor's schtick worked out. You make some statement about the world which catches attention and being an intelligent person, she makes an intelligent statement. Then comes the bit where you must blow your own trumpet, but in a subtle way. The international connections, the book etc. This segues into the main subject, which is to get more funding for your particular gig. Fortunately education is like love: you can never get enough of it. So her talk is — surprise! — a big advertisement for herself and her institutions. All those bright young people sitting there like little birds with their beaks open, waiting for mummy bird to drop in the Worm of Knowledge! And who is better equipped than you-know-who to play mummy bird?

Will it do any good? I think at this point, we need to find some historic, successful rural leaders of note and examine their education. How about Attila the Hun for a start? Let's get real. Rural Australia is simply a thinly-spread industrial suburb of the great international civilisation of which we are all a part. The survival of rural Australia is therefore is therefore tied closely to the fate of this mighty construct — not to whether little Johny or Jane in Grong Grong gets a diploma of Gender Studies. Unfortunately the signs aren't good. Climate change and economic collapse means quite simply that large areas of this great brown land are going to be abandoned. Those parts that will survive and thrive are quite easy to identify. They are the ones without extreme climate (sorry inland Australia, the Northern territory and Queensland!), which have good soil and which are favoured as holiday spots by the elites which will be running our cities.

As the economy starts to shrink, the chorus of entitlement-seekers will rise to a shriek. Unfortunately many intelligent people have been recruited into roles as the highly-educated technicians who run our current bloated system. Their wages are now paid by what will soon become a rapidly shrinking tax base, or by industries which cater for discretionary purchases such as cars, Coca-Cola, corn chips or holidays in Bali over which the sword of consumer cost-cutting hangs.

As reality bites will we turn away from Snake Oil salesmen like Jeremy Rifkin? Probably not — we all love a good story even if it's not true, us gullible human beings! The fate of the educators is easier to foresee — those who can teach you what you need to know will be fed and those who are peddling a scam will starve.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Why open source?

Here's a neat explanation by Bre Pettis from MakerBot (who speaks on the Al Jazeera link I posted yesterday).