Tag Archives: Ted Trainer

Warmists Fight Their Own Nuclear War

Forget North Korea’s  threat to make Australia a lake of irradiated glass because such an attack would be as nothing in comparison with the civil war amongst tax-supported catastropharians. What set them off? One side’s footnoted paper that renewables can’t hold an organic candle to atomic power

green men fightFights within the climate-alarm community are vibrant entertainment for sceptics. There’s  the fun factor as rival climate alarmists  kick shins and yank each others’ hair. And they deride each other’s extreme and foolish arguments, which saves sceptics some work. Moreover, the unedifying fights reduce the credibility of so-called climate “science” in the eyes of important onlookers like politicians.

A splendid fight-in-the-family broke out this month with the publication of a paper by four advocates of the nuclear-power route to emissions reduction. Their paper,Burden of proof: A comprehensive review of the feasibility of 100% renewable-electricity systems,” is published in Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews,  edited by Lawrence Kazmerski, who visited Australia in 2010 and played a small, proud part in forcing up electricity prices to their current obscene levels.)

The study mercilessly exposes the nonsense of the wind and solar advocates, who imagine a world of 100% electricity from renewables by 2050. These fantasists have induced Australian state and federal governments to set unrealistic renewable energy targets, much as mad dogs infect bystanders with rabies. (The Victorian government, for example, last February passed its Climate Change Act with a net zero emissions target by 2050).

There is the added piquancy that all four authors exposing the technical impossibility of wind/solar regimes established their academic profiles in South Australia, where blackouts have made the state a global cautionary tale against moving to 50% renewables (let alone any  higher percent).

The lead author is Ben Heard, PhD candidate at Adelaide University, the co-authors being Professors Barry Brook (U.Tas), Tom Wigley of National Center for Atmospheric Research at Boulder, Colorado, and Corey Bradshaw (Flinders U.) All are nuclear-power advocates, which enrages their wind/solar-loving peers.

Here’s the gist of the  Heard paper:

“Our sobering results show that  100% renewable electricity supply would, at the very least, demand a reinvention of the entire electricity supply-and-demand system to enable renewable supplies to approach the reliability of current systems.  This would move humanity away from known, understood and operationally successful systems into uncertain futures with many dependencies for success and unanswered challenges in basic feasibility.”

They reviewed 24 scenario studies supporting 100% renewables as the way ahead and found not one passed the technical-feasibility test – let alone any commercial tests. On the Heard scale for technical feasibility, with a top score of 7 , they found only one study that even achieved a score of 4.

Four studies scored zero – these included, of course, the propaganda screeds presented as practial plans by WWF and Greenpeace. Another seven studies scraped up scores of just 1. Among those scoring a mere one out of seven  was a scenario co-authored by the Climateworks (Monash University/Myer Foundation) crowd, headed by Labor’s  John Thwaites, who was once Victoria’s deputy-premier. The Australian Academy of Science relied on that half-baked Climateworks exercise in its 2015 submission to the federal government endorsing the magic zero emissions solution to global warming by 2050.

The Heard paper notes the folly of such targets, remarking that

  • The  100% renewables scenarios depend on vast consumptions of biomass.  “The British scenario is a typical example; even with the assumption of a 54% reduction in primary energy consumption, biomass requires 4.1 million [hectares] of land to be committed to the growing of grasses, short-rotation forestry and coppice crops (17% of UK land area).”  (My emphasis)
  • A WWF scenario demands up to 250 million ha for biomass production for energy, along with another 4.5 billion cubic metres of biomass from existing production forests to meet a scenario of an absolute reduction in primary energy from today.
  • “To meet a target of 80% renewables in Europe by 2050 would demand an additional 228,000 km of transmission grid extensions, a +76% addition compared to the base network.”
  • Long-distance interconnector capacities may need to be 5.7 times larger than current capacities. [i]

 The authors said,

The realization of 100% renewable electricity (and energy more broadly) appears diametrically opposed to other critical sustainability issues such as eradication of poverty, land conservation and reduced ecological footprints, reduction in air pollution, preservation of biodiversity, and social justice for indigenous people.”

The Heard paper stuck it but good to the wind/solar mob, but it has its own foibles. It cites 151 footnotes, including, to my  utter surprise, Footnote 30 — a 2010 article from Green Left Weekly about then-garden variety MP Malcolm Turnbull and former NSW Premier Bob Carr  helping to launch a “Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan”. Green Left Weekly reported “the technology required to move Australia to a 100 per cent renewable energy future within ten years [i.e. by 2020] is already commercially available…and the cost is not prohibitive.”  That our current and for-the-moment Prime Minister should have associated himself with this Melbourne University-led insanity is a worry, quite apart from academics’ reliance on Green Left Weekly in their peer-reviewed publications.

That’s not the only oddity about the Heard paper. It opens with resounding claims, “The recent warming of the earth’s climate is unequivocal (1, 2)…with 2016 confirmed as the warmest year on record.” Heard certifies his “unequivocal” warming[ii]  (Footnote 1 of 151)  partially on the strength of  the notoriously-flawed John Cook “97% consensus” paper, comprehensively rebutted by a peer reviewed paper which found that, on the authors’ own analysis, the true consensus was well below 1%.

