On fingering climate deniers

Dr Bro Sheffield-Brotherton writes: Re. “The Dirty Dozen: Australia’s biggest climate foes, part 1” (yesterday). As with much of his writings, I enjoyed Clive Hamilton’s first instalment of the Dirty Dozen. However, Hamilton is mistaken in his assertion regarding Tony Abbott that “environmentalism was not around when his spiritual mentor was wielding his influence, but Bob Santamaria would have feared and hated it”.

Two people in a group of three chemistry PhD students in Perth had their life’s work changed fundamentally by viewing from opposite sides of the continent (one was on his honeymoon) a 1971 Monday Conference debate on growth/limits between Paul Ehrlich and rather stolid “Catholic” economist Colin Clark; Ehrlich won hands down. Neither of those two people really envisaged a lifetime in chemistry beyond that point.

I tend to remember significant dates in my life but did not remember this one. Honeymoon dates would be a great assistance in jogging memory, so years later when I had cause to attempt to discover the date of that broadcast  I sought my colleague’s help.  Alas, he helped me zero in on the date but we couldn’t be sure.

But I can tell you with confidence (not that anyone else might necessarily give a bugger!) that the definitive, seminal debate went to air on Monday 9, August 1971. How do I know? Bartholomew Augustine Santamaria told me so (and that’s the interesting thing)!

Many years later Santa wrote a piece about the great evil to which Australians were exposed on that night and what a great bloke Colin Clark (who favoured of a world population of 157 billion, most Catholic rather than Muslim no doubt) was. So clearly he was keeping  tabs on the “evils of environmentalism” from the early ’70s at least and had bizarrely meticulous records on parts of the subject since the early 1970s.

Alan Baird writes: A good feisty article from Clive Hamilton, as usual. Always straight-to-the-point with no shilly-shallying. Comments on Macca particularly apt.

Don’t be too hasty to recount

Richard Smith writes: Re. “Counting votes, the Wright way: what the AEC should be looking at” (Monday). Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem means no amount of tinkering with rank-order voting systems can avoid the problems the article complains about. One of the “fairness” criteria Arrow listed must be violated if there are three or more candidates, such as independence of irrelevant alternatives. It is an inherent issue with combining individual rank preferences into a group rank preference.

Two aspects of voting that I dislike are that a valid vote must distinguish between two indifferent candidates, and that the winner interprets a “1” vote as meaning people voted for them. You can dislike every candidate that factional/party politics have thrown up but have no valid way to indicate that. A cardinal-order system, for example in which the acceptability of each candidate is rated out of 10, removes both problems.

Who’s flying this thing?

Kim Lockwood writes: Re. “Captain Tony to the rescue” (yesterday). The Daily Telegraph shows its ignorance of basic airline practice by placing Abbott on the right. The pilot, in any two-driver plane, sits on the left.