Monday, March 5, 2018

HUGE CHANGE AT ABC TV NEWS: Tony Jones on Q&A says Australia's population growth rate is the highest in the developed world.

The transcript  of last night’s QandA program (one of the Australian Broadcasting Commission's TV News programs), contains a bombshell.

This came at the very end, when presenter  Tony Jones announced the panelists for next week (which include Bob Carr and Tim Flannery). Jones also announced  that the topic will be Australia’s population growth rate which he described as the highest in the developed world.

Jones has boldly broken  one of the strongest  taboos at ABC and SBS TV news.  Admissions that both Australia’s population growth rate and also its per capita immigration rate are exceptionally  high by OECD standards  have been rare indeed in recent decades —even though these are points that leap out from the ABS statistics, and would be among the most obvious pieces of information that any competent researcher would pass on to a presenter or producer contemplating a segment on  population or on immigration. (Very high immigration is of course the main driver of Australia's population growth).  The environmentalist Ralph Bennett described trying to get one ABC team to mention these points, and being told “You’re trying to get us to break a whole set of small-l liberal no-nos”.

I cannot say that that this suppressed  information was never the starting point of any segment  on immigration or on population growth  on ABC or SBS TV news programs, because one cannot keep tabs on all programs; and in the age of search-engines like Google it is unwise to assert that something never happens. But I know how strongly most ABC and SBS presenters repressed attempts by interviewees to make this point. (It was only rarely that one was allowed to mention it on ABC radio.) This is one reason that Dick Smith recently referred to ABC News  as being dominated (on immigration and population) by a group of “well-placed bigots”—a conclusion also reached by myself and William Lines, with much documentation,  in our chapter on ABC Bias in the book OverloadingAustralia.

By refusing to concede/mention that Australia’s immigration rate was bizarrely high, and our population growth rate was higher than that of many third world countries, presenters could represent the current rate  as perfectly normal or natural and simply the way things were. No disquiet was expressed about Australia’s having embarked on a more extreme experiment than any other developed nation. The old image of Australia as a pioneering nation with “boundless plains” to fill was shamelessly propped up, even though (as Professor George Seddon pointed out) our agricultural frontier effectively closed a century ago.  The environmental damage was shrugged off. Evidence that the public dislikes or opposes  rapid population growth was  also suppressed, or treated as an irrelevance.

Hence anyone brave enough to publicly criticise Australia’s sky-high  immigration rates could  be  represented as a naive eccentric with, very likely, some nasty motivation for wanting to criticise immigration. (A favorite trick was to claim that they must "hate immigrants".)  By contrast, business lobby-groups with obvious vested interests in population growth were treated as impartial experts, and no right of reply to their claims was usually offered. Big Australia ideologues  like George Megalogenis  and Bernard Salt were often mis-presented as middle-of-the-road authorities.

Credible critics of high immigration, most notably the main community group  Sustainable Population Australia, were frozen out. In fact they were  denied oxygen  so completely that if their president or vice-president was interviewed on a major ABC TV news program in the past 20 years, I am not aware of it. Even when Peter Costello brought in his controversial "baby bonus", no comment from Sustainable Population Australia was permitted on ABC TV News programs. More recently the very reputable Sustainable Australia Party  has been almost entirely denied oxygen, even by those ABC TV programs that exhaustively cover every shred of Australian political news. The strong statements of the Australian Academy of Science have also been largely ignored by ABC and SBS.

With the fact that Australia's high immigration is unusual by world standards suppressed, other distortions became possible. All discussion of the costs of sky-high immigration levels  – costs such as traffic congestion, destruction of Australia's natural environments, the wiping out of koalas around Brisbane, the crushing costs of infrastructure expansion that caused Anna Bligh to sell off the public silver and get booted out of office, the endless destruction of pleasant suburbs in Melbourne Sydney and Perth by bullying high-rise developers, the impossible price of housing,  stagnation of wages etc etc   – could be turned aside by putting the blame on “bad planning” or "nimbyism" or “government not doing enough”.  (No doubt that's the sort of line that the Property Council's  Jane Fitzgerald will be running next Monday on QandA.)

Now, in a single sentence, Tony Jones has emphatically tossed away thirty years of denial, and admitted the truth.  Australia’s rate of population growth is not normal, and is certainly not the result of the rational choices about family size that most Australian couples have long made. It is the result of the power that business lobbies and pro-growth donors have achieved over the Australian government.


Should we present Jones  with a special cake for ending the big denial?

But how is the ABC to make up to us for 30 years of intelligent national discussion that we have been denied?

And note Jones's exact phrasing:

Next Monday on QandA, a close look at our booming population. Australia now has the fastest rate of population growth in the developed world, but are we equipped to deal with 39 million Australians by 2050?

There are two potential fudges here: first, the pretence that Australia's rate of population growth has only recently become exceptional, and second, fatalism, i.e. the pretence that sky-high immigration is inevitable (or is divinely ordained, or is determined by the labour market, or can't be reduced because our immigrants are refugees). Don't be surprised if the producer and panellists have tricks like this up their sleeves.

Still Jones has made a start to row back from decades of Big Australia propaganda.  Let us hope that he and his producer will soon start to include representatives from Sustainable Population Australia and the Sustainable Australia Party on their panels.

After all, rapid population growth is the background cause if not indeed the effective  initiating cause of many if not most of the problems their program aims to investigate; and a single program devoted to its effects will be no compensation for decades of neglect and denial of the issue. 

Mark O'Connor  6 March 2018 

P.S.   The panellists announced for next week are to include:

Panellists: Bob Carr, Former Foreign Minister; Tim Flannery, Chief Councillor of the Climate Council; Jane Fitzgerald, Property Council of Australia, NSW; and John Daley, CEO Grattan Institute.

Monday, February 5, 2018

ABC's Planet America program shows worrying bias.

When we complain of  biased reporting on population issues (such as Dick Smith has highlighted) at the Australian Broadcasting Commission,  we tend to forget the many ABC TV shows now aimed at the younger demographic (where the ABC had been haemorrhaging audience). 

The ABC has hired a lot of youngish talented comedians out of the vast pool of stand-up comedy talent among young Australians. It’s mostly smart-arse stuff, without much pretence to news value; but there are some shows like The Chaser and Planet America that hybridise comedic style with serious debate on current affairs.  These are in effect part of the ABC News stable, and their biases matter more. (Of course even the slighter shows are used to educate the young in which views they are supposed to admire and which to ridicule.)

