All posts by Christopher Hepworth

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

So you want to live to one hundred in a state of contentment and good health? Then here’s a thriller writer’s lifestyle plan that does not cost you a cent in gym membership fees or dietary supplements. All you have to do to increase your ‘wellbeing index’ is sharpen up your DDRESS code!

So what’s my motivation for assisting humanity to achieve a state of achieve physical, mental and spiritual perfection if it’s not to make a quick buck? Simple. It’s to express my annoyance at the hordes of unqualified lifestyle gurus who are exploiting our vanity and gullibility to dip into our wallets. Their outrageous health benefit claims are usually backed up by junk science that would make an eleven year old schoolboy blush. Any attempt to debunk their nonsense is met with outrage and don’t even bother to try for a refund. My theory is that any person blessed with common sense can design an effective lifestyle plan, and I’m about to put that theory to the test.

For instant internet stardom a plan must have a catchy and marketable brand name. Welcome to the DDRESS Code. (A handy acronym for Determination, Diet, Relationships, Exercise, Sleep and Scruples.) These six pillars of wisdom will guide you through a long life of contentment, achievement and serenity like no other. Simply read on and get ready to cancel that Gym / Diet / Self-help / Funeral appointment.

Determination:  Let’s face it, no one is going to hand it to you on a plate. You get out of life what you put in. Determination is the ‘D’ at the start of the DDRESS Code acronym for a reason. It allows you to overcome the inevitable knock downs in life and come back even stronger for a second and third bite at the cherry. It also helps you keep on track with the other five pillars of wisdom.

Diet:  You are not going to live to one hundred if you are packing a few spare tyres around the mid-rift. Moderation and variation is the key to a healthy diet. Giving up whole food groups as a ‘silver bullet’ method of losing weight is an appalling idea and can only harm you in the long run.

A few pointers. Your body is pretty good at detoxing itself and does not need a three-day starvation ‘cleansing’ regime to help it along the way. Sugar is not a poison in any sense of the word. By all means give up refined sugar (soft drinks, lollies, cakes etc.) but do yourself a favour and keep eating fruit in sensible quantities for a long healthy life. Cavemen, pro fat, anti-fat and low carb diets are all pretty useless except that they provide motivation to cut down on excess calories which is the only proven method of shedding kilos. The fad diet industry’s only interest is in selling books and outrageously priced plastic foods.

Likewise, there is no such thing as a superfood except to the profits of the food retail industry. Gorging on blueberries or coconut extract will not make any difference to the average first world diet and neither will the myriad of dietary supplements available from your local chemist unless they have been prescribed by your doctor for a pre-existing condition.

A quick word on alcohol. The one thing that all centenarians have in common is their ability to celebrate with a modest tipple when they receive their telegram from the queen. Real ale and red wine in moderation are pleasurable and healthy. Frequent binge drinking will earn you pole position in the road race to an early grave.

Relationships:  A long, term loving relationship will help you live longer. So will the ability to treat your loved ones with respect and see things from their point of view. In fact, respect and tolerance of others will also help you at work and in your social life too. These attributes are the key to elevated levels of emotional intelligence which in turn will allow you to squeeze more contentment and enjoyment from a single unit of life than your gloomy, low EQ neighbour.

A word for the wise. Respect should be a two-way street so you should never allow yourself or your loved ones to be bullied and do not allow others to take advantage of your good nature.

Exercise:  Exercise will keep your heart pumping years after your mate’s indolent lifestyle has earned him a one way ticket to the morgue.  Exercise assists muscle and bone durability. Use it or lose it is the key message for this pillar of wisdom.

The simple formula for losing weight is that you must burn more calories moving your body than you consume in food and drink. The multi-billion dollar diet industry tells you that you can’t exercise your way out of a bad diet, but that misses the point. You must do both. But like all things, don’t get carried away. Over doing it will promote injury and push you back to square one.

It is equally important to exercise your brain as your grey matter is a muscle like any other. Take up a hobby that stimulates the mind, read a good book like the Sleepwalker Legacy and limit yourself to a handful of TV shows per week to keep those neural pathways healthy.

