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Forget ‘saving the Earth’ – it’s an angry beast that we’ve awoken

Environmentalism is undergoing a radical transformation. New science has shown how long-held notions about trying to “save the planet” and preserve the life we have today no longer apply. Instead, a growing…

Extreme fire is part of life in places like San Diego, USA, pictured earlier this month. But local fire captain Richard Cordova says it’s “very odd for the month of May to have these types of fires”. Michael Nelson/EPA

Environmentalism is undergoing a radical transformation. New science has shown how long-held notions about trying to “save the planet” and preserve the life we have today no longer apply.

Instead, a growing chorus of senior scientists refer to the Earth with metaphors such as “the wakened giant” and “the ornery beast”, a planet that is “fighting back” and seeking “revenge”, and a new era of “angry summers” and “death spirals”.

Whether you consider yourself to be an environmentalist or not, the warnings from Earth system science have far-reaching implications for us all.

Nature fights back

In its early days, the science of ecology showed how easily complex ecosystems could be degraded and species obliterated. In 1962, by observing the damage to humans and nature caused by factories and industrial agriculture, Rachel Carson in Silent Spring presented nature as highly vulnerable to destruction by the power of synthetic chemicals.

The early view of nature as fragile, that is, easily disrupted and unable to repair itself, has been tempered somewhat by evidence that many ecosystems are more resilient and can adapt to new circumstances.

But whether fragile or robust, the Earth has been understood as unresponsive, neutral and essentially benign.

This understanding has various expressions, including “Mother Earth” as nurturing, feminine and easily damaged entity. The notion of living harmoniously with nature took hold, inspired by images of pre-industrial peoples living close to the natural world.

Underlying these conceptions is a view that, while humans can cause a great deal of damage, nature is passive and always our victim.

Yet now we see that the planet has been disturbed from its resting state, jolted out of the providential era of climatic stability characteristic of the last 10,000 years, and is now on a new and largely uncontrollable path that is creating conditions dangerous for human life.

Seeing the bigger picture

The rise of Earth system science – which has brought together many different fields of science so that we can better understand how the Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, land and other systems work together – has changed the way we see the world.

Now, the Earth is understood as a dynamic system with strong feedback effects, which can suddenly shift it to a new state when critical points are crossed.

So profound has been the influence of humans that scientists have proposed that the Earth has entered a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene or the Age of Humans, defined by the fact that the “human imprint on the global environment has now become so large and active that it rivals some of the great forces of Nature in its impact on the functioning of the Earth system”.

NASA explains the basics of Earth systems science.

As Earth scientist James Syvitski writes:

At some point, we graduated from adapting to our environment to making it adapt to us … But now we regularly decelerate and accelerate natural processes, focus energy in extraordinary ways and alter, destroy or create ecosystems.

That means we must no longer see the Earth as the submissive repository for supplying our resources or taking our wastes, nor as the docile victim of our rapacity or carelessness.

This newer understanding of the Earth has been vividly expressed by palaeoclimatologist Wally Broecker:

The palaeoclimate record shouts out to us that, far from being self-stabilizing, the Earth’s climate system is an ornery beast which overreacts even to small nudges.

When the Earth is understood this way, the task of environmentalism can no longer be to “save” or preserve the planet, for the planet we wanted to save has already become something else. Our task now is to do what we can to pacify, or at least not aggravate further, something vastly more powerful than we are.

If we have wakened the slumbering beast by poking and prodding it, the prudent course is firstly to stop. But we cannot put it back to sleep.

There is no return to the peaceful conditions of the Holocene, at least not for thousands of years; but to provoke it further, as we still are, is foolishness on an epic scale.

Respect, not love

Yes, the Earth still demands our respect, but it is a respect founded on trepidation rather than love. If we are inclined to think of the planet as Gaia, we would do better to regard it not as the all-loving, all-nurturing Mother Earth of the romantics, but more like the half-crazed, bloodthirsty and vindictive goddess of the original Greek tales.

Some like French philosopher Michel Serres have argued we must negotiate a new contract with nature. Under the terms of this natural contract humanity would reject mastery “in favour of admiring attention, reciprocity, contemplation, and respect”. The contract would grant nature rights and make reparations.

Twenty years ago, that kind of thinking seemed to make sense. But today we must ask whether the Earth, roused from its slumber, is in any mood to sign a contract with us.

Earth system science now teaches us that the planet to which we might have hoped to graciously offer a peace deal – the receptive, predictable object of our exploitation and neglect – existed only in our imaginations.

The Earth does not want our love. Instead of talking restitution, would we perhaps be wiser to be preparing for retribution?

This article is based on a speech at this year’s Sydney Writers' Festival.

Join the conversation

256 Comments sorted by

    1. Patrick Maher

      Retired Doctor of Psychology and Academic

      In reply to Eden Ukrivljen

      I just went back and looked at Carl Sagan's, 'The Small Blue Dot'. Thought to myself, "What if TA could see that? What if the Middle East could see that? What if China could see that? What if America could see that?"
      'What if...,' after 'what if'.
      Every kid in every school in the world should see that.
      What if?

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    2. Anthony Gallas

      Student, University of Life

      In reply to Eden Ukrivljen

      Eden, why do you put "prestigious elected" and "thinkers" in the same sentence? They don't even belong together in the same story!

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    3. Eden Ukrivljen

      Principal Retro-encabulator at Sinusoidal Deplenurators

      In reply to Anthony Gallas

      Perhaps I should have prefaced "thinkers" with "self proclaimed" - as for "prestigious elected" - I think the cigar and the $50,000 chef says it all.

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  1. Zeo maz

    Untrained Monkey.

    Isnt the best form of defense, offense?

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  2. Mark Graham

    Ecologist

    Thanks for the article Clive. Time to hang on tight and get prepared (as best we can) for the profound shifts occurring around us. Oh, Australia, get with the program.....

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  3. Felix MacNeill

    Environmental Manager

    Nice article.

    On this line, it's well worth reading Toby Tyrell's 'On Gaia' - a careful and thoughtful critical analysis of Lovelock's famous Gaia hypothesis. Unsurprisingly, Tyrell concludes that the hypothesis really just doesn't stack up - particularly in terms of much-hoped-for negative or stabilising feedback systems.

    While Tyrell's analysis suggests that you can certainly detect a degree of Schneider-style 'co-evolution' (where life has some influence on wider systems to 'encourage' habitable environments) it's not very powerful and certainly offers no adequate counterweight to current human stupidity.

    Indeed, Tyrell concludes, much as Clive suggests here, that the evidence is, on balance, that the whole 'system' is indeed delicate, tricky and quite prone to tipping sharply and with precious little warning into what can be radically different states.

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    1. Ben Marshall
      Ben Marshall is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Writer

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Agreed, Felix. I always felt the whole Gaia thing was a metaphor taken too far. I prefer the math of non-linear dynamic systems to the literary approach in these areas.

      It would be nice to have an overview from the paleoclimatologist mentioned, especially for the climate science deniers who bang that tired old gong about 'natural variations'.

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    2. Philip Conway

      Researcher

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Lovelock doesn't claim that Gaia offers a 'counterweight' to human action. Quite the contrary. His whole book 'Revenge of Gaia' is precisely arguing the opposite of this - namely that we've perturbed the Earth in ways that we have no hope of controlling and that we'd better prepare for massive destruction. I haven't read Tyrell's work but from your description he seemingly doesn't know what he's talking about. There's nothing kindly or pacific about Gaia.

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    3. Ian Enting

      Honorary Senior Associate, Faculty of Science at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      what Lovelock is saying in "Vanishing Face of Gaia" is that for systems with stabilising negative feedbacks, when the stabilisation is pushed to its limits and breaks down, then the breakdown is often catastrophic. The same concept seems to be behind what Lovelock said in "Revenge of Gaia", but it was (in my opinion) less explicit. Of course none of this tells us how close we are to such breakdown, or even if the loss of arctic sea ice means that we are already heading into a new climate state.

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    4. Ian Enting

      Honorary Senior Associate, Faculty of Science at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Ben Marshall

      Ben, if you are looking for a more mathematical approach to the Gaia concept, then have a look at papers from about a decade ago by Tim Lenton.
      Nature 394, p439 (1998)
      Geophys res lett 28, p1715 (2001)
      and maybe Cliamte Change, 52, p409, (2002).

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    5. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Philip Conway

      Philip, I'd suggest you read Tyrell's book before judging it.

      Gaia may well be a 'fully scientific hypothesis' as you suggest below, but it is not well-supported by either other earth scientists or the evidence - at least not in anything beyond a very weak form of the hypothesis which is really little more than the much mor elimited notion of partial co-evolution, as advanced by Schneider and others and as pretty well supported by the evidence.

