Willis's Walkabouts Newsletter 90, April 2017 — The Last Taboo
I think that the most important section is The Last Taboo . But, even if you aren't interested in the main discussion, you might be interested in Personal Reflections which describes a bit of how I got to this point.
In any case, if you read only one thing in this newsletter, I'd suggest A Final Tale at the end of The Last Taboo . You or someone you know will be in a similar situation someday.
The other article I'd particularly like to emphasise is "Why Facts Don't Change Our Minds" in the Democracy section.
There's even an article that could put an extra $25,000 in your pocket, and, for those that knew her, Amelia is back in Australia, performing at the Melbourne Comedy Festival which finishes on 23 April. Catch her if you can.
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Major Trip Update
Rain, rain and more rain — it's wonderful! Exceptional rain in Kakadu, the Kimberley, Pilbara and Central Australia means that this will be the best year for bushwalking that we've seen for a long time.
There have been quite a lot of changes since the last newsletter, so read on and see if something here might interest you.
Three trips remain available. All are definite departures.
- The Green Centre 13-29 April.
I didn't get any takers after the last newsletter, so I made some changes and created a
Super Special Offer — $500.
Special conditions apply. Please don't even think about booking until you've read the trip notes, link above, carefully. The notes were revised and updated on 23 March.
Maximum of six, two places left.
- Kakadu Highlights No. 4: 7-14 May.
We had to cancel the original section two due to insufficient bookings. The new trip notes, link above, went onto the website on 21 March.
- Kimberley Highlights No. 1: 14 May - 1 June.
Definite departure. Three sections, any of which can be done on its own. The original sections 4 & 5 will not run this year. The trip notes, link above, were completely revised on 21 March.
For another view of the trip, have a look at the Kimberley Highlights photo gallery that Richard Lukacz, one of our clients last year posted on his OneDrive.
Special offer 1 — save an airfare. We can provide transport from Darwin to Kununurra at the beginning of the trip at no extra charge. We should be able to provide transport back at the end as well. Please ask if you are interested.
Special offer 2 — save on another trip. Anyone booking section three of this trip can take $200 off the list price of the Litchfield Explorer, link below.
Special offer. We'll leave the 10% advance purchase discount on the last two trips above open for one week after this newsletter comes out.
June - July
The following trips are already definite departures or need only one more booking to become so.
Save money. Besides our normal discounts, we'll leave the 15%, three month advance purchase discount open for one week after this newsletter comes out on all the trips below.
- Litchfield Explorer: 4-10 June.
The original section two won't run this year. The new trip notes, link above, went onto the website on 21 March.
Special offer 1. Anyone booking section three of Kimberley Highlights No. 1 can have free transport from Kununurra to Darwin if they wish to do section one of this trip.
Special offer 2. Save $200. Book section three of Kimberley Highlights No. 1, link above, and take $200 off the list price of this one.
- Karijini National Park: 4-17 June.
Visit one of Australia's most spectacular gorge systems in the Pilbara region of WA. Two sections, either of which can be done on its own.
- Prince Regent: 11 June - 1 July.
In and out by light aircraft and helicopter. I've been dreaming about going back since my last trip there in 1992. It looks like it's finally going to happen.
- Kakadu Circle No. 2: 25 June - 8 July.
Two sections, either of which can be done on its own. Unless we get cancellations, this is now a definite departure.
- Carr Boyd Special: 1-5 July.
This trip was created on behalf of a family of four coming from overseas. We might be able to extend it by a day or two if you wanted a longer trip. Suits people looking for a relatively leisurely pace. Helicopter in and walk out.
See our Facebook page for more info. You'll probably have to scroll down a bit to see it.
- Kakadu Family Walk No. 2: 2-8 July .
If you are interested in this trip, we strongly recommend that you also have a look at our Walking With Children In Kakadu web page.
Unless we get cancellations, this is now a definite departure.
- Bungles - Carr Boyd: 2-15 July.
Special offer 1 — save an airfare. We can provide transport from Kununurra back to Darwin at the end for no extra charge.
Definite departure. This trip was created on behalf of a small group from southern Australia. They have already been joined by others. It includes a helicopter flight to the start of the Carr Boyd section.
Section one is now full. Section two still has three places available.
Special offer 2 — save an extra $100. Book section two on its own and take $100 off the price after you've deducted any of the available discounts.
July - August Onwards
All trips remain available. The following already have bookings.
For a complete list of all our prices, see our regularly updated PDF trip list.
