Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Thirty years too late

The call from the PTUA for a moratorium on new roads is most welcome. The declines in rainfall over southern Australia are, it is clear both from paleoclimate data near Colac and 150 years of instrumental climatic records that show Melbourne’s rainfall declining by thirty-five percent since October 1996. An end to road building would free money for investment in public transport and the development of dedicated rail freight a policy supported even by the ultra-pragmatic Eddington.

The problem is that, although people do not realise it, fifty years of freeway-based transport policies have created a culture certain to perpetuate the same policies again and again. Melbourne’s freeways have nurtured and keep nurturing large numbers of low-density detached housing estates on the fringes of the city. Owing to the low cost of the land (which previously supported extensive farming) these housing estates are very cheap. With the present housing boom, they cost only about a quarter of a house in the inner city and provide several times more space. This space provides for a family in a way unknown in Europe, East Asia, New Zealand or Blue America. Backed up by Australia’s cheap petrol and increasingly cheap cars, this permits not only the establishment of families and consequently fertility rates that are more than twice the EU average, and three times those of Japanese or South Korean cities.

The strongly family-oriented character of new housing estates has a profound effect on their residents’ worldview and way of thinking. Cheapness of family formation leads to support for religions like Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy that regard birth control as a sin and the family as sanctified. Besides valuing the family, they care a great deal about job security, housing and food prices, interest rates and education. (Because they value freedom, outer suburbanites do not believe government regulation should protect jobs). They are generally too poor to be able to afford higher-cost products or “luxury” goods like fashionable music or clothes, besides which their modesty (partly driven by religion) tends to view being fashionable as negative.

Moves to protect the environment (via, say, scarcity pricing of water, restrictions upon land devlopment, higher fuel excise, cutbacks to road spending or investment in public transport), are disliked by outer suburban working families because they inevitably cause higher living costs - making it difficult to support themselves. Governments’ refusal to expand public transport beyond the old inner suburbs and to invest instead in freeways even if they are a failure at dealing with congestion due to road capacity’s high elasticity of demand. With the rise of Pauline Hanson in 1998 and especially Family First’s entry onto the scene in 2004, the major parties have had been unable to reduce Australia’s greenhouse emissions. Family First would easily capture the vital outer suburban family vote if the major parties raised living costs. It is an undisputable fact that the “liberal baby bust” of the fashionable inner-city is shifting the political focus to conservative outer metropolitan areas who reject the typical “academic” viewpoints about the environment, transport, taxation and even the science behind this key issue.

Whilst not all outer-suburban communties are as conservative as, say, Family First or Human Events, the most conservative (usually, outermost) groups most likely have the highest fertility rates, and hence the greatest chance of influencing subsequent generations.

With Melbourne’s water supply drying up so rapidly, the failure to cut back on roads whilst there was still some fertility among more progressive sections of society is undoubtedly a fatal error from which politics now dictates we cannot turn back.

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Ten books that "screwed up the world"

Regnery, the publisher of the interesting but often very untrue Politically Incorrect Guide series have published now Ten Books that Screwed Up The World (and Five Others that Didn’t Help). It will be for sale in May this year.

The cover is actually far from bad, though one reason I oddly don't detest the screw is that the book seems to resemble an old Wisden like I used to read in the State Library of Victoria. I still adore my old Wisdens and old county cricket is my longest-standing hobby, having been started in a holiday at Merimbula back in 1991, when I read about 1906 county cricket in all my spare time and was really fascinated because it seemed different from the more modern cricket I had read about before.

The list is basically, as one would expect, very similar to the lists of Human Events and to a lesser extent the Intercollegiate Studies Institute that have attracted my attention despite - or perhaps because of - the attacks my mother and brother make upon them.

The “ten books that screwed up the world”, listed in order of publication rather than effect (though the author yet again says The Communist Manifesto must absolutely be the worst offender of the lot), are:

- The Communist Manifesto: easily #1 on Human event's list; ineligible for ISI list.
- Utilitarianism by John Stuart Mill. Mill is an author who (like Ayn Rand) gets very mixed receptions from the Right, almost certainly because both were extremely pro-free-market but also equally anti-religion. On Liberty was voted as an “honourable mention” in Human Events list, but all his books are again ineligible for the ISI list.
- The Descent of Man by Charles Darwin. Gained two votes on the Human Events list. Included according to Benjamin Wiker for its “eugenic” implications and its influence upon Hitler and Sanger.
- Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche. Ranked #9 by Human Events. Essentially an expected choice.
- State and Revolution by Vladmir Illich Lenin. Not on Human Events list, but one commentator I read a comparatively long time ago said it should have been there instead of What Is To Be Done.
- The Pivot of Civilisation by Margaret Sanger. One of the people most hated by the Right, George Grant's biography Killer Angel is perhaps the rantiest book I have ever read. I tried half-heartedly to read both Pivot and her previous book, 1920’s Woman and the New Race, which the Intercollegiate Studies Institute listed as one if its worst books. Neither seemed half as aggressive as Grant's biography of Sanger, but given her reputation I still wonder how at least thirteen of the fifteen Human Events judges overlooked Sanger entirely.

(Here I will note that Human Events’ rules for “Top Tens” exclude The Pivot of Civilisation and Woman and the New Race from being “Honourable Mentions” if only one judge voted for them, even if that solitary judge put them at #1 of their ten. From my experience with other lists of books or music, such an occurrence is not improbable, even if the book with which that occurred would not necessarily have been by Sanger.)

- Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler. This one needs no discussion, really, except to say that some on the Left think its inclusion does not fit with what the Right think. In fact, Hitler attacked the Right’s heroes, like Ludwig von Mises, every bit as violently as any Stalinist regime, and they condemn the “state-directed” ideal of fascism every bit as much as state- or worker-controlled socialism. Ineligible for the ISI list (and its ineligibility has been the focus of many a misunderstanding), but ranked #2 by Human Events.
- The Future of an Illusion by Sigmund Freud. If it is as Wiker describes it, it is simplistic at best, given the clearly valuable and beneficial cultural and community-binding role of religion in traditional societies and in suburban/exurban Australia and Red America today. I have never read Freud, but have refrained from noting how the Right condemns him to my relatives. Looking inside the book, it aims to link Freud to the Right's older villains in a way I have never read of before.
- Coming of Age in Samoa by Margaret Mead. This one needs little explanation: it was after all #1 on the ISI’s list, and Derek Freeman's criticisms in Margaret Mead and Samoa (which I have read) seem reasonable.
- Sexual Behaviour in the Human Male by Alfred Kinsey. Perhaps the most hated book among conservatives, I actually tried very hard to read both this and Sexual Behaviour in the Human Female but no matter how hard I read it was very difficult to tell whether the truth is that Kinsey was truly scientific or Judith Reisman’s claims in Kinsey, Sex and Fraud that he was deliberately distorting evidence and his samples were actually completely unrepresentative. Reading others on both Left and Right makes me doubt Kinsey's originality and makes me think others could question it far more than they do. The Havelock Ellis book Psychology of Sex (listed by the ISI) seems, given the difference today between Europe on one hand and Australia/Red America on the other, to be the tip of the iceberg in this quest.

In addition, Wiker adds Five Others that Didn’t Help:
  • The Prince by Nicolo Machiavelli. He says Stalin read this book and used it to justify his dictatorship. 
  • Discourse on Method by Rene Descartes. I have read good criticisms of Descartes from outside the radical Right, but his inclusion is surprising.
  • Levithan by Thomas Hobbes. It is argued that Hobbesianism creates a society of radical individualism, in which people are free to pursue their own interests without any responsibilities. 
  • Discourse on the Origin and Foundations of Inequality Between Men by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Wiker views Rousseau as having invented utopianism in its various guides, from the socialism of Marx to the matriarchalism of Gould Davis and Gimbutas. 
  • The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan.
Whilst there is little surprising, the omission of Democracy and Education, The Population Bomb and The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money was perhaps unexpected. All these are very prominent in the Right’s lists of “worst books”. One could also add Silent Spring and The Authoritarian Personality to such a list.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

How uninformed people are!

One of the greatest problems for the drastically needed step of rocketing Australian petrol prices out of the basement is that people who cycle or use public transport are quite incredibly uninformed about the relative cheapness of petrol throughout the world.

People who drive will naturally say petrol is expensive, but the big problem is that even people who have never driven do the same.

What both drivers and non-drivers should know but do not is that Australia's extremely limited and variable runoff should oblige it to have by far the least cheap petrol in the world. All in all, Australia's runoff averages about six times more variable that that of Europe, East Asia, New Zealand or most of North America, due to its extremely poor soils requiring specialised rooting systems like proteoid roots to absorb minimal nutrients. This severely limits runoff ratios in Australian catchments: for example, the pre-1997 Yarra River had about the same gross precipitation as the Willamette in Oregon but only a third the runoff intensity. For drier catchments, the difference multiplies: the Avoca River in western Victoria has only a tenth the runoff intensity of "Bright Angel Creek" (from Tom McMahon) in Arizona. Reductions in rainfall equivalent to those that have occurred since 1997 are sufficient to dry up Australian rivers but an equivalent reduction in Europe, East Asia, New Zealand or North America would have only a proportionate affect upon streamflow.

Thus, Australia has on obligation to maintain greenhouse gas levels within a certain range that is not shared by other developed nations. Because the relative cheapness of fuel correlates well with fuel consumption and hence greenhouse emissions, it is thus logical that Australia should have the least cheap petrol prices in the world.

It is really time that every Australian (whether or not they don't drive) is informed of the immense ecological gulf separating us from other developed nations and that consequently much higher (rather than lower as at present) fuel economy and public transport standards are required for every place in the continent.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Time to stop thinking about biofuels

The revelation in this week's Age that government-subsidised biofuel production has been pushing up food prices is proof that we cannot think about biofuels as a long-term substituent for petroleum.

It is now clearer than ever that - notwithstanding current near-record rainfall in Perth - southern Australia has no future as a food-producing region because its former winter rainfall systems have vanished for good. The subsidisation of biofuel agriculture will necessary then involve farming in the tropics or eastern New South Wales, both of which are likely to be vulnerable to drought. Worse still, biofuels can do nothing to reduce carbon dioxide levels and their production is extremely inefficient in terms of land use. This could mean more problems from land-use change degrading the soil and altering Australia's fragile hydrological cycle. Biofuel subsidisation is a lose/lose proposition except for vested interests in road transportation whose watertight control over Australia's political system undoubtedly defeats both market and ecological logic.

The alternative to biofuels that is most palatable to our politicians and the road transport lobby is converting coal to oil on a large scale. However, with Melbourne's (and likely the Latrobe's) catchment runoff certain to decline permanently to zero within a few years, the water required to make oil from coal will have to be imported at great cost and would take a long time to arrive. Even using Hunter coal, water would have to be transferred on a large scale because of the amount needed.

