Welcome to the web site of JJ Sheahan
March 8, 2020

Below is a link to a 2-page Word document with links to sites & articles I have found useful and trustworthy in seeking information about Climate Change. I will probably add to this list.


March 8, 2020

The link below takes you to a 6-page Word document replete with the main (as far as I can tell) arguments against Anthropogenic Global Warming, or Climate Change. For each, I have supplied a list of references to counter-arguments. It is created out of hours of following up points raised in ‘discussion’ of the issue/s. Cheers.


February 29, 2020

This is a fragment from a larger piece I have been playing with for some time. McKellar’s wonderful poem, ‘My Country’, is part of my cultural baggage: here was a poem that celebrated what others shook their heads at.

I love this many-island country drifting slowly in the planet,

This Great South Land is part of me and I of it – my Home I call it:

Its red-soiled scrubs like heartbeats, constant, quiet, relentless;

Its ancient forests from Gondwana crown the eastern mountain spine;

The inland sea now dust and salt beneath the vast blue skies

That ache my eyes and stretch my mind, shrinking self-importance.

This place for me is like my breath, my heart’s beat, the stillness in my centre. 


February 19, 2020


My personal history with smoking bears some similarities with the current environmental debate.

I started young, when it was the cool and adult thing to do, and smokes were cheap. By the time I was in the early stages of being addicted, it was just easier to go along with it, even though there were rogue doctors warning about the health impacts.

Then the news was more and more of the link between cigarettes and lung cancer. And emphysema. Still, it was a bit controversial as there were doctors and scientists who disputed the link. There was – and still it is the case, as far as I know – no scientifically proven, causal link between cigarettes and cancer: why does smoking cigarettes result in cancers? It was all statistical.

So it was easy to push the risks to the back of my mind. And giving the smokes up was a very, very difficult thing to do. Finally, there were always the young-man’s rationalisations of last resort: what’s wrong with living a little dangerously, who wants to live forever and it won’t happen to me anyway.

It became more difficult to ignore after I was married and I was looking fatherthood in the eye. The whole passive smoking thing was beginning to emerge as an issue – banning smoking for bars! – and I was going to have dependents, so it became more imperative to do something about it.

Lots of attempts with varying degrees of success and failure, but I am glad I started kicking it when I was 24. Since, I have been an intermittent smoker – cigars, a packet when I go north, etc. In my 30s, though I couldn’t deny I felt better when I was off them, it was sometimes easier to just have a few. The ads had said that the body starts recovering as soon as I stopped, so I took the risk.

A couple of years back, smoking hurt my lungs immediately. Finally, there was an instant feedback from the body: pain is a great motivator! Now, it is easier to say No, though still not easy.

The benefits are multiple, some unexpected: so much money saved; breath doesn’t stink like an ashtray so others appreciate that a bit; don’t have to brave the cold and wet when I want a smoke in winter, no longer driven by the cravings, and I am still here. I haven’t avoided all the negatives: I use puffers for my breathing these days, a constant cough and I still hanker for them. Plus, I may yet develop a cancer related to smoking.

What has this to do the environment?

– Gradual transition of awareness and acceptance of the impacts of the activity

– Slow changes to social behaviour as the impacts became more accepted as real

– Fierce debates over the science

– Slow, difficult process in need of high motivation

– Entrenched vested interests mounting fierce opposition

– Backlash from smokers (mostly) faced with demands on them to make changes

– Costs of changes

A big difference is that there was no social deadline with the smoking. Sure, it would probably kill individuals over time, not to mention all the butts poisoning the waterways, but society as a whole wasn’t threatened. With the environment, there is a visible endpoint if no action or insufficient action is taken.

January 28, 2020

If you wish to have a quick peek at Garnaut’s projections and reasoning, I have put together my notes from my reading of the book. You can find them here: Super-power by R Garnaut_notes

I stress that these are my notes, constructed from underlined passages in the text to serve a number of purposes. One is to try to provide a reasonably neutral picture of Garnaut’s arguments. Perhaps this might create interest sufficient to nudge some folk to reading the whole thing. Another purpose is to serve me as a source of suitable quotations for future commentary or essays. (Ever the academic!) And finally, it is a great way to internalise material, to review it and to see potential flaws. (For instance, there is little to no mention of wages.)

