Bobbing Around Volume 14 Number 5

Bobbing Around

Volume Fourteen, Number Five,
October, 2014

Bob Rich’s rave

email other issues

*About Bobbing Around
guidelines for contributions

*From me to you
Domestic violence: interview with Erin Ireland
On the Renewable Energy Target
Fight for the Reef
Large superannuation fund divests from coal

*Responses to past issues
Katie McKy

How to change public opinion, from Professor Bob Douglas
A Prime Monster’s report card
Islamic State: listen to this analyst
An excellent basis for politics
A little country with the right priorities
The climate march
The videos 125 world leaders saw
A rare voice of sanity
Australia’s Prime Monster neglects global health
Wisdom from a President
A picture is worth…

Birds on the way out: humans to follow
Sea level rise
Drought in Sao Paulo because…
For climate change deniers
2014 on Track to be Hottest Year on Record
Action needed
Drought causes flood in California
A history of the rulers of America
Climate warriors
Kiribati President in the Arctic
A nuclear primer, by Nick Sharp (must read)
Greenpeace unloads coal train
Robert Redford on fracking

*Good news
Uniting Church of Australia is divesting
100% of new US electricity capacity came from renewables in 3 of the last 10 months, by Zachary Shahan
China is making huge environmental changes
Climate protestors not prosecuted
Burlington, Vermont is on 100% renewable energy
Solar schools, USA
Divestment grows
Leonardo DiCaprio at the UN

*Compassionate action
Psychologists for Peace
Campaigners freed
Oxfam in the Philippines
Mama Lana’s community foundation

*Culture change
Climate protesters not prosecuted
Live Better magazine

Meet the Zero Energy building
Solar power has the power
Nuclear hope?
India’s solar canals

*Deeper issues
What consensus is — and isn’t

Is physical punishment of kids OK?
I want to commit murder
I’m distancing myself from family. Why?
I can’t cope anymore
I’m ugly, friendless and hopeless

Common carcinogenic foods
Skin, respiratory symptoms increase near gas wells
Coal is bad for your health
When a parent drinks, the child suffers, by Rayne Golay

*For writers
Writing from within
12 most common word confusions cleared up

*What my friends want you to know
Vote to bring solar to thousands of Timorese
Frugal editor updated
Reader’s Entertainment magazine gives sneak peeks
Celebrating Social Change: Commonground festival
6th Australian Rural & Remote Mental Health Symposium
Sharing with writers
World of Animals magazine
New Website for Fight for the Reef
Weatherwood published

Weatherwood, by Rosamond Carter
A Voice in the Night, by Erin Ireland
Blood of the Rose, by Kevin Murray
Aquarius Rising, Book 1: In the Tears of God, by Brian Burt
Ascending Spiral: Humanity’s Last Chance, reviewed by Brian Burt
Ascending Spiral, reviewed by Mindy Eklove

*A bit of fun
Why we need punctuation
A wise advisor
The kangaroo’s judgment
True love

I am responsible for anything I have written. However, where I reproduce contributions from other people, I do not necessarily endorse their opinions. I may or may not agree with them, but give them the courtesy of a forum.

Bobbing Around is COPYRIGHTED. No part of it may be reproduced in any form, at any venue, without the express permission of the publisher (ME!) and the author if that is another person. You may forward the entire magazine to anyone else.

From me to you

Domestic violence: interview with Erin Ireland
On the Renewable Energy Target
Fight for the Reef
Large superannuation fund divests from coal


Domestic violence: interview with Erin Ireland

You may be suffering in an abusive relationship, and don’t know what to do about it. Or you may have general feelings of dissatisfaction, and the need to be careful, but haven’t realised that you are on the slide down into an abusive relationship. Or you may find that you are doing all the things you hated about your parents’ behaviour, and don’t want to.

Read what Erin and I have to say about it.

On the Renewable Energy Target

The Australian Greens have orchestrated a Letter to the Editor campaign. Here is my contribution:

The science is overwhelming. Even conservative organisations like the IMF state that coal must stay in the ground if we want human survival. Renewable energy sources are now cheaper than fossil fuels, even with coal receiving billions of dollars in subsidies.

The only sane action is for Australia to get off its addiction to coal, and use our huge potential for solar and wind, like for example India, Spain and Denmark are doing.

The government is doing everything possible to rush toward disaster, for the short term profit of a few corporations, which take their profits offshore in any case.

The Renewable Energy Target needs to be kept, and indeed increased, and other measures to encourage a switch to a low-carbon economy need to be re-instituted. If Mr Abbott wants to commit suicide, he should do so privately instead of taking the rest of us with him.

Fight for the Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is under attack. A huge coal port is planned, with 3 billion cubic metres to be dredged up. Responding to pressure, the permit to dump this in coastal waters has been revoked. So what. The project should not be done in the first place.

This is my letter to the Premier of Queensland:

Dear Premier Newman,

The future for coal is bleak, with both China and India switching to the renewable energy path on a large scale. Abbott point will be a dead duck. The best time to save money, protect Queensland’s resources and beauty, is now.

Not dumping stuff in the reef is excellent. But not dredging it up in the first place is better.


Bob Rich, PhD.

Large superannuation fund divests from coal

The Climate Spectator has reported that the superannuation fund I used to belong to has decided to withdraw its investments from coal. This is for both environmental and risk minimisation reasons.

So, I sent them an email:

I was a HESTA member from the start of my nurse training in 1986 until my retirement in 2011.

Now I would like to congratulate you on your decision to protect members’ superannuation from the risk involved in investments in coal. Your Board has read the signs correctly: coal is guaranteed to plummet in value, sooner rather than later.

Thank you for protecting the future for my grandchildren.


Life is not a performance, but a stroll through a landscape.

Responses to past issues

Katie McKy

Hi, Bob.

Bobbing Around is the second best. Bob is the best. Thanks for fighting the good fight.

Katie McKy

Thank you Katie. We do only have one planet, might as well do our best for Her.

Geographically, you’re about as far away as a person can be, but ideologically, you’re my next door neighbor!

Katie is the author of “Wolf Camp,” “Pumpkin Town,” “It All Began With a Bean,” and “Tough Kids, Tough Classrooms.” She actually has a Wikipedia entry!


How to change public opinion from Professor Bob Douglas
A Prime Monster’s report card
Islamic State: listen to this analyst
An excellent basis for politics
A little country with the right priorities
The climate march
The videos 125 world leaders saw
A rare voice of sanity
Australia’s Prime Monster neglects global health
Wisdom from a President
A picture is worth…


How to change public opinion, from Professor Bob Douglas

Bob Douglas and I met at the first meeting of Transform Australia. He is an inspiring person.

In In this essay at The Conversation, he outlines and illustrates a model of working for social change he calls “kitchen table conversations.”

Worth reading if you want to change the world.

A Prime Monster’s report card

Australia is on the periphery of attention for many Bobbing Around subscribers, but what happens here may vitally affect you. For example, a planned coal mine in Queensland will generate more carbon dioxide than entire countries.

So, YOUR future is in part determined by Tony Abbott.

I am a member of the Australian Greens. Read our report card on Tony’s first year in office.

Islamic State: listen to this analyst

Chelsea Manning, writing for the Guardian set out my reasons for opposing western military attacks on ISIS. That is exactly what these people are trying to provoke: even if they lose the battles, they win long term.

Instead, she sets out a coordinated, well thought out program that is the best chess move available.

An excellent basis for politics

This is attributed to Brandon Weber.

A little country with the right priorities


The climate march

About 2,700 locations in the world were venues of a climate march on Sunday, 22nd September 2014. Even war-torn Syria saw a demo. John Kerry has declared it to be “as important” as ISIL or the Ebola virus. (He is wrong: neither of those poses the threat of human extinction, while climate change does.) Melbourne, the city near where I live, saw 30,000 people take to the streets, not bad compared to megatropolis New York with 110,000.

The videos 125 world leaders saw

These kids will inspire you.

And this brought tears to my eyes.

A rare voice of sanity

Where are the real threats to Americans (and to most others around the globe)?

It’s not the insane Muslim extremists.

Bill Maher will tell you.

Australia’s Prime Monster neglects global health

Abbott’s refusal to attend UN Climate Summit a risk to national interest: health and medical leaders

Australian health and medical leaders attending the UN Climate Summit in New York have criticised the Prime Minister Tony Abbott for refusing to attend the meeting, at which UN Secretary General is calling on political leaders of the world to “prioritise their resources and their political energy” on climate.

Climate and Health Alliance (CAHA) President Dr Liz Hanna, who is attending the invitation-only meeting in New York with colleagues Dr Peter Sainsbury and Dr Lynne Madden to represent CAHA’s 27 member groups, said Tony Abbott’s refusal to attend the Summit was “inexcusable.”

“The decision by our Prime Minister not to attend this extremely significant meeting in New York is a slap in the face for the millions of Australians who want effective action on climate change. The refusal by the Australian government to engage in developing an effective global response to the world’s most significant risk to health by ruling out stronger emissions cuts is effectively saying to children and young people: ‘We don’t care about your future’.”

The move was a further blow to Australia’s international reputation as a good global citizen, Dr Hanna said, with 125 other world leaders attending and increasing commitments from other nations to decarbonise.