      Nobody ever thought Lovelock was anything but…

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    6. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Garry Baker

      Garry, all I was talking about was the Gaia hypothesis, not the rest of Lovelock's work or his credentials, both of which are impressive. But the fact remains that he progressively weakened the Gaia hypothesis and, except in these very much weaker forms, it wasn't really backed by the evidence.

      I only raised this in the context of trying to suggest that we had grown used, rather unconsciously, to comforting ourselves with the notion that the system would spring back to health if we just stopped…

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    7. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Ian Enting

      Sure - but that's not really saying much more than if you break a system it's broken - perfectly sensible and frighteningly true, particularly if the system is critical.

      I think what Tyrell was trying to point out was that, even before you get to this extreme, it's arguable whether there really is anything present that could reasonably be called stabilising feedbacks at all or, if so, they're relatively few and weak.

      To me this just means that there are frighteningly few 'defences' against system breakdown/transition. To some degree, we had thought/hoped there were some reasonably robust systems but even that looks improbable.

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    8. Peter Yard

      Software Developer / Technnical Writer

      In reply to Garry Baker

      Many years ago, very many actually, I read an article by Lovelock on a proposal for a 1000 inch telescope that could be used to monitor the atmosphere of the other planets. This way we could tell if there was life there because our own atmosphere is far from thermodynamic / chemical equilibrium due to the lifeforms here. Later I saw an interview where he said NASA had asked him how to detect life on Mars and said they needed a telescope but then they wouldn't need to actually go there. :)

      People…

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    9. Mike Stasse

      Retired Energy Consultant

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      A recent study calculated that the loss of Arctic ice reflectivity from 1979 to 2011 added an amplifying feedback to human warming equivalent to 25% of the heat captured by CO2 emissions during that same time.

      We know that we don’t live in a linear world and that climate change is a non-linear phenomenon. Recent studies on abrupt climate change in Earth’s history reveal that temperatures have changed rapidly by 5°C in just 13 years. With the grand experiment mankind has irrevocably and haphazardly…

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  4. John Newlands

    tree changer

    I'd like an alien from another galaxy to stop by and point out what we're doing wrong. Preferably one from a place where they had 300 million earth-years of fossil fuel accumulation and a congenial atmosphere but they over bred and burned half the fossil fuel in just 100 years. Maybe those aliens didn't survive which is why they haven't visited. Point proven.

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  5. Mike Swinbourne

    logged in via Facebook

    I'm sorry Clive, I can't see it that way at all. The Earth will not be seeking retribution, or be a sleeping giant awoken, or need pacifying etc. Such phrases see the Earth as some sort of living organism, which it isn't. We should see it for what it is - our home and the source of the goods and services that we rely upon to survive and thrive. It is an inanimate object, and what takes place on that object is influenced by the actions of the living organisms on it.

    The ecosystem in which we…

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    1. Philip Conway

      Researcher

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      Except that it is demonstrably evidenced that the Earth is not 'inanimate.' It's very animated, indeed. If it were 'inanimate' would it be sensitive to our actions? Your image of the Earth is retrograde in the extreme. There isn't a hard and fast distinction between animate (humans) and inanimate (matter and stuff). That way of thinking has to go the way of the dodos. No, the Earth isn't an organism like you or me or a dodo are (or were) organisms. But that doesn't mean that we can do without metaphors or that this metaphor isn't appropriate. Language is built from metaphors. Your comments indicate that you don't understand language (or, indeed, the Earth).

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    2. R. Ambrose Raven

      none

      In reply to Philip Conway

      One would have thought that the very concepts of lithosphere, hydosphere and aquasphere suggested a dynamic system with the potential for rapid shifts between equilibria.

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    3. Clive Hamilton

      Professor of Public Ethics, Centre For Applied Philosophy & Public Ethics (CAPPE) at Charles Sturt University

      In reply to Jane Middlemist

      Thnaks for these thoughts. We cannot avoid using metaphors to try to capture these ideas because the Earth is more than a cybernetic system. But how much more, and in what ways, is very hard to say. Hence Lovelock's constant shifting and changing.

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    4. Jane Middlemist

      citizen

      In reply to Clive Hamilton

      I read up to page 49 on the link you provided and I liked Michel Serrres' writing - why all the yellow highlights: a little distracting.
      We do need new ways of thinking about Earth - more in line with the reality that much is still a mystery in my opinion - and the metaphors are a great help. Thanks for the article, Clive.

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    5. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Philip Conway

      ".....Your comments indicate that you don't understand language (or, indeed, the Earth)....."

      I have no idea what you are on about Philip. The earth is not alive, therefore it is an inanimate object. But if you think differently, how about you explain rationally rather than ranting on in metaphysical terms. And if it is supposedly "....demonstrably evidenced that the Earth is not 'inanimate.'...." then how about you provide some of this evidence.

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    6. Mark Graham

      Ecologist

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      Deep within the earth, high into the atmosphere, atop the Himalayas and to the bottom of the Marianas Trench there is life. As others have commented, the earth is highly animated and looks set to be increasingly so because of the actions of our species.

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    7. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Mark Graham

      Mark, the planet 'contains' extensive life, but that it not quite the same thing as being alive 'itself'.

      Our own bodies are heavily populated by micro-organisms. Does that mean that the bugs in my gut have become human?

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    8. Mark Graham

      Ecologist

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      I don't necessarily disagree with you Felix.

      The words/theories that best describe the interface(s) between the bioshere, geosphere, atmosphere and aquasphere and their dynamic interactions are undoubtedly a work in progress that may never be completed.

      Our species might yet lose the systems and resources that allow us the luxury to theorise and communicate about such concepts through our profligate consumption and waste. I wonder whether we might reach a profound moment of collective realisation…

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    9. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Mark Graham

      "....Deep within the earth, high into the atmosphere, atop the Himalayas and to the bottom of the Marianas Trench there is life....."

      Now tell me something I don't know. And all of this life lives on the Earth - the Earth itself is not and never has been alive. The Earth is not highly animated - it is an inanimate object. But the life which exists upon the Earth - that is a different matter.

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    10. Mark Graham

      Ecologist

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      I contend that the earth is highly animated and we have now reached the point at which a single species is making it bulge, pop and crackle under myriad pressures. I draw your attention to one of the consequences of rampant greenhouse gas emissions generated by the actions of our species. Namely the melting (loss) of ice above the landmasses at our poles. This is causing significant decompression of the crust, thus causing an "animated" response in what you maintain is an "inanimate object".

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    11. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Mark Graham

      Mark, I agree that all those things are happening to the ecosystem in which we live. But that does not make the Earth an animate object - it just means all the things that are upon the Earth are being altered.

      I can squeeze a rubber ball as well - that doesn't make it an animated object.

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    12. Mark Graham

      Ecologist

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      My next example of "animation" of the earth is continental drift.
      The earth has undeniably moved significant distances over time.
      If you took a time lapse of a rubber band over millions of years it would still be a rubber band.. Although would probably rot within years.

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    13. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Mark Graham

      "....My next example of "animation" of the earth is continental drift...."

      And that is no more animation than the surface of a rubber ball rotting away.

      Mark, we are simply not going to agree in this one, and neither of us will change the other's mind. I contend that the Earth is just a big ball of rock, water and gases floating around in space. It changes over time in response to forces acting upon it, but it is not 'animated'. Animation requires that the object move or change of it's own accord - not because something else changes it.

      And before you go on - no, continental drift is not the Earth changing of its own accord.

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    14. Ross Barrell

      Aikido Student

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      You're right Mike. The planet is not alive, but it is dynamic. And many of the dynamic systems that impact on humans (and, incidentally, other living things) are influenced by positive and negative feedbacks.

      I think what the article is telling us is that it may be useful to start thinking about our planet in a different way.

      Not that it will make any difference to the bloke in the lodge at the moment...

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    15. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      Not alive Mike ... but certainly not inanimate either given what's going on under our feet and the tectonic plates. Much of what we see - and breathe - is a product of living things - from bacteria giving us soils through to trees giving us oxygen.

      I suggest that our animated earth - at least the biosphere bit of it we inhabit and experience - is best seen as a product of interactions between living (reproducing) beings and inorganic factors like rocks and water and air.

      And if we tinker too much with those processes we change the game, throw things out of kilter and in the words of a great orstayan "wreck the joint". But the magma will barely know we're gone.

      Never inanimate ... it only looks permanent... even the rocks.

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    16. Jane Middlemist

      citizen

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      And are not our bodies actually composed of more than a trillion cells each one performing specialised tasks; and are not our bodies not "solid" objects but made up of tiny atoms each with a nucleus around which whirl electrons - nothing is what it seems given our eye sight limitations.
      Seen through powerful electron microscopes most "things" would look completely different. Pretty busy and animated; and why not regard all the separate constituents of Nature as part of a whole, worthy of respect and careful study ? Makes more sense to me than "using" Nature for whatever (not necessarily sensible) idea pops into our heads - as "profitable" in the short term.

