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“All Labor” govts deliver 100% failure

December 21, 2009 Leave a comment

Remember when “all Labor” Cth and State govts were finally going to “deliver” in contentious areas such as water rights, health and tax sharing?

Finally, there would be “no excuses” to deliver on these vital issues of national long-term interest.

Ha Ha Ha.

Paul Sheehan comments on the complete failure of that idea in today’s SMH, at least as it applies to the environment and water rights.

Last week I received shocking photos of the Wyangala Dam, which once held several times the volume of Sydney Harbour but is now reduced to a chain of brown pools. The Lachlan River, which once fed a majestic floodplain with regular healthy flooding, has been blocked off below Condobolin to ensure water supplies for the town. This has never happened before. A rich flood plain has become an arid zone.

We don’t have to wait for global warming for adverse climate change in Australia. It’s already here, and all man-made. The landscape of the Murray-Darling Basin was changed on a large scale, and the climate of the Murray-Darling Basin has changed.

With Labor in power in Canberra and every state except Western Australia, it was logical to expect a policy pay-off over an issue as crucial as water. But no. The National Water Commission recently issued its biennial assessment of the national water initiative and the report reads like a horror novel if you read between the lines of the report’s cautious sober language.

The commission, charged with saving the Murray-Darling Basin from the massive over-allocation of water rights by state governments to irrigators, has encountered a morass of inertia caused by jurisdictional complexity, bureaucratic infighting and state parochialism. On the most important single issue facing the nation – water security – federalism has failed. NSW and Queensland are replaying the State of Origin tribal warfare, except that the stakes are real and enormous.

The Water Commission’s chairman, Ken Matthews, allowed himself some venting in a recent speech when he referred to the ”bickering, arguing and delaying” by state governments. And these are all Labor governments.

To make the problem worse, these same governments have been busy granting mining leases for projects that could need as much ground water as will be saved from the river system by the $10 billion the Federal Government is spending to buy back water rights from irrigators.

Coal-mining leases have been granted, or applied for, over 16,000 hectares in the Maranoa, Balonne and Condamine river basins in Queensland. Petroleum leases have been granted, or applied for, over 23,000 hectares of these same basins.

”One-third of the Murray-Darling Basin is in Queensland where a massive increase in mining for coal, petroleum and liquid natural gas is under way,” said Kathy Ridge, a member of the Basin Community Committee which advises the Murray-Darling Basin Authority.

”There are currently eight liquid natural gas projects proposed in Queensland with a total capital expenditure in excess of $40 billion. If all of the projects were to proceed, their water consumption would amount to almost half the total amount of water entitlements purchased [by the Federal Government] to return environmental flows to the Murray Darling River …

”The water that comes out of mining is heavily polluted with salt and other heavy metals. No one knows what to do with it apart from evaporating it in huge storage dams, causing ongoing water and land pollution.

”NSW is similarly for sale when it comes to mining, particularly coal seam methane, and much of the prospecting for coal-seam methane gas occurs on prime agricultural land, or land with high conservation values.”

Over the next 30 years, governments in Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane expect to receive about $40 billion in royalties from these mines, but these royalties will not cover the economic costs to repair the ecosystem. That cost will be carried by the taxpayer, and absorbed by the environment.

Incoherent environment policy is further personified by the Federal Government ramping up Australia’s emissions with the largest immigration program in Australia’s history – a policy unmentioned during the 2007 election campaign – while at the same time talking about reducing emissions with a massive carbon trading scheme.

Carbon trading is a system dismissed by the world’s most influential scientist on global warming, James Hansen, who, as director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, essentially invented and popularised the concept of human-induced global warming.

Hansen believes carbon trading schemes, especially those as complex and compromised as the scheme proposed by the Rudd Government, are misguided: ”These cap-and-trade trading schemes are a terrible idea. They are a way to continue business as usual … ”

Business as usual is exactly what the Rudd Government, the unions and the Labor patronage machine are all about. The soaring rhetoric about climate change is just carbon emission.

Having our water table at the mercy of Queenslanders is so frightening I’m almost going to take the Lithium the doctors have recommended for me.  I have not met one Queensland environmentalist.  Put a $ bill in front of any Queenslander and they seem to reflexively salivate like one of Pavlov’s dogs.  The granting of new mining rights in these vitally important areas is MADNESS. 

