Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The illusion of stability

Call me a bit of an old fashioned, stick in the mud, grumpy pants if you will. That's fine. Maybe last night's earthquake (measured at 5.2 near the epicentre) was going to happen anyway, after all there are fault lines looking a bit like scattered pick-up-stix throughout Victoria. Earthquakes happen here and we expect a tremor occasionally.

Fault lines in Victoria. The area to the East of Melbourne is Gippsland.
But what is different from when I was a child growing up atop Selwyn's Fault, is that exploration for, and extraction of, oil and gas didn't use a technique known as fracking, which isn't as benign as it's somewhat amusing name would suggest.

A local exploration company is quoted as saying that "the fracking process presented minimal risk to the area" (around Gippsland) and "There's been hundreds and hundreds of fracks in Australia for over 25 years without environmental harm from one incidence of fracking", (link) however, the process is acknowledge to have set off earth tremors in other parts of the world (link). This statement about safety is at odds with other reports. (See Quit Coal).

There is evidence that "fracking can trigger earthquakes, [yet in Britain] experts said there was a "very low" chance that it could spark one large enough to cause any significant damage". I sound like a nit picking old fusspot, but that comment doesn't fill me with confidence either. Not at all. The word "significant" is telling. It implies that if someone deems damage from a human induced earth tremor is "insignificant" that's perfectly normal and acceptable. (my emphasis)
Last night, I wasn't on top of the epicentre. The son of a close friend was, and apparently there was damage to his home. I guess that will be deemed insignificant, and assumed to be from natural causes. After all it's hard to prove cause and effect. Particularly as "Australia is not as geologically stable as many think. Despite popular belief, Australia is a geologically active continent with moving fault-lines, regular seismic activity, and a long history of mountain making" (link) The area around Korumburra in Gippsland where last night's epicenter occurred is active.

Call me a kill-joy if you will, but wouldn't it therefore be really, really sensible NOT to poke and prod at the fault lines near Korumburra by forcing all sorts of chemicals and liquids deep into the earth at high velocity to explode the rock? (Information on fracking here and more on Human Induced Earthquakes here

There's evidence of contaminated water supplies, unusable pastures and farmland and other negatives after fracking has occurred; all of which have been deemed acceptable to the powers that be.  But it seems that we're way out of our depth (excuse the pun). We simply don't really know what we're unleashing when we allow fracking to occur. 

To me it's like prodding and poking at a sleeping giant just to see how much irritation it will tolerate before retaliating, possible in a manner way beyond our widest imagination.

FFS, last night was scary - un-nerving and unsettling. My mud-brick home groaned and shuddered, the windows, paintings, glassware and china rattled as the ground shook with a deep, low grumbling sound. I now understand (in a very small way) the description I've heard of feeling motion sick during an earthquake. It was over in about 10 or so seconds. They were an unnaturally   l   o   o   o   o   n   g    10 seconds. My hands were shaking for some time afterwards as I watched the standard lamp sway to a graceful, thankfully upright, stop.

We could put an end to this kind of exploration. We could invest in a variety of safe, clean, sustainable renewables with known positives and negatives. We should be cautious about waking our sleeping giant.
Fracking image from QuitCoal
We have a choice, but will we choose wisely and responsibly?


Saturday, June 16, 2012

A tiny amount of effort can make the world of difference.

Imagine for a moment that you're in a workplace, and there have been a few veiled comments that someone you know, but aren't particularly close to is being bullied. Let's for the moment call her Sheila, but it could as easily be Chip, Ahn, Stephan, Narasimha or Lee.

What's it to you? After all Sheila has friends, you've seen them going for a walk, chatting over lunch and you know they sometimes go out for a drink after work some Fridays.

But Sheila looks dreadful, she seems weighed down and no longer makes witty quips to her friends. The spring has gone from her step and you've heard she no longer goes out for lunchtime walks or to the Pub after work. She has become hesitant, nervous, wary and on edge, sometimes snapping for no apparent reason.

What comes as a surprise to many people is that whilst they know the target of a bully needs support it's rare for that person to be receiving the level of support they desperately need. I'm not referring to assistance from HR or legal options. I'm talking about the little everyday things that help make life bearable, so that the target doesn't feel so dreadfully, painfully alone.