Sleep:  There is a reason why we sleep. It is essential for muscle repair and memory reorganisation. Develop a regular and uninterrupted sleep pattern unless you are planning to audition for a part as a Rolling Stones body double. It will improve the quality of your waking life including your productivity, emotional balance, creativity and vitality. Sleep is life’s free kick so ensure you get your eight hours. No other activity delivers so many benefits for such little effort.

Scruples:  Also known as values or morals, it is important to ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ to quote a particular specialist in this field. A person’s reputation is their most valuable asset and must be cultivated and nurtured. Generosity of spirit, trustworthiness and a sense of perspective will earn you respect.

The single-minded pursuit of cold, hard cash will hinder your journey towards a fulfilled life. While money is of itself neither good nor bad, it should be put in context. Humans need a challenge to reach their potential and should work hard and honestly to appreciate the finer things in life. But there must be a purpose to the acquisition of wealth. Most material possessions end up as worthless clutter destined for the skip. Far better to treat your loved ones to occasional and unexpected acts of selfless generosity than to take it with you to the grave.

So there you have it. You too can now live to one hundred in blissful contentment. But what, you may ask are my qualifications for promoting lifestyle and health advice? I’m treading a well-worn path in the self-help industry when I say ‘absolutely none’, but please feel free to turn me into an internet celebrity in any case!

And if you do not live to celebrate your hundredth birthday despite following the DDRESS Code, you are entitled to a full refund. To qualify, simply turn up in person and show documented proof of your demise. You may also be required to complete a statutory declaration stating that you did not have a sneaky ‘caveman / woman’ flirtation since you sharpened your DDRESS Code.

Your new life starts now!

About five years ago my brother discovered that there existed a ‘mirror image’ family on the other side of the world that was identical in almost every respect to my own.

My own family lives in the Sutherland Shire of Sydney in peace and prosperity. My wife Anne and I have three teenage boys and a younger daughter. I have high hopes and aspirations that they might all grow up to be bright, useful members of society with families of their own.

The father of this distant ‘mirror image’ family is called George and he was once a coal miner from the tough working class mining town of Barnsley in South Yorkshire, England. He has a wife called Alice and also has three teenage boys and a much younger daughter.

Their oldest son, also named George was born just three months before my nineteen-year-old son Thomas James. George’s second son, James was born a year before our eighteen-year-old son Patrick and their third son Arthur at seventeen is a similar age to my third son Michael George. To compound the similarities, both our daughters, Alice and Sarah respectively are the babies of the family born several years after the boys.

I have only met one member of my mirror image family Alice, not that she would have recalled this meeting which was many years ago.

My family surname is exceptionally rare and named after a small Yorkshire village in the Calder Valley (where the TV series ‘Happy Valley’ was filmed). Despite this rarity we share the same surname as our mirror image family. As it happens we also share twenty-five percent of our DNA, as we are directly related.

The similarities between our two families were a constant source of joy and wonder to me. However, over the course of the last five years my joy was tempered by the knowledge that this would be the year when their eldest son George would be savagely butchered in a hail of bullets. George would die of his wounds in a grimy hospital several days later. There was nothing I could do to stop it and nor could I warn the family of the looming tragedy that was about to befall them.

On the 3rd July the inevitable happened and George is now buried in a simple grave in a foreign field. He did not die alone. Twenty thousand of his fellow soldiers and countrymen died with him in a single day.

You see not only are our two families on opposite sides of the world, but we are separated by the dimension of time. Exactly one hundred years apart, in fact. My brother discovered the existence of this family by looking up our ancestral records in the UK census of 1911. George’s traumatised younger brother James was our grandfather and I can only imagine the grief that his family had to endure and how they must have lamented at the senseless waste of life that was the Battle of the Somme.

It would have been little comfort to them that the massive loss of life at the Somme on both sides ultimately led to the defeat of the German army as their war machine finally ran out of men and resources. No-one will ever know if my Great Uncle George died bravely or whether he was mown down in the first minutes of the attack. But one can be certain that his death would have had a massive impact on that ordinary working class family back in Barnsley.

