Thursday, 12 July 2018

Pass on Paris? A change in times, and the ill-fitting accord we’re lumbered with

I get it. There is a changing climate. There are apparently rising sea levels. There’s predicted temperature rises. There’s abnormal weather patterns. I get it. Climate change this, climate change that, and all the rest. It’s not that we haven’t heard about the apparent risk of climate change. It’s not that we haven’t been fed all of the garbage about massive human causes behind climate change. Even if that were real, Paris still wouldn’t work. The push to leave Paris isn’t about the validity of climate change – it’s whether the accord actually works. Surely, on this front, the strongest climate change ambassadors should be calling for the accord to be torn apart. Here’s why.

Why we actually joined in the first place

Image result for tony abbott paris
Abbott, despite signing the Paris Climate Accords, is calling for Australia to
abandon the deal
The debate about leaving the Paris Climate Accord is filled with those calling out “well why did we join in the first place if we’re going to leave?”. These questions, in particular, have been targeted towards former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who is one of the high-profile politicians calling for the fall of the Paris Climate Accord. At a first glance, they may have a point. Why would we leave something like the Paris Accord which is so good?

Except, it was good. It isn’t anymore – and this is all based off the claim that humans have caused the climatic changes that are apparently going to ravage the world irreparably. Paris (The Paris Climate Accord) used to represent an international effort to tackle an environmental problem that was, perhaps for the first time in history, truly international. Paris was an agreement to lower emissions together in order to globally challenge climate change – it aimed to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2˚, 1.5˚ if possible. Paris represented equal responsibility for the solution – each nation would push to lower emissions in order to reach this global target.

Isn’t this the case? Has the status quo changed?

Image result for chinese emissions rise 1.7% 2017
Despite signing the accord, India and China have continued to maintain, and
raise, their emissions. Are they really taking Paris seriously?
Well, this simply isn’t the case anymore. This theory – that everyone would work together to lower emissions – is exactly that; a theory. It was a hopeful accord that hasn’t worked. One quick look at the emissions that China and India push out is a testament to that.  China is the largest polluter in the world –in 2017 it’s emissions actually rose by 1.7%, while the whole of Asia saw a 3% increase in emissions. That is powered by coal-reliant nations like India, Indonesia, and China in the region, ignoring their pledge at Paris. This hope, that we would all lower our emissions in a global effort simply doesn’t hold true. Australia is this little island down the bottom that holds true to its agreements when no-one else does. Paris has become tokenistic – a feeble, unbacked attempt where everyone pretends to do their bit, but truly doesn’t – and yet we still hang in there. Maybe this is because we don’t want to leave the theatre – sure, everyone’s pretending to be abiding by it, but if you call them out, if you leave the party, then they call you out for it. Despite the fact the accord doesn’t work, they demonise you for abandoning a sinking ship. That’s what we’ve seen with Trump’s exit from the Accord. We’ve seen continued backlash at America for leaving the Accord and no one calling out China. That’s despite a 0.5% drop in US emissions in 2017 compared to China’s growth of 17.%. So those that are actually making small steps towards change are being called out against the bigger polluters in the world. It’s also what we’ve seen at the calling for Syria and Nicaragua – the other nations not in the accord – to join. Ignoring the fact that they happen to be 53rd and 129th ranked in global emission charts respectively. So those that don’t pollute that much, but don’t go to play are admonished, while others continue the polluting? It doesn’t make sense. And that kind of unnecessary, unbacked backlash is what we’ll see if we are to leave. And that’s why spineless Turnbull won’t leave.

Is abiding by the accord actually harming us?

