When I was really little I wanted to be a florist. When I got a bit older, I wanted to be a plant taxonomist and so I studied botany at university. My father suggested I do some entomology while there … to make myself employable. So I became an entomologist and worked as one for almost 20 years. At some point there were no more jobs for entomologist, and by accident I became the environmental manager for the Queensland sugar industry. The was my introduction to the dark side of environmentalism, specifically through the WWF ‘Save the Reef’ campaign.
I tried to escape the politics and get back into the science through long range weather forecasting. But unless you genuflect to the activists … well they make it near impossible to do proper science in any of the climate and also biologically-related disciplines.
I’m now planning to give film making a go. I get outside, I get to observe and I get to record.
Libertarians oppose arbitrary power. I much prefer appeals to reason, logic and evidence – rather than authority. I am certainly not a conservative. I am perhaps an old-style feminist. I appreciate that the culture in which I was raised did not give women, for example, the right to vote. We had to fight for it.
I have read a lot of C.G. Jung, who has written extensively on the need for individuals to resist the collective forces of society. I have also been influenced by the writings of John Ralston Saul who argues that our democracy is only superficially based on the individual. He makes the case that we live at a time where legitimacy increasingly lies with special interest groups, and that decisions are made through constant negotiation between these groups. This is also a strong theme in the work of Robert Reich, particularly his book ‘Saving capitalism for the many not the few’.
I was born in Darwin in the Northern Territory of Australia. My parents were farmers at Coomalie Creek near the uranium mine of Rum Jungle. They grew tomatoes and pasture seed, ran buffaloes and cattle. My earliest memories are of wildflowers emerging from ground still charred-black from a bushfire, and swimming with indigenous friends in the billabong just down from our mud-brick home.
I started school at Batchelor, but by second grade Mum and Dad had sold-up, and we left the Northern Territory in a Holden station wagon towing a caravan. After nearly a year of travelling with many months spent in beach front caravan parks, our family moved into a home nestled in the Conondale ranges overlooking the headwaters of the Mary River. That house is now the community centre for the alternative lifestyle village of Crystal Waters. After Conondale, I was sent to Clayfield College, a boarding school in Brisbane, and during school holidays visited my parents in diverse locations mostly overseas. I was later moved to Brisbane Girls’ Grammar school where I completed high school, and then went on to complete a science degree at the University of Queensland majoring in Botany and Entomology.
While at University I had a variety of jobs from interpreter for the Asian Development Bank in Indonesia to ‘bug checker’ on the Darling Downs in Australia. On graduation I was employeed by the Alan Fletcher Research Station, and within a couple of years was running their field station in Toliara in south west Madagascar. The success of the biological control project that I worked on in Madagascar is documented in the book entitled ‘Reclaiming lost provinces: A century of weed biological control in Queensland’ (Queensland Dept of Natural Resources and Mines, 2005).
During the 1990s, I published in Australian and international scientific journals and completed a PhD. In 1997 I took up a position as Environmental Manager for the Queensland sugar industry. It was in this position that I became interested in environmental campaigns and, in particular, anomalies between fact and perception regarding the health of coastal river systems and the Great Barrier Reef.
In 2003, I signed a three year contract with the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) to work on Murray River issues. My monograph ‘Myth and the Murray: Measuring the Real State of the River Environment’ is of enduring relevance, and was published within the first six months of that appointment.
I was subsequently the spokesperson for the Myth and the Murray Group, which campaigned in 2011 against the 7.6 kms of sea dyke currently dividing the Murray River’s estuary. I am concerned that both sides of Australian politics have policies that prevent the restoration of this estuary. Furthermore, rather than report with integrity on this issue, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) either denies the very existence of the sea dykes, or reports on them with bias and agenda.
After a period living in the Blue Mountains, just to the west of Sydney, I moved to Yeppoon in central Queensland in about 2009, and began working with John Abbot then at Central Queensland University. We initially worked on Great Barrier Reef issues, and after the flooding of Brisbane in 2011 began developing a technique for medium-term rainfall forecasting using artificial neural networks (ANNs), a form of artificial intelligence/machine learning.
During 2002-2003, I documented my concerns with the World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF) ‘Save the Reef Campaign’ including the perverse influence of this campaign on public policy in a long review entitled ‘WWF Says Jump, Governments Ask How High” and short piece for the IPA Review in March 2003 entitled, ‘Deceit in the Name of Conservation’.
During 2003-2006, I presented evidence suggesting that some within the Land and Water program at CSIRO had misled the Australian public on Murray River salinity issues. This work featured in a Channel 9 TV documentary with Ross Coulthard ‘Australia’s Salinity Crisis: What Crisis’.
My initial interest in global warming was driven by a desire to better understand water issues, and in particular the likely affect of increasing levels of carbon dioxide on Australian rainfall. After attending the ‘2008 International Conference on Climate Change’ in New York I was interviewed by Michael Duffy from Australia’s ABC Radio National and discussed the last 10 years of temperature data and also output from NASA Aqua Satellite (Climate Change, Michael Duffy, March 17, 2008). This interview was the focus of an opinion piece by Christopher Pearson in The Australian (Climate facts to warm to, Christopher Pearson, March 22, 2008), which was subsequently picked up by Fox News (Cooling Effect, Brit Hume, March 24, 2008).
It is interesting how quickly the theory of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) has come to dominate climate science, despite its evident lack of practical utility, and in particular the absence of any measurable improvement in the skill of rainfall and snowfall forecasts. This, despite an extraordinary investment in General Circulation Models (GCMs), which are a form of simulation modeling. I’m continually reminded of the Thomas Kuhn quote: “As in manufacture so in science, retooling is an extravagance to be reserved for the occasion that demands it.” Perhaps this time has arrived, thus my interest in ANNs.