You are here: UNE Home / UNE Blogs / Klaus Rohde: Science, Politics and Art

Archive for the 'environment' Category

Australian fascism?

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

Anyone can chose her/his own way to hell, and each country can chose its own way to fascism. In a number of countries, such as Italy, Spain, Germany and various American countries, fascism in the 20th century was “achieved” along different routes, but they had a few things in common, first of all concentration of economic and political power in the hands of a ruling elite made possible by suppression of a genuinely free press and labor unions.

In a number of posts prior to the Australian elections in September 2013, I gave examples which demonstrate a distinct fascist trend in the then opposition led by Tony Abbott
The opposition won the election, supported by the right-wing (mainly Murdoch-run) media, and mainly on the basis of a campaign that the Labor government under Julia Gillard had broken the election promise of not introducing a carbon tax aimed at reducing carbon emissions, i.e., global warming. My earlier post had suggested what would happen if the Liberal-Nationals would win the election, but what actually did happen was far worse.Tony Abbott, just prior to the election, promised that he would not reduce funding for education, the public broadcasters (ABC and SBS), health, that there would be no changes to pensions and no new taxes, to mention only the most important ones. ( All these promises have been broken or attempts are underway to break them. Just recently, the government announced cuts to the ABC of more than Austr.$ 250 million, and to the SBS of about Austr.$ 50 over five years. These cuts are very substantial and may severely affect the functioning of the broadcasters. Today, Mark Scott, the chairman of ABC, announced that about 400 jobs, mainly from the News services, would be cut. But the main emphasis of the attack on the public broadcasters is to cut the editorial powers of the Managing Director. The government intends to ensure that board members of the ABC, appointed by the government, become directly involved in broadcasting policy, in order to guarantee a “more balanced” program. To date ABC and SBS are the only broadcasters that have given a balanced view on politics, climate change etc..This has been a thorn in the eyes of Abbott and ministerial colleagues for a long time. For example, the minister of agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, declared that the ABC should give more time to climate “sceptics”, in other words those who base their views not on scientific evidence but on what is good for mining magnates. Abbott stated that there are two world views, one presented by the Murdoch media, which control about two thirds of the printed media, and the other by ABC, and that his view is the former. Abbott, at least until recently, was a “climate sceptic”, in line with the beliefs of his friend and co-religionist George Pell, until recently Archbishop of Sydney.

Aims of the Abbott government, some still in the process of being accepted by parliament, include deregulation of university fees, i.e. allowing universities to increase or introduce fees for courses, which would disproportionately disadvantage students from poorer backgrounds, introduction of a $7 co-payment fee for doctor visits (for all patients, including the poorest), giving the go-ahead for new harbours on the Great Barrier Reef, cancellation of security measures introduced by the Labor government for financial advisors to give advice in the best interest of the client (introduced because some scandals ruined thousands of people who had followed advisors’ advice for investments that was given to maximise profits to the advisor), scaling back the Gonski reforms aimed at making education more equitable, removing school positions for confession-free ethical instruction but not for chaplains at schools, reducing the clean energy targets, which make clean (solar and wind) energy less profitable), etc.

Abbott’s views are further documented by his statements that coal was good for Australia, that Australia had too many national parks (which led the recent Brooker price winner to declare that he was ashamed to be Australian), that the ABC was un-Australian, and by his welcome address at the recent G20 meeting in Brisbane, in which he listed the achievements of his government as turning back the boats of asylum seekers, intention of introducing doctor fees, deregulating university fees, abolishing the carbon and mining taxes, etc.

All this indicates quite strongly that there are indeed strong fascist trends: the poorer become more disadvantaged, the wealth and power of a few mining magnates becomes even greater, endangering the very survival of humans, and the press becomes more concentrated and ruled by a handfull of people (mainly Rupert Murdoch).

Finally, many of the measures mentioned above are claimed to be necessary to return an economy, allegedly mismanaged by the previous Labor government, to surplus. In fact, Labor handed one of the soundest economies on Earth over to the Liberals/Nationals. And this in spite of the fact that they had to stimulate the Australian economy in order to avoid a recession experienced by many countries. They were lauded for doing this by leading international economists, including for example the Nobel prize winning American economists Stieglitz and Krugman. – This raises the question: is the government well aware of the basically sound state of the Australian economy, and are all the measures allegedly taken to get the economy back on a sound footing nothing but a lame excuse for getting the “essentials” through, i.e., keeping the population dumb by giving the right-wing press a monopoly and permitting an ever increasing concentration of the wealth of the nation in a few hands?