I could not contemplate such a terrible thing happening to my children today and yet in every respect, George’s father had the same hopes and aspirations for his family as I have for mine one hundred years later. The twenty-year-old George was only one of a million such casualties that the British and Commonwealth forces suffered in World War One. He has become a source of pride to me just as countless other families are now honouring the centenary of the Battle of the Somme. Our duty now is to instil in our children the values and aspirations that George would have brought back with him had he survived that fateful day in 1916.

 

The time for laughing at the American buffoon with the ridiculous comb over is over. It turns out that ‘The Donald’ is having the last laugh. Despite it being April fool’s day, this is no joke. It is highly probable that Donald Trump will be moving into the White House in 2017.

For those who believe that this cannot happen, let me enlighten you. The advent of social media and instant communication has given new power to anti-establishment lunatics around the world. For instance no-one would have predicted that the UK Labour party would have elected someone as unsuitable for top office as the anti-Semitic, anti-nuclear, anti-business Jeremy Corbyn. But he’s now within touching distance of No.10 Downing Street. Crazy but true.

Donald Trump has set Republican voter turnout records for every state in the US except Vermont. He has shredded his political opponents with a ruthless efficiency not seen since Joseph Stalin. (Get ready Hilary Clinton, your secret email accounts are in his sights!) His political opponents have fired back but have failed to realise that he’s made of Teflon. And Trump is the absolute master of media manipulation. He sells papers and gains viewers with every outrageous statement that he makes.

In the face of such a threat, one would have imagined the Democratic Party rallying around Hilary Clinton, but in fact the opposite is true. Bernie Sanders is inflicting real damage on her voter base and credibility by accusing her of being in the pockets of Big Business and in particular Goldman Sachs.

So the free world is likely to be led by someone who will make George W Bush’s administration look like a golden era of social enlightenment and intellectual distinction.

Of course, those of us who are outside the American political process can afford to watch the whole US presidentialtrain wreck in the smug realisation that it could not happen here. But in 1933 our great grandfathers must have been just as sanctimonious when they watched theidiotic Austrian corporal sweep to power in Berlin. After all, what have such distant events got to do with Australia?

The answer is quite a lot. The next leader of the free world will face challenges ranging from terrorism, the rise of China, economic instability and environmental change all of which are global issues. On social matters, many Western nations take their guidance from the US. So how do we survive a Trump administration?To assist you to prepare,here is a handy six point guide to the next eight years of your life:

  1. Ignore him. After all, aren’t all US Presidents constrained by their own administrations and the obstructionist US congress? You only have to see how little of Obama’s manifesto made its way to the statute books to realise how impotentthe POTUS actually is.
  1. Grow a thicker skin. Trump has insulted just about every minority group he has encountered during his election campaign. Mexicans are rapists and drug runners, decorated war heroes are trashed for getting themselves captured, Women who oppose his views are obviously doing so at the wrong time of the month and Muslims are to be banned from the US. Welcome to the era of ‘telling it as it is’.
  1. Practice your Benito Mussolini pout. You know it makes sense. Jut out your chin and tilt your head to one side while looking down your nose at humanity. If you can frown like an unhappy emoticon, so much the better.
  1. Get ready for higher taxes. When Trump builds his Mexican wall, the bill is going to the Mexican government. Likewise, America’s allies are not paying their way for the privilege of American protection so we can expect the bill through the mail soon.
  1. Tighten your belt. Trump is strongly in favour of American economic protectionism. He opposes the Trans Pacific Partnership and has vowed to repatriate jobs back to America. All imports to America are to be taxed at 20%. A recipe for global growth it ain’t!
  1. Give it a go yourself. No I’m not talking about running for president, but Trump has proved you can always bluff your way to that dream job or seemingly unattainable role that you always craved for. It’s probable that not even Trump himself thought he would get this close to the White House. His likely motive in running for office was to prove to his business cronies that he could have made president had he put his mind to it. Ok we don’t have his media training, his inherited billions or his planet sized ego, but it just goes to show that anything is possible if you have the bravado.

I’ve always fancied that job as chairman of Microsoft, and if I have to threaten to punch the interviewer in the face to land the job then it just shows that my degree at Trump University was worth the paper it was written on after all.Welcome to the new reality!