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May 8, 2021

We need a pandemic of imaginative change

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At this critical moment in history we need to fire up our imaginations, rather than hosing them down.

Phillip Frazer

Everyone agrees that this virus pandemic has changed everything. Questions must be answered now that will remake everything: do we need office buildings, how do we relate to our neighbours, our pets, and our devices, international travel, coughs and sneezes in public places. Is Daniel Andrews God or Lucifer?

And who should make all the new decisions that will change all our lives forever?

Tumbling wildly inside this avalanche of newness, our first response is to try to limit all this change, sequester the entropy. Like well-trained border collies we try to round up fragments of change that might help: paying nurses and teachers for what they do, training security guards to be useful, and shopping the aisles least travelled in the IGA.

But all the new decisions we must make will spawn new questions, and while we can stop the chain from becoming genuinely exponential with a facemask here and an intensive care unit there, we can’t go back to the time before COVID-19. Like ‘Away’, where we throw our trash, it is an illusion.

At this critical moment in history we have to ditch containment as the prime policy for dealing with change. We need to fire up our imaginations, rather than hosing them down. Throw the border collies a distracting bone and let a whole pound full of dogs out.

Last Saturday, Geraldine Doogue, on Radio National led a discussion on energy policy in the post-COVID era. She and her three guests are experts in politics and climate change. They all agreed that ‘our COVID success’ is due to our governments allowing science to guide us. But really, our relative COVID success is mostly owed to being a small population on a very large island, so closing international transport does most of the required containment.

Geraldine’s progressive thinkers suggested that our politicians could go one step further in containing the disease by putting the scientists in charge of amelioration – and then putting them in charge of the much greater threat of global climate change – wouldn’t that be lovely?

Dreaming of politicians for the people

Yes, but it’s a pipedream. It would require our politicians to switch their allegiance away from the very wealthy corporations and individuals who own and operate them, to an allegiance to the common wealth and the common well-being. And even if some parliamentarians made that unimaginable leap of allegiance, few of them have a good enough grasp of science to understand how to integrate it into socio-economic policies.

In America today the politicos most energetically appealing to any notion of common good are promising to round up all the liberals engaged in sex trafficking children and drinking babies’ blood, and all the scientists inventing vaccines whose only purpose is to further enrich Bill Gates.

Here, our ruling team in Canberra is, awfully, run by fossil fuel merchants and profiteers. (Morrison’s trying to catch up; one of his staffers is married to an avid promoter of the QAnon conspiracy, which is a 13-year-old boy’s dream of a cosmic nightmare wearing red shoes).

So let’s take our imaginations off the leash and reinvent things; like the University of Newcastle researchers who’ve designed a ‘Lego block’ made of material that stores energy as effectively as lithium-ion batteries at about one fiftieth of the cost. Given that most of our politicians are five watt bulbs in 200 watt sockets, let’s invent new ways of generating political energy.

In fact, better ways of doing everything have already been invented. What has kept them from being implemented is that they don’t enrich the rich. Time to tell the rich, we can’t afford you anymore.

Phillip Frazer blogs by a tiny light on a hill at www.coorabellridge.com.

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  1. This pandemic has not changed things much at all, I disagree. We are still after that intangable thing “Jobson Growthe” (who is he?) and we are still knocking down trees and killing koalas and wanting more dams and still digging up the land and using fossel fuels and polluting the sky and heating it up to kill the Great Barrier Reef and still discrimating against the indiginous and wanting them to assimilate to hide their black skin. Our foolishness, silliness and destruction has not changed at all.
    The best thing about the pandemic is that immigration has stopped and by mid-2021 there will be 330,000 less people here in Australia than without the pandemic. Ahh, such more space we are so blessed with that it will slightly relieve our problem of housing them. Ths pandemic is a Godsend for the environment.

  2. MGA blocks cannot store energy as effectively as Lithium batteries.

    Firstly they store heat. To convert that heat to electricity they are used to produce steam to run a turbine. Steam turbines convert heat to mechanical energy at an efficiency of about fifty percent.There are also losses in the boiler and alternator as well as getting the heat into the blocks. The full cycle efficiency will be far below the efficiency of a Lithium Battery which is around ninety percent in a full cycle.

    Secondly steam turbines require pressurised steam at a temperature of several hundred degrees, so the MGA blocks would need to be even hotter before giving up their heat to the steam. No amount of insulation is going to stop substantial heat leakage at those temperatures.

    They claim that Lithium batteries are short term storage and the MGA blocks are medium term in the range of six to eight hours. Lithium batteries can hold charge efficiently for much longer than six to eight hours. When they make claims that are clearly nonsense it calls into question the entire plausibility.

    The story is custom built to attract funding from our fossil fuel obsessed governments and I have no doubt it would be a waste of money to invest in it for the purpose of refitting coal fired power stations. It could well find application as storage in solar thermal applications but molten metal technology is nothing new in that industry.

    They seem to be making a big deal out of the trivial “block” concept.

  3. Whoa , Phillip !
    This is dangerous territory; it’s a bit rich to expect our government to prioritise the well-being and “common-wealth” of the population. The British set up this slave colony to provide cheap produce to England ,which we have done for two hundred years or until they decided to join the E U, since then the plan has been to sell everything to the highest bidder, while being fabulously well paid for this betrayal, the main game for our politicians is to maximise the rorting of perks of office, while jockeying for access to lucrative foreign “consulting” positions where their inside knowledge can most effectively ‘monetised’ in the style demonstrated so effectively by Tony Abbot’s new position.
    I find the idea that all this can be reversed and the ‘common good ‘ should become the objective, in the same vein as the disastrous ill-fated attempt of Whitlam’s to serve the people, is implausible and the public are not ready for social improvement nor humanitarian goals. No, we see the rise of contrarians and those that will not be forced to act rationally, and a prime-minister demanding open borders and “Dollars and Death”.
    Geraldine’s Pollyanna-ish delusion that science has been employed in ‘Scotty from marketing’s’ response is as disappointing, as is her loss of critical journalistic skills.


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