Clearly, something is wrong with Sheila. Perhaps it's more than a temporarily grumpy boss, and she is being systematically hounded, harassed, mobbed or bullied.

a) you don't know what to do
b) you think someone else is helping/supporting - she's got lots of friends, right?
c) you think that what you have to offer is too minimal to make a difference

It's so easy to assume that someone else is helping. But there are all sorts of reasons this may not happen: One person may be struggling with their own issues and not notice, another may be concerned that if they're seen to support they will become the next target, and many others think "Surely her closer friends are helping. I'm not really that important to her." (More on this here)

Time and time again, I've had people say to me: "I felt so alone, it's like no-one noticed or cared."

My request to you is to show you care. Never assume the target has allies. The bully regularly has cronies, they can be powerful, nasty, vicious and unrelenting in their subtle and not so subtle undermining ways. The target rarely has the same level of support.

The simplest of things can make all the difference and let the target know they're not alone. In all sorts of unobtrusive ways you can show you care. A "thinking of you" text or email. A stick-it note with a smiley face or amateurish sketch of a bunch of flowers or clown. A kind word. An offer to have a coffee together. An email with a beautiful/inspiring/amusing photo attached. You don't really need to say much or commit to deep involvement. A variety of support is important, and your role may not need to be more than this.

Tactful support is mostly welcome; ask if you're unsure. Remember, you may be the only person to show you care. 

Here's a link to a post describing a situation I've witnessed far too many times - the tell tale signs of abuse and the debilitating suffering and legacy of unrelenting bullying.
Examples of artistic creativity might give the target hope
and remind them there is beauty in the world.
There's more information that could support the target here, here and here, and a book review on "Working with Mean Girls" by Meredith Fuller (which is equally relevant to men!)


Friday, June 8, 2012

"We'll all be rooned"

Same news, different slant.

Murdoch owned local newspaper the Leader
Glory be, we'll all be broke by year's end with the horrendous rate "hike" all apparently due to the evil carbon tax. You can't miss it, surrounded in red, with a block-letter, red subheading clearly indicating the cause of the rate increase.

But wait! The reporter has actually presented the facts of the proposed budget quite well. When one gets beyond the drama - the word "modest" appears in the quote, but you have to be interested enough to read further, to get beyond the automatic, emotional knee-jerk reaction. You've already been told this is bad, and that the reason it's bad is the carbon tax. It's clear and unambiguous. Time to start bitching about the irresponsible government!

If you're interested enough to read further, there's more good news about how the local council is doing some pretty good things with the rates. Drainage will be improved to respond to increasing storm and flooding events - that's pretty encouraging. Sports pavilions will be upgraded which I expect will make the sporty types happy, and measures will be taken to address the effects of climate change. It's possible these include floods and fire, but I'm not entirely sure, because as you can see, the negative heading and subheading take up almost as much space as the actual article, which doesn't leave much space for exploring the issues.

Anyway, who'd bother reading - it's boring, right? Rates and taxes - ugh. Many people won't realise they've been taken for a ride by a sensationalist and skewed headline - they're already in bitch mode which makes it harder to read or think objectively.

It's clear what the slant of the paper is, given the negative focus on the carbon tax, no matter how much positive news is included in the skimpy article.

 The Mornington News - an independent newspaper
An alternative view of the forthcoming local council budget is in the independent newspaper. We now have a very encouraging gift of a low rate rise! Whoohoo. Celebrations in order!  Same increase in rates, but rather than being "rooned" by a frightful, crippling, evil carbon tax, (which isn't mentioned till half way down the second column) we learn that it's the lowest rates increase in over 10 years - double celebrations!! (Why, oh why they didn't have the sense to call it more accurately a tax on pollution and polluters I'll never understand.)

And so, the tussle between Murdoch and others who want to own media outlets to push their biased agenda goes on. Of course there will always be an element of bias in the news and reporting. However, when one person or group is able to monopolise the bulk of the news outlets and not only dumb it down, but manipulate the time poor or struggling reader and blatantly misrepresent facts we're setting ourselves up with a serious problem.


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A cycle of dependence ... or freedom?

If I'd asked when we had our first oil crisis, what would you have answered? I didn't have a clue. In fact the continued sloppy safety and extraction standards and massive spills would make you think there wasn't a looming shortage. (Some information about Peak Oil here and Fracking and Fossil Fuels here.)

