Has the revolution begun…?

18 05 2016

julian cribb

Julian Cribb

Written by Julian Cribb, and originally published in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Election 2016 may herald the beginning of the end of party rule in Australian politics. Indeed, rather like Mikhail Gorbachev, Malcolm Turnbull might just have inadvertently pulled the trigger on the dissolution of the party system. It’s a big thought, after a century or more of the national interest being subordinated to vested interests, but there are signs that Australian electors are thoroughly jack of party politics and more than willing to try new things and new people.
It shows in the febrile oscillation of the opinion polls, the frequent switches of government and leader, the determination of voters to deny the major parties control in the Senate. It shows in the disgust of ordinary Australians at each new case of electoral corruption, secret dealing and rip-off by spendthrift MPs, who preach restraint while plundering the public purse.

It shows in our dismay at the ongoing deterioration in our education system – school, university and TAFE – the degradation of our scientific enterprise and healthcare system – which overall add up to an attrition in the nation’s skills, technologies, fitness for work and capacity for sustainable economic growth.

It shows in the complicity of the mainstream parties in the wrecking of the Australian landscape and oceans – from the Liverpool Plains, to the extinction of native species, to the now almost-unavoidable ruin of the Great Barrier Reef. As Euan Ritchie and Don Driscoll noted on The Conversation, the national biodiversity crisis does not rate priority policy from any of the major parties.

It shows in the Canute-like attempts of politicians across the spectrum to turn back the flood-tide of Australian opinion on issues such as domestic violence, marriage equality and assisted dying.

And it shows in the public revulsion at the engagement of the main political parties in endless, pointless, unwinnable wars, in their use of terrorism to justify greater surveillance and repression, and their inhuman treatment of people fleeing those wars.

The word ‘party’ is from the Latin, pars, partis – a part – the stem that gives rise to the term partial. And that is exactly what Australian political parties today have become – bodies partial to their own interests and those of a tiny minority of supporters. By definition, as well as by contemporary behaviour, they are no longer aligned with the national interest or the public good. And we are simply the mugs who let them get away with it, time and again – probably because we haven’t yet completely figured out there is another way.

Once upon a time, political vested interests were diluted by well-meaning people with a commitment to public service. No longer. A never-ending cycle of political pay hikes, rorting of public funds and parliamentary privileges, gold-plated pensions and ‘entitlements’, furnishes the proof that most of them are in it for what they can get. The driving ambition of Australian politics has become personal, rather than national, enrichment.

In 2014-15, according to the Australian Electoral Commission, the combined parties of Australia received over $170 million, mainly donations and mostly from private individuals and companies. As the public understands, it’s a fair bet most of that was donated in the expectation of some sort of special treatment or monetary advantage granted by the ruling party. In other words, an officially-sanctioned bribe. However, as the NSW ICAC continually discloses, these are but the first whiff of a large and festering corpus of hidden or less-visible rewards, abuses of office and, post-politics, the appointment of scores of former Ministers and MPs to juicy sinecures on corporate boards, where they peddle special influence for personal gain.

The hypocrisy of this system has recently been illumined in the LNP’s attempts to expose Labor’s connection to shonky union affairs in the Royal Commission, and the ALP’s counterbattery retort in the form of a proposed banking Royal Commission. The answer obvious to most Australians – a Federal Independent Commission Against Corruption – is one that none of the leading parties wishes, for obvious reasons, to countenance: it would expose glaring evidence that the entire party system is corrupt and rotten, root and branch.

The role of the fossil fuels and mining lobby in derailing climate policy in Australia is a further case of the preparedness of parties and their paymasters to sacrifice the national future, our grandchildren and the planet, to their own short-term interests. This alone demands a Royal Commission – or a Federal ICAC – if not substantial jail sentences, as any crime against humanity deserves.

Disenchantment with political parties has halved their membership in recent decades. Despite the secrecy, journalistic investigations suggest that the combined membership of all parties totals under 100,000. No party comes even close to the membership of, say, the Collingwood Football Club (76,000 – maybe it should run for office instead of trying to play football…). It is therefore likely that our leaders are being chosen for us by less than 0.4 per cent of the Australian population, a travesty of democracy (and in reality, by a microscopic handful of powerbrokers within this tiny minority). Not surprisingly an Australian National University study (2014) found that only 43 per cent of Australians believe it makes any difference who is in power.

