Those Fish Belong to ME
During the Christmas break a book I read called "From Edison to Enron", had the following lines in it :
Utilities, of course, were regulated monopolies that avoided competition and the free enterprise system, but Vennard wrapped them in the American flag while he attacked his public power opponents as socialists.
"And who'd want to leave a socialistic U.S.A. to his kids?
A pioneer in polling and public relations, Vennard hired George Gallup to discover phrases and images that would spur Americans to feel positively about private utilities and negatively about public power. "Investor owned' rather than 'privately owned; and disliked 'government owned' rather than 'public power'.
Remind you of what any particular 'News' network has been engaging in?
Or any specific, tactics employed to come up with talking points?
See that was how the arguments were going on back in 1935 around energy, where the government of the time tried to improve the system to become more equitable and serve the American people better.
With 75 years passed since then, all that has happened is the Vennards of today are trained at Fox News studios or interned to right wing radio and the whole 'discover words and images' has become a lucrative business, a highly co-ordinated effort which politicians of all stripes use to try to sway public opinion.
Honesty has taken a back seat over messaging. Manipulation over truth. Fear mongering over making American, Australian citizens feel secure in their own homes, lives and neighborhoods.
My Christmas break
Last Christmas my sister and I drove about 2,000km (1,243 Miles), from Queensland's Gold Coast to Victoria's Lakes Entrance (Australia). On the way down to Lakes Entrance we drove through an area called the La Trobe Valley. This is where I grew up and an area of a state of about 5.5 million people where all the brown coal fired power stations are.
Consisting of several cities, towns and farming communities, it is most famous for its abundant resources of brown coal, which are mined and fed to the local power stations that produce 85% of the electricity for the entire state of Victoria.
It was also a part of the state which suffered terribly during the black Saturday fires back in February of 2009 where 173 people died.
As many as 400 individual fires were recorded on 7 February. Following the events of the 7th of February 2009, that date has since been referred to as Black Saturday.
173 people died as a result of the fires and 414 were injured.
Being from the area, we stopped in at one of my sisters best childhood friends, who is married with a couple of kids, who lives on a rural property just out of town. Her husband, lets call him Jack (not his real name), is an independent fencing contractor and although he is always busy, was able to sit down for a while for a cup of coffee and tell us a bit about the fires in February.
Seems Jack does a lot of fencing work for the forestry plantation groups of the Latrobe Valley as it has a large paper mill in the area as well, and is always driving up around the unsealed dirt roads which access these plantations.
And being a country lad who has always worked on the land, he'd had a lot to do with the volunteer fire brigade and knew his fires. On the day of the February fires, around the 9th Feb 2009, he was tasked with being a fire spotter at the top of one of the mountains in the area.
What he was seeing from the elevated fire lookout he said he had never seen before and it literally 'scared the crap' out of him. He said that he has seen fire balls jump ahead of the front before maybe 1 or 2 km (1 mile) but on this day he said it was much worse, much more intense. The fire would jump 10-15 km (8-10 miles) he said at any time and he would watch as areas not on fire, would suddenly burst into flames. In other words people could be thinking the fire front was far enough away, it looked that way and all the reports said it was, that they had time to move, when from 10km away a fireball would burst into flames around them without warning.
Jack said he watched as the fire would approach homes and they would get so hot before the flames even hit from a wall of radiant heat, they would just explode. That he said he knew there were people in some of these places who just had no hope of surviving.
The fire was intense, so much so that his wife, a very long way from a fire front said she could feel the heat and not see ten meters in front of her face due to the smoke.
The saddest part was, after frantically trying to get through on her mobile to Jack, his wife (lets call her Dianne) said they said their goodbyes to each other as he knew where the fire was and figured he was surrounded and didn't expect to get out of the plantations alive.
Dianne is about 35, Jack 40, their two sons, their boys about 7 and 8.
Going through my mind listening to this horrid story, all I could think was no one should have to go through that at their ages.
This war with our environment, not started by us, not started by mine, Jack and Diane's generation, has to end, because we will not win in the long run.
