Sailing Into the Abyss

The year is 2013. I am a passenger on a container ship as it voyages for twenty-seven days from Hong Kong to Southampton. Magellan, the third largest container ship in the world, is powered by a huge engine, equalled in size by only one other in the merchant fleet. For the mechanically minded; it is a marine diesel, fuel-injected, internal combustion, two-stroke engine, generating 109,000 hp. It has fourteen pistons, each almost a metre in diameter. I can vouchsafe that it is very large and loud.

On this voyage, the ship is carrying the equivalent of nearly 10,000 standard-sized containers. Containers, which can be more than double the length and taller than standard-sized, can hold up to about 28 tonnes of cargo.

Why mention any of this? A container ship provides a practical and grounding lesson on the realities of modern economic life that school children might be taught. As distinct, that is, from being brainwashed with fairy tales of sustainable development.

Magellan today: there's a metaphor here somewhere.

The lesson might begin thus: Our way of life, our prosperity, our ability to help those among us in need, are all critically dependent on growing, mining, making, trading and transporting things. Needed are entrepreneurship, business acumen, skill, hard work and, critically, cheap and plentiful supplies of energy.

A series of questions might follow to generate discussion. Apropos: If it takes around 4,700 tonnes of marine diesel fuel at $550 per tonne to shift one-hundred thousand tonnes of cargo from Hong Kong to Southampton, how many batteries charged by wind and solar farms would it take and how much would it cost? For mathematics students this would be an instructive introduction to imaginary numbers.

Another question might go like this. Is it possible for us to enjoy the ownership of cell phones, computers, flat screen TVs, cars, and all of our other modern conveniences without the dirty business of their manufacture and shipment? For students of anthropology, this may throw light on the development of cargo cults among primitive peoples. And talking of cargo cults, adult classes might be held for those who vote for green parties who seem equally prone to thinking that goods simply appear out of thin air.

Other instructive questions could be posed for the tutelage of students and greenies alike. Me, I want to stop there and turn back to the crude diesel which powers large ships. According to those who estimate these things, shipping accounts for around 2.5 percent of man-made CO2 emissions. Twice the emissions of Australia by the way. And as Australia is under pressure by the great and good, Joe Biden and Boris Johnson included, to prostrate itself before the deity of net-zero emissions by 2050, it isn’t surprising that shipping is also in the firing line.

No emissions please, we're Norwegian.

The International Maritime Organisation’s voluntary goal is to cut greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping by at least half by 2050 compared with 2008. Bear in mind that tonnages shipped are on course to be far higher in 2050 than they are now. The goal might be described as aspirational. Think of the late Soviet Union’s five-year plans. Even so, it is not going to be nearly enough to satisfy the zealots, when net-zero is their goal.

Norway is doing its bit.  Reportedly, as from January 2026, Norway intends to ban cruise ships from sailing through its fjords unless they generate zero emissions. How to bring this about? I don’t know. However, the Norwegian shipping line Hurtigruten announced in 2018 that it would run its ships on dead fish and other rotting matter. Smelly business. Fish at risk. Has limitations.

In an article in Forbes, development economist Nishan Degnarain echoed the UN in calling for shipping to urgently ditch fossil fuels. He claims that shipping is the sixth-largest emitter after China, the U.S., India, Russia and Japan; which, though mixing categories, is about right. What to do?

Degnarain doesn’t mention dead fish. He lists four possible solutions. These come out of a report by the international conservation group Ocean Conservancy. The report was launched at U.N. Climate Week, held virtually in New York in September 2020. Here are the putative solutions:

  1. Electrification, in other words batteries
  2. (Green) Hydrogen fuel cells
  3. Ammonia
  4. Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG)

To take them in reverse order. Environmentalists aren’t keen on LNG. Apparently, it leaks methane in transit. And, anyway, “cleaner” though it is, it is still a foul fossil fuel. Ammonia carries a risk of blowing up and when burnt emits the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide. Just a guess, but fuel cells powered by green hydrogen might not be quite ready for widespread installation in ships. One solution mooted is the onboard conversion of sea water to hydrogen. I simply assume that’s a joke. And in that same amusing vein, electrification is clearly a risible solution for ocean-going vessels. Consider the magnitude of the problem.

Leave aside the 30 million or so recreational and fishing boats in the world; lots pumping out CO2. As of the beginning of 2020, there were around 56,000 merchant ships trading internationally. This encompasses 5,360 container ships, over 17,000 general cargo ships, more than 12,000 bulk cargo carriers, around 8,000 crude oil tankers, nearly 6,000 chemical tankers, over 5,000 roll-on roll-off ships, and some 2,000 LNG tankers. All running on fossil fuels, overwhelmingly crude diesel, with a bit of LNG thrown into the mix.

Is it possible to get your head around refitting and/orreplacing this fleet so that it's emissions free? Maybe, if you’re an airhead and assume as-yet uninvented technologies will somehow save the day. If burdened with common sense and realism, you will know that it can’t be done. It is Panglossianism on stilts.

This is the situation. Western world leaders, without political opposition, have bought completely into "global warming" alarmism. Extraordinary, but that is the least of it. They are buying into delusional solutions to a non-problem. You’re sane and trying to figure out what the heck’s going on? Forget it. Just cling onto the rails as they do their damnedest to sail us into the abyss.

'Eco-Feminists' vs. 'Toxic' Reality

“If civilization had been left in female hands,” wrote Camilla Paglia in her 1990 book Sexual Personae, “we would still be living in grass huts.”

Feminists have often retorted that patriarchal societies prevented women from exercising their artistic, scientific, and technological gifts—and that women’s true capabilities in these areas are still not fully known because of ongoing sexism. Lately, however, at least one group of feminist critics—namely the proponents of eco-feminism, who see the exploitation of women and of the environment as linked issues—not only seem to agree with Paglia, but go so far as to suggest that living in grass huts would be far preferable to controlling and dominating nature in the way that men have done. 

That’s the idea expressed in the almost-parodically titled “Boys and their toys: how overt masculinity dominates Australia’s relationship with water,” by Anna Kosovac, PhD. Published in the popular academic journal The Conversation, the article was written by a University of Melbourne academic who holds a prestigious Research Chair in Water Policy. 

Back to the future?

Writing from her air-conditioned room in an ivory tower designed, built, and maintained by men, intersectional feminist Kosovac believes that the days of exerting control over nature through dams, water pipelines, and sewer networks are largely over: the time has come, she writes almost mystically, “to reassess the old methods and explore new ways in our relationship with water.” In her view, masculine over-reliance on “technological and infrastructure ‘fixes’” is preventing Australians from “work[ing] in tandem with the environment” to address the country’s water needs.     

Although Kosovac states at the article’s outset that she spent nine years working as a civil engineer in water management, she has almost nothing good to say about the field as it currently operates, aside from the grudging admission that “there’s nothing inherently wrong with using technology to solve water issues.” But in Kosovac’s masculine-averse perspective, the male technocratic mind is far too rigid and exclusionary. It assumes that serious sustainability problems can be solved with “gadgets,” as she calls them, such as smart meters and other data-collecting technologies, and it will not give fair consideration to other (eco-feminist and Indigenous spiritual) perspectives.