As for 2016 being a “record” warm year, sorry, Ben: the increase over 2015 was within the margin of error of the data.

Heard’s co-author Corey Bradshaw exemplifies academic life in the Green-Left cocoon. On his blog he refers to Tony Abbott “seizing power in the 2013 Australian election”, as if voters had wanted someone else. Bradshaw advises fellow-scientists to promote international diversity in their labs:

“Let the right-wing populist xenophobes2 vomit their racist bile all they want while you quietly get on with the job of making the world a smarter, more innovative, multicultural, understanding and collaborative place.”

frog with thing that grew on its bottomBradshaw’s potty-mouthed Footnote 2 here refers incoherently to “2Agent Orange, Marine le Pue, Pauline Han-cock, Nigel Fukstick, …” (I assume “Nigel Fukstick” refers to Brexit’s Nigel Farage). This is, perhaps, what can be expected of a senior academic who wears a frog for a hat.

Bradshaw’s screed on the Flinders University website says, “I joined Flinders University as the new Matthew Flinders Fellow in Global Ecology. I am also a Chief Investigator in the new ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage.” Perhaps Flinders U could get him to run a new Centre of Excellence for Obscenity and Political Derangement.

Bradshaw’s latest book, with the catchy title Killing the Koala and Poisoning the Prairie: Australia, America and the Environment is co-authored with none other than the world’s greatest living wrongologist Paul Ehrlich, the only environmentalist on the planet who has surpassed Tim Flannery in wildly wrong predictions. For example, Ehrlich in The Population Bomb (1968) said that the battle to feed humanity had been lost and 65 million Americans  would starve to death between 1980-89. By 1999, the US population would decline to 22.6 million, he predicted. He said in 1971, “If I were a gambler, I would take even-money that England will not exist in the year 2000.” Fortunately for Ehrlich he is not a bookmaker.

Co-author of Heard and Bradshaw, Tom Wigley, was director of the  Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia until 1993. The Climategate emails reveal him adopting a novel approach to data analysis. He wrote to a later director Phil Jones (27/9/2009) about a problem with sea surface temperatures,

“So, if we could reduce the ocean blip by, say, 0.15 deg C, then this would be significant for the global mean – but we’d still have to explain the land blip.”

Another email (24/4/2003) also revealed him organising to stop sceptic scientists from having their work published.

“One approach is to go direct to the publishers and point out the fact that their journal is perceived as being a medium for disseminating misinformation under the guise of refereed work. I use the word ‘perceived’ here, since whether it is true or not is not what the publishers care about—it is how the journal is seen by the community that counts.”

However, a number of the Climategate emails show Wigley adopting a more ethical stance than the climate cabal led by Phil Jones. Mind you, Wigley remains an enthusiast for spending truly vast amounts of other people’s money on his obsessions.

“What we need is (sic) policies that put a large amount of money into developing appropriate, carbon-neutral technologies, be it renewable energy, methods for storing carbon dioxide in the ground and so on… We need to be putting, you know, ten to 100 times more money into developing appropriate technologies to reduce the magnitude of global warming.” (My emphasis).

These criticisms of mine about the paper’s authors seem rather mild compared to what Heard’s fellow-warmists dish  out.

Economist John Quiggin (Qld University ) was until last month a member of the federals’ Climate Change Authority. He ripped into the Heard paper on his blog, without even having read it – the   abstract alone enough to make his head explode. Heard wrote to him, sarcastically, “Given how easy it is to reach me, I am amazed that anyone would write a review of a paper without actually reading it.
John, would you like a copy?”

Warmist fans of Quiggin’s blog posted this sort of stuff about the Heard team:

  • They make the three stooges look like three highly skilled experts.
  • I  really wonder at the “green” credentials of the “greens” pushing this. Honestly, I reckon they have been infiltrated by an alt-right 5th column pushing their spurious nonsense.
  • Pro-nuclear advocacy is sliding into the territory of Velikovsky[iii] and the anti-vaxxers.
  • Your [Heard’s] paper is a poor quality opinion piece masquerading as science. I repeat that I am amazed it got through peer review.
  • I think it’s kind of sad. They really really really want a nuclear playset for xmas. Poor things.

The parties on both sides of the fracas give respectful mentions to dark-green spruiker Ted Trainer, 76, Honorary Adjunct Associate Professor in Social Work at UNSW.

Trainer gets three citations in the Heard paper and, indeed, it was Trainer who alerted Quiggin to Heard’s publication. Trainer is an advocate for 90% cuts in Western living standards to help save the planet:

“(P)resent rich world levels of consumption are grossly unsustainable and we will probably have to reduce them by something like 90% if we are to achieve a sustainable and just world. Most people concerned about the state of the planet don’t seem to realise how huge the changes would have to be.”

According to Wikipedia, Trainer lives in a makeshift house at a swampy Pigface Point settlement near Sydney, where he engages in barter and a subsistence lifestyle and his house uses 98% less than average electricity.