Real Climate

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

An important website providing up-to-date information about recent developments in the science of climate change by leading scientists:

The Impossibility of Growth Demands a New Economic System

Sunday, June 1st, 2014

George Monbiot, well known for his books “The Age of Consent: a manifesto for a new world order” and “Captive State: the corporate takeover of Britain” has published an important article in Common Dreams: “The Impossibility of Growth Demands a New Economic System. Why collapse and salvation are hard to distinguish from each other”. Some excerpts in the following, link to full article below.

“Let us imagine that in 3030BC the total possessions of the people of Egypt filled one cubic metre”…….. and “that these possessions grew by 4.5% a year.” How big would that stash have been by the Battle of Actium in 30BC? ……..It’s 2.5 billion billion solar systems…….. ”
“It was neither capitalism nor communism that made possible the progress and the pathologies (total war, the unprecedented concentration of global wealth, planetary destruction) of the modern age. It was coal, followed by oil and gas”

“The trajectory of compound growth shows that the scouring of the planet has only just begun”

“The inescapable failure of a society built upon growth and its destruction of the Earth’s living systems are the overwhelming facts of our existence.”

A particularly interesting example from the article: the government of Ecuador has decided to go ahead with oil drilling in its high diversity Yasuni national park. It had offered to leave the oil in the ground if it could raise 3.6 billion Dollars from foreign donors, about half the value of the oil. It could just get 13 million. Ecuador is very poor, Australia is rich. For how much would Australia leave its coal, oil and gas in the ground, or protect its Tasmanian forests from logging?

Full article here:

United States will introduce an emission trading (cap-and-trade) scheme for controlling human induced climate change

Sunday, June 1st, 2014

In two previous posts drew attention of President Obama’s intention to do something about climate change, but that nothing yet had happened. It now seems that significant action will be taken in the USA by introducing an emission trading scheme as also supported by the Greens and Labor for Australia. See here:

“The rules……… will put America on course to meet its international climate goal, and put US diplomats in a better position to leverage climate commitments from big polluters such as China and India, Obama said in a speech to West Point graduates this week.

“I intend to make sure America is out front in a global framework to preserve our planet,” he said. “American influence is always stronger when we lead by example. We can not exempt ourselves from the rules that apply to everyone else.””

Is here hope that this might lead to change in attitude of the present Australian government? The outlook seems dim if one considers that Abbott had earlier referred to human induced climate change as “crap”, that among the first actions of the new Australian government were declarations that renewable energy targets would be reduced, that one of he first actions of the government after the election was removing the Climate Council, that investment in climate science at the CSIRO will be substantially reduced, and that even economically profitable renewable energy projects are targets for discontinuation. But miracles have happened before.

Thomas Piketty and David Harvey, a new look at what is wrong with our economic system

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

Two distinguished economists, Thomas Piketty and David Harvey, in two recent books, have critically examined the basic assumptions according to which economies are run today. Both arrive at the conclusion that an ever increasing inequality in income distribution is inherent in the capitalist system and needs to be urgently addressed.

For two reviews see here:


Piketty: “The Economist declared that Piketty’s book may “revolutionize the way people think about the economic history of the past two centuries” and the “British magazine Prospect added Piketty to its annual list of the most influential world thinkers.”
Piketty’s claims that “inequality is intrinsic to capitalism, and, if not forcefully combatted, is likely to increase—to levels that threaten our democracy and fail to sustain economic growth. “For much of modern history, he contends, the rate of return on capital has hovered between 4 and 5 percent, while the growth rate has been decisively lower, between 1 and 2 percent,” which means that “in a slow-growing economy, accumulated wealth grows faster than income from labor……. the rich….. will get richer, while those who depend mostly on income from their jobs, will be lucky to keep up with inflation.”
“……… Piketty’s remedy for inequality: a progressive global wealth tax on fortunes over 1-million euros.”

Harvey: Harvey’s argument is based on “the conflict between use values and exchange values, particularly in housing, and the way that people have been deprived of homes because real estate has become a speculative investment. “For this reason, many categories of use values that were hitherto supplied free of charge by the state have been privatized and commodified—housing, education, health care and public utilities have all gone in this direction in many parts of the world,” he writes. “The political choice is between a commodified system that serves …….. and a system that focuses on the production and democratic provision of use values for all without any mediations of the market.
“At some point……the system can’t continue. “The longer it goes on,” Harvey says …….. “the less I think that there is a possibility that it will be a peaceful transition.”

In Australia, the present government does not only not try to reduce inequality but does the opposite, the austerity measures (co-payment for visiting the doctor, deregulation of university fees, etc.) of the new budget increase the burden on the poor, whereas the rich are hardly affected. These measures will not put Australia’s economy back on a secure and sustainable footing, as claimed by the government, all they will do is make the rich richer and the poor poorer.

“It is no longer acceptable that coal and oil companies spend millions of dollars to defeat efforts to protect the planet.”

