Heads in the Sand

We did it here first but the Bondi event on November 13 was good to see, too. It certainly drew attention from the world’s media – Reuters, the BBC, CBC and many other mainstream outlets covered it.

It also appeared on Mashable (with a particularly good collection of images) and the blogosphere; one denialist blog tried to make a joke of it, apparently forgetting that there is no such thing as bad publicity.

Townsville takes part in the Global day of Climate Action

crowd with placards
The obligatory crowd photo

Today’s global day of climate action represents a remarkable collaboration of environmental and community groups around the world, led by 350.org. Here in Townsville, NQCC provided the leadership and a sizeable crowd assembled on the Strand for music, face-painting and speeches from Wendy Tubman and Sandy McCathie. Rather than a march we had a staged photo-op: dozens of people on the beach with their heads in the sand in imitation of a certain Mr Abbott (certain, that is, that climate change is crap and that he doesn’t need to listen to anyone who thinks otherwise; he’s wrong on both counts, of course).

It was a positive event in the same style as the National Day of Climate Action in June: a gathering of like-minded people for a good cause, having fun in beautiful surroundings as well as making a serious point.

350.org is assembling a photo gallery on flickr; Australian images are here. I haven’t yet seen photos of the completed heads-in-the-sand panorama but here’s one showing people beginning to get ready for it.

preparing to  dig
Playing on the beach – seriously

Update, 24.9.14

The media coverage has now peaked:

  • Avaaz has a great collection of photos from around the world accompanied by front-page newspaper coverage.
  • GetUp! has a good collection on instagram.
  • More locally, the Townsville Bulletin had no coverage at all on Monday (except a short report from AAP of the Cairns rally, which was presumably ‘news’ because it was held outside the G20 finance ministers’ meeting) but came to the party on Tuesday with a cute photo of a child in costume and a brief report.
  • The “heads in the sand” photo (below) from Cranky Curlew has attracted quite a lot of attention including a spot on Channel 10’s “The Project” yesterday evening.

Townsville Salutes

National Day of Climate Action – Townsville

hundreds of people on lawn
The crowd on Burke St headland, the Strand

The National Day of Climate Action was a great success nationally and Townsville people played their part in it. We gathered on the Strand at 4 p.m., wearing the “hot, bright” colours requested by  GetUp!, and listened to speakers telling us about the multiple threats posed by climate change. Organisers counted over 450 people which on a per capita basis is about as good as Melbourne and, in fact, the national average. Congratulations to GetUp! and local organisers NQ Conservation Council.

Band and audience
Live entertainment between speakers

Halelujah BABY raised the energy levels with some very appropriate songs and there were some great individual contributions – this sign, for instance, and the small group of folk musicians (harp, recorders and fiddle) playing on the edge of the site.

Rain was threatening from 3.30 onwards and started falling about 5.00 as we were coming to the end of the programme but this is Townsville so the rain is warm and we still walked from the headland down on to the beach for a group photo. I might have said “marched” but we were far too happy and relaxed for that. We were serious about climate change and getting some action to address it, sure, but we were also happy to be there together and see such a large group of like-minded people. It’s all too easy to be discouraged by the indifference of those around us at work or in our social circles but this rally affirmed the community support that environmental action does have.

There is a saying amongst politicians that each letter they receive on a given issue is worth ten votes. How many votes is each participant in a rally worth? Surely at least twice that. Ewen Jones, can you afford to lose 9000 votes next election?

Didn’t attend but want to be heard? You can still (as of the time of writing) sign the petition.

National news for the National Day of Climate Action

Positive strategies for climate action

As my regular readers will know, I am a follower of RealClimate. A recent guest post there, from some Dutch climate scientists, described a new online experiment in fostering dialogue on climate change. It’s fair to say it copped some flack from the experts – deservedly, in my less-expert opinion – but the comments on it included some very positive suggestions for how we should really be trying to move the debate forward. Here are some I particularly liked; visit my source if you want more.


“Real hope, if it is to arise at all, will do so from a bare assessment of the scale of the challenge we now face.”
Anderson & Bows, ‘Beyond dangerous climate change’
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, Jan 2011

… a final message of hope ..
“at every level the greatest obstacle to transforming the world is that we lack the clarity and imagination to conceive that it could be different.”
Roberto Unger




XX wrote: “To dodge the major impending climate catastrophe that we project today, harsh restrictions on energy use by all global citizens will be required”

YY responded: That is just plain false. Photovoltaic panels installed on all the flat commercial rooftops in the USA would generate more electricity than all the nuclear power plants in the country. Concentrating solar thermal power plants on just five percent of the USA’s deserts would generate more electricity than the entire country uses. The same is true of the wind energy resources of just four midwestern states.

And those examples represent just a small fraction of the USA’s vast solar and wind energy resources. According to a study by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, “At least three-fifths of the fifty states could meet all their internal electricity needs from renewable energy generated inside their borders.” The fact is that we have abundant, endless sources of energy, and we have the mature and powerful technologies needed to harvest those sources, and those technologies are getting more powerful and less expensive every day.

Moreover, because we waste so much energy, we have an enormous opportunity to get more utility out of the energy we consume simply by implementing the most obvious and lowest-cost efficiency measures.

I don’t know why you insist on pretending otherwise. Frankly, your comments often read like coal industry propaganda of the sort designed to discourage people from supporting action to reduce emissions by scaring them with “if we stop burning coal we’ll all have to shiver in the dark and live in caves” alarmism.


Donella Meadows, who held a PhD in Biophysics from Harvard mentions Thomas Kuhn’s  “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” in her paper titled ‘Leverage Points; Places to Intervene in a System’. I have a hunch she understood science, complex systems, and the social interactions of Great Apes. Here’s the reference:

“You could say paradigms are harder to change than anything else about a system, and therefore this item should be lowest on the list, not second. But there’s nothing physical or expensive or even slow in the process of paradigm change. In a single individual, it can happen in a millisecond. All it takes is a click in the mind, a falling of scales from the eyes, a new way of seeing. Whole societies are another matter—they resist challenges to their paradigms harder than they resist anything else.

So how do you change paradigms? Thomas Kuhn, who wrote the seminal book about the great paradigm shifts of science, has a lot to say about that: 

  • You keep pointing at the anomalies and failures in the old paradigm. 
  • You keep speaking and acting, loudly and with assurance, from the new one. 
  • You insert people with the new paradigm in places of public visibility and power.
  • You don’t waste time with reactionaries; rather, you work with active change agents and with the vast middle ground of people who are open-minded.”

(That last point, incidentally, corresponds exactly with the strategy advocated by Anna Rose at the Townsville launch of her book, Madlands.)