The problem is that the ABC seems to have selected its comedians for having the right political and social views. One reason these comic shows seem a bit dull, especially to anyone over 30, is that there is little difference of opinion or political stance among these comedians. Think how much more interesting it would be if the comedians on these panels actually had different points of view, instead of merely having different comedic styles!

Yesterday (Friday 2 February 2018) on Planet America the presenter Chas Licciardello produced a rant in favour of high immigration, primarily in the USA, but by implication in Australia too.  He had clearly got hold of a stack of dubious statistics from high-immigration sources, including our old favourite myth, the “ageing population” scare. 

It is far from the first time Planet America has done tendentious stuff like this, but this time I have taken the trouble to transcribe it.

 I’ll leave it to the experts to pick apart Chas’s errors, but they clearly include some well-known tricks of our own Australian high-immigration spruikers. e.g.

  1.    Selective assumptions:  Chas assumes that we (i.e. the US and by implication Australia too)  are heading for a terrible lack of workers, although there are many indications (such as stagnant wages and constant scandals over employers cheating on conditions and on work-security, e.g. the 7-Eleven and petrol station scandals) that both countries have the opposite problem: an over-supply.
  2.       Selective alarmism and pro-natalist bias.    The rather high US birthrate of nearly 2 children per woman, which in fact ensures a surplus of births over deaths, at least until the population is considerably older, is represented as a disaster. Why?  Similarly, the staggering rise of the USA’s working population from 45 million in 1950 to around 150 million in 2015 rings no alarm bells, and rouses no environmental alarms; yet a possible decline of just 7 million by 2035 is represented as a disaster.  (In fact this may be too small a drop, if automation and robots mean that only  a much smaller workforce can be kept in work.)
  3.       Misunderstandings of the “dependency rate”. Traditionally this term meant the ratio between the number of people of “working age” (traditionally 15-65 years, but today that might have to be raised to at least 20-70 years) and the number that are either too old or too young to work.  The trick is to get the naive hearer to imagine that only old people are “dependants”, and that everyone over 65 is on the pension.  In fact the dependency rate was often worse in the past, when people had large families and the population was full of “unproductive” children.
  4.       Forgetting that to have a high percentage of the population  within “working age” is only good if there is work for them. If not, the extra “workers” just add to the number of persons on  social security. And a working age breadwinner without work often means a whole family on social security, whereas a retired person has very likely already paid for their retirement, and may be financially supporting younger dependants. (If the USA ever reaches the scenario that Chas advances of having only two persons in employment for every one person on social security, this will be because jobs have disappeared, not because persons aged 20 to 70 have disappeared.)
  5.       Caricature and moral grandstanding: e.g. assuming that people who dislike high immigration must “hate” immigrants.
  6.      Ill defined and contentious statistics:  How rigorously was “founder” or “patent” or “College degree” defined, for instance?   (For a counter-view of the claims Chas has recycled, see for instance )
  7.       Forgetting that the brain-drain of doctors and surgeons and of top graduates into rich countries, which certainly occurs, has cruel effects on poor countries. “All our doctors are in America now.”
  8.       GDP worship, and belief that growth can go on forever. e.g.  Chas saying: “ . . . to slow annual GDP growth by 1.2% this decade! That is a lot.”
  9.       Assuming that the hiring of immigrants means that their labour was essential. It may mean that they are being employed for less, or on worse conditions and benefits, and so are keeping native-born Americans out of work, and them and their families on social security.  (This was a major reason that millions voted for Bernie Sanders and even for the appalling Trump, rather than Hilary Clinton who was in denial about the issue—as are most ABC commentators. Three days later the ABC's Q&A program, on 5 Feb. 2018, managed to hold a long hand-wringing discussion of low wages, without mentioning immigration. One questioner mentioned population growth, but was ignored.)
  10.   Forgetting the huge infrastructure costs of adding to the population—at least $100,000 per person. This amount of extra infrastructure has to be in place before each new arrival arrives, else everyone starts to suffer from overloaded infrastructure.

No doubt demographers and economists will find further and probably larger holes in Chas’s rant. What a great target its complacent self-righteousness would make for an astute ABC comedian—if only the ABC employed comedians with diverse views!

Below is my transcription of it:

Planet America  program, “Episode 1” 2018
ABC TV channel 24     Screened on 2 and 3 February 2018
c. 38 minutes into program as stored online at

Chas Licciardello’s “Deep Dive into US Immigration”

This was a monologue, with pre-prepared slides, spoken by presenter Chas Licciardello in his trademark emphatic manner with dramatic gestures. The latter part is sub-titled by the program itself, with emphasised words in capitals. Earlier, my under-linings indicate heavy emphasis.

Chas Licciardello:   “We spoke earlier about Trump’s immigration framework, which tries to tilt the balance of legal immigration more towards those with particular skills rather than family connections or pure diversity.  But the truth is the immigration pool is skilling up anyway. Let’s go deep!
Logo appears:  THE DEEP DIVE  (sound effects)

Chas Licciardello:  “Immigrants are becoming more educated. 38% of native born Americans over the age of 25 have a college degree. But immigrants over the age of 25 who arrived in the last 5 years, 48% of them have a college degree. What about African immigrants? 41% of them have a college degree, even though they most of them arrived on diversity visas. Finally, what about Asian Immigrants? A whopping 75% of 25-34 year old Asian immigrants have college degrees.
Logo: Source: Census Bureau, Migration Policy Institute, Pew Research.
Logo: 25-34 y Asian Immigrants  75%

Chas (continuing emphatically): Immigrants are innovators. 35% of US innovators are immigrants, with European or Asian immigrants
Logo: Europeans/Asians = 5x native-born innovators

Chas (continuing):  . . . being 5 times more likely to have created innovations than a native-born American. Between 2000 and 2010, immigrants filed about 200 thousand American patents
Logo:   194,600 patents  (2000-10)

Chas: Immigrants were twice as likely to be entrepreneurs as native-born Americans.
Logo:  28% of entrepreneurs (= 2x native-borns)
Logo: Source: Information Technology and Information,  2015 Kauffman Index, National Foundation for American Policy. 

And immigrants founded over half of America’s 87 $billion start-up  companies.
Logo:  Skilled Immigrants:  founded 44 of 87 $billion start-ups

Chas:  In fact 50% of Silicon Valley workers aged 25-44 are immigrants.
Logo: 50% of Silicon Valley workers  (25-44)

Chas: And so are 28% of America’s doctors and surgeons. So they are bringing the skills already!
But I don’t want to debate who immigrants should be or where they should come from, because those are questions of opinion. I’d like to focus more on the numbers of immigrants, because that (dramatic hand gesture) is a question of economics. You see, America is AGING! 
(dramatic fast-paced music)
Logo:  Graph labelled Projected US population over 65: (Source: UN World Population Prospects 2008). 
[This graph shows the percentage over 65 rising from about 7% in 1950 to about 12% in 2010, kinking up to about 21%by 2040, and then largely flattening off at around 22%.]