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    17. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      ".... the biosphere bit of it we inhabit and experience - is best seen as a product of interactions between living (reproducing) beings and inorganic factors like rocks and water and air....."

      Exactly right Peter. I don't think anyone would disagree.

      But to describe the Earth as 'animate' because of plate tectonics etc is a misuse of the word 'animate'. If you define it that way, then there is no such thing as an inanimate object, because nothing is permanent. I think I will stick to my definition thanks.

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    18. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Doug Hutcheson

      Doug, you can define "animate" or "life" any way you want.

      But I am not getting into an argument about semantics. My views on the subject are pretty clear from my posts on this thread.

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    19. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      Mike, "an argument about semantics" is one thing, but defining your terms is vital, considering this whole article is about the semantics of metaphor. Ah, well, I'll leave it at that and retire from the fray.

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    20. Paul Rogers

      Manager

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      "Our own bodies are heavily populated by micro-organisms. Does that mean that the bugs in my gut have become human?"

      No, but it means that without them you are dead. They 'animate' you.

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  6. Gary Luke
    Gary Luke is a Friend of The Conversation.

    thoroughly disgusted

    So, paying out for CO2 indulgences won't save us from the apocalypse caused by the fossil fuel original sin any more. We need to step back to an earlier stage of cosmic myths and appease the dragon in the cave. But beware, the dragon will immolate the parchment of the treaty we beg it to countersign with the fire of its breath. Please dress this in either current fashionable scientific or philosophical terminology to reduce the chance of laughter.

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    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Gary Luke

      Do you actually have anything to contribute other than empty spleen, Gary?

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    2. Gary Luke
      Gary Luke is a Friend of The Conversation.

      thoroughly disgusted

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      "I read Clive's article as being an examination of the metaphors we use to think about and descibe the situation - pointing out that the gentle/balancing/calming metaphos we used to be comforted by are dangerously inaccurate and we'd be better to use fiercer, wilder metaphors...I know they're only metaphors, but they are very powerful influencers of human thinking and behaviour."

      Looks like you read the same article as I did, and in the same way.

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    3. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Gary Luke

      No, Gary, I read the article in awareness of the science underpinning it. I am able to distinguish between facts and the language we employ to explain, illustrate or discuss those facts.

      Therefore I didn't attempt childish and irrelevant counter-metaphors.

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    4. David Rennie

      IT Contractor

      In reply to Gary Luke

      Perhaps true, but when we are on the fingernail it shapes our destinies.

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    5. alfred venison

      records manager (public sector)

      In reply to Philip Conway

      "everything is metaphor, there is only poetry", norman o. brown, "love's body", 1966. -a.v.

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    6. Ross Barrell

      Aikido Student

      In reply to Philip Conway

      Hmmm... All language is arguably metaphor - symbols or symbol systems that represent something else. Our brains process the symbols that make language in order to make meaning of it, and therefore make meaning of some part of the universe. It's hard wired, I believe.

      So, yes, Philip, I couldn't agree more.

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  7. Pat Moore

    gardener

    Thanks Clive. Nemesis.....another ("Goddess of retribution; retributive ("recompense for evil") justice, downfall that satisfies this. Gk 'nemo' give what is due." OED). For the second time today I'm reminded of Tonto saying to the Lone Ranger's observation when the Indians are attacking..."Looks like we're in trouble Tonto."....."What do you mean "We" whiteman?" says Tonto.

    The technologically ingenious and advanced, male -dominated European culture achieved its global dominance over other…

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    1. Georgina Byrne
      Georgina Byrne is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer at Farming

      In reply to Pat Moore

      Great stuff, as usual, Pat! Another TC article re the wealthy young man who decided to kill all the blondes he could find because they failed to throw themselves at his feet and one I've just read on the Guardian about forced caesarians on pregnant women due to their foetuses' interests taking precedence over theirs, have relevance here...Not all of this anti nature/pro-artificiality stuff is American though...especially when the current PM of this country has stated that Nature is there simply for "us" to use and "enjoy". It's all about hubris in the end...Ozymandiuses abound, in all shapes and sizes, everywhere. Thank God, if you believe in one for your garden and mine. For the time being at least we can soak up the green and delight in the birdlife.

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  8. Michelle Bruce

    citizen

    Nice article, but why the shift from a 'nurturing woman' to an 'angry beast' to explain the earth? A nurturing woman who has been angered is much more terrifying than any beast. Associations are made between submissiveness and weakness and a woman! How far from the mark that truly is, have you never met a woman Clive?

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    1. Mike Faulkner

      retiree

      In reply to Michelle Bruce

      Clive's fleeting glimpse as he was transferred to meet the 'angry beast' through his mother's birth canal perhaps.

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    2. Michelle Bruce

      citizen

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      I hope you are right Peter. But Clive may have a point after all, I have no wish to shoot the messenger. Perhaps mythology needs to change from the earth being a woman to that of it being a giant, to finally stop its exploitation. Maybe men need to start thinking of it as a 'bloke' who is bigger and stronger and angry. That may be the only way to finally get their respect. Of course this gives more insights into current popular psychology than anything actual about the earth itself. But fear is the…

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    3. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Michelle Bruce

      Michelle, it was me who made that remark. I have in fact observed both species and noted some differences. My comment was premised on our ability to create adaptive technology which, so far has been pretty impressive.

      Cockroaches pull it off by being simple, robust and general purpose.

      So both of us rely on being vey adaptable, though by different means.

      However, I think you'll find there are more humans in varying ecosystems across the planet than there are cockroaches - in short, we have colonised more places than even they have.

      And I never suggested that ALL of us would survive - that is no more true than it would be for a population of cockroaches. What I actually said was that there was no danger of homo sapiens going extinct as a species, though complex civilisation supporting billions was fragile.

      And finally, I have a horrible feeling that survival might depend more on blind luck than wisdom.

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    4. Michelle Bruce

      citizen

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Humans are in a state of learned helplessness caused by manmade structures of production and consumption. While humans were historically fairly adaptable and versatile, what happened in the last few centuries was that humans became too specialised to be adaptable to quick changes. Each has become a cog in a very complex and unstable machine. If the machine breaks down, the cogs can't fend for themselves. At the same time, while humans became more helpless, climate became more unpredictable and unstable…

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    5. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Michelle Bruce

      Michelle, if you're talking individual critters per se, I'd also back a cockroach against a modern, helpless human like you or me, but when you're talking essentialy a hive species like us it's a bit more complex.

      I think you're still misunderstanding what I was trying to say. I'm not defending us or our stupidity or expressing any particular admiration, merely noting what a remarkably tough, adaptive species we are. And, while a cockroach's biology might be impressive, human intellect is just…

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    6. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Michelle Bruce

      Michelle, "in regions where there is clean water" - you mean, our uncivilised civilisation is going to leave some water unpolluted? Don't tell the Tea Party - there must be a profit to be made from clean water ...

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    7. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Michelle Bruce

      Michelle, "in regions where there is clean water" - you mean to say our hopeless civilisation is going to leave some water unpolluted? Don't tell the Tea Party, or the Oz subsidiary, the Billy Tea Party - there must be a profit to be made from exploiting clean water ...

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    8. Michelle Bruce

      citizen

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Yes, I thought that's exactly what you meant, I don't think I misunderstood you at all. In fact, I think you used the remark about the cockroaches and our own resilience as a figure of speech. I thought it was worthwhile delving into that one, less seriously than you thought, (but more seriously than I myself realised) and debunking some myths about our own resilience by putting things into perspective. I would put my money on a jellyfish sooner than on us. A jellyfish and a roach would be a close one though!

      I think we would eventually die out as species, the only question is when and how. Everything has its rise and its fall, there is no linear progression in anything, why should humans be any different? I think it will happen through a few natural disasters which would cause us to forget what we once knew, and we would eventually die out as humble and afraid as when our journey began as species. Of course like you I would be sorry, but nothing lasts forever, not even the sun.

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    9. Michelle Bruce

      citizen

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      I'll have to agree, I back up bacteria as well. Viruses tend to be a bit unstable in personality, I think bacteria is by far the safest bet. They are sensible, hardworking and humble. What was that in the Bible that 'the meek will inherit the earth'? I think they meant bacteria. It's a real shame though, the most fascinating animals with the biggest bravado tend to be despatched with the greatest expedience.

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    10. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Michelle Bruce

      The Pentagon agreed with you about 10 years ago, and they reported the same thing again just a short time ago.

      Even to the USA climate change is now a major security threat.

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    11. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Peter, "suck up to your bacteria today - one day they'll be running the show - if they're not already". What? Bacteria running the show? I thought it was the white mice! Trust Douglas Adams to be a malicious misinformer (but don't forget your towel when the Vogons come ...).

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    12. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Michelle Bruce

      Michelle, "Wars will be fought over water" - of that, I have no doubt whatsoever. The only question is whether that war will be fought using nuclear weapons, or sticks and rocks: I give our civilisation that small a chance of survival. Even 100 years may be too long, sadly.

