Merchants of Doubt – public lecture and book on the politics of global warming

Merchants of Doubt - public lecture and book on the politics of global warming

Went to a free lecture tonight at UNSW by Prof Naomi Oreskes on the politics of global warming and how the fossil fuel industry has paired up with a handful of scientists and dozens of think tanks that base their outlook on market fundamentalism. Together they heavily influence global opinion via a concerted PR campaign that sows the seeds of doubt, which in turn slows down environmentalist political action to a standstill. This obviously favours the fossil fuel industry that is making money out of destroying our environment (while supplying energy to our wasteful over-consumption) and makes it extremely difficult to either get the real scientific truth on global warming out there or to work towards effective change if we are to avoid very serious global consequences.

The lecture will probably be on the Science Show on Radio National in the coming weeks as there were audio and video recordings and Robyn Williams did the MC-ing.

UNSW public lecture page (will update later with Science Show link if appropriate)

Her main argument (though I’ll now have to read the book too and report back!) is that global warming/climate change skeptics weren’t just born out of money from the fossil fuel industries, but also out of market fundamentalism as an ideology that a group of scientists cling onto, all of whom have strong connections to big tobacco, conservative administrations in the US and right-wing think tanks that hope to ‘advance democracy’ via free enterpries and free market. These fears of social democracy, government legislation and regulation are born out of Cold War fears of a communist tyranny that can only be prevented with complete market deregulation. So they have swapped the enemy from the Soviet Union to environmentalism.

Science, unlike think tanks and big industry has no strong PR outlet and complex scientific findings are not always easy to explain to the public. The ‘merchants of doubt’ who have worked for big tobacco and now the fossil fuel industry (both for money, but even more for ideological reasons, as above) are working hard to create doubt partially by misconstruing scientific skepticism and partially by presenting a false ‘balance’ in the media where there is no ‘balance’ in the sense of a divided scientific opinion. There is almost complete consensus on what is going on scientifically speaking, 6000+ scientists against a small handful. This is not a matter of ‘balance’ but that of overwhelming scientific consensus based on hard evidence built up by tends of thousands of researchers. Very sadly big industry has much more clout in the public sphere than scientific consensus, leading to a distorted public debate in which global warming is in doubt, when in fact it absolutely isn’t.

So political action is further delayed and environmental catastrophies are not being averted. We are running out of time to make effective change. Interestingly the lecture also showed the history of global warming in science and by the 1950s there was a pretty strong growing consensus and by the 1980s there was overwhelming evidence. We only started having any meaningful international political action on this issue in the 90s, by then the consensus was very solid indeed. We are woefullylagging behind.

The industry even employs very dirty tactics that Naomi Oreskes and her research partners have tracked: the fossil fuel industry pays think tanks to intimidate and harass media outlets into NOT showing documentaries that present the scientific consensus in its objective state. At one point all public television and radio in the US were threatened with lawsuits if they didn’t drop the screening of a particular program. Unbelievable!!! Most of them dropped the program as they cannot afford expensive lawsuits, unlike the very rich and powerful fossil fuel industry that can afford to intimidate and harass the media and even nation states through loopholes in trade agreements that ‘guarantee’ them the right to be exempted from environmental legislation. Truly dismaying stuff.

The book will be worth a read: ‘Merchants of Doubt – How a handful of scientists obscured the truth on issues from tobacco smoke to global warming’.

No doubt there are many other valid viewpoints and it’s surely not just down to a handful of scientists, there is a bigger picture there including our psychological makeup that is averse to change that involves lifestyle changes that are unpleasant, and lack of media diversity where high quality public sphere debate is only truly available to the educated middle classes in the West (who listen to Radio National or turn up to lectures). But the big PR effort of the fossil fuel industries, like tobacco before, are not to be underrated, they have done an amazing job at creating (even manufacturing) doubt in people’s minds.

What a crying shame. Please spread the news, read the book, have a good hard think! ๐Ÿ™‚ Or drop a note here even.

Sculpture by the Sea

Sculpture by the Sea

You been yet? It’s closing this Sunday.

Bad weather? Too far away? Busy? Ill (like me)?

Well, you can now see it virtually.


And it’s a good virtual tour too, with 16 tops, 360 degree view, zooming and lots of info and 3D view of sculptures ๐Ÿ™‚

The quality is really high this year and it must be the most spectacular outdoor sculpture show in the world… I wouldn’t miss it!