Given all this, one enchanting possibility in the coming election is that Turnbull’s gamble to rid himself of the cross-benches might just backfire horribly – as disgusted voters decide to punish both he and the equally disappointing and compromised Shorten. It’s not the sort of thing that shows up in opinion polls, which are interpreted chiefly by the media’s need for short, simplistic two-horse-race stories. Neither the parties nor the media display much grasp of the emerging multi-spectral character of Australian politics, in which hung parliaments, complex alliances of minor parties and negotiation with a multiplying throng of independents form the central dynamic. A Scandinavian political scene, rather than the one we’re accustomed to.

It only takes one thing for this to happen. For a majority of voters to rip up their party how-to-vote cards, ignore the deluge of deceptive advertising and soon-to-be-broken promises, and put their mark next to the name of the most decent, well-intentioned Australian standing in their electorate. The one with a track record for honesty, trustworthiness, integrity, hard work and commitment to the future. The exact antithesis of the usual party hack.

Of such small things are political revolutions made.
Julian Cribb is a Canberra-based author and science writer.
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/comment/is-this-the-end-of-party-rule-20160502-gokc1m.html#ixzz48y8o1THi
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Julian Cribb replies

30 10 2014

Dr Julian Cribb

If you haven’t read it yet or viewed the video, I recently posted an item about Dr Julian Cribb’s recent (October 2013) presentation to the Wheatbelt NRM Annual General Meeting.  It’s difficult when running a blog such as this to give someone you don’t know the right of reply, but this time Julian has taken the time to leave a reply, and as a mark of respect to him and in fairness to all opinions, I’ve decided to post it here as a proper article rather than see it lost in the thousands of comments which pepper this site.  I’m glad Julian has done this, and I fully understand his point about the difficulty of solving the world’s problem in a 30 minute talk; I haven’t managed it myself yet either!

Anyhow, some of you frequent readers might like to enter into a conversation with Julian, if he so desires here…. I personally cannot see how Julian’s assertion that ” it is going to take another 100 years or so to get the population (smoothly) back to 4-5 billion” can ever happen…  this particular subject is one I’m passionate about, so let’s hear it from you…

I also thought I had given Julian some credit for thinking about the issues we face when I wrote “I have come across more and more ‘experts’ who appear to be very well informed on the state of the multifaceted predicaments we face”.  Maybe a bit ambiguous, but…….

Over to Julian.

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I think you are unfair Mike. It’s not possible to solve all the world’s problems in a 30 min talk, especially one that is specifically directed at a farming audience. But give me some credit for thinking about them, at least. As to population, read my book: the women of the world are already solving it – reducing their fertility in all regions globally. However it is going to take another 100 years or so to get the population (smoothly) back to 4-5 billion. The simple reason – that never seems to occur to rich western people who scream about population – is that part of the upward pressure is due to them living longer lives, not just to birth rates. If you want to control it, you are not only going to have to enforce family planning at gunpoint – but also impose euthanasia on the over-50s. See how much popular support you get for that.

Of course I know about the energy cliff and have heard Ian Dunlop speak wisely on the issue, as regards oil especially. But there are innumerable forms of energy available. You may have noticed my observation that the entire world’s transport fuel could be produced from an area of algae farms about a tenth the size of the Pilbara. That’s just one option. So I don’t buy the ” ‘We’ll all be rooned’ said Hanrahan” philosophy. There are viable options, especially for those who don’t simply give up.

If you want to know what I really think, here it is: humanity has the brains and the technical skills to carry us through the population and demand ‘hump’ and into a measured decline to a sustainable number. But we don’t have the governments, the economic structures or the educated society needed to achieve it.

Worst case is the Schnellnhuber scenario, or about 9-10 billion dead and a billion survivors, mainly in north Russia and Canada, by the end of the present century as a result of climate, resource and religious wars, famines, migratory conflict and disease. That’s also pretty much the CSIS worst case scenario too. Both presuppose limited use of nuclear weapons.

Personally I think there will be a few big wake-up calls well before we get to that. Like Bob Rich I think we’ll see a couple of megacities fall over, right on our iPhones. Mass killing, cannibalism, suicide, explosive emigration. If that doesn’t wake people up, then Homo don’t deserve the ‘sapiens’.

So rather than just grumble from your armchair, Hanrahan, lets start hearing some practical solutions.





On Senders of Mixed Messages…..