That’s great for Ted, who I’m sure won’t starve on his academic super, but he seems somewhat dubious company for anyone trying to solve our electricity problems.

Summing up, the Heard paper provides a searing critique of the wind/solar propaganda, notwithstanding its naivete on ancilliary issues. Sadly, Heard doesn’t  check what difference any reduction in Australian emissions  – even to zero – would make to planetary temperatures. The answer: effectively zero.

Tony Thomas’s book of essays, That’s Debatable, is available here.


[i] A similar leap – not mentioned in the Heard paper – would be required for wind turbine installations. To achieve the Paris Agreement’s goal of under 2degC warming, Texas A&M researchers have calculated that, just for wind power, an annual global installation of 485,000 5MW wind turbines would be needed by 2028, compared with an equivalent of 13,000 in 2015.

[ii] Warming in fact started in the 19th century in a rebound from the Little Ice Age, long before any CO2 anomalies

[iii]Velikovsky wrote a best seller in arguing that Earth suffered catastrophic close contacts with other planets (principally Venus and Mars) in ancient times. He became a by-word for pseudoscience.


Green $cience’s Ugly Growth


They certainly are a smart bunch at the Australian Academy of Science, where great minds can hold two contradictory opinions at the same time. Two years ago the goal was an end to planet-wrecking growth. Now they want more taxpayer dollars to promote it

scientist green varietyThe federal electoral urgings of the Australian Academy of Science are pretty much what you’d expect. It wants more funding for science, technology and engineering. This will ‘drive innovation and growth into the future’, it says.

The Academy is oh-so-keen on economic growth. It says, “More than three decades of exponential growth in Australia’s per-capita GDP is tapering, and if nothing changes Australia will fall out of the G20 within 15 years.”

But wait!  Wasn’t this same Academy sponsoring a Green anti-growth agenda as it cranked up its Fenner Conference on the Environment less than two years ago? The conference, at the University of NSW, was titled, “Addicted to Growth? How to move to a Steady State Economy in Australia.” The Academy approves, brands and seed-funds these annual Fenner gigs at up to $10,000 a time.

The  conference flier reads“Novelist Edward Abbey once noted that ‘Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell’. Our economy is meant to be a ‘servant of society’, not its master, yet is this true today? On a finite planet nothing physical can keep on growing forever – yet that is the ideology of the ‘endless growth’ neoclassical economics that now dominates the thinking of most governments and business. This has led to a rapidly worsening environmental crisis that degrades the nature on which we all depend. We cannot keep avoiding talking about this issue – hence the need for such a conference…” 

The Academy has no economics expertise. But it promotes the eco-catastrophism of the global warming religion, having failed to notice that there has been negligible warming for two decades,[i], contrary to all the scary stuff from the IPCC computer modelling.

When common-sense flew out the Academy windows, the leadership became suckers for any variety of green ideology, such as divestment last year of its fossil fuel shares (but continued unprincipled use of fossil-fuel-powered electricity).

Dr Frank Fenner, after whom the conferences are named, was himself a mega-catastrophist, saying warming will make us extinct and whatever we do now is too late. He  played a leading post-war role in defeating the scourges of smallpox, TB and Australia’s rabbit plague. He also set up a perpetual endowment fund to support Academy conferences on the environment.[ii]

The Academy’s  conference organisers[iii] welcomed multiple   green warriors to its platform, such as an ex-strategy adviser to the Green’s Bob Brown, and various home-grown and overseas eco-lunatics. Some were strongly opposed to a zero-growth economy. That’s because they preferred economic contraction.

Speaker Haydn Washington of the Center for the Advancement of a Steady State Economy quoted Ted Trainer, guru of the “simplicity movement”, who lusts for a 90% drop in Australian living standards:

“(P)resent rich world levels of consumption are grossly unsustainable and we will probably have to reduce them by something like 90% if we are to achieve a sustainable and just world. Most people concerned about the state of the planet don’t seem to realise how huge the changes would have to be.”

Trainer’s “necessary and non-negotiable radical restructure of our society” would involve complete elimination of growth, eradication of the profit motive except for little firms and co-ops, and shifting of ‘just about all’ economic activity to small-scale, local and highly self-sufficient enterprises. In frugal, cooperative sufficiency we would find true happiness, he urged. We would work for money only two days a week and have the other five days for arts, crafts and personal growth amid a “leisure-rich landscape” and supportive community.

Speaker Erik Assadourian  from Worldwatch Institute, was described as  “spending a lot of his time raising his toddler son to prepare him for the ecological transition and civilizational collapse most likely in our future.”

The conference was opened by the ABC’s Science Show man Robyn Williams AM FAA, who boasted that, as he was an Academy Fellow, he was a fit person to represent the Academy there. He also claimed that he hadn’t bought any clothes for at least ten years, preferring hand-me-downs, and that he didn’t own a car or mobile phone.

Williams said that in the same year, 1972, that he joined the ABC, he had attended reverentially at the Canberra launch of the Club of Rome and their [failed] Limits to Growth shtick. He was unpersuaded by an odd-man-out speaker there, John Stone of Federal Treasury, who had said [correctly] “that it was all bullshit”.[iv]

Graeme Maxton, from the Club of Rome itself, spoke via video link to the UNSW show. Gushed the organisers: “A thinker of astonishing depth and breadth.”