Kosovac alleges that Australia is suffering both politically and ecologically from “toxic masculinity.” This is a now-standard feminist phrase striking for its bigotry and intellectual incoherence.  At times this “dominant masculinity” seems indistinguishable from men themselves; at other times it is a specific attitude toward power, the exercise of control over nature and less powerful “others,” that is manifested by particular white, heterosexual men. The author speaks with satisfaction of the recent “fury of women” at the “toxic masculine culture of Parliament House” while neglecting to mention that women comprise 31% of the House of Representatives and a whopping 53% of the Senate. Closer to home, she complains that “in the area of water supply, sewage, and drainage services, only 19.8% of the workforce comprises people who identify as women.” Here is a patriarchal plot, one presumes, to keep women out of the sewers they would otherwise have been clamoring to enter. 

Girl power, One Million Years BC.

Kosovac cautions, nonetheless, that simply creating a more “diverse” water industry workforce made up of women, the Indigenous, and LGBTQI will not necessarily change “male-dominated decision making” and false faith in technology. That is what must change, according to Kosovac, though she never tells readers precisely what non-masculine, non-technological water management would look like.

It is quite stunning to read Kosovac’s glib dismissal of the male-led efforts that have made drought-prone Australia, the driest continent in the world, not only habitable for millions of people but one of the most prosperous and self-sustaining nations on earth. Missing from her sneering screed is any acknowledgement of Australia’s enormous achievements in water management, including seawater de-salination, which plays an increasing role in supplying water to many of Australia’s largest cities, or in the use of reclaimed wastewater for agricultural irrigation and other needs. 

One of Kosovac’s primary criticisms of Australian technology is the failure to engage the community or to care about ordinary people’s views and preferences (she cites one example in which residents of Toowoomba rejected recycled wastewater for drinking in a referendum that “divided the county”—apparently feminist policies are never divisive). The Australian situation is, in fact, far more complex than Kosovac’s article suggests. The Water Reform Agenda, adopted in 1994, established the principle of public consultation and emphasized the right of communities to participate in the development of water supply policies. Robust measures to encourage rainwater harvesting, greywater use, and many other conservation efforts with wide public support have been in effect for years and are a testimony to the multi-pronged, community-based approach pioneered in Australia.

While indulging in harsh criticism of the conservation and management practices currently employed in her country, Kosovac’s article is notably thin on solutions. It is time for a new way of doing things, she tells us repeatedly. But what is it?  She is in favor, it seems, of a “humble” approach that rejects the exertion of “control,” telling readers, with familiar academic vagueness, that “a different approach would incorporate valuable knowledge in the social sciences, such as recognizing the politics and social issues at play in how we manage water.” This is theoretical gibberish, and means little more than that under the influence of eco-feminist critics like Kosovac and her cadre of utopia-envisioning colleagues, water policy will be subject to a cultural Marxist analysis to identify oppressor groups (white male engineers, mostly, and those who support them) and oppressed groups (ethnic and gender minorities); such analysis will always castigate the oppressors and call for greater involvement of the marginalized.

Water, water, not quite everywhere.

True to form, Kosovac advocates “working closely with traditional owners to incorporate Indigenous understandings of water.” As an example of this approach, Kosovac refers with evident approval to a piece of 2017 legislation passed in New Zealand “that recognized the Whanganui River catchment as a legal person. The reform formally acknowledged the special relationship local Maori have with the river.”

It may be that despite her eco-feminist ideological commitments, Kosovac is struck near-speechless by this legislation, for she concludes her article soon thereafter without enlightening readers about how a governmental act of personification will help to address water management. Her only other specific suggestion involves “moving to community decision making models or even programs to increase youth involvement in water management.” Asking teenagers for input about water use may well yield some novel suggestions, but it’s difficult to conclude they will responsibly revolutionize water policy.  

Kosovac proclaims her support for “giving up some control.” I suspect, however, that her faith in youth and community consultation, and even in Indigenous spiritual beliefs, will last only so long as potable water flows abundantly from her tap and the toilet flushes on command. The much-derided “toys” of the “boys” may well represent a masculine orientation that it is now fashionable to condemn, but that masculine way of dealing with our environment has inarguably kept the sewage and water systems functional, thus making all our lives immeasurably better. The simple fact is that exerting control over water is indistinguishable from civilization itself. When it comes to complex technological systems, I’ll take the boys with their toys over the girls clutching their pearls any day of the week.

Fighting the Climate War, One Fad at a Time

Behind my desk is a framed picture of an article in Newsweek dated April 28, 1975. The cooling world, it is titled. “Climatologists are pessimistic that political leaders will take any positive action to compensate for the climatic change, or even to allay its effects,” it is reported. Fortunately, nothing was done, e.g., “covering arctic sea ice with soot,” otherwise what a pickle we’d now be in, what with global warming and all.

Global cooling was forecast to cause “an increase in extremes of weather such as droughts, floods, extended dry spells, long freezes, delayed monsoons and even local temperature increases.” There it is. Whatever the climate does we should expect the worst.

Oops.

Australian palaeontologist and climate alarmist, Tim Flannery expected the worst in 2007. Droughts were in his crystal ball. “Even the rain that falls isn’t actually going to fill our dams and our river systems,” he said. Late March 2021 in the states of New South Wales and Queensland, rain galore, floods, dams overflowing. Of course, things will change, droughts will recur in the land “of droughts and flooding plains;” as the Australian poet Dorothea Mackellar put it, way back in a wiser age before Flannery was born. And they’ll be met with water restrictions and, among Christians, prayers for rain.

It would help if there were more and bigger dams, but these are hard to build. They are hard to build, in case you don’t know, because the habitats of rare species would be lost or Aboriginal cave drawings or other sights of significance submerged. As it turns out, these barriers to dam building apply more or less everywhere it makes sense to build large-scale dams. Sometimes I think we might as well designate the whole of Australia as a national park-cum-untouchable Aboriginal sacred site and be done with it.

Warragamba Dam is the primary water source for Sydney. It was finished in 1960 when Sydney’s population was not much over two million. Sydney’s population is now over five million and, surprise-surprise, during droughts water storage runs seriously low. A plan to increase the capacity of the dam by increasing its height is stalled. No surprise there either.

As an aside, isn’t it somewhat churlish to keep on praying for rain during droughts when we’re persistently recalcitrant in harvesting water? My Anglican minister points out that those suffering during droughts still need our prayers, whatever the circumstances. I take his point, yet I suspect most Anglican churchgoers are green-hued and therefore to some extent complicit in the suffering. It’s a conundrum, but enough of that.

Don’t for a minute think that the “record-breaking” rains (they are not by the way) in NSW and Queensland will dent Flannery’s (hysterical) conviction. It would take momentous contradictory events to disturb any part of the conviction among alarmists that we face imminent catastrophic climate change. It comes down to the philosophy of science.

