Friday, July 27, 2012

A changed perspective on fossil fuel companies.

In the past, I’ve looked at the manic search for, and voracious lust over new finds of fossil fuels as if the companies were drug dealers, eager to feed our addiction and with cynical disregard for the consequences. Unfussed whether the prey lives or dies, the pusher is disdainful, possibly contemptuous about the addict's weakness – there’ll always be new markets to feed.

Company as addict?
However this morning I idly wondered what happens if you look at fossil fuel companies as the drug addict, instead of the dealer/pusher. Locked into a spiral of habit and dependence, and not knowing quite how to change. Not having the courage, nor the will, nor the need.

When we’re feeling guilty about our behaviour (even if only in a very small way), or if we're demonised, we can become defensive, abrupt and lash out at any critics. We justify the unjustifiable. We see this with addicts of various persuasions. It also seems to fit the behaviour of some companies.

Us versus them scenarios (such as fossil fuel companies versus environmentalists) aren’t particularly helpful and tend to paint people simplistically and without the nuances and complexities that are more real. When we're polarised we're less able to find common ground. When we’re in a corner, with our back against the wall, we’ll fight. That’s normal and to be expected, not only of people, but I suspect, companies too. But it's not helpful. Not helpful for us. Not helpful for our future.

If it's too good to be true, it's too good to be true
Imagine for a moment that the fossil fuel companies and their entourages have unleashed the equivalent of a destructive genie from a bottle. After a 100 or so years, they’ve discovered that what appeared at first to be an extraordinarily welcome product, of the “WOW, look what we can do with this, it’s too good to be true!” variety, has now been found to be too good to be true. This wonder product is part of a package that has morphed into something truly sinister and frightening. A poisoned chalice if you will.

But they didn't know, they're disbelieving and don't want to know that the amazing wonder product could be harmful. Like a drug addict, they seem to be stuck in a pattern of behaviour and dependence that has been habituated over the years.  Change is hard. But demand and support for change is necessary. (Of course it would have been incredibly sensible to become energy companies with a broad product base years ago, rather than relying completely on fossil fuels, but that opens up a different set of issues.) 

Profit with no responsibility for waste
With profits of $375 Million per day, it'd be good to know these companies were paying a fair price to dump their waste the same as everyone else. "Alone among businesses, the fossil-fuel industry is allowed to dump its main waste, carbon dioxide, for free. Nobody else gets that break - if you own a restaurant, you have to pay someone to cart away your trash, since piling it in the street would breed rats." (Global Warming's Terrifying New Math)

Fossil fuel companies appear shifty, arrogant, brutish, uncaring and aggressive when presented with the destructive results of their product. Unlike the child who is called to account for poor behaviour, or the drug addict who realises their life will come to an abrupt end if they continue their chosen path, they've collectively and consistently avoided responsibility - and got away with it. They don't know any other reality ... yet.

To get an idea of where the profits go, Climate Progress is a good place to start. "The entire oil and gas industry spent on average $400,000 each day lobbying senators and representatives to weaken public health safeguards and keep big oil tax breaks, totaling nearly $150 million." (my bold)

A community response?
Perhaps we, as individuals and communities, have a collective interest in supporting change, because no one else seems willing to take up the challenge. I find it impossible to imagine that all fossil fuel companies and their hundreds of thousands of individual employees, their families, friends and communities are proud of what they’ve unleashed. But they haven't spoken out. When will they?

Many employees must feel uncomfortable with the outcome of repeated carelessness; oil spills, unbelievable environmental damage, cruel disregard for native populations. At what stage will these people say “No more”? At what stage will subscribers to superannuation and other funds, both individually and collectively, demand their fund managers act with integrity and invest the funds with a view to a sustainable future?

As Bill McKibben says in Global Warming's Terrifying New Math
international moral outrage and pressure might just help begin a new movement to force change on an industry unwilling to change itself. Movements rarely have predictable outcomes. But any campaign that weakens the fossil-fuel industry's political standing clearly increases the chances of retiring its special breaks. Consider President Obama's signal achievement in the climate fight, the large increase he won in mileage requirements for cars. Scientists, environmentalists and engineers had advocated such policies for decades, but until Detroit came under severe financial pressure, it was politically powerful enough to fend them off. If people come to understand the cold, mathematical truth – that the fossil-fuel industry is systematically undermining the planet's physical systems – it might weaken it enough to matter politically. Exxon and their ilk might drop their opposition to a fee-and-dividend solution; they might even decide to become true energy companies, this time for real. 

Photos D.Abbott. SA
Let's hope change happens soon, because the alternative isn't encouraging.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Some days Google just cracks me up!

or, Finding Humour in Little Things.

I'm bemused by the advertisement Google has placed above this latest example of thick headedness by the Queensland LNP (the political party in power up there).

The representative of the good people of Noosa, a man named Richard Pearson, has "attacked the "false prophets who would poison the minds of our children in our schools". (link here)

Strong words to describe tertiary educated science teachers, and hardly the sort of comment to warm the cockles of your heart if you're a normal, decent, hard working teacher who loves your subject and enjoys your chosen career. 