Robyn Williams, who thinks it clever to threaten punters that global warming will kill their kittens and puppies in 2023, was followed by keynote speaker Dr Brian Czech from the Washington Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy. Czech’s theme was ‘Steady State – the time is now’.

Czech opined that down-shifting to no-growth frugality was beneficial in the same way that oppressing smokers from the 1970s did wonders for their own health. Economic policy instruments such as the Fed’s interest rate should be re-oriented against rather than towards GDP growth. The economy downsizing would start with the wealthy nations that could afford it, while making room via United Nations and G20 initiatives for poor countries to do some equitable catch-up. “You solve the poverty problem through contraction and convergence,” he concluded, a little enigmatically.

There were plenty more glum speakers on topics like “Why the growth economy is broken” and “How can civilization survive?”.

Westminster democracy was distinctly passé. Someone called Professor Herman Daly, billed as “Father of the term, Steady State Economy”, was cited for his bright idea for elections in “an ideal democracy”. Each political party would produce a manifesto of equal length. The media would be restricted to covering only debate on the manifestos.   “I would be tempted to also recommend that discussion be limited to the written and spoken word — print and radio, including via the Internet,” Daly said. “No TV or posters or other advertising images of good-looking faces, cute babies, or evil monsters.”

University students were given the “exciting opportunity” to contribute posters and abstracts on “eco and social justice”, “over-consumption”, and “transition strategies” towards the zero-growth nirvana.

For stress relief, attendees got music from a group called Wind Energy (“The Lorax’s Lament” and “Earthrise”) and after dinner, they got zingers from Rod Quantock, “an award-winning comedian” who’s been blathering about climate catastrophe for the past decade.

Perhaps I need to remind you again that this event was brought to you by the most august group of scientists we have, the Australian Academy of Science.  Anyway, I hope the election winner gives them more money, although the first tranche should be allocated to teaching them some elementary economics.

Tony’s new book, That’s Debatable – 60 years in print is available here



[i] Other than the natural el-Nino induced warming in the past year

[ii] Fenner shared the 1988 Japan Prize of 500m Yen ($A6.5m in today’s money) for preventative medicine.  It has Nobel-like status but is for applied science.

[iii] The conference was run by the UNSW,   the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy ( NSW Chapter), and the Institute for Land, Water and Society.


[iv] Stone says the Club of Rome founders, including the heads of VW and Fiat, had lined up eminent Australians to applaud their ‘limits to growth’ theory, and he was delegated by Treasury Secretary Fred Wheeler to attend. “I got up and tore into them and some in the audience were terribly upset at the sacrilege. However, I also got some congratulations including from Labor MHR Dick Klugman who was then in New York at the UN. A year later we put out Treasury White Paper No 2, ‘Economic Growth: Is it Worth Having’ . It rubbished the Club’s case and I’m pleased to say that then-Treasurer Frank Crean did not mind us publishing it.”


  1. Rob Ellison

    This is a green anti-growth strand. There also a pro-growth faction that with such extreme poverty in the world seems more humane. Google Ecomodernism. Science, technology, engineering and math are certainly the basis of innovation – one pillar of productivity growth. Resources are indeed finite while we are planet bound. Although economic substitution may provide a solution in many cases – it is usually a case of technological change. The stone age didn’t end because we ran out of stones.

    I have been writing about the ‘pause’ since 2007 – because the IPCC missed it. The mechanism is mostly in the Pacific. It involves cooler and warmer sea surface temperatures in 20 to 30 year – and much longer – regimes.


    I wrote here on models and climate in 2010.

    Anastasios Tsonis, of the Atmospheric Sciences Group at University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, and colleagues used a mathematical network approach to analyse abrupt climate change on decadal timescales. Ocean and atmospheric indices – in this case the El Niño Southern Oscillation, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, the North Atlantic Oscillation and the North Pacific Oscillation – can be thought of as chaotic oscillators that capture the major modes of climate variability. Tsonis and colleagues calculated the ‘distance’ between the indices. It was found that they would synchronise at certain times and then shift into a new state.

    It is no coincidence that shifts in ocean and atmospheric indices occur at the same time as changes in the trajectory of global surface temperature. Our ‘interest is to understand – first the natural variability of climate – and then take it from there. So we were very excited when we realized a lot of changes in the past century from warmer to cooler and then back to warmer were all natural,’ Tsonis said.

    Science gets it – if most people don’t. It is abrupt change – internal variability in ice, cloud, wind, currents, atmospheric moisture, biology – in a complex, dynamical (chaotic) system. It is unpredictable and can be extreme. Regional changes of up to 16°C and a factor of 2 in rainfall. The not so secret reality of models is that they are chaotic nonsense. There are thousands of divergent solutions for any model. Pick one arbitrarily and send it to the IPCC.