“The recent Peoples Climate Marches across Australia show people are very concerned about the nation’s growing reputation as a ‘laggard’ on climate change. Maintaining peace in the world required more than sending troops to trouble spots. Global security and health and wellbeing depends on high emitting nations such as Australia accepting a fair share of the global burden to cut emissions – that means committing to much higher emissions targets, and delivering them,” Dr Hanna said.

Media contact: Fiona Armstrong or 0438900005.

Wisdom from a President

“Extending the war into Iraq would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq. The coalition would instantly have collapsed, the Arabs deserting in anger and other allies pulling out as well. Exceeding the U.N.’s mandate would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the U.S. could still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land.” — From “Why We Didn’t Remove Saddam” by George Bush [Sr.] and Brent Scowcroft, Time Magazine, 1998

Pity his son didn’t listen to him. Maybe decision makers should listen to him now.

A picture is worth…



Birds on the way out: humans to follow
Sea level rise
Drought in Sao Paulo because…
For climate change deniers
2014 on Track to be Hottest Year on Record
Action needed
Drought causes flood in California
A history of the rulers of America
Climate warriors
Kiribati President in the Arctic
A nuclear primer by Nick Sharp (must read)
Greenpeace unloads coal train
Robert Redford on fracking


Birds on the way out: humans to follow

Alanna Mitchell, writing in National Geographic has written a fascinating and well argued op ed showing how climate change, habitat destruction and global chemical pollution are endangering birds.

“Globally, one in eight — more than 1,300 species — are threatened with extinction, and the status of most of those is deteriorating.”

As with the canary in the mine, the fate of birds is a warning for humans.

Given the venue of the National Geographic, of course the article comes with wonderful photos.

Sea level rise

This report is about the impact of sea level rise on Australia, but its conclusions apply to every country with a sea shore. The same information is also summarised here.

As usual, being carefully based on science, they predict less, and later, than all the evidence suggests.

Drought in Sao Paulo because…

…too much of the Amazonian rainforest has been cut down.

Jan Rocha has written in the Guardian that 5 years ago, Antonio Nobre, one of Brazil’s leading climate scientists, warned that continued clearing of the rainforest would result in a permanent drought about now. He was right.

The reason is that much of the rainfall in areas of South America is due to the huge amounts of transpiration by trees. Without the water the trees put into the air, the area would be a desert. And the trees have been killed.

For climate change deniers


2014 on Track to be Hottest Year on Record

Following the observation about August, Andrea Thompson reports at Climate Central that 2014 is on course to displace 2010 as the hottest year, ever, in terms of global average temperatures.

Action needed


Sent to me by Karl Kofoed.

The last statement is not a fact but an estimate. 🙂

My estimate is that we have minus 30 years to act before global warming is irreversible. We have maybe 2 or 3 years before global catastrophe — if we are lucky. There is a distinct probability of it happening at any time.

Drought causes flood in California

There are glaciers in California, left over from the last ice age. A huge chunk broke off one of them, because the drought has meant lack of snowfall to hold the ice in place. Climate change in action.

A history of the rulers of America

Rolling Stone magazine has published an essay by Tim Dickinson on the Koch Brothers. It is very long and detailed — and worth every minute you’ll spend on reading it.

koch-explosion A 1996 explosion of a Koch-owned pipeline in Texas killed two teens. (Photo: National Transportation Safety Board)

Climate warriors

Dear friends,

What an inspiring weekend! The People’s Climate March was an important show of the strength of our movement, and our determination to halt the climate crisis. But we know that, alone, it won’t be enough. We need to step it up.

Next month, 30 Climate Warriors from across the Pacific will journey to Australia to stand up for their islands, and their cultures.

The Warriors come with one message — our Government’s and fossil fuel industry’s coal and gas expansion plans will spell disaster for their homes.

These plans must be stopped. We must stand with the Warriors to make sure that message is heard loud and clear. Watch and share this powerful video that shows that their fight is our fight too.

Already hundreds of people have pledged to join the Warriors to peacefully blockade the world’s largest coal port in Newcastle but we need more of you. Register now to be part of the action!

If you can’t make it to Newcastle, here are some of the ways you can stand with the Warriors, from Melbourne:

1. Spend a night with the Warriors

After the Newcastle action, come and hear the Warriors as they tell the story of the impacts of climate change on their island homes, and find out how you can get involved to help stop this destruction.

Part storytelling, part performance, part campaign planning, this is a night not to be missed!

When: Wednesday 22nd October, 6:30 pm
Where: RMIT Cinema, Swanston St, Melbourne
Register here.

2. Take action in solidarity with the Warriors

In the week after the Newcastle flotilla, we want to send the strongest message possible to those blocking action on climate change. Around the country, solidarity actions will target the source of the problem — the fossil fuel industry. You can find out more about the Melbourne action by registering here.

If you can’t make it to an action then you can show your own solidarity. Take a photo in support of the warriors and share it on social media. Sign up here to receive an info pack that will guide you through the steps.

This tour is going to be huge. It will be a defining moment in our movement and for the future of the Pacific Islands. Now is the time to decide whether we want to continue exporting climate chaos or begin leading toward a clean and safe future that protects the cultures and islands of our Pacific neighbours.

Join us, and together let’s help direct Australia down the right path.

Kiribati President in the Arctic

Dear Bob,
I have just arrived home from the Arctic.
The North Pole is far from my Australian home, yet what is happening in the Arctic is crucial to the future of our Australia Pacific region. And what I’ve seen has spurred me to write to you today.
The Arctic is a beautiful and truly awe-inspiring place, it is inconceivable to think that it would not be protected for all time. But instead it is at grave risk. Can you add your voice to Save the Arctic today?

Climate change is already hitting the Arctic hard. The glaciers are in retreat and the sea ice is diminishing.
However remote and other-worldly this region may be, we know that what happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic. Sea levels are rising faster in the Central-West Pacific than almost anywhere else in the world, forcing small island nations to prepare to be wiped off the map.
On the journey to the frozen north, I was fortunate enough to be travelling with His Excellency Anote Tong, President of Kiribati, a small Pacific island nation about 7,000 kilometres north west of Australia. His country is drowning as a result of these changes. With its scant soils already affected by the rising seas, Kiribati could become completely inundated.

A true statesman on the issue, the President has been challenging the international community to act on climate change for many years. The President stresses, “If nothing is done, Kiribati will be the first country to go underwater. By about 2030 we start disappearing. It’s really a matter of survival. You know, the projection of sea level rise is between half a metre to one metre. That’s serious for us.. If we don’t do anything, we will not survive.”
But climate change is not the only threat to the Arctic. Greedy corporations like Shell, BP, Exxon, Gazprom, Rosneft and others are lining up to exploit the region for oil. Yet there is no way to effectively clean up an oil spill in the Arctic. The consequences of such an accident would be disastrous.

The Arctic needs to be declared a global sanctuary now
This is ambitious but we know this challenge is not too big to overcome. Thirty years ago we launched a similar campaign to protect the Antarctic. Nobody thought we would succeed, but we did. We created a world park around the South Pole.
Bob, let’s use this moment together to make an urgent call for climate action and Arctic protection, because protecting the ice protects us all.

David Ritter
Greenpeace Australia Pacific

A nuclear primer, by Nick Sharp

I recently commented on an article by Matthew Wright who tore holes in an argument that nuclear power is the solution to the climate crisis. A number of trolls were mounting personal attacks on Matt, so I briefly presented a few points validating his view. Later, the wonderful Lance Collins contacted me, to draw my attention to Nick Sharp’s more detailed response. Here it is, and worth keeping for future reference.

Those having a go at Matt on this issue perhaps do not appreciate the full fuel cycle, and I think it is worth spelling it out — yet again! When anybody tells me that U235 fission nuclear power is free of climate changing emissions, I agree with them — provided you start measuring from “reactor built and fuelled” and stop just before “new rods installed, spent ones removed and disposed of”. Of course, there is a modicum of “permitted level” of radioactivity released during that period, but hey, it won’t change the climate, so who cares?

But back to square one:

Fuel cycle (ground to reactor)

A typical reactor needs about a tonne of U235 per year, usually supplied as 5% enriched, i.e., U235 (5%) U238 (95%). Natural uranium is only 0.7% U235, and the enrichment process cannot economically extract it all. The depleted (mainly U238) uranium is still about 0.2% U235, so winning one tonne of U235 needs about 200 tonnes of natural.

Australian ores are about 0.1% uranium, so that needs about 200,000 tonnes of ore. A typical figure for open cast mining of uranium is about 5x overburden, so that needs moving (dynamite, diesel) about 1,000,000 tonnes of overburden. Hopefully it all goes back (diesel) over the hole.

Now grind (electricity) the 200,000 tonnes to powder, add many tonnes of acid to leach the uranium, then many tonnes of alkali to precipitate it as yellow cake. Put the spent 199,800 tonnes of wet radioactive slurry into tailing ponds covered with enough (several metres) of water to delay the radon emissions long enough that most of them decay.

Now add hydrofluoric acid to dissolve the yellow cake as uranium tetra fluoride. Dry that and add fluorine to make the hexafluoride, and you are ready to spin that (electricity) in a cascade of hundreds of gas centrifuges. Get the enriched UF6 and add water to recover the hydrofluoric acid and turn the uranium into the dioxide. Cake that into small pellets and bake (electric kiln) at ~2000C to turn it into a ceramic. Load those into special metal tubes and assemble those into multi-tube fuel elements.


