Thursday, 16 June 2011


Finally, some common sense is being injected into the climate change debate. For too long, discussion has become bogged down in the existential and arcane intricacies of the Carbon Tax conundrum (how many compensated pensioners can you fit on the head of a pin, how do you change peoples behavior without, um, changing their behavior, and so on) whilst ignoring the very real threat to our atmosphere lurking insidiously in our own backyard.

I refer of course to the belching, farting camel.

Camels are one of our biggest carbon emitters. As far as bad guys go, they are right up there with BHP, Rio Tinto and Xstrata. Shivering in their under-heated, solar-paneled, pink-batted homes frantically fitting energy saving light bulbs and recycling their milk cartons, your average Aussie battler is woefully ignorant of the fact that a large part of their suffering is due to the thoughtless, selfish, dastardly lifestyle of the Outback Camel.

Roving unchecked across our sunburnt landscape, these burping, farting, native-vegetation guzzling grass munchers are emitting - as was reported in The Australian on Thursday - "the same amount of carbon dioxide produced by a plane on a 7000km flight." Each and every one of them. Every year. And there’s over a million of the buggers scattered across our vast continent. That’s an awful lot of carbon dioxide.

But before you leap out of your seat in self-righteous indignation and climate change induced rage, relax: help is now at hand.

Dr Tim Moore of Adelaide-based Northwest Carbon, has cracked it. His brilliant proposal will see this life-threatening hazard tackled with environmental zeal and Kyoto-style efficiency. Currently under review by the government’s Domestic Offset Integrity Committee, with the blessing of Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change Mark Dreyfus, Dr Moore ‘s scheme combines the incentive structure of a “carbon credit swap” with the 19th century economic model known as “scalp-hunting.”
Dr Moore recommends an airborne assault on the camel population of Australia. For every camel you kill you get a credit for a tonne of carbon.
Dr Moore and his crack team will soon be swooping down out of the clear blue Kimberley skies in a fleet of specially equipped helicopters. I might like to suggest that he exclusively employ returned Afghan servicemen, who at least should be able to spot the difference between a camel (the one with the lumpy bits) and say, a large red kangaroo or a water buffalo. I trust, too, that the marksmen will be specially trained to deliver the coup de grace (or should that be coup de grass?) as humanely as possible. No Indonesians need apply, thank you.
Gaia, I'm sure, will sigh with relief.
But Dr Moore isn’t just a one-trick pony. Another proposal, also under his Carbon Farming Initiative, will see the inoculation of cattle to stop them burping.
About time, too. And a belated breath of fresh air in the vexed greenhouse emissions quandry. Perhaps, after all, Labor can afford to jettison the blighted Carbon Tax altogether. Let’s face it, it’s been a dog of an idea from day one. There isn’t a politician on either side of the debate who hasn’t rued the day he or she first mentioned the cursed thing, having in the past been caught on tape saying the complete opposite of what they now profess to believe in.
Julia can afford to get rid of it. Because the common sense way forward is now clear.

Why stop at camels? Surely we should be targeting all those creatures who wantonly emit the most carbon dioxide and are thereby deliberately threatening life on earth as we know it? We need to do away with them as rapidly as possible. For the sake of the planet.
We can start with people who shop at Hungry Jacks. According to figures released last week by consumer watchdog Choice, their Ultimate Double Whopper packs 80g of fat, 2386mg of sodium and 5085 kilojoules, and is "the most unhealthy option in a sample of major outlets." I cant say precisely how much carbon dioxide your average Ultimate Double Whopper consumer emits post degustation, but I bet it would make even the most hardened camel sit up and blush. I'm glad I'm not the one who will have to do the “emissions-measuring” that’s for sure. Perhaps Tony Windsor or Rob Oakeshott could help out. Because if Greg Combet and his Multi Party Climate Change Committee are serious about making a difference to global warming, they should award each and every one of us our own Domestic Offset Integrity Value. After that, it's up to us. Overdo it on the brussel sprouts and roast parsnips at Gran's Sunday roast and you may well wake up the next morning to the ominous sounds of Dr Moore's black chinooks circling overhead.

