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Socrates on the ropes

By Michael Kile - posted Tuesday, 24 September 2013

At 8.04 pm EST last Friday, a momentous event occurred on planet Earth under a full moon. Warren Kerr, AM, the new Warden of Convocationat the University of Western Australia, made a brief statement about a website, Shaping Tomorrow's World.

The University's Acting Director of Public Affairs, Ms Janine MacDonald, had advised him that, as STW was not a University site and UWA was not an affiliated organisation, the UWA logo and affiliation claim must be removed from the site.

MacDonald would inform STW of her decision, presumably Principals – Professors Stephan Lewandowsky and Steven Smith, and the Editorial Board.


Are the other two university logos appearing on STW also misleading visitor traffic?

The site was established in early 2011 by a group of WA academics with a UWA grant and funding from Murdoch University's Institute of Sustainability and Technology Policy.

According to emails released under FOI, STW would "provide a forum for civil debate about the real issues facing us – not whether [dangerous anthropogenic] climate change is real, but what we should do about it...We will employ a strict moderation policy and we will (informally) "peer-review" all posts."

It would be an activist site, as a MU Engineering and Energy School academic stressed in an email of 25th November, 2010.

"It's way past time for academe to stand up and make your voices heard for a broader audience. Preventing looming catastrophic climate change is something that simply must be engaged with by those with the knowledge to do so, beyond the confines of academic literature and institutions largely opaque to the majority of your fellow citizens. Please consider!" (my italics)

STW's UWA funding submission outlined its intention not only to provide information to the "interested general public, communicators and educators"; but also give "objective advice for businesses, policy-makers and elected representatives". Content would be "global in implication, but with an Australian flavour."


A month before launch, Lewandowsky felt the venture's success would depend on whether it could attract "contributions from as many academic colleagues around the world as possible." He wanted global readership for "to be worthwhile, we obviously need to ensure traffic."

Over at The Curtin University Sustainability Policy Institute, there was more noble-cause excitement.

"CUSP just finished a meeting with 30 grass-root groups to organise a 'stop the anti-carbon tax nonsense'. We should get about four times what they get to their rally. So many young people. This is the policy engagement I like!

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Disclosure Statement: The author does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article. He has no relevant affiliations, except as author of the Devil's Dictionary of Climate Change. He is a graduate of the University of Western Australia and two other universities.


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About the Author

Michael Kile is author of No Room at Nature's Mighty Feast: Reflections on the Growth of Humankind. He has an MSc degree from Imperial College of Science and Technology, University of London and a Diploma from the College. He also has a BSc (Hons) degree in geology and geophysics from the University of Tasmania and a BA from the University of Western Australia. He is co-author of a recent paper on ancient Mesoamerica, Re-interpreting Codex Cihuacoatl: New Evidence for Climate Change Mitigation by Human Sacrifice, and author of The Aztec solution to climate change.

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Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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