The Monck' and the Sly old Fox
In January with much fanfare, promotion and coverage by the News Corp owned Australian press, we had a gentleman called Christopher Monckton in Australia on a 13 stop tour, sponsored by a mining conglomerate, pushing the line that the entire climate change issue was a massive fraud.
He has based this conclusion on nothing more than a vivid imagination and a calculation he admitted had been done 'on the back of an envelope', yet was given disproportionate and 'protected species' coverage by our press for someone relatively unknown in Australia. This legitimized his standing in our community resulting in older people turning out in droves to these 'debates'.
I wrote a diary about it here :
Punk'd or Monck'd?
But would like to follow up with a couple of choice quotes straight from the horses mouth, as it were.
Monckton : "Now I know, that in American speak, you have a word for Global Warming, can someone tell me what it is?"
Crowd : "Bullsh!&"
Monckton : "Altogether. Global Warming is..."
Crowd : "Bullsh!&"
Monckton : "Global Warming is..."
Crowd : "Bullsh!&"
Monckton : "That's better"
And yet on 29th January, this very same person said this :
We are going to concede that Carbon Dioxide and other Greenhouse Gases which possess or mimic a dipole moment, will cause warming if you add them to the atmosphere.
We concede also that human kind is adding CO2 to the atmosphere at about the rate that the NOAA figures mention.
So we're not trying to pretend that we're not the cause of the CO2 in the atmosphere increasing, we're not going to try and pretend that that CO2 will cause no warming.
Those Fish Belong to Me
Lakes Entrance is one of those places which people flock to with their kids at Easter and Christmas time. There are at least 4 boat ramps in the immediate vicinity of Lakes Entrance as due to the area being what its name describes, an area with lots of Lakes, water related activities are incredibly popular.
Lakes Entrance is predominantly a fishing and tourism-driven town; the main beach front is a safe harbour for many major commercial fishing and recreational watersport operations.
The Google View
During the non-tourist season the area is what would be known as a fishing village as the protected Lakes are a perfect place to build fish processing facilities and the area off shore is excellent for a multitude of different seafood.
Current Lakes Entrance Fishing Fleet
- The last Danish seine trawl fleet in Australian (17 boats) Deep water board trawlers (5 boats) A shark fishing fleet (6 boats) Estuarine fishermen who fish the Gippsland Lakes (18 boats) A scallop harvesting fleet that also catch squid when in season (30 boats) Rock lobster (3 boats) A fleet of inshore vessels (6 boats) who ply their trade in diverse forms of fishing close to the coast including prawn fishing Bait fishers who supply recreational anglers (9 boats)
Fish landings to the port vary from 5,000 to 9,000 tonnes annually and represent a value to the Victorian community in the order of AU$150 million.
I've tried to find tourism statistics for the period when I was there in December/January 2009/2010, however I cannot locate any. What I will say is that the place was full of families.
We had a fishing boat, a sailing boat and my cousins had a jetski, so we were often on the water. There was a constant stream of boats at all four boat ramps every time we went to put one of the water craft in the water.
These boats were mostly dad and mum (and grandparents) and kids heading out to the lakes with a chiller filled with food and drink, for a bit of fishing. They'd load their boats with fishing rods, nets and in many cases, tyre tubes or water skiing equipment.
Along the entire beach front are also a significant number of jettys where you'd often see Dad taking the kids out in late afternoon, their new fishing rods they got for Christmas in tow, off to learn how to fish. And if not on the jettys or in the water on a boat, right along the sandy beach people would set up little temporary camping spots (not overnight) and be fishing directly in the surf.
So the attraction is that Lakes really is a place where families go to do family things. Together.
Of course it also is a boon for the local businesses along the Esplanade who depend on the two major tourist seasons to look after their families.
But the town also has a fishing industry as mentioned above, and it provides a fair amount of employment, some of it seasonal, but also some which is all year round.
Sitting on my Mothers balcony looking out on the ocean night after night we would see, regular as clockwork, a fishing trawler about an hour or two before dusk each evening, trawling within a short distance of the shoreline with what can only be described as drag nets.
This caught my attention, as I'd walked the shoreline where the boat was trawling on more than one occasion and knew that those families who were trying to catch one or two fish with their kids, frequented these jettys and shore or usually stayed fairly close to shore if in their boats.