Chas (dramatically): This is the percentage of the population that is over 65 today. [Graph shows about 14%]. And this is the percentage of the population that will be over 65 in 15 years time. [Graph shows about 20%.] And the aging of the workforce[sic] [dramatic gesture] is projected by Rand Corp  . . .
Logo: The effect of population aging on Economic Growth, the Labour Force, and Productivity
NBER   July 2016  “Our results imply annual GDP growth will slow by 1.2 percentage points this decade.”

Chas (continuing): to slow annual GDP growth by 1.2% this decade! That is a lot. Of course as the population ages, there’s going to be less workers, unless you have immigration. For instance,  current rates of immigration  . . .
Logo: US Working-Age Population (Pew Research Center)
Graph showing US working-age population moving steadily up from around 45 million in 1950 to c. 150 million in 2015.

Chas: ... the working-age population will grow 10 million by 2035, but without immigration it will shrink by 7 million. And by the way, the places that would die[sic] the fastest without immigration, are rural cities [dramatic finger-point at viewers]—Trump country! [double-eyelid wink]
But why does it matter if the working population shrinks? Well, according to the Labor Secretary in 1917  . . .
Logo: Medicare’s hospital trust fund will run out of money in 2029
The Washington Post, 13 July 2017 “Labor Secretary Alexander Accosta pointed out that in 1960 there were 5 workers for every Social Security recipient. By 2035 there will be only two workers for every beneficiary.”

[Chas fails to note that this dubious claim might clash with the graph he has just produced, showing that in fact the US working-age population exploded  from 45 million in 1950 to c. 150 million in 2015. - Note by Mark O'Connor]

 Chas re-reads the claim, varying the ending to:  . . . for every social security recipient, but by 2035 there will be only TWO workers for every beneficiary, so that each worker has to carry a bigger load. And Medicare is gonna be even more expensive, which is how you end up with headlines like this, about Medicare running out of money.
Logo: Dramatic red flashing arrow point to the Post headline: Medicare’s hospital trust fund will run out of money in 2029.

Chas: Well what about America just having more kids, then?   [dramatic eye-widening] 
Too late! America’s fertility rates haven’t been high for decades! And they are just getting worse[sic].
Logo: American Fertility Rate: Source National Center for Health Statistics: Graph showing births per woman falling from nearly 4 to around 2.

Chas: So, bottom-line: whether restrictionists like immigrants or not, America needs to take a heap of them.
Logo: [A visual clip showing an abusive British celebrity chef.]
Chas: Well, probably not THAT one.
[Program Wrap-up]

A reflection from Mark O’Connor:
My grandparents’ generation enjoyed vigorous debates between intellectual comedians like Bernard Shaw and G K Chesterton. These used their wit and their comic personas to battle for very different moral agendas and views of the universe. By contrast, the carefully-selected comics on the ABC’s panels are more like  rows of birds on a wire, all singing off much the same song-sheet—intellectually at least. To be fair to their views, they’re all for tolerance and reform of injustices, and kindness to animals, and so forth; but they show little ability to question received ideas. Humour at its best has a transgressive element; but as Sheila Newman remarks, much of what considered 'funny' on Oz ABC “is actually the showing up of political incorrectness, i.e. pointing out 'sinners'.”—a potentially repressive use of humour. 

Chas’s uncritical acceptance of rightwing economic ideology re the need for endless growth is also a caution. One would have thought that someone with his media experience would have twigged that when business spokespeople claim they must have lots of immigrant workers because there is a terrible shortage of labour (even though unemployment is high and wages are stagnant or falling) this may simply mean that they want to pay less than the market rate for labor.

Chas’s “rave” shows a willingness to believe such claims, even when commonsense should have raised red flags.  There is plenty of evidence available that could have warned Chas off his naive conclusions, including the ANU and Washington-based demographer Lincoln Day’s classic book The Future of Low-Birth Populations, which unpicks the aging population scare.

In February 2018 the Australian economist Leith van Olesen of Macrobusiness placed on line his recommendations to an Immigration Department enquiry. He wrote that “. . . empirical evidence shows no link between population growth and prosperity”, and that most of the supposed dangers of population aging are myths put about by “the ‘growth lobby’ of retailers, the banking sector, the property industry and erroneously named ‘think tanks’. 

"In Australia, the Productivity Commission has for more than a decade debunked the myth that immigration can overcome population ageing. For example, in its 2010 submission to the Minister for Population, the PC explicitly noted that “substantial increases in the level of net overseas migration would have only modest effects on population ageing and the impacts would be temporary, since immigrants themselves age”. Academic demographer, Peter McDonald, has also previously stated that it is “demographic nonsense to believe that immigration can help to keep our population young” .

US experience is similar. Thus “A recent study by economists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) also found “that even when we control for initial GDP per capita, initial demographic composition and differential trends by region, there is no evidence of a negative relationship between aging and GDP per capita; on the contrary, the relationship is significantly positive in many specifications”. 

Philip Cafaro at Colorado State University commented: “One of the best arguments against the kind of rant you describe, is the fact that even large increases in immigration do not do much to decrease the problem of fewer workers per dependant, as study after study has shown. That’s because immigrant workers retire in their turn, and have to be supported. Doubling the US immigration rate, for example, would only slightly slow the “aging” of our society – as Steve Camarota showed in a study CIS (Center for Independent Studies) published about 10 years back.”


 The ease with which the big business, neo-liberal 'growthist' agenda manages to manipulate naive lefties to do their public relations work never ceases to amaze me. How nice it must be to sit back smoking cigars and sipping brandy while watching the Chas Licciardello's of this world dance to their tune on publicly funded media outlets. -  Martin Tye

Mark, you are so right. Practically every ABC program comes from people who take it as given that the future is based on BAU (business-as-usual) economically - or else - disaster. Nowhere is there a program or commentator who makes the alternative assumption that we may be heading for the cliff and what follows from that assumption in terms of whatever is being discussed.
 - John Coulter

Friday, March 31, 2017

Why it's so hard to think straight about how safe nuclear power is: Daniel A Vogel's arguments.

NUCLEAR  Questions:

This post is mainly a Review of  Dr Daniel A. Vogel’s essay “Nuclear Power and the Psychology of Evaluating Risk” in The Skeptical Inquirer, Nov-Dec 2016, pages 56 and following.