To be honest, I don’t find the philosophy of science to be a riveting subject. But it seems to me that the history of science in the past half century has shown that Thomas Kuhn’s insights rather than Karl Popper’s best encompass the scientific method in practice. Scientists clearly move in crowds; albeit with the odd, shunned, ‘eccentric’ voices on the periphery. The prevailing scientific paradigm, as Kuhn describes it, bounds inquiry. That is, until whatever is the stubbornly-held paradigm is completely overwhelmed by contradictory events.

Incidentally, J K Galbraith (in The Affluent Society) used the term “conventional wisdom” to describe, more or less, the same phenomenon in the social sciences and in all walks of life.

We only have to be right this week.

I dare say many climate scientists were investigating global cooling when it was fashionable, as they are now almost all investigating global warming. I doubt many are subjecting the hypothesis of CO2-caused warming to stress testing. They are not Popperians, busying away trying to falsify the paradigm which guides their research. No, I suggest, they simply accept it as true and work within its bounds. And maybe that is the way science has generally proceeded.

Climate sceptics often charge that a scientific consensus is a contradiction in terms. But is that true? On reflection, I don’t think it is. I have read that a consensus has developed within quantum theory which leaves those on the outside at risk of being shunned. I understand that Galileo had less trouble with Urban VIII, the Pope at the time, than he had with the scientists of the day who had the ear of the Pope. At question is how to break through a consensus?

I will take my lead from Sun Tzu in The Art of War. “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles” (3,18). Many of those who believe climate alarmists to be wrong don’t seem to know their enemy. They tend to think that logical counter-arguments will carry weight. They won’t. All such counter arguments strike at the paradigm (a walled city). That simply won’t work. It’s akin to infidels questioning the likelihood that the Archangel Gabriel spoke to Muhammed in a cave. It will carry no weight among Islamists.

What to do against a strong enemy? “The worst policy of all is to besiege walled cities,” says Sun Tzu (3,3). “Force him to reveal himself, so as to find out his vulnerable spots” (6,23). In this case, the vulnerable spot is the practical means of countering CO2 emissions.  Clearly today’s renewable energy doesn’t and won’t ever work. Not even Michael Moore (Planet of the Humans) defends it. So, what will work? Right now, only nuclear can deliver sufficient dispatchable power, whenever and wherever it is required, without producing CO2 emissions. That is the turf on which the battle can be fought and won.

If indeed man-made CO2 is on the brink of causing catastrophic warming, then we need to move speedily. There is no time for endless research on renewables or hydrogen. Only nuclear is available in the limited time we have left. Might even be able to get David Attenborough to buy into this, in view of his current angst.

Of course, battles will remain. Electric vehicles, farm animal emissions etc. But at least we might be rid of ugly wind and solar farms and the costly, intermittent and unreliable power they bring. True we lose cheap and dependable fossil-fuel power. However, consolingly, it will not be lost to the world. We can depend upon China and India to keep on burning the black stuff.

The Great Woke Replacement Continues Apace

The year was 1990/91. I was chief economist at State Bank Victoria. Economic times were tough. Soaring oil prices had pushed economies into recession. In Australia unemployment topped 10 percent. My bank, lumbered with a failed subsidiary, was hard hit and would have gone under. The government forced a takeover. The Commonwealth Bank took us over.

Best person for each job was the announced deal. It turned out that the Commonwealth Bank invariably had the best person. I was out. This isn’t a sob story but it’s no fun to be out of work with children to support. It took me months of “networking” (aka groveling) to find a job. And my point?

I knew why I’d lost my job. It was explicable. Oil prices had risen because of the Gulf War. I had picked the wrong bank. Those who worked for this bank were never going to be preferred over those in similar positions in the dominant bank. Human nature and self-preservation were at work.

I wasn’t sacked because I didn’t toe the politically-correct party line. My future employment wasn’t compromised. I didn’t become persona non grata -- an unperson as Orwell put it.

Your existence is neither required nor desired, comrade.

This came to my mind in context of a recent report in the New York Post. The report referred to Karen Ames, a middle-aged school superintendent, threatened with termination because she wasn’t in sync with ‘critical race theory’ and, sadly, forced to accept demotion to try to preserve her pension.

A veteran Bronx superintendent once praised by Chancellor Richard Carranza for her successes in the classroom claims her career was derailed by his “equity” agenda — forcing her to take a demotion in a desperate bid to preserve her pension, according to a $150 million lawsuit.

Karen Ames, a 30-year Department of Education employee, says she was targeted by Carranza’s “Disrupt and Dismantle” campaign to oust or marginalize longtime employees because she is over 40, and Jewish.

Ames was grilled about her “ethnic background,” chastised by a colleague at a training session when she shared her grandparents’ experience during the Holocaust in Poland, and “admonished” when she declined requests at superintendents meetings to take part in the comic book movie-inspired “Wakanda Forever” salute to “black power,” she charges in the legal filing.

To be pushed out of employment, under a cloud for having the ‘wrong views’, is no small thing. When your employment is at stake you can be cowed; threatened with the destruction of your ability to provide for yourself and your family. It is an evil thing to do to someone. Hold that thought.

Peter Ridd loses his employment with James Cook University for criticising his colleagues’ conclusions on threats to the Great Barrier Reef. That’s the reef which has to be kept under continual and ever-evolving threat to keep the research dollars flowing. Truth be damned.

Margaret Court in 1963: game, set, and match.

Israel Folau and Margaret Court are harassed unmercifully. He loses his ability to play rugby in Australia for accurately paraphrasing Corinthians 6:9-11. Court, holder of a record twenty-four tennis Grand Slams, and now a pastor, is vilified at every opportunity for daring to oppose gay marriage. The Bible be damned.

Thankfully, Ridd, Folau and Court, have the standing and ability to take care of themselves and fight back. What of those not so positioned, like Ms Ames? Who will protect them from the scolds? The answer, unfortunately, is no-one. Those who might once have protected them are gone; replaced.

The great (progressive-cum-woke) replacement is all but complete across public services, universities, schools, the mainstream and social media, big tech, big banks, big corporates, union leadership and even among the upper echelons of police and defence forces. And, almost unbelievably, science is succumbing.

Bob Carter, who I reference in my previous post, bemoaned the loss of the null hypothesis when it came to global warming. The null hypothesis is standard scientific fare, or used to be. In this case it would be framed as man-made CO2 having no material effect on warming. A high bar would have to be met before rejecting that hypothesis. Instead, as Carter pointed out, the onus of proof had been reversed. Proving the alternative hypothesis to be wrong became the standard. And to confound Popper, showing how it might be falsified became passé.

Conservatives struggle to grasp the latest inanity being foisted on (western) mankind. The mistake made is to treat each instance as being isolated. They all emerge from the same hellhole.