But sticking to the terms – unlike anyone else – is actually hurting us. Because while we plan National Energy Guarantees that guarantee unreliable energy, coal-fired power stations are opening across the world. While we close ours, they open in other countries that are a part of this accord. The largest coal-fired power station in the world is being planned to be built in Egypt (one of the Paris Accord’s signatories) by a Chinese consortium. So, while we play by the rules, we’re actually making our energy sources unreliable while other, major, players in the accord do the exact opposite. It’s hurting our energy sources, and it’s making it harder for Australian households to bear the burdens of daily living expenses – bills have gone up by 183% over the last two decades. I have no doubt that that can’t be felt in the Lodge or Parliament House, but on ‘struggle street’ – at the grassroots level – it’s a major concern.

So, if major players are either leaving or simply ignoring the terms – if the accord isn’t working – then why are we staying? Why are we voluntarily harming ourselves while China, India and the US sit there and laugh? It’s time that our leaders woke up to how deeply they’ve been played, and start taking action that, instead of pleasing Merkel or any other well-to-do politicians in Europe, actually helps those that vote – the people.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Curbing freedom of speech only opens a Pandora’s Box

The basic right to Freedom of Speech is what ensures that Western Democracies are just that - Democracies. By curbing this freedom, what one does is curb the fundamental principles of Democracy, and that begins the path towards destructive governmental structures like Communism. Democracy is underpinned by the basic right - and need - for diversity of opinion. Curbing this diversity of opinion - by preventing certain speakers to speak at events based upon political affiliations or ideologies - creates a warped political process, and thus, is the antithesis of democracy. It is therefore harmful for society, and modern democracy, to censor these ideas, and thus, the right to Freedom of Speech should be absolute. 

Why is freedom of speech important?

What freedom of speech achieves is a diversity of opinion. This is because it is obvious, especially in the societies of today, that populations are diverse in a multitude of ways. If all these diverse demographics have a voice – if they all can express their opinions, needs and perspectives that aid in public discussion, then essentially freedom of speech has led to a diversity of opinion. A diversity of opinion is what ensures that a nation’s demographic is properly represented. This literally fulfills the definition of Democracy. This diversity ensures that abuse does not occur in society. Say, for instance, that people with disabilities were not allowed to express their opinion. What would happen is that issues that affect disabled people - welfare, health services, jobs - would fade from public discussion. The issues that these people - people that have committed no crime - are directly affected by being ignored. Therefore, politicians don’t focus on such issues and just like that, important perspectives, discussions, and policies have been made impossible. Thus, a diversity of opinion, a diversity of perspectives and a diversity of discussions enhances our political process - a process for the people, and therefore, freedom of speech, which creates this diversity of opinion – which we have decided is inherently good for societal discussions – is important for democracy and the continuation of Western values.

The role of universities in curbing Freedom of Speech

Image result for Suzanne Venker
Suzanne Venker is just one of the right-wing
speakers canned from university events
Somehow, however, this discrimination is happening in modern society right underneath the noses of those that claim they are tolerant, accepting and against bigotry. Yes, these campaigners are the exact people that are creating this discrimination. It is on the campuses of liberal colleges, most prominently in the United States of America, that such events are occurring. These people prevent speakers from speaking at events simply based on a difference in opinion. They claim that by vocalising their thoughts, they could offend people. This is the whole basis of the ‘safe spaces’ movement of intolerant students - millennials no less - who refuse to be open-minded, and instead, demand only to hear their own views. Such cancelled events include lectures by Ben Shapiro, Suzanne Venker, Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter.

This lacking freedom of speech is led by student groups that campaign vigorously to prevent speakers from speaking on issues directly affecting them. That issue of course, is freedom of speech. For there is one link between all the speakers - apart from being conservative, they all support freedom of speech. What these university students do, while campaigning in their freedom of speech, is violating that of others. What these students - who no doubt support supposedly anti-discrimination movements like Black Lives Matter - are doing is discriminating. They are not practicing what they preach.

And the fact that conservative speakers are prevented from speaking based on political views is undeniable. One look at Suzanne Venker’s revoked invitation is a testament to that. Venker was due to speak on social issues, but the invitation was revoked due to student concerns about “anti-feminist” positions that Venker holds. Yes, because a woman disagrees with the feminist movement targeted at women, she was prevented from speaking. Further, Virginia Tech revoked Jason Riley from speaking about racial issues. Despite the fact that he was in fact black. Because he wrote a book called “Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed”. So in both circumstances, a person from the affected community - a woman and a black man - were prevented from speaking about the issues that affect them.