    “Lorenz was able to show that even for a simple set of nonlinear equations (1.1), the evolution of the solution could be changed by minute perturbations to the initial conditions, in other words, beyond a certain forecast lead time, there is no longer a single, deterministic solution and hence all forecasts must be treated as probabilistic. The fractionally dimensioned space occupied by the trajectories of the solutions of these nonlinear equations became known as the Lorenz attractor (figure 1), which suggests that nonlinear systems, such as the atmosphere, may exhibit regime-like structures that are, although fully deterministic, subject to abrupt and seemingly random change.” Julia Slingo – head of the British Met Office – and Tim Palmer – head of the European Centre for Mid-Range Forecasting.

    But I would still argue for returning carbon to agricultural soils, restoring ecosystems and research on and development of cheap and abundant energy supplies. The former to enhance productivity in a hungry world, increase soil water holding capacity, improve drought resilience, mitigate flooding and conserve biodiversity. We may in this way sequester all greenhouse gas emissions for 20 to 30 years. The latter as a basis for desperately needed economic growth. Climate change seems very much an unnecessary consideration and tales of climate doom – based on wrong science and unfortunate policy ambitions – a diversion from practical and measured humanitarian goals. Mind you – climate certainty is an impossible delusion from either side.

  2. en passant

    We are doomed, you know. It is written and I have seen the computer model that proves it with absolute certainty and without a doubt.

    Way back in 1973 when the Club of Rome’s ‘Limits to Growth’ was a mandatory text on one of my University electives the Syndicate Tutor noted that the convergence of catastrophes pointed to 2000 being the last year.

    Yes, even in the 1970′s we were taught that the activist consensus mandated our doom with absolute certainty. One that did seem a little ‘off’ to me at the time as I sweated through a Perth summer was the absolute certainty that the next Ice Age was due in just twenty years – and when it inevitably descended upon us the world was doomed. After all it was a proven fact endlessly set out in high quality tables, colourful graphs, mathematical formulae and new-fangled computer models all leading to the inescapable conclusion that the world would be uninhabitable by the Year 2000 (not ‘2012’ as the Mayans calculated in their apocalyptic calendar). The icing on the cake, so to speak was that the North Atlantic would be frozen over for 3 – 4 months a year with iceberg warnings would be regularly issued for the English Channel. With so little time left I had to ask myself if it really was worth the effort of continuing on and finishing my degree, … Maybe it would be better just to party.

    With the benefit of hindsight after a university education I can now assert with absolute confidence and computer models that I should have partied.

    Then again, who can forget the immortal prophesies of Kenneth Field at the first Earth Day in 1970? Well, I think Ken probably wishes we all would, but I have not forgotten his eternal words (thanks to the internet and the Wayback Machine). You surely must remember Ken as solemnly intoning with absolute on the first ‘Earth Day’ that “The North Atlantic Ocean will be frozen for months by the year 2000” omm, omm (that’s my contribution to this pseudo-scientific propaganda). EVERY prediction the doom-saying circus gurus have made has been proven wrong with the fullness of time. For example, after that failed prediction of alarmist doom, Al Gore then predicted exactly the opposite 39 years later in 2009 when he solemnly intoned with absolute certainty that “The Arctic Ocean might be ice free-by as soon as 2015” Well, give or take a million or so square kilometres of ice, but who has noticed?

    Corruption of scientific methods by the ‘Climate Alarm Voodoo Expert Attack Team’ (‘CAVEAT’ for short) in support of their ‘igNoble Cause’ qualifies as scientific corruption at least and criminal fraud at best. This is evidenced in Australia by the recent unscientific adjustments being made to the accumulated temperature data carefully recorded for more than a century by thousands of conscientious postmasters, school teachers and other upstanding public servants throughout Australia. When their reality and the carefully compiled records did not equate to or support the CAVEAT social and political views then the results of honest people had to be consigned to the memory hole and a fictional account of history that fitted the narrative had to be constructed. This ‘homogenisation’ of reliable data is the most obvious damning indictment of all the frauds perpetrated on the taxpayers and disqualifies every member and supporter of the CAVEAT cult from the brotherhood of true scientists who consider data as sacrosanct.

    Vast sums (in the $’000Bns) have been lavished on this alchemy by ignorant or activist politicians and their compliant and foolish governments, yet the climate refuses to obey their absolutely certain predictions. As a result what we see with our own eyes and feel every day must be ignored. So when I turn on the heater at home I understand exactly what is going on when the wide-eyed newsreader on the ABC tells me that we have just had the hottest hour/day/week/month/year/century evvaaaa. I know with absolute certainty that I am hearing pseudo-scientific nonsense that bears no connection to reality.

    While the three major parties rule over us I can predict with absolute certainty, backed up by computer models and graphs that this fraud will continue to the detriment of the sovereignty of all Australians.

    No more room to comment on their ‘steady state’ proposal, but every empire and nation that became ‘steady state’ atrophied and died. Rome, Spain, the USSR, the Caliphate all crumbled in the face of vigorous and innovative new states – just as it is right now with the moribund and dying EU. Yet this is what they want for us, though not for the elite i.e. them.

    50-years ago I read Aldous Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’, but it did not really register. I am re-reading it now so I understand the future these visionaries are proposing. Along with Orwell’s ’1984′ and ‘Animal Farm’ they have already mapped our future for us and we are doomed.
    It is an absolute certainty.