26 10 2014

Dr Julian Cribb

Lately, I have come across more and more ‘experts’ who appear to be very well informed on the state of the multifaceted predicaments we face.  yet they seem unable to tell it like it really is, and send mixed messages about how ‘we’ll be saved’ if only we apply such and such a technology. Even Nate Hagens in the last video I published here surprised me with a few of the things he says at the end of his presentation.  I have just come across another… his name is Dr Julian Cribb.  The video below starts off discussing all the things you’d expect to find here.  He even mentions the Egyptian revolution being caused by food shortages and rising prices, and that alone makes him almost unique among ‘media operators’.  He praises Permaculture principles, and makes much about the state of our soils and how degraded they are and how the produce therefrom are very low in actual nutrients.

Plantagon project in Sweden

Julian Cribb, however, seems unaware of the Energy Cliff.  He mentions Peak Oil and Peak Phosphorus, water table depletion, and the way agriculture utterly relies on oil for food production, but then goes off at a tangent predicting cities will grow to 30, 40, even 50 million, and could become so green they could be designed to produce 30% to 50% of their food.  Yet, at an earlier stage of his presentation, he tells us that each person on Earth, at current agricultural efficiency levels, require 1.5 hA of land to produce the food they eat.  So a city of 30 million (like Tokyo today – which is actually 37.8 million, but let’s stick to round numbers here…) requires 45 million hectares of land to feed it.  Even 30% of its food requirement would therefore demand the use of 10 million hectares, yet Tokyo has an area of 218,800 hectares…..  something does not add up.

Cribb deploys images of ‘green cities’, including a dome under development in Stockholm, Sweden.  I’m frankly underwhelmed by such projects.  The surface area under food production doesn’t seem that great, and I can’t help wondering how many dwindling resources obtained with ever shrinking amounts of ever lower ERoEI energy is needed to feed what is simply just another unsustainable city.

And no mention of taking control of population growth either.  It’s a given that we will hit 10 billion within 25 years, and that’s that.

This youtube clip has only had 352 views, even though it’s been on the interweb for almost a year.  Just goes to show how interested people are in Peak Farming…..

 





The Coming Famine

6 10 2013

The Coming Famine is a discussion paper by Julian Cribb and Associates#

In coming decades the world faces the risk of major regional food crises leading to conflicts and mass refugee movements. This is driven primarily by emerging scarcities of all the primary resources required to produce food and a global failure to reinvest in it. This paper outlines key factors in emerging global food insecurity and proposes some solutions.

Julian Cribb

‘The Coming Famine’ published by the University of California Press and CSIRO Publishing, August 2010.

We’ve all heard by now the forecast that there will be 9.2 billion people in the world by 2050.  And current projections suggest human numbers will not stop there – it will keep on climbing to at least 10-11 billion by the mid 2060s.

Equally, the world economy will continue to grow – and China, India and other advancing economies will require more protein food.

Thus, global demand for food will more than double over the coming half-century, as we add another 4.7 billion people.  By then we will eat around 600 quadrillion calories a day, which is the equivalent of feeding 14 billion people at today’s nutritional levels.

The central issue in the human destiny in the coming half century is not climate change or the global financial crisis. It is whether humanity can achieve and sustain such an enormous harvest. #

The world food production system today faces critical constraints. Not just one or two, but a whole constellation of them, playing into one another – and serious ones.

This is the great difference from the global food scarcity of the 1960s. Then the constraints were around skills and technology – and the generous sharing of modern agricultural knowledge and technology in the Green Revolution was able to overcome them.

Today the world faces looming scarcities of just about everything necessary to produce high yields of food – water, land, nutrients, oil, technology, skills, fish and stable climates, each one playing into and compounding the others.

So this isn’t a simple problem, susceptible to technofixes or national policy changes. It is a wicked problem.

The world is haemorrhaging nutrients at every link in the chain between farm and fork. On the farm it appears that anywhere up to half of applied nutrients can be lost into soil, water and the environment.

#Our resources of mineral nutrients are starting to decline. When Canadian Patrick Dery applied Hubbert’s peak theorem to phosphorus (Figure 2) he found, to his dismay, we had passed it in 1989.

According to the International Energy Agency, peak oil and gas are due in the coming decade. These spell scarcity and soaring prices in the primary nutrients – nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) – that sustain all advanced farming systems worldwide. In food production there is no substitute for these three nutrients: they are as essential to plant growth as water and light.

At the other end of this equation we are ruining our rivers, lakes, seas and oceans in ways that prevent us from getting more food from them. Each year we pump around 150 million tonnes more nitrogen and 9 million tonnes more phosphorus into the biosphere than the earth’s natural systems did before humans appeared: we have utterly modified the planet’s nutrient cycle, more radically even than the atmosphere or fresh water cycle. That we may double our release of nutrients to the environment as we seek to redouble food output is alarming.

The rest of this fascinating paper can be read here.