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Search Results for: climate change a lay persons dilemma

Day to Day Politics. Climate Change: A lay person’s dilemma

Wednesday 9 December.

1 The Paris Climate talks are now in their third week. The coverage of this most important and crucial event in the Australian media has been simply sickening. Only the ABC, The Guardian and Fairfax have given it the treatment it so earnestly deserves. Murdoch has given it little coverage.

In a piece for THE AIMN I said this:

“How does the layperson like me reach a view on such subjects without any formal training? It’s simple. There are many areas (medicine for example) that I don’t have a deep analytical grasp. Like many others I listen to experts, apply common sense, observation and what my life experience tells me. It is not difficult to understand a theory. Generally people assume that a theory (for example the theory of evolution) is something unproven”.

In the scientific world, a theory is something that has evolved to fit known facts.

Conversely, those who deny Climate Change and the overwhelming scientific consensus seek to justify their belief by attaching themselves to a minority of science deniers with obscure qualifications or worse, to right-wing shock jocks and journalists with no scientific training what so ever. These people have no way of evaluating the volume of data produced by the various scientific institutions. One of the most outspoken deniers (Andrew Bolt) has, in recent times, been found guilty of deceptive lying in that he defamed some white skinned aboriginals. The Press Council also made him correct misleading figures in one of his articles. One has to wonder how many he has told when writing about his favourite topic climate change.

So for the layperson the choice is to listen to the science or default to the opinions of the Bolts of this world.

And in Paris the latest news is that the world’s biggest climate polluters rallied around a stronger target for limiting warming on Monday, saying they were open to the 1.5C goal endorsed by the most vulnerable countries.

In the final push to a climate agreement, the US, Canada, China and the European Union declared they were now on board with demands from African countries to adopt an even more ambitious goal to limit warming.

Now they are taking it seriously. Julie Bishop must be wetting herself.

2 Guardian Australia has two years to prove itself commercially viable according to a headline in Tuesday’s Australian. Now that a bit of a shocker coming from a newspaper that loses 25 million annually. If fact the only reason it is still in business is because of the power it yields. It has very little public readership but is the go to source for every conservative commentator in the country. It will die with Murdoch.

An observation.

‘It is a pity that fact in journalism cannot be made compulsory and decency legislated’.

3 Joe Hockey has said if he did not retire from the Parliament he would have been focused on “getting even with people” who contributed to his downfall as treasurer. What a shocking indictment of politics in general and his party in particular.

4 Donald Trump wants to close the United States borders to Muslims.

“Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people who believe only in Jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life,” the billionaire real estate developer said.

I wonder if that should also apply to adults entering schools. Maybe tattoos next.

5 The Vladimir Putin Shirtfront won the Insiders Matt Price award in 2014. This year it was given to Christopher Pyne for his ‘I’m a fixer’ comment. There were some excellent entries. Abbott got the most nominations with his onion eating (without tears) act. Knighthoods, Good government starts today and in my opinion he should have been on a winner when he outrageously said that his ministers were performing fantastically well and it was all due to his magnificent leadership. Oh I forgot one. ‘Good government starts today’ Others nominated were Hockey’s ‘Just get a job. ’Scott Morrison for ‘There’s a boom up there’ Bronwyn Bishop ‘It was within the guidelines’ Then there were mentions of ministers with large packages, even snakes. There were many others but for the breadth of its audacity I’ll stick with my choice.

6 Now here is a conspiracy theory to end them all. Tony Abbott was toppled by Malcolm Turnbull, not because of gross incompetence. According to climate sceptic Christopher Monckton it was the UN who brought down Tony Abbott because of his anti-global warming views.

Wrong of course but he tells the truth about Abbott’s denialism.

MY THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

“At some time in the human narrative…..in our history, man declared himself superior to women. It must have been an accident, or at least an act of gross stupidity. But that’s men for you”.

PS. Early warning. Day to Day in Politics will be taking a break over the Christmas and New Year Periods. I will however be posting some of my short stories, poetry and other things of interest.

 

Climate Change: “Still A Lay Person’s Dilemma”

climate

Climate change is real

Author’s comment:

This is a repost of an article I wrote some time ago. I am posting it again because I am firmly convinced that the conservatives in this country have such little respect for science that (if they win power) they are about to do great damage to our country. They really do believe that climate change is some sort of green left-wing conspiracy to replace communism. Last Wednesday when it was announced that Australian scientists re affirmed the data I happened to be watching “The Drum” on the ABC. Peter Reith was a guest and whilst the other panelists acknowledge the science unequivocally, Reith thought it was all nonsense. This is common with conservatives. Tony Abbott when he talks on the subject will agree with the science and then use that “but” word. It frightens me. I further believe they have little intention of doing anything about the problem simple because they don’t believe it exists. They plan to repeal the governments legislation (even though its working) and close the Department of Climate Change and the Clean Energy Fund together with other health and environment bureaucracies. And their answer is to plant a few trees. All I can say is:

“In terms of the environment, I wonder what price the people of tomorrow will pay for the stupidity of today”.

Climate Science “A Layperson’s Dilemma”

During the last federal election campaign I tuned onto the ‘7.30 Report’, the night Kerry O’Brien interviewed Tony Abbott about the Coalition’s ‘Broadband Policy’. During the interview, Abbott who was totally out of his depth appealed to O’Brien not to ask questions of a technological nature because he simply did not understand it. As a voter, I was appalled that anyone with ambitions to become Prime Minister should know so little about his own policy. (Mind you, he could not introduce his party’s economic policy either, but that is another matter)

What occurred to me on reflection was that if Abbott knew so little about the science of the internet, how could he have developed such an insightful knowledge of climate science as to be able to dismiss it as crap? This in turn prompted me to question my own comprehension.

I had to admit that although I followed the debate rigorously and considered myself well-informed. I in fact like many others knew little of the science itself. Frankly, I have enough trouble with the pop up toaster.

Ask me about literature, art, political and religious philosophy, music, sport and I can handle myself adequately but science no. Ask me to explain how an atom is split, how carbon dating works, how science takes us to space, advances in medical science, how a mobile phone system works, DNA, genetics or electricity is produced then I would be hard pressed to explain. In fact, I could not and the reader will understand I have only minutely touched on some branches of science.