Allowing mining on fertile arable land, near our national water table is MADNESS.

But never underestimate the madness of a govt deep in debt and looking for any way out.  Will the Queensland govt prostitute our children’s futures to the mining industry for some filthy lucre to pay off the debts they’ve stupidly accumulated, rather than negotiating a sensible way out directly with the major creditors and the Cth govt? 

Apparently, yes.

Sad.

Another Aussie environmental disaster in the making, this time 100% Labor-made.

This does not make me proud to be an Australian.

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Beds are still burning

December 20, 2009 Leave a comment

Peter Garrett must think we’re monkeys.

Government suppression of the appalling pollution still resulting from the oil spill off NW WA has been truly impressive.  It’s like it never happened.

Have you heard of any updates on the story since August 2009?  Have you heard whether or not Indonesian fishermen’s allegations regarding aged oil still appearing in Indonesian waters is correct?  Have you heard whether the leak has been completely plugged?  Have you heard when the investigation will start as to the cause?  Have you heard whether PTTEP will continue to enjoy access to mining rights in Australia?

No, I haven’t either.

All we got after the leak was (supposedly) plugged was a SINGLE GRAINY STILL PICTURE (no live shots or video) of a burnt out oil platform and soothing words from the govt that the leak had been contained.  That’s it.  End of story.

I have a few additional questions for those with longer memories (longer than 5 minutes that is):

1.  Has the leak been proven to have been completely plugged or is there evidence of leaks still continuing?

2.  Why has no video footage been released of the oil rig?  Can the media now have access to the area?  If not, why not?

3.  How long will it take for the investigation to start?  The longer this drags on the more likely evidence of culpability will be covered up.

4.  Has the govt accepted liability for any damage to Indonesian fisheries arising from the spill?  What is the estimated compensation?  When will this be determined?

5.  Has any preliminary study been done of the ecological damage caused by the spill?  If not, why not?

6.  Will any long-term study be undertaken of the potential after-effects, such as contamination of sea life and potential contamination of our own food supply?  Have there been any recommendations regarding the banning of fishing in the waters surrounding the oil spill?  If not, why not?

7.  What is ASMA doing to ensure the risks of future accidents such as this one are reduced?  What recommendations have ASMA issued to oil rig owners?  What investigations or compliance visits will be done by ASMA in the coming months on oil rigs, if at all?  Who at ASMA is taking responsibility for the oil spill?  Anyone?  Or was it an “act of God” in ASMA’s view?

Baiji “fundamentals”

December 17, 2009 1 comment

This is going to be an even “crazier” post than usual, so please keep up with me and just go with the flow for a little while and hopefully things will make sense at the end.

Assume you’re a fan of freshwater dolphin meat.  I know you’re not, but just go with me here.  Assume you’re also an investor.

The “fundamentals” regarding freshwater dolphins from an “investor” perspective are very good.  The baiji on the Yangtze are dying due to their food source (fish) being massively overfished and appalling pollution problems contaminating the Yangtze from China’s industrialisation.  Some have declared that the baiji are “functionally extinct.”

As an investor, it would be wise to try to “invest” in baiji, wouldn’t it?  Supply down, demand either steady or up (on anticipation of limited supply).  Price should be higher.

Two points immediately need to be addressed from this hypothetical.

First, for those who think it’s “distasteful” to even consider valuing dolphins in terms of their meat, I say to you – think it through carefully.  The harsh reality of life is that animals and plants which are useful to humans are “protected” by humans and flourish. 

Those with no value to humans are vulnerable to extinction.

This has been proven time and time again throughout modern history.

I don’t like this either, and I wish the human population would not grow exponentially.  Then again, I wish I was a dictator so I could turn this loser nation of overconsuming mindless debt-drones on to a more sustainable path of development.  In both cases, I’m dreaming. 

We have to deal with reality.

And the reality is that animals that we can eat survive in this crazy world much better than animals that serve us no purpose. 

The absolutist thinking of so-called conservationists drives me crazy.  This kind of “leave alone!” thinking is naive and dangerous and infects so much of the environment movement.  I cannot believe their basic naive stupidity.