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    13. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Michael, "to the USA climate change is now a major security threat". The sad thing is it has been a threat for a long time, not unlike the sword of Damocles. The difference now is only that the threat is being recognised, albeit all too late.

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    14. peter mackenzie

      Transport Researcher

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      I think I agree with most of what you say Felix, though I find none of the comments very uplifting for the same reasons.

      When you talk about human intellect being so remarkable and plastic -true- but then we trip over the other 'blocks' in our brains so often, that we are so good at stuffing things up.

      I listened to two conversations this week from colleagues about issues that should be so straightforward and easily sorted - but egos and other agendas, stubborness, little dictators and other blocks create nightmares of these issues.

      I found so many blocks years ago when searching for information for a essay I wrote on environment. Right down to one leader in the middle east who declared "God wants this new airport". Whether he believed that or not, it was going to be hard to argue against 'God' on environmental grounds. In the old Soviet states it was output numbers that had to be met, and so on.

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    15. peter mackenzie

      Transport Researcher

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      How can I laugh when this is such a serious topic Peter! But I did love your last line on sucking up to bacteria.

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    16. Michelle Bruce

      citizen

      In reply to Doug Hutcheson

      The Pentagon has created a plan for what to do in the case there is a zombie apocalypse. The plan's preamble states that 'because zombies pose a threat to all non-zombie human life, [strategic command] will be prepared to preserve the sanctity of human life and conduct operations in support of any human population - including traditional adversaries.' Just last week, however, the US House of Reps passed an amendment that explicitly bars the Department of Defense from any actions to prepare for the effects of Anthropogenic Global Warming, be they conflicts over increasingly rare water resources or flooding of low lying military bases. Thankfully, the zombie plan includes measures against 'Chicken Zombies', which are described as 'the only proven class of zombies that actually exists'... when aged hens are incompletely uthanized and dig their way out of their graves.

      (I kid you not).

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    17. peter mackenzie

      Transport Researcher

      In reply to Michelle Bruce

      Would those critters that live deep underwater near those gas fissures (correct term?) possibly have the best chance of survival given they are already doing that in such a hostile environment?

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    18. Tony Dickson

      Farmer at Farm Forestry and ecological services

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Good arguments. On balance I think I will go with Felix. When the shit hits the fan, it won't be the greenies that will be left standing. On second thoughts, I might make a side bet on the roaches.

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    1. Mike Faulkner

      retiree

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      A period of 20 days is a bit of 'weather'.
      A period of a thousand years is 'climate'
      The ABC has not been in existence long enough to detect the difference.

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    2. Mike Faulkner

      retiree

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Felix,
      All very well, but proven?
      Anything can be 'proven' given enough monkeys with enough time, randomly typing on typewriters, can explain the meaning of life.
      No abuse please, as I'm merely expressing my opinion.

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    3. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Mike Faulkner

      I think it was last year that the BoM (Bureau of Meteorology) said that Australia's climate has already changed and we will never go back to the climate of the first 100 years or so of weather measurements.

      So the climate is changing - and within a relatively short timeframe.

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    4. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Mike Faulkner

      Mike - What you say about "anything can be proven" is non-science.

      Do you think we could have built this highly technical world when rational thought was so weak that "anything can be proven"?

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    5. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Mike Faulkner

      Why would I want to abuse you?

      I'll grant you I used the word 'proof' a bit loosely (Popper would turn in his grave!) but the basic principle remains that there is solid evidence of a pattern. This evidence has been subjected to extensive analysis and critical review and there is much material published in peer reviewed journals.

      I can't quote you the exact reference here, but I'm pretty sure there was some major recent statistical meta-analysis done - from memory by a team including Will Steffen…

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    6. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Mike Faulkner

      "The ABC has not been in existence long enough to detect the difference."

      Hasn't the ABC been in existence longer than 16/17/18 years?

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    7. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Mike Faulkner

      "Anything can be 'proven' given enough monkeys with enough time, randomly typing on typewriters"

      Depends if you limit the monkeys to the age of the Universe.

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    8. Ross Barrell

      Aikido Student

      In reply to Mike Faulkner

      Dear Mike. "Proven?"

      Science is demonstrably NOT about proof. It is about probabilities and models. Surely you have seen references to probability in the language used by scientists when they speak about just about anything. But proof? no. If you want proof, you need to talk to a mathematician, or a logician. Not a scientist.

      Your use of the word is a good indicator of your limited understanding of science.

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    9. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Ross Barrell

      Ross, the be fair to Mike, he lifted that word from my earlier post - I was guilty of laziness and used the word proof as shorthand to describe a substantial body of evidence - mea culpa!

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    10. Ross Barrell

      Aikido Student

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      OK. No worries. Proven is such a standard device for climate trolls that I thought I'd have a go. Just a kneejerk reflex.

      Cheers.

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  9. Edward Kirby

    logged in via Facebook

    Very rapidly, this could move from "save the Earth" to "save *us* FROM the Earth".

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  10. Stephanus Cecil Barnard

    Town planner and freelance writer at Kalahariozzie

    Ah the beauty of panic. Soon we will be sacrificing young virgins on hill-tops altars to please the Angry Beast.

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  11. Alex Cannara

    logged in via LinkedIn

    Indeed, and much of the responsibility resides with naive enviro groups, like my own Sierra Club, who saw to it, out of ignorance, that combustion power would not be eliminated by about 2000, as even a President understood could be done: http://tinyurl.com/6xgpkfa

    Our descendants will rightly spit on our graves, if those can be found.
    http://tinyurl.com/n2qnos6 (just one reason)
    --
    Dr. A. Cannara
    650 400 3071

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  12. Sean Douglas

    logged in via email @hotmail.com

    Thank you very much Clive for this jolting wake up call so many people need around the world and here. It's serious when our best Philosophers and Ethicists are being woken from their private meanderings and speaking out so publicly.

    WE need more .. and the LNP Government (every parliament in the land actually) needs a flood of this kind of talking to ... please send them a signed DVD of your talk ... TY

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  13. Michael Lardelli

    logged in via Facebook

    As with almost all writing on this topic - this article continues the "Us against it/Nature/the world/the enviroment" viewpoint and does not focus on the fact that we are an integral part of the enviroment and will perish if we damage it too much. Our only real enemy is ourselves.

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    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Michael Lardelli

      That wasn't how I read it Michael - almost the exact opposite.

      I'd thought the point was that while we remain within parameters, the system wil tend to be pretty benign - as if it were positively supportive - but, if we step outside those parameters, it can swing wildly and will be LIKE a wild beast

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  14. Greg North

    Retired Engineer

    I would not have thought there would be too many scientists who would have ever considered that the earth was sleeping or even dozing let alone being an angry beast.
    Along with many studies on the climate, there are also no end of references to how the earth has been developing over millions if not billions of years, there being no end of climatic cycles on record.
    It is well documented what population concentrations can do to local environments and yet to what extent human introduced activities will collectively force a change in natural cycles is hardly of any certainty the validity of language involving angry beasts is questionable.

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    1. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Greg North

      "there being no end of climatic cycles on record"

      So what is the point of creating our own?

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    2. Sean Douglas

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Clive Hamilton

      Yes Clive, and as human beings Metaphor is a primary way in which we communicate and THINK since before the wheel was invented. As you would know but Greg does not (which is a long list).

      I learnt a lot about this from Professors Noam Chomsky Linguist (retired) and also George Lakoff Linguist and Cognitive scientist during the last decade and then some. It sure helps to understand how life works when these kind sof matters are understood eg http://georgelakoff.com/
      The Political Mind: Why You Can't Understand 21st Century American Politics with an 18th Century Mind http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jCXxc_M9EmE and

      this video starts with some classic simple examples of Metaphors and Morality http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5f9R9MtkpqM&feature=youtu.be&t=33s and then other issues such as Framing Empathy Politics and Climate Change issues and so on

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    3. Sean Douglas

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Greg North

      Greg, "... here are also no end of references to how the earth has been developing over millions if not billions of years"

      Very true Greg ... now take your good understanding of that point, and see where it actually leads to when one truly studies and researches millions of years of climate and Paleotologists already know about that and the implications of today's increasing temperature trajectory. Got a spare 15 minutes? Try this summary of humanities existing scientific knowledge by Prof Peter…

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  15. Susan Nolan

    retired

    Hi Clive,

    You talk about changing our view of the world from "the all-loving, all-nurturing Mother Earth of the romantics" to "the half-crazed, bloodthirsty and vindictive goddess of the original Greek tales" in order to encourage us to take more effective action with respect to climate change.

    What would be the effect of changing the gender of the earth from female to male, do you think?

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  16. Andrew McIntosh

    Part-time bludger.