So I asked my mother and her husband about this fishing boat.
Apparently in the town there is some sort of processing facility which takes whatever the catch is, processes it and turns it into pet food. The person who owns this trawler I was seeing close to shore every afternoon, owns the factory.
My mother said that he basically has been licensed to do this, however what happens is the shoreline becomes effectively barren the entire coastline so that all of those people coming to town, all of those families wont have much luck catching a thing, as the trawler pretty much cleans up.
On reflection, I asked why he doesn't just give it a rest during the two holiday periods, or move further up or down the coast. I was told the local community has spoken to the guy who owns this boat about it, particularly the people who rely on the tourist trade, and have been met with a wall of resistance. That it is well known in the community that this goes on, but they feel powerless to stop him, and thus he continues these practices.
After pushing a bit more, my mother's husband said this person, because he owns the processing plants and a few boats and employs people, has power in the town and has nothing but disdain for the tourists that come to town. That he had said he was intentionally sending his boats out along the shore line to stop tourists catching anything, because he believes that "those fish belong to me."
As Insull integrated the demands of disparate customers and networked his expanding empire with high voltage transmission lines, he convinced General Electric to build new generating technologies that would replace the size limited, gasoline powered, piston driven engines. In October 1903, General Electric and Chicago Edison opened the Fisk Street Turbine Station, which was powered from water boiled by burning coal and provided a then remarkable 5MW of electricity.
That paragraph above is important. Our entire world economy is heavily dependent on our ability to harness and transform energy so that it does meaningful work. In the case of electricity, the predominant form of harnessing technology is the combustion of fossil fuels, coal number one, in order to heat water, create steam and turn a Turbine Alternator.
It is interesting to note then that it was imagined out of a desire by an individual to move away from one form of fuel which had been plentiful in supply, now used in automobiles and thus expensive, to something, anything else.
It took the imagination and courage of Americans, to think outside the square, to try the impossible, to shift us from one way of doing things to another. General Electric inventing something better than what they currently had.
And so it goes with where our energy sector stands today.
According to the graphic above, world wide we use in total 16 TeraWatts of energy per year. Remaining depletable coal resources are at around 900 TeraWatts. However those resources require us exploding our natural environment, burying and poisoning rivers, and yes, endangering people's lives as has been seen recently with the Massey Coal mine explosion and the Gulf of Mexico Rig.
We should be trying to find a better way to do this like they did in 1903.
There is also another element to this which goes to why I think we've got it wrong and it's time to change things. That story about the man who believes all the fish belong to him, reflects the things our media have convinced many to value. This 'I must get mine' and 'sacrifice the environment', 'prevent other people from getting it before me' is selfishness which has been rationalized in our world. It is not sustainable. It harms more people than it helps. It is sociopathic.
We have just seen it with the American banking industry.
But the part of that story which hurts me the most is not that this person does this. It is that the people in the town know it. They are pissed about it. But because of a media which promotes people who push the 'Global Warming is BS' brainwashing chant, those who would stand up and say, hold on, you're wrong and everything we can see tells us your wrong, good people are cowed into non-action. Even when it is evident that those very same people who control public opinion have, on record, said the very opposite to what they are encouraging the crowd to chant.
So I guess what I'm saying is, I don't subscribe to the belief that we should say nothing when something is evidently hurting other people, or impacting our environment. No matter how powerful or how many radio stations, newspapers and TV talking heads they have backing them up, spinning the narrative.
Because we are all on this planet together and I know, if we wanted to, we are smart enough to find ways for that trawler guy and those tourists to both get the fish they need, possibly with offshore hatcheries. We are smart enough to figure out a way to reduce and eventually eliminate the need to depend on carbon emitting fuels, which the Scientist tell us will simply make those fires which Jack is spotting, and fighting, even worse than they already are.
That we need to begin to bury the concept that 'all those fish belong to me' is an acceptable way to think, to behave.
Because they don't.
They belong to that kid Seven generations from now who just got a fishing rod for Christmas and can't wait for his Dad to come home so he can take them down the beach and teach him how to catch a fish.
It's up to each and everyone one of us to do our bit to make that the reality that he will be living in.
That's my two cents for Earth Day.