This is a book by an economist-type, written for people who can read and think. Above all, I find it a book of challenge and hope. This potential future is bright; the challenge is of leadership, individual and collective.

PS An opinion article in the ABC News by Ian Verrender, a financial writer, provides some more up-to-date figures on money movements at the larger end of town: ‘The future of coal has already been decided in board rooms around the world’ (28 Jan 2020) It supports Garnaut’s general thesis.



January 24, 2020

This is a revolutionary book.
Ross Garnaut was commissioned by the (Australian) state governments and the Federal Opposition in 2007 to review and report on the climate change challenges facing Australia. He delivered it in 2008 and reviewed it in 2011. This book is based on a series of lectures in 2019 delivered at University of Melbourne.
This man has been looking at the challenges of climate change and transitioning economies in the face of it for years, intensely, and working at a national policy level. And he is still optimistic that we can rise to the occasion and save future Australians from the worst effects of climate change. It means being involved in the global effort, seriously. It will require visionary leadership and courage at all levels of society. He sees massive opportunities for rural and regional Australians into the future in a zero-emissions world.
The alternative, which he spends little time over, is catastrophic disruption economically, environmentally, socially, with national security imperilled.
Garnaut comes to the subject as a person who gives weight to the science of climate change and who sees opportunities if change is implemented soon enough. It is more than a matter of sheer survival: he sees the possibility of Australia becoming a global leader with a de-carboinised economy, and prospering.
Some parts of this book bored me to tears – I am no economist – but he writes in such a way that I could follow his reasoning and his narration of the historical circumstances all the same. Quite an achievement, really.
I wish everyone with an interest in this subject would read this book. I don’t know enough to see the holes in his arguments if there are any, so I look forward to the public discussion.

January 14, 2020

Here comes Sooty & The Coalface Crew

Their thoughts and prayers and a handshake for you,

A promise of money and their hope you’ll renew.

They’re visiting disasters for the evening news

Where drought is a nightmare, the fires are worse.

Is there more could be done? His answer’s perverse:

Our responses will be practical, like how shall we live

With disasters unavoidable, there’s nothing to forgive.

Be reassured that there’s nothing we can do

To save you from a future a lot like the news:

Shameless, not Blameless.

PS It’s doggerel, yes, poetry, no … and I am angry, yes.

January 12, 2020
Here are some angry jokes I made up. Laughter is not guaranteed. 🙂
Q: What is your response to the air quality issues in NSW?
A: How good are the sunsets!
Q: Do you consider the current evacuation centres to be sufficient for the needs of the communities?
A: How good are beaches!
Q: What do you have to say to the rising tide of post-traumatic mental health issues that some experts predict following this fire season?
A: How good are holidays!
Q: What’s your comment on the timing of the NSW Emergency Services Minister’s holiday?
A: How good are holidays in times of crisis.
Q: What’s your comment on the timing of your holiday to Hawaii?
A: I am sorry my absence caused some people anxiety.
January is chockers with overseas trips and appointments for me, and I had promised my two young children a holiday this summer. My kids come first in my life. Equal first, with God of course, and the Australian people. That’s a three-way tie for first place. How good are ties!
So, we went on a little secret trip overseas. The Facebook posts of me drinking with a couple of fans sort of cruelled the secrecy, and I regret any offence caused to anyone by my shirt, but it was in Hawaii after all. My girls rolled their eyes, but a daggy-dad has to do what has to be done.
Q: Do you think the emergency services are sufficiently resourced for the intensity of the current situation?
A: How good are volunteers!
Q: Do you have a message for the volunteers?
A: How good is the community spirit!
Q: What about the thousands sheltering on beaches from encircling fires, or tensely enduring amazing lines of crawling traffic under smoke-laden skies, hoping they will escape the danger before the road is cut again and they have to improvise shelter in an unfamiliar landscape?
A: How good are holidays, even when they are cut short! I know what it is like. I understand. Seriously I do. It’s awful. But remember, there is always a silver lining – think of all the new relationships & adventures. We Aussies have had our holidays disrupted before and we’ll make it through this one because we are amazing people.


