Sunday, September 24, 2006

Neighbors drop in for breakfast

We had the neighbours drop in for breakfast on Saturday.
These wild Rainbow lorikeets are a regular visitor and are cheeky enough land on you and accept fruit from your hands. The Sulphur-crested Cockatoo are a little more timid, preferring to graze just out of toddler reach. Recently we have been getting a few Crimson and Eastern Rosellas but they have been too quick to get a good photo.

Monday, September 18, 2006


The most viewed article in the online version of "The Age" - the largest circulating 'proper' newspaper in Melbourne had this article about Gore's movie, An Inconvenient Truth today. It is titled and whimsically concludes that the wrong man is president and muses about what may have been.
Writen by the UK jurno Jonathan Freedland and origionally published in The Guardian.
Full Text

The wrong man is President

Jonathan Freedland
September 18, 2006

Al Gore's film reminds us how the US Supreme Court changed the world.

I AM ashamed to say it took a movie to make me realise what, above all others, is surely the greatest political question of our time. An hour and 40 minutes in the cinema watching Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth is what did it.

I had heard the warnings and read the reports: for two decades environmental activists have been sounding the alarm. But, I confess, none of it had really sunk in the way it did after seeing An Inconvenient Truth. I can think of few films of greater political power.

It should be a perfect yawn. A souped-up lecture delivered by a middle-aged, thwarted politician who was best known for being dull and wooden. Yet the film somehow gets right to your gut. Methodically, using graphics, photographs and the odd bit of computer animation, the former US vice-president sets out the case that the climate is changing, with human activity the most obvious culprit. By the time he's done, you accept that we're facing a planetary emergency, you agree that global warming is the greatest threat confronting the human race and you desperately want to do something about it.

It is a model of political communication. Gore assumes no knowledge and starts right at the beginning. He has a brief, childish cartoon to explain that the thin layer of atmosphere that surrounds the Earth — like the coat of varnish on a wooden globe — is being thickened by vast quantities of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The thicker that layer becomes, the more heat gets trapped in, so raising the Earth's temperature.

He supplies the numbers, with graphs showing the steady increase in CO2 in the atmosphere and the accompanying rise in temperature. To convey how high the CO2 figure stands, he walks along, tracing a line projected onto the screen behind him that goes back 600,000 years. Then he has to be raised by hydraulic lift to reach today's number. He announces that of the 21 hottest years ever measured, 20 have come within the past 25 years. And the hottest of the lot was 2005.

But what brought gasps from the audience were photographs of glaciers, then and now. Once clear, beautiful ice, they have turned, in a matter of years, into blue water or dry dust, from Peru to Italy. The evidence of a world warming up appears before your very eyes.

And, Gore explains, there are consequences. Some doubted it, but that was before the world took a "nature hike through the book of Revelation", with floods in Europe as well as tornadoes and hurricanes across America, culminating in Katrina last year.

Many, especially in the US, were prepared to accept that carbon emissions are making temperatures higher; they could even see how that would affect nature — glaciers, plants and the like. But they were still sceptical about what that had to do with human beings. With Katrina as the precedent, Gore shows them. And he explains that as glaciers melt, sea levels will rise, eventually flooding land from Florida to Shanghai, Holland to India. In Calcutta and Bangladesh, he says, 60 million people would be displaced. In Manhattan, ground zero would be ground no longer. The site of the World Trade Centre would be under water. More gasps.

The range of emotions this prompts begins with shock, then anger, directed by Gore at those corporate interests that, with their political servants, have sought to keep this inconvenient truth from the public, especially in the United States.

The stand-out case is that of Philip Cooney, a former lobbyist for the US oil industry, who wound up — despite no scientific training — as chief of staff of the White House's environment office. From that perch, he set about rewriting papers by government scientists, turning firm conclusions into doubtful possibilities. He literally got out his pen and changed "is" to "may". He was caught and left the Bush Administration, taking a job at ExxonMobil.

But Cooney is just an unusually blatant example of what is a continuing campaign by Big Oil to cast doubt over climate change.

Gore notes that of 928 peer-reviewed scientific papers on the topic in the past decade, the percentage that express doubt over the cause of global warming is zero.

Soon anger gives way to determination to act. The former vice-president is aware that Americans, in particular, could move "from denial to despair", believing first that there is no danger and then that there is nothing that can be done about it. Gore tries to be more upbeat than that, ending his movie with a rapid — probably too rapid for non-American audiences — guide to action.

It worked on me. Four months after I saw the film, I find myself looking at the world through its lens. I now notice office buildings at night, aglow with electric light; or hotel rooms abroad, frigid with 24-hour air-conditioning even when empty. I read about the roaring economic expansion of China, building a new coal-fired power station every five days. I see all this and I fear for our planet.

The film leaves a more direct political thought. You watch and you curse the single vote on the US Supreme Court that denied this man — passionate, well-informed and right — the presidency of the United States in favour of George Bush.

But you also remember what that election turned on. The conventional wisdom held that Gore and Bush were so similar on policy — Tweedledum and Tweedledee, the pundits said — that the election was about personality. On that measure, Bush had the edge. Sure, he couldn't name any world leader, but the polls gave him a higher likeability rating. If you had to have a beer with one of them, who would you choose? Americans said Bush, every time.

Even that was not enough to give Bush a greater number of votes: remember, Gore got more of those. But it got him closer than he should have been. And the world has been living with the consequences ever since.


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Birthday Dinner

Wednesday night found us in the revolving restaurant at the top of Australia Square. I highly recomend the blue swimmer crab for the starter. Counting amongst the birthday spoils, apart from dinner and babysitting (gracious abuelos) were a flash pare of sunnies, a massage, ca$h and some lovely cards from Annalise and Adrian.

I might just add that it is raining, really raining, the kind of rain we seldom get in Sydney any more (gracious El Niño). Annalise may yet get to wear her gumboots again.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Crocodile man reported dead

the SMH is today reporting that Steve Irwin has died filming underwater, "killed by a stingray barb that went through his chest". Crikey.

I'm saddened, especially because he did alot to promote conservation, but I can't say I'm suprised. How does one lament the passing of a man who with ADHD anticks simultaneously poked sticks at dangerous creatures and reinforced the stereotype of Australians being a pack of drongos in kaki shorts?

Fathers Day

El domingo por la mañana Innie, Diego, Danielito, Margaret, David, Annalise, Alex, Don Gon y yo fuimos a Yum Cha. Era muy bueno. Ahora tengo una bariga gorda.

Sunday found the usual suspects gorging themselves at the local Yum Cha, needless to say it was rather awesome, but now my pants are a little tighter.