All posts by Christopher Hepworth

Six months before last year’s presidential election, I wrote a tongue-in-cheek blog about how to survive a Trump presidency. A week later the blog was subject to an orchestrated ‘no prisoners taken, pile-on Troll attack’ by twenty or so Trump supporters. The attack lasted for a couple of hours, but when no-one responded to their insulting and ‘braindead’ comments they disappeared, never to return. The process was brutal and I discovered a Troll attack is a very disturbing experience indeed!

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/six-ways-survive-donald-trump-presidency-christopher-hepworth

So why do these small but highly organised ‘follower armies’ of Trolls bother to pile on to random blogs, written in jest on the other side of the world? Because on the fringes of our society there is an internet culture war taking place. Most Trolls are extremists on opposite sides of the political spectrum and their intention is to polarise debate into one of two ‘camps’. In their simple minds, you are either with them or you are the enemy, deserving of their insults and threats. There is no room for reasoned debate or polite acceptance of opposing views.

Their strategy is to claim ‘victory’ based on their imposed majority judgement of the targeted chat forum. On a grander scale, it means that small, well organised, on-line groups can magnify the impact and influence of their extremist viewpoints. They are able turn random social media platforms into propaganda machines that suit their ends. Think anti-vaccinating, Brexit, fossil fuels, abortion, Trump, gun laws or any other controversial social issues of the day.

For those who do not have polarised views, the behaviour of the Trolls is boorish and irritating. Our natural inclination is to push back against those views – an activity known as feeding the Trolls. A sad reflection on our society is that this boorish style of commentary has become so prevalent it now mainstream. I read a serious column in a respectable Australian newspaper where a government ‘spokesman’ suggested that anyone who believed in man-made climate change was a ‘cardigan wearing, Guardian reading, elitist.’ I suspect most of his moderate-leaning readers switched off at that point.

So how best to fight back against a Troll Follower Army that has taken possession of your favourite internet forum?  Trolls are after all, mythical creatures that can be outsmarted by low-IQ Billy Goat Gruffs! Here are six ‘Resistance’ strategies that may not win the war against a full blown Troll pile-on but they are more fun than seething impotently at your computer screen:

  1. Ignore them and they will go away. It’s the ultimate strategy. Trolls thrive on conflict and are the masters of trench warfare. They have incredible stamina and will win any war of insult. But with no ammunition or target, their short attention spans will cause them to quickly leave the field of battle.
  2. The Commando Hit and Run. When a Troll Army has invaded your favourite forum, sneak in and lay a ‘sticky bomb’. This explosive argument should be logical, factual, unemotional, unbiased and hard hitting. Then get the hell out of there fast leaving the Trolls chasing nothing but shadows.
  3. The Sniper Attack. Locate the Troll Army general. He’s the loudest, most obnoxious and most irrational Troll on the chat forum. Take aim and hit him between the eyes with a killer line of reasoning backed up by telling scientific references. Then exit the chat room leaving the troll army stunned and leaderless.
  4. The Kamikazi. Unfortunately, you are going to have to take one for the team by zeroing in on the Troll heavyweight. This involves dropping ‘the big one’ – the latest academic research paper on the lead Troll’s sweeping generalisations. You might inflict irreparable damage on his flawed logic, but you are also likely to be shot down in flames by sheer weight of numbers.
  5. The ‘Johnny Come Lately’. A strategy used to great effect on US websites. This involves supporting the one remaining voice of reason surrounded by a sea of angry Trolls. With the battle almost over and the Trolls on the back foot, you enter the fray with a few hard-hitting facts and well-constructed conclusions. Your support is often enough to send the orchestrated Troll pile-on packing.
  6. The ambush. Draw the trolls out into the open with a few rookie comments while keeping your best logic, your carefully researched facts and your supporting reference sites hidden. Once the troll army has revealed their position let rip with your entire debating arsenal leaving them stunned and bloodied. Then get the hell out.