The ban on the sale of elephant tusks in my mind is crazy.  Elephants have become less valuable to local communities in Africa.  Elephants “compete” for arable land.  Guess what’s going to happen when you ban the sale of elephant products?  There’s going to be ongoing tension between local communities and international organisations who don’t have to live with the problem (and who coercively scream for a ban on the sale of anything elephant related).  Ultimately, the local communities will have even more of an incentive to kill the elephants and not help sustain the elephant population.  What do you think is going to happen over the long-run? 

Obviously, land will be taken over by local communities in need of food.  Elephants will die due to lack of natural habitat.  They will not have been “killed” literally by a gunshot, so the zealots in the international conservation organisations will be silent.  But the elephants will die just as surely as if they had been killed for their tusks.

Same with whaling.  Why we are so paranoid about Japanese whaling I will never understand.  We overfish, we pollute the waters with oilspills, chemicals, toxic sludge and refuse, we kill the natural habitat of the whales with a massive toxic plastic waste dump in the middle of the Pacific Ocean – and yet we criticise the Japanese for “hunting” the poor whales.  We kill them slowly but just as surely through starvation, through the destruction of their natural habitat, but because that’s one step removed, because it doesn’t involve a direct bullet to the head, somehow everyone is OK with that.  But when the Japanese actually kill a single whale – whoa… that’s barbaric! 

I can’t stand this hypocrisy, this stupidity, the childish incapacity to directly connect up destruction of natural habitat with the death of an animal.  As an animal I’d prefer the quick and relatively painless death of a bullet to the head (safe in the knowledge that some of my family would survive and possibly even by protected by my killers) rather than a slow and excruciating and depressing death by starvation and destruction of my whole natural habitat, grieving knowing my children will slowly but surely starve to death, perhaps be forced to eat toxic plastic… knowing that none of us will survive. 

Which would you prefer, if there was no other choice?  And don’t say there’s a third choice.  There isn’t. 

Unless humans agree TODAY to stop all human reproduction and start consuming less, there is no third option.

Given this sad reality, I have another invariable rule for environmentalists to consider:  Once an animal is valued by man, it is protected by man.

Sheep outnumber New Zealanders for a reason – sheep are valuable.  New Zealanders take care (good care) of their sheep. 

Kiwi birds can’t be eaten.  They have no direct intrinsic value.  They are difficult to spot in their natural habitat so they are not even valuable from a tourist perspective.  Guess what – they are dying and are nearly extinct.

So discussing dolphin meat for me is perfectly reasonable.  Ironically, if freshwater dolphin meat was more valuable perhaps the baiji would not be functionally extinct today.

But this is not even the main point of this post.

Let’s continue with this thought experiment. 

In a superficial sense, you would think as a naive investor (supply down, demand up) that somehow “getting into” freshwater dolphins would be a good idea.  BUT THE WHOLE HABITAT OF THE DOLPHIN IS BEING WIPED OUT.  This is not a matter of being able to “invest” in dolphins.  What we are witnessing in the case of the baiji, I’m sure you would agree, is inevitable extinction.

Similarly, Jim Rogers consistently states that the “fundamentals” for agriculture are incredibly positive.  He states that investors should get into agriculture.  Supply is down.  Demand (with population growth and rising Asian incomes) will inevitably go up.

Although I respect Jim Rogers as an investor, this shows his limited thinking, his inability to see the full implications of the trends here.  He has spent his whole life as a commercial trader and investor, not as a social scientist or economist or philosopher.  He sees the problem, thinks in terms of supply and demand and then concludes that investment in agriculture is a good idea.

I beg to differ.  Although I respect Jim Rogers as an investor, I don’t respect him as a deep thinker.

My view is that we are watching EXACTLY THE SAME PROCESS AS THE EXTINCTION OF THE FRESHWATER DOLPHIN, APPLIED TO HUMANS!

Overfarming cannot be reversed.  Topsoil is irreplaceable.  Phosphates, once lost, cannot be replaced if there is no supply.  The water table once polluted cannot ever be cleansed of chemical toxins.  Destruction of arable land is in most cases irreversible.