January 11, 2020

14 Dec 2019

CANUTE has been appearing in some media with increasing frequency this summer, eg,

‘We should be spending our efforts adapting to climate change, not be like King Canute.’

The reference to Canute might be to the common understanding of King Canute being so filled with hubris that he went down to the beach with his courtiers and tried to demonstrate his power by commanding the incoming tide to come no further.

The argument above seems to be that we cannot expect to successfully oppose natural forces.

Implicit in the analogy is:

  1. that climate change is as natural and inexorable as the tide.
  2. that human activities have little impact on the current changes in climate, either to increase or decrease its momentum or scope.

Implications include:

  1. that people who propose actions to ameliorate the impacts of the current and predicted changes in climate are deluded by their own sense of importance.

Some notes:

  1. The earliest story of King Canute’s encounter with the tide on the beach with his courtiers (twelfth century) was to demonstrate to the flatterers that he was just an ordinary person, really, and no-one the tide would obey. That, God is the only one with the sort of power his sycophants claimed for their king.
  2. The twisting of the tale and its moral came much, much later.
  3. Weather changes daily; climate changes much more slowly. That is until there is a massive event like the asteroid that crashed into what is now the Gulf of Mexico in the Cretaceous-Paleogene period or the volcanic eruptions and subsequent outflow of lava known as the Siberian Traps in the Permian-Triassic period. Repeatedly the public has been warned that individual events are difficult to attribute to ‘climate change’, by scientists and politicians alike. Climate change, as I understand the term in its popular sense, can be detected in trends rather than single events.

January 11, 2020

MIKE O’CONNOR 7/1/20, Courier Mail, ‘Hate for hate’s sake is embarrassing us all’

Personally, I agree with some of what O’Connor writes. His final paragraph contains observations worth dwelling upon: that hatred consumes those who feel and express it. I agree that people seem emboldened these days to type into the ether what they might never say in person.

An analogy for calumny (the sin of spreading lies about others) from my school days: take a feather-filled pillow up on a high peak and empty it into a strong wind. How hard will it be to recapture every single feather? Just so it is impossible to retract the effect of what we say publicly. In these days of social media, the analogy is even more pertinent.

But – and this is the point of the rest of this piece – I read most of the article with dismay. Here is why:


The HEADLINE: Obscure. Is it suggesting that some forms of hate are OK? Or that ‘hate for hate’s sake’ is a low-grade, less reprehensible attitude because it is only ‘embarrassing? Try deleting words 2, 3 & 4 and see what difference it makes.

The GRAPHIC: image of fire burning at the base of a blackened gumtree with blackened, smoky bush scene behind. It is a low impact scene. Compared to many of the posts I have seen this fire season, it is bland. The low impact quality of the photo supports the main thrust of the opinion piece.


  1. ‘The vitriol and abuse’ – Nowhere does O’Connor make a specific reference to illuminate what he means by this. I don’t do Twitter and most have been fairly reasonable on the Facebook posts I have read. (For that I am grateful.) I imagine there is a spectrum in the commentary. What O’Connor has done here is, firstly, include all readers by not actually calling out any specific action because we can all apply our own definitions of ‘vitriol and abuse’ and, secondly, include all manner of dissent/criticism in the scope of the article.

For instance, which of these does O’Connor mean to refer to in this article:

–  the television captures of the two folk abusing Morrison in Cobargo?

– the anger of the fire captain of Nelligen having ‘lost’ 7 houses in the town?

– opinion pieces on television, in papers and on blogs/ articles/ cartoons/ online posts which express a range of emotions from frustration to fury at the stance of the Coalition on climate change?

– expressions of dismay from senior NSW Liberal people at the handling of ADF involvement in evacuations and other forms of support?

The lack of specificity is an issue which underlies much of the article, encouraging the reader to accept that O’Connor is taking aim at all manner of criticism of Morrison, or at least to fill in the gaps with their own, personal targets.

  1. Rhetorical red flags: the following are time honoured, highly effective expressions designed to persuade: ‘Any intelligent person’, ‘ It is obvious’, ‘It is obvious for anyone with eyes to see’, ‘They would also have to admit’. In these sentences, all in the early pars in the article, are the arguments supportive of the PM. In terms of the rhetoric used to persuade an audience, these expressions are intended to include the reader, to gather the audience in closer to the position of the writer.