Take Rachel Levine (Please do!). How is it possible that Joe Biden’s nomination for the position of assistant secretary of health is a man comporting himself as a woman, who is on record as advocating puberty blockers for children who express discomfort with their bodies?

How is it possible that despot Dan Andrews -- who recently locked down his whole state of Victoria here in Australia again on account of a few positive Covid tests -- can say, “each of us deserved to be safe, valued and respected for being who we are,” when referring to an Act of the Victorian Parliament which abuses children by prohibiting them from being counselled and challenged on the risks of changing their secondary sexual characteristics?

You see the problem. Whether it is confounding science by dressing up hypotheses as facts, or sowing confusion among children by teaching them that they might be in the wrong bodies; or ruining women’s sports by forcing them to compete against biological males; or preaching divisive ‘critical race theory’; cancelling people whose views are out of sync with goodthink; mindlessly tearing down statues;  risibly ‘taking the knee’; or, idiotically, renaming mothers as gestational parents and breastfeeding as 'chest feeding'. No rational sense can be made of any it in isolation. Try to and risk your mental health.

And on the topic of messing with rational minds? How about locking people away for months on end, double-masking them, and destroying livelihoods in order to ward off a virus which has no serious effects on well over ninety-nine percent of those who catch it. Consult Worldometer. As at February 27: 21,915,328 active cases; serious or critical cases 91,057, or just 0.4%. Confected Covid alarmism trumps even its climate counterpart.

What’s going on? It’s not gaslighting; though it has that appearance. It’s a multi-faceted agenda, however loosely held together, which is aimed at undermining who we are. To spread division and fear, to tear down our values; to assault Christianity, the traditional family and patriotism and, of course, to reset, i.e., destroy, free-market capitalism. In other words, to bring our peerless civilisation to its knees. It’s an offshoot of Marxism but worse. Marxism has a creative end game -- albeit a delusional workers’ utopia. This has no end game like that. Its end game is destruction.

Destruction is the opposite of creation. One is evil; one good. In my view we have to start identifying evil for what it is and put aside our inclination to give the benefit of the doubt to those who, for example, want our children taught gender theory from pre-school onwards. This isn’t just a matter of having different opinions. This is a battle and, figurately speaking, we better get armed. While I suspect most of those who go along with the destructive agenda are dupes, some are pulling the strings.

Meditating Upon the Black Stuff

Call me a cockeyed optimist. I’m not convinced that the end is nigh. True a giant asteroid might come hurtling our way. However, I still regard dire warnings of the imminent end of times as the stuff of outlandish cults. Or, more entertainingly, humourists.

I might be missing something. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, David Attenborough, Greta Thunberg, Prince Charles, and too many other notables to mention, think differently. They’re sure we are on our last legs; with only, what is it now, something like nine or ten years left to save the planet? Don’t hold me to this number. I get confused when threatened with extinction.

If those who do think the end is nigh were asked, I feel confident they would nominate coal as the biggest culprit. It spews out CO2 like nobody’s business. According to the U.S. Energy Department, per unit of energy produced, coal emits around twice as much CO2 as does natural gas. And, to boot, it has been the predominate source of power for industry and households for a very considerable time.

According to the Resources and Energy Quarterly published by the Australian government, thermal coal still accounted for 45 percent of global electricity production in 2018. Hence, coal is still doing its darndest to queer the planet and, shiver in trepidation, there’s 133 years of proven reserves of the black stuff still to dig up. But it’s not all bad.

To coal or not to coal? That is the question.

It’s good for Australia. Thermal coal is the fifth biggest exporter earner behind (in order) iron ore, metallurgical coal (there’s that coal again), natural gas and gold. The prime minister is torn. Electorates in coal country in Queensland gave him victory in May 2019. Careless of dire predictions of doom, they selfishly voted their wallets ahead of the planet. Yet, from royal progeny to billionaires to zealots to inner-city elites to banks to boardrooms to the media, the anti-coal clamour is deafening. Politicians wilt.

In 2017, to the chagrin of the great and good, Scott Morrison -- before he became prime minister -- theatrically brought a lump of coal into parliament to make a powerful case for coal. And now, only a few short years later, is contemplating zero net emissions “as quickly as possible.” Trying to mix coal and zero emissions is a species of double-think. He’s a politician, he won’t notice.

Coal is enigmatic. Cheap energy to some, demonic to others; and with a future which is hard to pin down. Here is a trick question. How many coal-power plants are under construction? Answer: it depends upon which newspapers or fact-check websites you read or TV channels you watch. Greens and their allies want to convince everyone that coal is uneconomic, and on the way out. Coal lobbies present a bullish outlook for coal. Different interests, different schticks, different facts.

That said, whatever source of information takes your fancy, a large number of new coal-power plants are on the way. This is simply because coal provides cheap and reliable power and the Chinese and Indians, e.g., aren’t stupid. No need to guess who is.

The Chinese know how to make electricity.

When I say new coal-power plants are on the way; not so much in Australia, where they are on the way out. An irony you might think in a country with rich coal reserves, which for so long underpinned the competitive advantage of Australian manufacturing. Not so to those who believe Australia has to do its bit by closing down all of its installed coal-power of around 23 GW capacity in order, wait for it, to offset the up to 250 GW or so (depending on what you read) of new capacity China is intent on building. Do the sum.

Here is something else: on December 2, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) claimed that coal dust blowing from coal-loading ports 100 to 1,000 kilometres away threatened, the perpetually threatened, Great Barrier Reef. Peter Ridd, cancelled by James Cook University In Queensland for daring to suggest that the Reef was not under threat, described the claim as “ridiculous.” Ridiculous? How about “crackpot.”

On much surer footing than the tendentious apparatchiks at the IUCN, Michael Shellenberger (Apocalypse Never) goes into bat for coal. Coal, he says, with twice the energy of timber, saved the forests, while fuelling the industrial revolution. But for coal there might have been few trees left. Excluding those conservationists who bizarrely favour making them into biomass, everyone likes trees. Ergo, coal’s role in preserving them must be good.

Then again coal must be bad. The Economist (3 December) told us that, “unlike natural gas and oil, it is concentrated carbon, and thus [in America and Europe] it accounts for a staggering 39% of annual emissions of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels.”

That might be true, who knows, but this isn’t: “Solar farms and onshore wind are now the cheapest source of new electricity for at least two-thirds of the world’s population.” Here the poor sods at the lower end of the prosperity scale in Asia and Africa are invited to “consign coal to museums and the history books.” “Much work lies ahead,” avers editor-in-chief Zanny Minton Beddoes.

I just wonder how much work has to be done to persuade developing regions of the world to use the cheapest source of electricity? They must all be dim-witted, if Ms Beddoes is to be taken at her word. Of course, Ms Beddoes is spouting agitprop. To be kind, she can do no other as a dedicated follower of the party line.

The case against coal is not based on economics. It is the cheapest source of 24x7 power. The case stands or falls on the danger CO2 presents to the planet.