Find land near enough a massive supply of cooling water, and preferably far enough from everything else so that accidents will not harm millions. You will need many thousands of tonnes of concrete (cement is made usually by burning gas) and steel (refined from iron ore with coke from coal), and a lot of wires because of the distance from the reactor to the customers. This immensely expensive creation is full of special wiring and plumbing in all sorts of metals.

Put some billions of dollars aside for eventual decommissioning of the highly radioactive reactor once it has done its ~50 years of service. The work must wait till it cools (radioactively speaking) over perhaps several centuries, during which time it needs scrupulous guarding.


After about 3 years, the assemblies are spent and must be replaced (usually about 1/3rd are replaced per year). The spent assemblies are still massively radioactive and thermally hot, so need to be kept in a constantly cooled pond for several decades — again, guarded of course. It is also NOT a good idea to site the pond several stories up in an earthquake zone (see Fukushima).

Some still believe there is potential to do the horrible physical and chemical processing of the spent rods to extract for reuse the still unused U235 (about 1%) and the Pu239 (plutonium) into which a little of the U238 has been converted by neutron irradiation. Many feel that not only does this produce even more volumes of very dangerous waste, but is simply not economical. They should simply be buried in geologically stable areas and secured for at least several hundred thousand years.

So, hands up! Who wants some reactors in Australia?

My vote is for wind, solar PV, solar thermal with storage, and the hydro we have already got, plus of course massive attention to efficiency.

In our email exchange, I added “waste disposal” as an additional cost Nick hadn’t mentioned. His response:

I doubt if anyone can really cost keeping nuclear waste safe. First find your geologically stable area and then make a deep hole. The US thought they had a winner in Yucca mountain, but seems it is never going to serve now.

Then guard it for several hundred thousand years. After that, it should be almost non radioactive and merely highly toxic. Wehey!

Nick Sharp studied chemistry at Oxford, then worked in computing, finishing by reworking Fuji Xerox’s international in-house computer network.

When family duties permit, he writes about Total Sustainability (it’s not optional). He fervently supports Beyond Zero Emissions, composts all kitchen scraps, and grows herbs! And he obviously shares my sense of humour.

Greenpeace unloads coal train

Hi Bob

I’m on top of a coal train right now with 49 ordinary people, who believe so passionately that we need to stop climate change, we’ve stopped a train reaching Cottam power station in Nottinghamshire. We flagged it down at 2.30 pm and right now, we’re shovelling coal off the train.

It’s pretty dirty work but I’m here with good friends, and we know it’s the right thing to do.
At this same exact moment, thousands of miles away in New York, global leaders are coming together for a hugely important meeting about the climate.

But while world leaders like David Cameron talk, there’s a plan to give energy companies in the UK millions of pounds of tax-payers’ money to keep old coal power plants burning.

See what’s happening on top of the train.

I’m blocking this coal train today to show our leaders that it’s time for action. David Cameron is at the global leaders meeting. When he gets home, he needs to scrap the plan to give tax-payers’ money to keep coal power plants going.

And Ed Miliband needs to set out his plan to get us off coal. That could be enough to persuade energy companies to shut down coal plants instead of patching them up.

Click to see photos and video, and read stories.

There are 50 of us on this train in Nottinghamshire, but Greenpeace is millions of people around the world. Together we’re working for a green, peaceful future powered by renewable energy. We want a protected Arctic, and a world of oceans and forests teeming with life.

Thanks for all that you do,

Fran, from a coal train in Nottinghamshire.

Robert Redford on fracking

Dear Bob,

I urge you to watch Robert Redford’s powerful one-minute video about the dangers of fracking.

It’s a vital part of our online mobilization campaign, calling on President Obama to take charge of his Administration’s fracking policies and rein in an industry run amok.

Click here to watch the video now and make an emergency donation to help us escalate our fight against Big Oil & Gas.

Frances Beinecke
Natural Resources Defense Council

Good news

Uniting Church of Australia is divesting
100% of new US electricity capacity came from renewables in 3 of the last 10 months by Zachary Shahan
China is making huge environmental changes
Burlington, Vermont is on 100% renewable energy
Solar schools, USA
Divestment grows
Leonardo DiCaprio at the UN


Uniting Church of Australia is divesting

God bless them.
The Uniting Church in Australia Assembly has resolved to divest from investments in corporations engaged in the extraction of fossil fuels.

Uniting Church President Rev. Professor Andrew Dutney has welcomed the resolution of the Assembly Standing Committee, calling the decision an important act of public witness.

“As Christians we are called to respect and care for the whole of creation,” said Rev. Prof. Dutney.

“With national governments reluctant to take difficult decisions, it falls to us as members of the body of Christ to show leadership in taking action to reduce damaging pollution.”

100% of new US electricity capacity came from renewables in 3 of the last 10 months, by Zachary Shahan

Tree Hugger has reported that no new fossil fuel electricity generation has been installed in the USA. Most of it is wind, with some solar.

It’s simple economics.

China is making huge environmental changes

Kevin Matthews reports at on 5 Chinese measures:

  1. The world’s largest cap and trade scheme. It has been trialled in several areas, and is to go national. Exceed your quota of carbon, and you pay.
  2. There is a strongly encouraged switch to electric cars.
  3. GMOs are being discontinued.
  4. During 8 months of 2014, China has installed more solar electrics than the total within the USA.
  5. And, as I’ve already reported, coal has gone out of fashion.

Burlington, Vermont is on 100% renewable energy

This brief report from Daily Cos is inspiring. If a location with lots of winter snow can do it, then any place on earth can.

Solar schools, USA

The Solar Foundation has performed a “National Solar School Census,” which shows that, in the words of Rhone Resch, “the report shows that thousands of schools are already cutting their utility bills by choosing solar, using the savings to pay for teacher salaries and textbooks.”

However, there is plenty more to be done. A huge number of other schools have the potential to save money, reduce their carbon footprint, and inspire and educate their students to become aware of renewable energy.
solarschool Image from

Divestment grows

The Guardian has reported that The Rockefeller Brothers, the World Council of Churches and 30 cities are divesting from carbon.

Mind you, that doesn’t change the cause: economic growth.

Leonardo DiCaprio at the UN
I don’t watch movies, but strongly approve of this powerful, brief statement.

Do yourself a favour and check it out.

Compassionate action

Psychologists for Peace
Campaigners freed
Oxfam in the Philippines
Mama Lana’s community foundation


Psychologists for Peace

I am a long term member of Psychologists for Peace. Their newsletter, a PDF document, is full of inspiration, information and interest. It includes a link to a powerful statement by Noble Peace Prize winner Mairead Corigan Maguire

Campaigners freed

Dear Bob,

krishnauMy name is Krishna Upadhyaya. Just a few days ago you were one of 54,034 people who called for my safe release after I and my colleague Gundev Ghimire went missing in Qatar. I’m relieved to tell you that I’ve been home in the UK with my family since Friday and wanted to take the time to write and thank you personally for your support.

I’ve always felt it was important to stand up against injustice. As a young man, I was involved in speaking, organising and protesting even when this was illegal in my home country of Nepal.

This desire to defend human rights is what brought me to Qatar, to speak to migrant workers who had experienced harassment, been forced to work without pay and risked their health due to excessive working hours in extreme heat. It’s these activities which led to me and Gundev being arrested and detained in solitary confinement for 9 days.

However, I do not feel any ill will against those that arrested me. I hope that in some modest way my case can continue to shine a light on the problems that face migrant workers, not just in Qatar, but also in their home countries like Nepal where exploitative recruitment practices leave many vulnerable to abuse and modern slavery.

The work of anti-slavery activists such as you is vitally important. Thank you again for your efforts to ensure my safe release. Keep doing what you do in the fight for freedom — you’ve shown that together we really can make a difference.

Please join me in this fight by signing up to campaign for an end to modern slavery with Walk Free.

Thank you.
Krishna and the whole Walk Free team

Oxfam in the Philippines

I want to tell you about how extreme weather impacted communities across the Philippines, and urge you to hold a lunch or dinner in support of the 1 in 8 people around the world who currently go hungry every day.

I joined the relief effort in the Philippines in the days following Typhoon Haiyan last year. Like many disasters, I saw how this typhoon hit the poorest and most vulnerable the hardest. Women and local farmers were particularly affected.

Four million people were forced from their homes. One-third of the country’s rice-growing areas impacted. And with torrential rain in the days following the typhoon, many people went hungry.
Climate change is expected to make this worse; increasing the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events.

But you can help stop climate change making people hungry in countries like the Philippines. It’s really easy and fun too: simply host a lunch or dinner as part of Eat Local Feed Global this October.

Find out more and register your lunch or dinner now.

Our changing climate is making it harder for people in the Asia-Pacific region, including Timor-Leste and Vanuatu, to grow and access enough food to eat. As well as responding to emergencies, we can empower women farmers to grow more food and to campaign on their own behalf in the face of changing weather patterns.

Please join me to Eat Local Feed Global this October. Register now and we’ll send you a pack with all the resources and information you need to share a meal, take action and raise money for a future where everyone has enough to eat.