This leaves us with no option but to improve the fuel efficiency of our vehicles. As John Rossi shows, less cheap petrol has an almost exponential effect on fuel consumption. Given Australia's extreme vulnerability to global warming and the fragility of its ecosystems, it should required to have much lower environmental impact from transport than any other country on earth. This logically means Australia should have the least cheap petrol in the world instead of some of the cheapest. Given the size of water storages in Australia for a given degree of supply security is about twenty times that of Norway (which traditionally has the least cheap petrol in the OECD), Australian petrol should thus cost around fifty dollars per litre, or thirty times its current price. Even if we adjust somewhat for the effects on European nations of taxes above what could be considered ecologically necessary, Australian petrol should still probably be twenty times less cheap than it actually is, making complaints about current price rises look dubious.

We need to accept that petrol needs to be much less cheap for Australia to avoid ecological catastrophe from runaway global warming alone. Ending subsidised biofuel development in favour of farmland revegetation and placing the ordinary petrol excise on aviation fuel are steps that will eliminate many costs to both government and the environment. Resultant less cheap petrol should force Australians to purchase far less thirsty vehicles and hopefully to use only the most fuel-thrifty means of transport.

Saturday, 19 April 2008

How to do an about-face on a critical issue

If my experience with my RMIT minder is accurate, greenhouse sceptics will do an about-face when trying to deal with the theories of the "Asian Haze" having increased rainfall over tropical Australia – in spite of the fact that larger increases in the Eucla and Goldfields cannot be explained by the haze and are almost certainly, in the words of CSIRO scientist Ian Smith, “a signature of global warming”.

When I first mentioned the theory of the “Asian Haze”, my minder said that it was far more reasonable an explanation for the rainfall increases in northwestern and central-western Australia and the catastrophic rainfall declines that have occurred at the same time over southern and southwestern Australia than anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

On Tuesday, however, he said that the “Asian Haze” is nothing more than an effort to "shore up holes in the crumbling theory of global warming". Like many Americans who talk of a "Church of Global Warming" and often refer to Al Gore as “Pope Goreus” (ludicrously they call him both “Pope Goreus the IV” and “Pope Goreus the VI”) my minder believes that global cooling is imminent, which would one imagines mean southern Australia regaining its former winter rainfall. However, nobody in the CSIRO or BOM dares to believe this even with probable pressure to do so from car and fossil fuel corporations. Again akin to American sceptics, my minder actually says car and fossil fuel corporations have too much faith in anthropogenic global warming.

Realistically, the investment the CSIRO and BOM have quite probably invested too much money on studying the “Asian Haze” and should have tried to fine-tune their global warming models to explain why the changes have been so large. Had they done that, we might already know a great deal that is still unknown and be able to forecast with greater accuracy future climate changes.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Are climatologists overestimating the “Asian Haze”?

Ever since the record-breaking rainfalls of 2000, the continual increases in rainfall over northwestern and central-western Australia have been a major concern to me because I have always taken them as evidence of anthropogenic global warming. In fact, I have tended to view greenhouse models that do not take these increases into account as inherently defective.

When I was first trying to persuade the CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology of the possibility these large increases (up to forty percent since 1967 in an area bounded by Kalgoorlie, Eucla and Wiluna) prove humans have taken control of the climate, I was extremely angry that I was ignored. I indeed still feel their ignorance comes from loyalties to car and fossil fuel corporations, and that if they were serious about global warming the CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology would be lobbying intensely for a total ban on road building and transferring every cent of road spending and air transport subsidies to railways.

Once when I was in Coles shopping with my mother and brother, I read an article about the drying of Australia from global warming that stated that whilst the north had become wetter, the increased rain was caused by Asian aerosols and would more than reverse when they were cleared. I was as always extremely angry about a continent whose ecology should oblige it to be the absolute world leader in reducing greenhouse emissions having the highest per capita emissions in the world, but it was impossible for me to believe Asian aerosols were causing such large rainfall increases, so that I still thought CSIRO and BOM altered their global warming models to avoid controversy from these increases – which in any case never got into the capital city media.

In recent times, northwestern Australia’s rainfall increases have gained some publicity, probably through Senator Bill Heffernan suggesting Australia should try to develop the north for agriculture, even though its soils have proven a totally intractable barrier for not only European farmers, but also the Austronesian ones who colonised the Pacific.

The theory is that the “Asian Haze” increases northwestern Australian rainfall though cooling the northern hemisphere relative to the southern, so that convergence and rain formation is enhanced and shifted southward. Recently, it has been suggested that the “Asian Haze” has been also shifting the southern mid-latitude storms southward, and the CSIRO is trying to link declines in rainfall over southwestern Australia with similar declines over northern China. It is simply impossible for me to think the “common cause” Dr. Wendy Pyper is seeking could be anything other than the “Asian Haze”. Given the power of greenhouse emitters in Australian politics I imagine people like Hugh Morgan and Robin Underwood (and most ordinary young outer-suburban families) want to and do believe southwestern Australian rainfall will when the “Asian Haze” is cleared return to levels typical of the wet eras from 1915 to 1923 and 1945 to 1947.

Yet, aerosol forcing does not agree with the observed changes in central-western Australian rainfall and it seems unlikely they replicate those in the northwest. There is also no evidence of declines in southern Australian rainfall from sulphate aerosols alone (though black carbon aerosols are much more likely to alter synoptic circulation because they actually cause transfer of heat).

Also, a recent study of northwestern Australian rainfall wisely questions the most commonly accepted influence of the “Asian Haze”, though it still does not look at central-western Australia or possible errors in past greenhouse models. It does, however, look at the likelihood that the wetter northwest and central-west observed since 1967 is indeed a permanent change, even if soil infertility means even massively increased rainfall is of no practical value. Another revelation from page 232 of the 1998 book Climates of the Southern Continents: Present, Past and Future is that several little-known scientific studies from as long ago as the late 1980s seem to show that during the warmest periods of the Holocene southwestern Australian rainfall was distinctly lower than between 1885 and 1967. This would further confirm the changes since 1967 result from enhanced greenhouse gases. Also, my RMIT minder told me last year that the areas of central-western Australia where rainfall increases have been largest have been continuously arid for hundred of thousands of years. This would indeed suggest that, as carbon dioxide levels now are the highest for a similar period, that central-western Australian rainfall is exceptionally sensitive to carbon dioxide levels and that with rises to 700ppmv widely predicted by the end of the century rainfall patterns over Australia will indeed undergo the type of change I described in The Age during 2006 and 2007.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Horoscope and report

This is my horoscope and I have been eager to be able to provide a report for it. I have done many for other people but have never thought of writing my own, probably out of fear of criticism.