    I was at a town meeting in Poowong last weekend, listening to people talk about fracking. There where people from NSW talking about what happened to their areas after coal seam gas mining began. Earth tremors, it seems. The idea of human activity actually creating earth tremors, even earth quakes, seems very 1950's science fiction, but it's actually happening. Made me think.

    A very appealing, romantic notion - the Earth extracting revenge on an impudent but puny humanity. Pity we're living it.

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    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Mike Faulkner

      It might be good for a lot of other species if we were to 'leave' but, personally, I quite like the old planet.

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    2. Andrew McIntosh

      Part-time bludger.

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      I like it too. And one good thing about the meeting I mentioned was that it came across that there are people in rural areas who are quite prepared to embrace renewable energy for the sake of the environment. Insofar as fracking is concerned, there are things called "social contracts", which are derived by polling people in local communities regards their attitude to coal seam gas mining. As it happened, some 96.7 percent of residents polled in the Poowong area put their thumbs down and as a result there is a "social contract" to refuse gas companies admission to land (a campaign called "Shutting The Gate"). It was very interesting for me to see these people, usually type cast as conservative and reactionary, talking openly about refusing gas in favour of solar.

      Didn't do much for my misanthropy, but did make me feel a little better

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    3. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Andrew McIntosh

      You know, Andrew, I think the division between country people and urban environmentalists (redneck v greenie) is an unfortunate and rather engineered thing. I even see signs that it might finally be fading away, which would be great, as both parties have more in common than they think.

      My wife comes from a big rural family in Victoria and I was talking about this with one of her brothers a while back, in light of the fact that he talks very much like the Poowong people you cite and I'm a classic…

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    4. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Felix, "I quite like the old planet" - too bad we didn't really get a chance to enjoy it before it disappeared, effectively forever ...

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    5. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Doug Hutcheson

      Yeah, I think in my early childhoof (late 50s) we were still at least on the cusp of the beautiful, brief holocene...at least the weather was still okay and the air sweet enough...

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    6. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      True, Felix, once upon a time it was a simpler, healthier life. I blame daylight saving - it upset the natural order of things.

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    7. Tony Dickson

      Farmer at Farm Forestry and ecological services

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Once again we agree Felix. I have been making the argument that environmentalists and farmers are natural allies for about thirty years. There has been fault on both sides, but mainly on that of the largely urban green perspective which has little understanding of rural life and a penchant for self righteous criticism. I long ago adopted the mantra that it is easy being green when someone else is footing the bill.
      The Greens have wasted many opportunities to further both their ecological agendas and their political fortunes by displacing the troglodyte Nationals.

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    8. Tony Dickson

      Farmer at Farm Forestry and ecological services

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Yes, Milne is saying much the same as I have for the last several decades. She may have been saying these things privately for as long, but they have not been reflected in Greens policy.
      And yes, the conservatism of rural communities is a problem, but the logic of common interests seems clear to me.
      Actually Michael, maybe I am missing your point. What is it exactly.

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    9. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Tony Dickson

      My main point is that the Greens have been working to try to gain support from those on the land.

      I'm not sure though that they need to change policy.

      To try to replace the Nationals they might have to change, but that would be making them a very different party, one that might make them less attractive in the cities.

      But what policies do you think they should change?

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    10. Tony Dickson

      Farmer at Farm Forestry and ecological services

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      I am not disagreeing with you that the Greens are reaching out for the rural vote, but it is a recent development and comes after many years of wasted opportunity. Its most obvious manifestation is with respect to CSG and hopefully this can be the beginning of much greater recognition of common interest.
      I do not think that it is a question of the Greens needing to change policies, so much as develop new ones designed to support rural communities. My argument has been that if it is accepted that…

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  17. john tons

    retired redundant

    Embedded in the article is the idea of contract with nature. That of itself is an important step forward in our thinking. Social contract theory as traditionally conceived essentially ignores the natural world; it assumes that we will always be in a situation of moderate scarcity where the most pressing concern is to structure human co-operation so that the burdens and benefits are equitably distributed. We now need to define social contract theory so that it incorporates the adage of letting sleeping dogs lie or at very least not aggravate them anymore than we already have done.

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  18. Mairi Rowan

    Retired

    So the Pagans were right after all.

    Perhaps not to worship, but certainly to fear and respect.

    The arrogance of the peoples of the book, who believe that salvation is out there somewhere not me, has led to contempt for the planet that nurtured our species into existence, and which is more than capable of ushering it out.

    Our salvation rests with our planet, not somewhere else.

    Time to pay the piper.

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  19. Cris Brack

    Assoc Professor Forest measurement & management at Australian National University

    Poetry -including metaphors - is not mutually exclusive with science - many famous scientists were also artists. But if the metaphor or other attempt at communication leads to "bad" decisions and actions then it must be discarded. On this basis, the metaphor of a kindly "Mother nature" is well past its use-by date. And while there may be an actual scientific framework around "Gaia", it is still often represented as a nurturing mother (although maybe younger than the representations used for Mother…

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  20. daniel hayes

    logged in via email @gmail.com

    Great read,
    Id like to share my gratitude for being able to read such content and comments, helping find balance within my self and understanding all of my "own-o-spheres" to express.

    It is almost like we are throwing a bit of rock at a stone wall, and each time the rock breaks and a little rebounds and hits us and we continue doing this, but we think we can out smart whatever it is causing the rebound (we might buy into our descriptions of what the Cause is of this with terms like "Karma" or…

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  21. Tony Dickson

    Farmer at Farm Forestry and ecological services

    My interpretration of Clive's article is that it is an attempt to encourage a sense of urgency, by elevating the environmental debate from one of aesthetics, ethics and sentimentality, to one of far more visceral import.
    I have a little difficulty however, with the metaphor of the slumbering beast provoked into fighting back in self defence. This makes as much sense as a neglected and abused ship fighting back by sinking.
    And yes, I know that the biosphere will survive our abuse, but hopfully you get my drift.

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    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Tony Dickson

      Yeah, I'm with you.

      Maybe we'd do better with a ship-style metaphor as you sort-of imply, though we tried 'spaceship earth' back in the 1970s and that got thrown back in our faces (remember Norman Gunston's wicked satire on this trope?)

      Maybe what we really need is a kind of blank metaphor: the whole 'system' doesn't give a toss either way about us, so it's purely our decision, so stop appealing to big imaginary friendds or any other fantasies - it's our choice and our responsibility...

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    2. Jeff Payne

      PhD in Political Science and Masters in Public Policy

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      I understand what you are saying Felix but I'm not sure I'd agree. Nature IS only because of us. What I mean is, if we did not exist then 'nature', as an existing thing, does not exist either. We, as humans, bring Nature into being as what it is, through our existence. I'm not saying that without humans then material things aren't but what I am saying is that Nature only 'exists', as things, because of human being. We care about Nature and, I believe, in a sense Nature responds with care. In brief, these are extremely complex matters and metaphors matter. We should be careful how we go about using them.

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    3. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Jeff Payne

      Sure 'Nature' is a human artefact, but all the stuff (whether living or not, depending on how you define those terms!) exists whether we're here or not. Equally, the 'laws of physics' may be huan artefacts, bu tI'm pretty confident that a tree would stil fall in a forest, subject to gravity, if nobody was there to witness it.

      I'm not sure about whether or not I care about 'nature' - I don't think my feelings are that abstract...I seem to find myself caring about actual, finite individual things…

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    4. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Felix, "we would do well to get away from a myth or metaphor that somehow suggests that a big mummy or a big daddy will rescue us" - I couldn't agree more! Tea Party politicians (and our Australian subsidiary, the Billy Tea Party) have a different view, thinking the whole biosphere exists just for us and is magically self-healing due to the intercession of a benign imaginary friend. Hopeless idiocy, but some people really do believe this. Sigh.

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    5. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Jeff Payne

      Jeff, "I believe, in a sense Nature responds with care" - what sense would that be? Nature is unaware of us. Everything we perceive and can name would still exist in our absence. Planets, stars, galaxies and non-human life would be untroubled by our absence and, at least on Earth, arguably better off without our rapaciousness and waste. The only difference would be the absence of human names for it all.

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    6. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Doug Hutcheson

      I have actually read some of the stranger US denial suppositories who plead precisely this, Doug. No, they don't plead, they know.

      They know that coal, oil and gas was put by You Know Whom purely for us to burn and that the whole CO2 business is all part of His grand plan for us. Otherwise it wouldn't be here, see. So the Lord wants us to warm his world. Burn something now for Jesus.

      Sighing doesn't quite seem to capture it really.

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    7. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Peter, "the stranger US denial suppositories" are part of that growing sub-species 'Homo Stupidus stupidus', to which we will all belong if we let those supposed suppositories win. Fight the fight, they say: apply the suppository of all knowledge and get to be like Phoney Tony and the Billy Tea Party. Frightening implications, no?

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    8. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Doug Hutcheson

      Oh yes indeed Doug.