To see all of our current overseas offerings including two new trips to South Africa, go to our Availability and Specials page and scroll down to the overseas section.
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The Last Taboo — A Debate We Have To Have
We're all going to do it someday but talking about death and dying seems to be the last big taboo in our society. Our inability to talk about it leads to an immense amount of unnecessary suffering. This was brought home to me by a New York Times article, First, Sex Ed. Then Death Ed. * It suggests that, "The sooner we start talking about how we die, the better." It's, "the great unmentionable and because we don't talk about it, most of us don't get the kind of death we'd prefer."
That article got me thinking and digging.
What Our Cells Teach Us About a 'Natural' Death * explains how "our biology may offer a challenge to the common wisdom about the artificial extension of life."
For those who want to dig a bit deeper, by far the best and most comprehensive of everything I found was an eight part series in The Conversation. The more I read the more outrageous I found it. Hopefully some things have changed for the better since the articles were written. Sadly, I suspect that most things remain the same.
- Deadly censorship games: keeping a tight lid on the euthanasia debate
"There's plenty of information available on how to kill yourself violently, so why does the Australian government so vigorously censor information on peaceful methods? .... No other government has taken such extreme measures to prevent access to information on peaceful death."
If you read the full article, you might agree with me that the government's stand might be described as 'obscene'.
- End of the care conveyor belt: death in intensive care units
"Around 70% of Australians would like to die at home but over half will eventually die undignified and painful deaths in hospitals. .... one study showed that hospice care combined with the option for active treatment resulted in greater survival and less suffering than for active management alone. The conclusion was, that given the choice, many will opt for hospice care rather than the often cruel and futile use of options such as more chemotherapy.
Almost half of the cost of health care is spent in the last six months of life. This is a huge and increasing burden for our aging society." It also means that many people whose quality of life could be greatly improved continue to suffer because of all the resources wasted on those we prefer to torture rather than allow to die peacefully.
- Caring or curing: the importance of being honest
There is no one size fits all. "Truth comes in different shades. And it is my obligation as a doctor to know my patient well enough to tailor the truth to the individual."
- Death and despair or peace and contentment: why families need to talk about end-of-life options
"Most people in Australian society aren't comfortable discussing their death even though it's becoming a more important topic as the population ages. .... the longer it takes for the family to come to an agreement, the longer the person continues to suffer. It's not what anyone wants to go through. .... start the conversation with your loved ones and your doctor before you get sick. Be sure they know what you would want in the event that something happens in the future. Get to know what your loved ones would want too. While the conversation may be uncomfortable at first, it can save a lot of heartache later on."
- Body or soul: why we donít talk about death and dying
"A decade into the 21st century, a number of people still die unjustifiably delayed, painful, poorly supported and undignified deaths in Australian hospitals and other health-care institutions. .... Hence, the great difficulty in talking about death, in recognising the point at which treatment harms begin to outweigh benefits, and in participating at the end of life in ways that suggest any active and responsible role in death. Because this has been a matter of professional cultural anathema for a significant time, the calls for change have not produced immediate results. .... Despite important progress, cultural forces affecting both patients and doctors continue to prevent us from talking openly about the end of our lives. Much work remains to be done."
This is my small contribution to what needs to be done.
- Planning your endgame: Advance Care Directives
"Many people in the community fear the end stage of life, not because theyíre afraid of dying but because they fear such things as the loss of mental faculties, control and dignity, being a burden on family and not receiving adequate pain relief." The article goes on to give info about how you can pre-plan. Some things may have changed since it was written, but it's a good start.
- A challenge to our leaders — why donít we legalise euthanasia?
"Most people would like a quick and painless death, but unfortunately thatís the exception. Death is more likely to come after a long medical struggle with an incurable illness. .... Public opinion polls on voluntary euthanasia are becoming more frequent and they show that public support for physician-assisted suicide is overwhelming. Over 80% of Australians believe in the right of the terminally or incurably ill to obtain medical assistance to end their lives. .... Current laws condemn people to needless suffering, deny individuals the right to make the most personal of choices and ignore the reality that doctors are already helping people to die."