And yet somehow, this lives up to the tolerant nature of supposedly ‘liberal’ left-wing student bodies aimed at discussing student interests? Somehow, this censorship - for it is exactly that - enables an open-minded perspective that such people have always claimed to have? But no matter, Black Liver Matter - an organisation not aimed at encouraging anti-discrimination, but discrimination - is allowed to organise Black only days at universities.

What are the effects of a curbing of Freedom of Speech?

This hypocritical nature of universities would be funny if it weren’t so serious, for the effects don’t bode well for the future. Universities, or more specifically, their professors, are brainwashing students with ideologies that are potentially dangerous for society. Sure, these professors have the right to freedom of speech, but this in an educational institution like a university, where the word of the teacher is assumed to be correct. This is brainwashing vulnerable and impressionable students. But even if a university was a place for people to form political opinions, these opinions shouldn’t be based off one source - a disenfranchised middle-aged university professor with little experience outside the campus - but instead, off a variety of sources that would enable students to make political decisions. This gets to the core of the freedom of speech issue - it's about how the political process is affected directly by the brainwashing of university students in left-wing institutions. For these students to come out with a perspective - sure, one based off a few professors, that they really can’t explain, and really don’t know much about - but they come out with a perspective that they take to the polls. And that perspective is not a reflection of their decision making, but their attendance at a university that refused an open-minded perspective, and instead, only accepted close-minded, single perspectives to infiltrate the minds of the next generation. It is about the prevention of legitimate thoughts, perspectives, and discussions that could create the future of the world.

And the effects of banning speakers of differing opinions doesn’t stop there. For this lacking freedom of speech - this idea that blocking what other people want to say because you don’t like it - can get into the depth of governmental structure and control. For if the government of the day - backed by the close-minded education they received at UC Berkeley or some other such institution - decides that the opinion of people they don’t like (conservatives) should be blocked, then it forms the basis of autocratic governments where freedom is non-existent. It forms a power that can if they really want to, commit genocide, and silence their critics. For wasn’t it the silencing of opinions that enabled the Nazis to kill 6 million Jews in the span of a few years. Wasn’t it silencing opinions that enabled Stalin, under his dictatorship of a Communist nation, to murder over nine million people? Wasn’t it the silencing of opinions in Communist China that enabled them to get away with the massacre of over 500 university students who were campaigning for freedom of speech and press? The effects of silencing those with differing opinions, values or perspectives are dire, and the road to such a result is not far away.

Universities directly responsible for close-minded millennial students

You would think that an educational institution would have educated their students on such events - that an institution like UC Berkeley or the like - wouldn’t breed historical illiteracy. Yet this is incorrect, for the students who campaign for safe spaces - a way to silence those who may ‘offend’ or disagree with the student hierarchy - are those that desire Communism over Capitalism. A recent poll of ‘millennials’, those born in the late 90’s, found that 58% wanted either Communism, Socialism or Fascism over Capitalism. What this represents is a growth in people believing in a system of governmental control that enables the aforementioned examples. What this represents is a growth in people believing that the government should have ultimate control. Yet a government that controls what the people say is a government that controls what the people think. They’re called autocratic regimes. We can only question why some would want regimes that cause the death of millions.

The answer is simple - they are being brainwashed by institutions to believe in such systems and even worse than holding such a damaging opinion, they have been taught to dismiss, ignore and abuse those who present other opinions. They have been taught to be close-minded and intolerant by those who preach tolerance. It is the ultimate irony.

