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The Curious Avenues of Professorial Inquiry

Professor Petra Tschakert at the University of Western Australia is halfway through a project to “locate loss from climate change in everyday places”. These places include my very own Perth stamping ground of Willagee.

Heavens, my parents moved to Willagee in late 1953, when it was raw sand. Willagee featured the Housing Commission’s half-finished jerry-built houses, for wharf toilers like my stepfather and ferals like our neighbours. I say jerry-built because, for example, our bath was cracked. The Commission installed a replacement, also cracked. We lived with it. My parents died but my big sister to this day is a Willagee girl. No-one knows more about 67 years of climate change impacts in Willagee, if any, than me and my sister.

I write all this with trepidation. I was backlashed when I last wrote about Willagee in 1981. Bob Gottliebsen had just started Business Review Weeklyand for a year I had to write all the Letters to the Editor. It was boring and as a family in-joke I wrote myself a letter urging capital gains tax on family homes, and signed it, “G. Princip, Willagee, WA”. Someone from Perth wrote us a real and blistering response saying there was no G. Princip of Willagee on the electoral roll. The rotter had noticed my G. Princip might be the same Gavrilo Princip who shot the archduke and started the First World War. After reflecting for several seconds, we threw that complaint in the bin.

Anyway, Geography Professor Tschakert is discovering — with the help of a $353,000 research grant from grateful taxpayers — how my sister and I, plus other Willagee types, manage our climate “grief and hope”.Innovatively, she helps us cope with our “intolerable losses”.

Her four-year study also covers suburban Attadale and Kelmscott, further-out Darlington, and the wheatbelt towns of Toodyay, Northam, Merredin and Southern Cross. The research is not just academic folderol. She claims two significant benefits: “from this science of loss” she will do a “critical analysis” of our “community resilience in the face of socio-economic and environmental threats”. She will also sool town planners or others from the government to help us. Her broad aim is to see how the ghastly impacts of climate change, namely “fire, drought and flooding”, are putting our deepest values at risk.

Memo to Dr Tschakert: It would take a Noah’s Ark extreme event to flood Willagee. It’s mostly on a big hill.

 

HEY READERS, BEFORE YOU GO ANY FURTHER HIT THIS LINK TO THE ORIGINAL TO HELP MY HARD-PRESSED EDITOR KEEP HIS JOB, HE DEPENDS ON READER VIEWS.

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Fires? The only Willagee fire I can remember is when some lousy brats lit our Guy Fawkes’ bonfire and ran off laughing. Drought? Our sprinklers doused the back lawn all morning in the Fifties and Sixties. For dam shortages since, blame The Greens.

The professor’s project also embraces Willagee’s near-neighbour, Attadale, a riverside joint once home to Heath Ledger and cricketers Mitchell and Shaun Marsh. Not much flood, fire and drought there either.

Her third suburb, Kelmscott, did suffer a bushfire in 2011, lit by some idiot on his private block in defiance of a windy fire-ban day. There’d been drought-fuelled build-up of grass and dry bush — nothing whatsoever to do with global warming. Ex-Resources Minister Matt Canavan last March forced sheepish CSIRO top brass to admit they had no studies demonstrating a link between climate change, fire weather and bushfires. Likewise, top climate crusader Dr Andy Pitman, of UNSW, publicly let slip last June there was no reason why global warming should worsen droughts, rather the contrary.[1] Since both Pitman and Tschakert are IPCC top lead authors. It’s time they got their stories aligned.

I don’t really understand Willagee’s climate grief because the latest HadCrut global temp trend shows a mere 0.8degC rise in the past 80 years. For most Willagee veterans, the priority is flogging their blocks in a dud real estate market.

As for the professor’s concern for safeguarding our values, my Willagee family know a lot about values. We got kicked out of our rented home on Stirling-highway, Nedlands in 1953 and wound up in “Mulberry Farm”, a decrepit ex-air force camp near Fremantle. Mum has written of it as

this pinched little settlement where the homeless and dispossessed of the city were herded … Nights erupted into fights, the crash of breaking bottles, torrents of abuse between couples run ragged by the tension of waiting [for a Commission home], dogs barking in sympathy, an altercation that took a serious turn, a burly axe-wielder chasing a woman shouting, ‘Don’t you try that trick again, you bitch!’ followed by the shriek of a police car siren.[2]

Stepfather Vic lumped sacks “down hold”, the wharf’s most dangerous and dirty work: “Bags of asbestos sometimes broke in the sling hanging from the high crane and showered men with the stuff. Only later did they know it to be deadly, even to women washing their overalls.” Bad as the job was, it was worse when Vic caught the bus to Freo and got no job at the morning pickup, wasting his morning and his fares.