So as a layperson, where does this leave me? Whom do I believe? Well for me it is a no brainer. I come down on the side of science. In the last few years, I have under gone a number of operations. I have had a heart attack and bowel cancer. When confronted with these issues never once (when consulting with surgeons) did I question the diagnosis I accepted that scientific research had given my doctors the knowledge to perform whatever procedure was necessary.

Therefore, it goes that I cannot explain how many things function or occur. I simply know that science through reasoned, rational enquiry, evaluation, observation and testing proves that they do.

For the life of me, I cannot understand people who accept science in fact and use it every day somehow become brain-dead when it comes to climate science. However, lay people like me who believe in the existence of climate change cannot honestly claim to know the veracity of the science for ourselves but are happy to delegate this task to climate scientists. Laypeople simply do not have the knowledge to adjudicate on the issue.

On the other hand those who deny the overwhelming scientific consensus seek to justify their belief by attaching themselves to a minority of science skeptics with obscure qualifications or worse to right-wing shock jocks and journalists with no scientific training what so ever. These people (like you and me) have no way of evaluating the volume of data produced by the various scientific institutions. One of the most outspoken skeptics (Andrew Bolt) has recently been found guilty of deceptive lying in that he defamed some white skinned aboriginals. One has to wonder how many he has told when writing about his favourite topic climate change.

If I do not support the 95% of scientists, every major scientific institution and the research that is constantly peer evaluated I am obliged to accept the alternative. That is that I should take seriously the likes of Andrew Bolt (a journalist), Alan Jones (I’m not sure how you would describe his contribution to society), Lord Monckton (a discredited something who was once a lobbyist for the tobacco companies), Nick Minchin and Tony Abbott (both politicians). In fact, Minchin is on the record as saying that climate change is a left-wing conspiracy to replace communism. None of the aforementioned people has a background or expertise in climate science.

Now that’s not to say that they should not have a view and that view should not be considered as should any laypersons if they are of that ilk. But surely, we must respect the science otherwise; you put into question all science.

As to which way is the best to tackle the problem in Australia this is more open for the layperson to investigate. In this country, we have two propositions. One is to tax the major companies (this is now up and running and proving to be effective) responsible for the pollution with a carbon tax and use part of the tax to compensate households and business for increased charges. A market approach would be normally supported by conservative governments and was liberal policy prior to Tony Abbott being elected opposition leader.

The other is a direct action policy (as proposed by the conservatives) where taxpayer’s funds are given (repeat “are given”) to the polluters to clean up the mess they have created without any guarantees they will do so. In all my research, this method has no credence among professionals. Indeed, Abbott has not produced one economist in support of direct action. Treasury has qualitative evidence to suggest his plan will cost twice as much as they have committed. It is a shame, indeed sad to see shadow minister Greg Hunt who wrote his university thesis (with honours) in support of a carbon tax now trying to defend something he obviously does not believe.

In conclusion, for me as a layperson it seems logical to support the evidence the scientists have produced. I think all the people of this earth and our planet deserve the benefit of any doubt.

Alternatively, when science discovers a cure for cancer do I just say crap?

FOOTNOTE:

Australia in fact produces 1.4 of the world’s emissions and people therefore argue that whatever we do to reduce it will have little or no effect. All the countries combined that produce less than 1.5 per cent (including England) actually total one-third of world emissions so it follows that if we and the other smaller emitters do something to reduce them we will be having an effect on a third of the problem and that is a large contribution.

It is to be hoped that in this election year journalists will start to question the opposition leader (in detail) about how his alternative policy will work. Then the public can judge if it will perform as well as the Government is doing.

He has stated that the election will be a referendum on the carbon tax. If he intends dismantling the government policy then he needs to say how it will be done, and in detail.

He also needs to be asked that if after spending $11 billion of taxpayers money over three years and he cannot reduce emissions by 5%. What is Plan B and how much will it cost?

On an issue of this importance the public deserve some answers.

 

Day to Day Politics: Frydenberg’s another Hunt.

Thursday 9 March 2017

Tony Abbott came to power on 18 September 2013 and served as PM until 15 September 2015. The two things that stood out to me were firstly,when he appointed Malcolm Turnbull as Communications Minister, he wanted him to destroy the internet and secondly that he would repeal Labor’s ‘Carbon Tax’. He thought the internet was to access pornography and that Climate Change was a socialist plot to replace communism. Despite his luddite mind the internet survived, albeit a second-rate version.

The Carbon Tax did go and three and a half years later the decision can best be summed up with this comment in “The state of the environment Report 2016” tabled in parliament on Tuesday:

The government has no national plan to protect the environment in the years to 2050.”

An observation.

”In terms of the environment I wonder what price the people of tomorrow will pay for the stupidity of today”

What a bloody disgrace this government is. Josh Frydenberg, The Minister for the Department of  “I couldn’t care less’’ tried to jump the gun by writing a column for the Guardian. In it he said the Coalition will “use this report to continue the good work” the government is doing in environmental policy. Frankly the man needs a manager. He’s been handling himself too long.

The report is commissioned by the government every 5 years and is written by independent experts. They say that Climate Change is beyond debate and that it will cause enormous damage in the future. Climate change is now irreversible.

Freydenberg was out and about doing what his predecessor Greg Hunt did for year after year, creating the illusion they were doing something whilst doing nothing. Telling lies, in other words. The tide has turned and people are now taking in the catastrophic damage that climate change will do to future generations. That a government can just continue to pay lip service to the science is beyond belief.

I suppose I have never come to grips with the fact that supposedly intelligent men can be so dismissive of the science.

An observation.

“How can one man hold the future of the planet in his hand while the remaining leaders kowtow to him?”

In the same year that Abbott came to power I wrote an essay titled “Climate Change. A Lay person’s dilemma”. Here are a few paragraphs:

For the life of me, I cannot understand people who accept science in fact and use it every day somehow become brain-dead when it comes to climate science.  However, lay people like me who believe in the existence of climate change cannot honestly claim to know the veracity of the science for ourselves but are happy to delegate this task to climate scientists. Laypeople simply do not have the knowledge to adjudicate on the issue.