Freedom of expression demands that the ‘sensible centre’ sticks up for what it believes to be right and does so in a calm logical way. It’s time for normal people to fight back!

It may not be the best way of dealing with the Trolls, but then the story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff would have been a complete anti-climax if the little billy goat had not given the Troll a taste of his own medicine.

Have you read my novel 'The Sleepwalker Legacy'? 
Enter to win the book and 20 fantastic dark thrillers from an amazing collection of authors, alongside bookstore gift cards, PLUS a Kindle Fire or Nook Tablet! Enter the contest by clicking here: bit.ly/2uzmhfm
When you’re done, leave a comment to let me know you’ve entered!

Dear readers, I have something special, I’d like to share with you. I’ve teamed up with mystery and crime thriller authors to give away a collection of 33 novels.
You can access the giveaway page at this link http://bookdeals.today/. This opportunity is available for a limited time only and will expire on 8th July. Enjoy

The giveaway is handled via Instafreebie and is subject to their terms and conditions.

When the pace of corporate life gets too frantic, I dream of my favourite patch of earth. Its lies in the heart of Africa in a place called the Luangwa Valley in Zambia. A majestic river runs through the arid savannah and it teems with exotic wildlife.

I picture myself as a teenager, drinking tea in a comfortable chair staring towards the river waiting for the sun to rise. When it does, the sky explodes into a palette of red, orange and yellow hues as the new day breaks. Dawn sets off a cacophony of noise as hippos, elephants and assorted animals take their first drink of the day at the banks of the Luangwa River.

I hear the strange noise of vegetation being ripped from its roots and I turn to see that an entire herd of elephants has gathered behind me while I was watching the river. It is quite a shock. The African elephant is built like the side of a house and has the power of an eight-tonne bulldozer.  And they detest humans who have been poaching them for their ivory tusks for centuries.

My route back to my chalet has been blocked and I recall stories of how angry African elephants have been known to pick up humans in their trunks and dash them to their deaths against the rocks. But this herd is engrossed in shovelling the fresh shoots of new green grass into their cavernous mouths and is happy to keep a wary eye on me as I slip past them to safety. I was left with a feeling of respect and awe for these magnificent creatures that has stayed with me for the rest of my life.

I stumbled upon this entrancing video of the same family of elephants who trek through the reception of the Mfuwe Lodge in the Luangwa National Park as if they own the place. They emerge at the other side of the building where they gorge themselves on ripe mangoes. The lodge was built on an ancient elephant path and they see no reason to walk around the building and who is going to stop them?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Am2SrUml5Fw

It is a perfect picture of man and nature living in harmony and long may it continue. But unfortunately, it is a rare example. I found myself wondering how I would feel if this oasis of paradise was threatened by development. And so began the premise for my latest book, The Last Oracle which is due for release in September. The book takes the small acts of destruction of our natural environment to its natural conclusion, but luckily the book’s hero Sam Jardine is there to save the day once again.

We are all too consumed by the idea of progress for progress’ sake rather than balancing what progress can sometimes take away from our lives. A perfect example from our recent history was the ever-rising production quotas imposed on the whaling fleets of the Soviet Union in the sixties and seventies. The captains who achieved the tough production quotas were lauded as heroes. The Soviet Union had little use for the dead whales but their exploits almost wiped out the largest species ever to have graced the earth. It would have been a tragedy of unimaginable proportions, but luckily the world woke up at the eleventh hour and stopped the mass slaughter. In some ways, it is still happening today with our nostalgic love affair with dangerous and dirty sources of energy when cleaner and cheaper alternatives exist.

My research for The Last Oracle has changed my view of the world completely. It started by watching a three-minute video of my favourite place on earth and imagining what would happen if an oil rig was planted in the middle of the elephant’s mangrove plantation.

We all have our perfect patches of earth from our childhood stored in the depths of our memories. Take a minute to retrieve those memories and imagine what would happen if an oil rig was planted in the middle of that patch in the name of progress. Then consider what you could do to achieve a better balance between progress and protection of the places we love. It could change your life.