BBC Life

BBC Life

Attenborough’s ‘Life’ (BBC 2009) is definitely one of the most exhilarating wildlife documentaries you could get your hands on. I suggest you beg, cajole and umm search online until you’ve got it.

The neatest conceptual framework and most astounding insights are paired with the most breathtaking camerawork in the world.

Attenborough is reaching transcendental heights with this series, I am in total awe of it all.

Life shows animals and plants using the most amazing techniques, strategies and skills to survive under all kinds of precarious and demanding conditions. Sometimes they don’t make it, but often they succeed and how!!

Here’s a taste, go and get it now so we can re-tell each other the most awesome bits! Come on! ๐Ÿ™‚

โ€˜Last chance to seeโ€™

โ€˜Last chance to seeโ€™

Restore your sense of wonder and watch the magic of nature in the wildlife documentary ‘Last chance to see’!

In this awesome BBC tv series the author and wondrously intellectually gay renaissance man Stephen Fry and crazy arse nature photographer Mark Carwardine re-trace the tracks made earlier by the late Douglas Adams.

They travel to Madagascar, Indonesian archipelagos, the Amazon and other exotic places where they seek out endangered species that are on the verge of extinction. They immerse you in the awe of nature and show you the wonder of these creatures, their habitat and local and global conservationist efforts to save them.

Conservation often includes the following methods: trying to defend habitat, education of local children about the environment and the rare species they will be the custodians of in the future, scientific breeding programs, helping villagers survive better so they don’t have to eat or sell otherwise protected wildlife, and raising consciousness of the various aspects that contribute to loss of biodiversity.

In the Amazon basin our guides ‘hunt’ for the elusive manatee, a large aquatic mammal with amazing abilities, large dark shapeless things in the water who are highly sentient and are gentle and strange in equal proportion. On the island of Komodo we come face to face with the large dragons that are fierce yet locals do their best to save them. In Sabah, in Malaysia we encounter venomous snakes that are gentle and graceful. In Madagascar our guides go through the craziest adventures just to spot an aye aye in the wild. It’s a surreal looking creature of the night related to lemurs with long vampire fingers (for tapping hollow trees for maggots) and magic abilities, yet only a handful remain in the wild.

2010 was the year of biodiversity, this is wonderful documentary to bring our attention to what we are losing. Many scientists believe biodiversity loss is even more tragic than global warming and may have even bigger consequences. And believe me I’ve been reading up on this as I have just finished teaching a course at university on this topic.

Fry and Carwadine show what we need to preserve and the sheer magic of these creatures, their habitat and their marvelous secrets we only begin to fathom as we are losing them. They do this with wit, humour, candour, awesome insights, fantastic adventures (and an awesome support crew who are sometimes invisible, though they feature local conservationaists well) while also conveying the awe that captivates them. I was totally captivated and fell in love with all these weird and wonderful creatures. I think you’ll love this series too, catch it while you can for free ๐Ÿ™‚

In Australia you can currently see the series on ABC’s iView.

Check out the website of the series

SBS shoot!!

SBS shoot!!

Spent last Sat shooting for SBS with a bunch of people who are close to my heart. We shot a segment on polyamory for their new sexuality and relationship series next year. We should be on air next June in episode 3.

The shooting rocked!! We were all on message, lots of wonderful things were said and shared in an articulate way, the crew were awesome and the shoot was smooth. I spent months with the researcher and other personnel working on the poly segment and spent weeks organising the poly ‘tribe’ for the shoot: me and Chris, Craig and Kimberley, Chris and Chryl, Helena and my mum!

We also had Thiago, Joe and Georgie there ๐Ÿ™‚ It was great having a BBQ and run-in party beforehand as there were some nerves and questions and things to work out.

After the shoot we had a fantastic party! Thank you Helena and everyone else for making it so magical.

A large portion of the Sydney poly community gathered for the party and there was much, ahem, celebration to be had ๐Ÿ™‚

Loving my tribe so very much! Hoping this segment, which will be the first such on Australian tv, will pave the way for an even bigger growth spurt for the community and help many people out there who are questioning their life, sexuality and relationships and who have little information or knowledge of the alternatives.

We’ll have a party for the screening no doubt and I’m happy to see that the community got even closer together after this tumultuous day! If you participated in any way, thank you so much for your support, work and sharing. If you didn’t, we did this for you too, hope you can appreciate it and share in the fruits of our labour of love!! Mmm love… ๐Ÿ™‚