Dr Helen Szoke

Chief Executive, Oxfam Australia

Mama Lana’s community foundation

Cheryl O’Brien has written:

I recently had the great pleasure to become involved with a local charity that I believe can be imitated around the world to make a difference. I volunteer once a week to help serve food to people who are homeless and I also help out in other ways when I can. I am proud to not only be a part of such a great organisation but also that there are so many people and businesses in my local community who help this organisation by making donations, volunteering time and energy and offer help in many ways behind the scenes.

Mama Lana’s Community Foundation is a registered not-for-profit charity that feeds the homeless in Western Sydney in Penrith.

Their mission is “We are committed to creating a community group that encourages the support of those in need, including respect for the rights, dignity, and property of others. We ask all fans and supporters to do their part to help us achieve this goal.

We are not affiliated directly with any religious or political organisation, though respect the rights of those who are and ask our supporters to do the same, refraining from making unnecessary and/or derogatory remarks or comments against other organisations.

We are currently working closely with the Local Council and Local Member and appreciate all their assistance in supporting the homeless and underprivileged in our local community.

Company Overview

The Company at the time of its formation is established for the purpose of promoting the following charitable purposes:

(a) To provide assistance to the homeless, destitute, impoverished and underprivileged people in our community in a manner in which we ourselves would wish to be treated, to advance their well-being, outlook on life and prospects for their future independence.

(b) To provide meals to the homeless, destitute, impoverished and underprivileged people in our community as many nights a week as the Company can.

(c) To support the homeless, destitute, impoverished and underprivileged people in our community by supplying food and toiletries parcels to those needing assistance.

(d) To support the homeless, destitute, impoverished and underprivileged people in our community by supplying clothing and blankets to keep them warm during the colder months.

(e) To provide the homeless, destitute, impoverished and underprivileged people in our community with a special meal at Christmas time and other special occasions.

(f) To undertake fundraising activities from time to time to assist with delivering our charitable purpose to the community.

Roger and Lana are now supported by a strong, experienced and growing team of volunteers who assist in cooking, serving, packing food parcels, collecting and delivering furniture and other needs, as well as other administrative requirements that are needed in a growing organisation.

Culture change

Climate protesters not prosecuted
Live Better magazine

As you will see in the past issues of Bobbing Around, I have been on the lookout for a change in culture — away from greed and conflict, and toward compassion and cooperation. Humanity will go extinct, and soon, unless we develop a global culture that encourages and emphasises decency, generosity, acceptance, and discourages aggression, discrimination, arrogance, divisiveness. I have decided to establish a new category for examples. If you come across any, please draw them to my attention.


Climate protesters not prosecuted

Kevin Matthews has written at about a case in Massachusetts. Two brave people, Ken Ward and Jay O’Hara, blocked a coal ship for a day before being removed, as a way of interfering with a coal fired power station.

sam_sutterThe District Attorney has decided to drop the case against them — because he also knows that climate change is the most severe danger in our world. More power to you, Sam Sutter. Hope you stand for State Governor.

Live Better magazine

The Guardian has launched a brilliant new venture: Live Better magazine. It combines modern electronic presentation with a 70s feel do it yourself, self-reliant, cooperative content.

It is a tool for lifestyle change, away from the throwaway society to living better with less. Examples are how to fix a broken screen on an iPhone (instead of replacing, or cutting your fingers — about one-third of smartphones get broken screens), how to use less water in the shower, how to fix your bike.

The style is lively and readable, aimed at young people, but an old codger like I am enjoyed it.


Meet the Zero Energy building
Solar power has the power
Nuclear hope?
India’s solar canals


Meet the Zero Energy building

It is being built in Norway, right now. Including its expected ongoing energy consumption plus the embodied energy in its structure, it will have sufficient energy surplus to keep an electric car charged too.

And this is in the Norwegian climate.

Check it out at Treehugger.
zeb Photograph from ZEB

Solar power has the power

A report in Science Alert states that an experimental solar-thermal plant at Newcastle, Australia can generate the same kinds of steam pressures as the best fossil fuel power stations.

Nuclear hope?

Matthew Wright, writing in the Climate Spectator, summarised the essential reasons that nuclear is dead.

Basically, if the cost of the Fukushima accident were invested in wind or solar, Japan’s entire electricity needs could be met one-and-a-half times over.
Image: File photo of officials in protective gear checking for signs of radiation in Koriyama Japanese children being checked for radioactivity.

India’s solar canals

It’s a brilliant idea. Solar panels roofing a canal don’t take up valuable farmland. They shade the water, reducing evaporation in desperately dry areas, and shade out the growth of water weeds, improving flow rate. At the same time, the water has a cooling effect on the solar panels, bringing them into a more efficient temperature range.

Also, this locates electricity generation closer to rural points of use, reducing the costs and voltage losses of transmission lines.

No wonder India’s new Prime Minister Narendra Modi brags about this idea to other world leaders.

Deeper Issues

What consensus is — and isn’t

I have recently attended a briefing session for new office bearers in the Australian Greens Victoria, and consensus was described, and even practiced. It was all very well done, except for two things. I’ve written about consensus before, but feel the need for a brief repeat.

Almost everywhere I’ve seen it attempted, consensus is seen as a unanimous vote. The way it is practised, every member of the group has the power of veto. In the Greens, this is called “blocking.”

Therefore, like in most western attempts at implementing consensus, there is a formal process for breaking a deadlock if a discussion has gone on too long, and a very small group, possibly only one person, continues to stand out against the majority.

This is a misunderstanding of how consensus decision making works. Like voting, it is still counting who is for and against an idea, only the criterion is 100% rather than 50%+1, or 75%.

Suppose three surgeons are discussing whether your leg needs to be amputated, or whether it can be saved. The two senior ones with many years of experience go for amputation, but the newest one, freshly out of training, remembers a paper describing a new technique that will make it unnecessary. What should the other two do: outvote her, or read the paper before making a decision?

In true consensus decision making, WHO is for or against something is irrelevant. HOW MANY is irrelevant. We have a problem to solve. We pool our wisdom, and seek the best decision we can. The only way to “block” is to bring up reasons that the proposed solution is faulty, to offer a possible solution that hasn’t yet been considered, or to indicate a lack in the knowledge base.

Voting is about power; in the case of blocking, the power of veto. Consensus is about group problem solving. Its processes often lead to new solutions not seen at the outset, because participants are not locked into defending their point of view, but are cooperating in examining the issue.

The main objection in our busy times is that consensus can be slow. However, I’ve come across a number of ways of addressing this problem:

1. Divide the immediate need for a decision from the long term solution. If we can’t agree on whether we should plan for a monthly speaker at meetings, then decide now only about the next meeting (can even vote on this), and continue considering the idea at leisure in the meantime.

2. Appoint a working group. This could be the two people with the most polarised viewpoints, and one person who doesn’t care either way.

3. Redefine the issue. In our practice group at the Greens’ training the problem set was whether to spend the available money on billboards or a mailout. One person asked, “What are we trying to achieve with each?” So, this led to the solution: have billboards, and achieve the aim of personal contact by other means that cost little or no money, such as a doorknock campaign.

4. Empathy facilitation. In couples therapy, I have often used this device. A speaks. B is required to summarise this statement before responding. Then A needs to summarise B’s statement before giving a reply. My suggestion in the training group was: those for the billboards should list all the advantages of a mailout; those for a mailout should list all the advantages of billboards. This was highly effective in moving participants toward each other.

5. In traditional consensus-based societies, the power of the group is often delegated. There may be a Wisest Woman, or a Hunting Chief. During the relevant action, that person is in absolute charge — but in the event of a disaster, is answerable to the group as a whole. Interestingly, this is how the Australian Army works. During operations, there is a hierarchy of authority, and complete obedience is required. However, strategic decisions are made by consensus. A group of people of various ranks, and perhaps some civilians, problem solve an issue. Rank is completely irrelevant — focus is on finding the best solution. There is simply no question of the general overruling an objection brought up by a major.

In summary, consensus is not a different form of voting, but a completely different way of thinking about decision making. It works — but only if it’s not treated as the power of veto.


Is physical punishment of kids OK?
I want to commit murder
I’m distancing myself from family. Why?
I can’t cope anymore
I’m ugly, friendless and hopeless


Is physical punishment of kids OK?

You know, “spare the rod and spoil the child.”

A recent study provides ammunition for those who disagree. Physical punishment strongly increases the likelihood of depression, anxiety, substance abuse and other serious problems in adulthood.
The blog by Patrick Moore, where this picture comes from, is also worth reading.

I want to commit murder

Recently I’ve been having more thoughts of how I can murder someone. I know where to hide bodies and I’m not afraid to hurt someone.

About 3 weeks ago my fiance broke up with me again, he always does and it’s because of his own insecurities. But anyhow, I just had thoughts in my head that I will show up to his house in my wedding dress and when he opens the door I would tell him that I love him and he can never leave my side and then kill him.

I don’t know why I always have these thoughts. When I was a little girl my mom told me that I would cut open gold fishes because I wanted to see what was in them and she bought me ducklings that were the most precious and adorable but I stabbed them in the nose with a toothpick until they died (she doesn’t know about that). When I was 9 I had a pet mouse and I would cut its tale off.