Finally came the letter offering us a cottage in Willagee (nicknamed “White-ant City”). We lived a week inside by candlelight until the electricity came on from Collie fossil fuel, but we didn’t mind that.

Our neighbours comprised a man prone to beating his slatternly wife. Their feral kids and dogs all had fleas. The wife would lament to us that her oldest was “a ba-a-a-d boy!” hinting at misfortunes involving his sister and even herself. The least of his bad habits was throwing fire-crackers into the dunny where his mother sat screaming.

Mum at some point in exasperation told the husband to “drop dead”. Two days later he and I were walking to the bus stop and a snappy mongrel jumped at him. He slid to the ground dead of a heart attack or stroke. Mum went in to console the widow. “’e was the breadwinner,” she sobbed.

Their youngest boy grew up to serve a long stretch for rape. Mum provided the judge a character reference based on his hopelessly compromised Willagee upbringing.

Opposite our house was a newly-planted pine plantation on land owned by the incredibly wealthy University of Westerm Australia. We watched it grow for 40 years. It was cut down for suburban plots about the same year my folks paid off their mortgage.

Willagee today is gentrifying fast, swanky bungalows replacing the fibro-clad Commission homes. But pockets of old Willagee remain, including a cohort that forced the Butler Street liquor outlet to become a steel-clad fortress against break-ins.

Dr Tschakert can use any of this in her peer-reviewed report, free of charge. I fancy it’s as good as her own output.[3]

For example, she thinks  recent bushfires, floods and cyclones are uniquely extreme. They ain’t. Not a climate modeller herself, she expresses touching faith in the mainstream IPCC models, of which 111 of 114 runs exaggerated the warming trends, according to the IPCC itself.[4] She thinks it “reckless” to ignore the models’ forecasts and worst-case scenarios, which the IPCC in 2001 said must by definition be bogus.[5][6] She needs to read the devastating critiques of climate forecasting models by oceanic modeller Dr Mototaka Nakamura (MIT, Duke, Jet Propulsion Laboratory):

These models completely lack some critically important climate processes and feedbacks, and represent some other critically important climate processes and feedbacks in grossly distorted manners to the extent that makes these models totally useless for any meaningful climate prediction. [7]

Professor Tschakert specialises in people’s “anticipatory” grief over global warming, ie., stuff that hasn’t happened yet and might never happen: “There is fantastic research that shows how to embrace grief and loss in an anticipatory way. A term that is used is anticipatory history.”[8]

She also appears to disparage individual resilience to climate because the nanny state ought to fix things:

… the Australian states would like to see their citizens ideally as resilient citizens that can adapt by themselves, that can make the right choices but on their own, (they) ought to be reinventing themselves to take care of something which, really, truthfully, ought to be the responsibility of the state.

Dr Tschakert seems unduly lugubrious, writing papers like “One thousand ways to experience loss: A systematic analysis of climate-related intangible harm from around the world.”[9] She needs to look up tangibles like global agricultural yields. After a half-century of warming and extra CO2, yields for wheat, barley, rice, soybeans, spuds, and bananas continue to rise.  On just about any indicator of health and well-being, the globe’s population has never been better off (ChiCom virus and ChiCom threats excepted).

In another co-authored paper called “A science of loss” she also plumbs “strategies for embracing and managing grief”.[10] A co-author was Melbourne Uni’s Jon Barnett who had enough common sense to call b/s on Extinction Rebellion zealots at Melbourne University last December, much to their indignation. I clearly recognise Barnett’s hand in this minatory paragraph:

Predictions of loss may themselves contribute to loss. Dramatic narratives about future crises have been shown to influence the risk of crises occurring. Several studies explain how talk of catastrophic climate futures rarely leads to mitigation and adaptation but instead results in fatalism, self-blame, underinvestment in vulnerable places, and even accelerated degradation of natural resources.

