Getting out and about: The Australian Environment Foundation Conference

Last weekend, a few of us drove up to Canberra to attend the Australian Environment Foundation conference.

You need to get out more

“You need to get out  more!” my kids always say . Anyway, we went and it was fun.  Immediately below is my report, followed by a separate report from David McMullen.

AEF conference slide

It was an interesting and refreshing experience to meet with people outside my normal circles.

I enjoyed being among   people engaged in real-world politics which could make a positive difference in the here and now (see DavidMc’s report below for more details).  For decades  now “leftwing politics” has been the politics of protest and abstract demand that those in charge to make things all better.

Barry York captured this when he introduced his comedy piece at the conference dinner by saying “I’m a leftwinger, not a left whinger”.  Barry  caused much hilarity in the process of pointing out the absurdity of the idea that it’s somehow “left” to preach to the people about the evils of “affluenza”.  I particularly enjoyed hislittle skit about  a child coming home from school with   clip board, pen, German accent and proceding to follow   her father into the bathroom to collect data on his water use while cleaning his teeth!

The AEF (Australian Environment Foundation) takes  a rational, evidence based approach to protecting and improving the environment. From the AEF website:

While it may be true to say that “We are all environmentalists now”, the great majority of Australians have little or no say in the environmental policies being put to governments – federal, state or local.  These policies are almost exclusiv

ely the domain of a tight network of conservation groups ensuring one view, and one view only, is put forward.

The AEF is a different kind of environment group, caring for both Australia & Australians.

Many of our members are practical environmentalists – people who actively use and also care for the environment.

We accept that environmental protection and sustainable resource use are generally compatible.

Our members value:

  • Evidence – policies are set and decisions are made on the basis of facts, evidence and scientific analysis.
  • Choice – issues are prioritized on the basis of accurate risk assessment and cost-benefit analysis.
  • Technology – appropriate and innovative technological solutions are implemented.
  • Management – active management is used when necessary, acknowledging that landscapes and ecosystems are dynamic.
  • Diversity – biological diversity is maintained.
  • People – people are an integral part of the environment.

In her opening remarks to the conference , Jennifer Marohasy stressed that  the AEF works for “practical solutions to  issues rather than tokenism”, and that philosophically it  stands for a rational, evidence-based approach to  decision making :

“Most days, the issue of climate change dominates media headlines. The AEF and the ACSC simply ask politicians and the media take an evidence-based approach to this issue, rather than a populous and emotionally driven one.

Given the importance of this issue it is likely to be given priority within the AEF over the next year.”

She noted the absurd creep of feel-good  personal ‘action’  and mentioned the hilarious case of a grandmother whose  daughter paid A$20 to offset two years worth of flatulence.  I googled that story and found the relevant article which described the “work” of a Sydney based company called “It’s Easy Being Green” .  If you want a laugh you can read it here.

Hitting the nail on the head (!),  her following remark was:

We live in Strange Times. As David A. Fahrenthold. a Washington Post Staff writer, explained on Monday: “This is strange territory. The Dow is down. Wall Street needs a bailout. But in the Washington area and across the country, there is still a bull market in environmental guilt.

Sales of carbon offsets — whose buyers pay hard cash to make amends for their sins against the climate — are up. Still. In some cases, the prices have actually been climbing.

In other words, when nearly everything seems to be selling for less, thousands of individuals and businesses are paying more for nothing, or at least nothing tangible.

I googled that article too: There’s a Gold Mine In Environmental Guilt . It’s worth reading.  I think it reveals  the nature of the demographic appealed to by the pseudo-lefty liberals.  Their shallow, moralistic  preachiness tends to have its main roots in quite a small section of the population. Interestingly, this was backed up by one of the conference speakers who reported on a survey in which people were asked an open-ended question along the lines of “what are your main concerns about the future?”. The results showed that only 1% of the respondents were worried about the climate.

The  talks by William Kininmonth, Bob Carter and Stewart Franks were all interesting attacks on the consensus position with regard to climate change.   I enjoyed them. I’m glad they were given a hearing. Mainly they confirmed my view  that the whole notion of science has been debased by the pushing of the idea that all it takes is a bit of commonsense to grasp the “obvious” truths that  increasing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is bound to lead to a dangerous degree of global warming and that therefore the thing to do is to cut carbon emissions.

This is just mush. Firstly, the  thing about science is that it is not “commonsense”, if it were, there would be no need for it! Secondly, even if it turns out to be true that carbon emissions cause warming, the idea that the solution is to cut back our emissions, doesn’t necessarily follow from this.

Since I’m not a climatologist, I  don’t regard myself as qualified to engage in any detailed analysis of the science itself (on either side).  As far as I know that applies to well over  99% of people. However we are faced with the extraordinary situation in which the general public has actually been invited to take a stand on the science itself.  The reality is that even people with some scientific training are unlikely to have the capacity to understand the complex scientific issues involved.  Nevertheless,  apparently  a PhD in *any* area is enough for an “expert opinion”  (provided that opinion is in line with majority opinion).