But after that I remember when I was 10 this boy at school said something to me and I strangled him and stared into his eyes to see his pain. As I grew older I started to steal from people and shoplift. Then when I started high school I started to get into drugs and alcohol. I can control it if I don’t want to drink or get high. I also get in fights sometime. But people that know me say I’m the nicest most kindhearted person they know. But when I see someone get hurt or when I have been done wrong I want to kill those people or at least hurt them. I’m scared that I can’t hold my urges any longer. I have become this heartless and ruthless person. Please tell me what I should do.

Sally my dear, I wish you had left an email address so I could get this answer to you as fast as possible.

Let me tell you a true story.

I was once supervising a young psychologist who had a placement at a Christian mental health service. A policeman came in. They had 4 sessions over some small problem before he trusted the therapist enough to say what the real issue was.

All his life, ever since puberty, he had a strong urge to sexually molest little children. Every time he was near a little boy or girl, he wanted that child to play with his penis, and he wanted to do things to the child.

This horrified him. He felt about his sexual urges the way you feel about your killing urges. He’d actually joined the police to stop other men from molesting children. He never had a girlfriend because he wanted to avoid being a father, frightened of the risk of molesting his own children. He felt himself to be evil, and damaged, and disgusting, and sometimes it was so bad that he wanted to kill himself.

My colleague asked my advice on how to help this man, and we came up with something that worked for him, and will work for you. This policeman happened to be a strong Christian, so we put the idea in terms of his faith, but if he had been an atheist, the same idea would still have worked.

In the Bible, it says that Satan came to Jesus and said, “Bow down before me, and all this shall be yours” and showed Him great rewards. Jesus then spent 40 days and 40 nights in the desert, then rejected the offer.

OK, Sally, why didn’t Jesus say no to Satan straight away? Why did it take him so long to make up His mind? It had to be because the temptation was real. Jesus felt about Satan’s offer the way you feel about killing. He wanted to do it, but knew it was wrong, and knew he’d hate himself if he accepted. Otherwise, why agonize over it for 40 days and 40 nights?

But when He rejected Satan’s offer, that proved to Himself that He was strong enough to carry out His Father’s mission for Him, which was to allow Himself to be tortured to death. That took a lot of courage, and maybe if He hadn’t had training through rejecting Satan’s offer, He wouldn’t have been able to go through with it.

My colleague said to the policeman, “If it was OK for Jesus to face a challenge like that, then it is OK for you. Maybe, before you were born, you and God designed this special challenge for you. You needed it for the training of your spirit, so you could become a stronger, better person. It’s a trial you have been given, and you have passed. You have benefited from it. Rather than being evil, and damaged, and disgusting, you’ve proved yourself to be a highly moral, good person. Despite having these terrible urges, you have managed to avoid hurting any small children, and even chose work where you can protect children from harm. You are what you DO, not what you feel. What you have done is good, so you are good. Those urges are your cross, and even if they are with you for the rest of your life, you can continue to be a good person by resisting them.”

As I said, this was right for him because he was a Christian. I don’t know your religious beliefs, but that doesn’t matter. You can use your killing urges in the same way. Until now, you have bought into them and perhaps even enjoyed the inner feeling of power you get when imagining how you will kill someone. But from now on, you can say to yourself, “Good. Here is my opportunity to become a stronger, better, more decent person by DOING the right thing. You are what you do, not what you feel. I will do some act of kindness for this person instead of killing him.”

You see, feelings, thoughts and urges are like a muscle: they get stronger with exercise. When you keep thinking about killing, and believe these thoughts, they get stronger and more frequent. When you practice kindness and decency and doing the right thing, then those thoughts become stronger and more frequent.

I also have a second idea for you, one that I often use. When I get an urge I disapprove of, I have a three-way choice: 1. Go along with it and do it. 2. Exert my willpower to resist it. 3. Use a trick I will now describe for you.

Resisting through willpower is hard work. And it can often fail — we slip up. Instead, I realize that this urge is not a command, but an invitation. I can gently say, “No, thank you.” I don’t need to resist the urge, just disown it. I am not the urge, and it is not me. And I am not responsible for it. I didn’t decide to have this urge, it just came. It’s as if there was a little monster whispering in my ear, using the same voice as my own thoughts, “Go on, Bob, no one will ever find out. You can get away with it. What does it matter?”

These thoughts are not my thoughts, they just are. So, I don’t have to fight them. I don’t have to believe them. I can’t make them go away, but I don’t need to listen either. It’s like, suppose you’re in a room where the TV is on. Someone comes in and asks, “Hi Sally, what’s the show?” and you have to say, “I don’t know, I haven’t been paying it any attention.” You can have a killing urge, and deal with it in the same way. “It’s there, so what. I didn’t ask for it, am not responsible for it. I don’t need to make it go away, just treat it as background noise.”

Again, this new habit is a muscle. It gets stronger with exercise.

If you read this message from me, I would be very grateful if you could email me. Many other people have tracked me down from my answers at Queendom, so you can too.

Continue to be the nice, kind hearted person you are.


I’m distancing myself from family. Why?

My father passed away tragically on Christmas Eve in 2004. My whole life changed and so did I. I became a different person and a whole new look at life. My father and I were really close; he was my best friend so it was and still is really hard for me till this day. I’ve noticed that I’ve been distancing myself from my family (cousins, family gatherings, parties) I don’t know why I’ve been doing that but I just rather hang out with friends instead. I always feel a sense of loneliness when I am with my family. There is a slight stress in my mind that makes me feel like I have to impress them and put a “act” on for them. It’s very confusing for me because my family means the world to me.

I want to know what can be the reason I am distancing myself from my family.

Miranda, I think you know the answer to your question, or you wouldn’t have mentioned your father’s death. You are still grieving. Your father passed away nearly 10 years ago. The world expects you to have gotten over it, but you haven’t. You still miss him, haven’t come to terms with losing him.

Among your friends, out in the world away from your family, you can focus on what’s going on around you, have thoughts not related to your loss. You can pretend to yourself that everything is fine.

However, when you are with family, their presence reminds you that father is not there. You have formed the habit of using the presence of your relatives as reminders of the absence of your father. That hurts, so you want to get away from them, from the reminder.

And this is precisely why the grief is still with you. Most people deal with pain by running away from it. It’s as if you were on a journey that is never finished. Every time there is an opportunity to deal with the issue, you run away. It is too painful to face up to, so you have never done so.

This hasn’t worked for 10 years. It’s time to try a new approach. There is a lot of research showing that this approach works. It has worked for many of my clients.

The way to rebuild your links with the family that means the world to you is to fully, deliberately and consciously allow the pain of your grief. If you can afford it, have a few sessions with a good psychologist or grief counsellor.

I suggest you design a ritual for yourself. Examples of what you can do are:

  • Write your father a letter, bury it in a beautiful little box, and plant a suitable flowering plant like a rose on top of it.
  • Alone, go to a special place (church if you are religious, somewhere in nature, a place where you’d had wonderful times with him), and then talk to him. Ask his blessing, and ask that he now let you go. He will.
  • Wait for a special day like his birthday, the anniversary of his death, or some other event that brings him to people’s minds. Organize a family gathering, and ask people to listen as you make a speech to them — a few minutes is all — about what he still means to you, and why you are still affected by your loss. Invite a few others to also prepare a few words to say.

You currently experience unresolved grief. What is resolved grief like? Life goes on, and you can think about him, talk about him, remember his failings as well as his good points, make jokes about him that would have made him laugh. On one or two special days a year, you might honor his memory by inviting sadness. You can then look at old photos, tell old stories about him, focus on him once more. Then, ordinary life can return, with him a memory rather than an obsession.

You will also gain a great deal by reading a wonderful book: “Seven Choices: Finding daylight after loss shatters your world” by Elizabeth Harper Neeld.

One final thought: he is still around, only no longer connected to a body.


I can’t cope anymore

I’m 21 with 2 children, Richard is 3 and has autism and can’t talk, Tommy is 10 months with a complicated heart defect which has had him in hospital a while when he was first born but he is okay now. I also live with my very supportive fiance Kevin, I’m unemployed due to my workplace not accepting my part time shifts.

My kids can’t talk to me, I had Tommy all day everyday and Richard from when he finishes day care at 3 till their dad comes in at 6.45. I actually hate my life, I love my kids but Richard’s real dad doesn’t deal with him like I do, it’s like I’m just a mam, just there, like if I was to die the kids wouldn’t even know. I feel totally pointless. My family has a lot of depression in it so I figured that was probably it. When I’m in the house on my own I don’t eat much, I feel exhausted at 1pm, my grandad died a month ago, I have no one to talk to because I just feel like I’m being pathetic, I want to pack my bag and just leave. Help me please, I think I’m cracking up.

Dear Sonya,

In the UK, you have free access to care. Make use of it. A few sessions with a mental health professional may make all the difference in the world for you.

Second, just because you have a 10 month old doesn’t mean you need to be a prisoner in your home. Most women have babies restricting their options for a time in their lives, but manage to have friends, do interesting things and enjoy at least part of their day. If someone else can do it, so can you.

The problem is not so much your situation, but how you have reacted to it until now. So, let’s look at it differently. By magic, I give you qualifications as a social worker. A young woman comes to you with the problems you have described, and your job is to lead her to a better life. How will you go about it?