The arguments/evidence produced in favour of the PM are:

  1. ‘Morrison, Prime Minister for a little over seven months, isn’t responsible for the fires’ I agree – Morrison did not go out into the bush to light matches. The statement avoids the criticism that Morrison is the latest in a succession of leaders, ministers and members who have belittled, demeaned and scoffed at the warnings of the scientists. He is also the pointy end of the government, the leader, the public face of the government’s policy.
  2. ‘the states have failed miserably in their duty of care to control forest fuel loads.’ ‘National parks administered by the states have become powder kegs’ ‘watch the state premiers try to absolve themselves’ Translates to: the fires have nothing to do with the federal government because the fuel loads are the responsibility of the states. Much has been written and spoken recently by people involved in fire fighting about the subject of fuel loads.
  3. ‘reasonably astute politician’ The argument in this par is not one that Morrison put forward – or did I miss it? If so, sorry. He is a father who promised his kids a holiday. This ignores the criticisms around the handling of his absence by himself and others.
  4. The direction of the piece swivels around ‘None of this matters to those who have succumbed to the mentality of the lynch mob.’ What follows is harsh criticism of people from whom O’Connor has distanced himself: them, the ones who’ve lost their minds and manners. His criticism of their actions and words seems to come hard for him because it causes him shame and sadness: these were people he seems to have respected previously: ‘These are my fellow Australians’, ‘People I had judged as being reasonably sane and possessed of a sense of fairness’, ‘people I thought possessed of some character reveal a truly ugly side to their natures that has hitherto been kept hidden’

This has the effect of creating sympathy in the audience for his opinion because it is costing him personally to write what he does. He positions himself as being rational and different to the abusers: ‘I struggle to recognise them’, ‘Shamed and saddened to see people I thought possessed of’.

  1. There is a jarring note in this set up: if O’Connor’s shame and sadness is real, then he once considered the perpetrators he is aiming at as being worthy of respect, as being sane, as having character – these people: ‘These are the same people who would howl with disapproval if similar hate speech was directed towards gays or Muslims’ , those ‘still in denial of the election of a conservative christian (sic) to the nation’s highest office’, ‘who strike like cobras’ and Labor voters and/or sympathisers. The language and tone employed in these pars I would suggest is aggressive and righteously judgemental.

The recurring use of the rhetorical question is a classic persuasive technique. When a person asks a question with no idea of the answer, there is openness, vulnerability and curiosity. When the questioner presumes to know the answer anyway, or indeed presumes the answer to be so obvious as to be not worth saying, it is an exercise in power, in control. There are four such questions, each framing one group of the accused.

On another level, these questions allow O’Connor to make a point without having to justify or explain much. For him, they are givens.

  1. The inclusion of Bette Midler, ‘a fading American singer’ who is more usually ‘ranting at Donald Trump’ seems obtuse. One of the effects is to group these hating Aussies with an American entertainer of dubious quality. There is an old trick of tainting by association; this looks like it.
  2. Here is some moral high ground: ‘absence of respect for the office of the PM’. I, too, have watched with dismay through my adult years as the tone of discussion has slowly descended. I respectfully ask Mike O’Connor if he expressed similar sentiments when Alan Jones said, repeatedly, that Julia Gillard should be bundled up in a chaff bag and dumped at sea? Does he accept that anyone directing hatred at anyone else is worthy of censure? Does he accept that people who lie, twist the truth and otherwise manipulate people, ideas and resources for their own ends should be called out? Is it the manner of the calling out that offends O’Connor rather than the substance of the criticism?

For, given the employment of language, sometimes laden with connotations, and persuasive techniques evident in this piece, I wonder if his intention was to roast people for whom he has no time whilst attempting to appear rational and magnanimous … if he wishes to portray his position as Right and those who dissent as Wrong.

I am only a retired English teacher who knows little of political matters, but I had hoped for honesty, intelligence and civility, if not respect, as well as passion in our social discourse. If this were the end of a lesson in language, I would be asking the class not to believe me but to look for themselves, think for themselves and seek beyond the surface. With integrity.