Time has run out for the Harper Strategy on climate change.

I like to give Stephen Harper credit for this strategy because, in his trips to the Arctic, he so well exemplified it.  (I wrote about it in 2014, and again here🙂

If the goal is to keep climate change off the public agenda, the most effective strategy is not the ‘hard denialist’ strategy of rejection but the soft strategy of omission: saying as little as possible, preferably nothing, to keep the topic off the agenda.

As previously noted, that was the brilliance of Prime Minister Harper’s ninth Arctic trip in August, as observed by Jeffrey Simpson in The Globe:

“Nowhere in Canada is the impact of climate change more increasingly evident than the North. And yet, the words ‘climate change’ are never heard from Mr. Harper in the North, as if the idea they connote are so distasteful that he cannot bring himself to utter them.”

No denial, just no recognition.  And hence a standard for others in power to follow, whether politicians, business people or editors: serious people don’t have serious public concerns about climate change, so that decisions today need not take into account tomorrow’s probable reality.

The strategy works only so long as nothing too serious happens too frequently.  That results in fear, and then anger, and then bad things politically.  And then you have to say something.  If you have nothing substantial to say about climate change – because the whole strategy was never to do anything substantial – then you’re in trouble.  As George Bush quickly discovered in his indifferent response to Hurricane Katrina.

And as Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison just found out.

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Amidst the Australian bushfires – an image too sad to seem real:  a firefigher and a koala, watching their forests burn next to a vineyard.

Apparently it is all too real. From a Guardian blog:

… the photo was taken at Lobethal on Friday while protecting homes. Two koalas wandered out of the bush seeking assistance.

“Up behind us there were a couple of houses under threat so we were working to protect them from ember attack and the firefront and they stepped out of the bush seeking help,” he said.

Adams said it was common for koalas to seek help from firefighters in these situations. The koalas were given water and moved to a safer location. Firefighters lost track of them and they were eventually forced to pull out of the property.

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Lots of coverage of John Rose’s report on “The Housing Supply Myth” in Vancouver. Thomas Beyer sends along this article from the Sydney Morning Herald with obvious parallels.

Claims that simply increasing the number of homes in Sydney will fix the housing affordability crisis have been challenged by new modelling that shows boosting supply alone is unlikely to deliver affordable housing.
Analysis by Australian National University academics Ben Phillips and Cukkoo Joseph has identified a long-term oversupply of housing in many inner Sydney suburbs. Despite the surplus, property prices have surged in that region over the past five years.  ….
The ANU report concluded that while increasing housing supply has “some benefits” it is “unlikely in isolation to create affordable housing” in Australia. … The modelling showed the statistical region of “inner-Sydney”, which includes the central business district and surrounding suburbs, has accumulated a “significant surplus” of 5900 dwellings relative to population growth since 2001 – the largest over-supply among 328 regions across Australia included in the study. …

surplus – red / shortage -blue

A record 37,608 new houses were completed in Sydney during the year to March, Department of Planning figures show. That’s almost three times more new dwellings than the city added back in 2008 and 2009. …
“If, as this report suggests, housing in Australia is not in short supply, then we need to find alternative explanations for house-price growth – such explanations would direct policy in applying levers capable of affecting housing affordability,” the report said.
… the ANU report’s co-author, economist Ben Phillips, said often the behaviour of property prices at the regional level “has nothing to do” with underlying fundamentals for housing demand, including population growth.
“Housing is an asset and assets don’t always reflect the fundamental underlying value – it’s not like the demand for ice cream or bananas,” he said.
“Supply does matter, but there are lots of other things at play that can swamp that impact … that means improving affordability is not as straight forward as fast-tracking a bit of supply to solve the problem.” …
Overall, the Australian housing market was shown to have an oversupply of 164,000 dwellings between 2001 and 2017.
Ms Berejiklian made housing affordability a key priority for her government when she became Premier earlier this year and has stated “the most effective way” to tackle housing affordability is to increase supply.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has backed this approach. In May last year he said: “Now this is how you address housing affordability. Housing affordability is the result of there being insufficient supply of housing. You need to have more supply of housing.”

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From the Auburn News, a western-suburbs paper in Sydney, about a survey conducted by Guide Dogs Australia: “almost half of all people who use a white cane are walked into at least once every time they are out, with almost 60 percent of respondents reporting the instances were caused by people engrossed in their mobile devices.”

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A totally unscientific survey of mural trends in New South Wales: I didn’t see a single “pictorial” mural, like the almost-photographic assemblages of faces, animals and scenes that have become so common in Vancouver (many of them seemingly scaled-up, projected and painted from Photoshop images). Instead, abstract patterning seems to be the norm…

A lane in Katoomba, the largest town in the Blue Mountains about 100 km. west of Sydney

Two in trendy Newtown (Inner-West Sydney). The graffiti-like quality of the second one seems to invite additions – maybe this is the idea, that the art evolves organically and isn’t “owned” by anyone, which would fit with Newtown’s radical aesthetic.

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Many Sydneysiders appear to be using a phone app, Outware’s Snap-Send-Solve, to “dob in” their neighbours, mainly about parking infractions.
“Gone are the days when parking officers would simply walk the streets chalking cars,” said the story in the cheesy Daily Telegraph tabloid. “Now they are actively investigating leads using this new app, which has more than 100,000 users across the country.”
The Inner West is Hipsterville in Sydney.

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A reason to be in Sydney in October…

The cliff walk from Bondi Beach to Tamarama, the first bay to the south, is dotted with sculpture each spring.

21st Anniversary Bondi Exhibition  |   19 October – 5 November 2017 Sculpture by the Sea returns to the Bondi Beach to Tamarama Beach coastal walk as the world’s largest free to the public sculpture exhibition. See the spectacular coastal walk transformed into a 2km long sculpture park over three weeks featuring 
100 sculptures by artists from Australia and across the world.

The website has gems from past shows. Having seen several of them, I thought that this year’s set made less use of the spectactular venue – was less site-specific – than previous ones.  My favourites this year:

“Transporter” by Dale Miles

“Are We There Yet?” by Jane Gillings.
After spending 10 days in Sydney, I promise not to complain about Vancouver traffic congestion for at least a year ….

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Peter Berkeley reports in from Queensland.  From ABC News:

Winter in Australia this year was hot and dry with the average maximum temperature up nearly 2 degrees Celsius above the long-term trend.

Key points
  • Hottest winter since records began in 1910
  • Ninth driest winter on record
  • More high pressure systems prevented rain

The 2017 winter was the hottest since 1910 when national records began, according to Bureau of Meteorology figures released today. …

Nineteen of the last 20 winters have now had average maximum daily temperatures above the 1961 to 1990 average.
Andrew King, climate extremes research fellow from the University of Melbourne, uses a range of computer climate models created all over the world to tease out the different factors causing extreme weather events.
His analysis of the factors behind this winter’s record heat showed that the influence of climate change increased the likelihood of this winter’s record warmth by at least sixty-fold.
Dr King said a very clear human influence could be seen in Australia’s winter.


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