  3. Rob Ellison

    “Although it has failed to produce its intended impact nevertheless the Kyoto Protocol has performed an important role. That role has been allegorical. Kyoto has permitted different groups to tell different stories about themselves to themselves and to others, often in superficially scientific
    language. But, as we are increasingly coming to understand, it is often not questions about science that are at stake in these discussions. The culturally potent idiom of the dispassionate scientific narrative is being employed to fight culture wars over competing social and ethical values. Nor is that to
    be seen as a defect. Of course choices between competing values are not made by relying upon scientific knowledge alone. What is wrong is to pretend that they are.”  http://www.lse.ac.uk/researchAndExpertise/units/mackinder/pdf/mackinder_Wrong%20Trousers.pdf

    Science is ultimately self correcting. That’s the point. Perhaps you should of studied engineering.

  4. Ian MacDougall

    But it promotes the eco-catastrophism of the global warming religion, having failed to notice that there has been negligible warming for two decades,[i], contrary to all the scary stuff from the IPCC computer modelling.

    That is if one goes by standard thermometers. (After all, we’ve had a pretty cold winter so far.) But the planet is a thermometer in its own right, and its ‘mercury’ is the one ocean, which is steadily rising: due to glacial melt and thermal expansion of the sea water. So like it or not, the whole planet is warming.


The Joy of Yurts and Jam-Jar Glassware

In Part Two of our series on Melbourne University’s Sustainable Society Institute we visit the enchanted isle of Entropia, the eco-aware settlement where bad poets and oboe players celebrate the death of capitalism with lentil casseroles, home-made port, free love and no small amount of green-haloed self-regard

dirty hippyFuturology is a mainstay in the writing about global warming, not just forecasting but the more difficult art of time-travel. 

We’ve had a vice-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Professor Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, discovering  in 2004 that our own Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, was killed by a warming-caused disease in 2039. Then we had Harvard Professor Naomi Oreskes writing  last July that global warming in 2023 would kill our puppies and kittens, our ‘faithful and trusted companions”. And three months ago, the scienc-y World Meteorological Organisation lined up real-life TV weather presenters who pretended to be reporting in 2050 about tornados hitting Berlin, a 50-day heat wave in Tokyo and so on.

Closer to home, we have Dr Sam Alexander, research fellow of the Melbourne University’s Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute (MSSI) and lecturer with the university’s Office for Environmental Programs. Last year he wrote a book Entropia: Life Beyond Industrial Civilisationabout someone looking back from a post-apocalyptic year 2099. It is published ($21.99 in paperback) by the Simplicity Institute, of which he co-founded and is a co-director.


I don’t want to give away plot twists, but the narrator  describes a   low-energy, simple-life community of poet-farmers on an isolated island off NZ after civilization collapses about 2035. They were “determined above all else to transcend the materialistic values of the Old World.”

The book is “an insight into the possibility of a much saner and more satisfying world” according to blurber Ted Trainer, of UNSW, who happens to be a fellow-member of Dr Alexander’s Simplicity Movement; a co-author of a paper with Alexander; and subject of a paper by Alexander.[1]

Here, from his institute’s website, is the low-tech housing favoured by Alexander.


The successfully-simple poet-farmers become a model for contemporary society.  As reviewer Paul Gilding, a former Global CEO of Greenpeace, puts it, “This is no escapist fantasy, however, but rather a practical and inspiring reminder of what we humans are capable of – and a wake-up call to action.”

Dr Alexander is  a doyen of the Melbourne University’s Sustainable Society Institute, judging by the five of his papers on its “Publications” website menu. They are “Post-growth economics”; “A critique of techno-optimism”; “Disruptive social innovation for a low-carbon world” — you get the idea. For his Simplicity Institute, he’s written lots along the lines of Planned Economic Contraction: The Emerging Case for Degrowth .

He co-edited a new book  last year, writing in the preface: “As the consumer class expands, we see the face of Gaia vanishing.” Consumerism is a “fossil-fuelled perversion that has no future”

Readers may be surprised to learn that promoting Western economic contraction is a respectable academic field. Dr Alexander describes in an MSSI publication how  the “Paris Declaration” of 2008  called for ‘right-sizing’ of all countries’ economies, meaning contraction in the West and expansion in the third world, but only to consumption levels ‘adequate for a decent life’.  (Wealth transfers from the West are the preferred choice for them). After global right-sizing, world growth should cease.

Alexander further explains:

“The primary contribution made by degrowth scholarship is the explicit acknowledgement that sustainability implies… initiating a phase of planned contraction of the ‘scale’ of developed economies. That is a position entirely absent from mainstream environmental and political discourse, where the ideology of growth still reigns supreme.”  (His emphasis).

His paper’s bibliography includes nine self-citations, one of which is Entropia, his fantasy tract.

Dr Alexander’s 2011   grant and scholarship-supported Ph.D. thesis (Melbourne University Law School), was “Property beyond Growth: Toward a Politics of Voluntary Simplicity”.  One of its five chapters is written from the future, as follows: “Looking Backward from the year 2029: Ecozoic Reflections. Lennox Kingston, Possibility 81(4) (2099).”  (Kingston,just so you’ll know, is Alexander’s future alter ego).

