Monday, January 02, 2012

And what better way to start the new year than with Paul Sheehan and a Victorian state of mind?

(Above: silly people, if only they had access to Paul Sheehan's columns on the intertubes).

It almost goes without saying that any column by Paul Sheehan will lack rigour, insight and coherence, but heck, as a way of kick starting the year, we'll say it anyway.

More storms on the way unless we learn to manage the land is yet another classic Sheehan example of conflation and confusion, bundling up climate science with land care in a way which serves to illuminate neither.

In his usual bombastic way, Sheehan makes big, bold, brassy claims:

It is a big theme to consider on the first Monday of the year, especially with the linkages Andrews sees between the wet Sydney summer, the storms in Melbourne, and the rainfall across northern and central Australia.

It's all linked, he says, and the accelerating cycle of extreme weather is a challenge made by our own hand.

Uh huh. It's made by our own hand, but all the recent weather events are linked not to global warming but to land care.

Now you might think this is passing strange in a land which according to the CIA - yes, nothing escapes the CIA - has a mere 6.15% of its surface area dedicated to arable land (including about 27 million hectares of cultivated grassland), and comes in somewhere around country 146 in terms of arable land in use (Bangladesh clocks in as the winner at 55.39%).

But never mind, it seems the 6.15% has a whopping influence on the weather, entirely disconnected as Australia is from the world climate, and any fluctuations, variations, consequences, influences or impacts therefrom:

He (Peter Andrews) believes most of the agricultural sector has misread its own lifeblood, the landscape, causing a massive build-up of heat on the land, which then draws cool air from the ocean.

''As soon as all the crops ripen, there is a build-up of heat on the land that is not managed by plants. This heat joins the weather system, causing a massive increase in thermal build-up. This causes extreme weather …''

Statistical evidence? Scientific proof? The role of big cities and extensive urbanisation?

Sorry, go whistle dixie, because you see Sheehan in his usual way is only presenting the argument, the controversy, and it's up to you to decide.

Of course a little while ago he was doing the same for cities, citing them as heat sinks that skewed climate science, and perhaps also skewed the weather.

Ah yes, the joys of remembering Sheehanism, and it's all there in Life's a bitumen nightmare as cities get hotter than hell, as Sheehan searches for any explanation for weather variations - perhaps even the drover's dog - rather than taking a serious look at climate science.

And so with a wave of the hand, Sheehan via Andrews can dismiss global warming and attribute all the recent weather to monumental mishandling of the landscape, because Peter Andrews says so. And as usual - in the way that footnotes certified Ian Plimer as a serious scientist for Sheehan, Andrews is also credentialed:

Peter Andrews? We wrote about him several years ago. Since then he's been on the ABC's Australian Story, written two books and gathered a following for his land restoration technique called Natural Sequence Farming. His great calling card is the one landscape he has been able to shape and control, the Baramul Stud in the upper Hunter Valley, owned by the retail magnate Gerry Harvey.

Well good on Peter Andrews for appearing on Australian Story - thereby breaking its usual run of special pleadings for people accused of murder - and good on him for writing several books and good on him for fixing up the land on Gerry Harvey's farm, but you might wonder just how these qualifications have any bearing whatsoever on climate science, or the implications of global warming.

Not the intrepid Paul Sheehan, who is very quick to assure his readers that Andrews isn't some kind of kook:

Andrews, like Harvey, is a businessman, not some anti-farming zealot. He's been a farmer, and thinks farming can be done so much better. Even cotton farming could be transformed into a practice less alien to the landscape and more productively.

Phew. That's a relief. He's a businessman! And we can still do cotton in remote regions and we won't stuff anything up, not even the weather.

But what about the Murray-Darling?

Andrews is also disenchanted by the attempts to restore the Murray-Darling river system, a process that has so far pleased no one, and led to the federal government's purchase of water rights for billions of dollars.

''Cattle are the main reason why the Murray-Darling is in a mess,'' he said. ''It used to function perfectly. The amount of evaporation today is a disgrace. It is about 54 per cent. It used to be zero. Water was recycled many times after rainfall.''

Ah, I get it. We can do cotton, but we can't do cattle. Bring on 'roo farming - a demand of the pond's from way back - and ban cattle.