On the other hand the, those who deny the overwhelming scientific consensus seek to justify their belief by attaching themselves to a minority of  science sceptics with obscure qualifications or worse to right-wing shock jocks and journalists with no scientific training what so ever. These people (like you and me) have no way of evaluating the volume of data produced by the various scientific institutions. One of the most outspoken sceptics (Andrew Bolt) has recently been found guilty of deceptive lying in that he defamed some white skinned aboriginals. One has to wonder how many he has told when writing about his favourite topic climate change.

If I do not support the 95% of scientists, every major scientific institution and the research that is constantly peer evaluated I am obliged to accept the alternative. That is that I should take seriously the likes of Andrew Bolt, (A journalist) Alan Jones, (I’m not sure how you would describe his contribution to society) Lord Monckton (A discredited something who was once a lobbyist for the tobacco companies) Nick Minchin and Tony Abbott. (Both politicians). In fact, Minchin is on the record as saying that climate change is a left-wing conspiracy to replace communism. None of the aforementioned people has a background or expertise in climate science.

Now that’s not to say that they should not have a view and that view should not be considered as should any laypersons if they are of that ilk. But surely, we must respect the science otherwise; you put into question all science.”

When a government is so out of step with science, public expectations and what we call common sense, we need in our democracy some sort of trigger that overrides the normal decision-making process and gives the public a greater say. Some sort of people’s referendum after a suitable petition.

On this day in 2016 I wrote the following:

4 Meanwhile in the US. ‘Only in the US,’ Donald Trump, in scenes reminiscent of a Hitler rally, asked, no demanded, that thousands of people at a rally swear an oath of allegiance. And they did. It was a scene that people of my vintage thought we might never experience again.

‘I do solemnly swear that I, no matter how I feel, no matter what the conditions, if there are hurricanes or whatever, will vote on or before the 12th for Donald J Trump for president.’

5 After last week’s embarrassing debacle over Negative Gearing you might have thought that The Australian might leave the chill of those waters behind for a while. But no, yesterday’s headline read.

‘Labor’s crackdown on negative gearing ‘a threat to small business’

6 Peter Costello has warned against changes to Negative Gearing, Superannuation, and Capital Gains Tax. In fact he has urged Scott Morrison to maintain the generously immoral superannuation and tax arrangements of his tenure for the rich and privileged.

On the evidence thus far the Government never had a reform policy in the first place. They just needed something to talk about. Something they are good at.

7 I think I will stop here. I’m becoming very depressed of late about the way in which we are governed. The disrespect that we are treated with. The incompetence. Government for self-abounds. There is a stench about it that is contributing to the way I feel. I wrote last week that this mob has degrees from the world’s finest learning institutions dripping from the walls of their parliamentary offices but all the learning seems unsuitable for good governance. The problem is that conservative ideology and practicable common sense just don’t mix.

I’m not sure that I want to read ‘Road to Ruin’ but I probably will. What seems to give the book integrity and is compelling about Niki Savva’s writing is the number of sources who have gone on the record.

My thought for the day.

“A commitment to social justice demands the transformation of social structures as well as our hearts and minds.”

 

Day to Day Politics: I thought we had moved on from ratbag conspiracy theorists like him.

Friday 19 August 2016

Climate Science has always been somewhat of a layperson’s dilemma. Monday night’s Q&A programme yet again demonstrated that there are still conspiracy nutter mentalities who gain prominence by being controversially stupid.

When the debate turned to Climate Change even renowned physicist Brian Cox was dumbfounded by One Nation senator-elect Malcolm Roberts’ arguments. Roberts suggested that the figures presented by Cox were manipulated by NASA and that it was all essentially a lot of lies. The audience laughed. How are we so blindly stupid that we elect these people.

Why he was even given a seat on the panel is beyond me. Even more so is why Greg Hunt was allowed to lie about the effectiveness of the Coalition’s Direct Action policy is also beyond me.

But all that aside how does the layperson comprehend it all.

During the 2000 federal election campaign I tuned onto the ‘7.30 Report’, the night Kerry O’Brien interviewed Tony Abbott about the coalitions ‘Broadband Policy’. During the interview, Abbott who was totally out of his depth appealed to O’Brien not to ask questions of a technological nature because he simply did not understand it. As a voter, I was appalled that anyone with ambitions at the time to become Prime Minister should know so little about his own policy. (Mind you, at the time he could not introduce his party’s economic policy either, but that is another matter).

What occurred to me on reflection was that if Abbott knew so little about the science of the internet, how could he have developed such an insightful knowledge of climate science as to be able to dismiss it as crap? This in turn prompted me to question my own comprehension.

I had to admit that although I followed the debate rigorously and considered myself well-informed. I in fact like many others knew little of the science itself. Frankly, I have enough trouble with the pop up toaster.

Ask me about literature, art, political and religious philosophy, music, sport and I can handle myself adequately but science no. Ask me to explain how an atom is split, how carbon dating works, how science takes us to space, advances in medical science, how a mobile telephony phone system works, DNA, genetics or electricity is produced then I would be hard pressed to explain. In fact, I could not and the reader will understand I have only minutely touched on some branches of science.

So as a layperson, where does this leave me? Whom do I believe? Well for me it is a no brainer. I come down on the side of science. In the last few years, I have under gone a number of operations. I have had a heart attack and bowel cancer. When confronted with these issues never once (when consulting with surgeons) did I question the diagnosis I accepted that scientific research had given my doctors the knowledge to perform whatever procedure was necessary.

Therefore, it goes that I cannot explain how many things function or occur. I simply know that science through reasoned, rational enquiry, evaluation and testing proves that they do.

For the life of me, I cannot understand people who accept science’’ in fact’’ and use it every day somehow become brain-dead when it comes to climate science.

However, lay people like me who believe in the existence of climate change cannot honestly claim to know the veracity of the science for ourselves but are happy to delegate this task to climate scientists. Laypeople simply do not have the knowledge to adjudicate on the issue.

On the other hand the, those who deny the overwhelming scientific consensus seek to justify their belief by attaching themselves to a minority of  science sceptics with obscure qualifications or worse to right-wing shock jocks and journalists with no scientific training what so ever. These people (like you and me) have no way of evaluating the volume of data produced by the various scientific institutions. One of the most outspoken sceptics (Andrew Bolt) has been found guilty of deceptive lying in that he defamed some white skinned aboriginals.

