Saturday, February 27, 2010

Tofurkey of the week # 5

This weeks Tofurkey (for acting like a turkey in an environmentally sensitive manner), goes out to Massachusetts college student Christopher Potter.
Young Mr. Potter has been sleeping outside the University of Massachusetts in a tent for over 120 days to protest the use of fossil fuels for energy. Responses to this demonstration range from:

1) A distinct lack of concern from an unnamed Boston utility company.
2) A slightly more concerned mother. (Did you pack your long underwear, Chris?)
3) A presumably happy college room mate, who may or may not have reported being "stoked" with having the dorm room to themselves.

The police response to this protest was to do the only reasonable thing and took the protestors tent when he wasn't looking, forcing young Christopher to schlepp down to the police station to re-claim it. (I love this, in other parts of the world this guy would have been introduced to the wack-wack stick, but the Boston constabulary contented themselves with just pinching his tent for a bit of a giggle.)

Christopher has limits to his high-mindedness, however, and has allowed himself leeway when it comes to charging his i-pod:
Though he doesn’t live inside, he says he charges his electronics with “dirty fossil fuels,” because “right now there’s no escaping them, and it makes us all contribute to climate change, unfortunately.”

Yes son, they "made" you do it. Damn those evil Mac bastards.

When asked what he wants to do for a career, Potter says he wants to continue pushing for clean electricity.

Good for you, son. We'll keep a spot under a highway overpass warm for you.

Friday, February 26, 2010

WHO and NHS sittin' in a tree....

Further to my last post, which decried my general reluctance to resuscitate patients by the light of a cell phone in the event of a power blackout, I discovered that the NHS must get their dose of stupid via suckling at the teat of big mamma WHO. Why? Because:
WHO urges hospitals to join climate change battle
Hospitals should use alternative forms of energy such as solar panels and wind turbines, install energy-efficient lightbulbs as well as buy organic food from local suppliers and make ambulances more environmentally friendly, the WHO said

Awesome, says I. Can we also dance around naked in the (presumably empty) parking lot singing Kumbaya?
So, when we install these inefficient and intermittent forms of energy production, who is gonna be first to volunteer to be hooked up to the solar powered ventilators? Or the wind powered dialysis unit?
Might I also suggest that we install the energy-efficient lightbulbs in the paediatric ward, because sick kids won't care about mercury vapour, and given the strange health problems that might result from wind turbines producing infrasound in a really nutty range of hertz, maybe they should go on top of the psychiatric ward.
As far as "buying organic produce from local suppliers" goes, this is definitely do-able, but since the food budget of your average hospital doesn't extend much further than powdered scrambled eggs, we might have to cut down on other expenses. Like soap. Or medicine.
I am also definitely interested in the green ambulance concept, after all, it worked so well in Spain, didn't it?
Or maybe we could just scrap the idea of these new fandangled hospitals all together. After all, back in my day, we didn't have no hospitals, just some bloke down t'pub named Frank, who'd cut off your leg for a fiver. It wasn't ideal, but Frank-based care has a small carbon footprint, and thats what counts.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Exempt hospitals from carbon stupidity, because I am not going to resusc a baby by the light of my mobile phone...

Not content to just drag themselves down, the United Kingdom National Health Service (NHS) thinks Australia needs to follow them over the carbon reduction cliff.

I blogged about the NHS carbon reduction scheme last year (Yet another reason to be glad you're not English), and now the head of their Environmental Sustainability Unit, Dr. Pencheon, has co-authored a recent paper suggesting that Australian health services need a centralised and systematic approach to reducing their carbon emissions, a la the NHS.

So what has Dr. Pencheon done for Britons lately? Among his many triumphs was reducing the NHS carbon footprint by taking meat and dairy off the menu in UK hospitals. (Because clearly hospital food is so great you can afford to reduce the nutrition content even further.)

Another suggestion from Pencheon (same source) was:
for surgeons to travel to GP surgeries for follow-up consultations, to reduce the need for many patients to travel to outpatients departments.

