Monday, 25 January 2010

Australia will face demolished ecosystems before starvation

On the ABC today is an article which gives one the impression that Australia could face starvation from climate change. Whilst I have heard (and know) that Australia will face agricultural problems as a result of man-made global warming, if it really is true that Australians do not want forty million people here in a country that can sustain about two million without its surfeit of mineral resources, then such a majority must overcome its passivity to protest to eliminate subsidies to water and energy use.

People do not realise that, in ecological terms, water in Australia should cost far more per unit than it does in Europe or North America or New Zealand. Owing to the need for dense proteoid root systems, Australian rivers have extraordinarily low runoff ratios compared to those of comparable climates overseas. Because these low runoff ratios reflect a requirement of around 300 millimetres (twelve inches) of rain before the dense rooting systems allow any runoff at all, variability in Australian streams is twice as high or more as those with the same rainfall and identical precipitation variability in Eurasia, North America, or New Zealand. Thus, for the same size of storage in Australia, only around a fifth as much water can be yielded even when reservoir evaporation is ignored.

This would require Australian water prices uniformly at least five times those of Europe, North America or New Zealand. Given the dryness of Australia's climate south of the nineteenth parallel, one could argue ten times Northern Hemisphere prices as more reasonable.

The trouble is that in a free market any increase in prices would fail to disturb the enormous economic advantage Australia's farmers have. In a free market, entrepreneurs would know they could gain much by building a pipeline from the relatively well-watered portion of the continent north of the nineteenth parallel to allow farming on the dirt-cheap land in southern Australia. It is indeed very easy to see that this – or large-scale desalination – could be the way the world feeds itself unless people see an ecological duty to not eat Australian-grown foody.

The consequence of reversing a natural hydrology typical of the Mesozoic rather than the Quaternary, however, will be drastic for all Australia’s freshwater and terrestrial systems. Even those that survive man-made global warming will be destroyed if all the water from the well-watered north is turned to irrigate the arid south. How the northern rivers’ ecology would change from such moves is not known, but it would be very likely to destroy most species who are adapted to the extreme climate of the drought/flood tropics.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

South Africa tracks down rhino poachers

According to International News, poachers in South Africa have killed one hundred and twenty-two rhinos rhinos since the start of 2009.

News of growth in rhino poaching has been prominent over the last year, as the economic crisis means that people can no longer make money by licit means and so they turn to an extremely valuable resource. Although rhino horn is nothing like so expensive as cocaine ($3 per gram as against around $200 per gram), it is still in sufficient demand that people can gain more money from killing a rhino than they can from years of work at other jobs available in Africa. This problem is made worse because many poachers can very easily cross the borders from impoverished Zimbabwe and Mozambique to poach rhinos in world-famous Kruger National Park.

Authorities in South Africa indeed say that rhino poachers are indeed part of very large groups who are involved in a great variety of crime activities from prostitution to drug smuggling to even the illegal trafficking of people. This makes solving it very hard, but hopefully we will see a repeat of the recent arrests in Kenya whereby at least a dozen poachers have been killed.

Triple M's Top 100 Albums -a familiar list in an odd order

Today, I found that Triple M have made a list of the Top 100 Albums of All Time.

It is the first time for a while I have found a list I want to report, though this time (unlike most cases I will confess) I had no expectations for anything unusual.