I have had an on-and-off interest in astrology for over twenty years, and in my early days reading it believed that astrology was, as one Dictionary of Astrology said, astrology is "the science which defines the action of celestial bodies upon human character".

Today, after having studied physics, I have come to realise that there is quite simply no scientific way in which astrology could be true. Nonetheless, for humour and amusement I still feel astrology has no equal, especially because its predictions sometimes are much closer to the truth than its clearly unscientific character would suggest likely.

I still enjoy joking that

"if Stalin had been born a couple of months later there would have been no purges and he would have become a priest as his mother wished", or

"if Salman Rushdie had been born a week later he would never have written The Satanic Verses because he would have been, as a Cancer, too sensitive to Muslims' feelings".

Another thing I have learnt is that, regardless of its lack of accuracy, astrology actually offers a great many clues to the modern science of personality theory and differences. Many of the descriptions given in astrological reports are actually far from unrealistic descriptions of real people, and I actually imagine them as such when I study them.

Chapter 1: General Characteristics

Your fundamental needs, values, and orientation towards life are symbolized by the four astrological elements. Each person has their own unique balance of these four basic energies: fire (warmth, inspiration, enthusiasm), earth (practicality, realism, material interests), air (social and intellectual qualities), and water (emotional needs and feelings).

Your "elemental make-up" is described below. Remember that most people are "unbalanced" or lopsided, and if you are lacking or deficient in a certain element (or elements), it simply means that you need to consciously develop that aspect of yourself to learn to appreciate and/or to work harder in that dimension of life.

Sometimes we overvalue the element that we are least endowed with, sensing it as a lack within ourselves, but more often we neglect or ignore it. The qualities described below will be reiterated and explained in more detail in the following chapters.

Air and Water are Strong (F,E,A,W Scores = 7,0,23,19)
Your gift lies in your ability to perceive, understand, and communicate about matters of feeling, of heart and soul. You are thus well suited to any field that involves working with people as a counsellor or teacher, and even if you are not so trained, others seek you out as an advisor, for you are able to clarify and sensitively discuss their personal concerns and problems. Relationship is really a primary importance to you and is the arena in which your richest and most fulfilling experiences lie. You, even more than most people, require friends and intimates to share your thoughts and your life with.

You also have an active and creative mind and are apt to spend much time reading, thinking or daydreaming, and/or writing (stories, music, lyrics, diaries, letters, etc.). Film or any media combining words with images and emotions also fascinates you.

At times your mind and intellect may seem to be at odds with your instinctive, emotional, feeling side, and it is your task to bring them together. You may spend a lot of time cogitating and mulling over your experiences and feelings, trying to understand and make sense of them.

You are quite sensitive (psychologically and physically) and may avoid direct, active participation in life.

Earth is Weak (F,E,A,W Scores = 7,0,23,19)
One of your primary challenges involves developing a stable sense of security, solidness, and a steady rhythm in your life. Cultivating self-discipline, patience and endurance, and learning to accept realistic limitations will enable you to be more productive and to actualise some of the ideas and creative impulses you have. You are not always interested in practical applications, the actual work involved in realizing a desire or compromises for the sake of practicalities.

You feel out of place in the world at times, restless, discontent, unable to find your niche, dissatisfied with mundane reality. Positively this may spark your exploration of the creative, imaginative, or spiritual side of life. However, you tend to resist growing up and learning how to effectively deal with adult responsibility. You also tend to be either bound up with the past or projecting into the future, ignoring the present moment - what actually is. To become more present and grounded, you may find the following helpful: getting massages on a regular basis, doing gentle regular, rhythmic exercise like walking or yoga, and eating substantial, heavy foods.

Chapter 2: How You Approach Life and How You Appear To Others

The following is a description of your basic stance towards life, the way others see you, the way you come across, the face you show to the world. In Chapter 3 you will read about the "The Inner You: Your Real Motivation", which describes the kind of person you are at heart and where your true priorities lie. Read this chapter and the next one and compare them - there may be significant differences between them, in which case "the inner you" may not shine through and others are in for some surprises when they get to know you at a more than superficial level. This chapter describes the costume you wear, your role in life, while Chapter 3 talks about the real person inside the costume.

Gemini Rising
You are always questioning and learning, and you seem young and alive no matter what your chronological age, for your mind is always alert, curious, flexible and open to new experiences. You have a childlike enthusiasm for anything new and you learn easily, but you also get bored rather quickly. You can be something of a scatterbrain, for you tend to have so many ideas and irons in the fire that it is hard to keep track of them all. You need and crave variety, change, mental stimulation, and an active social life.

Articulate, clever, often funny and witty, you are always a refreshing and interesting conversationalist. You enjoy meeting and interacting with a variety of different people. You are friendly, flirtatious, and charming in a light, playful way, and no matter how badly you may be feeling, you never appear heavy or sombre. You may seem frivolous to other, more serious souls. You have a sense of humour and a sense of perspective that prevents you from taking yourself or life too seriously. In fact, you may seem flippant or unconcerned about matters that others consider very important.