- A personal account of life with terminal cancer
"Unwilling as he was to say so, he nevertheless told me that one of the pills I was taking would indeed end my life. I would go to sleep and then my heart would stop. .... For that bit of information I am eternally grateful. My abject fear of death ended at that point. The pills gave me choice. I was in control of my life and that would save me from palliative care and people who could keep me alive but in a terrible state. .... politicians, praise be not all, but unhappily most by far, are unwilling to develop policy for physician-assisted death in the face of terminal illness, which is causing great suffering. And most of the physicians I have dealt with are unwilling to talk about it. This is also true of my oncologist. He didn't want to discuss anything about euthanasia. Good Lord, we don't let that happen to our cats and dogs but we allow it with humans.
My loving little dog died in my arms a few years back. Yes, I wept, but he was saved from suffering. Politicians, of any persuasion, fearful of the next election, don't take into account those with terrible, painful, terminal illnesses.
Think about that for a minute. Our laws treat people worse than we treat our pets.
This is not the first time I've touched on this subject. I gave it a mention in Grief, Death and a Lost Connection in Newsletter 64. I came close to dying in a car accident a month later as described in The End of Willis's Walkabouts. That included a link to The Accident and its Aftermath, which, I believe, remains one of the best things I've ever written.
The following year, my nephew disappeared, later found murdered in Mexico.
A Final Tale
I recently came back from a trip to Canberra where I visited a friend who was diagnosed with terminal cancer last September. While he is well aware that he is unlikely to make it to the end of this year, his treatment so far has allowed him to continue a decent quality of life. He has read and helped write this section in the hope that it will help someone else facing a similar situation.
He told me that when he was abruptly given the news, he was profoundly shocked and looked inside himself to see what really mattered to him. Unlike many people who go through periods of anger or denial before reaching acceptance of their fate (the well-known Kübler-Ross model of grief), he found fairly quickly that he was able to accept what had happened. He did all the internet searches he could think of to see what the reality was, and for this particular cancer there is a zero survival rate after just a few years. It therefore took him just a matter of hours before he reached the acceptance stage. However, it has been harder for his wife and daughter, for they not only have to go through the denial and acceptance stage, but in the face of a poor prognosis, they have already had to start grieving for his inevitable death not long away.
Some people seem to become more religious when they know death is approaching. My Canberra friend was and remains a confirmed atheist. He feels that having a structured system of values and belief, almost irrespective of what that belief is, has helped him in a situation like this. After having a happy and relatively fulfilled life, he looks at his remaining time (however limited) as an opportunity to leave happy memories for others as well as to enjoy his remaining time as well as he can.
When I mentioned the topic to a friend in the US, he told me the story of his father's similar diagnosis and final two years. My friend's reaction was to spend as much time as he could with his father over the next two years while his brother's reaction was to deny it until the last possible minute. My American friend finished with "I sort of wonder how my own wife and kids will react when my own death is imminent — assuming I am not hit by lightning, but have some way to know what I will die of and when, which of course we often don't. I hope I will be able to follow the same no-nonsense approach when it is me and not my father who is dying, we should all be so lucky. I think what your friend's experience shows is, when you know you are dying you do focus on what is important, and let bullshit things go. (Too bad it takes a death sentence! How hard would it be to learn to do that say, at age 30?"
I went to Canberra because my friend invited me and a number of people to his birthday party. It was a great night. As was a dinner for a smaller group at his sister's house two days later. In our last chat before I returned to Darwin, he told me that some of the happiest times in his life have been since the diagnosis. I found that hard to believe at the time but I think my American friend hit the nail on the head. "When you know you are dying you do focus on what is important, and let bullshit things go."
It's hard, but the world would be a far better place if we all devoted our lives to the things that are truly important.
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Despite all the recent stories about power blackouts, no one seems to be talking about one of the causes. We are using immense amounts of electricity to air condition places that don't need to be kept as cool as we're keeping them. Read on and you might save yourself a lot of money.
Unfortunately, energy efficiency standards for new buildings seem to require air con, not the wonderful flow of air that keeps my home liveable.
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Democracy means everyone gets to vote. If you want to understand where we are, where we have come from and where we may be going, these three articles are 'must reads'.
Technocracy, Liberal Democracy and the Division of Our Time
• "The idea that expertise ought to guide our political life is at odds with the principle of national self-determination."
• "By default, the republican system has moved from a relationship between the people and their representatives to one between the people, their representatives and the managers. This process has been underway for a long time, since European states created a permanent civil service to do the bidding of their political masters. And since that time, the civil servants have increasingly managed the system Ė and managed their political masters."
• "This question is at the heart of many of our divisions, and is being discussed daily even when people donít realize they are discussing it. Technocrats are struggling with how to perfect the world. Citizens are struggling with how not to lose control over their lives. It is not just that they live different lives. It is that they live in different moral universes."