Which, if you spend any time with surgeons, is so funny for SO many reasons. I'm sure the surgeons will go for that suggestion in droves. Not.
Other bright ideas from the NHS include reducing parking around the hospital so staff are forced to get mugged or raped at 3am walk.

David Pencheon then goes on to say:
"If you're going to get me radical I say the default place for health is in the home, and the person who delivers it is yourself: that's the ultimate low-carbon health service," he said

In other words, "if you malingerers just stopped going to hospital, we wouldn't have this problem." Self treatment aside, I actually agree that in an ideal world with more doctors than patients, we would treat everyone in their own homes. Unfortunately, we don't live in an ideal world, and the most effective way to allocate health resources, especially for high dependency care, is to cluster them together and funnel the patients through as per need.

Medicine is particularly resource intensive, and in some cases there really isn't much that can be done about it. Whether you use single use only equipment or have to re-sterilize, you're looking at a huge energy expenditure. We can't just reuse items without serious thought going into the consequences (infection control, anyone?). A trip to a hospital laundry facility (thanks very much touchy-feely-new-age medical school faculty) is a real eye opener in terms of energy and water expenditure, but the fact remains that you need clean linens, scrubs and towels, and you need sterile drapes, and it takes energy resources to do that.

In terms of electricity supply and heating and cooling, hospitals need vast amounts of reliable energy, carbon footprint be damned. If they don't get it, Bad Things Happen. Energy efficiency is laudable, but it should be pursued seperately to a carbon reduction agenda. According to Pencheon et al, carbon reduction is necessary because:
There is strong international scientific consensus about the consequences of the warming of the world's climate system, with a recent Lancet editorial arguing that "climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century".

However, if you ask me, basic triage would dictate that the health and safety of the people in our hospitals now is more important than some ephemereal public health of the future informed by shonky pseudo-science and a mis-interpretation of the precautionary principle.

If you don't believe me, then you can watch some particularly disturbing footage of what happens in a neonatal intensive care unit during a power blackout when the backup generators fail. (Don't watch it, just take my word for it. Seriously, you don't want to see it.) The Egyptian doctors who tried unsuccessfully to save those babies had to work by the light of their mobile phones, and one used their phone to film the scene in a bid to stop the hospital covering up the blackout related deaths. (NB: Another reason to not watch the footage (as if you didn't have enough) is that this breach of confidentiality contravenes pretty much every medical ethic I can think of.)

Hospital blackouts aren't just limited to countries like Egypt, either. The NHS has it's share. As does Australia.

So if we can't assure ourselves that the power in our hospitals isn't going to go on the fritz right now, then why on earth would we rush into dodgy renewable sources with intermittent supply? Or maybe they just mean we should get Peter Garret to insulate the hospital ceilings? Even better.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Farmers are smart

The ABC has just published a story that a poll of Victorian farmers show that more than half of them don't think humans are responsible for climate change.
Contrary to the common belief of inner city intellectuals, many people from rural areas are better informed on alot of issues than their urban counterparts. Partly I think this is due to the fact that when you live in a remote or rural area you are aware of your isolation, and seek to compensate by self education, whereas city folk have a tendency to just assume that a postcode makes them well informed by default.
Naturally, the spin put on this result was that this shows that farmers are "confused" (read: stupid). Ha! I think it shows just the opposite.

Is this a joke? This is a joke, right?

I've introduced you to the "public intellectual" (aka: useless leech) Clive Hamilton before. The not-even-close Green's candidate in the Higgins by-election takes the word "creep" to whole new levels. Way creepier than white shoes and hair gel. Creepier than ageing bachelors volunteering for scout-camp. (Hey, they might be nice people). Creepier than...creepier than....Oh, f*ck it. I honestly can't think of anyone who creeps me out more. Not even Matt Damon. Just having to look at his picture while researching this makes me want to bleach my eyeballs.