In general, you respond to life mentally and objectively rather than emotionally, and you may not empathize with people very much. You do not like to be weighed down with too much responsibility or with others' emotional burdens. Furthermore, if you cannot UNDERSTAND something reasonably and logically, then very often you would prefer to ignore it, including your own and other people's irrational feelings, desires, and needs.

Consistency and reliability are not great virtues of yours and your life is apt to be full of changes and movement due to your restlessness. You become nervous and fidgety if things are not moving quickly enough. You are interested in what is current and up-to-date, the newest trends in thought or style.

Your gifts are a quick mind, verbal facility, a flair for language, social sophistication and polish, the ability to communicate, converse, and build bridges between people and between ideas. You tend to become an incessant chatterbox or gossip if you do not have work or other activities that utilize your mental, verbal, and social skills.

Moon in Gemini Conjunct Ascendant in Gemini
While you are uncomfortable with excessive emotion, you nevertheless can talk about personal matters and feelings readily. You prefer the company of women, especially lively, creative, intelligent ones.

Saturn Sextile Asc.
You appear responsible, conscientious, and solid - qualities which encourage others to take you seriously. You are unlikely to present yourself as more than you are, and this humility is often endearing, or at least appealing, to others. Even as a youth, you seemed mature for your age.

Chapter 3: The Inner You: Your Real Motivation

Ascendant in Gemini and Sun in Scorpio
Although you express yourself in a light, friendly, open manner (as mentioned in the previous chapter), you are at heart much more emotionally complex and intense than you appear. You harbour deeper feelings and a much "darker" side than is first apparent. You may be torn at times between keeping things light and playful versus exploring your own and others' emotional depths. However, your light airy side and your deep, mysterious side can balance one another: you can verbalize, reflect upon, and consciously understand, explain, and elucidate your deepest feelings. You are a natural researcher and you probably love mystery stories. Your sense of humour can be your saving grace when you are getting too heavy and serious.

Sun in Scorpio
Quiet, deep, emotionally complex and intensely private, you are not a person who is easy to get to know and understand. You are extremely sensitive but disinclined to show it, and you allow only a special few into your inner world. Like a wary animal, you are cautious and mistrustful of those you do not know until you "sniff them out". You are very, very instinctive and intuitive. You usually have a strong, immediate gut reaction to people, even though you may be unable to clearly articulate why you feel as you do. Your feelings and perceptions go deeper than words.

You also have a powerful need for deep emotional involvement and you form very intense love bonds and attachments. You are possessive and often jealous of anyone or anything that you perceive as a threat to your bond with someone you love. When you commit yourself to someone or something, you are wholeheartedly devoted and expect complete loyalty in return. You merge with or "marry" the person you love at a very deep level and therefore separations are extremely painful for you, and often stormy and nasty. When you have been wounded, you are not inclined to turn the other cheek and will retaliate if at all possible. Certainly, you will never forget the injury and often you harbour grievances and resentments for a long, long time. Forgiveness doesn't come easily to you.

Whatever you do, you do with passion and fervour, and you often go to extremes. You are either hot or cold, never lukewarm about anything. You can also be very narrow: either you are 100% involved in something or else it doesn't exist for you at all. Rarely are you emotionally detached and objective. You definitely have a fanatical streak. You are also immensely strong-willed and your tenacity in pursuing your objectives often borders on being obsessive. Fierce pride, courage, and emotional strength are yours in abundance.

You love mysteries and are deeply attracted to the hidden, dark, secret side of life. You never take things at face value and are always probing beneath the surface of people and situations to discover what is REALLY going on. You tend to be more of a cynic than an idealist.

Sun in 4th house
You are a private person and inclined to withdraw in very public and impersonal social settings. You prefer to work at home or in a very personal small business.

You invest a lot of your creative energy into your home, your family, and your inner life.

Sun Trine Jupiter
You have big aspirations but do not struggle or labour to achieve them. Your self-confidence and inner harmony attract success and benefits to you in an almost magical way. Your optimism and cheerful generosity also win you many allies and successes in life.

Sun Conjunct Uranus
Innovative, original, unorthodox, and unconventional, you identify with the role of rebel, reformer, or iconoclast. You insist upon a great deal of personal freedom and do not easily adapt yourself to others' needs and wishes. You need a lifestyle that allows you to be spontaneous. Often you feel that you are somehow different from other people and outside the mainstream of society.

Chapter 4: Mental Interests and Abilities

Mercury in Scorpio
You have good mental concentration and the ability to become completely immersed in your work. You seem to know things at an instinctive, nonverbal level and prefer learning through direct experience or apprenticeship rather than vicariously via books or lectures. You have mechanical ability and work well with your hands. You could become adept at sculpture, pottery, carpentry, stained glass, or anything that involves doing and making things manually. Biology (and related fields such as medicine) interests you as well. You also have an instinctive rapport with animals, and may feel you relate better to them than to people! You tend to become narrowly focused upon your own specialized interests and may not have much to say or communicate outside that field.

Mercury in 5th house
You enjoy puzzles and other games that challenge you intellectually. You like to show off your verbal or intellectual skills and to use your mind creatively. Writing, dramatic speaking or some other display of your creative intelligence appeals to you.

Mercury Conjunct Uranus
An independent and original thinker, you are excited by new ideas, discoveries, and innovations. Your mind functions in an intuitive, nonlinear fashion, and sudden insights and ideas often come to you "out of the blue". You grasp ideas very quickly and often become impatient with those who are slower or more cautious than yourself. You are considered rather eccentric and unusual in your interests by more conservative minds. You do well in an open, unpredictable atmosphere where flexibility and quick responses are needed. You have an aptitude for science, mathematics, electronics, or astrology.