It's also extremely discouraging for students who love science, to hear a political representative undermine their teachers by calling for mainstream climate science to be cut from the state's school curriculum.

It's just what we don't need; politicians choosing what to be included and excluded from the curriculum. Can you imagine where this would lead? Books being printed to present the views of one group of politicians and the vested interests who support them financially, then when they're voted out, the whole curriculum being changed, new books printed, videos made, retraining undertaken. 

It's certainly not an economical or sensible way to invest our meagre educational resources. When this kind of thing happens in other countries we're often critical and sometimes outraged. But perhaps Mr Pearson or the people who voted to remove a valid part of the curriculum, haven't considered where this kind of manipulation could lead.

However, back to the rather black humour here and the advertisement in question. It's in blue (or turquoise if you're 'into' colour).

If you are experiencing stress in your life, please seek help from your health-care professional or local professional organisation such as:

And a last comment. Let's support our students and their teachers by celebrating their achievements. As a society we face many challenges, not least regarding our changing climate and the massive implications of that. Undermining those who devote their lives to educating our future leaders at the expense of common sense and forethought isn't helpful for any of us.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

YAAAY!! I've inherited some money!!!!!

Not just some money, but EUR 8,650,000.00 or in case I don't understand the figures that's Eight Million, Six Hundred & Fifty Thousand Euros Only! (Note the caps and bold!!) What a kind lawyer to tell me in  figures and words how much I've inherited and all I have to do is give him my banking details. Too easy!

Happy dance! I'm rich! Wheeeeeeeee :D

Not so fast you say? But surely this is all legit. I mean, this very official, personalised letter arrived by snail mail with a real stamp! All the way from Portugal to Australia. (Nods head very wisely - that makes it super important - I know about these things - it's very different to the phone, email, or mobile phone scams - isn't it. Nod, nod, nod.)  It's possible I had relatives there. Poor things to have died in a car Accident so far from home. (Oh gosh another random capital letter.)

Look, 100% risk free! Yippee doo!

But what's this ... I don't like this bit half way down the last paragraph. Bar. Gordon C. Clemenza wants to share MY inheritance 50% for him and 50% for me. That doesn't seem right. They were my relatives!

Do you think his name really is Barrister? Anyhow, Barrister Gordon C. Clemenza has asked me to "be kind", and I am. I'm very kindly sharing this scam in the hope that it reminds people to be wary and never give banking details to anyone even if someone says they're from your bank or even if it appears to be from a marginally respectable sounding possible lawyer type person.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

P. PTSD - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

This post is for the letter P in my series on workplace bullying for the 2011 A-Z Blogging Challenge. This is a repost of the original.

PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) can be described as:
an invisible injury occurring as a result of major traumatic experiences, including violence, harassment, assault, rape, accident, fire, explosion, disaster, or witnessing such events.
(from bullyonline) 
PTSD is a natural emotional reaction to a shocking and disturbing experience which has overwhelmed one's ability to cope. It causes significant impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning.

There is growing awareness and acceptance that PTSD can also result from an accumulation of many small, individually non-life-threatening incidents such as being exposed to prolonged and relentlessly abusive bullying. To differentiate, the term "Complex PTSD" is generally used.

The feelings and emotions resulting from serial bullying which are similar to those of PTSD include:
  • Avoid discussing or thinking about the events
  • Avoid going places that remind the person of the trauma
  • Chronic gloominess
  • Concentration is shot, often confused
  • Catatonic. Some people experience an inability to get out of bed (this is very different to laziness)
  • Distress at being asked to recall the events or being around people discussing bullying
  • Detached, as if watching others from behind a screen
  • Exhaustion which is not relieved by sleep
  • Flashbacks may be common, with frequent distressing recollections of the events
  • Flight or fight response is on constant alert
  • General disinterest in life
  • Guilty for being weak
  • Hyper-vigilant
  • Irritable
  • Loss of libido
  • Nervy
  • Pacing the house at all hours of the night
  • Recurrent nightmares - adds to sleep deprivation 
  • Snappy
  • Startles easily and frequently
  • Sleep is disrupted constantly, may have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep
  • Unable to find meaning or fun in life
  • Vomiting or nausea at mention or discussion of the event
East side Gallery. Berlin. 2009.
Here's some information about stress and Recovery from Bullying - learning new patterns of behaviour after having been bullied and Another Step in recovery from bullying, The Making of Happiness (more tips to assist recovery from bullying).

Here tomorrow: Q. Qualities we instill in our children (which make it easier for them to be bullied)

There are many outstanding resources on line. A couple I find useful are Bullying. No way! an Australian resource for teachers and students, and a UK site Bully On Line

Minding the Workplace by David Yamada is regularly updated with interesting and useful articles and research, and eBossWatch on facebook links to articles about workplace bullying from around the world.

This is in no way an exhaustive list, and each country will no doubt have equally good or more relevant websites. If you're being bullied please seek advice from a professional health care practitioner experienced in this area. 

Over at jumpingaground I'm spending the month Drabbling using alliteration, often with an environmental theme.