Fresh from writing an open letter to the children of skeptics, outlining how their Mummies and Daddies are killing the planet, poor little Clivey is feeling a bit down. Apparently our skeptic overlord and dark master, Lord Monckton is spurring climate skeptics into cyber bullying champions of global warming such as Clive. So its lucky that Clive Hamilton is a proponent of mandatory internet censorship then, isn't it?
This from the man who has gone on record stating that climate deniers are worse than holocaust deniers. I hate to break it to you Clive, but if you are getting flaming dog poo shoved through your letterbox, its got far more to do with your winsome personality than your views on climate science. Clive isn't sure, but he thinks it might be a conspiracy:
Although he is yet to identify the individuals or organisations behind the cyber attacks, Dr Hamilton says anyone who is involved in arguing for climate change appears to be a recipient of the bullying.
"I've got some ideas but I don't have any evidence," he said

Clivey is so put out by it he's writing a five (five?!) part series on this evidenceless cyber bullying, which is being hosted by our public broadcaster. (This is ridiculous. Seriously, time to tell the ABC to drop people like Hamilton and bring back The Goodies or I want my money back.)

Amazing that someone can be so alarmingly (get it?) egomaniacal that they have missed the bullying that climate skeptics have experienced for almost decades now. Ian Plimer has related how his favourite ever fan letter said "Dear Sir, drop dead." Ask yourself this, why would so many skeptical bloggers who obviously have such "mad skillz" with writing, choose to blog anonymously? Could it be because we have this funny thing about wanting to hang onto our jobs? I will bet you money that folk such as myself, the Englishman, Simon, TWAWKI or that Kiwi guy either have to work for a company or institution where alarmism is the norm and breaking ranks swiftly punished, or if self-employed, have to work with a customer demographic that is similarly afflicted. Or they have to live in California or something. Same thing. Either way, I can assure you we don't stay anonymous simply because we are worried about getting mobbed by teenaged groupies.

Its astounding that someone can have such staggeringly little self awareness that they cannot relate their own actions (re: holocaust denial comparison and letters to our children) to the "bullying" that they are decrying everywhere else.
What a d*ck.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Time to tell the kids about climategate and droughtgate...

Here a-gate, there a-gate, everywhere a-gate gate.
My mother always told me (generally at top volume) "The first rule of the country is always leave a gate as you found it." Not any more mother, time we left them wide open.

I just came across a recently published study: Mental health impact for adolescents living with prolonged drought (Aust. J. Rural Health (2010) 18, 32–37), which was a fairly simple survey of adolescents living in the Riverina area of rural New South Wales. During an initial survey in 2004, the researchers discovered that adolescents in the region, although drought affected, did not rate their anxiety or distress as being higher than adolescents from other urban areas, and it was proposed that a rural lifestyle somehow bred mental resilience.

The researchers then went back 4 years later and resurveyed adolescents in the area to discover how they were feeling about it now, and discovered that kids are now rating their emotional distress as being significantly higher than the previous study:

Thematic analysis showed consistency with the previous study as well as new
themes of grief, loss and the impacts of global climate change.

So why the increasing loss of adolescent mental wellbeing in the area? On the one hand there are the cumulative effects of a prolonged drought, and on the other hand there is the increasing emphasis on climate change related anxiety that was not necessarily present in the earlier study. Take this example from a focus group held with the kids:
Issues that might relate to climate change:

‘Global warming could be having an effect’ ‘People are wondering if it is climate change – starting to think it is – everybody talks about it’

The authors note that this was an emerging area of anxiety for the kids, and one wonders how much the global catastrophising about impending climate doom may have compounded the kids ability to cope.

Also worthy of note is that the authors mention that less children participated in the follow-up study than took part in the initial study due to parental reluctance. The authors hypothesise this to be due to increasing family pressures from the drought, but given my rather polarised view, I suspect that a plain language statement re: research into "the mental health effects of climate change" would serve as a turn-off for pragmatic and generally well-informed country folk. It would have been to me, thats for sure.

Maybe the researchers were unaware of the fact that as early as 2008, the CSIRO were blaming the media for talking up climate-change induced drought in the area, even though the:
CSIRO does not believe the current drought in southern New South Wales is here to stay as part of climate change.