Nationalism and Liberal Democracy
• "Nationalism — however distorted it might become — is the root of liberal democracy, not only historically, but also morally. The two concepts are intellectually inseparable."
• "A random collection of people without a core set of shared values cannot form a coherent regime, because nothing would hold the regime together or prevent internal chaos."
• "Contemporary tension in liberal democracy is not with the nation, but rather between democracy and liberalism. If people have a right to self-determination, then they have the right to elect leaders with values they prefer or share. The problem is that some people will object to leaders being selected who violate the principles of liberalism."
Why Facts Don't Change Our Minds" New discoveries about the human mind show the limitations of reason.
• "Reason is an adaptation to the hypersocial niche humans have evolved for themselves," Mercier and Sperber write. Habits of mind that seem weird or goofy or just plain dumb from an 'intellectualist' point of view prove shrewd when seen from a social 'interactionist' perspective.
• "Humans, they point out, aren't randomly credulous. Presented with someone else's argument, we're quite adept at spotting the weaknesses. Almost invariably, the positions we're blind about are our own."
• "We've been relying on one another's expertise ever since we figured out how to hunt together, which was probably a key development in our evolutionary history. So well do we collaborate, Sloman and Fernbach argue, that we can hardly tell where our own understanding ends and othersí begins."
• "One implication of the naturalness with which we divide cognitive labor," they write, is that there's "no sharp boundary between one person's ideas and knowledge" and "those of other members" of the group.
• "This borderlessness, or, if you prefer, confusion, is also crucial to what we consider progress. As people invented new tools for new ways of living, they simultaneously created new realms of ignorance; if everyone had insisted on, say, mastering the principles of metalworking before picking up a knife, the Bronze Age wouldn't have amounted to much. When it comes to new technologies, incomplete understanding is empowering."
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I made my first trip to South Africa in 1999. The walks were too good to miss so I led my first Walkabouts trip there in 2001. Including Madagascar, technically not part of Africa, we've averaged at least one trip per year ever since. It's been fascinating to see what's changed — and what hasn't. Here are a few stories I found interesting.
- A Colonial-Era Wound Opens in Namibia *
"More than a century after the genocide of two African ethnic groups, a city that retains strong German ties is divided over the fate of a war memorial."
- High Above, Drones Keep Watchful Eyes on Wildlife in Africa *
"Drones seemed like the perfect anti-poaching tools. But deploying them has been far more difficult than conservationists had hoped."
- South Africa running out of water
Part of the problem is introduced Australian plants.
- Municipal elections were held across South Africa last August. South Africa local elections: ANC loses in capital Pretoria
It wasn't just Pretoria, the ANC lost in Johannesburg and nelson Mandela Bay (Port Elizabeth). The new mayor of Nelson Mandela Bay is a white man elected with black votes. It may take generations, but maybe, just maybe, South Africa really can become a colour-blind society.
- If you'd like to delve into all the detail about the elections, you could spend half an hour or more on the Wikipedia page describing the results.
Bushwalking in South Africa
- Top 5 inspiring wilderness walks
South Africa has its own Wild magazine. This is one article of many about walking in South African parks.
- My personal favourite of the shorter trails is the Harkerville Trail. I've done it four times. It's part of the longer South Africa trip below.
- Wild magazine
This link will take you to the Summer 2017 issue. There are links to previous issues as well.
If you are thinking about a visit that includes some of the parks and are willing to spend a bit of time preparing, I can't think of a better, more informative site.
Willis's Walkabouts in Southern Africa
We currently have two South Africa and one Madagascar trip in our 2017 program. The South Africa ones are new since the last newsletter.
To see all of our current overseas offerings like Japan and New Caledonia, go to our Availability and Specials page and scroll down to the overseas section.
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This is a time of change in Europe. The European economy is so large that what happens there can't help but affect the rest of the world. It doesn't help when other powers have an interest in further destabilisation. If you click only one link in this section, make it the first one.
- Europe: The Process of Change Continues
Read the whole article and discover why it may be Germany which brings down the EU or at least the euro zone.
"The EU is built around a massive exporter, and that exporter is Germany. That makes the EU susceptible to drops in demand for exports, and it also creates a particular kind of political relationship between Germany and the rest of the EU, especially countries that are markets for German goods and those that are in the German supply chain."