Dipping into the thesis chapter, one reads:

“By the end of the 2020s, the Simplicity Movement had become a significant oppositional force, and it would continue to strengthen and expand every year… Furthermore, simple living had become a socially accepted alternative lifestyle, which made stepping out of materialistic lifestyles much less isolating, thus hastening the demise of consumer culture. These changes resulted in discernable social and ecological benefits.”  P209-10

But what are his conclusions? For his post-growth world, he recommends

  1. A guaranteed minimum basic income for all
  2. A highly-progressive income tax ensuring a “democratically determined ‘maximum wage”
  3. “Worker cooperatives as the dominant corporate form in the economy”
  4. Tougher environmental laws
  5. “Curtail the laws of inheritance and bequest through high levels of taxation or abolition”.
  6. “Redesign labor laws to encourage systematically the exchange of income/consumption for more free time”

 Who could guess what you find in Melbourne Uni’s  Ph.D.  theses these days?

Alexander explains,

“Although I acknowledged that these proposed reforms may well slow an economy’s quantitative growth – even to the point of inducing a phase of degrowth – and thereby not maximize a nation’s GDP per capita, the underlying argument of this thesis has been that the reforms would at the same time: (1) increase human well-being; (2) promote social justice; and (3) enhance the health and integrity of the planet’s ecosystems. This is the potential ‘triple dividend’ which makes a post-growth property system such an alluring and promising prospect.”  P237

He notes (p vii): “A profound debt of gratitude is owed to my doctoral supervisor, Professor Lee Godden, who spent countless hours reading and discussing this thesis.”

Alexander’s thesis bibliography includes Alexander, Samuel (ed), Voluntary Simplicity: The Poetic Alternative to Consumer Culture; Alexander, Samuel, ‘Looking Backward for the Year 2099: Ecozoic Reflections on the Future’; and    Alexander, Samuel, ‘Deconstructing the Shed: Where I Live and What I Live For,’ Concord Saunterer (2011, forthcoming).[2]

In his 2013 future-book Entropia, Dr Alexander’s narrator just happens to be a part-time lecturer in philosophy and culture  at the island’s academy, as well as assistant editor at a  community newspaper, “The Saunterer”,  when not binding books and picking fruit.

In the 2035 Great Disruption (p24), we are told the island’s beautiful Tibetan violin prodigy Nishka, unable to find solace “even in our warm community”, sat in the bath with her violin, and with slashed and bloodied wrists, died playing a beautiful, tragic composition (p24 – Kindle). The others remained positive while dining on beans, potatoes and lentils. Although there were a few arguments about how to stay alive, “generally these were measured, mature conflicts. Everyone knew that there was no place for childish egotism…” (p27)

For a couple more pages, the narrator describes the non-realisation of Karl Marx’s vision, due to the working class becoming distracted by consumerism. Capitalism marched on, ‘brutally shaping the world according to its cold logic of profit maximisation.’ (p28).

But good news! Capitalism collapsed anyway, growing itself to death ‘like a cancer cell’. (p30)

On the resource-poor island, the citizens only need  65 litres of water per person per day (from wood and clay storage tanks), and if they use  more they get a visit from a  social educators “and as such, they are never resented”.

Citizens in their densely habited mud-brick and yurt compounds, converted containers and tepees (p66-7) cut back severely on cleaning themselves and their clothes, since hyper-cleanliness is ‘fetishistic’ (p58).They limit showers to 90 seconds, “and often simply wash themselves with a bucket and some soap”. In summer they jump into rivers and ponds, a mystical experience “as the sun rises like a warm god over the eastern mount”  (p57).

Their clothing is made from “functional, easy to grow, low-impact fabrics…derived from such things as agricultural hemp, nettles and wool…a new aesthetic of sufficiency” (p65).

Dr Alexander doesn’t remark on the aroma of his community of minimally-washed, hemp-clad, yurt-dwelling bean-eaters who drink from old jam jars (p81).[3]  Nor does he mention the rigors of low-tech dentistry.

People take on a succession of roles. A person finishing school might become a potter, a carpenter, “a blacksmith, a music teacher, a lecturer, a tailor, a doctor or some mixture of such roles” (p86). My women friends are apprehensive  about getting a procedure from a blacksmith-turned-medico,b ut the author assures us that the isle’s vegie diet and work-life  balance minimise health issues anyway (p88).

The community, run by the “People’s Council” (p103), involves home-grown food etc, and “artisans also produce specialty goods at the household level, such as musical instruments, paintings or various tools” (p73). (Preferred painting styles are chocolate-box scenery and “a revolving series of mostly colourful abstract works”).

Women delight in use of long-lasting treadle sewing machines (p82), pausing to welcome friends over to share a nutritious bean meal and play the musical instruments.