“Could it be that opponents of nuclear energy contribute to worsening global warming by failing to evaluate its risk rationally?”, the editors’ “teaser” modestly asks. 

Well yes, of course that might be so, and one hopes they think hard about that possibility.

It’s a well-worn line of course, but The Skeptical Inquirer is a reputable magazine, and Dr Vogel, a clinical psychologist, is something of a heavy hitter. Much of the pro-nuclear material one finds on line and even in print is self-interested pleading from the nuclear industry, sometimes recycled by enthusiastic engineers who can’t understand why there are so many restraints on this exciting technology.  Vogel is much more cautious. He concedes that nuclear accidents happen. 

But he calculates that the Chernobyl explosion in 1986 (the worst accident to date if Fukushima can be kept under control) killed just 28 workers outright, though he concedes that more than 100 others developed radiation injuries, and that many other cancers were probably radiation-related. 

Yet he pleads for recognition that all forms of energy production cost human lives, as do other essential activities. In the USA alone in 2014, he says, 181 persons died in mining, 874 in construction, and in 2013 some 4,735 died just “crossing the road”, while over 35,000 Americans died in car crashes in 2015. The likely fatalities from climate change, one way or another,  may be vastly more.  

So why not encourage rather than discourage  the use of nuclear power? After all, in general the amount of fossil fuel used up when we mine and process uranium and build and later close down nuclear power plants seems to be significantly  less than when we make power “directly” from fossil fuels.

So far, so well worn. But Vogel sets it out modestly, and cogently.

Next, assuming that he has now effectively dismissed the anti-nuclear argument, he asks: what produces such irrational resistance to this least-worst source of power?  He suggests the problem is  (a) group-thinking by most environmentalists, plus (b) a tendency to over-emphasize the few spectacular nuclear accidents, rather than “the benefits of all those times when nuclear energy plants worked well”.  He says that France gets 17% of its energy from nuclear, and claims that this has been without serious problems.

He modestly suggests that “humans would more closely approach the truth by allowing their judgements to be informed by statistics”—especially when balancing the dangers from nuclear power against those from other sources.  Just as dramatic plane-crashes blind us to the statistical truth that flying is safer than driving, so, he suggests, we mis-read the risks of nuclear energy.  

From there, it is a short step to suggesting that those who disagree with him have been blinded by ideology. On this, he produces the perfect quotation (from President Clinton): “The problem with any ideology is that it gives you the answer before you look at the evidence.” So far, so good.

Further, he implies, our handling of nuclear energy, as of railroad construction, is bound to improve. “Anti-nuclear activists are surely not planning to boycott trains because thousands of Irish and Chinese lost their lives laying down their tracks in the united States in the 1860s, far more than died in the Chernobyl disaster  . . .”—at which point, certain gaps become evident in Vogel’s argument. 

But he moves into his peroration. Whether driving cars or taking medicines with known side-effects, “There are risks millions of us take every day that vastly surpass that of operating Chernobyl and  Fukushima on their worst days.”

But that is precisely the hole in Vogel’s argument. We do not yet know what a worst day, a worst scenario, might be for a nuclear power plant. Even the worst disasters so far have been ones that, in the end, have proved just possible to (at least partially) control and manage.  We have not yet seen a full-scale melt down. We have not yet seen a nuclear power plant in the hands of suicidal terrorists, or a psychotic individual.

 We have also not yet seen an all-out war between evenly matched nations who target each other’s nuclear power stations with missiles. (Imagine if Europe had had nuclear power before World War II. Do you think Churchill or Hitler would have hesitated to bomb their opponent’s power stations?  Europe might now be uninhabitable for centuries. Whereas instead, Europe’s bombed out power stations were re-built within a couple of years of WWII ending, and Europe bloomed, and boomed, again.)

Vogel’s article is perfectly tailored to The Skeptical Inquirer, a magazine that collects examples of human credulity. There is a real danger that his article may be a hit there, and spread the myth that to worry about nuclear dangers is a form of human irrationality. In fact he has demonstrated no such thing. His point about our tendency to attend to spectacular disasters rather than to average rates of death is of course well taken, though far from new.

And yes, it is true that, on a business as usual basis, the pursuit of non-nuclear energy brings more deaths per year than nuclear does—at least in an typical year. Those 181 persons who died in mines in the US in a single year, no doubt some of them in oil and coal mines, is an appalling cost. But it is not a number that might blow out one year to 1000 lives or 10,000 lives, or 100,000 lives, or a million lives. 

That is where nuclear is different. That is why it is an utter fallacy to think you can measure the dangerousness of the two technologies by comparing current annual death rates—a massive fallacy, which Vogel might have named the “statistical fallacy”, but which in fact he does not name or discuss.

The same applies, of course,  to the environmental costs. A hydro-electric dam that collapses, or a coal-fired power station that burns down or gets bombed is an environmental disaster for a couple of years; but a nuclear plant that gets bombed may make a country uninhabitable forever (at least as we humans count forever). The risks are not comparable. They  cannot be compared by counting current annual statistics.

You see, Vogel has oddly failed to notice a much more important (and very relevant)  form of human irrationality: stasis bias. That is, the failure to imagine that the world can change fundamentally: a failure to understand that if you go on running a small annual risk, but a real and increasing one, of utter catastrophe, that risk  builds up over time to near certainty. 

Sure the risk of any individual nuclear power station having a major melt-down this year is small; but over the years and with the ever-increasing number of stations Vogel would advocate, it approaches certainty.

It is not as if we haven’t been warned.  If you read the Wikipedia page on Fukushima and follow up the obvious references  you will discover how very dangerous that melt-down was (and in part still is).  It seems the Japanese government was advised that they should evacuate Tokyo, but never gave the order for it, because there is  no existing plan, and in fact no practical method,  to evacuate that vast, vast city.  

Worse, there was in the early days a small but very real chance of an explosion whose wind-blown fallout would make not just all Japan but much or most of the Northern hemisphere uninhabitable. No need to spell out what that might have done to our world! (Including Southern-hemisphere countries, and their environments, faced with a tsunami of refugees.)

Dr Vogel’s remarks about environmentalists  are patronising, and undeserved. So far from deserving blame for  their inability to understand environmental dangers, they are almost the only people who do properly  understand that incremental changes, such as global warming, population increase, or proliferation of nuclear stations, eventually produce seemingly sudden... melt-downs. 

We environmentalists spend much of our time trying to get through to complacent numbskulls that what they think are  minor problems, such as the steady increase of human numbers or the steady disappearance of the natural world, or the steady loss of soil,  will eventually produce sudden famines, droughts, and other disasters. 