- Notes From Europe's Periphery
"Europe's periphery consists of the countries and regions that surround this core: Scandinavia, the British Isles, Iberia, the Balkans and what used to be called Eastern Europe. A strong argument can be made that Italy also should be considered part of the periphery. Italy had been the center of a great Mediterranean empire in the distant past, but it was never part of the Europe that Charlemagne created."
The European Union tried to envelop the periphery and the core into one structure. In theory, it was to be a union of equals, but increasingly it has become a periphery rotating around a core. Within the center, the periphery rotated around the true core — Germany."
- Europe Combats a New Foe of Political Stability: Fake News *
"The rise of sophisticated hacks and a torrent of fake news coincide with angry populist movements across the Continent, and officials are nervous."
- Unpayable debts and an existential EU financial crisis
"If a political upset in France or Italy triggers an existential euro crisis over coming months, citizens from both the eurozone's debtor and creditor countries will discover to their horror what has been done to them."
- France as a Northern and Southern European Power
The country holds a unique position on the Continent.
Sweden Reinstates Conscription, With an Eye on Russia *
"There was a time after the Cold War when the Swedes felt they could drop their defenses. No more." Also worth noting that the fears include cyber war.
As France's Towns Wither, Fears of a Decline in 'Frenchness' *
"France is losing the core of its historic provincial towns — dense hubs of urbanity deep in the countryside where judges judged and Balzac set his novels."
- Putin and Merkel: A Rivalry of History, Distrust and Power *
"Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel now represent the sharply divergent visions clashing in the world. The question is, which one will come out on top?"
- How a Sleepy German Suburb Explains Europeís Rising Far-Right Movements
"In this apparent stronghold of ordinariness, the Alternative for Germany, a far-right populist party, won more than 22 percent of the vote in the 2016 local election — more than any other party."
On A Lighter Note
Paris Turns to Flower-Growing Toilet to Fight Public Urination *
"Paris has a new weapon against what the French call 'les pipis sauvages' or 'wild peeing': a sleek and eco-friendly public toilet. Befitting the country of Matisse, the urinal looks more like a modernist flower box than a receptacle for human waste."
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Our Former Guides — Where Are They Now
Tommo's passing gave me pause to reflect on some of the other great guides who have worked for Willis's Walkabouts over the years. Six are no longer in the land of the living. The ones below are. If you did a trip with us in the earlier years, you might know one or more of them. They are the people who helped make the business what it is today.
- Ron Harris
Ron writes, "Growing up in Sydney in the late fifties would often see me touring around outback NSW and Qld. I have always had a bit of wanderlust, probably from my father's gypsy heritage (not my mothers whose ancestry is Oliver Cromwell's family — we don't talk about that much).
After completing my apprenticeship as a chippie, I spent a couple of years working in SA in places like Coober Pedy and the Nullarbor, then three years in Papua / NG just before their independence; an exciting time to be there.
Back in Aus I then spent a few years as a building contractor in the late sixties for Vesty; at that time they held over twenty cattle stations in Nth Qld, NT and the Kimberley so I got to see lots of undeveloped country. One time I was building at a station on the Buchanan Hwy and the storeman invited me for a run out to a distant stock camp where there were some amazing rock formations. My response was: why would I want to look at a bunch of old rocks. Only later did I find out it was the Bungle Bungles which were almost unknown at the time.
After cyclone Tracy I settled in Darwin and sometimes visited mine sites and stations in the Alligator River area before Kakadu was gazetted. It was from this, I became a very active member of the Darwin Bushwalking Club. My first trip for Russell was with Andrew as guide, and I then led trips for a number of years; my favourite area is the Kimberley. I also did quite a bit of private travelling overseas; with the Karen people in Burma (as it was then), in Indonesia, Japan, Borneo, and Vietnam. My favourite place is the spectacular French Island of Reunion between Mauritius and Madagascar.
I spent two years in East Timor arriving two weeks after the Aussie troops went in, first with an aid organisation and then as a builder and hardware store owner.
I have also had a number of articles included in recreational magazines including a lengthy one on bush survival.
I lost an eye a couple of years ago to a tumour (I know, I have always been a bit one eyed), but still spend a lot of time out bush as I am involved with mineral exploration, so I get to see some interesting areas.
I am in my mid seventies now but still try to walk a few kms each day if I am not out bush prospecting. Digging up those deep yellow rocks can be a struggle."