There is further evidence that these university students have been brainwashed by professors giving half-truths and only one side of the story. Had students gone out to investigate whether Communism - or socialism - was a viable method of governance, they would have found the aforementioned examples. They would have discovered the tyranny in Venezuela caused by such governments. And they would not be historically illiterate but instead, recognise the suppression of such forms of government that stem straight from a lack of freedom of speech. They would understand that people don’t flee from Communism in Korea, Vietnam, and China because it was a good thing. They would have understood that people didn’t try to flee - with the risk of death - Eastern Berlin because of the joys of Communism. They would have understood that people flee Communism because of the dangers of it. And viewpoints urging the beginning of communism in western democracies wouldn’t be growing.

So, we’ve proven that censorship of speech - what universities across America conduct on a regular basis (there have been over 500 revoked invitations due to political opinions in the last year) - can lead to situations where governments can take ultimate control, and completely restrict the freedoms for which we take granted. We’ve proved that this form of government - Communism - is harmful for society, and we’ve therefore proved that taking away the freedom of speech is bad for society. But where is this exempt, under modern law, and where should it be exempt, if at all.

Why should Freedom of Speech be absolute?

The basic truth is that, if we want to uphold the basic principles that found Western democracies, then restrictions on what people can say shouldn’t be in place. If we are to have societies where the real views of people are represented, then we cannot be in a position where we prevent the real views from being expressed. As terrible as it sounds, that includes the right of members of the Ku Klux Klan being free to preach their racist rhetoric. Just as it allows members of the Black Lives Matter to preach their racist rhetoric. Both groups - groups that preach against the opposite race - preach terrible rhetoric, but their right to do so must be upheld. Why is this? Because once we start limiting the freedom of speech, we start falling down a slippery slope where the only guidelines are by how much you are offended. For one who claims that BLM or the KKK should be censored, claims this because they, or people they know, are offended by the material they produce. They are personally affected in a negative way and thus, want to remove this. The problem is when this offence becomes the guideline. This is because offence is subjective - it changes from person to person. To a KKK member, their rhetoric is nothing but common sense, the same with a BLM supporter. But to another person, their material is offensive. How can one judge whether something is offensive without caving into the idea that everything should be limited because someone might take offence? Say, for instance, that one said that the KKK was racist. A KKK member would take offense at that. Should that comment then be banned? Should we be restricted from having an opinion? Or are our opinions more significant and superior to others? When put in this light, put in the light of equality, the idea of preventing people from expressing an opinion you don’t like suddenly seems, well … ridiculous. Of course, to the close-minded professors and millennial students of universities across the globe, their opinions are superior to yours. They said so. With their freedom of speech…

The hard truth is that despite the harms of violent, sometimes offensive words, censorship is never the answer. The only solution is more speech - more ability for people to tell their stories, to have important discussions and reach the middle ground. Without speech, the aims of democracy - representation for all - shall never be fulfilled. Some argue that hate speech can inspire people to commit murder or other criminal acts. If this were the case, then when a person committed murder, they would be charged. The law already covers for this. In this way, restrictions around freedom of speech should be reactive, not proactive. We could look at this in another light. If restrictions around freedom of speech were proactive, the Chinese could have prevented students from mentioning a protest at Tiananmen Square. If would have prevented a whole discussion, a whole issue rising to the surface and ultimately, that would have been bad for society. It would have been detrimental as the issues that are obviously important to those students would never have made it to a national, and even international, stage. So, despite the harms of hate speech, despite the potential for terrible situations, curbing freedom of speech is only a slippery slope that leads to a world of no freedoms. It leads to governmental control.

So therefore, what should a commitment to free speech on campus entail?

Free Speech means exactly that - free speech. There should be no grounds for revoking that at a university. Why is this? Because a university is a place of education, a place where people are opened to new ideas and perspectives and learn from one another. By closing the minds of students, the whole aim of the university is defeated - the progress of Western society will essentially be stumped by such a situation. Therefore, the need for free speech is heightened.