Pubs, too, could offer abundant opportunities to reduce emissions. Pew Environment Group spokesman Barry Traill claims that “when feral animals belch they release methane, a particularly noxious greenhouse gas.” You only need to spend a Friday afternoon at The Oaks to know that. There are certainly plenty of ferals at most of the pubs I drink in, and I think removing them from our lives altogether in the name of saving the planet is a fab idea. Win win.
The government could even introduce a Dob-in-an-Emitter scheme. That greasy bogan squashed next to you on the bus who just let one rip? Take a snapshot of him on your iPhone and sms it to 1300 CARBONFARTER. If he's a repeat offender then, like the outback camel, an eager carbon offset hunter will quickly make sure he’s history.
Hopefully then the planet – and the rest of us - will all be able to breathe a little easier.
 Copyright Rowan Dean 2011

Wednesday, 15 June 2011


WHEN you've run out of positive things to say in advertising, the easiest trick is to make up a monster. The uglier and more repulsive the better.

Think of toilet cleaning ads. Take those imaginary, microscopic, horrible, slimy things that make guttural noises and squirm disgustingly as they salivate over your ceramic bowl.

Animation and special effects studios have a lot of fun designing and creating these grotesque visual metaphors with which to terrify the consumer, to the delight of advertising executives and their clients alike. Ugly monsters allow you to avoid having to spell out your own positive selling points, if indeed you have any.

It would appear the advocates of the carbon tax have cottoned on to this trick. Through a relentless and combined effort they have created their very own grotesque creature to terrify us. The hideous "climate change denier" is as ugly and repulsive as any toilet germ gremlin.

The climate change denier has become the Left's favourite bogeyman, pursued with all the zeal of a witch hunt in 17th century Salem. Stupid, vain, ugly and mendacious, the climate change denier monster is anyone who questions any or all aspects of the anthropogenic global warming theory and rejects the urgent requirement of a carbon tax/ETS. This repugnant creature lurks in your neighbourhood and threatens life on earth as we know it.

"The agents of ... planetary death will be the climate change deniers," asserted The Sydney Morning Herald columnist and ABC presenter Richard Glover recently. What, even more so than say, viral mutations, nuclear war, poverty, over-population, peak oil or even the odd asteroid? Yep. And so dangerous are these critters that Glover helpfully suggested "Surely it's time for climate change deniers to have their opinions forcibly tattooed on their bodies" before being "lashed to a pole at a certain point in the shallows off Manly? If they are right and the world is cooling ... their mouths will be above water." After this piece attracted a great deal of unwelcome attention Glover apologised and pointed out the obvious; he was only joking.

But the joke's wearing a bit thin. Only weeks earlier Glover had had another stab at humorously depicting so-called climate change deniers, eagerly conflating them with the "trolls" who clutter the internet. I'm sure former British Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson would be flattered to know that Glover, in effect, deems him and his opinions to be of no more consequence than an "idiot who should be corralled".

And is it honestly the case that the likes of Lord Turnbull, the former head of the civil service in Britain who has demanded that his government stop terrifying the public about climate change, have their "heads in the sand and their bums defiantly aquiver as they fart their toxic message to the world"?

And is the physicist William Happer of Princeton University, who claims it is far from clear there is any real threat from global warming - let alone a catastrophic one - really just another creature from "a septic tank teeming with snapping trolls?"

Elizabeth Farrelly, also of the Herald, decided that rather than creating her own monster to terrify us with, she would borrow an existing one. Not even the best animation studios have managed to come up with anything as slimy, evil and repugnant as our very own cane toad.

With the Herald's cartoonist on hand to make sure you were suitably repulsed, Farrelly applied the metaphor to 2GB's Alan Jones. Bemoaning the fact that Australia's highest rating broadcaster was "poisoning the logic well", "lowbrow", and will "irreparably harm our civilisation, as well as our climate," she chose to dismiss out of hand the points he was making about a) Julia Gillard having lied to the electorate about imposing a carbon tax and b) the nation's ability to have any measurable effect (negative or positive) on the world's climate.

Instead, we were treated to: "[Shock jocks] are the cane toads of contemporary culture: ugly, ubiquitous, toxic to most other life forms." There's that planetary death threat again. If only Glover and Farrelly had some Toilet Troll handy. It kills 99.9 per cent of all known climate change deniers.

Farrelly then gave us an accurate, but ironic, lecture on "dishonest tricks in argument, including caricature, anecdote and non sequitur" seemingly unaware that these are the precise tactics she and her fellow climate change denier demonisers (there! I've just created my own monster!) repeatedly use to demean anyone who happens to disagree with their point of view.