For a long time an ice-floe (with or without an iconic polar bear on top) simply thins in the warming waters, while pundits opine that this will go on forever, or can’t be wrong because it is good for the economy, or is “cyclical”; then  comes the day when it flips. But try telling that to someone whose stasis bias is built on the fact that they are making a nice financial “killing” out of destroying the natural world!

Sad indeed that Dr Vogel didn’t think to talk about stasis bias as a (or the)  major fallacy that the nuclear debate illustrates! 

Once one has noticed that huge omission in his thinking, it becomes easy to note the other signs of bias in his essay.  He has clearly been taking his facts too much from one side of the debate. For instance he claims French nuclear plants have run smoothly. He was not to know, at time of publication,  that there would be a massive explosion at the Flamanville nuclear plant in February 2017, but he should have been aware of previous French incidents. (Wikipedia lists 12.) 

He assures us that there is clear scientific evidence that “nuclear power is, on average, extremely safe, environmentally clean, and plays virtually no role in heating up our planet.” Vogel justifies this claim by citing an optimistic 2003 article in Scientific American “How Nuclear Power can stop Global Warming” by David Biello, but fails to note the detailed replies that have since been published, such as this 2015 one by Jim Green in Nuclear Monitor, which begins:
1. Nuclear Power is Not a Silver Bullet : Nuclear power could at most make a modest contribution to climate change abatement. The main limitation is that it is used almost exclusively for electricity generation, which accounts for less than 25% of global greenhouse emissions. Even tripling nuclear power generation would reduce emissions by less than 10% − and then only if the assumption is that it displaces coal.  . . .
Vogel does not consider the close links between civil and military use of nuclear facilities. He also does not stop to consider that, in the words of the former leader of the Australian Democrats Party, John Coulter:
In the real world nuclear power is being run by private companies whose motive is profit, not safety. An examination of Fukushima shows that right from its planning to its operation and to its clean-up efforts corners have been cut which have helped precipitate the accident, hindered its resolution and blocked essential elements in the so-called clean-up.

Vogel also recycles uncritical claims about “the integral fast reactor” which is supposed to be free of the problems of other types of reactors, but which has not lived up to its hype and which the USA has cancelled. There has been much other bad news about reactors that he ignores. 

To cite just one at random, on 21 December 2106, BBC News covered the story Japan cancels failed $9bn Monju nuclear reactor, remarking “Japan is scrapping an experimental reactor which has worked for just 250 days of its 22-year lifespan and cost $9bn.”  Yet Vogel wraps himself in a cloak of science, claiming that “the Left/liberal wing tends to deny the very science of atomic energy, as it tends at times to do in other areas such as vaccines .”

And he ends with a claim that “Psychological science can assist such hard sciences” by providing analyses like his.  His own analysis does seem to me intelligent, sincere, and genuinely thoughtful,  yet , alas, in the end not scientific, nor even particularly logical —being too much influenced by our common human tendency, which Clinton described, to assume an answer before examining all the evidence.

Friday, March 25, 2016

A Glimpse of Manning Clark in 1990

Manning Clark's public celebrity, as opposed to his reputation as a historian, was partly based on the fact that he was such an unusual historian. Most of the time he seemed more interested in literature, religion and sexuality than in history.  He was more likely to talk to you about Dostoyevsky than about Australian history.

As a public speaker he understood the power of unpredictability, and his speeches often seemed to be running off the rails into some inappropriate theme, before he would find a Manning-esque way to loop back to the subject in hand.

I once saw him interviewed by ABC TV News about the political situation after Malcolm Fraser had been elected prime minister. He deplored the deep antagonism between the two main parties and compared their behavior to that of two bulls in a field that have locked horns and lost interest in all else. This (potentially salacious) rural analogy seemed to be going on for some time, when Manning abruptly concluded: "And the way this ends -- I understand -- in a field -- is with the cows realising they’ll have to look elsewhere."

Manning launched most of my poetry books in the 1970s and 1980s. His speeches were always memorable and Manningish, but only this last one in 1990 happened to be preserved, by Bill Tully who recorded it for a Canberra radio station and later gave me a copy. It starts with a few seconds of off-mike mumbling, but then Manning's voice comes through clearly.

Here it is, as text, and soon, if  only I can work out how to attach it (!), as an audio-file. (The link at the bottom this page may not be working.)

It contains a characteristic detour from poetry into AFL football, when he refers to "that great half-back line of  Lucas, Kingston and Tuck" --which I think had last played together 31 years earlier in 1959, and not for his own AFL team.


AT THE CO-OP BOOKSHOP, Australian National University,  26 September 1990.

I apologise I'm going to read what I have to say but my memory is getting so dreadful that sometimes I've stood up in public and couldn't remember the word "the".   I apologise I'm reading.

 Now every book is in a sense  a child of the heart, and I believe, Mark, that you have every reason to be proud with this child of your heart, which I understand are the poems you wrote between 1972 and 1990.   I say this because I think of you first of all Mark, as a traveller.   It's clear from these poems you've travelled all over Australia, over England and Italy and as they say in some books, and see stop comma, and see stop comma and see stop. [=?  and c., and see c.,  . . . ]   Or, as Barry Humphries says, you name it and you've been there.   You're a traveller who in this work it is quite clear has been transfigured into a pilgrim.

The other reason why I liked it, and I hope people who read it will share this view, is that you obviously know a very great deal.   You are a very close observer of nature - that's quite plain, its a simple point.   You are in that as it were one of those chaps whom Hardy used to admire, a person who notices such things.   You notice small things such as the way the various species of birds handle the breeze to find the air currents.   One could quote many other examples of this.   

The third reason I think why I particularly liked it was that if you follow the advice which I think we all must follow, we must become exiles.   I don't mean exiles from one's own country.   But you, I understand, left your native Ararat, but unlike some very distinguished people in Australia, you were able to return to a native place without sneering at it, or mocking at the locals.   I'm thinking particularly of the poem you wrote about going back into the church there.

It was a point that Michelangelo made - I'm sorry - that Freud made about the statue of Moses by Michelangelo - that there are moments in life which are testing moments where it's tempting to be angry, to be savage, to be severe, but you have the wisdom I think to see it all not as green[?] with the eye of pity and with love.   The other reason why I liked it is that you obviously have a lively and a witty imagination, for example in the poem "The Beginning" which I take it, being a clergyman's son, I noticed is based on the Book of Genesis. You have God donning a snorkel and you have God as it were feeling/finning* his way over the coral.   I believe that one that I saw "was very good indeed".    