You will encourage her to join certain local groups and activities: hobbies, sports, short courses and the like. I don’t know what’s available, but as a social worker you do. There may be local services from government, council or charitable groups she can access. She has had her first child very young, so chances are her education was interrupted. You may be able to organise for her to do some study in a field she can work up an interest in, mostly using the internet.

You can be your own social worker, and find all this kind of information online.

Of course, all this takes work, and that’s difficult when you feel depressed. I bet it was difficult to make yourself send out this cry for help too. But you did it. Just do one step at a time, and if you get help from a therapist, everything will be easier.

If you were to die, most certainly your kids would miss you. They would be devastated. Despite Richard’s autism, he has feelings and is probably a very good observer. You have a place in the world, and a reason for living. Look on this period in your life as a challenge. When you get through it, you’ll be a stronger, better person for having suffered.

Give your boys a hug from me,

I’m ugly, friendless and hopeless

It all started 4 years ago. My life started going downhill when I started to feel sadder and less loved. I tried to brush it off but as I got older, my families and friends expectations of me got higher and higher, and now, I can’t make anyone happy. I cry myself to sleep almost every night and sometimes during the day, hiding so nobody can see me.

My family expect good grades, good behaviour, good everything off of me. Even an A- isn’t good enough for them, I’ve found. I tried to tell them how I have been feeling, but they interrupted me ten seconds in, told me I was overreacting and left.

I can’t even turn to my friends, at school, I am known as the weird ugly girl. Even my friends tell me they think I am just hung out with because of them. When I be myself, I am laughed at, even by my friends. But I have to keep acting stupid like I don’t know, because I know that if I did decide to stop ‘being their friends’, they would just move on. I have to ignore the whispers and giggles because I need people, even people who are pretending. I feel used and useless at the same time.

Who am I really? Even the other ‘unpopular’ girl at my school has tons of friends who are truly her friend, she literally has a whole table full of them, whereas I have three who don’t actually like me, they even said so themselves. I feel like a failure, like nobody cares about me. My love languages are physical touch and positive affirmations, but I haven’t gotten either for so long, I feel dead inside. Everyone hates me. I need someone to actually physically be my friend, I need someone to talk to and to hug me and tell me everything will be alright! I need it so bad! But I can’t get it. I don’t know what I’m going to do now, let alone in the future.

I’m moving to an elite school next year and it is full on, let me tell you. And I’m going to fail! I have trouble finishing assignments on time now, let alone with heaps of elite challenging work next year. I even sit down doing everything they tell you to do when you study, and I literally cannot write a word! Somebody, please help me! I have been looking up suicide methods and I’m scared. I’m scared of my brain and of myself and I hate them both too. What do I do!

Lisa, 14 years

Lisa, my dear,

I can’t give you a hug, but I am here for you. If you want to, you can join my global group of grandchildren.

You are obviously highly intelligent, that’s why you are being moved to an elite school. I know that’s scary, but you can do it. There, you will meet kids with interests you probably share, kids you can relate to at a higher level. Look at it as an opportunity to find friends who can fill the gaps that now drag you down.

My guess is the reason kids at your current school look at you as weird, laugh at you and ostracise you is that their minds work at a much lower level. You need to act stupid because you are way too smart. That difference will disappear at the elite school. Liberation!

Let me tell you, when I was 14 I was also terribly depressed — only I didn’t know it. I just knew I was stupid, and ugly, and anything I tried was guaranteed to fail, and no one could possibly love me. I knew that kids were only friendly to me in school because I was good at fighting (I only fought the bullies, and protected kids who were being picked on). I lived alone without a family in a migrant hostel, and felt that if I died, no one would miss me.

All of these beliefs of mine were FALSE FALSE FALSE. In fact, eventually I became dux of my school, and my “Leaving Certificate” results were in the top 200 in NSW, and I earned a Ph.D. So, I wasn’t stupid. Looking at old pictures I can see I was not ugly, as OK as anyone else. And yes, often when I tried something new I stuffed it up, but I also discovered that if someone else could do it, I could learn it. And over time, lots of people have loved me.

I am pretty sure that your list of reasons for sadness is equally open to question. I know where you are now because I’ve been there myself — and one day, you can be where I am now.

Your IQ is not just a tool for getting good marks at school. It is also a tool for solving life problems. That’s how I eventually dragged myself out of depression. Pick a problem, for example “my family’s expectations of me are too high.” You are right: such pressure can break a person. If they want you to do well, they need to give you support, and empathy, and permission to make mistakes. A chess world champion (Capablanca) said, “You can learn a lot more from the games you lose than from the games you win.”

OK, they diss you and don’t listen to you. That’s a practical problem. How do you communicate your feelings and needs? I don’t know your relatives and I don’t know your situation, but you do. Devise a method. Maybe it’s a carefully worded letter. If you choose that, you could write a draft and email it to me, and together we can make it as good as possible.

Another example: I don’t know why you believe yourself to be ugly, but you can get rid of this issue for life if you choose to go by this little poem:

        Beauty is a tree.
        Inner beauty is the timber that makes a tree a tree.
        Outer beauty is only the bark, of no use whatever.

You can generate inner beauty by doing your best to understand where each other person is coming from. You can then be the sunshine in their lives by giving them what they need, subtly and without appearing to. If someone feels inferior to you, trick them without them noticing into feeling good about themselves. That’s where intelligence is very useful. If someone is struggling with a maths problem, offer to give them a hand and, without any superiority or arrogance, help them to understand how to do it. If someone is very pleased with some minor achievement you could do with your eyes closed and your hands tied behind your back, then give your congratulations, show genuine pleasure that they did so well. After all, this kid has done a personal best, and there is no point in comparing to what you can do. Your high IQ is just luck, so not a reason for feeling superior.

This involves learning a set of skills. That takes thought to design the tasks, then practice, and thinking about it so you can improve. The rewards will be enormous.

With hugs,


Common carcinogenic foods
Skin, respiratory symptoms increase near gas wells
Coal is bad for your health
When a parent drinks, the child suffers by Rayne Golay


Common carcinogenic foods

This list of 12 common foods with problems can be summarised: avoid junk food and drink, buy or grow organic, use as natural as possible and cook it for yourself.

Skin, respiratory symptoms increase near gas wells

The Ecologist has reported on a study that indicates that living near a natural gas well, whether from fracking or not, can do nasty things to your health.

You can also check out the original publication.

Coal is bad for your health


When a parent drinks, the child suffers
by Rayne Golay

Rayne Golay is a very experienced drug and alcohol counsellor, and a talented writer. On her blog, she discusses the sometimes subtle effects of unacknowledged alcohol abuse.

If you enjoy a drink or two, but are confident that it does no harm, I challenge you to read what she has to say.


Writing from within
12 most common word confusions cleared up


Writing from within

Here are two ways of writing about a person:

Outside view
Horrified, Geordie watched the rope snake past him, down, down… until the weight of it tugged on his harness. He looked like a tiny spider hanging onto the cliff face. His fingers were like the claws of an anchor as they desperately grasped tiny crevices in the rock. Beads of sweat were visible on his brow, and his legs trembled.

Inside view
Horrified, Geordie watched the rope snake past him, down, down… until the weight of it tugged on his harness. He felt like a tiny spider hanging onto the cliff face. His fingers were so rigid they hurt as he desperately grasped tiny crevices in the rock. Sweating, trembling with tension, he asked himself, Why did that rope come loose?

What’s the difference?

The first version is clearly from the point of view (POV) of someone watching Geordie. The only indication of his inner reality is the first word. The rest is a description of what he looks like.

The second version is what Geordie experiences. Here, you are invited into his reality, to BE the person on the rock face with the rope now tugging him down instead of holding him up.

Does it matter?

As you read a story in the outside view, you are continuously given subliminal messages that this is only a story, something someone is telling you. You are given information to allow you to see the character from the outside, as in a movie or play.

In the inside view, you are given the tools to go far beyond that. A book in words can be very much more compelling than a movie, because the potential is there for receiving information that camera and microphone cannot capture: bodily sensations, smells, tastes, thoughts, emotions.

In fiction writing, the author’s job is to specify a reality, a cast of characters, and a progression of events. The reader needs to be supplied with enough information to imagine that all this is real. Ideally, the writer is the director. The reader is the audience, but also the character whose point of view is currently being used, and the creator of the reality of the story. That’s right. The author doesn’t do the act of creation. The reader does. This is why no two readers ever receive the same story. This is why seeing a movie of a book you enjoyed is almost invariably disappointing — someone else has done the creating, and will have done it differently from your version.

Reading something written in the inside view allows you to live the experience of the story.

Is there a place for the outside view?

Yes, it has two uses.

First, the journalist, the historian, the biographer necessarily tell their story from the author’s POV. Reporters cannot read minds, so can only state their own thoughts, insofar as these are relevant. For the rest, they need to state the words and actions of the people they write about.

Second, in any scene, there will be the person whose POV we are using, for example Geordie in the snippet I started with. While that person should be presented from the inside view, any other people cannot. Geordie can’t read minds either. When he looks up and sees Sam looking down with an evil leer and waving a knife, he doesn’t know Sam’s thoughts, bodily sensations, emotions, motives. He automatically deduces some of them from Sam’s words and actions. In this, he may be right, or completely mistaken.