Andrew Bolt recently published extensively on the misrepresentation of drought in the Riverina being due to climate change, quoting a recent study in Geophysical Research Letters. Read all about it here.

And to end with some good news, its well and truly p*ssing down in the Riverina now, mate.
(NB: Thats a colloquialism for "raining very hard", if anyone from overseas is confused by my sudden descent into vernacular.)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Pete Bethune: serial idiot

I just came across something that was omitted from reporting around the time that the Ady Gil collided with the Shonen Maru II, scuttling the incredibly expensive wave piercing tri-maran.

Turns out that Ady Gil skipper Pete Bethune has a history of crashing into other boats, only the last time it happened someone actually died.

The tragedy happened while the Ady Gil, then known as "Earthrace" was making it's circumnavigation attempt. Just off the coast of Guatemala they ran right over the top of a fibreglass skiff full of Guatemalen fishermen. One was lost at sea, presumed dead, and two were picked up by Earthrace, with one almost bleeding out during the process.
The Earthrace crew were detained in Guatemala, until Pete Bethune's insurance company settled with the dead man's family for damages. Pete protested "it wasn't his fault" because he was in his bunk at the time, then promptly sold the Earthrace engineer down the river, as he was the one at the helm.

Sorry Pete, that's not how it works when you're the skipper. Anything that happens under your watch is your responsibility. I know what its like, I'm training to be a doctor. When a mistake happens under a doctors care, it doesnt matter whether it was personally the doctors fault or the fault of a team member working under them. The doctor is responsible. Its the way it works. If you don't like it, don't be a skipper or a doctor. If you like boats or medicine but don't want to take responsibility, then be a crewman or a nurse or a theatre technician, or whatever. The top job just isn't for you.

The excuse given was that the fishing boat wasn't running under lights, but Pete Bethune's own blog entry (which can be read at the first link supplied above) states that the fishing skiff was 26 feet long. Given that it wasn't a submarine they hit, surely you would have some warning of an object that size on radar? Especially given that Pete himself describes the conditions at the time of the collision as being flat calm, and Earthrace was doing 15 knots (around 28 km / hr), not their top speed.

Biggest sell-out of the eighties award

Has to go to the honourable Peter Garrett, federal minister for the environment and cadaverous-looking lapdog of Penny Wong, the federal automoton for climate change.
First it was the pink batts housing insulation debacle, the score card reading something like this:

* 4 dead.
* 86 fires.
* An estimated 1000 houses with potentially electrified ceilings.
* A possible 400,000 with useless substandard insulation.
* Countless rorting and rip-offs.

And now:

Thousands of homes could be at risk of electrical fires from faulty installation of solar panels. Which is interesting because when a house with solar power is burning down, you can't turn the electricity off at the mains, and the set-up can remain electrified. A real bitch if you're a fireman.

I'm sorry, but I have to do this (and I am SO suprised nobody else seems to have yet). For those of you from overseas or who were literally born yesterday, Peter Garrett used to be in a rock band back in the days when he was slightly less loathsome. Peter, how can you sleep.....when your bed is burning (bahahahaha):

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Tofurkey of the week # 4

Its been awhile since the award for being a turkey in an environmentally sensitive manner has been bestowed. Thankfully, The Daily Suppository can count on the antics of idiots "conservationists" such as Pete Bethune, erstwhile captain of the Ady Gil, to deliver the goods. I had previously considered bestowing a Tofurkey on the Ady Gil crew for crashing the equivalent of a water-borne sports car into the maritime equivalent of a tractor, but so much was written on it at the time that I just statisfied myself with bitching about it privately. Luckily for me, Pete Bethune gave me another chance when he decided that illegally bording the Shonan Maru II and attempting to make a citizens arrest (aka unlawfull detention) of the Shonan Maru II captain, then demanding $3 million dollars, or thereabouts, was a good idea.

Apart from being really stupid, his actions could also be construed as piracy. Being a maritime person (or so he would have us believe) 'ol Capt'n Pete should be aware that in many parts of the world, they haven't changed the maritime piracy laws in a good long while, hence the punishment for piracy in sovereign waters is sometimes something like "hanging till dead in the public square." (FYI: Piracy in Japanese waters can get you 5 years to life, or death if you killed someone during the act of piracy.)