- Michelle Chirgwin
Michelle led trips for us for 5 or 6 years in the late 1990s. She writes, "Been living in Broome for almost 18 years, am still happily married to Gregg who I met on a Willis's Walkabout and our "babies" are 12 and 14. I'm working back in mental health and with a large Aboriginal client base, often find myself discussing ways to get out camping, sleeping under stars, swimming, fishing or just sitting for good mental health. With their proper upbringing, my kids love camping (well my boy is super keen but my girl requires soft sheets, which is easily arranged since our labrador ripped a 1000 thread count sheet off the line and now it's just the right size for a thermarest.
I used to play a backpacking guitar but now I spend more time at home I'm learning to play the cello. Bushwalking is of course what I dream of when in the office (if only I could do that all the time — and get paid for it ....... uh oh that is what went through my mind about 23 years ago and led to my WW lifestyle) Anyway we are planning a walk somewhere round the Isdell area soon and also Walls of Jerusalem and some of the Western Tiers in Tassy next summer.
- Amelia Hunter
Amelia writes that she "now lives and loves in the land of bone structure, broad shoulders and smouldering eye contact; Berlin. Touring the expansive girth of Europe, UK and Australia finding and funding perverted love, true crime and culinary frights, Amelia is still an unstoppable adventurer.
After working in the Philippines and UK on several different TV projects, making crime shows in Australia and meeting all manner of eclectic folk, she still considers Darwin her true home and is never far from throwing her backpack on and heading deep into the country.
I miss the country the most, my bushwalking and the adventures Russell afforded me and so many others rank as some of the best times I have had. I feel privileged to have seen so much, had access to so many places and been able to share it all with delightful people who like me, feel a deep connection with the special energy, the untouched beauty and the often brutal hardships to achieve it all.
It keeps me grounded and am forever thankful that I walked into that back office 21 years ago and told the half naked, bearded man eating muesli out of an ice cream container that I wanted to work for him.
Willis's Walkabouts has been my northern family and I have loved all the friendships and (lets be honest) strange encounters I had garnered along the way. Bushwalkers are a special breed and I am glad to finally acknowledge that I am one of those annoying, plastic bag scratching, meticulous, finicky pains in the arse who find true happiness in a clean pair of socks and a hidden snap lock bag of dried fruit.
I hope you are all still enjoying the country or the memories of the magnificent times spent out bush waiting for the billy to boil and the sun to set."
Amelia is now appearing at the Melbourne Comedy Festival which finishes on 23 April. Catch her if you can.
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The Australian Monsoon
What is the Australian Monsoon?
I've been battling misconceptions about the Australian monsoon and northern wet season for years. Click the link and you might come to understand it a bit better.
The monsoon often brings cyclones. Tracking the storm: the science behind Tropical Cyclone Debbie gives a good, short explanation of how cyclones form and how the Met Bureau tracks them.
The Warming Arctic
There is no where in the world where global warming is having more obvi0us effects than in the Arctic. Here are two stories highlighting some of what's happening.
Changing rainfall patterns are going to affect us all. Here's an example of what's happening elsewhere. Mexico City, Parched and Sinking, Faces a Water Crisis *
"Climate change is threatening to push a crowded capital toward a breaking point."
Think it doesn't matter to you? Mexico's economy is now the ninth largest in the world, greater than Australia's. What happens there will have flow on effects around the world.
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Aboriginal DNA study reveals 50,000-year story of sacred ties to land
"Analysis of 100 hair samples sheds light on population movement around Australia and depth of links to regions.
The full article is worth a read but here are some highlights. "Aboriginal communities have remained in discrete geographical regions. 'This is unlike people anywhere else in the world and provides compelling support for the remarkable Aboriginal cultural connection to country,'"
"During that period of time, with massive climate changes and massive environmental shifts, you might therefore have expected people to respond by moving all over the place."
"Clearly the environment did change significantly but nevertheless they were able to survive in one area with a fixed set of resources for up to 50,000 years. Nowhere else in world have humans been able to demonstrate an ability to do that. We donít have a great record of living in balance with anything."
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Thoughts On Our Society
Men Without Work
While the following is based on the American experience, it's not just in America. I can see hints of something similar developing in Australia. If we're not careful, we could be paying a high price for generations to come.
American society is breaking down. "Some 10 million American men of prime working age (25 to 54) who have simply dropped out of the workforce, and the great majority of them have not only dropped out of the workforce, they have also dropped out from any commitments or responsibilities to society." Here are two articles and a link to a book to help you get your head around this.