Mercury Conjunct Venus/Neptune
You are sensitive and compassionate in your dealings with other people. However, you tend to get lost in your fantasies when it comes to love, are inclined to exaggerate your emotions and could easily be deceived or misled.

Mercury Conjunct Neptune/Pluto
You may have to deal with considerable nervous tension and are inclined to see everything a little cloudy. Expressing what is on your mind could be hard for you, and you could either intentionally or inadvertently deceive others, or vice versa.

Mercury Conjunct Neptune/N. Node
You tend to expect too much from people and consequently often feel let down by the actions of others. Feeling misunderstood, you may try to avoid contact with others as much as possible.

Chapter 5: Emotions: Moods, Feelings, Romance

Moon in Gemini
You do not appear to be an intensely emotional or sentimental person, and you are often unaware of your own or other people's deeper feelings and emotional needs. Tears and tantrums bewilder you and make you very uncomfortable. You would rather settle differences by talking things out reasonably and rationally, but you tend to ignore or poke fun at any attempt to probe your own or others' inner depths.

You avoid heavy, demanding emotional involvement and are wary of making personal commitments.

You need plenty of mental stimulation and you feel close to people with whom you can share thoughts and mental interests. Conversation is very important to you. The strong, silent type of partner is not for you.

Moon in 1st house
You have a soft exterior and tend to relate very personally and sympathetically to other people. However, you sometimes let your emotions overpower your reasoning and logic, and consequently you are sometimes biased in your opinions. You are impressionable and rather gentle, or at least that is the way you appear. Your feelings are on the surface and you cannot hide your emotions.

Moon Sextile Saturn
You are dedicated to the people you care about and conscientious about meeting your responsibilities, especially to family. Family solidarity and cohesiveness are very important to you and so, therefore, are the traditions, rituals, and memories that keep the bonds strong.

You're apt to do more than your fair share in the family, to go the extra mile, but this is satisfying rather than burdensome to you for the most part.

Venus in Libra
You possess the gifts of tact, courtesy, consideration, and a strong desire to please and understand your love partner. Because you value harmony so much, you will compromise a great deal to avoid any discord or conflict. You do not like to dwell on controversial or emotionally difficult subjects, and often try to "smooth things over" or "sweep them under the rug".

In love, you want an intellectual peer, an equal, and a friend. You are attracted to people who have a certain finesse, delicacy, and subtlety. You appreciate good manners and refinement and are not happy with a coarse, blunt type of person.

Venus in 3rd house
Beautiful, elegant, and harmonious surroundings are very important to you, and you have an innate sense of style, design, and form. Socially, also, good form and politeness are important to you and you instinctively avoid crudeness and dissonance.

You enjoy talking about love, relationships, art and the beautiful side of life. You appreciate artistic people.

Venus Sextile Neptune
You have a rich, colourful, dreamy imagination and a refined sense of beauty. Involvement in the arts, or with artistic, sensitive, or spiritually inclined people is very satisfying to you. In your friendships and romantic relationships, you tend to be unselfish, giving, and forgiving. You might enjoy joining with others for charitable events or social service.

Venus Conjunct Pluto
You have deep, compelling love feelings that seem irresistible and often irrational. Your love relationships are very passionate and intense, and you experience both agony and ecstasy in love. You are always changed in a deep, fundamental way by your love experiences, though this may come about through painful and difficult confrontations or separations. You are something of an emotional fanatic about things you care about.

Chapter 6: Drive and Ambition: How You Achieve Your Goals

Mars in Leo
You are proud and ambitious, and you strive to excel, to stand out and be recognized for who and what you are. You have a very strong ego drive and like to be Number One. You find it difficult to take orders from others or to stay in the background, and you hate being wrong; you always insist that you are right!

You are forceful, strong, energetic, determined, and highly competitive. You play hard, you play to win, and you do not give up easily. In fact, you see life as a competitive sport or performance. You love admiration and applause, and you have a strong sense of personal honour and integrity. You tend to be very self-confident, even arrogant. Because of your belief in yourself, you are able to accomplish much, but if your confidence is ever undermined, you become self-conscious, defensive, and rather belligerent.

Mars in 1st house
You are a doer and an achiever. Energetic, courageous, and often impatient, you will forge ahead with your plans regardless of others' reservations. In fact, you often feel other people get in your way and you prefer working on your own. You are active, assertive, and rather competitive as well.

Mars Conjunct Jupiter/Saturn
An inner conflict between the desire for greater opportunities and the desire to hold on to safe and predictable circumstances could make you somewhat discontent. You long for changes in your life, but may lack the tenacity to bring them about.

Mars Opposition Mercury/MC
You know what you want in life and have the ability to define your goals clearly. Being open-minded and frank, you have a good understanding of everything. You may have been encouraged to learn to talk at an early age and now find it easy to communicate.

Venus Opposition MC
Your desire for a beautiful home, a comfortable, pleasing lifestyle, and time to relax and enjoy yourself may well be the motivation for going out into the world and trying to achieve outward success. You may seesaw at times between your professional drives and desire for status, and the appeal of a rich personal life and home comforts.

Pluto Opposition MC
Deep, compelling drives which you do not entirely understand are apt to be the source of your rather extraordinary ambitions. You may find that a drive for dominance, power, and control arises out of the rather problematic and intense relationship you had with one or both of your parents. If you are willing to delve deeply into your own fears and inner life, clearing away much of the conditioning of your earliest years, you will indeed discover tremendous inner resources which can be used to fuel your rise in the world.

Neptune Trine MC
You have a spiritual gift or vocation which colours your personal ambitions and drive for achievement. Helping people or serving the Whole is part of your role in life. Music, the arts, entertainment, and/or using imagery, visualization, or imagination can be aspects of your work in the world, also.