I did some “anticipatory history” of my own by attending Tschakert’s lecture at Sydney University next August titled  “Epistemic Violence and Slow Emergencies in Today’s Climate Justice: A Provocation”.[11] The problems of time travel compounded when the lecture was virus-postponed indefinitely but I still caught the gist of it, Captain Kirk-style.[12] She asked,

How do we find our ways within these emerging dilemmas [re basic climate justice] without losing track of core development goals in the Anthropocene and our commitment to decolonizing development and disaster scholarship?

It does all really make sense, or would if there actually was any “Anthropocene”.

The $64 question is how much Willagee temperatures have actually risen in the past century or so. The answer is 1degC, or nearly that. I can’t see how this small increase over 100 years can cause anyone much inconsolable grief and loss.[13] I wouldn’t notice 1decC change over five minutes, let alone 70 years.

In any case my sister and I can now buy ample Kleenex at Willagee’s Butler Street  IGA  to mop our climate tears.

Tony Thomas’s new book,Come to think of it – essays to tickle the brain, is available as book ($34.95) or e-book ($14.95)here.

 

[1] “…as far as the climate scientists know there is no link between climate change and drought…there is no reason a priori why climate change should make the landscape more arid…this may not be what you read in newspapers.”

[2] Williams, Justina, Anger & Love, Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 1993, p164. Also p180.

[3] A little coincidence: our first home from ca 1942 was at Number 30, Stirling Highway, Nedlands. Professor Tschakert now works at No. 35.

[4] “… an analysis of the full suite of CMIP5 historical simulations [computer models] reveals that 111 out of 114 realisations show a [temperature] trend over 1998–2012 that is higher than the entire HadCRUT4 trend [actual temperatures] ensemble. This difference between simulated and observed trends could be caused by some combination of (a) internal climate variability, (b) missing or incorrect radiative forcing, and (c) model response error.” [chapter 9, text box 9.2, page 769]

[5] IPCC: “In climate research and modelling, we should recognize that we are dealing with a coupled non-linear chaotic system, and therefore that the long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible.” (Chapter 14, Section 14.2.2.2. )]

[6] MURRAY-DARLING BASIN ROYAL COMMISSION, Tschakert evidence, p3451

[7] Nakamura: The take-home message is (that) all climate simulation models, even those with the best parametric representation scheme for convective motions and clouds, suffer from a very large degree of arbitrariness in the representation of processes that determine the atmospheric water vapor and cloud fields. Since the climate models are tuned arbitrarily …there is no reason to trust their predictions/forecasts. With values of parameters that are supposed to represent many complex processes being held constant, many nonlinear processes in the real climate system are absent or grossly distorted in the models. It is a delusion to believe that simulation models that lack important nonlinear processes in the real climate system can predict (even) the sense or direction of the climate change correctly.

[8] MURRAY-DARLING BASIN ROYAL COMMISSION, Tschakert evidence, p3457.

[9] The professor also ran an undergraduate unit last year called, simply, “Disasters”.

[10] Nature Climate Change; London Vol. 6, Iss. 11,  (Nov 2016): 976-978. DOI:10.1038/nclimate3140

[11] If Professor Tschakert is a top-level UWA salaried professor she’s on a base pay of $188,708 plus masses of perks starting with 17% super. A nice. little 2.6% pay rise for all UWA academics is scheduled next January.

[12] Commander of starship USS Enterprise

[13] Perth temp data from 12km away are all we’ve got.  The Bureau of Meteorology (BoM)  ships temp data for Perth to the UK as inputs to the HadCRUT global temp series. For some reason the Met mobilises two data sets, one called “Perth Regional Office”, and one called “Perth”, from slightly different site locations. Both start at 1910 but the first stops at 1992 and the other is on-going.  I know “the science is settled” but the two nearby sites have differed by as little as 0.4degC and as much as 1.4degC, with strange jumps perhaps suggesting data faults. The past century’s temp trend is either 0.8degC (“Regional Office”) or 1degC (“Perth”).

5 comments
  • Alistair

    Love it Tony! I particularly like “anticipatory history” I’m going to use that myself! I’ve been reading Gertrude Himmelfarb about postmodern history being liberated from the tyranny of facts and thought that pretty was good. But this opens a whole new range of possibilities.

  • Peter Smith

    I liked it too Tony. But I want to know whether people like Prof Tschakert have always (back into the sixties at least) occupied parts of academia and we simply didn’t notice. I assume not cos I didn’t notice back then. So when did they emerge and multiply; and how did they ever get these cushy jobs?