Oops, I just knew you were going to mention Sheehan's stout-hearted defence of the live cattle trade in Cattlemen driven to desperation by Canberra, featuring Chris Brack and suggestions that the United Nations was going to hand over the world to an international consortium of finance companies. Sob, I guess we'll just have to work out a way to do cattle as well as cotton.

As for global warming, it seems we are facing an environmental disaster, which is urgent and caused by our own activities, but the notion of the global warming industry is a giant con.

(Andrews) sees the threat to the nation's long-term productive capacity as more immediate than the threat posed by higher global temperatures.

Because the higher global temperatures are caused by land degradation, and if Australia fixes its land, it'll fix the global climate. Or some such thing.

Phew that's a relief. And it's reassuring that Andrews and his anti-fracking views are the carefully considered opinions of a businessman, not some greenie:

All this should make him a hero to the Greens, but he is appalled by the thought. ''The Greens have no idea. They are clueless.

The trouble is, after reading Sheehan on Andrews, the pond emerged completely clueless and totally in the dark.

For a start, Sheehan manages to confuse El Niño with La Niña thusly, as he sets out on his quest to confuse climate and weather, and blame the current weather fluctuations on El Niño :

(b) Latest cycle of El Nino - Southern Oscillation.
(c) Combination of global warming and El Nino.

Is it too much to expect when writing about La Niña to call it La Niña?

Well naturally Sheehan sent the punters into a frenzy in the comments section, thereby doing his best to ruin January, as punter after punter not so politely pointed out that mis-management of the land is not an argument against climate science, and that perhaps both could be considered - without conflation and confusion - as serious issues.

The one that struck a chord in the pond was this one:

Sheehan writing about water again ... magic!

Oh yes, the pond is back in business, as if the Mayan calendar was the only hope when it came to fun in 2012.

And now for a couple of asides.

Travel is supposed to broaden the mind, but the pond quickly learned it was going to be in trouble in Victoria. It seems if you let off an feffing amount of fugs and effings within ear shot of a sensitive Constable Plod in Victoria you can cop an on the spot fine, and the law's been around for some time (The curse of the foul-language law).

Amazingly this upset the Green Left (Give a shit about anti-swearing laws) and inspired agitation in Crikey (I'm a teenager and the Baillieu government is fucked).

And the pond knew nothing about it.

Now if Constable Plod would just avert his or her eyes, can we just exclaim Fuck me dead, and why no tirade from the commentariat about political correctness, the nanny state, and political stupidity?

Even funnier, the pond was in St Kilda on the very last day bongs were available for purchase, before being banned forever, and immediately had fantasies about setting up a bong store in Albury, but then realised that the full to overflowing intertubes had made such entrepreneurial moves redundant (yes there are thousands of Bong Design Pages).

Naturally the PC and nanny staters were out in force (Bong ban to end Labor's mixed message to kids and youth, said dear leader Ted) but even funnier was the news that it's still okay to kill yourself smoking tobacco via a hookah as a way for the government to avoid confronting Middle eastern and Arabic communities (Sex Party says proposed bong ban in Victoria is racist).

The pond had no idea that Victoria had reverted to Victorianism, and that Ballieu's mob had run amok, flinging cash at coppers, stirring up the nurses and the teachers, and with a Treasurer who thought he could spend most of the time down on the farm and phone it in ... and with an Attorney General, one Robert Clark, who offers delights on a weekly basis, and not just via phone calls to Sir Ken (Attorney-General Robert Clark stumbles on phone call to Sir Ken Jones).

Suitably chastened, the pond proposes to spend more time with Victoria's finest, in their valiant endeavours to restore Queen Victoria to her proper place in the world ...

Why they begin to make even Paul Sheehan seem like an ocean of sanity in an El Niño world. Sorry, scrub that, make it La Niña ... and remember, the reason the weather is kinda funny involves either (a) land care (b) drovers' dogs (c) bongs (d) naughty words (e) bitumen (f) magic water (h) spiritual bread providing an epiphanic experience, or (g) a combination of the lot ...

(Below: as the government continues its quest for a new state slogan, the pond remains fervently committed to Victoria. A State of Mind, as explained in Slogans reveal our state of play. What a pity they couldn't fit Victoria. A State of Mind, Delusional and Dystopian on the average number plate).

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