One small criticism that I have of the AEF is that it does tend to  encourage  its members to weigh in on the scientific issues. Certainly the AEF should, as a matter of principle, give voice to those who are fighting the “consensus”, but I think the aim of presenting the opposition position should be mainly to point out that climate is a complex system and that  the science of such systems is still in its infancy.    Even a moderate degree of scientific literacy is sufficient for us to understand that.  I would argue that the most reasonable stance  is that  as far as climate is concerned, we just can’t be certain what the future holds.

I’d like the AEF to focus mainly on taking a strong stand for the integrity of the scientific process, rather than get too involved in attempting to analyse the science itself.   We should mainly target the idea that the prospect of a warmer planet is  terrifying  and that it’s just obvious that we should follow the precautionary principle and cut carbon emissions.

I think that the progressive position on all this is that attempting to deal with the possibility of global warming by restricting carbon emissions just makes no sense. Adaptation is the answer to any change in the climate, whatever the cause,  and the more we develop (ie the richer we become!)  the greater our ability to adapt. This has  been the case throughout history.  If there is to be future climate change, we need to go for even more rapid development rather than slowing it down by wasting trillions of dollars on attempts to cut carbon emissions and switching to  more expensive energy sources before they become cost effective.

Anyway, I enjoyed the conference.  It was fun to be there as a left winger and to meet with people who were prepared to discuss our differences in an intelligent, curious and civil manner.  The complete absence of ad hominem “argument” in personal discussion was extremely refreshing.


I had a great time at the Australian Environment Foundation annual conference in Canberra last weekend.

Acting Chair Jennifer Marohasy got the ball rolling and emphasized that decisions on the environment should be based on science and evidence, and not green ideology. We then listened to presentations that were generally pretty juicy.

Climate was covered by two prominent sceptics – William Kininmonth and Bob Carter – who continue to disobey the edict about the debate being over.  They believe the science shows that CO2 has less effect on the temperature than is generally accepted. They reminded us of the poor quality of a lot of the the official IPCC stuff and the vast range of vested interests attached to the climate gravy train. Bob Carter made the important point that there is no substantive evidence that modern rates of change in ice volume or sea level lie outside historic natural bounds.

Gillian Hogendyke told us about the Macquarie Marshes in northern New South Wales where they have done something rather unusual in this time of “environmental awareness”. They identified a real environmental problem, located the cause and came up with a solution!

A discussion of forest management by Max Rheese and Mark Poynter showed how green-inspired policy can actually harm the environment while imposing significant costs on people. They looked particularly at the plans to create additional national parks in northern Victoria that are more about evicting people rather than protecting the environment. It is a lock up and leave approach that will place the forests at the mercy of fires, feral animals and weeds. The Rivers and Red Gum Environment Alliance has been carrying out an active campaign against these proposals.

Terry Dwyer from the Australian National University in his presentation on Canberra water policy gave us a stark example of how governments can impose massive burdens on people for the sake of environmental benefits that are minimal or non-existent. (Also check out his article “Urban Water Policy: In Need of Economics” published in Agenda in 2006.)

Graham Young from On Line Opinion gave us some insights into how groups like the AEF can make greater use of the Internet. And Barry York from Strange Times was a great success as the after dinner comedian. He showed how the greens are easy targets what with brainwashing kids and dreaming up “affluenza”.

We forgot to take photos but Jennifer Marohasy has some happy snaps from the conference on her site.

8 Responses to “Getting out and about: The Australian Environment Foundation Conference”

  1. 1 drbunsen
  2. 2 drbunsen
  3. 3 keza

    Oh yikes!!!! It’s a scary IPA front group! Financed by Big Oil too.

    Mustn’t talk to people like that, very, very dangerous. Thanks for looking out for me, Dr. B.

  4. 4 drbunsen

    Another sterlingly on-topic and relevant response keza

  5. 5 drbunsen

    A PowerPoint presentation doesn’t make good science, or good public policy, however lovely the ego-gratification of having your existing prejudices affirmed must have been.

    It’s just a little odd that you look to a blatantly astroturf political action group who have been deliberately anti-science and misleading about the science (on tobacco), and paid to push a commercial interest line (on timber) as a beacon of balanced and rational discussion on another science/policy issue they are being paid to obfuscate.

    Really, it does nothing to advance the idea that you’re all about the facts.

    Do you not even Google?

  6. 6 DavidMc

    I am not aware of the AEF having a position on tobacco,drbunson. Perhaps you can enlighten us.

    Like most religionists, you greenies cannot imagine someone having a different view unless they are evil or corrupt.

    On the question of funding. I am really amazed at how little money big business and rich capitalists are spending on defending modern industrial society. which is under so much attack at the moment. Most of their money is going to the attackers. It shows how rotten the system really is.

  7. 7 DavidMc

    Here is a link to a new aarticle by AEF Executive Director, Max Rheese which has just appeared at On Line Opinion.

    Environmentalists have crossed the Rubicon

    “Environmental advocacy in Australia is increasingly producing perverse environmental outcomes that are changing the way we live, largely as a result of political decisions for electoral gain.”

  8. 8 llewelly

    Your Jennifer Marohasy link should go here .

  1. 1 Jennifer Marohasy » Introducing a Progressive Environmentalist and Blogger: Kerry Miller
  2. 2 Barry socking it to the greens at STRANGE TIMES

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