If the alarmist predictions are wrong then the trillions of dollars spent on wind and solar farms has been the gravest waste of resources in the history of mankind. As the size of the effect of man-made CO2 on global warming is matter of conjecture, a contested hypothesis at best, it is inexplicable that is has taken such an iron grip on the minds of so many in positions of influence and power.

The overwrought reaction to Covid is similarly puzzling. Perhaps when religion wanes, collective belief is more susceptible to superstition and mass suggestion. If that is so; what, I wonder, will be the next hobgoblin to scare us into submission?

Anatomy of a Covid Panic

About 1.8 million people live in the state of South Australia (SA). Approximately thirty-eight people on average die each day. Since the start of the ‘pandemic’ in January, four elderly people have died of the virus. Not 4,000 you understand, just four. Of course, as commentators seem obliged to say these days, every death is a tragedy.  Unlike those those former days, if you can still recall them, before Covid, when ailing old people dying didn't make the headlines.

All told, SA has had only 562 reported cases of Covid. As at end November, not one Covid patient was in hospital. However, a cluster of seventeen cases (i.e., positive tests, not sicknesses) centering around one family recently arose. The source was a security guard at a hotel where the government keeps those arriving from overseas quarantined for two weeks.

As expected, the government panicked, as per the new-normal, as did the governments of surrounding states, which immediately reinstated bans on travel to and from SA. But, you ain’t seen nothing yet. All unbeknown to the powers that be, a common or garden take-away pizza box was lurking in the wings.

The security guard in question also worked in a pizza bar. And someone, a Spanish chap on a temporary working visa, who’d bought a pizza tested positive. Well, as you wouldn’t be able to imagine if you are level-headed, all hell broke loose.

Nicola Spurrier, the chief health officer in SA, who I can only guess is prone to female impetuosity, assumed that a new virulent strain of Covid was afoot; catchable in very quick time from the surface of a pizza box; and emerging uniquely in an otherwise unremarkable suburb of Adelaide. The premier Steven Marshall, whose IQ has not been made public, immediately announced that he would close down his entire state for six days. And by closing down, he meant everything.

And all this over a pizza box.

Then, lo and behold, the Spanish chap admitted that he also worked in the pizza bar alongside the security guard. Mystery solved. The same old virus after all. Premier backtracks while loudly blaming the Spaniard for not being forthcoming. But, hold on, has the mystery been solved? Evidently not. Police in SA reported that they had put thirty-six detectives on the job, were examining video footage and had seized mobile phones and laptops. I can only suspect, they suspect, the hand of Vladimir Putin at work.

Am I kidding? Sadly, no. Reason, level-headedness, objectivity, common sense, call it what you will, is out of fashion. What happened is now yesterday's news. However, best not to let it pass so easily. It speaks to a general malaise at the heart of modern-day society, which will continue to play out. I will return later to this malaise and controversially suggest one possible contributing cause. Before that, two more examples.

Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison thought it was okay to besmirch Australia’s reputation by broadcasting to the world the “brutal truths” that numbers of unnamed Australian soldiers had committed war crimes in Afghanistan; and by apologising and offering compensation ahead of any due process. Of course, the untested allegations are concerning but they call for a reasoned response, not national self-flagellation and virtue signalling. Unsurprisingly, China and Russia, those paragons of human rights, have already made hay.

It is instructive that the basis for the inquiry into the behaviour of Australia’s elite special forces stemmed from a report of a female sociologist commissioned to examine their culture. I bet she found lots of toxic masculinity. As the feminisation of the defence forces moves apace, I find Colonel Jessup in A Few Good Men (“You can’t handle the truth”) increasingly more appealing than Lieutenant Kaffee - though maybe I’m not supposed to.

Notice something about both examples thus far. A generalised passivity afflicts the responses of the two political leaders and those advising them. Events call the tune and they follow compliantly.  Furthermore, epidemiologists, the political class and the petticoat top-brass who head Australia’s defence forces form only a subset of those so afflicted. It is rampant across all walks of life; including, disconcertingly, the legal system.

Australia’s most senior Catholic cleric, Cardinal George Pell, was jailed in March 2019, spending 400 days incarcerated for crimes he could not possibly have committed. But the ABC and its Madame Defarge, Louise Milligan, said he did it and therefore it must be true. A jury and an appeal court compliantly found him guilty. Thankfully, the High Court retained its collective senses and by seven to nothing set him free. But what the heck is going on?

Let me be uncharacteristically brave. A feminine temperament has been characterised in the sociology literature as being, in part, passive and cooperative; and, correspondingly, the masculine as being aggressive and competitive. Men and women have both temperaments to varying degrees. Both are necessary. Neither one should predominate in society in normal circumstances. I suggest that within the space of one or two generations western societies have become lopsidedly feminine; more inclined to be passive and cooperative, less inclined to be aggressive and competitive. Hence the malaise to which I previously referred. Take climate change as a further example.

Equality.

Is it any accident that the public face of alarmism became a teenage girl? I think not. Think about the proposed solutions. Both are intrinsically passive, relying on external elements, the wind and sun, to solve the perceived problem. Calls are made for cooperative global action. Look at a counter example, one of the few in the west: ‘America first’. That is an aggressive and competitive (temperamentally masculine) sentiment. That’s Trump’s America. That’s not Morrison’s Australia.

Australia accounts for only 1.3 percent of world emissions of CO2. China, India and other developing nations are adding more each year to their emissions than our total. Yet where does that lead those who see Australia as being in cooperative kinship with parties to the Paris climate accord. Illogically, into blaming the government for the widespread bushfires in 2019/20. Apparently, it is not doing nearly enough to combat "climate change."

Masculine-inclined heads are prone to exploding on hearing this. And, more stressful still, so many people in the street who look normal have mentally re-gendered. After all, in the last general election, they easily voted out the archetypal manly former prime minister Tony Abbot, putting Ms Zali Steggall, a green airhead, in his place. Says it all.

One Age, Two Zeitgeists

Joe Biden making a “pledge to be a president who seeks not to divide but to unify,” seems rich coming from someone representing a political party which has been unremittingly intent on undermining the 45th president since before day one. But there it is. On the left, hypocrisy never flags.

I am not, of course, an American but I do make claim to being an irredeemably deplorable conservative chump. As such, I have beliefs. Here is a short selective account.

The way we were.

What else do I or don’t I believe? Lots actually. But you get the picture. And I’d like to think, and do think, that my beliefs are shared, to a very great extent, by people on the conservative side of the political spectrum. But many people don’t share them. In fact, it is safe to say, those belonging to the modern left share none of them. The two sets of beliefs are non-intersecting.

In the west, there is no longer one defining spirit and mood of the times. There are two. Truly, we are a house (acrimoniously) divided. Thus, calls for the U.S. population or the population of any western nation to come together in unity is pie-in-the-sky.

Let me put it this way. Will those on the political left ever be happy to go along with conservative government? It’s a silly question. They have an agenda and it doesn’t include kumbaya get-togethers with their political opponents.

The way we are.