The price mechanism cannot transform houses into farmland, cities into arable land.  Once destroyed these things (vital for our very survival) cannot ever be put back in place. 

Similarly, once the freshwater dolphin is extinct no amount of hedge fund investment is going to get its natural habitat back.

So Jim Rogers is right to see the trend, but he hasn’t worked out the full implications. 

WE ARE ACTUALLY WATCHING THE DESTRUCTION OF OUR OWN FOOD SOURCE.  WE ARE WITNESSING BEFORE OUR VERY EYES THE DESTRUCTION OF OUR OWN HABITAT.  WE ARE INEXORABLY CAUSING OUR OWN EXTINCTION.

If you think I’m crazy, please read this article and this previous post and then tell me you’re 100% confident that governments and investors will get us through this little problem.

Sometimes the price mechanism has become so corrupted by bankers and governments that the warning bells don’t go off until it’s too late

I don’t believe we are watching a “bull market” in agriculture.

What we are watching is the massive extinction of our various food sources, resulting in a massive food crisis for the (much higher!) human population in a few short decades.

No amount of hedge fund money will turn Asian cities back to rice paddies, Western suburbs back into farmland, or polluted toxic African mining towns back to unspoilt Savannah.

It’s already too late, in my view.  The trends are “locked in”. 

We are the next freshwater dolphin.   We are killing ourselves.  Climate change, if it exists, will simply accelerate this process.

Those institutions supposedly designed to “forward plan” us out of this mess also happen to have control of the guns.  History records that when a crisis hits, governments turn from protector to predator, plundering the people for food.  Chile.  Zimbabwe.  Cambodia.  Talk to indigenous peoples in Australia, in New Zealand, in Hawaii, in North America, in South America, in Asia, in Africa about what elite governments do to those they supposedly have a duty to protect.

Sorry, that’s right. You can’t.

Because they’re already dead.

Forget climate change and focus on food

December 15, 2009 Leave a comment

Finally!  A few mainstream media outlets are writing about this stuff.

More interest, more research, more scientists, more money to agriculture, (and hopefully birth control for the Third World), less of a pelican problem in a few decades’ time.

The curse of the X

December 14, 2009 Leave a comment

Consider any unsustainable growth pattern.  Consider for example the growth pattern of a locust plague.

Initially, there’s lot of acres of farmland and a few fast-breeding locusts.  Then the locusts multiply.  And multiply.  Their food source slowly dwindles, but at this stage they don’t notice.  It’s all blue sky.  Then a point occurs – the intersection between rising population and diminishing food supply.  The crossing point of the “X”.

The locusts don’t notice they have just crossed into unsustainable territory – their population exceeds the carrying capacity of the remaining food source.  The population continues to grow exponentially.  Until, suddenly, just at the point of MAXIMUM population, there is a CRISIS – EXHAUSTION of the food supply!

What do the locusts do then?  They are forced to eat themselves.

In the weeks leading up the massacre, can you imagine the likely “locust government reports” from the elite locusts, communicated out to the population: “Population growth soars!  Production and consumption at record levels!  Economy has never been bigger!  Risk appetite for more food has never been better!  It’s all blue sky when we extrapolate from our models!  Everyone should keep consuming, paying their taxes in excess bushels of wheat to us without complaint!  Get to work everyone!”

It works.  Until it doesn’t.

I saw a documentary some months ago regarding the once-in-a-generation rains that fell in central Australia a few years ago.  These rains created inland waterways and rivers and lakes, which then produced freshwater fish in abundance.  For two seasons, the pelican population exploded.  Then the water started drying up.  For another season, the pelicans continued to breed.

Then the fish population dried up and died.  And the camera panned across the breeding grounds of the pelicans.  The scene was shocking.  Half-dead maturing baby pelicans, still in their nests, slowly dying of starvation.  Hundreds and hundreds of them.  They were stuck – they couldn’t fly off to the coast, and yet their food supply had dried up.  Overpopulation, just at the time when the waters were dwindling at their fastest rate, resulted in a mass wipe out of the inland pelican population.  The sad, confused look on the faces of the pelicans about to die still stays with me.  It was though they were asking “What the Hell is going on?  Last season was fine!  What’s happened?”

