NUMBER 25 SUMMER 2007/2008

Editorial: Mankind is pumping 7 billion tonnes of carbon a year into the earth’s atmosphere. By 2030 the ability of the planet to absorb carbon will have fallen from 4 billion tons a year to 2.7 billion tonnes but population is expected to expand from 6 billion to 8.2 billion . This means developed countries will have to cut emissions by 80 to 90 per cent and developing counties by 60 to 70 per cent by 2030 if global warming is to be limited to 2 degrees which still may not be sufficient to avoid global catastrophe. The key issue will be population control.

Steve Keen believes that Australia’s apparent economic prosperity is largely the result of expanding private debt being used to finance speculation in existing assets such as housing, rather than new investment. Private debt is now 160 per cent of GDP and no longer sustainable. Australia faces the prospect of a depression similar to the 1890s and 1930s.

John M. Legge shows that the NSW Iemma Government’s reasons for selling NSW electricity assets and establish the North Shore hospital as a Public Private Partnership are so threadbare they can’t even be classified as voodoo economics: they are rape and pillage of the public purse.

Joan Staples contends that the legitimacy of NGOs’ advocacy role has been under sustained attack for the past 11 years by the Howard government. Whether this role, which is vital for a health democracy, is restored will depend on the skills and strength of the sector rather than the goodwill of the politicians.

Liz Curran shows how Community Legal Centres involvement in law reform is an integral part of the service they offer to their clients whose legitimate interests would otherwise tend to be overlooked by legislators and administrators.

John Kerin points out that in the past we have managed to increase food supply in line with population growth but this cannot be regarded as ecologically sustainable. Population growth is the elephant in the room. There is no way this can be curbed other than by economic growth, which may in turn devastate the planet. Kerin is not sure we have the time to move towards more sustainable agriculture.

Alistair Watson says the Commonwealth and Victorian governments are ignoring expert opinion which states that it is difficult to achieve water savings in irrigation by investing in irrigation infrastructure. Yet this is the key component in the Commonwealth’s $10 billion plan for the Murray-Darling basin and the $1 billion Goulburn Valley modernisation project which will save water so that it can be diverted to environmental flows and Melbourne’s urban water supply.

John Dowd argues that politics is about perceptions which can be used to distort the democratic process. The art of politics is to articulate the unexpressed views of the voters.

Melody Kemp describes how the people of Laos are about to have lots of environmental disasters disguised as development of dams to produce hydro-electricity – power which the farmers who will be displaced from rich river flats to marginal land on the hillsides will be too poor to purchase.

Jim Ogden argues that humans think nothing can be designed without thinking about it and that is why we have always looked for a God who could design the universe. Nature has no need of thoughts, it just produces lots of everything and eliminates the ones that don’t fit in.

Carole Smith describes claims that neuroscientists are developing brain scans that can read people’s intentions in the absence of serious discussion about the ethical issues this raises, despite the fact that the research has been backed by government in the UK and US.

Book reviews: Beatrice Faust (Waleed Aly, People Like Us: How Arrogance is Dividing Islam and the West; Picador, Sydney, 2007); Sid Spindler (Jon Altman and Melinda Hinkson, eds., Coercive reconciliation: stabilise, normalise, exit aboriginal Australia, Arena Publications, Melbourne, 2007, and; Richard Archer (Frank Stillwell and Kirrily Jordan, Who Gets What? Analysing Economic Inequality in Australia, Cambridge University Press, Port Melbourne, 2007)

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