  • Tony Tea

    When I was at school in the 70s we watched a CSIRO environmental fillum called System 6: A Fragile Nest. It was a documentary about Perth’s ecosystem and how Perth was a monte to run out of water unless measures were taken. I can’t remember what those measures were, but the doco was a cautionary tale against overpopulation in Perth.
    I’m assuming that you in Perth are all pretty thirsty about now. I’m also assuming that if the temperature in Willagee has increased by 1°C in 100 years and there was nothing there in 1920 and something there in 2020, concrete, tiles and tar might just contribute to that 1°C rise. Not that you’d notice.

  • ianl

    It seems there are advantages to academic tenure that those unendowed have not fully appreciated. Going Through the Looking Glass with Alice is actually a simple, requisite activity.

  • Doubting Thomas

    Ianl, just as long as you check your sense of proportion at the door. It’s moments like these that make me content, if not exactly glad, that these cushy jobs in academia are available if only to keep such raving nutcases happily occupied, and away from real jobs where they could do real damage.
    Our taxes being well spent for once.

Post a comment

4 thoughts on “The Curious Avenues of Professorial Inquiry

  1. “Anticipatory history”, better known as “manipulative fiction”.
    This “academic” would have been writing peer reviewed chronicles of the search for the Holy Grail.

    Like

  2. Hi Tony,

    I tried to post the following comment onto your Quadrant article but there was nowhere for me to enter my details required prior to commenting.

    Much more about the rabble-rousing founders and other significant members of Extinction Rebellion can be found in my article “spitlightON ExtibctionRebellion/RisingUP?/CompassionateRevolutionLtd! (https://globalpoliticalshenanigans.blogspot.com/2019/04/spotlighton-extinction-rebellion.html).

    organisation.

    Some revealing quotes –

    ” .. Extinction Rebellion isn’t about the climate .. never say we’re a climate movement .. we’re not. We’re a Rebellion .. coming together through .. mass political action that breaks the law. It’s the most effective way .. to actually create a
    crisis in society .. Through mass civil resistance, we’re going to create a
    new global regime .. we are creating a separate, true, fundamental democracy ..
    Extinction Rebellion is .. just about democracy .. we are calling for a fundamental change of the political and economic system .. We believe .. that confrontation through mass civil disobedience is necessary .. “.
    ” .. I run a charity and its mostly about securing your own salary .. “.

    Anyone supporting this lot of mad anarchists should be licked up for a long, long time.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. In Parts 1 and 2 of his Quadrant article on Extinction Rebellion – that enthusiastic scaremonger about predicted almost imminent global climate chaos/catastrophe/emergency arising from our burgeoning use of fossil fuels – Tony mentioned a few of the rabble-rousing XR founding and fellow members, i.e:
    – “mother” of XR, Gail Bradbrook,
    – XR’s inspirational fantasist, Roger Hallam,
    – theologian Stuart Basden,
    – XR spokesman, philosopher and environmental activist Rupert Read.

    Given their doom laden CACC message, it is reasonable to expect at least some of those XR members would have relevant education, training or experience in the hard scientific disciplines required for any hope of understanding the processes and drivers of the different global climates. There is virtually no evidence of this, with only one founding member (Gail Bradbrook) appearing to have relevant education – but without relevant training or experience)..

    More on each of these members (and many others) can be found in the article “SpotlightON-ExtinctionRebellion/RisingUP?/CompasdionateRevolutionLtd!” (https://globalpoliticalshenanigans.blogspot.com/2019/04/spotlighton-extinction-rebellion.html), Sub-section 3.1 “Founding Members and Associates”.
    Meanwhile, here are some snippets:-
    :
    3.1.1 Gail Marie Bradbrook .. is a molecular biophysicist by training, though she hasn’t worked in that capacity for quite some time. Not long after finishing her post-doctoral research into ‘protein saccharide interactions’, she became a consultant for several ‘political charities’ and has, for the past 18 years worked exclusively as a professional campaigner – a role which, during a talk at Off-Grid Festival, she admits is ‘mostly about securing your own pay-check’ ..