What is a little odd, as the notes suggest, is the way in which the list is ordered. Whilst one cannot question Back in Black being number one on any rock albums list in terms of its musical and cultural influence. In fact, I wonder why Benjamin Wiker and similar people do not discuss AC/DC because the whole history of the Baby Boomers in Eurasia, Blue America, Canada and New Zealand can be seen as a desire to purify Epicureanism from the influence of Christianity. In this quest, AC/DC were, along with such philosophers as Richard Dawkins and Peter Singer, the absolute "vanguard". However, when one moves even lightly down the list, it seems odd. It is hard to understand why Pearl Jam should be at number three: neither in popularity or influence can they compare with Nirvana or perhaps even Soundgarden. The same could be said to be true of
  • Live
  • Supertramp
  • solo Sting
  • Kings of Leon
  1. Back in Black - AC/DC
  2. Dark Side Of The Moon - Pink Floyd
  3. Ten - Pearl Jam
  4. Rumours - Fleetwood Mac
  5. Born in the USA - Bruce Springsteen
  6. Bat out of Hell - Meatloaf
  7. The Joshua Tree - U2
  8. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - The Beatles
  9. Kick - INXS
  10. Nevermind - Nirvana
  11. East - Cold Chisel
  12. Led Zeppelin IV - Led Zepplin
  13. Brothers in Arms - Dire Straits
  14. Odyssey No.5 - Powderfinger
  15. Wish You Were Here - Pink Floyd
  16. Hysteria - Def Leppard
  17. What's the Story Morning Glory - Oasis
  18. Purple Rain - Prince
  19. Blood Sugar Sex Magik - Red Hot Chilli Peppers
  20. Diesel and Dust - Midnight Oil
  21. Hotel California - The Eagles
  22. Smash - Offspring
  23. Achtung Baby - U2
  24. Slippery When Wet - Bon Jovi
  25. Thriller - Michael Jackson
  26. Throwing Copper - Live
  27. For the Working Class Man - Jimmy Barnes
  28. Dookie - Green Day
  29. The Swing - INXS
  30. A Rush of Blood to the Head - Coldplay
  31. Appetite for Destruction - Guns 'N' Roses
  32. The Beatles - The Beatles
  33. Metallica - Metallica
  34. Graceland - Paul Simon
  35. Who's Next? -The Who
  36. The Wall - Pink Floyd
  37. Breakfast in America - Supertramp
  38. Use Your Illusion II - Guns 'N' Roses
  39. Whispering Jack - John Farnham
  40. 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 - Midnight Oil
  41. A Night at the Opera - Queen
  42. Urban Hymns - The Verve
  43. T.N.T - AC/DC
  44. True Colours - Split Enz
  45. Are You Experienced? - Jimi Hendrix
  46. So - Peter Gabriel
  47. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road - Elton John
  48. Listen like Thieves - INXS
  49. Vulture Street - Powderfinger
  50. Human Frailty - Hunters & Collectors
  51. The Doors - The Doors
  52. Crowded House - Crowded House
  53. American Idiot - Green Day
  54. Business As Usual - Men At Work
  55. Grace - Jeff Buckley
  56. Little Creatures - Talking Heads
  57. Abbey Road - The Beatles
  58. Circus Animals - Cold Chisel
  59. Automatic for the People - REM
  60. Led Zeppelin II - Led Zeppelin
  61. Dream of the Blue Turtles - Sting
  62. Ziggy Stardust - David Bowie
  63. 1984 - Van Halen
  64. Living in the 70's - Skyhooks
  65. Use Your Illusion I - Guns 'N' Roses
  66. Blue Sky Mining - Midnight Oil
  67. Sticky Fingers - Rolling Stones
  68. Mars Needs Guitars - Hoodoo Gurus
  69. The Stranger - Billy Joel
  70. War - U2
  71. The Colour and the Shape - Foo Fighters
  72. Synchronicity -The Police
  73. Cosmo's Factory - Creedance Clearwater Revival
  74. Shabooh Shoobah - INXS
  75. Californication - Red Hot Chilli Peppers
  76. Scarecrow - John Mellencamp
  77. Jagged Little Pill - Alanis Morrisette
  78. Full Moon Fever - Tom Petty
  79. MTV Unplugged - Nirvana
  80. Cats and Dogs - Mental As Anything
  81. Yourself and Someone Like You - Matchbox Twenty
  82. L.A. Woman - The Doors
  83. Sirocco - Australian Crawl
  84. Frampton Comes Alive - Peter Frampton
  85. Only by the Night - Kings of Leon
  86. Stop Making Sense - Talking Heads
  87. Harvest - Neil Young
  88. Internationalist - Powderfinger
  89. Keep the Faith - Bon Jovi
  90. Woodface - Crowded House
  91. Dire Straits - Dire Straits
  92. Imagine - John Lennon
  93. Cut - Hunters and Collectors
  94. Ghost in the Machine - The Police
  95. Gossip - Paul Kelly and the Coloured Girls
  96. Get Born - Jet
  97. Reckless - Bryan Adams
  98. Slowhand - Eric Clapton
  99. The Lonesome Jubilee - John Mellencamp
  100. Destroyer - Kiss

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Kyōto: a radically different Japan

After going to Mount Fuji, we returned to Tōkyō for our last night and prepared for a final look at the city and a 400 kilometre trip on the bullet train (shinkansen) to Kyōto, one of three major centres in Japan’s second-largest conurbation, Ōsaka-Kōbe-Kyōto, also known as “Kansai”, which means “west of the barrier” (a reference to the central mountains of Honshū).

The trip on the shinkansen was remarkably easy and a shame to every citizen of ecologically fragile Australia who has allowed the road lobby to waste billions on freeways and highways not a single one of which was remotely needed in a flat country like Australia whose terrain suits rail so well!

Entering Kyōto was as much a new experience as entering Japan itself. Whereas Tōkyō epitomised the modern, high-tech Japan on an amazingly grand scale, Kyōto was another world. The city was quite spacious – at least apart from the residential areas of which I saw very few – and in accordance with Japan’s very wet climate extremely green even during the fresh winter weather. Even the houses I did see amongst the large streets were very traditional – made of wood, an extremely abundant resource in hilly, fertile and wet Japan. Our hotel, in perfect accord with this, was very traditional and lacked the comforts we had had in Tōkyō, but it was actually less uncomfortable from merely a little more space. Inside, the room was dark and quiet, which rather suited me, and I enjoyed the relaxing experience and not having to worry about the Internet – which has led me to unhealthy obsessions which tend to cause unpleasant reactions dating from many years ago.

The second day in Kyōto was spent walking round the historic heart of the city, and much more memorably a number of royal gardens dating from when Kyōto was the imperial capital of Japan. These were the most beautiful sight I have ever seen: the houses in the garden were so well-arranged as to give a great surprise, and so was the walking path.

So good were Kyōto’s gardens that there was never time to have a look at shopping in the city – which did not bother me as I had enough to read in my email and to look at on and eBay that there was very little time for this.