- Angst in America, Part 1: Aimless Men
• "We are witnessing an ominous and growing divergence between three trends that should ordinarily move in tandem: wealth, output, and employment. Depending upon which of these three indicators you choose, America looks to be heading up, down, or more or less nowhere."
• "Recent research by the Japanese government showed that about 30% of single women and 15% of single men aged between 20 and 29 admitted to having fallen in love with a meme or character in a game. .... There is even a slang term, 'moe', for those who fall in love with fictional computer characters, while dating sims allow users to adjust the mood and character of online partners and are aimed at women as much as men. A whole subculture, including hotel rooms where a guest can take their console partner for a romantic break, has been springing up in Japan over the past six or seven years." See For Japan's 'stranded singles', virtual love beats the real thing
• "If our nationís work rate today were back up to its start-of-the-century high, well over 10 million more Americans would currently have paying jobs."
• "Our well-intentioned social programs can create a disincentive for people to work. That's not always the case; sometimes people fall on hard times and need a temporary hand up, and society benefits by making them productive again. We need to do a better job of creating the right incentives and avoiding the wrong ones."
The quotes above give you the gist. The whole article is worth a read.
Men Without Work
• "In the 20 years to 1998, the mortality rate of middle-aged white Americans fell by about 2% a year. But between 1999 and 2013, deaths rose. The reversal was all the more striking because, in Europe, overall middle-age mortality continued to fall at the same 2% pace. By 2013 middle-aged white Americans were dying at twice the rate of similarly aged Swedes of all races. Suicide, drug overdoses and alcohol abuse were to blame. .... deaths of despair are much rarer among blacks and Hispanics, whose incomes have been on similar paths."
See the full article in The Economist. Economic shocks are more likely to be lethal in America
• "Job destruction caused by technology is not a futuristic concern. It is something we have been living with for two generations. A simple linear trend suggests that by mid century about ¼ of men in the US aged between 25 and 54 will not be working at any moment. .... I think this is likely to be a substantial underestimate unless something is done for a number of reasons. .... I would expect that more than one third of all men in the US between 25 and 54 will be out of work at mid-century. Very likely more than half of men will experience at least a year of non-work out of every five."
• "A single variable — having a criminal record —: is a key missing piece in explaining why work rates and LFPRs have collapsed much more dramatically in America than other affluent Western societies over the past two generations.
- Finally, a link to the book.
Men Without Work: America's Invisible Crisis
"The work rate for American males aged twenty-five to fifty-fouróor 'men of prime working age' — was actually slightly lower in 2015 than it had been in 1940: before the War, and at the tail end of the Great Depression."
The Ultimate Dropout
Into the woods: how one man survived alone in the wilderness for 27 years
"At the age of 20, Christopher Knight parked his car on a remote trail in Maine and walked away with only the most basic supplies. He had no plan. His chief motivation was to avoid contact with people. This is his story."
Another Example of American Overkill
Defend Border Privacy!
• "U.S. politicians want to force every single traveller at the airport to hand over their digital devices, unlock them, and provide their social media passwords.
• That's our most intimate moments, from personal messages to loved ones to sensitive financial information and private photos. If we don't speak up now, this will become the norm not just in the U.S., but all over the world.
• The page has a link that allows you to express your opinion. Personally, I suspect that this would have a major negative impact on international tourism to the US.
Fight back! Crossing the Border?
Hereís How to Safeguard Your Data From Searches. *
Political Correctness Gone Mad
No one succeeds 100% of the time. In the real world, we are faced with failure and people who disagree with us. Many American universities are doing their students no favours. Some are fighting back.
- The 12 DUMBEST EVER 'Bias Incidents' On America's College Campuses
I weep for a society that tolerates things like these. Example: "At Colby College, a picturesque little liberal arts college in small-town Maine, the 13-person 'Bias Incident Prevention and Response Team' investigated someone who uttered the phrase 'on the other hand' in 2016. An unidentified student charged that these commonly used words are 'ableist.'"
The Dangerous Safety of College *
Some are fighting back. "I don't want you to be safe, ideologically," he told them. "I donít want you to be safe, emotionally. I want you to be strong. That's different. I'm not going to pave the jungle for you. Put on some boots, and learn how to deal with adversity."
"You are creating a kind of liberalism that the minute it crosses the street into the real world is not just useless, but obnoxious and dangerous," he added. "I want you to be offended every single day on this campus. I want you to be deeply aggrieved and offended and upset, and then to learn how to speak back. Because that is what we need from you."