It turns out the first oil crisis was in the 1970's, less than a hundred years after oil had begun to be widely used as a source of energy for cars. It's interesting to learn that the Netherlands used this shortage and an accompanying economic crisis as an opportunity to challenge the growing assumption that the car was the ideal mode of transport.

In the years since the second world war, cycling had become marginalised and the car had become King, with the demands for ever increasing roads, parking lots and infrastructure. Traffic deaths, including those of cyclists had increased massively and cities were becoming choked with traffic.

Does the above sound familiar?

And yet, the Government of the Netherlands and local communities were proactive and turned a negative into a positive.

They were keenly aware of the costs associated with increasing motor traffic: that it kills people, the cities and the environment and that continued dependence was unhealthy. They encouraged people to enjoy "car free Sundays", and over time they adapted their transport planning to integrate cycle paths quite naturally. Cycling and cyclists were no longer marginalised with the benefit of improved health, lower transport costs and safer cycling.
The world is currently staggering from crisis to crisis, unhealthily dependent on oil and seemingly willing to commit any crime to get the next oil "fix".

It's looking more and more like an addict who is completely unable to think clearly, rationally, wisely or thoughtfully - only able to focus on the immediate and next fix. The future and others who may yet come after us appear to be an irrelevant inconvenience.

Too often bullying countries and corporate leaders act like a drug dealer who will commit any amount of crimes to get what he wants, and justify it as well with arrogant, dismissive, wide eyed "honesty". Those pushing the drug of fossil fuel energy addiction are complicit in encouraging total dependence.

Are we able to pause, assess and choose to incorporate cycling in to the transport mix as wisely as the Netherlands did over 40 years ago. Or like the addict, will we pretend we "can't" and continue to make excuses?

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Of death and memories, both beautiful and sad.

What is the longest amount of time you've procrastinated for? I know I'm not alone in putting things off, but there comes a time when a potentially unpleasant or possibly daunting task needs to be tackled. It's time to dip into one task I've been avoiding for over 10 years.

Going through my mother's diaries.

She'd suggested I do it long before she died, but I knew it'd be awkward and perhaps I'd learn things about my mother and family I didn't really want to know. So I didn't; simple as that, and the boxes have been "stored" inefficiently and exposed to the nesting instincts of birds in the airy carport.

I didn't expect to find a desiccated baby bird when I got the boxes down.
Although she suffered dreadfully with arthritis and bitterly cold hands, my mother was a prolific writer. Any time other than on the hottest of days (above 35 degrees C) her fingers would be white with cold and the pain was clearly difficult to mask. The result is that her writing is often crabbed and blotched, and sometimes, with the best will in the world, all my squinting and turning the page to different angles doesn't help with a particular word.

Mostly, however, her writing is vivid, insightful and interesting. She discusses world news, politics, science, her spirituality and religion, and of course her family. Last night the hours melted away as I relived January to May 1992. Twenty years ago when my children were young and my mother babysat them fondly and frequently - sometimes so I could simply have a cup of tea or shop without "help". I felt nestled in a cocoon of the deepest, richest unconditional love imaginable.

There were however, darker entries. Of relatives who'd been seduced by the silver tongued poison of a cult leader, unexpectedly leaving children to fend for themselves (in hindsight, thankfully left behind with a flippant "They'll cope"). Reminders of the vicious, cruel, acrimonious attacks on the innocent by those who felt superior and special. Memories of sorrows, rifts, confusion and grief.*

I know this could be a turbulent voyage which will no doubt take some months, and I expect a skeleton or two might drop from a previously hidden cupboard - although I hope there will be no more birds! I think perhaps I was waiting for was a decent amount of time to pass before delving into my mother's private world.

What would you do, read your mother's diaries and discover some skeletons or .... ?

* Link to Anne Hamilton-Byrne & the sect The Family here and here, and Raynor Johnson, one man who enthusiastically promoted the sect here. Link to a book about The Family "Unseen Unheard Unknown" here.

Given the obsessive secrecy surrounding cults such as this one,  it's possible there are links to this group with the same name: here and here . The goal of both was/is to recruit similar kinds of people around the world and manipulate policy at as many levels as possible to further their selfish aims.

There are a number of books about cults and the cruelty they inflict. Link to Not Without My Sister  here.

(I've used the term sect and cult interchangeably even though technically there is a difference)

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