Mike Carlton (also of the Herald, is there a pattern developing here?) is also a dab hand at scaring the kiddies. When George Pell had the temerity to question the climate change orthodoxy, Carlton was ready with the ugly imagery: "Pull out a few fingernails, stretch him on the rack, a bit of how's-yer-father with a red hot poker." Carlton was trying to paint a picture of the medieval religious mind-set, but you couldn't help but get the impression he wouldn't mind wielding the red hot poker himself. Particularly if any of the following monstrous individuals had been splayed out on the rack:

"The third lot of climate denial ratbags are those tabloid media pundits cynically banging the populist drum to drag in the hordes of bogan nongs out there.

"These are people who believe they are beset by a cabal of lefties, Greenies, gays, femi-Nazis, Muslims, venal and incompetent public servants and latte-sipping intellectuals conspiring to deprive them of all they hold dear, like their inalienable right to own a jet-ski and to name their children Breeyanna and Jaxxon."

That's a lot of condescension and hate to pack into one paragraph. These wouldn't be those same people out in the western suburbs who are now lumbered with exorbitant electricity bills because of feel-good renewable schemes that, according to the Productivity Commission report, were ineffectual at best?

And let's not forget "the usual talkback shock jocks going feral and Rupert's opinionators lunging like a shoal of piranha" which, I suppose, is as good a way as any to avoid responding to those who dared question the credibility of Cate Blanchett (Hollywood millionairess) fronting Get Up's carbon tax ads (say yes to the poor being better off.) Is it possible for this debate to be conducted on the strength of the arguments alone? Or, like the toilet cleaning ads, do we have to create monsters in order to build our case?

By all means, counter every argument the climate change deniers, sceptics, carbon tax opponents and the rest put forward, and attack their opinions with passion and verve, or even better, with proven facts and irrefutable rebuttals.

But hysterically and repeatedly portraying them as ugly, stupid trolls, toads and ferals threatening life on earth as we know it, is intellectually (and morally) dubious at best.

Worthy of a toilet cleaning ad, perhaps. But not worthy of the future economic and environmental health of our country.

Monday, 6 June 2011


In light of the brutal torture and mutilation of 13 year old Hamza al-Khatib in Syria, is it time to admit that the Arab Spring will never lead to an Arab Summer of Love?

Barack Obama’s optimistic vision for the Middle East – as outlined in his speech “A Moment of Opportunity” that he delivered at the State department on May 19 - rests on two gargantuan pillars of optimism and naivety. Firstly, the assumption that the Arab Spring will herald in a new dawn of democracy and the rule of law. Secondly, that the Israel-Palestine conflict can be resolved by a return to the 1967 borders.

Both these assumptions can be summed up as the beginning of an Arab Summer of Love.

The western world’s Summer of Love began on June 1st, 1967 with the release of the Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Switching on their radios from Los Angeles to London, millions of excited fans were seduced by the mesmerizing harmonies of the fab four proclaiming: “With our love, with our love we can save the world.”

June 1st 1967 also saw millions of Arabs from Bagdad to Beiruit switching on their radios to hear the mesmerizing incantations of Iraqi president Abdel Rahman Aref proclaiming: “The existence of Israel is an error which must be rectified. This is our opportunity… to wipe Israel off the map."

Aref wasn’t alone. With a little help from his friends in Egypt, Syria and Jordan he looked forward to seeing his particular dream about to become a reality. As troops massed along the Israeli borders, and mobilized for war, the hatred and rhetoric intensified. Ahmed Shukairy, chairman of the PLO didn't mince his words when asked in a news interview what might happen to the Israelis if there were to be a war: “Those who survive will remain in Palestine. I estimate that none of them will survive."

Barack Obama celebrated the Arab Spring by calling for Israel to return to her 1967 borders – the borders of the Summer of Love. Obama’s career has flourished due to bouts of unsupported and unrealized idealism. “Yes we can.”  Like a good child of the sixties, he was quick to equate the tragedy of the self-immolating Tunisian street vendor Mohammed Bouazizi with the actions of civil rights heroine Rosa Parks. Obama, more than any President since Kennedy, knows how to hit the right emotional buttons. A master orator, his words and verbal flourishes inspire a fervent belief that change is possible if only you want it badly enough.

Prime Minister ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu is a pragmatist who saw his own brother killed in a hostage rescue. He rejected Obama’s idea outright. “No we can’t.” He, more than any Israeli Prime Minister since Menachem Begin, does not trust words, only actions.