One has to wonder how many he has told when writing about his favourite topic climate change.

If I do not support the 95% of scientists, every major scientific institution and the research that is constantly peer evaluated I am obliged to accept the alternative. That is that I should take seriously the likes of Andrew Bolt (a journalist) Alan Jones, (I’m not sure how you would describe his contribution to society) Lord Monckton (a discredited something who was once a lobbyist for the tobacco companies), Nick Minchin and Tony Abbott (both politicians) or new kid on the block Malcolm Roberts. In fact, Minchin is on the record as saying that climate change is a left-wing conspiracy to replace communism. None of the aforementioned people has a background or expertise in climate science.

Now that’s not to say that they should not have a view and that that view should not be considered as should any laypersons if they are of that ilk. But surely, we must respect the science otherwise; you put into question all science.

As to which way is the best to tackle the problem in Australia this is more open for the layperson to investigate. In this country, we have two propositions. One is an emissions trading scheme.

The other is a direct action policy where taxpayer’s funds are given (repeat “are given”) to the polluters to clean up the mess they have created without any guarantees they will do so. In all my research, this method has no credence among professionals. Indeed, Greg Hunt has not produced one economist in support of direct action. Before he became Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull wrote angrily about how the scheme would be a costly disaster.  Treasury has qualitative evidence to suggest his plan will cost twice as much as they have committed. It is a shame, indeed sad to see shadow minister Greg Hunt who wrote his university thesis (with honors) in support of a carbon tax trying to defend Direct action.

In conclusion, for me as a layperson it seems logical to support the evidence the scientists have produced. I think all the people of this earth and our planet deserve the benefit of any doubt.

Alternatively, when science discovers a cure for cancer do I just say “crap”?

Australia in fact produces 1.4 of the world’s emissions and people therefore argue that whatever we do to reduce them will have little or no effect. All the countries combined that produce less than 1.5 per cent (including Great Brittan) actually total one third of world emissions so it follows that if we and the other smaller emitters do something to reduce them we will be having an effect on a third of the problem and that is a large contribution.

My thought for the day.

“We all incur a cost for the upkeep of our health. Why then should we not be liable for the cost of a healthy planet”.

 

An Archaic Revival: Julian Moran on Refugio Altiplano and Ayahuasca

“The Archaic Revival is a clarion call to recover our birthright, however uncomfortable that may make us. It is a call to realize that life lived in the absence of the psychedelic experience upon which primordial shamanism is based is life trivialized, life denied, life enslaved to the ego and its fear of dissolution in the mysterious matrix of feeling that is all around us. It is in the Archaic Revival that our transcendence of the historical dilemma actually lies.”

― Terence McKennaFood of the Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge

Ayahuasca.

It’s a word that remains unfamiliar to most, shrouded in mystery and the Victorian notion of primitive; unknown, dangerous, demonic. Treatment of the substance in mainstream media is sparse and almost uniformly cautionary, with articles largely made up of reports of deaths in connection with the shamans who administer the mixture. It is referred to as a “drug”, a word which conjures up the forms of junkies, droopy eyed no-hopers, perverts and freaks.

Outside of the forms of media littered with advertisements for Roombas, facelifts and designer brands however, there is a different story being told, one that hearkens back to the prehistory of our species, a tale of realms unimaginable, of the journeys of heroes through the dark nights of their souls, of healing body and mind. It is a story of the native people of the Amazon, their history, their memes, their way of knowing.

Ayahuasca is a chemical mixture, a brew of sorts, made from the combination of the vine Banisteriopsis Caapi and the leaves of the Chacruna plant. It is a synthesis of Mono-Amine Oxidase Inhibitors, found in the bark of the Caapi vine, and N,N, Dimethyl-tryptamine, or DMT, a molecule found endogenously in the biochemistry of most living things and a naturally occuring substance in the human body.

It is the reaction between the MAOI from the Caapi vine, and the DMT in the Chacruna plant that produces Ayahuasca. The MAOIs alter the functioning of the body to prevent the liver and stomach from immediately breaking down the DMT, allowing it time to cross the blood-brain barrier, and also extending the duration of the DMT to several hours.

What is fascinating about this mixture is that out of the thousands of individual species of flora that occupy each square kilometre of the Amazon rainforest, pre-literate tribesmen, the same people the mainstream consider to be “savages” (although you can be sure the nomenclature will be more politically correct), managed to isolate these two complementary plants while avoiding the countless toxic and inactive species that populate the area.

These tribesmen and women have a rich oral history and tradition surrounding the use of psychoactive plants in the form of shamanism, a practice which is believed by many eminent scholars to be the soil from which all modern religion has sprung. The shamans speak of the spirit of the vine, Mother Ayahuasca, as a healing force, an almost Gaian mind of sorts concerned with an image of mankind as a co-partner with nature. They tell stories of group-mind experiences, of feeling oneself as a jaguar slinking through the forest, of strange oozing matter that when sung into being can reflect the contents of mind.

If all this sounds a little too far out for your tastes, try another metaphor. We can look at shamanism as the first attempt at psychology made by sentient people. What we may be looking at here are not necessarily phenomena of teleportation or telekinesis in the physical sense, but rather psychic phenomena in the sense that these experiences may be indicative of processes of the human nervous system and brain. The gods and demons referred to by the medicine men of the Amazonian basin may be archetypal psychological processes given form, representations of anger, lust, love, joy and so on, experienced visually and sensorily in addition to the usual emotional impact.

The catalyst for these bizarre states of consciousness experienced by those who take Ayahuasca is the neurotransmitter DMT, which as previously mentioned is produced naturally by the human body.

For those unfamiliar with the effects of DMT, it is a short acting psychedelic (from the Greek, “psyche”, mind, and “delic”, to manifest) that produces an experience of unity between self and cosmos. The basic sensation of “self” and “other” is replaced by a unity, or more aptly, a non-duality. One feels as if they are lifted up out of the everyday world of sensory experience and into spaces crawling with geometric forms, patterns of intricate Paisley arabesques, fluorescent and iridescent and shifting. Many people report experiences of contact with beings, entities, or minds that inhabit these spaces, the most notable example being Terence McKenna’s self transforming machine elves.