With this intensified need comes a need for a larger commitment. Universities first need to recognise the problem within themselves. They need to recognise that their professors are in essence, poisoning the minds of their students. Only after this acknowledgment can action be taken.
Universities, as the keys to the future and institutions whose practice is of significant public interest, need to guarantee the freedom of speech on campus as absolute. They need to ensure that no speaker shall be disinvited because of political opinions or affiliations. They need to promise that their students will be given the two sides to the story - that no student comes out close-minded, but with an understanding at the very least of the perspectives that make up the political scene in modern society. Further, they need to ensure that despite protesting, riots and movements by close-minded student bodies, this commitment shall remain set in stone, for if freedom of speech can cave in because of a few shouting adolescents with posters and pepper spray, then the future of the freedoms granted by democracy is in a shadow.

Conclusion

Freedom of Speech is key to every Western Democracy. Without it, the political process is warped, abused and tokenistic. Without a voice, minorities have no chance of proper representation. Without discussion, perspectives and issues prevalent and relevant in today’s society shall be ignored, and that will be the biggest failure of the ‘government of the people’. Without freedom of speech, the whole basis of democracy falls, and the failures of history shall be repeated. Without freedom of speech, university students shall remain close-minded individuals without an ability to understand, let alone discuss, differing opinions. Without freedom of speech, people have the ability to control what people think and say. That is dangerous. It is with this in mind that universities, governments and societies need to ensure that the Freedom of Speech is absolute. For it is only through this, despite any harms, that the political process shall be complete, that democracy shall continue, and that we have any hope of avoiding systems of governmental control like Communism - which have blood on their hands.

There’s good cause to ‘Bag the Ban’


With the attack on the single-use plastic bag ban already playing out not even a month after Coles and Woolworths rolled out its ban on single-use plastic bags in New South Wales, some are calling for the scheme to be bagged. So, does it tackle the problem and who really gains?

What is the problem?

Image result for animals caught in plastic
Graphic images show the extent of the
damage plastic has on animals in the oceans
Of course, and as Coles and Woolworths have been eager to explain, the environment is the main stakeholder here. Images of turtles’ intestines rupturing because of the noxious gasses caused by the plastic in the stomach of the turtle rapidly come to mind to those who have investigated such issues. On the week of June 4 a pilot whale was killed with 7.9 kilograms of plastic in it – 80 plastic bags were found to have been swallowed by the whale. 100,000 marine creatures die each year due to plastic entanglement while approximately two-thirds of the world’s fish are suffering from plastic ingestion. This is a big problem. It’s a problem for the environment – for the animals that have to face the ramifications of our pathetic failings -, but also for society. What does it say about us as a society, as a people, if we can’t even place a bag in the bin to avoid such deaths.

Nonetheless, this is the case. And to those eager to champion the case for us as a society, I concede the fact that some isn’t the consumer’s fault. Even disposed of rubbish can end up in waterways – a minority of plastic bags and other such litter in the environment has escaped landfill, or the bins that were meant to contain them in the first place. However, we do have to acknowledge the fact that we are a littering nation.

But is plastic bag litter the real issue? This is what many of those who champion for the environment ask when challenging the plastic bag ban. The Environmental Protection Agency reported that plastic bags only account for around 2% of landfill. Other forms of rubbish – cigarette butts, disposable takeaway packaging and other such plastics – make up the majority of rubbish that enters landfill and waterways. Even other materials like Styrofoam, another packaging option, presents a threat to the environment, making their way into drains, waterways and then, into the unlucky animal likely to mistake them for food. The fact is that if we wanted to target plastics that enter the waterways and that do present a real issue, we could go much further than this, by aiming for products and materials that really do challenge the environment.

Admittedly, this is a step in the right direction, which we should appreciate, but it is one that could bring on consequences that could mean that the net gain is really, very minimal. Thus, when the supermarkets try to draw on those heartstrings in the next advertisement you see, just remember that it isn’t quite how they paint it.

Further, will this help pollution?