How about those who collectively might be called right of centre? Okay, there are many milquetoasts-cum-pantywaists in this eclectic category of people. They are easily peeled off to become useful idiots on behalf of the left; e.g., John Kasich, Jeff Flake, Mitt Romney, among political notables in the US. However, stalwart conservatives simply can’t buy any of the left’s bill of goods.

Consider the antithesis of each of the beliefs which I set out above. Put them together and what do you get? A destructive empire of lies; undermining the values which have served us so well for so long. Hard to swallow. How can anyone swallow them? Many evidently can.

Give or take, half the United States votes left. And this isn’t the left of such a little way back as the time of Bill Clinton. This is the modern loony version, exemplified by the Squad and the 110-page Biden - Sanders manifesto.

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It’s an amazing document. I was struck by a comparison of Australia’s scheme in 2009 to help the economy out of recession and increase the energy efficiency of houses, by providing the installation of free insulating ceiling batts, with a much grander U.S. scheme, of “upgrades to up to two million low-income households [and to] incentivize tens of billions of dollars in private-sector investment to retrofit four million buildings.” What could possibly go wrong?

In Australia a lot went wrong in a short space of time. Four deaths and ninety-four house fires later the so-called “pink-batts scheme” was quickly canned. There’s electrical wire in those roof spaces and, overnight, lots of ill-trained wannabes became batt installers.

Of course, I have barely touched on the madness in the manifesto. And before you say no-one reads this kind of thing, the universities are churning out people who don’t have to. They live and breathe its destructive dystopian drivel and go on to occupy every nook and cranny of influence.

The political battle is no longer between adversaries who have broad objectives in common. And, make no mistake, the battle is uneven. Among the political class, stalwart conservatives are a declining breed. A potential saving is that their values and policies are still broadly in sync with the instincts of blue-collar and agricultural workers and, more generally, with that body of the population which through religious faith or through life experiences has managed to retain their common sense despite the onslaught of absurd wokeness. Does this offer a chance to hold back the leftist tide? Can the tide ever be turned?

The way we're headed.

I used to think Trump was the last best hope, as slim as it was. Without at all counting him out at this stage, I can’t afford to think that now. The fight has to be fought however slim the chances of victory. Covid exposes the leftist creed for what it is: cowardly, mean, miserable and godless. Evidently, those on the left can never get enough of masking, social distancing, hand-sanitizing, lockdowns, curfews, any and all rules restricting freedom; including, notably, the freedom to worship. Compliant and dependent, searching for safety in a government womb.

Idolatry had many forms in the past. Golden idols loomed large. Money is a more modern manifestation. Both seem less foul than genuflecting to government. Whining to be kept safe by the nanny state is not edifying.

The Covid-19 Election

The American election reminds me of the Ashes cricket series beginning late 2010 and ending early 2011. It had been built up. I was invested in one side winning. The tension was unbearable. I took to turning off the telly to try to get a wicket when the opposition seemed dug in and batting well. Five matches, each over five days, took its toll.

I was at a friend’s place for the election. The timing worked out well here in Sydney. I arrived at about 10.30am (Wednesday morning) when the first results started dribbling in. Was Florida going well or was it going badly? Hard to tell. We switched between CNN and Fox News. John King at CNN left me completely bamboozled by his rapid-fire performance, county-by-county in Florida. Yes, but what does it mean, I kept shouting at the telly.

By the time I left, late afternoon, drained, President Trump was a shoo-in. Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Florida seemed in the bag. I tried to relax and do other things. Made the mistake of checking up before going to bed. Alas, Trump’s lead in Michigan and Wisconsin had disappeared. Thereafter I became too agitated and depressed to keep up and switched off the telly hoping that this would bring a wicket, so to speak. It didn't.

Divisive?

They say that Trump is a divisive figure. Maybe, but I doubt he could have done anything not to be divisive. What could he have done? In fact, all conservative leaders are badged as being divisive. It means you don’t agree with those on the left. And I suppose the more you don’t agree, and the more effective you are, the more divisive you become. My purpose, however, it is not to be political but rhetorical. Why didn’t Trump win? And here I am not entirely giving up hope but simply relying on the latest figures which show him losing, instead of winning in a landslide.

Why in a different universe might he have won in a landslide? In a word, achievements.

He’s led the US into no new wars / routed ISIS / rebuilt the US military / stood up against China’s rapacious trade policies / forced NATO countries to contribute more for their own defence / relocated the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem (long promised, never delivered until Trump) and recognised the Golan heights as being part of Israel (a must-have for Israel’s defence) / brokered peace deals between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan (Nobel Peace Prize 2021?) / curbed illegal immigration, including with a wall (OK, the Mexicans didn’t pay for it) / replaced NAFTA with an improved trade deal with Mexico and Canada / reduced regulations and taxes, producing US energy independence and, before COVID hit, the lowest Black and Hispanic unemployment on record - combined with an upsurge in real wage growth / brought back manufacturing jobs when Obama and those in the know said it couldn’t be done / promoted and signed the First Step Act to lessen the over-incarceration of black offenders / established business opportunity zones in the inner cities to help minorities escape despair / supported school choice and charter schools for disadvantaged children / promoted and signed a bill to provide permanent funding for traditionally black colleges / appointed objective federal judges and Supreme Court justices to defend the constitution, as distinct from politically motivated activists. And did I mention…

Dan Andrews, the Covid King.

Along came Covid. I am not mad enough to think that China let it loose specifically to damage Trump, but the timing and impact couldn’t have worked out better. From the beginning it has been used as a cudgel to batter him in an election year. When you look at the situation in the U.S. from afar you have to wonder what he did which he shouldn’t have done or didn’t do what he should have done. Of course, he isn’t as keen on masks as Joe Biden. And, certainly, any section of the population that has been scared enough to wear masks when in the open air is likely to vote for self-proclaimed putative saviours.

State premiers in Australia sniffed the wind – and spent taxpayers’ money on secret polling – to discover that indeed people wanted their governments to keep them safe. In the first real test, Annastacia Palaszczuk’s Labor government was returned at the end of October with an increased majority. This, despite having hobbled Queensland’s important tourist industry by closing the State’s borders.

It is clear now, since Covid, that many people desperately want to be safe and are not too worried if others have to sacrifice their businesses and jobs. Scaredy-cats? I think so but, on the other hand, public health advisors to governments have done and are doing their best to scare people with tales of upcoming dark, plague-ridden, days ahead. One or two outliers aside, I am fairly confident that they communicate with each other internationally and settle on a party line. And governments are wary of telling them to get real -- people’s businesses and jobs are at stake, never mind their mental health -- for fear of being blamed the for next eighty-five-year-old to die.

If Covid hadn’t done enough to turn the election it provided all the excuse needed for Democrat-run states to turn to mail-in ballots. After all, there is no point in risking your life by voting in person. It’s hell out there in polling stations, even when masked. I don’t want to get all political here but might Trump have been right. Sending out millions upon millions of mail-in ballots might lend itself to fraud. Mightn’t it? Just asking.

Mask mandate coming?