The booze on tap is suggested by one lady’s diary. During a stroll she met an 83-year-old “full of poetry and wisdom”, who played the ukulele to her. Arriving home she bottled pears, “worked a little on my novel”, mended a hole in her sweater and then joined some friends in the garden “where we sipped on home-made port and threw ideas around about organising a series of dawn plays in the summer” (p84). The home-made-port-sipping continued till midnight so the play scripts probably got a bit ragged.

However, the narrator is convinced that the community “is awash with the most thrilling novels, plays, poems, music, sculpture, paintings, tapestries and all other forms of art, beyond historical precedent and beyond historical imagination” (p87).

Dr Alexander’s narrator provides a sample of the thrillingly-beyond-imagination poetry, which I think would do credit to William Topaz McGonagall[4]. Here we go:

“Witness O mysterious other,
Who wanders in from beyond,
Like mist emerging from the woods,
To settle on the pond,
With etiquette poetic,
Charm refined without pretence,
You seem a gentlemanly brother
With many dollars, but fewer sense”

It goes on for four pages and ends with the audience entranced and ‘eager to hear more’. But instead they get an oboist. “Thus in our simplicity, we are happy”, the chapter concludes  (p100).

The narrator says, “While strict equality is not enforced on the isle, we recognise that significant disparities of wealth are socially corrosive and politically dangerous”  (p78). The narrator seems to have studied not only Marx but Marx’s famous interpreter J.V. Stalin, who knew exactly what to do with socially-corrosive elements, such as millions of slightly-wealthier peasants (kulaks) and their families.

I took a prurient interest in the sex lives of this community. For starters, marriage has been dumped because of all its ‘baggage’ marginalising gay relationships.   Relationships are open or closed, according to what anyone wants (p90-1). “Expanded relationships that sometimes form on the Isle raise no eyebrows and certainly draw no moral censure.”

I visualise an Entropian dinner party: “I’d like you to meet my three partners Trent, Noah and Roslyn, and Daisy my cocker spaniel. Do let me pour you a jam jar of port.”

The narrator/Alexander is a bit weak on the essential task of  controlling the island’s population. To have more than one baby poet-farmer, you need a permit, but what if a couple has an accident (quite likely in the absence of latex factories and pill laboratories), or tells the People’s Council to get stuffed?[5] The narrator says lamely that social disapproval of multi-birth families tends to bring the fecund poet-farmers into line. (If dad heads off to join someone else, the new couple gets an extra-baby permit).

The book ends unusually, “Would you be interested in helping to fund and participate in the creation of an Entropia Ecovillage outside of Melbourne, Australia, based on the ideas in this book? If so, please register your interest at www.bookofentropia.com/ecovillage.

I therefore emailed Dr Alexander:

“Hi Sam, I have just finished reading your book Entropia and was bowled over by the ambition of your vision.

I think the idea of an eco-village near Melbourne including yurts, tepees and shipping container housing could be the answer to affordable housing.

I own (with my wife) a  house near Coburg that is really more of a burden because of all the unnecessary appliances, like washing machines and dishwashers, that are always breaking down, and if my wife agrees, we could sell the house and sink the proceeds into sustainable housing in your village project, without wasteful appliances, especially as I for one, like you, see industrial civilisation soon to collapse under the burden of ever-more-expensive oil.  All the best with your project, Tony”

Forty minutes later, Dr Alexander responded enthusiastically to my conditional offer, “I’m heartened to hear that my book spoke to you.”

In fact, the ecovillage is not only well underway but, in the past 18 months, the founders have built “a small Earthship, a mud house, an earthbag abode, and a ‘tiny house’ from reclaimed timber and iron.” They have a yurt in transit from WA and have started an orchard, chicken coop etc.

What’s more, a documentary film-maker (sounds like the ABC, but I may be wrong) is onto their case, and up to 10 people will stay at the property to film a ‘simpler way’ documentary based on the ideas in his Entropia island book. The film would present a deep green alternative to mainstream life and illustrate ‘one planet’ living.

I was invited to sink the proceeds from my (conditional) house sale into buying neighboring blocks for $215,000 or $485,000. A nearby $900,000 block was mentioned, but probably out of my price range. “Having someone like-minded buy the neighbouring properties would be absolutely amazing,” Dr Alexander wrote.

Soon after, he did a bit of googling and was disappointed to find that I am a Quadrant writer and as such, unlikely to be a genuine sympathizer with earth-bagged earthships, tiny houses and home-made contraception.

[1] Trainer wants his followers to infiltrate and proselytise to people in community gardens (there is one at the bottom of my street). The gardeners should be educated that “reforms to consumer-capitalist society cannot achieve a sustainable and just society. … Our efforts in these local initiatives are the first steps to the eventual replacement of the present society by one which is not driven by market forces, profit, competition, growth or affluence.” He posts that creed on a UNSW website.



[2] Karl Marx gets only a single guernsey.

[3] Alexander seems aware that glass production is too high-capital and high-technology for the island’s tailors and blacksmiths

[4] Acclaimed as the worst poet in British history – see The Tay Bridge Disaster, e.g. ‘For the stronger we our houses do build,

The less chance we have of being killed’.

[5] The narrator talks of “easily available” contraception without specifying its nature

Tomorrow: The MSSI peer reviewed book that isn’t.