Mercury Quincunx MC
You have a tendency to say things which unintentionally put off those in a position to advance your career and professional ambitions. Perhaps it's not what you say, but the manner in which you do so, or the timing. At times you're apt to feel that you must stifle certain thoughts and opinions in order to succeed in reaching your goals. Mostly, though, you will need to be shrewd, tactical, and conscious of how your words will affect your listeners.

Chapter 7: Growth and Expansion: Areas That You Enjoy

Jupiter in Cancer
You make others feel accepted and comfortable. You have a knack for breaking down feelings of alienation and you make others feel included and a part of group activities. You have a loving, protective side that wants to take care of everyone. Creating a supportive atmosphere that is nourishing both to yourself and to others is one of your strengths.

Also, your home and heritage are important to you, and you maintain close connections to your past.

Jupiter in 1st house
You have an optimistic outlook on life and to others you appear jovial, confident, and expansive. You do what you can to be encouraging and helpful to other people, and your generosity and lack of pettiness makes you very well-liked.

Because you see yourself as a lucky person, you may feel that you can "get away with anything", without negative consequences. You tend to go to excess and have little sense of moderation (or even caution, at times).

Chapter 8: Areas That Challenge You Or Are Difficult For You

Saturn in Leo
You are very self-conscious and have a great need for ego-affirmation and praise. Expressing yourself freely, openly, and unself-consciously is not easy for you. You tend to work hard at playing and "having fun", rather than being light-hearted and spontaneous. Developing self-love and self-acceptance regardless of your "performance" is an important task for you.

Saturn in 2nd house
Your fears revolve around money and material security, and you work very hard to ensure that your assets are solid. You may be very conservative, even stingy, with your money because you are afraid there won't be enough. You may turn this fear around and become very shrewd about investments and financial matters.

Now we will discuss patterns of behaviour which you instinctively and habitually revert to when under stress - a mostly unconscious process and one which you are apt to overdo because it is so familiar and thus easy for you. The direction you need to follow in order to develop balance, greater awareness, and wholeness is also described.

N. Node in Libra
Instinctively you are a fighter and an individualist who can stand alone when necessary. Very often, however, you stand alone when you don't need to, not realizing the support, assistance, and resources others may have to offer. You have a tendency to "reinvent the wheel"! - that is, to feel that you must be self reliant and that only you can come up with the answers you need. Implicit in this attitude is a kind of arrogance as well as a rather competitive approach which at its worst can alienate you from others, or make you feel that "it is me versus the rest of the world".

Social skills and graces and what you call social "games" are not really natural to you. You need to learn how to share and join with others, and how to negotiate and resolve conflict with others in a cooperative way.

N. Node in 3rd house
The arena you are most likely to wrestle with these issues is in the way you think, process information, and communicate. In your interactions with neighbours, colleagues, and acquaintances, try to bring out the qualities described above.

The following are specific activities that will support you in your growth. These may or may not feel natural to you, and often there is some feeling of resistance or initial awkwardness about doing these things, but they are important on your path to wholeness.

N. Node Conjunct Venus
Give and receive affection, love, and pleasure (especially using the qualities described previously). Learn to respond to, appreciate, and create beauty, art, harmonious surroundings and relationships. Be aware of aesthetics and do things in a gracious, pleasing manner. Enjoy life, nurture friendships, and cultivate your ability to love and to receive love.

N. Node Conjunct Pluto
Your path to wholeness involves confronting the dark and hidden aspects of yourself - bringing them to light and transforming yourself in the process. Healing abilities develop as a result of your willingness to experience and transform deep emotions such as grief, anger, and pain. Also, seeing the darkness and pain in the world and helping to bring light to it without becoming overwhelmed is a significant issue for you.

Chapter 9: Originality and Imagination
Areas Where You Are Creative, Unique, Unstable, or Compulsive

Uranus in 5th house
You are uninhibited and have an outrageous, crazy sense of humour. You love to get loose and you're often impulsive or "wild". Even if you appear conventional, you are attracted to highly eccentric, creative, or unusual companions. In romance, you are happiest when there is an element of surprise, unpredictability, and adventure. You may choose unstable love partners.

Neptune in 6th house
You have a sensitive physique and may have allergic responses and sensitivities to foods, medicines, or anything you take in from the environment. Emotional stress and confusion seem to affect you physically, even more quickly than they affect other people.

Pluto in 3rd house
You have a probing, penetrating mind and are highly analytical and critical in your thinking. Work that involves research, investigating mysteries or hidden causes, or deep study and analysis suits you very well.

You are also a convincing speaker, bringing others around to your own point of view by the intensity of your convictions.

Uranus Conjunct Sun/Mercury
You are mentally alive and tend to think and speak hastily. At times you may start out with one idea but then wind up with something completely different. You have a natural talent for mathematics, science, technology and certain branches of the occult.

Pluto Conjunct Venus/N. Node
You like to be the center of attraction and know how to put on a good show. You have a tendency to want to force admiration and love and may consider affection as some kind of instrument for power.

Chapter 10: Generational Influences: Your Age Group

In this chapter we will discuss characteristics and traits of your generation. Of course, you may not share all of the characteristics of your generation, but you are greatly affected by the tone that is set by your generation.

The first topic is "The Subconscious and Emotional Drive of Your Age Group". In this section we will describe a deeply felt urge, even compulsion, of your age group. This deeply felt drive comes to the surface with great force and power, and consequently leaves in its wake considerable upheaval and change. The second topic is "The Ideals and Illusions of Your Age Group", that describes the dreams, fantasies, and spiritual aspirations of your age group. The third and last topic is "What is New and Different in Your Age Group", which describes areas in which your age group tends to be innovative, inventive, unusual, and also where it may be unstable and unreliable.