Anyway, whatever the extent of fraud and however telling or not in influencing voting tallies, it is clear that mail-in ballots were largely responsible for an upsurge in voting. According to Bloomberg, the percentage of those voting (from citizens of voting age) rose sharply in nearly all states; and by just under or over 10 percent in the swing states of Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Florida. No reason to think this would have happened absent Covid. And it cost Trump.

Why do I support Trump? See above and his achievements. But he also he drives the new woke, post-modernist, left insane (divisive you see) and surely that can’t be a bad thing. Here is a typical lefty, the day before the election. Troy Bramston is writing for the supposed right-of-centre newspaper The Australian owned by Rupert Murdoch. Though clearly the elderly Murdoch’s beneficial influence is waning. Bear in mind that Bramston is one of a number of Trump-despisers writing for the paper. This is a sample of his calumnies laced with poison.

Donald Trump is the worst president in US history / Americans have an opportunity to terminate his dysfunctional, divisive, dangerous and degraded administration / He has lied thousands of times / deliberately downplayed the threat of Covid-19 / used the presidency to enrich his business / boasted about sexually assaulting women / called dead American soldiers ‘losers’ and ‘suckers’ / admires totalitarians such as Kim Jong-un / undermines institutions and alliances / calls the media the enemy of the people / totally inept at running the executive government / Trump is not the first president to fail this test [moral leadership] but his collective failures dwarf all others.

He goes on but enough is enough. And, no mention of any of Trump’s achievements, his éclat I might say in my more emotive moments. None. Bramston is indeed an unremitting hack; as are so many.

None of this kind of vituperate name calling on the part of the highly-partisan media in the US and around the world would have mattered a jot without Covid-19. Trump’s achievements would have shone through. And maybe they did shine through; we shall see how the aftermath of the election unfolds in the courts. I’ve switched off the telly, still hoping for a wicket.

'You Will Be Hollow'

It is hard to resist pointing the finger at ostensibly centre-right politicians who betray their calling by failing to defend free speech, by supporting climate and Covid alarmism and the destructive policies which thereby ensue; by allowing young minds to be warped by fantasies of gender fluidity; by spending vast amounts of public money to cure economic ills; and so on. But aren't they exactly what we deserve?

After all, their basic instinct is to gather votes. They are essentially vote harvesters. They don’t like to stray too far from the prevailing zeitgeist.

Of course, sometimes a political leader of rare independence of mind springs up who is able to set the pace rather than follow the herd. Thatcher, Reagan and Trump in modern times. Maybe Hawke in Australia even though he was of the left (as it used to be). However, politicians are predominantly creatures of their time and place.

"If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever."

The Australian prime minister Scott Morrison is a creature of his time and place. For example, to him, free speech is an optional extra at best. He’s on the record as dismissing attempts to amend or ditch section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act which outlaws acts “reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or group of people.” Bothering one’s head about this matter doesn’t create one job or open one business, he has said. Or gain one vote, he could have added.

Thus, the perpetually aggrieved have an open door to claim to have been insulted or offended. Obviously, they and their lawyers can make merry, and so they have. Poor sods are hauled before the various federal and state human rights commissions, populated by leftist do-gooders, to suffer humiliation and intimidation; which, ironically enough, is outlawed by the very Act, and companion state acts, wielded against them.

Free speech is just one of a number of casualties of the new order. It no longer exists in Australia and nothing will change that. There are no votes in it. And that is because the political environment, within which we live has been insidiously subverted, manipulated and changed over many years. And that, in turn, has changed us. We, the people, have been moulded anew and are not what we were. What, even you and me? Perhaps not, but we are an endangered species.

There is a particular to and fro in 1984 between Winston Smith and his inquisitor O’Brien. Winston has the quaint idea that the proles might rise up. “They are helpless like animals,” O’Brien retorts.

"Never again will you be capable of love, or friendship, or joy of living, or laughter, or curiosity, or courage, or integrity. We shall squeeze you empty, and then we shall fill you with ourselves."

Let’s not go so far as O’Brien; nonetheless, we have seen how easily most people can be scared into believing that climate change threatens the planet and their children’s or grandchildren’s future. And into believing that the least-deadly plague ever to afflict mankind must be tackled by the most onerous measures ever to be inflicted on populations by their governments. Consider further.

Public service departments and corporates run training sessions on unconscious racial bias designed, I can only think in my antediluvian way, in order to instill and perpetuate racial animus. Biological men are now allowed to compete in women’s sports and share their bathrooms.

As reported by political maverick Mark Latham, former leader of the federal Labor Party, the New South Wales Teachers Federation runs courses instructing teachers in how to mess with the minds of schoolchildren by suggesting that their “gender” is a “social construct.” Hard to believe, but teachers are told not to tell the parents if a child expresses doubts about the rightness of his or her biological sex, in case they are unsympathetic. You have to weep.

Unfortunately, I am sure that this particular Australian teachers’ union isn’t alone in the world. And don’t think for a minute that the relatively recent replacement of the noun ‘sex’ with the amorphous noun ‘gender’ is a neutral, value-free, change in language. One’s sex is clearly either XX or XY. One’s gender is apparently limited in its variation only by the imagination of an LGBTQI activist.

It is true that some of the more bizarre woke theories of race and gender are not yet mainstream. Most parents, for example, I would think and hope, would not want their young son or daughter indoctrinated into the occult world of gender fluidity. But give it time. Those calling the tune have gained ubiquitous power and influence. The have completed their long march through institutions.

When and how did it start? There are theories. Who knows exactly? But it has the appearance of being an outgrowth of the dead carcass of Stalin-style communism. Something akin to speciation has occurred – “the formation of a new and distinct species in the course of evolution.” Incubated in universities, it has spread throughout the media, schools, trade unions, public services, governments and corporates. No effective counter force now exists. Some of those heading major mining companies in Australia would seem more woke than Greenpeace activists. Think you can reason with its standard bearers, forge compromises? Think again.

This not about those with the same laudable objective debating different ways to bring it about. The objective of this new left-woke species is the destruction of our way of life and its replacement. Let’s be clear. How do you reason with those who want to teach young tomboy girls that they might really be boys. And who, to that end, support life-changing medical procedures. How do you reason with those who support men, who fancy themselves as women, competing against women on the sporting field.

"I tell you, Winston, that reality is not external. Reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else. Whatever the Party holds to be the truth, is truth."

How do you reason with those who wants to replace our power sources with renewable energy when they know that this is unachievable and unworkable and will entrench poverty and despair among the world’s poor. A friend of mine makes much of wind droughts in explaining why wind energy won’t work. Another friend perceptibly says, do you think they don’t know that? Of course, they know it. Their aim is to tear down capitalist economies. Reducing CO2 emissions is simply a way to that end; if it were not, they would advocate for nuclear energy.

Conservative minds -- forget that limitation -- anyone of common sense on either end of the old-fashioned political spectrum can’t possibly comprehend the raison d'être of those who support marginalising Christianity or undermining the traditional family or opening national borders to allcomers or sowing racial divisions.