So, if we make Sam the current witness, then the outside view example is just right — as long as we delete the first word. Sam cannot tell that Geordie is horrified, although he may hope so.

A good author will deliberately use inside view for the witness to the scene, whose POV we are in, and outside view for all other people. I hope you’ll now be aware of this in your reading, and more important, in your writing.

12 most common word confusions cleared up

I’ve found a brilliant list anyone can use to improve English.

Their-there; lie-lay; accept-except and so on are clearly distinguished, and illustrated with clear examples, by Becky Gaylord.

She could have added a 13th: its-it’s. I’ll do it for her.

Its is “belonging to it.” This is the same form as his and hers. No apostrophe in any of these three.
The car is a rustbucket. Its surface is pitted with holes.

It’s is a contraction for “it is.”
It’s a shame you can’t come.

What my friends want you to know

Vote to bring solar to thousands of Timorese
Frugal editor updated
Reader’s Entertainment magazine gives sneak peeks
Celebrating Social Change: Commonground festival
6th Australian Rural & Remote Mental Health Symposium
Sharing with writers
World of Animals magazine
New Website for Fight for the Reef
Weatherwood published


Vote to bring solar to thousands of Timorese

Dear Bob,

We’re excited!

The Alternative Technology Association has just been announced as a finalist for a Google Impact Challenge grant of $500,000 for our ambitious next stage in bringing solar lighting to remote villages in East Timor.

Our plan is to install 2000 solar lighting systems and train 75 village-based installers in the next two years, delivering an overall 60kW of low-emission solar energy.

The Google Impact Challenge rewards not-for-profit organisations using technology to improve lives.

We need you to vote for us to ensure we get the grant.

Frugal editor updated

frugaleditorWhew! I just updated the second edition e-book of my The Frugal Editor and want to share the good news. The formatting is even cleaner. I added a section on the lovely-to-look-at (but too-often misused) ampersand. I incorporated a few ideas offered up by Dr. Bob Rich and some refinements I picked up from my grammar guru June Casagrande. There is a tutorial on formatting for Kindle in the Appendix.

You should also know that the second edition e-book has now been given the nod from both Dan Poynter’s Global Ebook Awards and the Next Generation Indie Award–in addition to the awards the book carried from the first time it was issued back in 2007. I am still working on the reformat of the paper edition.
Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Reader’s Entertainment magazine gives sneak peeks

You can read about lots of interesting books, and even watch trailers.

From 7th October, 2014, there will be one about Ascending Spiral.

Celebrating Social Change: Commonground festival

14-16 November, 2014

We have just uploaded all the details for the 2014 Commonground Festival Workshops and Social Change Unconference.

A big part of Commonground’s theory of social change is collaboration — working together to address complex social problems. The festival is a great time to connect and share skills to increase our effectiveness as changemakers.

This year we’ll continue with a number of programmed workshops on collaboration and introduce an unconference stream to promote peer-to-peer learning.

In the unconference stream, you’ll have the opportunity to run a session on any topic related to social change. All you need to do is present a topic, then self organise into smaller groups to cover chosen topics in each round of the unconference.

The workshops reflect what’s been delivered in previous years. They provide an opportunity for you to familiarise yourself with what has made Commonground a success over the past 30 years.

We can’t wait for the festival and your active participation. In the meantime, check out our workshop schedule to see which sessions you’d like to attend and have a think about any topics you might like to host in the Social Change Unconference stream!

CommonGround is about an hour’s travel north of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Details are on their web site.

6th Australian Rural & Remote Mental Health Symposium

12-14 November 2014

The 6th Australian Rural & Remote Mental Health Symposium Program is now available. The 2014 program includes 9 keynote speakers, 
60 concurrent sessions, 20 discussion groups, interactive workshops and poster presentations.

You are invited to join the discussion as we address a vast range of subjects including Rural and Remote Challenges, Recovery Oriented Practice, Mental Health Programs, Cultural Engagement, Suicide Prevention, e-Health and Working in Partnerships.

View the program and register.

Sharing with writers

Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s regular newsletter is accessible at her web site.

This is a service she provides to the writing world, and an excellent resource.

World of Animals magazine

The World of Animals magazine is an IFAW publication.

For whales and wombats, elephants and tigers, and other animals in need all over the world, IFAW is making a difference — with your help. 

It isfull of stories about the animals you help.

Stories indeed about whales and wombats, and also elephants and tigers.

New Website for Fight for the Reef

The Great Barrier Reef, one of the planet’s great natural wonders, is under attack like never before. Warming waters and ocean acidification are consequences of climate change, but that is minor compared to the effects of coal mining, and the development of coal ports.

We are fighting back. Check out the new web site.

Weatherwood published

Carolyn Harris writes:

Hi all, my new book has gone online at Amazon, and thought you’d like to know 🙂 It will be in print before Christmas, so you will be able to buy it then if you want to… of course, only if you want to — I’m not twisting your arms… much 😉

You might be interested to know I took the photo for the cover from my verandah. I did the same with my first book ‘It Never Rains, It Pours’, that was a strange cloud that hung over Huntingfield for a few minutes and which I was lucky enough to catch… no, not the cloud, the photograph!

For those of you who don’t know, I write under my Grandmother’s name. I am also ‘Rosamond’ after her. I don’t like Harris, so I took her maiden name of ‘Carter’.

Available at Amazon

What’s it about?

In 1813 two women were sent as convicts to Australia. Their life on the ship ‘Jocasta’ toughened them for the life to come.

On arrival, each was employed for their terms of conviction before they met again. They each married and together began the journey across the Blue Mountains to settle on the Bathurst plains.

Their lives and hardships before their mysterious disappearance began the long chain of events that wouldn’t cease for 200 years.

In 2007, Sally and Hamish sought a change and a challenge. They found a 400-acre property for sale on the other side of the Blue Mountains called ‘Weatherwood.’

The estate agent could tell them very little except the owner required they supply the names of their parents and grandparents and where they were born, but he couldn’t tell them why.

What they couldn’t explain was why they were irresistibly drawn to Weatherwood. They bought it sight unseen.

It was mad and they knew it. They had no idea what Weatherwood was or what they would find when they got there. Nevertheless, with their new 4×4 and their cat ‘Purrfec’ they set out from Sydney on an adventure that would take them deep into the heart of Weatherwood and its many mysteries.

You can read my review of this book below.


Weatherwood, by Rosamond Carter
A Voice in the Night, by Erin Ireland
Blood of the Rose, by Kevin Murray
Aquarius Rising, Book 1: In the Tears of God, by Brian Burt
Ascending Spiral: Humanity’s Last Chance, reviewed by Brian Burt
Ascending Spiral, reviewed by Mindy Eklove


Weatherwood, by Rosamond Carter

I edited an earlier version of Weatherwood for the author. It is the intertwined stories of two women, at two very different times in history, in very different circumstances.

Liz is a 19th century street urchin in London, surviving through prostitution and theft until caught. She is transported to New South Wales, meeting Charlotte on the ship. The two form a lifelong friendship, and through many adventures and hardships end up as the owners of “Weatherwood,” a house their husbands were able to build thanks to striking it lucky on the goldfields.

Sally is happily married, a 20th Century educated woman, who buys Weatherwood, sight unseen. She is fascinated by the mystery of the place. Through careful detective work, and some paranormal manifestations, she reconstructs the lives of Liz, Charlotte, and their families, in a very satisfying way.

Weatherwood will delight those fascinated by history who also enjoy the unraveling of puzzles. It is a story about the resilience of the human spirit and the strength of friendship.


Rosamond Carter was born in Sydney, Australia in 1939, married, and had two children and is now the grandmother of two granddaughters and two grandsons.

In 1995, she moved to live on 23 acres of land on Bruny Island where she became a volunteer ambulance officer for North Bruny for three years. In 2006, she moved off Bruny to settle on 5 acres in Kettering, and it was there she was able to pick up on an old love — writing.

She had dabbled in various types of novels and stories. It wasn’t until she wrote and finished It Never Rains, It Pours that she began to take the idea of writing more seriously.

Now she has published Weatherwood, which will be in book form for the Christmas rush.

A Voice in the Night, by Erin Ireland

Imagine a gladiator who has managed to escape from slavery. That’s Erin Ireland. She is no longer a battler in the circus of domestic abuse, but insists on respect from all. After a lifetime of feeling worthless, she now knows in her heart that she deserves respect, from herself and from all others.

Here is where she has arrived: “To give to others is to invite peace and happiness to your inner being. Never expect rewards. You will already gain more than you can imagine in spiritual rewards. Material wants will only weigh you down. Let go of the need to control others. You will feel free if you do. Let go of ever being controlled by another. You will be free if you do. The universe responds to your positive, happy, content, and loving spirit of energy. Only the energy we put out to others and the universe are the energies that will come to us in return.” (p 152)

If you know you are in an abusive relationship, read this passionate yet informative book, and be inspired. If the author could build a good life after the extremes of trauma she’d experienced, then so can you.

If you don’t believe you are in an abusive relationship, but feel vague dissatisfactions, feel controlled and restricted, more like a servant than a partner, then read this book to see if in fact you are one of the many victims of abuse who do not recognize their situation.