As strange as all that may sound, it shares similarity of structure with what we traditionally call the “mystical” experience, the experience spoken of by our most cherished religious figures such as Gautama Buddha, Christ and Krishna. More recently, men like Alan Watts, Ram Dass (formerly Richard Alpert) and Eckhart Tolle have given us accounts of this way of experiencing oneself that seem to correlate almost perfectly to the psychedelic experience.

What we seem to have in the form of Ayahuasca is a key of sorts to unlock the doors of perception, to allow ourselves to feel as our saints and gurus have without decades of meditative practice or the study of esoteric tomes in some dusty cult library. It appears to be a microscope through which we can examine the content of the human mind, the processes of the psyche, and the nature of our relationship between what we consider to be ourselves and what we consider to be other.

The question is, if so, so what?

Here to help me answer this burning query is Julian Moran, who runs, with his wife Angela, the Refugio Altiplano healing centre just outside of Iquitos, Peru.


Hi Julian, good to have you with us, could you tell us a little about yourself, your background and how you came to be involved in working with ayahuasca?  

I studied Anthropology at the University of Western Australia.

There was one unit called Psychological Anthropology which investigated different cultures and their use of substances. I was fascinated to read about American indians and peyote, and ayahuasca in South America. This lead to finding Terence McKenna and his work, and Food of the Gods really consolidated my interest, however at the time I was young, and had my own debilitating problems so a trip to South America simply wasn’t an option.

My interest in plant medicines never really ceased though. I started working with magic mushrooms, and reading everything I could on entheogenic practices around the world. This led to an interest in the potentiality for entheogens as the catalyst for evolution, as per McKenna’s ‘Stoned Ape Theory’, and then, for the resolution of my own problems and my personal evolution. I was also fascinated in the role that entheogens may have played in early religion.

After knowing about ayahuasca for 10 years, I was finally pushed by my then fiancee to take the journey. I had the money and the time on account of a redundancy, and no longer had any real excuses not to go. The calling had been there for many many years. I finally contacted Refugio Altiplano, and was relieved when Scott Petersen returned my email, advised me he could accommodate me, and that a bilingual secretary would collect me from the airport.

From the moment I committed to the trip, things started changing.

I started having very vivid dreams, and I genuinely felt as thought I had initiated some kind of ‘sequence’ of sorts. This ultimately made more sense once I arrived for my 12 nights, which was to include 8 ceremonies with the ayahuasca. This was in September 2013. During a ceremony in October 2013, I had a vision of a project relating to ayahuasca, that I felt drawn to pursue. I returned to Perth, in Western Australia, and I did so.

The result was the enlisting of two producers to help develop a TV show on the topic of psychedelic medicines. I went back to work for 6 months, and then the project necessitated a trip back to Peru. I went on a Jungle Tour with Peter Gorman, and as I was already in Iquitos I decided to return to the Refugio for 6 nights. It was during this stay that I came in to the awareness that it was very important that I return to manage the business; it simply would not have survived otherwise.

From this point onwards, it was really a game of chess. I needed my now-wife to want to move to Peru, and I had to get the trust of the owner.

Thankfully, Angela had already wanted to travel to Peru for her own independent experience, so I simply encouraged her. The owner was thankful for the approach and the offer of help, so discussions progressed seamlessly. I started managing the reservations and updated the website, and before too long we were on the ground. By this point, I was very close to the staff and had built good relationships with them. They were supportive of me, and have been receptive to my management of the business.

So for those of us who are unfamiliar with the concept of psychedelic medicine, what is it that the medicines do and what drew you to this area of healing over any other?

The term ‘psychedelic medicine’ implies that the healing potential contained within the psychedelic experience is one of ‘medical’ value. Of course, historically, the stipulation that psychedelics are ‘medicine’ was not one that needed to be made, as this was common knowledge throughout a large expanse of human history and has been lost to our cultures only in the last two millennia.

Users of ‘psychedelics’ have for a long time understood them to be medicinal in nature, however this is in vast contrast with the popular consensus relating to the term ‘psychedelics’. Essentially, what we are talking about when we speak of a psychedelic is a substance that produces a psychedelic, hallucinogenic, or ‘entheogenic’ effect within the user which has the potential to be ‘medicinal’. Our usage of the term ‘medicinal’ means that they are better off having had the experience, as it may contribute to their ongoing health and wellbeing.

The truth is, the states of mind that are accessible via ayahuasca are to a certain degree accessible via extensive meditation or yoga or fasting or other natural means. The reality however, is that ayahuasca is extremely fast, efficient and effective, in producing states that can otherwise take decades to generate. I don’t consider this to be a shortcut, but I do believe the plant medicine is available to us for this very reason, and that it exists to speed up our psychological and social evolution.

I am drawn to plant medicine as a result of the extensive healing that I personally received relating to depression, grief and alcoholism, as well as the changes I see in others on a regular basis. I applaud those who attempt to resolve their issues by solely natural means, but would encourage them to consider plant medicine as equally natural. The preference here is in the safe avoidance of pharmaceutical medicines, which seem to address the symptoms of illness rather than the underlying causes.

In a similar vein to Terence McKenna’s Botanical Dimensions project, it seems you’re conserving psycho- and physio-active plants at a garden at the retreat. Could you tell us a little about this project?

The previous owner and Head Shaman at Refugio Altiplano was as a Healer and Herbalist. In constructing the center, he created a botanical garden with over three hundred and fifty medicinal plants. The garden remains today, and includes many plants that are used in mixtures offered to guests in addition to the ayahuasca treatment. The ayahuasca, even at low doses, increases the patients’ receptiveness to healing modalities and the medicinal qualities of specific plants. As we continue today with the work that was started in 1996, it is our intention to maintain, improve, and expand our botanical garden over time.

Is the ayahuasca more commonly used as a singular experience or as an ongoing treatment?

Throughout the world and certainly in the Peruvian city of Iquitos, it is possible to experience ayahausca on a singular basis in the form of an isolated ceremony.