Ironically, the year 1967 is the perfect metaphor for both the most naive political aspirations of the West, which are now being repeated with our optimistic belief that a new Arab world is dawning, as well as the most lethal political realities of the Middle East, where one side seeks the outright obliteration of another.

The Summer of Love saw the flowering of a Western political mindset that led to a retreat from an unpopular war in Vietnam, an entente with communism, and a refusal to interfere in the invasion and occupation of Eastern Europe. The philosophy of All You Need Is Love spread its tentacles throughout the universities of Europe, America and Australia, where a new generation of political aspirants were learning their craft in campus political societies. Peace was a state of mind. Peace was a way of life. Peace was a song and a slogan. It was two fingers in the air, rather than something you had to fight and possibly die for.

Lying in a bed with his Japanese girlfriend by his side, a guitar and a bag of acorns, John Lennon redefined a new political strategy. Give Peace a Chance. The belief that pacifism of and by itself could prevent war.

During the lead up to the Six Day War in June ‘67, the stated goal of numerous Arab nations was the destruction of Israel and the annihilation of the Jewish race. To this day, echoes of that intent remain, lurking in Hamas's charter and much of the propaganda foisted by their rulers onto impressionable young Arab minds. Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, putting the finishing touches to his nuclear arsenal, often repeats his desire for Israel to be engulfed in a sea of flames.

We preach love and peace in the West, as much today as we did in the sixties. And sometimes our glasses are even more rose-tinted than they were back then. Barack Obama’s faith in the Arab Spring and starry-eyed vision for peace in the region will probably remain as elusive a fantasy as Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. Parts of Obama’s speech, praising the recent events in the Middle East, read like lyrics from the hit parade of 1967:

“A new generation has emerged. And their voices tell us that change cannot be denied.
In Cairo we heard the voice of the young mother who said, "It's like I can finally breathe fresh air for the first time."
In Sanaa we heard the students who chanted, "The night must come to an end."
In Benghazi we heard the engineer who said, "Our words are free now. It's a feeling you can't explain."
In Damascus we heard the young man who said, "After the first yelling, the first shout, you feel dignity."

Bob Dylan couldn’t have made it sound more poetic, but Syrian schoolboy Hamza al-Khatib would probably beg to differ. If the 13 year old were still alive. Reports suggest that because he dared attend a protest against the Syrian regime, the teenager had his genitals cut off before (or hopefully after) being shot to death. Even younger, an11-year-old girl, Malak Munir al-Qaddah, was also reportedly killed in the southern town of Hirak.
Human rights groups report that more than 10,000 Syrian dissidents are under arrest and estimate over 1,000 civilians have been killed by Assad’s thugs.  Radwan Ziadeh, head of the Syrian Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, claimed: "The regime commits two types of torture, the systematic, which we see accompanying mass arrests, and the particularly gruesome to spread fear on an even larger scale.”

Meanwhile, the Egyptian army who now run the country in the absence of Mubarak still torture dissidents and stand idly by while Muslim mobs murder Coptic Christians. Women protesters in Egypt are subject to “virginity tests”, on the baffling premise that only prostitutes and drug addicts would still be protesting. Libya is at war – and NATO planes are busy bombing it to pieces. The Saudis are ruling with fear and oppression, and their troops are doing the same in Bahrain.

This is hardly the dawning of a Middle Eastern Age of Aquarius.
The tragedy of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is neatly encapsulated in the mental, as well as physical, boundaries of 1967. The West still believes that peace is something that you can talk about, and negotiate with words and contracts. With legal niceties and lines drawn on a map.

In the Middle East, peace is no such thing. Peace – and just as importantly peace of mind – can never exist when you are afraid that somebody intends to destroy you. Security, not peace, is what Israelis hope for, pray for, and sometimes have to die for.

Only when Israel can escape the ever-present fear and threat of imminent annihilation, with the mental security that gives her the confidence to cede the appropriate territory, will the option of two peaceful states co-existing side by side be feasible.

Can the Arab spring usher in an Arabic Summer of Love? If the uprisings were to bring forth new leaders, proper democracies and administrations not addicted to the hatred and poison of racist propaganda, then there would be the chance that Obama’s starry-eyed vision could come to fruition.

But as the torture and oppression get worse, the signs are not hopeful.

Another great band grew out of 1967. Blood Sweat and Tears. Which unfortunately is what the Arab Spring will most likely be remembered for.