Sunday, May 11th, 2014

The new climate report (National Climate Assessment: of the US government is out.

See here for brief summary and comments:

Th future looks grim, if we don’t take urgent action.

Don’t let our children pay for our sins

Saturday, May 3rd, 2014

The Treasurer Joe Hockey, in a talk to the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce on 2.5.2014, stated that we have to get the budget back into surplus or at least reduce the debt. If we do not do it now, our children will have to pay, which nobody wants. “Australians born after 1965 will have to work until they are 70 before they are eligible for the age pension under changes announced by Joe Hockey, while the Treasurer has also warned there is “no such thing” as a free visit to a doctor or free welfare”. Expenditures for public service will also be cut (SMH 2.5.14). Very commendable not to burden our children, of course, but what about the environmental mess due to climate change, deforestation etc. we will leave behind if we don’t take urgent action on reducing human impact on the environment now? Lack of action will lead to a far greater burden for future generations than (according to leading economists) wildly overestimated debts.

Concerning climate change politics and deforestion, the position of the government is clear.

Not long after becoming Prime Minister, Tony Abbott expressed his intention to reduce renewable energy targets. Among other things, he declared that he wants to see another investigation on the health effects of wind-turbines (although one had just been completed and had found no such effects). And, according to SMH 3.-4.5.14, “Joe Hockey has attacked wind farms as “utterly offensive and “a blight on the landscape” in the latest sign that the Abbott government intends to cut back on renewable energy targets”.

Deforestation: in a talk in Tasmania before the state elections there, Tony Abbott declared that we really have too many national parks and that loggers are the best conservationists. Even the Indonesian government and the local authorities in Aceh are not so dumb as to claim that the large scale logging going on at this moment in Northern Sumatra, wiping out the few remaining habitats for Sumatran rhinoceros, orang utans and other endangered species, is done by loggers acting as good conservationists.

Climate change. Effects on small island states, and the view of the Australian Attorney-General

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

An article recently published in the Trinidad Express, a newspaper of a small Caribbean island state, deals with the latest climate assessment by the IPCC emphasizing the impact of climate change on food security, particulary in small island states:

“Climate change ……… has a direct bearing on food security……. the IPCC warned that all aspects of food security including availability of food, stability of food supply and utilisation of food, are potentially affected by climate change.”……. “our climate is warming at a pace unparalleled in the history of the planet and that we no longer have the luxury of pretending that climate change is not happening.”

“Small island developing states are particularly at risk because of their small size, their geographic location. Because of their low-lying nature, sea level rise will inundate coastal areas,”.

At the same time, George Brandis, the Australian Attorney General, has the following to say, in line with views expressed by several others in the Abbott government:

“George Brandis has compared himself to Voltaire and derided proponents of climate change action as “believers” who do not listen to opposing views and have reduced debate to a mediaeval and ignorant level.”

Full article here:

Barnaby Joyce, the leader of the Nationals and Minister for Agriculture in the Abbott government, has complained that the ABC does not give time (or sufficient time) to climate change “sceptics” (20 March 2014).

Future of the Earth

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

The pending climate change report will emphasize the choice we have, to face catastrophic climate change or take immediate action.

“The world’s leading climate scientists gathered in Japan on Tuesday to begin hashing out the final details of a “grim” climate report, which both leaked drafts and those familiar with its contents say will call on policy makers to take immediate action or face a climate future that will otherwise be marked by widespread ecological and human catastrophe.”

Any chance that the Australian government, which has consistently played down the effects of climate change, supports increased coal mining, dredging on the Great Barrier Reef, and wants to reduce renewable energy targets, will do anything substantial to reduce human induced climate change?

But there are of course other important issues: we now have Australian dames and knights! I would suggest to make Rupert Murdoch a knight; little chance that he will get a knighthood in Britain.

2nd book review of Klaus Rohde ed.: The Balance of Nature and Human Impact. Cambridge University Press 2013

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

The review, by Professor W.E.Williams, was published a few weeks ago by Choice Reviews, copyright American Library Association.

For copyright reasons only short extracts are included here. For a previous review see

……… specifically addressing two questions: the extent to which equilibrium processes, particularly competition,…..describe natural ecological systems, and whether ……..human disturbances–climate change, land-use change, introduction of invasive exotics, and so on–primarily upset existing equilibria or instead amplify disequilibria already present. Twenty-four papers and three concluding chapters examine these questions in widely different ecosystems, ….. plankton, coral-reef fishes, Australian birds, animal parasites, and many more. There are 29 contributors to the volume, ………Each chapter contains its own extensive list of references, and the book’s index is quite good……….. the book will appeal primarily to academic ecologists, although some essays are general enough to be useful to those more broadly interested in human ecological impacts. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates, graduate students, researchers/faculty, and professionals.