At Refugio Altiplano, we feel it is far more effective for ayahuasca to be used as part of a ‘program’. We have a three-night minimum stay which includes two ceremonies, however the vast majority of our guests join us for a twelve day retreat, which includes seven ayahuasca ceremonies. This allows for optimum reception of the medicine, and enough space and down time for the integration of the experience.

As there is a percentage of people who approach the medicine with certain levels of subconscious resistance, it can take some time for them to ‘break-through’ in to the healing space. It is for this reason that we consider this work to be part of a ‘process’, rather than one-off experience. Similarly, our approach is holistic, incorporating shamanism, natural medicine and ayahuasca in a healthy natural jungle environment. It is this combination that allows our programs to consistently produce positive results in our guests.

What kind of safety precautions are necessary to work with the medicine?

There are four areas that need to be observed when working with ayahuasca;

  1.     The shaman should be reputable, operate with the highest level of integrity, and be trusted to have the patients’ best interests at heart.

  2.     The brew should be authentic and absent of any dangerous admixtures. It should be dosed responsibly.

  3.     The ceremony should be supervised and attended by sober support staff in the case of emergency.

  4.     The participant should be absent of any medical condition or taking any medication that is known to conflict with ayahuasca.

Providing these four criteria are met, the participant will be safe. The decision to take ayahuasca and introduce this medicine in to one’s life is a deeply personal decision, and not one that should be taken lightly. In order to avoid any psychological difficulty resulting from the changes in perception that may occur while under the influence of ayahuasca, it is recommended to be aware of the potential implications to your life and embrace it with a high level of maturity and openness.

Do you find the dosage administered is relative to the subject in terms of body weight, physical fitness and psychological stability?

There does not appear to be any relationship between an individual’s tolerance of ayahuasca and their body weight, fitness, metabolism or psychological strength. It is for this reason that we start all guests on an ‘introductory dose’, regardless of their experience with other psychedelic substances. This is another reason why we encourage people to work with us over the course of several ceremonies, so their optimal dose range can be determined safely and cautiously.

I have witnessed those who approach the medicine with high levels of resistance to experience blockage and some difficult in penetration, however this is extremely subjective. It is often somewhat amusing how little ayahuasca a physically large person requires in order to have profound experiences. It is also worth noting, that even with the consistency of the medicine ensured, an individual may experience very different effects from one night to the other – including those that are more or less powerful, and in some cases devoid of ‘visions’.

Have you had to contend with adverse psychological reactions to the medicine, i.e. freak outs/bad trips, and if so how did you go about it?

It is not uncommon for people to have difficult experiences with ayahuasca, however these same experiences are often later reflected on as being the most important and most beneficial to the patient. Ayahuasca brings the sub-conscious to the forefront, which allows repressed memories, trauma and emotions to be dealt with. It is this exact mechanism that makes ayahuasca an effective modality for healing. These experiences are not what I would call ‘bad trips’, which is a term negatively associated with the psychedelic sub-culture of the 60’s and 70’s. A ‘bad trip’ can be on the whole avoided by observing tried and true strategies relating to set (state of mind) and setting. I am also of the belief that the ritualistic and ceremonial format of a traditional ayahuasca ceremony instills a sense of sanctity or sacredness that can in itself calm the patient and make them feel more at ease.

Ayahuasca is not necessarily going to be comfortable; in fact many people have expressed that it is the discomfort itself that allows for healing to occur. Having said that, a qualified shaman will have dealt with most circumstances likely to occur within the scope of an individual’s experience, and are equipped to help them through it. Feelings of being overwhelmed are not uncommon at certain stages of the experience, but they are essentially nothing to be afraid of, or deterred by.

We ensure our guests feel safe and secure while in our care, and it is through that elimination of any unnecessary fear that allows them to surrender to the experience, and essentially stop resisting.

Could you describe some of the outstanding positive experiences you’ve seen unfold at the centre?

I have seen people with clinical depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, addiction and eating disorders leave the center healthy and without suffering or reliance on pharmaceutical drugs. The center itself has a historical reputation for dealing with extensive physical illness, including cancer and Parkinson’s, and I look forward to witnessing the resolution of these issues myself, however my personal experience has been in the realm of mental illness and some digestive an immune system conditions.

Ayahuasca is a gateway to healing for a wide range of mental and emotional, psychological, physical and spiritual conditions; it seems as if there is really no limit on what can be accomplished within this treatment. That said, the healing itself depends greatly on the dedication and the intent of the individual and the consistency of the medicine experience. Despite the temptation to describe ayahuasca as a ‘cure’, I would not.

It facilitates healing but it is a unique and subjective experience. It is an incredibly powerful tool for healing, self-discovery and essentially unleashing the ‘shaman within’.

Do you think psychedelic medicine can offer anything that traditional Western medicine can’t?

Ayahuasca produces an altered state of consciousness.

This non-ordinary state is often the source of information, understanding, and awareness for an individual that can help them resolve their own problems. Western medicine does not acknowledge these sorts of states as being useful, nor do they recognise an individual’s relationship with their soul or self as being relevant to healing.

The alliance of Western therapy and ayahuasca treatment could potentially be a powerful combination in the resolution of a wide range of personal and societal health problems. I look forward to a future whereby the integration of these presently polarised perspectives are free to be used in conjunction with one another. Current research, as well as extensive anecdotal evidence suggests that once a patient commences ayahuasca treatment, their reliance on pharmaceutical drugs in the future will diminish. To me this is a very clear indicator that our present symptom-diagnosis-prescription paradigm is not solely the most effective or broad ranging form of treatment available.

Ayahuasca is renowned for allowing an individual to address the root cause of a problem, not just the physical, mental and behavioural manifestations of it.

Ayahuasca seems to dissolve the hard and fast division between subject and object, self and other. Do you think this experience of feeling or sensing that “you” are, at a fundamental level, not separate from your environment is lacking in the West, and if so, in what way?

I believe our basic ideas about who we are and how we should live in the West have encouraged a sense of separation from ourselves and our environment, and that we as a people have reinforced this sentiment over the course of many years through our schooling, our language and our authorities.

Many people feel lost, because they don’t feel that they know who they truly are. This disconnection from their higher-selves is often a source of discontentment, and may contribute to the problems that they ultimately seek to resolve via tools such as ayahuasca.