      I get the very uneasy feeling that we have here the most radically reactionary government in our history. Certainly the most reactionary government operating in the world today - something like a Tea Party government might look like.

      And like Red Guards or Khmer Rouge, they believe in chanting and that the right slogan repeated loudly and often will change reality.

      I get the feeling that this is Abbott's Year Zero - the start of the campaign to tear down much - if not all - of the reforms and developments of the last 100 years.

      Still, he has stopped global warming.

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    9. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Doug Hutcheson

      By the way, thanks for the 'Billy Tea Party' monicker, Doug - you've earned your title there!

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    10. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      "Still, he has stopped global warming" - yes, single-handedly, he has legislated it out of existence. What a national hero our Dear Leader makes. Not.

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    11. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      "thanks for the 'Billy Tea Party' monicker" - you're welcome. I must admit it was intended to be disparagingly comical, but I am seeing less and less comedic in the path this government has set us on. Charging forward to the 12th century as fast as their little ideas can take them.

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    12. Liz Minchin

      Queensland Editor at The Conversation

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Peter, I haven't had an abuse complaint so will leave the comment above about the Year Zero and Khmer Rouge... But while clearly meant rhetorically, I do wonder how a Cambodian person who lost loved ones might feel reading that.

      Remember how I've raised this before in the context of using Nazis flippantly? Real people died at the hands of the Nazis – and there are survivors still living today – and that's also true of the Red Guards and Khmer Rouge.

      So this is more a question of taste than moderation – but Abbott's Year Zero? Really?

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    13. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Liz Minchin

      Yes you are correct Ms Liz - it was insensitive, yes even tasteless - for which I apologise, particularly to any Kmers present. .

      However, in my meagre defence I should point out that my use of the hateful term was quite deliberate rather than flippant not even rhetorical actually ... meaning this common delusion amongst true fanatics and political zealots (of all persuasions) that they can reset the clock, stop history and undo it. I firmly believe that this "unity ticket" government truly believes a new Epoch has begun... really believes it.

      It's a French notion (typical) going back to the French Revolutionary Calendar of 1792 which began at year 1. Premptive apologies to any remnant declasse aristos reading here.

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    14. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Peter, "this "unity ticket" government truly believes a new Epoch has begun". At the risk of being offensive, it reminds me of 'the thousand year riech' (Tausendjähriges Reich) so beloved of an unspeakable regime, not so long ago that people have forgotten it. The similarities in aspiration are chilling.

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  22. Jeff Payne

    PhD in Political Science and Masters in Public Policy

    Nice article Clive. I believe that it is this kind of argument, that we need to fundamentally change our relationship with the 'Earth', which the Greens, as a political movement, have fundamentally failed to communicate. Socialism managed to communicate its ideals, a movement beyond economic formalism to the satisfaction of needs, but the environmental movement is lacking its Marx. I've recently become more active in the Green Party as a political movement, only slightly I must add, and I've been…

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    1. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Jeff Payne

      Jeff - I would argue that the age of science is just beginning.

      Coal mining, oil extraction, and overuse of resources are not science. In fact it is the science that tells us what future ecological catastrophe lies ahead if we don't change our ways.

      Where I think the Greens have gone wrong on climate change isn't their policies, and it isn't Milnes lack of knowledge (if you read any of her longer speeches on climate change it is very clear that she knows what needs to happen by when).

      The…

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    2. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Someone once suggested that the reason the reactionaries are winning the fight with the environmentalists (forgive the crude labels) was that they know damned well that it IS a life-or-death fight for the whole market-driven system, while environmentalists keep trying to find a compromise.

      Personally, I'm not convinced that it is axiomatically true that you can't have a sustainable economic system that is essentially market-driven, so that The Greens' stance is not absurd per se.

      Besides, it's the old argument of is it better to compromise and achieve an imperfect but just about adequate outcome or to stand your ground and fight for the whole deal?

      Frankly, the question remains moot but, the longer things drag on, the more I suspect the reactionaries might be right - maybe it is an all-or-nothing fight to the death...

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    3. John Doyle

      architect

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Those reactionaries are doing a damned good job of hiding that knowledge, Felix.
      From what I read, it's possible some top deniers like the Koch brothers do realise the danger, but it suits them to play along. Most deniers though are serious about it, a quasi religion for them. Then we get the Al Gores on the other side who propose scenarios that are easy to demolish. This stuff just gives ammo to the other side.

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    4. Jane Middlemist

      citizen

      In reply to Jeff Payne

      Well said, Jeff except for one little quibble.
      Won't science be important in helping people to understand the interconnectedness of everything on Earth; and the interconnectedness of the various sciences as well?
      If people become more aware of Nature as the most important set of inter-related systems to try and understand, I think the scientists would be leading the way really …

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    5. Jeff Payne

      PhD in Political Science and Masters in Public Policy

      In reply to Clive Hamilton

      Thanks, Clive, for referring me to your article on Heidegger. I've been torn on the question if this is the right forum for trying to engage with the issues raised in your article and I've concluded that I think that it is. Firstly, I would not usually have the opportunity to exchange ideas with someone of your standing and, secondly, we might understand such sites as this as being the new agora. The correct forum for such discussions.

      Let me begin by expressing my appreciation and utmost respect…

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    6. Jeff Payne

      PhD in Political Science and Masters in Public Policy

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      I'm not sure if you understand what I'm saying Michael. I'm not saying that the age of science is over because it no longer can tell us about the world. The age of science is over because science, the natural or social sciences, will never again define our world. The Age of Science was one where poets and philosophers had, in a way, been forced to leave centre stage because science alone would reveal our world. It is this mode of revealing, technological, which was the danger but the danger has now…

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    7. Yuri Pannikin

      Director

      In reply to Jeff Payne

      Come on Jeff, you're just looking for a new religion to replace Marxism -- and all the nonsense that went with that.

      Nature is nihilism. It comes, it goes, it falls, it grows, and it doesn't give a toss about some ism created by some human. That's the meaning of deep ecology, and that's the ultimate sense of Gaia.

      If it's important to you, work to protect it, but don't make a religion of it. The dinosaurs made it work for around 200 million years and then in a puff of smoke it was gone -- only to rise again. Nihilism at work. Get used to it.

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    8. John Doyle

      architect

      In reply to Jeff Payne

      Philosophy departments are being closed because they don't stack up financially, Jeff.
      Ominously it reflects the notion that endeavours supported by universities have to pay their way, and be popular to attract fee paying students. Being interested in philosophy, letters, arts etc don't stack up beyond being a fig leaf to cover the the universe part of university.
      It's a pretty damning indictment of our current culture to see 40 law graduates for every single engineering graduate. Worse only some of those engineering graduates find work, whereas barely any law graduates miss out. My son majored in philosophy. He finds it very useful, but not for employment.

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    9. Jeff Payne

      PhD in Political Science and Masters in Public Policy

      In reply to John Doyle

      There are two elements to this this John. Firstly, I'm not sure if your premise is true. I know when I was involved in philosophy in two departments both were not only making money but flourishing. The big complaint at the time, and this was about 10 years ago now, was that the money was being siphoned off to go, and I do not joke for a second, the natural sciences. The whole issue is cost. Philosophy, thinking actually, is cheap. The natural sciences, in contrast, are quite expensive. The growth…

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    10. John Doyle

      architect

      In reply to Jeff Payne

      I guess I was assuming that philosophy was losing relevance in students minds when commenting on the money issue. So I don't think I missed that but rather that it was paying its way, which I had instead thought must have influenced the notion that it would not be missed very much.
      My son was very happy to have studied it and he still is, but we agree it's a problem when having to find work, so such courses that help there are in a sense more valued. It's not a good conclusion though, sine we need people aware of how the language is manipulated.

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  23. Doug Hutcheson

    Poet

    "Yet now we see that the planet has been disturbed from its resting state, jolted out of the providential era of climatic stability characteristic of the last 10,000 years, and is now on a new and largely uncontrollable path that is creating conditions dangerous for human life" - a salient point missed by the 'profit at any cost' brigade of the Tea Party and its Oz subsidiary, the Billy Tea Party. They forget that Nature outweighs us and Nature bats last. We need Nature, but Nature does not need us and will be perfectly content if we become extinct through our own greed and rapacity. Homo Stupidus stupidus.

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  24. Brian Westlake

    Common Sage

    It was unfortunate that Rachel Carson's alarmist novel "Silent Spring" resulted in the banning of DDT which inturn caused millions to die unnecessarily from Malaria. Then again those people were probably just the victims of that half-crazed, bloodthirsty and vindictive goddess - Gaia !

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    1. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Yes, Michael. I can only conclude the word 'sage' in his self-description was used in the sense of being a vegetable, not in the sense of being one having wisdom.

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    2. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Felix, "'herb' rather than 'vegetable'" - true, but I was referring to relative intelligence, not phylum ... "8-)

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    3. John Doyle

      architect

      In reply to Brian Westlake

      That's actually a fiction. DDT was losing it's effectiveness by then, so banning it was not such a stretch for its supporters and they are not responsible for the deaths of millions.

