Over time our society has developed a culture, a way of doing things, that cannot be sustained by the natural world. To be sure, it will take decades but it is clear that our way of life in Australia and most developed countries requires an unsustainable amount of destruction to the natural environment. Bit by bit, development swallows what remains of the bush. To question that process in front of some can result in astonishment or disbelief that we could want anything else other than more suburbia and more economic activity. These people are clueless about the importance of the natural world.
With the use of incremental steps, the destruction cannot be halted. The argument will always be ‘this is such a small impact, it is insignificant‘. Yet, viewing the current landscape often makes my stomach twist into knots. Suburbia and agriculture, typically devoid of native vegetation, covers huge swaths of land. Areas of bush often only exist where the land is unusable for people such as mountainous terrain. Even those areas are often seriously degraded by introduced species of flora and fauna.
What I believe is required is a hard line that cannot be crossed. That is, a percentage of land that cannot be touched. Really, I think we have crossed an appropriate point already but given we have flown past that point and will need a period of adjustment, we can and should set a point in the near future where no further bush can be cleared. Without this type of policy, we will incrementally destroy our environment to the point of no return.
Personally, I love a good puzzle to work on. So, for that reason, it makes sense I enjoy mathematics more than the average Joe. Still, even with that in mind, I am perplexed at the resistance applied to avoid learning all things mathematical. This topic comes up fairly regularly now I have young children of school age. There disinterest is accentuated by the fact that neither has a definite idea on what they would like to do as a future occupation. I certainly don’t won’t to hit them with the ‘well those occupations require mathematics’ line for fear of encouraging them to avoid those particular occupations. Both kids have resented the mental effort required to learn mathematics at various points. Some of my children’s teachers have even appeared to acquiesce with the students in their dislike of mathematics. Very disappointing.
One worn out argument that is often aimed at mathematics is ‘I will never use it, so what’s the point?’. Indeed, on face value, the argument has value. There are not too many jobs that require employees to break out their pen and paper and start throwing Pythagoras theorem around. Yet, many of those same workers will apply mathematics in an implicit sense. Making sense of dates and times is a frequent task for most. Being able to make adjustments to various measures of magnitude is a given in daily life. Got enough money to buy the milk? How many extra eggs to make that double batch of pancakes? This is not even touching on the more advanced ways we can and do use mathematical thinking, generally without even relating it to the mathematical skills we are actually using. The same skills we learn at school.
In earlier years of my life, I was under the impression that people would form alternative conclusions on topics based on different information or different values. However, I understand now, cognition is a core feature of our beliefs. In particular, lack of cognition appears to explain a substantial number of conclusions that I find to be mysterious. That is, people concluding believes that appear self-evidently wrong to me. I better note here that I know I am not infallible. I fully understand that I can be wrong and any particular ‘argument’ or belief I have, may be the wrong one. It is less likely to be based on lack of cognition though. I am typically willing to think through a topic until I feel I have a solid grasp of the topic. Just as importantly, I am comfortable with accepting I do not know about a topic to reach a solid conclusion.
I believe the problem with non-thinkers is rife. Even on topics where people are often forced to have an opinion of some sort (think political affiliation, views on climate change etc. ), I find a lot of people are unaware of the fundamental concepts. They use the opinions of those around them to form their own rather than thinking through a topic with the facts on hand and their own values. I remember this realisation hitting home when I took environment science as an elective subject at uni. I often found myself surrounded with people with a similar view point (ie we need to care for the environment) but were often ignorant of the underlying reasons for it.
In Australia we have a system of government that is similar to most democracies found around the world. Based on the population density of each region, we distinguish electorates that are represented by an elected official who the electorate voted for.
This system of government appears to be a relatively fair system to use but I ask here, does this form of government represent the will of the people?
Firstly, any given electorate may constitute numerous ‘groups’ who have their own distinct views. For example, a single electorate may contain distinguishable groups such as inner city professionals, suburban families and voting students. Each group would tend to focus on particular areas of government and would vote accordingly.
However, our current system only gives the largest group representation on key policy points. Of course, any representative that wants to continue representing the electorate will need to balance the needs of their electorate but on highly salient and important areas for the electorate, the representative will need to try and vote based on the values of the largest group.
This could be considered fair but then, if those groups who are in a minority, are more evenly spread out across many electorates, their representation could be nil when in actuality they may represent a substantial portion of the Australian population.Let me give a simplified version of what I am describing.
Let us look at a government consisting of just four members. Let us say that there are five important policy areas that people are concerned about and which influence their voting preferences. The first area of concern is spread across all electorates but is not the most important issue in any electorate. The remaining areas of concern dominate each electorate but not other electorates. To solidify this example, we could hypothesise that all electorates are concerned about health care but this is the No.1 issue for only 40% of the population in each electorate. For one electorate the No.1 issue for the majority of the population (ie the remaining 60%) could be mining rights, in another electorate the No.1 issue might be CSG mining on agricultural land and so on.
The outcome of this scenario is that the largest concern of all electorates combined (health care) receives zero representation while smaller issues receive greater representation. In reality, the voters preferences and areas of concern is much more complex than this but this example shows that it is possible with the current system to have an important area or policy to be under represented.
Could a better system be devised? I will explore this consideration in future posts.