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Airbnb hosts beware — it's not just Centrelink using robo-debt systems
"State revenue offices are using data matching to identify people who earn income from Airbnb, then sending notices that they may be liable for land tax, even though this remains a legal grey area."
You could be shelling out at least $140 a year you don't have to pay
Quite possibly a bit more. If you have more than one super fund, you're cheating yourself. Quotes below are from a Choice submission to a parliamentary enquiry.
"With our latest research showing consumers are wasting a small fortune paying for duplicate insurance policies. It's time we had protections backed by the regulator to stop the erosion of consumer retirement funds."
"Removing duplicate accounts could increase superannuation balances at retirement by around $25,000 and retirement incomes by up to $1,600 per year."
Some of the things hidden in the fine print might surprise you, especially if you have more than one life insurance policy.
Hands off our cash!
Outrage as government hints it may abolish $100 notes.
Check your credit score: why 1200 is a magic number
The article includes a link to a tool you can use to check your own credit rating.
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Photos, Videos & Just for Fun
- Great Barrier Reef Photo Gallery
- 2017 Underwater Photographer of the Year Results and Winners
"From my own point of view, I have been captivated not only by the winning images but also by the stories behind how those images were achieved. The conception, the planning and the physical effort to achieve a successful result; it is those efforts that we, as judges, pay our respects to by taking out two days to meet up, sit together and look in detail at all the images. It is a mammoth task but one that we all agree is a privilege to be part of."
Peter Rowlands, Chair of the jury 2017
Burrowing Under Luminous Ice to Retrieve Mussels *
Stunning arctic photography and a video link,
Kimberley Coast 2011.
Tracey Dixon, one of the clients on the trip, took these spectacular aerial photos on the flight back to Kununurra at the end of the trip.
Frogs Can Deliver a Real Tongue Lashing
A team of researchers set out to understand why frog tongues are so sticky;
includes an amazing slow motion video.
- 22 Things Scientists Wish They Had Never Said
Example. "While theoretically and technically television may be feasible, commercially and financially I consider it an impossibility, a development of which we need waste little time dreaming." Lee de Forest, triode vacuum tube's inventor, 1926
- It's not only Africa where drones are being used to protect nature. Here's some drone footage from Victoria.
Penguins — BBC. Film maker and writer Terry Jones discovers a colony of penguins, which are unlike any other penguins in the world.
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News About This Newsletter
Restricted websites. The NY Times allows non-subscribers to look at ten free articles each month. I've got more links than that in this newsletter so I've marked them with a red asterisk (*) so that you can choose which are of most interest to you. The Washington Post also has a limit but I'm not sure what the current limit is so I've marked Washington Post articles with a double red asterisk (**).
Next Newsletter — May? June?
As always, I've already got a few things ready. Hopefully, I can get a bit of feedback about some of the things in this newsletter to include in the next one. As I've often said, Suggestions welcome.
Sending the newsletter
While I now send most of the newsletters using MailChimp, I still send about 200 newsletters using a program which is hosted on the same server that hosts our website. (MailChimp Free only allows 2000. The commercial version costs too much for an extra 200 people.) In both cases, the newsletters are sent from email@example.com. This is the contact address on our website. If you would like to continue to receive these newsletters, please include this address in your "friends list" so that it isn't blocked.
For some reason, some servers block the newsletters no matter what you try and do. I send these in small groups from my normal email. It's not a simple problem. If anyone thinks they might have an idea how to overcome the problem, I'd love to hear from you.
Emails sent to firstname.lastname@example.org are currently automatically forwarded to rrwillis at internode.on.net. If you want to send an email to that address, replace the word "at" with the symbol @. I am trying not to put that address any place where it can be harvested by spam bots.
We don't want to add to the mass of email spam. If you don't want our newsletter, please send us an email and let us know. We'll then delete your name from our newsletter list.
Our email address is email@example.com.
Note. Both MailChimp and the other program we use to send some of these newsletters have an automatic delete at the bottom. Clicking that link will delete you from the mailing list on the server but it will not delete you from our main database. One of the programs will not allow the auto delete to send me an email notifying me that a deletion has been made. If you want to be sure that you are removed from all further mailings, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
If you know someone you think would enjoy this newsletter,
please forward it to them. The more people who get it, the more likely it is that I'll be able to run the trips which might interest you.
Best wishes to all.
I hope you enjoy reading the newsletter as much as I enjoyed writing it.
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