Considering that plastic bags aren’t the largest contributor to plastic pollution, the effect won’t be that large on overall pollution. Sure, it is going to help animals that are targeted by plastic bags, like the often-called-upon turtle, who mistakes the plastic bag for jellyfish, and thus, devours it for tea, not knowing that it’s demise was hidden within. So that is one large benefit behind the scheme. But if we were to judge this holistically, we could consider this to have minimal effect. As already mentioned, it’s a step in the right direction, but not a large one.


Despite the smallness of the problem, the ban does result in dramatic reductions in single use plastic bag usage. When implemented in an experiment in regional Victoria throughout Coles, Woolworths and IGA, a 79% reduction was noted, while when implemented in Bunnings – the only large retailer in NSW to have a plastic bag ban – there was a reduction of 80% in the use of plastic bags, with a small amount of people choosing to buy the plastic bags. Ireland saw a 90% reduction in the use of the single use bags within 6 months – no doubt due to the large 22c/bag charge – after it introduced the scheme in 2002. And England saw an 85% reduction in single use plastic bag usage when the scheme was implemented in 2015 while Los Angeles saw a massive 94% reduction in their use when consumers where charged for the bags. As such, we can predict large drops in single use plastic bag usage in the future.

But there’s the catch – ‘we can predict large drops in single use plastic bag usage’. Something has to replace those single use plastic bags. Or, many things. You see, single use plastic bags aren’t really single use. The majority of families reuse the bags as bin liners. It is only through this, that the plastic bags end up in landfill.  The new reusable bags aren’t suited to bin lining, meaning that more people are set to buy bin liners – another thin plastic bag of sorts that will just end up in landfill. When South Australia implemented a single use plastic bag ban, 90% of households used the bags to line their bins, and only 15% of households bought bin liners, most likely to supplement the single use bags. After the ban, 80% of households bought bin liners. See the problem? When Coles and Woolworths ban the ‘single use plastic bag’, they are creating a need for more bin liners, which are larger and slightly thicker than the single use plastic bags, meaning that they take longer to degrade. So really, people are going to stop using thinner, smaller and more quickly broken-down bags, and are going to begin using bigger, thicker bin liners – it doesn’t make environmental sense. You heard about the massive drop in single use plastic bag usage in Ireland previously. What you didn’t hear was that their bin liner sales skyrocketed – an increase of 77%. So on top of their previous bin liner usage, they just got 77% more households. Presuming that 15% of households bought bin liners – the same figure as quote for South Australia - we can see 92% of families bought bin liners. That just negated the 90% drop in plastic bag usage. Case Closed.
Better than what? Picture: Kata Carruthers/Facebook
Kata Carruthers, Facebook

Even further, the bags that retailers are selling aren’t even durable. A quick Google search will fill your screen with dissatisfied customers and their broken ‘reusable bags’. These bags very quickly end up in landfill, and landfill is filled not only with the bin liners, but also the ‘reusable’ bags.
Sounds like a pretty average environmental policy to me…

And even if they were durable, people are likely to revert back to their habits once they become accustomed to the 15 cents they fork out per bag. This is what we saw in Ireland – people are used to the tax on plastic bags and now just take it like a GST – people are eventually going to just throw these out, creating more waste, and more damaging waste due to the supposedly stronger composition of these bags, which logically leads to an extended period of time which it takes to break-down. Surely this is worse for the environment…

Why are supermarkets really doing this?

So, if this conclusion can be reached, why are supermarkets banning the single use plastic bag? The answer is simple – it is good business. Why spend $171 million on plastic bags that you are going to give away for free when you could make $71 million selling other bags? It makes business sense, especially if you can put lipstick on the pig, and sell it as environmental policy. Clever, very clever…

Conclusion

The supermarkets have done well to pull the wool (Maybe that’s why it’s called Woolworths?) over the consumer’s eyes. They’ve convinced you they’re cleaning up the environment. And while this may be partially true, the real incentive for these supermarkets is the dollars, and if anything, they’re damaging the environment with an increase in bin liner sales.