For me there was only one thing lacking Mark, in this collection.  The one great absentee in these poems was the members of Collingwood football team.  I know that you have great passion for the Collingwood football team.   There's some wonderful human characters in your collection, but I'm sorry that there's no eulogy in it for that great half-back line of Lucas, Kingston and Tuck and I'm also deeply sorry that you made no attempt to compare them with a much superior line of Brown, Deakin and Clarke for Carlton.   I was hoping that there would be a sketch in this of Mick McGuane.   

I was hoping to meet James Manson in your words and not  just on the television screen and I hope one day quite seriously that some of these Godlings. will catch your eye and you will confer on them the same immortality as you have conferred on the fish of the Barrier Reef and your old parish church in Ararat.

But seriously, what I found most pleasing in this book is the voice of the poet himself.   It is not, thank God, the voice of a smart alec - and my God there's a lot of those around - it's not a showoff.   It's not the voice of a man who is making any special claims of the role of the poet.   That can be very nauseating.   It's not the voice of a man who believes that the poet is special things to special people, or any picture where he claims that the poet, unlike other human beings, is someone who is beyond good and evil.   

It is the voice of a man who can create people and create them in memorable words.   It's a very serene voice, and that I think is very important.   It's the voice of a man whose eye is single.   Happily it's the voice of a man who is an enlarger of life and not a straightener and not a frowner.   It is the voice of a man whose voice obviously has already gone further than college walls, and that is most important.   

The voice must go further than college walls.   In that way you've joined that band in Australia of people like Les Murray, Bruce Dawe, Judith Wright, Alec Hope - and of course the others that you could mention.   I must apologise for making a minimal selection.   

But above all it is the voice of a man who is singing to those who have ears to hear, a hymn of praise to life.   It is not the voice of a mocker or a sneerer.   So let me conclude by thanking you Mark for sharing this vision with us and giving us the hope to go on.  It is with great pleasure that I launch this volume.

 Manning Clark Talk

Friday, August 29, 2014

Sir Walter Scott and Sir John Malcolm




This is a guest-posting to this blog. It is not by myself (Mark O’Connor) but by John Malcolm. The piece below is a spin-off from his 2014 biography of his early c.19th kinsman (and namesake) Sir John Malcolm.  It is a classic example of information that ought to be on the Internet, where the search engines can work on it,  rather than in a scholarly book, because it is full of wonderful pieces of diverse information – from a dog story told by the actor Garrick’s wife, to info. on Walter Scott’s meeting with the Duke of Wellington.

Now—over to John Malcolm to tell the story of a fascinating literary friendship between Sir Walter Scott and a fellow Scot, Sir John Malcolm, whom Scott once described as “The Persian envoy, the Delhi Resident, the poet, the warrior, the politician and the borderer....”.


Sorry! Change of plan.  This correspondence has now moved to a more appropriate web-page at




Friday, March 28, 2014

Huge Harvest of Pawpaw/Papaya in cold climate

Huge harvest of pawpaw/papaya-like fruit in a cool climate.

As of Nov. 2013 my wife and I had four adult Babaco “trees” (Carica pentagona, a kind of cold-tolerant pawpaw or papaya)  growing inside an unheated plastic greenhouse that leans against our sun-facing back wall.  It is about 2.5 metres wide by 4 metres long.  Say ten square metres. The babacos’ leaves occupy most of the top of the greenhouse, but there is also a small avocado, a fruiting Ficus coronata, pepino bushes, a tamarillo, and passionfruit.


 Inside the greenhouse the trees are growing in just 6 inches (15 cm) of rich soil, over an old concrete patio.

 The babacos mature a few fruits during the winter, when they are fairly stationary. Then as the Spring weather warmed up from the start of September 2013 we had one or more fruits, weighing about 0.7 kilos (that’s about a pound and a half for those still using the old imperial units), maturing each week. 

 The babaco is a theoretically perfect fruit, like strawberry, in that there is no skin or seeds to remove. One eats the whole fruit.

 I particularly like to eat one uncooked, simply cut into quarters, dabbed with apple juice and stored in the fridge.  My wife Jan prefers them baked for 30 minutes at 180 Celsius, with a little brown sugar.  A Bhutanese friend chops them up with cheese.

 This rate of fruit production from the 4 plants accelerated in October until by late November 2013 we had consumed or given away over a dozen large fruits, each around 700 gm. We also had a table covered with  a further 10 large ripe fruits, plus 8 that had to be picked green when a branch broke. (These were used as vegetables, e.g. in curries, rather than as fruit.) There were a further 14 advanced fruits maturing on the “trees” to ripen over summer.   Thereafter there was a hiatus in the fruiting till some of the smaller fruits came on, and till three smaller trees become adult.  (With better management it should be possible to have babacos  fruiting continuously.)

 When I weighed these 18 fruits that we currently had in the house, they totalled over 10 kilos. Luckily the fruits store for a month or more at room temperature, provided you pick them before they are uniformly yellow.


 Cultivation: How we grow babacos in a cold climate.
 Australia’s proverbially chilly capital, Canberra, might seem an unlikely place to be reaping large harvests of a close relative of the tropical papaya or pawpaw, Carica papaya.  Yet we have found it surprisingly easy to do. Here’s how.

The flowers require no pollination, and the fruits, which set automatically, contain no seeds. All parts of the fruit are edible.

Canberra, at 600 metres altitude, in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains, gets about 100 frosts a year and is not reliably frost-free until mid-November (the last month of Spring). Frosts commonly return in May. The lowest recorded temperature is minus 10 Celsius.

Such a climate rules out growing the true pawpaw/papaya outdoors. However its equally bountiful sub-tropical relative the babaco, Carica pentagona, is much more tolerant of persistently cool weather. The problem is that while babacos tolerate sub-zero temperatures, perhaps even down to minus 6 Celsius, they dislike frost on their leaves.   (Hence the greenhouse!)

 As best I understand it, the problem with frost is that if a dry breeze moves over a frosted leaf at dawn the frost can “sublime”, as chemists say. This means that it evaporates directly from the solid to the gaseous state. In the process it may drop the temperature of the leaf it encases to temperatures well below the ambient air temperature.  An alternative explanation, favoured by the Wikipedia article on Frost, is that "In the absence of a site nucleating the formation of ice crystals, leaves remain in a supercooled liquid state, safely reaching temperatures of −4 to −12 °C (25 to 10 °F). However, once frost forms, the leaf cells may be damaged by sharp ice crystals."