The event occurred in international waters and Japan has a bit of a sticky issue here, due to their defence force caveats prohibiting use of force for anything other than national self defence. Fortunately for Japan, Pete made this easy for them by boarding a vessel that cannot be construed as anything other than Japanese, demanding money from what effectively amounts to the Japanese state, and interfering with Japan's national interests. Additionally, Im no expert on international law, but according to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, if the act of piracy occurs on the high seas, then ANY nation can seize said pirates and / or vessels and then try them subject to the laws of that country. Which brings us back to the 5 years to life. I think they have a solid case to try him at their leisure. If the piracy thing sticks, they also now have an argument for mobilising their "self-defence" force to protect their interests on the high seas.
And FYI: Japan's legal system has a 98% + conviction rate
Good one, Pete.

Friday, February 12, 2010

[epithet of choice] is like climate denial

There is nothing hateful that some alarmist isn't prepared to liken to "Climate Change Denial". The inference being that there is nothing more evil than climate change denial. Yep, lock your doors alarmists, because when deniers get a belly full of liquor and a head full of hate there is nothing we wont do. We're exactly the sort of people who will rape your grandma and steal your hubcaps. We call it "When skeptics attack". (Yes, sarcasm. That was all sarcasm.)

I mean really, what am I meant to make of this: What do vaccine sceptics have in common with climate change deniers? From the Crikey health blog. Where climate skeptics are likened to Andrew Wakefield, the doctor who started the whole MMR - autism controversy and was recently soundly spanked, and not in a good way, for his part in the fiasco. They say:
As predicted, the folly of MMR vaccine rejection is reaping its unhappy results. Similarly, with the climate change debate, the majority look on in dismay as the urgent need to reduce carbon emissions is delayed by the views of a minority.

I can't seem to find the name of who wrote this, though. COWARD. Sure, I blog anonymously, but I'm an independent blogger, not writing under the auspices of a larger publication. I don't get paid. In my previous guise as a freelance health / medical journalist, I always had to publish under my own name, which certainly helps your motivation in getting the facts straight.

Then I saw another recent headline: Is Denying Abstinence News Any Different From Denying Climate Change? (Not going to link it, its boring.)

It seems like if people are casting around for a suitable epithet for something they don't like, they just reach for the "climate denial" tarbrush.

Climate denial has been compared to everything from belief in a flat earth, creationism to even zionism. It has been similarly described as a contagion and a mental illness.

It seems to be a litte bit too late to start jumping onto the alarmist bandwagon now, I suggest that these people cast around for a new bogeyman. The IPCC or the CRU may be a good place to start. Alternatively, they could just bite me.

Update: How could I forget the epithet attributed to UN climate chief Pachauri? I believe he said something like climate change denial is like denying the link between smoking and cancer and that we should powder our butts with asbestos. Or something.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Arse over whotsit

Former candidate for the PM and new Australian Ambassador designate to the USA, Kim Beazley, has had a winter related mishap:
Mr Beazley, who only arrived in the country last week, fell heavily on ice at the ambassador's residence in Washington.

The accident happened two days ago and an embassy spokesman says he now needs keyhole surgery on both knees.

Welcome to the States, Mr. Beazley, watch that global warming, it can be slippery.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Apology for crappy content...

Just to let everyone know that I realise that my posts haven't been quite up to scratch lately. Its my busy season, and I am on a rotation that has me getting up at 5 o'clock in the f****ing am (thats daylight saving time, technically 4 am, not that I'm counting.)

By the time I drag myself home 12-15 hours later, pretend to study, pat my kids on the head, do the laundry, burn dinner and crawl into bed to watch Battlestar Galactica on my laptop, I have about 10 minutes to make some bad puns on this blog.

I'm trying to get something better out there on weekends, but until I miraculously find myself on, say, a psychiatry rotation (preferably from the doctoring side)with the attendant spare time, there may be alot of truncated posts and titles that don't really make sense when you think about them.

