the water treatment
This Gus picture shows "the Gulf" about 100 miles from Normanton.
In the northern part of Australia, meandering rivers, mud flats, oppressive humid heat and shallow sea give an eerie feel to this mostly undefined coast between high and low tide, where sometimes, lines of thin tall trees growing in sea water give a marker for mapping... It is near the area where the Burke and Wills expedition floundered about 5 kilometres from the coast in mud. To me this is beautiful. This is paradise for fish, crocs and pigs (boars either released or escaped from failed farms). For humans this is a land of impossible survival.
When public policies are being drafted, well-funded campaigns seek to confuse and misrepresent evidence to push a particular agenda.
Faced with such frustration, can a scientist believe in a cause, advocate passionately for that cause and still be credible? asks Andrew Campbell.
The late Professor Peter Cullen was a gifted exponent of the art of 'speaking truth to power', communicating about complex scientific questions to policy makers, politicians and the media.
His many Cullenisms (pdf) included this important insight:
When scientists do enter the political arena, they must understand they are playing to different rules from those used in science and need to learn the rules of politics and the media. Unless they understand the rules and tactics of policy debate it is like them walking on to a tennis court equipped only with golf sticks.
Science and policy are different domains, with different cultures, different praxis, different language and requiring different navigation skills to ensure successful passage.
When scientists cross the line into advocacy for a policy course, pushing a particular response to a 'so what should we do?' question, then in my view we do so more as citizens, voters and taxpayers than as scientists.
If the policy question is closely centred on the area of expertise of the scientist, then the opinion of that scientist about the best policy course should ideally be more influential than someone with no specialist knowledge of the issue.
But in an open democratic society, while some are more expert than others, an opinion is just that.
On 'what should we do?' questions, scientists need to realise that theirs is not the only lens through which answers will be found.
Professor Andrew Campbell is the Director of the Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods and Head of the School of Environment at Charles Darwin University. You can follow him on Twitter @AndrewCampbell2.
I have no idea where Professor Andrew Campbell is trying to take us to with this long winded uncertain argument.
Another saying of Professor Cullen more appropriate here would have been:
“Disconnecting the fuel gauge might be one way to stop worrying about how much fuel might be left, but it’s a pretty stupid strategy.”
Science has never been disassociated from politics... though the relationship has always been tenuous due to the interference from "beliefs"...
On the "what should we do" question, Campbell tends to dismiss the science community point of view a bit too quickly... unless Cullen's views were different to his own.
I feel Campbell's view is that of a fence-sitter, more that of a politician than a scientist, a person who eat in all troughs of politics and will wallow in unscientific denial if he has to.
He could be staying afloat by telling the real thinkers that they should disconnect the fuel gauge to see what happens next to be sure... Silly.
Not quite, though.
It seems his RIEL is doing good stuff though he himself seems to be a semi-scientific philosophical advocate against the Labor Government. He seemingly is also in favour of developing the northern part of the continent with water capture of sorts — as advocated by Troppo Tony... Campbell attack on the funding of RD&E by the Labor Government is of course advocacy, though the government still provides $715 million to this rural research and co-ordination of scientific data...
I believe that Campbell may suffer from a small dose of Liberalism (conservatism) that is not compatible with real science — including the "water science" for rural development. Some other articles, through RIEL links, are more focused on the real problems of say mining and unnecessary development such as the illogical gas hub in the Kimberleys, which is more a political scoring football than a proper well-thought out place for such a project...
I could be wrong on Andrew Campbell... But I don't think so.