 The obvious solution is to grow babacos under the eaves of a house , and perhaps protected by a simple sheet of plastic hanging down from the eaves. That way dew is less likely to get in, and frost unlikely to form on the leaves.  I have found this worked well with strawberry guavas, but less well with babacos. For babacos, it seemed, some kind of minimal greenhouse was needed.  

The door, here shown open, is simply a door-shaped sheet of transparent vinyl held taut by the weight of a thin plank stapled to its lower end. One rolls it up, with the plank, much like a blind. Black Velcro patches help hold it in place when closed.

I also had to solve the problem of drainage. Babacos need better drainage than our local clayey soil provides.  Growing them in very large pots was one solution, and this also made it possible to lug the plants inside and treat them as (rather attractive) ornamental pot-plants during the coldest part of winter. However by the time they are 3 metres high, babacos need very big pots. Also, potting-mix breaks down within two years. It compacts, and ceases to drain reliably. So the replacement of potting-mix for such large plants became a chore.

 Fate provided a single solution to both problems. To explain it, let me describe our back garden. It slopes downhill North-Eastward, into the rising sun.  This is the perfect facing for a Southern-hemisphere garden, since the slope also makes the morning sun’s rays hit the garden more directly. The plants warm up quickly in the morning, and reach their ‘operating temperature’ hours earlier than would happen on South-Westerly slope. At the same time, the excessively strong afternoon sun is mitigated because the rays are by then striking the garden somewhat obliquely. As a further blessing, the bulk of the house (plus a slight hill behind it) blocks out the cold winds from the South and West.
 The warmest and most sheltered part of the back garden was therefore right against the back wall of the house, where the North-East-facing house-wall reflected the morning sun’s heat back into the garden. (There is of course a similar warm spot in most home gardens, against a sun-facing wall.)
 And within this wall there was a sheltered rectangular area, framed on one side by a bedroom that juts outs, and on the other by a flight of brick steps going down from the back door.  This should have been the choicest area for planting into—except that the previous owners had concreted it, turning it into a patio.

The greenhouse in situ. The brick steps are just out of view in the foreground, with a double safety-rail at the top of them.
I had long felt that this concrete patio at our back door was a wasted area. Unable to plant into it, I used the patio as a space to put a few favoured pot plants—until one day I had a brainwave.

 I laid a single row of bricks on their side about 2 metres out from the wall, then bought ten bags of potting-mix (on special at the supermarket) and filled in the rectangular area between the wall and the bricks with potting-mix. Obviously the depth of soil over the cement was only a few centimeters—the height of a brick on its side. Yet I planted out this area as if it was a garden bed. (I had read that Parisian market-gardeners used to boast that they could grow perfect vegetables upon cement. All they needed was a few centimeters of well-rotted horse-dung over the concrete.)

 The plant growth that followed was magical, perhaps because the slight slope in the concrete patio underneath guaranteed good drainage. (Patios are normally built with a slight slope so that they drain). As well, the shallow soil guaranteed aeration. Also, although the soil was on the acid side, plants could still get access to lime and more alkaline conditions from the concrete below. 

 Despite the shallowness of the soil, this patch did not seem to need much more watering than any other bed—though it’s true that I do water it at least every 2 days  in summer. (There is a hole cut in the side of the roof’s spouting that drops water directly into it; so there is no need to water it in weeks when there has been rain.)

 Later I got this whole area covered with a plastic roof, albeit with a fair bit of ventilation, and with transparent plastic side-walls.  It was a very cheap lean-to greenhouse, with slits in the plastic roof so that rain-water fell through. The existing house walls provided two sides of the rectangle, and bamboo poles, grown in our garden, held up the other two sides and the roof. The transparent plastic was free. It had been wrapped around a new lounge suite. (It worked beautifully for one summer. Then, since it was not UV stabilised, it fell apart and had to be replaced.)

A new and much better structure replaced it, with poly-piping rather than bamboo supports. My friend Bernard Davis built it, and designed several innovative features that are shown in the photos. These include a roof that can be partly rolled up in summer, since Canberra gets the occasional day of 40 degrees Celsius, which would otherwise cook the plants. The total cost, including labor, was about $900.  The roof is standard translucent greenhouse plastic (polyweave). This has the advantage of distributing the sun's rays more evenly below. (In the photos it looks solid white, but most of the sunlight passes through it.) However a greenhouse made entirely of this material would look like a white barn, and the plants inside it would be invisible from outside—destroying the magic of the enclosed space.

I found it surprisingly difficult to buy transparent greenhouse plastic for the walls. Suppliers shook their heads, or assured me there was no such thing. Eventually I bought what Bunnings call “table-top vinyl” from their Flooring Section. This was available in four thicknesses. The thinnest was not UV-stabilised, so I used the second and third-thinnest varieties. So far, after nearly a year in place, the material shows no sign of ageing, tearing, or discolouring.

 The vinyl of the outside wall comes down to within about a centimetre of the ground. The gap provides ventilation, which a greenhouse needs. (Some visitors worry that the greenhouse encloses the bathroom window, and fear there will be “no fresh air” for the window. I explain that a greenhouse is a windbreak but not an airlock. In fact the air inside it is always fresh.)

To foil the ubiquitous Australian brushtail possum (a cat-sized leaf-eating marsupial, only distantly related to the carnivorous American opossums)  fruit-protection netting is stretched tautly a centimetre or two above the roof. It does not lie flat on the roof. If it did, the possums would soon learn to run over the netting without tangling their claws, and their sharp claws might cut holes in the roof.

Bernard Davis’s poly-piping and vinyl greenhouse uses the existing house walls for support. Note the white bird-netting stretched above the greenhouse roof (and over part of the house-eaves from which possums might otherwise access the greenhouse roof). Note also the small soft-drink bottle, whose orange top is visible. This is filled with water and suspended from the netting as a weight to hold it taut. Not classy perhaps, but effective.

I have learnt it is possible, in this minimal unheated greenhouse, to grow plants like babaco and pepino (Solanum muricatum)  and passionfruit, which tolerate cold winters but resent frost on their leaves. (The heat coming through the house wall has so far been enough to keep off Canberra’s mild frosts. Minus 6 Celsius was the coldest night last winter, 2013. ) 

 In winter the greenhouse begins to warm up from the very first rays of dawn, which penetrate directly into it through the transparent side walls. By noon the heat-trapping greenhouse  effect is strong. Even in midwinter, when maximum temperatures outside are often only about 10 degrees, babacos continue to ripen and drop fruits (though the main formation and growth of fruits needs to take place during the warmer months.) By the way, Canberra’s inland climate is very sunny, with mean daily sunshine of 7.6 hours/day. It probably gets more sunlight than the coastal warm-temperate city of Sydney to its North, where frost is rare.