The characteristics described below may affect a group of people for anywhere from a few years to about 30 years. There are one or more different astrological factors described in each of the three sections below.

The Subconscious and Emotional Drive of Your Age Group

Pluto in Libra
You are part of a 12 year group of people who are deeply interested in personal relationships. Your age group has a deeply-rooted yearning to see people relating and communicating with each other effectively and harmoniously. There is little egotism and a willingness to hear the other person's side of the story and a readiness to compromise and arbitrate different points of view. In fact, the need for harmonious, peaceful relationships is so strong that there is a tendency to overlook real differences and to focus only on the similarities in an attempt to bring different parties into harmony with each other.

Interest in psychology and sociology is high in your age group. There is a tremendous heightening of awareness of social skills. Your age group will experiment with different marriage styles, family relationships, and even business relationships in an attempt to bring fair treatment and effective communication between people. Interest and appreciation for other cultures is also strong, and your age group will work hard to preserve and support the cultural heritage of all ethnic groups.

Your strong yearning for equitable and harmonious relationships is also reflected in major advancements in trade agreements, arms control, and international cooperation that are designed and implemented by your generation. These agreements and policies foster a much safer and more cooperative environment for all, although there is also a tendency for greedy individuals to take advantage of the conciliatory atmosphere and twist situations to their own ends.

In short, you are part of a generation of individuals who are deeply interested in other people; you are a humanistic and humanitarian group. You will struggle and experiment with personal relationships, and forge new models for how people can relate as friends, family members, and members of nations as well.

The Ideals and Illusions of Your Age Group

Neptune in Sagittarius
You are part of a 14 year group of people that are extremely idealistic and farsighted in their dreams. Your age group is very liberal and expansive in outlook, and consequently churches become much more flexible and more eclectic in their approach during your life time. Religions that do not adapt to the broad-minded attitude of your age group simply are unable to attract very much interest and involvement from you.

A great deal of metaphysical musing and speculation is evident in your age group, and there is a very strong interest in all manner of psychic phenomena, UFO's, prophecy, etc. This interest will open many new doors and insights, but will also often lead to a great deal of fantasizing and speculation that is taken more seriously than it should be.

Neptune Sextile Pluto
The entire generation to which you belong has tremendous opportunities for spiritual rebirth and awakening. This will not be forced upon you or precipitated by unavoidable events, rather it comes from an inner yearning and a natural propensity to seek the depths.

What is New and Different in Your Age Group

Uranus in Scorpio
You are part of a 7 year group of people who break up all manner of taboos regarding death, sex, and any other personal, private, or difficult topics. Your age group is less modest about sex than other age groups and promiscuity is not uncommon. You love emotional intensity, and there are many extremists and fanatics in your age group.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

A welcome dose of common sense

George Megalogenis article about the question of whether Australia needs agriculture is a welcome one and I wish I had seen it when it came out last September.

Not only is Australia suffering from chronic drought, it also has by far the poorest soils and the most variable streamflow in the world. This alone questions whether we should be farming in Australia at all. Whilst there might have been justification when poverty and famine were endemic in circa-1800 Europe, since the 1950s “Green Revolution” raised productivity in other hot nations possessing reliable runoff and reasonable soils there is no justification except its extreme labour-use efficiency for farming Australia.

Abundance of land nonetheless has encouraged the incessant growth of Australia’s farmland and the urban population that its exports supported, and today serves to discourage agribusinesses and even organic farmers from thinking of abandoning Australia for countries with better soils and reliable runoff.

Megalogenis is to be credited for showing just how much the drying of southern Australia's climate has eroded the farming base since the winter of 2006 – which I always knew to be a critical turning point. From my finding Perth had received less than half its previous record low June rainfall and raindays, I knew very well the end of the winter rainfall zone is imminent – to be replaced by an arid belt extending all the way to Cape Leeuwin.

It's a pity neither Megalogenis nor the many people who realise Australia is grossly overpopulated do not consider the long-term solution of large-scale revegetation and protection of southern Australia, which would eliminate from the landscape plants totally unsuited to our ancient soils and offer hope of an economy based around ecotourism that might be sustainable.

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Holiday in the Otways

This past week I spent three days in the Otways, staying in a house north of Apollo Bay.

It was my third trip to the Otways with my mother, and the weather was more of the rapidly fading "authentic" Otways type than on my previous two visits in September 1999 and early April of 2001. The last day in particular had a lot of rain.

During the two full days there (Tuesday and Wednesday) we drove through the Otways and saw some forest much more scenic than I recalled on my previous visits. The dense rainforest I saw on Tuesday was particularly impressive, with countless tree ferns the dominant feature.

The Wednesday storm was in the news everywhere, and it was at times terrible for us. Mummy had to evade a large number of fallen trees on a road through Tanybryn - probably the wettest place in all of Victoria and holder of the records for highest daily (22 March 1983 with 375mm) and monthly (June 1952 with 891mm) rainfalls. Whilst we were driving to Hamilton to see where Mummy lived between the ages of four and thirteen, it was impossible to tell dust from thick rainclouds. When we stopped on the attractive main street of Camperdown, Mummy thought the weather was so bad that we should leave. However, it soon rained quite heavily and in fact the Western District countryside - apart from a portion south from Hamilton - looked quite green and farm dams far from empty at the time of year when they would normally be lowest. Hamilton itself clearly had had considerable rain just before we got there, and it was quite a large and not unattractive town. The old school to which Mummy went was in fact largely intact, as was a bakery which she remembers going to very fondly. Her house, however, was turned into a pub, which really annoyed Mummy.