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Wonthaggi Lifesaving Club.  All welcome.

Weather Forecast

Kangaroo-apple Season [Dec]

Changeable, thundery weather.  Bundjil (Wedge-tailed Eagles) are breeding. Bunjil, the Creation Being, is also referred to as the 'eaglehawk'.

Fruits appear on Kangaroo- apple bushes. Bali (Cherry Ballart) is fruiting.

Dhuling (Goannas) are active.  Buliyong (bats) are catching insects in flight.

Days are long and nights are short.

Seven Seasons of the Kulin People

Artist - Karina H McInnes
Source - Museum Victoria

 

 

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Forget facts, it's personality that rules reactions to climate change

The first report of the Australian Climate Commission ... advised the world to set a carbon budget in a bid to avoid dangerous warming.  The emissions are set, but whether you see power generation or pollution is up to you.

Author:  Jo Chandler
Published: The Age, 28 May, 2011

THE sea hare is a gelatinous lump ordinarily found grazing on coral reefs, home to many far more eye-catching creatures. Nonetheless, the one captive in the aquarium at Heron Island Research Station, on the Great Barrier Reef, provides a mesmerising spectacle as it chomps through great bouquets of red algae plucked from the reef flat and delivered fresh each morning by a young marine scientist.

''We used to have two hares in the tank,'' she explained, ''but when there are two, they just shag continuously, fail to eat, then they die.'' We conclude that herein lies a powerful warning about the risk unrelenting pleasure-seeking poses to any species aspiring to long-term survival.

I've been thinking a bit about the sea hare this week while observing the fallout from the Climate Commission's report, The Critical Decade. Wondering, too, about primitive human biology, about what factors interfere with our survival instinct - fear, fun, greed, legacy, even good old distracting lust.

The report is a powerful enunciation of what science now knows about climate change and the risks it poses. That the atmosphere and the oceans are warming, ice is being lost from glaciers and ice caps, sea levels are rising and the biological world is changing. ''We know beyond reasonable doubt that the world is warming and that human emissions of greenhouse gases are the primary causes.''

In the nuanced language of science, it doesn't get much stronger. As the American scientist Naomi Oreskes has observed, ''History shows us clearly that science does not provide certainty. It does not provide proof.  It only provides the consensus of experts, based on the organised accumulation and scrutiny of evidence.'' And here we have it.

So how do you respond to such confronting news? Do you weigh the credentials of the speakers, study the evidence? Or do you switch it off, turn the page, scream and shout? According to psychological research by the Cultural Cognition Project at Yale University, your reaction either way will have little to do with the strength of the arguments or the calibre of the science. It will have everything to do with whether it gels with, or offends, your deep-seated views about morality and how the world ought to work.

Yale law professor Dan Kahan's ''cultural cognition of risk'' theory attempts to explain public disagreement about the significance of empirical evidence by plotting individuals on two scales of cultural belief: individualists versus communitarians, based on the importance people attach to the public good when balanced against individual rights; and hierarchists versus egalitarians, based on their views of the stratification of society. Simply explaining the science to these audiences, he finds, will only serve to wedge the two sides.

The sliding scales are not unfamiliar. Think Tony Abbott as the archetypal suit-and-tie individual hierarchical - values clustered around free-market enterprise, personal achievement, industry, regard for authority (though not, it seems, scientific authority), traditional family, personal freedom; and Bob Brown is out there as your sandal-wearing communitarian egalitarian, protesting that pretty much everything Abbott cherishes damages all he holds dear.

Put a scientist in front of an audience of individual hierarchicals saying that global warming is high risk, and only 23 per cent of the audience will buy the speaker as trustworthy and knowledgeable. Same message, same scientist, and 88 per cent of egalitarian communitarians nod their heads.

Have the same author change tack to argue that warming is no great drama, and the Abbotts now lap it up (86 per cent), and the Browns wander off (46 per cent). The well-oiled machinery of manufactured denial knows how to push all these buttons.

Yale's audience testing finds the only factor likely to interfere with our psychological gatekeeping is if someone within our ''camp'' - someone we perceive as sharing our world view - says something unexpected. (Hence the reverberations in industry and markets when BHP chief Marius Kloppers last year urged rapid action to put a price on carbon emissions.) In short, evidence from someone you identify with will sway your view; science - facts - won't.

Same as it ever was, maybe. But new media helps us contrive a self-affirming information bubble, an echo chamber in which only our own beliefs are broadcast back to us. Debate in the US on the Yale findings prompted the reflection that our instincts in this regard mean - as one political scientist observed - ''we are not well-adapted to our information age''.

The findings also confirm that for all our modernity, tribal leaders remain critical. Leaders of all persuasions - political, religious, industrial, social - have immense power in influencing responses to the most diabolical of problems.

In the foreword to a new book debunking scepticism of science - Climate Change Denial: Heads in the Sand - Oreskes argues that fear is the major driver of denial. ''Fear that our current way of life is unsustainable. Fear that addressing the issue will limit economic growth. Fear that if we accept government interventions in the market place … it will lead to a loss of personal freedom. Or maybe just plain old fear of change.''

As economist John Kenneth Galbraith observed, all great leaders share one common characteristic - ''the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time''.

Jo Chandler is a senior Age writer and the author of Feeling The Heat,
which tracks climate field scientists.

 

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      - Read and follow signage

      - Only observe them from a distance of 80-100m

      - Keep your dog on a lead and well away from the birds.

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