I suspect that a population that is in-tune with themselves, and in-sync­ with their environment, would be entirely problematic for societies that derive financial security from the exploitation of natural resources. Having worked in mining and resources for many years, I am aware that this sort of dialogue simply does not exist, and could not exist within the framework of what they are trying to achieve commercially.

Themes commonly experienced with ayahuasca include universal oneness, connectedness, and unity with all things. While these ideas are reminiscent of ancient religious teachings, they have lost footing in our urbanised and fast paced modern life. The current political, economic, and ecological climate reflects policies and expression of separatism, and a demarcation from the notion of unity.

What kind of an effect does ayahuasca have on a community?

Ayahuasca has the potential to help individuals resolve their personal problems, and become more positive and productive members of society. The collective impact of a population of happier, healthier and more adjusted individuals is immeasurable.

However, there are certainly a range of impacts in communities such as Iquitos, where ayahuasca has had both positive and negative impacts on the local economy, employment and tourism. It presents a wide range of challenges, and as it is an ancient practice that is not regulated; there are two schools of thought as to whether this is a good thing or not. Certainly any unchecked influx of commerce in to an area can create problems – as we have seen with scam shaman and charlatans.

How do you think our society would look if ayahuasca was legal and as accepted as, say, alcohol?

The legality of substances in Western society is, contrary to popular belief, not based on scientific or medical research, or their impact on individual or societal health. This is particularly true of the class of ‘drugs’ known as psychedelics, of which ayahuasca is a member.

Sadly, addictive and destructive and sedative substances such as alcohol are culturally pervasive and essentially endorsed by government and law makers. A Western society that acknowledged the benefit and healing potential contained within the ayahuasca experience would look very different. Ultimately, the ayahuasca experience is about surrender, it is about facing fear and looking at oneself critically and objectively with a desire to change.

Alcohol elicits a lack of inhibition in the user, and perpetuates and exacerbates their existing belief systems – which are invariably egoic in nature. While I support the safe and supported use of ayahuasca globally, I am an advocate for its use within a traditional context, in a controlled environment with trained professionals.

While it remains illogical for DMT, the active ingredient in ayahuasca to be both a naturally occurring brain chemical and illegal, its synthetic form I believe is unlikely to routinely produce the same long-lasting positive effects that are generated within an authentic ayahausca experience. Essentially, this is not a substance (read: experience) that I believe can be ‘prescribed’ by a physician operating within the current medical framework. Their referral to indigenous shaman and professionals is certainly the preference.

You’ve recently been interviewed by the mainstream media in Australia, what was your experience like and do you feel the reporting was fair and balanced?

I feel as though the mainstream media feels a responsibility or obligation of sorts to present alternative healing in a particularly disparaging and condescending way.

While I have found that the content of interviews to be mostly reflective of my comments, they are rarely published without sensationalist headlines designed to capture the attention of a population that has been conditioned to be wary and defensive towards any healing modalities that fall outside of the presently accepted ‘norm’. In the response to various articles and interviews, the public comments indicate very high levels of prejudice, ignorance, and an overall lack of education towards certain substances.

I actually believe that when some are faced with evidence that suggests that ‘psychedelic drugs’ can resolve drug addiction for instance, cognitive-dissonance kicks in and their ability to reason with logic and sense dissolves very quickly. In many cases they are confronted with realities that conflict with beliefs they have held for decades, beliefs that they see as crucial to the maintenance of a stable society.

Would you like to see information about ayahuasca spread to the world, and if so in what way?

As ayahuasca is an old South American tradition and it is currently being re-discovered by the West, there is the tendency for it to be discounted as a new ‘fad’. I really believe that this form of treatment is extremely valid, and useful as a tool for recovery, perhaps in conjunction with others, for people in need. Its ‘popularisation’ or use by celebrities etc is not at all the point. This is not an experience one has in order to emulate another.

It should be a conscious decision to enter an altered state of consciousness, so that you may learn what you need to know in order to be healthy, and a more complete human on this earth. I think ayahuasca needs more intelligent spokespeople from within the scientific and medical communities in particular, who are willing to acknowledge that the recovery rates using standard methods for treating the ailments we are discussing here, are simply not high enough for them to ‘rest on the laurels’.

We are already seeing a targeted misinformation campaign being levelled at ayahausca, so I would encourage people to share their experiences and come out of the ‘psychedelic closet’.

If there’s anything you’d like to communicate to the people of the world, what would it be?

The earth secretes certain substances through plants that have in some cases, been classed as illegal.

I would encourage people to recognise that these same substances routinely outperform pharmaceutical drugs in the treatment of mental illness, addiction and behavioural problems (to name a few). This class of ‘drug’ known as psychedelics are non-addictive and ­non-toxic. It is my belief that they exist here for the sole purpose of healing, and elevating the thinking of the human species to new heights of consciousness.

Healing can come from within, and plant medicines are a viable mechanism to bring this about.

They have a lock and key relationship with the human brain, and in the case of ayahuasca, this too is where the active chemical DMT is produced. I would draw the audience’s attention to these wise words from Terence McKenna and Albert Einstein, respectively:

“Psychedelics are illegal not because a loving government is concerned that you may jump out of a third story window. Psychedelics are illegal because they dissolve opinion structures and culturally laid down models of behaviour and information processing. They open you up to the possibility that everything you know is wrong.”

“We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”

Well ladies and gents, I think I’ll leave that to speak for itself. Many thanks to Julian Moran and his wife Angela for their hospitality and thoroughness in answering these questions, and best wishes for the future.

Interested persons can contact Julian at the addresses listen on the Refugio’s website, www.refugioaltiplano.net, where you’ll also find information regarding the ceremonies, travel arrangements and so on.

Voting for action

In our previous piece, Climate change ‘a lay persons dilemma’ John Lord provided a logical argument in consideration as to whether to believe or not believe in climate change. His logic cannot be argued with:

Now that’s not to say that they should not have a view and that that view should not be considered as should any laypersons if they are of that ilk. But surely, we must respect the science otherwise you put into question all science.

. . . for me as a layperson it seems logical to support the evidence the scientists have produced. I think all the people of this earth and our planet deserve the benefit of any doubt.

Alternatively, when science discovers a cure for cancer do I just say crap?