Be afraid, those who can’t comprehend what’s going on are the endangered species. Tomorrow seemingly belongs to the other. I am reminded of the old chap in the village-square café, in the movie Cabaret, looking bemused as the crowd joins with the Nazi-uniformed lad in singing “Tomorrow Belongs to Me.” He also couldn’t comprehend what was happening around him.

Neither can Tucker Carlson at Fox News. You can see him straining to comprehend the latest bizarro development. It’s not possible. We will go mad trying. We are in the land of delusional green new deals where two and two really do make five.

I recently read The Benedict Option by Rod Dreher. Dreher argues, on behalf of Christians, that the world is becoming so antagonistic towards Christian values that the way to survive will be, Benedict-like, to live in close-knit Christian communities. And also, to refocus on working outside of professional occupations to avoid being cancelled; or, otherwise, to be discreet in airing one's views. Dreher is convinced that the game is lost. It certainly looks that way.

Personally, I am keeping my fingers crossed for November 3. But whatever happens then, the omens ain’t good.

Madmen of La Mancha

A friend of mine of scientific pedigree, who I won’t name on the off chance I am misinterpreting him, suggests we might madly burn coal to make electricity and then scatter the residual ashes over the oceans to make them more alkaline. More alkaline oceans apparently absorb more CO2. And, Bob’s your uncle, problem solved. Another friend says this won’t do because the oceans are so vast it will make no difference. I also worry about the fish. Is all of this outlandish in any event?

Well, recall the suggestion by some scientists in 1975, when global cooling was the scare du jour, that soot might be strewn across the Antarctic to absorb heat from the sun. That rates more highly in the outlandish stakes, I think. But if you were to stand back and imagine something really, really, mad, then might you not come up with thousands upon thousands of giant windmills?

Imagined madness is reality. I googled, I’m ashamed to say, given the wokeness of that cancel-culture organisation, and found a figure of 341,000 wind turbines in the world as at September 2017. I found it hard to get an updated figure but, obviously, it will be bigger. The height of these totem poles (term used advisedly), including blades, is 100 metres and more. And, they’re getting taller. Reportedly, there is one in Germany, near Stuttgart, which soars some 246 metres. Now that’s got to be an eyesore.

As it’s windier the higher you go, who knows where it will end. Birds and bats won’t be the prey. Watch out aircraft and drones. And please parachutists be careful.

Apparently a 2-megawatt wind turbine requires a total area of about half a square kilometre, to allow for the circumference of the blades, the need for considerable space between each turbine and the need for a wind farm to have a buffer zone. So, on that basis, the area of land occupied by 341,00 turbines would be about 170,000 square kilometres, give or take. Michael Shellenberger (Apocalypse Never) refers to research which found that wind farms require “roughly 450 times more land than a natural gas power plant.” How that computes in acreage I don’t know, but you get the drift.

"Look there, Sancho Panza, my friend, and see those thirty or so wild giants, with whom I intend to do battle and kill each and all of them."

Wind now supplies around 5 percent of the world’s electricity (7 percent in Australia -- a pyrrhic boon indeed). If it were to supply 35 per cent -- which I am confident is the lower end of the range desired by green activists and certainly by the subsidy-addicted carpetbaggers on the gravy train -- then about 1.2 million square kilometres would appear to be required.

That is equivalent to Tasmania or Switzerland or West Virginia, times eighteen. That’s a lot of land when you consider the need to keep wind farms fairly close to power grids to keep transmission costs manageable. Of course, there is the sea. Even so, the blot on landscapes (and seascapes too) will surely be insufferable except to those whose pagan religiosity is excited by the sight.

What benefit have these towering monstrosities brought, you might ask innocently, if you’re abjectly un-woke. Presumably, they have reduced CO2 emissions. It’s too hard to lay bare this presumption.

You would need to calculate the amount of CO2, and perhaps other greenhouse gasses, which result from the mining of the minerals and ores used in their making, their manufacture and transport and installation, and their maintenance and eventual disposal. And you have to add in the emissions from the back-up power that is essential to have when the wind doesn’t blow. Where the sum ends up, I don’t know. But, as I say, I presume over a period of the life of a turbine, say, 20 years, a saving in CO2 emissions will accrue.

However, thus far, the saving is not visible on the world stage. CO2 emissions worldwide continue to grow year-on-year, at least they did up until 2020. Covid has done a splendid job of reducing emissions in 2020. But, relying on governments reacting panickily to a pandemic is not, hopefully, an enduring strategy. Of course, it is plausible to argue that CO2 emissions would have been even higher but for wind, and that may be true. Still, the overall picture doesn’t look impressive. Where’s the tangible gain for the pain?

"When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies?"

Part of the pain has been felt in electricity prices – not to mention blackouts. Residential electricity prices in Australia have near doubled in the past ten years, as cheap coal power has been driven out by intermittent wind power (and solar). Alan Moran, Australian commentator on all things climate, in a recent report (The Hidden Cost of Climate Policies and Renewables, 19 August 2020) estimates that “government-imposed climate policies and renewable subsidies account for 39% of householders’ electricity costs.” And that is not the end of it. Government subsidies should logically be added back into electricity prices to get a true price. After all, those who consume electricity pay taxes to pay for the subsidies.

Part of the pain is the loss of competitive advantage and, thus, manufacturing jobs. The competitive advantage Australia used to have in generating cheap energy from coal is now lost. Using International Energy Agency figures, the average price per kWh for residential electricity is roughly twice that of the United States and Canada, and three times that in China; which, surprise, surprise, imports lots of Australian coal. As does India. Both are building new coal power stations as Australia’s are closing. Incidentally, Germany’s prices are over 40 percent higher again than Australia’s.

Taking a lead from research in Spain, Moran argues that for every green job created 2.2 others are lost. It is obviously hard to back up this estimate. At the same time, it would be surprising if a country with a relatively small population, suffering a tyranny of distance, yet with an abundance of high-quality easily extractable coal, could afford to give away that latter advantage and have its manufacturing sector remain unscathed. It was bad enough, as it was, without the onset of ruinously high energy prices.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported (10 December 2019) on job growth in Australia over the 25 years from September 1995 to September 2019. Total jobs filled increased by 64.6 percent. In contrast, manufacturing jobs fell by 270,000; from 13.4 percent of total jobs to just 6.3 percent. Manufacturing has been significantly offshored. The last remnants of car manufacturing in Australia disappeared at the beginning of this year. High energy prices won’t help keep what remains of Australian manufacturing. The steel and aluminium industries, heavy users of electricity, are always on the brink.

Want to go all Greta Thunberg and penalise the whole world and all of mankind by going to wind and solar? Fine, muttered dubiously, if self-denial is ubiquitous, omnipresent, universal. But western industrial nations should be wary of getting too far ahead of the pack, or ahead at all. In Australia, sadly, both sides of politics differ only in their degree of enthusiasm for striding out and embracing national self-harm.