Many scientists have come to the conclusion that 6.8 billion people, with the increased consumption patterns that many in the developing world are following, is ALREADY exceeding the carrying capacity of the planet.   Only 10% of our land mass is arable land.  Much of that arable land is being destroyed by dry land salinity, desertification, residential and industrial re-zoning/re-development and over-farming.

I’ve done my own back-of-the-envelope calculations. 

We are not even close to making it through this “X” without massive de-population.  Who is going to be voted off the island?  How? 

If we just leave it, we’ll be like the Pelicans – a final sudden catastrophe will engulf us within a very short time-frame.  Water, food… all essentials will be at risk.  We will be “cornered”  –  too many young mouths to feed, with too few depleted, exhausted, overused resources.  It will be too late.

And yet, no action is being taken to control exponential population growth. 

Some consider that this will take care of itself.  The developing world will slow its rate of fertility.  Humans will adapt.  New forms of farming technology will allow us to extract even more from even less land. 

I’m not so sure.  Peak oil may have already arrived.  Oil has been our saviour, massively increasing our output capacity both industrially and in terms of agriculture.  Once oil becomes more expensive, I see a huge bottleneck, where we need to move away from oil, and yet have not developed alternative systems of fertilization or transport.  Local farming in many areas has already been destroyed by low-density housing and crazy zoning decisions by local councils needing a quick buck.

Are we going to be like the locusts?  Like the pelicans?  Cornered by the curse of the “X”?

Can we keep cheating Malthus?

80% of NSW is in drought

December 13, 2009 Leave a comment

and the NSW govt is going to provide yet more funding for farmers in marginal areas that shouldn’t be farmed.

The number of problems here, compounded by govt, is truly mind-boggling.

The NSW govt – already neck high in debt – will be bailing out one group at the expense of others (me!).

Farmers on marginal land should get the Hell off the land and leave it fallow for a few years to recover and regenerate as natural reserve land.  If govt bails them out, guess what – further environmental degradation will occur once the rains (briefly) come down again and they overfarm (yet again).

This is not like an earthquake.  The farmers bought marginal farmland knowing it was marginal.  Rainfall maps are now available to any buyer of farmland.  No one can say they didn’t know drought was a risk.

This bailout creates moral hazard, with farmers buying marginal farmland knowing they will get govt bailouts if they overfarm and fall into drought.

Why are farmers trying to farm in drought-stricken areas?  Because more fertile land in higher rainfall areas (Hornsby, Penrith, Dural) has been taken over (destroyed) by residential construction.  Why?  Because local govts and the NSW govt re-zoned the land from farmland to residential or commercial or industrial years ago.  Why did they do that?  Because they needed the money and residential development provides huge windfall profits.  Why does re-zoning provide huge profits to developers and councils?  Because banks lend huge amounts of money for houses.  Why do they do that?  Because fractional reserve banking creates huge distortions in the market, mispricing housing and underpricing farmland.  Why do we have fractional reserve banking?  Because banks and govts could not be as large and powerful as they are without embezzling FRB.  Why do bankers and govts want to be large and powerful, if they know doing so results in such incredible destruction?  Ask Freud.

Residential land gobbles up fertile arable farmland in the most productive areas of Australia, and farmers are marginalised, far from urban areas, in the most marginal farming lands of this great land.

This is insane.

This is govt and banking at work.

Simple math showing we’re doomed

December 13, 2009 Leave a comment

If oil was not available for transport and fertilizer, we’d need to survive sustainably off local land, local vegetation, local sea life.

An extended family of 10 hunter gatherers would require around 20 square kms of fertile land to live – perhaps more given they would move through a wider area seasonally, following the migration patterns of their food source.  An equivalent family of farmers (without fertilizer or oil) probably 5 square kms.  An equivalent fishing-based family, probably 5 square kms of fishing area (depending of course on the location).

The world’s human population far exceeds the arable land and near-land sea space that can sustainably, without oil, support human life.

Oil is a non-renewable, limited resource.  Peak Oil has already arrived, according to some analysts.

Something is gonna break.  6.79 billion people (growing exponentially!) does not sustainably fit within 10% of our land mass.

Which 4 billion will be “voted off the island”?  How?

Malthus wasn’t wrong.  Just early.