     3.1.2 Julian Roger Hallam .. is a researcher into social and political issues .. He holds several directorships, including with Compassionate Revolution Limited .. and Radical Think Tank Ltd .. since its incorporation in 2016 ..
    Gail Bradbrook said that, following having her brain rewired by psychedelic drugs in Costa Rica .. ” .. When I arrived back to the UK I was introduced to Roger Hallam and together we began to create the movement that would become Extinction Rebellion. Roger is an academic who specialises in radical campaign design and at the end of our first meeting, which involved the sharing of lots of ideas, information and data, he joked that he had just given me ‘the codes for social changes’. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up .. “.

    His “Open Democracy” blog profile says ” .. Roger Hallam is an activist and social entrepreneur. He is currently doing a PhD at Kings College on the design of digitally enhanced political resistance and empowerment strategies .. ” .. He appears to believe that .. ” .. climate change is about race. .. ” .. It is claimed that he recently said .. “My PhD is in how to cause trouble effectively .. Through mass civil resistance, we’re going to create a new global regime .. ” (https://newint.org/features/2018/11/01/climate-breakdown).

    In her 13th April 2019 Mail-On-Sunday article “The middle-class zealots who’ll make Monday a misery for millions with eco-activist group planning to bring chaos to Britain” reporter Holly Bancroft (who infiltrated the XR organisation) commented ” .. The most prominent – and radical – of the XR leaders is failed organic farmer and PhD student Roger Hallam. After years in a succession of Left-wing groups, the 52-year-old says the ‘name of the game’ for XR is to ‘bring down all the regimes in the world and replace them’ .. In a recent interview, he said XR protesters should be ready to cause disruption through personal ‘sacrifice’. If necessary, they ‘should be willing to die’ .. “.

    3.1.5 Stuart Jeffrey Basden .. Although there is a dearth of information about Stuart Basden’s qualifications, in his article “Positive encounters .. ” .. he does provide a link to his 2007 theological thesis for the Degree of Master of Arts in Philosophy at the Institute for Christian Studies, Toronto, Ontario, Canada .. He then volunteered for a year on organic farms in various European countries (perhaps that’s how he teamed up with Extinction Rebellion’s  inspirational co-founder and failed organic farmer Roger Hallam) ..

    In July/August 2012 Stuart Basden became Director of Operations for  the University of Toronto student group Toronto350 .. ” .. We are building a global, grassroots movement to solve the climate crisis. We started in June 2012  .. ”
    He resigned from Toronto350 and moved to Bristol in January 2017, where he ” .. quickly got involved with a group of people who were excited enough by the RisingUp mentality .. ” ..  This was shortly after Gail Bradbrook’s  return from Kosta Rica following her ” .. brain being rewired .. ” by psychedelic drugs (see sub-section 3.1.1).

    In order to understand better the abnormal mindset of XR’s founders and associates it is worthwhile reading the entirety of a Stuart Basden rant archived at https://web.archive.org/web/20190423164501/https://xrblog.org/2019/01/18/extinction-rebellion-isnt-about-the-climate/).

    3.1.52 Rupert Read .. Philosopher and Green activist .. Associate Professor of Philosophy in the School of Politics, Philosophy, Language and Communication Studies at the University of East Anglia (one of the UK’s hotbeds of CACC hysteria. He was a Norwich Green Party Councillor from 2004-2011 ..
    His web site boasts that ” .. Most recently, I have been a frequent spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion and I am a member of their political liaison team .. We need action, and soon, against the values of greed and materialism that have placed us upon the precipice of catastrophic climate and ecological collapse .. ”

    On 20th August 2018 the Irish Sun newspaper .. article .. “Time to forget climate ‘debate'” by comedian Oliver Callan .. told one of his funniest satirical jokes yet, referring to politics/economics philosopher Rupert as an ” .. ENVIRONMENTAL EXPERT .. “.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Tony,

    I loved the 15th May comment by en passant on your Quadrant article (https://quadrant.org.au/opinion/doomed-planet/2020/05/132997/). He described how convinced UWA were of the impending global doom due to the imminent ice age. Using proven science, their wonderful computer models left them in no doubt that the world would be virtually uninhabitable by the year 2000!!

    By all accounts that fantasy has been replaced by the CACC fantasy that the world will be virtually uninhabitable by 2030.

    Shades of sadly departed CACC propagandist Professor Stephen Schneider (see https://globalpoliticalshenanigans.blogspot.com/2019/10/appendices-to-spotlighton-extinction.html Appendix 6.1).

    Like

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