Today, I have a fun surprise that I’d like to share with you.
 
I’ve teamed up with 60 crime fiction and crime thriller authors to give away a huge collection of novels to 2 lucky winners, PLUS  a Kindle Fire to the Grand Prize winner! 
 
You can win my novel The Sleepwalker Legacy, plus books from other well-known authors in the same genre
 
Enter the giveaway by clicking here: bit.ly/crime-fic-may-17
 
Good luck, and enjoy!
 
Christopher Hepworth

Last month I attended a breakfast seminar on the 2017 outlook for the Australian economy hosted by an eminent economist. For those who are interested, he predicted that it was full steam ahead for the Australian economy notwithstanding the occasional Trump induced risk factor.

I asked the economist if Australia’s ageing power infrastructure, coupled with the current political leadership vacuum on energy policy would be a drag on growth. He smiled and reassured me that energy policy had no impact on his economic model but admitted it was an interesting question.

Two days later all hell broke loose. New South Wales suffered a series of blazing temperatures across the state, over one hundred catastrophic bush fires erupted and air conditioners went into overdrive. Three major power generators failed including the Liddell coal fired power station and the Tallawarra gas plant. The Australian Energy Market Operator, fearing widespread blackouts across NSW ordered the Tomago aluminium smelter which consumes twelve percent of the state’s energy to shut down its pot lines.

New South Wales, which relies on coal for over ninety percent of its generating capacity, suffered a load shedding event of 580 MW which was almost six times that of South Australia’s 100 MW event three days earlier. The political furore was almost as bad as the extreme weather that had caused the black outs. The Australian federal government pointed the finger of blame firmly at the states claiming that they were ‘drunk on left ideology on energy’ and threatening people’s livelihoods. One week later, the Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg suggested that the Clean Energy Finance Corporation that was set up to fund Australia’s 23.5% renewable energy commitment by 2020, would be used to build new ‘clean’ coal fired power stations.

Reasoned public debate on the future direction of Australia’s energy policy and its commitment to the Paris climate accord has become mired in vitriol and disinformation. Short term political posturing seems to be more important than long term strategic energy planning.

When I embarked on my latest novel set in the oil industry, I wanted my main character to be a free-thinking sceptic who is unwittingly drawn into a global climate conspiracy. I conducted my year long research into the topic with some trepidation. I was cynical about the strident nature of climate science. The claims of the environmentalists seemed far-fetched and alarmists. Their message was depressing and their smug tone reminded me of the ‘god botherers’ of old who turned up uninvited on my doorstep.

Twelve months and several books on climate change later I emerged from my research with a massive wake up call. For example in Australia’s own backyard, David Attenborough claimed that sections of bleached coral on the Great Barrier reef have suffered complete ecosystem collapse. Hiking on Foxs and Franz Joseph Glaciers in New Zealand is now banned because of rapid glacial melting. And since 2013 we have sweltered through four of the six hottest years on record. A coincidence? You must be kidding.

If you can’t trust the evidence in front of your eyes, ask the scientists. A 2013 paper in Environmental Research Letters reviewed 11,944 abstracts of scientific papers matching ‘global warming’ or ‘global climate change’. They found 4014 papers which discussed the cause of recent global warming, and of these 97.1% endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming. Call me naïve, but I find that statistic pretty convincing.

So why have whole sections of society, especially the ‘Alt Right’ adopted climate change denial as a badge of honour and successfully paralysed effective energy policy? The average guy in the pub is probably ‘sticking it to the know-it-all greenies’ which is understandable. I would probably do it myself with a few schooners under my belt. But our senior politicians, upon whose decisions our quality of life and financial wellbeing depend, are suddenly rendered incapable of rational behaviour when discussing energy supply.