Climate change is sure to be a major and hotly debated election issue in 2013 but I doubt we’ll see the arguments following the same logic. Well, not from Tony Abbott that is. Although I doubt he’ll resort to his famous and ill-conceived climate change is crap mantra, I can hazard a guess that just about every thing he says will also be ill-conceived. Take this piece of prophecy:

Mr Abbott pledged at the 2010 election to cut the Commonwealth payroll by 12,000 jobs but his economic policy outlined today could see that number increased.

Major targets will be the Health Department, Education and Defence Materiel Organisation while the Department of Climate Change would be abolished completely (my bold).

Is he aware of the programs and initiatives the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency administer? Does he know what they do? Is he interested in promoting energy efficiency even if he doesn’t believe in climate change? I’d say the answer to those is no, no and no. The department has the words ‘climate’ and ‘change’ in its title. It therefore needs to go.

We learn yesterday that Mr Abbott is to embark on a mini election campaign as he gears up for this years battle. It will be interesting to hear what he has to say about climate change in the mini campaign or the campaign proper. He could come up with anything. And it will follow no logic. So far he hasn’t come up with anything to indicate he has an idea of what he is talking about. He doesn’t believe in climate change yet prattles on as if he’s a leading expert in the field.

Take these pearls of wisdom, which add nothing to his credibility but serve to demonstrate that he simply babbles along:

So this is a government which is proposing to put at risk our manufacturing industry, to penalise struggling families, to make a tough situation worse for millions of households right around Australia. And for what? To make not a scrap of difference to the environment any time in the next 1000 years.

Well, that’s not right. According to the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), who just happen to know a bit more on the subject than him, confirm that:

Continued greenhouse gas emissions at or above current rates would cause further warming and induce many changes in the global climate system during the 21st century that would very likely be larger than those observed during the 20th century.

But nice try. Should have kept his mouth shut, as with this one:

There is no doubt that we should do our best to rest lightly on the planet and there is no doubt that we should do our best to emit as few waste products as possible, but, having said that, whether carbon dioxide is quite the environmental villain that some people make it out to be is not yet proven.

Well, that’s not right either.

Over the past 10,000 years, the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has remained at relatively stable levels. However, human CO2 emissions over the past few centuries have upset this balance. The increase in CO2 has some direct effects on the environment. For example, as the oceans absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, it leads to acidification that affects many marine ecosystems. However, the chief impact from rising CO2 is warmer temperatures.

Dear readers, I suggest you take a deep breath before reading his next gem.

Climate change is a relatively new political issue, but it’s been happening since the earth’s beginning. The extinction of the dinosaurs is thought to have been associated with climate change.

What school did that man go to? It is universally agreed that the climate changed because a great big asteroid bumped into the planet 65 million years ago. Perhaps he knows something we don’t. It would be nice if he could share his knowledge with us. The scientific community would welcome the findings of his clandestine research.

And if you were ever in any doubt that his interests side with big business, then this should remove it:

These so-called nasty big polluters are the people that keep the lights on. I mean, let’s not forget how essential these people are to the business of daily life.

Does he not know of green, renewable energy-based power, for example:

. . . geothermal energy is available at all times, concentrated solar thermal energy has storage capability, and wind energy can be stored in compressed air.

He continues:

I am not setting myself up as the great expert here, but the Hadley Institute in Britain, which is apparently one of the most reputable of these measuring centres, according to press reports, has found that after heating up very significantly in the previous 25 years, there seems to have been a slight cooling, but at a high plateau I’ll accept that.

He’s true in one aspect: he is no expert. Here is what the experts say:

The 2009 State of the Climate report released today draws on data for 10 key climate indicators that all point to the same finding: the scientific evidence that our world is warming is unmistakable. More than 300 scientists from 160 research groups in 48 countries contributed to the report, which confirms that the past decade was the warmest on record and that the Earth has been growing warmer over the last 50 years.

But still he defies the experts:

The fact that we have had if anything cooling global temperatures over the last decade, not withstanding continued dramatic increases of carbon dioxide emissions, suggests the role of CO2 is not nearly as clear as the climate catastrophists suggest.

No, climate scientists are not catastrophists. Mr Abbott is, however. Global warming won’t ruin the country but measures to address it will, apparently.

Now for some contradictions:

I am, as you know, hugely unconvinced by the so-called settled science on climate change. […] I mean, I just think that the science is highly contentious, to say the least.

OK then, let’s not do anything about it. Why then, suggest we do and at a time that suits Tony Abbott?

Even if global warming is as bad as the doomsayers claim, it’s better to respond correctly than to respond tomorrow. Man-made CO2 emission have been happening for centuries and I daresay the planet could cope if we respond intelligently in 2012 rather than foolishly in 2010.

One more:

The climate has changed over the eons and we know from history, at the time of Julius Caesar and Jesus of Nazareth the climate was considerably warmer than it is now. […] Climate change happens all the time and it is not man that drives those climate changes back in history. It is an open question how much the climate changes today and what role man plays.

It’s the old sceptic’s answer that climate is always changing. For a man who contains such a mass of scientific knowledge he should know that:

A common skeptic argument is that climate has changed naturally in the past, long before SUVs and coal-fired power plants, so therefore humans cannot be causing global warming now. Interestingly, the peer-reviewed research into past climate change comes to the opposite conclusion. To understand this, first you have to ask why climate has changed in the past. It doesn’t happen by magic. Climate changes when it’s forced to change. When our planet suffers an energy imbalance and gains or loses heat, global temperature changes.

There are a number of different forces which can influence the Earth’s climate. When the sun gets brighter, the planet receives more energy and warms. When volcanoes erupt, they emit particles into the atmosphere which reflect sunlight, and the planet cools. When there are more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the planet warms. These effects are referred to as external forcings because by changing the planet’s energy balance, they force climate to change.

It is obviously true that past climate change was caused by natural forcings. However, to argue that this means we can’t cause climate change is like arguing that humans can’t start bushfires because in the past they’ve happened naturally. Greenhouse gas increases have caused climate change many times in Earth’s history, and we are now adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere at a increasingly rapid rate.

He hardly inspires a vote for action.

And what would he possibly replace the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency with? The Department of Extinct Dinosaurs comes to mind.

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