In summer the siting is not so ideal. Partly because deciduous trees in the garden are then in leaf, it is not till around 9 a.m. summertime (8 a.m. real time) that the sun’s rays hit the translucent roof and begin to refract sunlight upon the plants below. By 10 a.m. summertime the first direct rays come through the transparent side walls, and from 11 a.m. to 2 pm the greenhouse is hot (and needs to have at least its window and its roll-up door open, if the outside temperature is approaching 30 Celsius). However by 3 pm the sun is starting to leave the greenhouse, and by 4 pm (summertime) the heat-stress has passed, with only the roof and a bit of the Western side wall still getting direct sunlight. 

Here the roof, of translucent polyweave, has been partly rolled up to allow heat to escape during a heatwave in February 2014. Three days of 40 degrees Celsius did not harm the babacos. The side wall of transparent vinyl is almost invisible in the photo.

 It seems that babacos love these protected conditions. By contrast, when grown outside they don’t like hot facings; and in my experience they fail to set fruit if grown in dry and windy places.

 Inside the lean-to greenhouse, our babacos’ trunks tend to slope outwards away from the house-wall and towards the sun.  This, plus the shallow soil and the sheer weight of the fruits (with up to 8 kilos of fruit at a time on each trunk) meant that they needed some support or restraint. So I simply tied them back to an attachment-board on the wall, using old stockings. 

 How high can a Babaco go?
Babacos, once they are a metre high and growing strongly, form a new fruit with each new leaf. Hence there is soon a staggering amount of fruit on a single trunk, with large nearly-ripe fruits lower down and smaller and greener fruits higher up.  Yet this process cannot go on forever. Although Louis Glowinski in his fruit book refers to “the squat babaco” (by contrast with the leaner pawpaw) the trees do eventually get 3-4 metres high. At this height they tend, if grown in the open, to topple over in strong winds. (They are of course best grown in a sheltered valley.)  So the usual practice is to cut down each trunk after it has borne perhaps 20 fruits (sacrificing the many small unfinished fruits at the top) and allow a single lower shoot to replace the lost trunk. (Babacos make side-shoots more readily than pawpaw/papayas do, so there are always shoots in waiting.)  The plant is then out of production for several months until the new trunk is large enough to begin forming fruits.

 Meanwhile the removed top of the trunk is divided into metre or half-metre lengths that are used as giant cuttings.  My practice is to remove all the fruits and the larger leaves from such a cutting, enclose the remaining smaller leaves near the tip in a plastic bag with a few drops of water, and lay the plant on its side in the shade. However I leave the base of the trunk outside the bag and exposed to dry air for at least three or four days till it has begun to callus over. Then I plant it in a large pot (with ordinary potting mix, and use a few empty smaller plastic pots, jammed in beside the trunk, to hold it upright until the roots grow). The cutting stays in a greenhouse or other shaded place, and with the plastic bag over the top for a month or so. Then the bag is removed; and the plant is hardened off for a further month, before it can be moved outside.  Of course in a very humid climate fewer precautions need be taken against the cuttings drying out.

 My original babaco plant has now multiplied into over a dozen, of which about 5 small and 3 large ones are growing in the greenhouse.   (I also have a few for sale.)  While in theory babacos might be allowed to grow to their maximum height inside a sheltered greenhouse, our greenhouse is not quite tall enough to make this possible. So once their leaves start pushing up against the roof, it is time for me to remove the main trunk, and let a side shoot start to replace it.  The aim is to have about half of the plants at any one time in maximum production phase. This means that they currently have a well grown trunk, with ripe and ripening fruits on it. The trunk should have emerged into good light and not yet be too near the roof. 

 I hope others will try this system for cultivating babaco.

Finally, you may be wanting to ask”

“What are babaco fruits like?  Are they similar to papaw/papaya fruits?”

They are similar in size, but their ridged-torpedo shape is distinctive, and their taste is quite different.

As fruits, Babacos are superior to pawpaw/papaya in the following ways:

·        There is no seed-mass to throw away. In fact no seeds at all. Babacos are a seedless hybrid between two Carica species.  They set fruit automatically without pollination. (Since there are no seeds, humans have perpetuated this chance mutation, which may have occurred just once, for many hundreds of years by striking cuttings.)

·        There is no rind to dispose of. The entire fruit is edible, including the skin. It is thus a theoretically perfect fruit like the strawberry, or the Large Oval feijoa.

·        It has a kind of effervescent taste—hence the marketing name “champagne fruit”.

·        Unlike pawpaw/papaya, babacos have a strong and (to me) delicious scent that is an important part of the taste. When mixed into a fruit salad they are one of the most pungent and enriching ingredients.

·        They are also an interesting replacement for figs in fichi e prosciutto

·        The fruit goes on ripening after picking, but quite slowly.

·        It is remarkably tough. If one part is bruised when it falls off the tree, the bruise tends not to spread. Babaco fruits can be transported with less protection than pawpaw.

·        Fruits are edible even when green. The green fruits are sub-acid, and so may be used, cooked, in any recipe where you would use tomato or pimiento.

·        Babacos, like pawpaws, contain the meat-tenderizer papain.  This makes them particularly good as a vegetable to use in curries or with meaty stews. Hence when the trees are producing heavily, babacos can be used both as a fruit and (while still green) as a cooked vegetable.

 Babacos are inferior to papayas/papaws in the following ways:

·        They are not nearly so sweet. This may be a serious problem for people in Western countries who expect even tomato sauce to be full of  sugar. 

·        Whereas almost everyone likes pawpaw/papaya on first tasting it, some people don’t like babaco, or only care for it with lashings of sugar. (One solution is to combine it with ice-cream, for which it has an affinity.)

·        Many people don’t know any recipes for cooking it. Also some, being unfamiliar with babaco, remove the thick edible skin—and then complain that the soft inside part lacks texture.

·        Though there are all kinds of tropical flavours in babaco, the dominant taste is a bit like an effervescent lemon-scented watermelon, which some people find un-exciting.

·        Unlike pawpaw, it is not much improved by adding lime or lemon, since it is already sub-acid. Apple-juice or apple-concentrate is a better idea.

·        Babacos are somewhat watery, especially when over-ripe. Some people, unfamiliar with the fruit, over-ripen it to the point where it has little texture and too much fluid.

·        To counter this, fruit should picked before it is uniformly yellow. If left on the tree till yellow it also tends to drop, and bruise. 

·        Once over-soft it is not suitable for cooking, though it may still make a great smoothy. (When green it is quite firm and chewy, even after being cooked in a stew or curry.)