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  25. John Doyle

    architect

    Here's George Monbiot today : "The Impossibility of Growth.
    Why collapse and salvation are hard to distinguish from each other"
    http://www.monbiot.com/
    "As the philosopher Michael Rowan points out, the inevitabilities of compound growth mean that if last year's predicted global growth rate for 2014 [3.1%] is sustained, even if we were miraculously to reduce the consumption of raw materials by 90% we delay the inevitable by just 75 years. Efficiency solves nothing while growth continues."

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    1. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to John Doyle

      It's the growth in resource use which is unsustainable.

      Growth due to ideas (books, films, etc) or service (eating at home vs having the same food cooked by a great chef at a good restaurant) is good growth.

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    2. John Doyle

      architect

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      It's threatened as well. Also the fuss about chefs and fine dining is a symptom of the excess that is driving us to the abyss. In architecture we have a rash of stadiums and museums and an obsession with sports that seem eerily prophetic. The Roman world did it so it should be no surprise! So I don't agree with you. Ideas even are so distorted and corrupted, by lazy journalism, by vested interests and callow principles they too are no saviour. Good ideas exist but mostly far from mainstream media. You ca seek out Noam Chomsky for good ideas, but he's hardly a majority. It's all very worrying.

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    3. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to John Doyle

      Fifty Shades of Grey is an example of economic growth via ideas - even if this is possibly the worst written book ever to sell well.

      My point about the chef was that the same food can have value added. And this again is economic growth.

      Obviously making a building is using resources.

      Being sustainable and using renewable energy does not mean the end to economic growth, and it does not mean that life becomes harsh.

      It is the sustainable use of natural resources, pollution, and greenhouse emissions that has to end.

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    4. John Doyle

      architect

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Yes, well I'm talking about the crash that goes with the resources, financial and climate induced crash.
      There will always be ideas this side of extinction.

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    5. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Michael, "It is the sustainable use of natural resources, pollution, and greenhouse emissions that has to end" - er, 'unsustainable' I think you meant?

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    6. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Doug Hutcheson

      Oh no. Perhaps my mistake is the first sign that my subconscious is become a climate change denier, and in a few years I'll become an irrational fool spouting nonsense and non-science.

      Yes Doug, I did mean UNsustainable. And if my mind goes, please be gentle with me.

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    7. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Michael, if your mind goes, perhaps it can look out for mine while it is away - mine went years ago, due to it being exposed to too much cognitive dissonance from the Dark Side. "8-)

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  26. Tony Dickson

    Farmer at Farm Forestry and ecological services

    I am pleased to note that this article has attracted the usual suspects. I would love to sit around a table and have a beery conversation with you lot. I suspect that the digressions would be more than a little eclectic and entertaining, but that we would find little to fundamentally disagree about; apart from Brian of course.
    But herein lies the problem doesn't it?
    My son, like his old Dad, is involved with University politics and is going to save the world, just like his Dad back in the early seventies. My problem is how to tell him that his cohort of idealistic, intelligent, well informed and energetic friends are in no way representative of their generation, without compromising his optimism.
    Such conversations are mutually reinforcing, but do they achieve anything more?
    Sorry, I find am a little despondent of late.

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    1. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Tony Dickson

      "his cohort of idealistic, intelligent, well informed and energetic friends are in no way representative of their generation"

      So his generation is mainly indifferent, unintelligent, ignorant and lazy.

      Sounds great.

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    2. Tony Dickson

      Farmer at Farm Forestry and ecological services

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      Chris, you appear to have a rather ungenerous view of the younger generation, as is your interpretation of my comment; ungenerous and poorly reasoned. Unrepresentative does not mean opposite. For example, to describe someone as an exceptional athlete does not imply that everyone else is disabled.

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    3. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      Chris, "So his generation is mainly indifferent, unintelligent, ignorant and lazy. Sounds great" - sounds like my generation; in fact, it sounds like the normal human condition, unfortunately. Remember, half the population is of below average intelligence, half has below average interest in public affairs and half has below average motivation to work (of course, before you jump on me, I know all those halves are not necessarily the same people).

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  27. Geoff Bergreen

    Unemployed

    The State of Things

    Coal, oil, petrol, carbon
    Cooperate conglomerates obstructing future tech
    Have you heard the news
    Smile everyone and wave
    This is freedom's paradise
    The pace is set
    Idling efficiency peaked and turbo
    The cross gleams over burning oil fields
    Back in the technological stone age...
    ...when the carbon engine laced earth
    Shall fate be tempted further
    And drink oil deep with a side of slag
    Will the aliens save?
    "What aliens?"
    ...And the fool is relegated to the quaint…

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  28. Clive Hamilton

    Professor of Public Ethics, Centre For Applied Philosophy & Public Ethics (CAPPE) at Charles Sturt University

    What a terrific comment stream this has been, undoubtedly the best-informed and most thoughtful response to any of my pieces. I'm guessing some thanks should go to the moderators for keeping the frivolous and malicious out of it. Thanks to you all.

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    1. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Clive Hamilton

      It WAS a well-informed and sensible discuss Clive.

      But your saying so has cursed us, and the next post was from a denier.

      So a warning to those reading this thread - below is more of the same old denier vs science debate that never achieves anything.

      I had reported Alan Poirier's first post hoping that the truth or otherwise of climate change would be deemed off-topic, and saying "the climate is always changing" would be deemed misinformation. Unfortunately my hope was not realised.

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  29. Alan Poirier

    logged in via Facebook

    The notion that we have awoken a "beast" is not borne out by the evidence. Our current climate is hardly tumultuous. After all, when the Earth first emerged from the last glacial cycle, that warming trend was interrupted 12,800 years ago when temperatures dropped dramatically in only several decades. Then 1,300 years later, temperatures spiked as much as 20°F (11°C) within just several years. Sudden changes like this occurred at least 24 times during the past 100,000 years. The climate is always changing.

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    1. Clive Hamilton

      Professor of Public Ethics, Centre For Applied Philosophy & Public Ethics (CAPPE) at Charles Sturt University

      In reply to Alan Poirier

      I thought my argument was pretty clear. The Earth's climate has been enormously variable BUT it settled 10,000 years ago into a remarkably stable and pleasant one. It was this that allowed civilisation to flourish. Now we are leaving that 10,000 year epoch of stability and heading for a very long period of high variability in a hotter world.

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    2. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Alan Poirier

      "Then 1,300 years later, temperatures spiked as much as 20°F (11°C) within just several years."

      Not over the entire world at the same time of course.

      "Sudden changes like this occurred at least 24 times during the past 100,000 years."

      Dansgaard–Oeschger events occurred 25 times during the last glacial period. They haven't occurred during the Holocene.

      I'd be checking my sources for bias if I were you, Alan. They obviously want to give you selective information.

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    3. Alan Poirier

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Clive Hamilton

      My point was that inter-glacials have always been tumultuous. If you look at the record for glacial inceptions, you will see that in the years preceding inception, the climate undergoes drastic changes.

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    4. Alan Poirier

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      The Holocene has seen some of the biggest changes. Egyptian, Minoan, Roman optimums, MWP, LIA... Huge variances in temperatures.

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    5. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Alan Poirier

      "My point was that inter-glacials have always been tumultuous."

      What do you mean "always been"? The Holocene hasn't so I don't know where you get the descriptor "always" from.

      "If you look at the record for glacial inceptions, you will see that in the years preceding inception, the climate undergoes drastic changes."

      OK so you mean inter-glacials have always been tumultuous in the years preceding inception of a glacial. But looking at graphs of interglacial temperature in Epica and Vostok reveals that the "tumultuous" change just before inception was always cooling, not warming like we are having now.

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    6. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Alan Poirier

      "Huge variances in temperatures."

      But nothing like your globally mythical 20°F (11°C). Probably less than 1°C all of them.

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    7. Alan Poirier

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      "Warming" needs to be put in context. Warming since 1750, yes. But cooling since the Roman optimum. I doubt we will ever see temperatures that we experienced during that optimum. More's the pity. We are about to enter a Maunder minimum and it will not be much fun. Warming is always better than cooling.

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    8. Alan Poirier

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      I meant no disrespect. It's an excellent scholarly piece on the emissivity of CO2 and shows that it cannot be treated as a black body which is what the models do.

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    9. John Doyle

      architect

      In reply to Alan Poirier

      We are now committed to a warming planet. Todays 2degree forecasts are based on carbon emitted 40+ years ago. In 40 years time we will see what the effects are of todays' emissions.
      "Business as usual" patterns of behaviour will see a warming of the planet by 6 degrees by 2100. Before that point the feedback cycles will be amplifying the effect and the temperature by 2300 is reckoned to be a 12 degree warming! This is not something precedented in the planets known history.
      A 12 degree warming will raise temperatures from 80degrees fahrenheit outside to 180 degrees.
      Even at 6 degrees half the surface life would go extinct, by 12degrees there would be almost no life left at all.
      So that's some beast you are dissing!!!