Here is the reward: “Great losses in our lives are difficult to come back from, but when we do, we gain strength others can’t fathom.” (p 159)

This is a powerful book, and very readable. However, I do have a criticism: in her enthusiasm, the author repeats content a number of times. The book would be improved if these repetitions were removed. However, the message is sufficiently important and well presented to ride over this issue.

Available at Amazon.

Erin Ireland needs to stay in hiding to avoid other attempts on her life. Therefore, she doesn’t want any personal details disclosed about her.

Blood of the Rose, by Kevin Murray

For content — the basic idea, plot, characterisation, the twists of the story — I’d give 5 stars. The story is brilliant, and gripping. Unfortunately, I am an editor, and obsessive about it, so need to reduce this rating. The copy I read had a steady stream of typos such as a quote turned the wrong way like this: ⎯” and I found this annoying. Other examples of line editing mistakes are obligatory commas missing, and simple typing mistakes like a period instead of a closing bracket. Second, the author needs to do some research on point of view (POV) and avoiding info dumps. This is the essential difference between journalistic and fiction writing.

Having got this whinge out of the way, here is my review. A prominent man is killed, then a second, then a third. There is no discernible connection between them. And the next victim is a homeless man. But the evidence clearly shows all of them to have been killed by the same man.

There are major tensions among the two top policemen of the investigation, and the first victim’s daughter, a journalist, is also trying to find her father’s killer. I won’t spoil the story by telling you more than this.

What makes the novel fascinating is a series of looks into the killer’s mind. I have a Ph.D. in psychology, and can tell you, Kevin shows remarkable insight into the thinking of a compulsive murderer.

This book is an excellent read, and if you like crime thrillers, you’ll love this story.


Kevin Murray began his writing career 40 years ago, working on The Star, Johannesburg’s biggest daily newspaper. He soon became Chief Crime Reporter in what was considered to be the crime capital of the world.

He once achieved a record of more than 30 consecutive days of front-page crime stories, including an aircraft hijacking, several murders, numerous armed robberies and drug-related gang wars. Since then, his successful career has spanned magazine publishing, public relations and strategic communications.

Aquarius Rising, Book 1: In the Tears of God, by Brian Burt

I am glad that this is the first book of a series, because I want to make sure to read the sequels. Unremitting tension, vivid description that doesn’t get in the way of action, realistic emotional presentation of very strange humanoids, incredible technical tools made believable — what more do you want in science fiction?

The back story is: climate change has cataclysmically changed earth. One genius released a virus that changed about 10% of humanity into an aquatic version; another released nanomechanisms that stripped carbon dioxide from the air. However, something went wrong and this led to even worse disaster. I won’t give away the plot by telling you what the problem was.

All that is in the distant past. Now, there are adapted humans in the sea, off earth on the Moon and Mars and in orbital stations, on land, and under it, all of them modified to suit their particular environments. And one man is determined to re-engineer things back to the way they were. He will stop at nothing, including murdering anyone in the way of his plans, by the thousands.

The story is revealed seamlessly through the point of view of people caught up in the conflict so that I, as reader, identified with them and got caught up with their adventures.

There is even a bonus. I am an obsessive editor, and get annoyed with most books because of the many technical faults. I must congratulate Brian on how “clean” his writing is: nary a typo.

This book deservedly won the 2014 EPIC eBook Award for science fiction.

Amazon link


Brian Burt loves to read and write speculative fiction. His short story “The Last Indian War” won the Gold Award in the 8th annual Writers of the Future Contest. His debut novel, Aquarius Rising: In the Tears of God, was recently named winner of the 2014 EPIC eBook Award for science fiction.

Ascending Spiral: Humanity’s Last Chance
reviewed by Brian Burt

This is an elegant story, a multilayered tale that traces the protagonist through a series of lives that connect a terrible sin from his distant past to the painful trials he endures to expiate those sins. Before he is Dr. Pip Lipkin, the central character takes the reader through the desperate adventures of Padraig and Dermot in old Ireland as they fight to protect their loved ones from brutal invaders; to the shores of Australia aboard a prison ship where convicts are doomed to be little more than property; to an isolated Outback ranch where gentle housewife Amelia suffers life-long torment at the hands of an abusive, violent husband. But life experiences drawn across a wide arc of human history, in different places, roles, and genders, are not enough. The being destined to become Pip also travels to a distant star system and planet, where he abandons gender (and humanity) altogether and battles to survive in predator-filled jungles as a sentient, ambulatory plant. This “unearthly” world is wondrous, strange, vividly rendered, and delightfully alien.

Pip’s reincarnations are far from random. Each life is filled with teachers, many unwitting, and painful lessons to be learned. Each death leads to a careful examination of the merits, missteps, and regrets of the life just lived, so that his spirit can chart the course of his next incarnation based on the lessons still unlearned. These lives are rich stories unto themselves, but together they trace the “ascending spiral” of the protagonist’s spiritual evolution: his atonement for past sins and progression toward a more enlightened state of consciousness. As Pip Lipkin, he knows he faces the final test of his existence as a “short-lived planet-dweller.” This time, he will either perish with the self-destructive human race or help them achieve the societal balance that can avert disaster.

I found this to be a fascinating novel, melding historical fiction with science fiction, philosophy, and metaphysics. This is more than just entertainment: it is fiction with a message. The reader is left wondering how Pip’s (and our own) tale will end. Will we achieve the wisdom Pip wins, at great cost, through centuries of pain and personal tragedy? Or, instead of that ascending spiral, will we spiral downward, repeating the same mistakes until our time runs out? Pip Lipkin is a compelling character, full of passion and despair and regret and, in spite of everything, hope. I wish there was a way to conjure him into reality, because we need him. But maybe the author intends us to realize that we each need to conjure a spark of Pip in our own lives, for the good of our species and our planet.

This book lingers in the mind long after the last line is read. That’s the power of well-imagined fiction with a meaningful message. Read it, enjoy it, and consider joining Pip’s team!

Ascending Spiral
reviewed by Mindy Eklove

There is an important and crucial message interwoven through the pages of the masterful storytelling of Dr. Bob Rich. Humanity is at a crossroads; change, or implode upon ourselves.

Dr. Rich draws in the reader through the eyes of Dermot, Amelia, an intelligent plant-life, and finally Dr. Pip, among others, who are actually the same soul reincarnating through a series of lifetimes in order to learn fundamental lessons. The reader begins to see the connections and the various souls that reincarnate together to enact an assortment of roles and help each other grow through a multitude of lifetimes and experiences. Dr. Rich is not afraid to delve into the humanity of each incarnation, testing them with difficult choices, which, given both human strengths and weaknesses, joys and sorrows, faults and attributes, the characters do not always pass. The reader is drawn into the life, mind and heart of each person, and we find ourselves devastated just as they are by the horror around them and lifted by the hope and compassion.

However Dr. Rich didn’t write this book simply to deliver a fascinating tale about reincarnation and life lessons, although it certainly delivers on that expectation. Throughout Dr. Rich’s novel, a clear message takes shape about the dire state of the world we live in, and how if we don’t start taking responsibility and accountability for our actions and each other, we are doomed to destroy ourselves. The message in this book is urgent, timely, and to be ignored at our own risk.

Dr. Rich passionately advocates for us to take a good, hard look at how each of us lives our lives and the impact of that on the planet and each other. He makes a few recommendations to point the reader in the direction of change, and provides an appropriate starting point to adjust our lifestyles and attitudes before it’s too late. The message in the book is clear and critical.

Live in compassion and kindness. Work together to repair the environment and stop economic growth from destroying what’s left of our planet.

Join his team. I will be.

Actually, Mindy doesn’t need to join my team. She has been on it for years. You can judge her wisdom in Bobbing Around Volume 14 Number 3.

In fact, Mindy is changing careers. She has enrolled in medical school, so she can work with Medicins sans frontieres in more than an administrative role. This has been one of her volunteer positions.

A bit of fun

Why we need punctuation
A wise advisor
The kangaroo’s judgment
True love


Why we need punctuation


A wise advisor


The kangaroo’s judgment


True love


About Bobbing Around

If you received a copy of Bobbing Around and don’t want a repeat, it’s simple. Drop me a line and I’ll drop you from my list.

You may know someone who would enjoy reading my rave. Bobbing Around is being archived at, or you can forward a copy to your friend. However, you are NOT ALLOWED to pass on parts of the newsletter, without express permission of the article’s author and the Editor (hey, the second one is me.)

If you are not a subscriber but want to be, email me. Subject should be ‘subscribe Bobbing Around’ (it will be if you click the link in this paragraph). In the body, please state your name, email address (get it right!), your country and something about yourself. I also want to know how you found your way to my newsletter. I hope we can become friends.

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It is a FALSE RUMOUR that you need to buy one of my books before your submission is accepted. Not that I cry when someone does so.

Above all, contributions should be brief. I may shorten them if necessary.

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About Dr Bob Rich

I am a professional grandfather. My main motivation is to transform society to create a sustainable world in which my grandchildren and their grandchildren in perpetuity can have a life, and a life worth living. This means reversing environmental idiocy that's now threatening us with extinction, and replacing culture of greed and conflict with one of compassion and cooperation.
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