Stick with me on this. The spirit is willing, but the mind wants to drink beer and watch something really stoopid and non-challenging instead.(ABC news, anyone?)

For you guys, though, I will muster my few remaining brain cells, trawl the internet, and try to post some higher quality victriol.


Sunday, February 7, 2010

Pink Batts: Even worse than we thought...

Following on from a previous post about the mounting casualty list from the Roof Insulation Scheme. The Australian has reported as front page news that:
HUNDREDS of homes that have been fitted with foil insulation under the Rudd government's stimulus program have been turned into potential death traps because installers have laid the insulation over live wires or used metal fasteners, causing it to become electrified.
An audit of almost 1000 homes in Queensland has found that in about 2 per cent of cases, foil insulation was installed inappropriately, causing the roof to become "live". This means that if home owners enter their roof space and touch the insulation, they could be shocked or electrocuted.

If the foil touches metal frames or pipes, it could cause other parts of houses, including taps, to become electrified.

More than 37,000 homes have received foil insulation under the government's program.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Everything old is new again...

If you ever needed proof that belief in AGW leads to a poor grasp of history, here it is: I have just discovered a company (and they even have the ear of the British P.M.) who are developing cutting-edge technology to make cargo shipping carbon neutral, in their words:
B9 Shipping has developed 100% renewable powered cargo ships bringing proven technologies together in an innovative way to address the growing problem of emissions in shipping.

Guess what their new fangled technomonology is?


I love it. They are so full of themselves that they have even pledged to "give" this new technology they are developing to small island states at risk of climate change related sea level rise.

I hate to break it to the folks at B9 shipping, but I think that at least some of those small island nations probably have that technology already. In fact, they practically invented it. The polynesians were zipping across the Pacific ocean in out-riggers when the Brits were still working out that floating potties coracles weren't such a great idea.

Admittedly, those Europeans made up for it later with the age of sail, took over half the world and made those great clipper ships, which weren't too shabby at hauling freight, either, if memory serves.

If any of you get falling-down drunk at the docks and find yourself press-ganged into the world of carbon-netral freight, don't say I didn't warn you.

Additionally, if you ever find yourself playing poker against a denizen of a small island nation and they say "I've never played before, you'll have to show me how", hold onto your wallets, you're about to get fleeced.

The Lancet, not so pointed these days...

When the journal Science went to the dark side of knee-jerk alarmism, I took it with aplomb. When National Geographic changed their entire board of trustees, pissed in the face of countless decades of global respect and went as commercial as a suburban disco, I'll admit that stung a little. However, when I realised the depth of depravity at that bastion of all things British Commonwealth and medical, The Lancet, well, that hurt like a bitch.

Just to add insult to injury, in november of 2009, they launched an entire series of papers on the subject of "Public health benefits of strategies to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions". Yes, every paper in the series starts with that title, (no agenda there) and cover such topics as food and agriculture, land transport and low carbon fuel production to name a few. Refreshingly medical, isn't it? One feels that an alternatie appellation for the series could have been "Our underwear flies off at the slightest hint of funding: Is it getting warmer in here?"

Funding for the series came from a veritable galaxy of sources: The Wellcome Trust, Royal College of Physicians, Economic and Social Research Council, Department of Health, National Institute for Health Research, US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, and the Academy of Medical Sciences, with support from the World Health Organization.

If you're going to whore yourself to public and political advantage, you might as well go high-class, I suppose.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The pink batts strike again...

The labour government's ill-concieved economic stimulus / climate initiative has struck again, with the electrocution death of a young contractor in far north Queensland. According to The Australian, four contractors have died on the job since the introduction of the ceiling insulation scheme last year.
P.J. O'Rouke said it best:
Government subsidies can be critically analyzed according to a simple principle: You are smarter than the government, so when the government pays you to do something you wouldn't do on your own, it is almost always paying you to do something stupid.

Prior to this, the government home-insulation scheme was criticized due to the almost instant rorting of the scheme.