The answer in Australia’s case is that we are sat upon the largest and cheapest deposits of coal in the world. Its continued exploitation adds to our economic output. It employs over 140,000 jobs and makes us all a little wealthier. The sheer scale of our mining industry allows it to wield massive political influence which is no bad thing when done responsibly and in the interests of the country. Australia has recently poured billions into new coal mines and ports making the industry the most efficient in the world. Unfortunately this is at a time when the industry’s markets are dropping off a cliff. Our champion coal industry is all dressed up with nowhere to go.

Coal is the environmental bad boy of the fossil fuel industry. Nothing else comes close including natural gas. The term ‘clean coal’ is relative and would still make coal top of the pollution food chain by some margin. A typical coal plant with emissions controls, including flue gas desulfurisation emits 7,000 tons of SO2 per year. This SO2 causes acid rain which damages crops, forests and soils, and acidifies lakes and streams. Its emissions include lead, mercury, nickel, tin, cadmium and arsenic. The amount of CO2 generated by coal fired power stations worldwide is over five billion tonnes per year. Coal combustion waste is the second largest waste stream on the planet after municipal waste. The list of environmental hazards produced by the coal industry goes on and on (and on).

Before things get too depressing it’s worth mentioning that the environmentalist’s war on coal fired power stations outside of Australia has already been won thanks to the impact of capitalism at its ugliest. In the last twelve months, the cost of generating electricity from solar and wind has dropped below that of coal and investment finance for new coal powered fire stations has dried up as no bank wants a stranded asset on its books. This has had a profound effect around the world.

• The United Kingdom, which powered the industrial revolution on the back of coal over two hundred years ago, produced more electricity from solar power than coal in the second half of 2016. Employment in the British coal industry which once stood at 1.2m in 1920 (including generations of my own family) is now zero. However, Britain is now the European leader in solar and 35,000 new British jobs have been created in the solar industry.
• India’s 50GW capacity of half built coal powered power stations are considered ‘stranded assets’ and will only be completed as reserve capacity as it moves towards its target of 57% renewable energy by 2027.
• China has just scrapped plans for over one hundred coal plants as it moves to address overcapacity and gears up its huge solar and wind industries.
• In the U.S. last year, 39% of all new build electricity generation capacity came from solar. No new coal plants were built in 2016 but 135 were closed over the last two years. One of the world’s leading coal producers, Peabody filed for bankruptcy in the US in April of last year.

Australia is uniquely positioned to benefit from a new ‘industrial revolution’ led by the renewable power industry. With its abundance of sun, wind and wave resources and its technical and engineering excellence, it is well set to take a cut of the 8.1 million jobs in renewable industries that were documented worldwide in 2015. These high quality jobs would include positions in research, manufacturing, sales, distribution and installation that would create wealth across all social strata’s and all geographies in Australia.

Coal will not disappear completely until existing plants reach the end of their useful life and there is an argument to keep some fossil based generating capacity in reserve (although this should be gas where possible). But do not expect the coal industry to go down without a fight. Any blog on climate change is systematically ‘trolled’ by hyper aggressive industry supporters who invent conspiracies, cry ‘hoax’ and disparage eminent scientists for producing data that runs counter to their belief systems. This blog will be no different.

It’s time that the politicians in Australia remembered that they joined the noble profession of politics for the greater good of society rather than marginal political advantage. Australia urgently needs a carefully considered energy policy. Part of that policy should involve the encouragement of a world class and viable renewables industry to absorb the inevitable decline in coal mining jobs over the next decade. It is time for strong leadership. Failure to act will cost Australian jobs and growth at a critical juncture for our economy.

In the meantime, I’m off to order my (Australian built) solar panels before the lights go out.

 

Today, I have a fun surprise that I’d like to share with you.
To celebrate the fall, I’ve teamed up with more than 30 fantastic thriller authors to give
away a huge collection of novels, PLUS a Kindle Fire to one lucky winner!
You can win my novel The Nocnista Agenda, plus selected thriller books from other authors.

Enter the giveaway by clicking here:
bit.ly/fall-thriller

Good luck, and enjoy!

Christopher Hepworth