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    10. Clive Hamilton

      Professor of Public Ethics, Centre For Applied Philosophy & Public Ethics (CAPPE) at Charles Sturt University

      In reply to Alan Poirier

      There have been regional variations but nothing like the huge changes in the global mean prior to the Holocene. In the Holocene the global average temperature has been exceptionally stable. A glance at the usual charts shows that.

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    11. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Alan Poirier

      "But cooling since the Roman optimum."

      It's unlikely that the Roman optimum was warmer than it is now. Certainly there is no evidence that it was probably warmer than it is now. Even if it was warmer by some fraction of one degree C, that amount of cooling over that period of time could hardly be called "tumultuous".

      "I doubt we will ever see temperatures that we experienced during that optimum."

      Thanks for your opinion but it's worth what I paid for it.

      "We are about to enter a Maunder minimum"

      It had better hurry up before it's too late.

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    12. Mike Stasse

      Retired Energy Consultant

      In reply to Alan Poirier

      I completely disagree...... I for one cannot stand the heat, and as result of my concern for the future am moving from Qld to Tasmania.

      It's easier to thermoregulate in a cool climate than a hot one. If it's cold, you just put more clothes on. If it's too hot, then you have to rely on fossil fuelled technology, the VERY reason we are in this mess, to cool down.

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    13. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Alan Poirier

      "the emissivity of CO2 and shows that it cannot be treated as a black body which is what the models do"

      The models do nothing of the sort. Where do you get your disinformation from? That paper doesn't even mention CO2.

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    14. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Alan Poirier

      "Think Younger Dryas"

      You really should give up desperately moving your goal posts. You won't look quite so foolish.

      The Younger-Dryas was not in any interglacial. It occurred before the Holocene (pretty much).

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    15. John Doyle

      architect

      In reply to Alan Poirier

      I can't access that article. However it would have to gainsay the IPCC and other scientific research that do not support your contention. Negative feedbacks, such as from aerosols,are accounted for in the science. If you think they are not you are mistaken.
      Here's a scary article to consider;
      https://sites.google.com/site/300orgsite/are-we-doomed
      http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/05/national-assessment-climate-ameriica
      Here's a test for you:
      decide which option you think you would choose from the alternatives presented in this video;
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zORv8wwiadQ
      Then decide if what you promote is a good idea, or not.

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    16. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      Mike, "I ... am moving from Qld to Tasmania" - I understand Macquarie Island is very nice at this time of year and likely to be even more attractive by the end of the century. "8-)

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    17. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      Chris, "You won't look quite so foolish" - I don't think that's a consideration for some posters. When the facts are against one, illusion is all one has left.

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    18. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Doug Hutcheson

      Yes obviously he's a climate science denial troll who joined The Conversation today simply for that purpose.

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    19. Jane Middlemist

      citizen

      In reply to Doug Hutcheson

      "When the facts are against one, illusion is all one has left." Maybe so but occasionally, the trilly people may learn something from a presentation of the facts. Not often, I know, but worth a try?

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    20. John Doyle

      architect

      In reply to Jane Middlemist

      I've tried it a couple of times, not with this video,and it has worked in so far as their thread stopped, but not in any recanting yet.

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    21. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Jane Middlemist

      Jane, "the trilly people may learn something from a presentation of the facts" - I doubt if the trillys are reachable in the depths of their cavern, but a presentation of the facts is always good in refutation of trilly statements, to give any confused followers of the thread a chance to read and digest the truth.

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    22. Jane Middlemist

      citizen

      In reply to John Doyle

      Too early John, to be sure their thread has stopped. They might be slow thinkers (like me) and be preparing a devastating rebuttal ! You can never be sure with the trilly-tribe. ( Dark horses ). They might be "finking fings froo" and come back with summink sensational? Probably not though …

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    23. Jane Middlemist

      citizen

      In reply to Doug Hutcheson

      Agreed Doug. Everyone deserves to be told the truth about what affects them and their lives. No use waiting for the gummint to do it.

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    24. John Doyle

      architect

      In reply to Jane Middlemist

      Be nice though it it was a recant, not more of the same. No joy so far, as you assume would be the case

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  30. David Newell

    logged in via LinkedIn

    This "polarization" is unhealthy and counterproductive. The Earth is neither hostile nor non-hostile, but has been the nursery for Life for eons, and Life has developed an interconnectedness which is resilient and self correcting. Until "humans" came along, with the illusion of separateness from "the all", and bvegan ignorantly geo-engineering the planet, with a destructiveness whose impact may be as decimating as an asteroid strike.

    It could be that "our role" in the continuation of Life on this planet is/was to provided a homeostatsis that could anticipate and prevent the periodic Life-wiping effects of asteroid strikes:

    And it could be that the tragedy we have begun to precipitate is necessary to cause us to see that we must change "our mode of thinking" if we are to take our correct "place" in the one organism that "The Earth", in fact, is.

    A mode of creative behavior which may yet ameliorate the onrushing disaster can be found at WWW.EarthThrive.Net.

    Thank you.

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    1. Michelle Bruce

      citizen

      In reply to David Newell

      I agree with you David, we ought to try, but the problem seems to be all pervading and unmanageable. Agriculture, fishing, irrigation, topsoil loss, the environmental (and ethical) degradation caused by meat production, the energy industry and nuclear power, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, transport and war all seem to be inescapable bi-products of humanity. Can humans change to such a radical extent that they are no longer harmful? Imagine a world with no electricity, no meat consumption, no commercial…

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    2. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Michelle Bruce

      Michelle - becoming sustainable does not mean going back to caves.

      Renewable energy means that there can be plenty of electricity. Proper recycling means that we can have things to use this energy.

      Likewise most of your other cut-backs are not needed or don't need to be as bad as you portray.

      Future generations will not curse us for destroying the planet.

      They will curse us for destroying the planet when we knew what we were doing and it would have been very economically feasible to fix the problem.

      To do this we need political action which goes much further than what even the Greens propose. But as most commentary and comments (even here) are pro one of the major parties, things are very unlikely to change.

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    3. Michelle Bruce

      citizen

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      I am an environmentalist first and foremost, and have no affiliations or sympathies with any political party. But I think the problem is on a much more massive scale than generally acknowledged. I don't think solar power and recycling will get us there. The problem is not political parties, it is the people that back them up. People are fundamentally selfish and shortsighted, that's their nature.

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    4. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Michelle Bruce

      The environmental issues are all political - anything an individual does is just green washing.

      Organisations such as ACF have worked hard to make it not political - they think that contacting your local Liberal or Labor member will make a difference. But we all know that this will not make either party make the changes that are needed.

      I agree with you that we are pretty much stuffed. But I think that those who care need to put up a fight. Perhaps we can make the very very bad only very bad.

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    5. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      Without reading the article in detail, its clear that it is talking about current solar PVR technology.

      It's easy to find solutions that would work. For example, have a big solar station which heats oil, and that hot oil is used to make steam to generate electricity. Why can't this keep working for ages?

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    6. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      By the way Mike, almost nobody clicks links.

      So if an article says something that you want to get across, give a summary.

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    7. John Doyle

      architect

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Speak for yourself, Michael.
      The links are all for a purpose. It helps with providing explanations for the points of view expressed, without having to say it all longhand in each response. If you want the blogs to be tiresome, wordy and long winded, then don't make links.
      I certainly click on links, and you would do well to do the same.

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    8. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to John Doyle

      If you are webmaster for the destination then you can see exactly how many people click a link - it is very few.

      So I'm speaking about what everyone does (or should that be what almost everyone does not do) not just my own opinion.

      And I'm not saying don't post links - it provides further information for the few who are interested.

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    9. Mike Stasse

      Retired Energy Consultant

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      MOVING PARTS....... making replacement bearings etc without fossil fuels will be almost impossible. WHY do you think large machines only started appearing with the industrial revolution?

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    10. John Doyle

      architect

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      So you weren't referring to this site? Or have the editors let you into their confidence?
      Certainly for many sites what you say might apply, but I would be surprised it applied to The Conversation.
      If I have only a passing interest in a topic, I too might give links a miss.
      But not otherwise.

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    11. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      There will never be a shortage of oil to lubricate moving parts.

      It's burning the stuff to make energy which is the problem.

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    12. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to John Doyle

      It is the webmaster of the DESTINATION of the link who can see how many people arrive and from where.

      So no need for the editors of TC to be involved.

      I've been the webmaster of some links I've posted and I've watched what happened (which is not much).

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    13. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      You don't Mike, because if you did follow a link from here, and then always check out the links, you would be following all the links in the destination article, and all the links in each article you visit, which goes on and on.

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