Sunday 2 September 2007

Ah - those Hypotheticals!

Many years ago the ABC (that's the Australian Broadcasting Commission) ran a TV series called the Hypothetical, presented by Geoffrey Robertson. He is a human rights lawyer, now in the London.

I like the man. He is articulate, precise, says what he means and means what he says, and of course there is his target, human rights, or rather the abuse of them.

But back to the program. He covered a series of topics - topical topics in fact - for which he invited prominent people, politicians, professionals, heads of departments. Pillars of society one might call them.

Hypothetical situations were played out in which the guests had to respond with their own attitudes and opinions for all to see. It was interesting to watch a righteous representative from the bush wanting to witness the execution of someone caught with illegal drugs in the fictitious land of Xanadu. "That's a pity", Robertson counters, because Xanadu happens to be a Muslim country where the penalty for drinking is death. Plenty of grog where the politician comes from... you get the picture.

Wouldn't it be nice to have another version of those programs, but this time even more realistic.

The politician or professional is confronted with a panel of people who have the facts at their disposal (and who are not afraid of voicing them, one might add). Instead of hiding behind glib news-speak they would have to defend their stance and openly debate with facts and figures, telling us how exactly they came to their decisions. Who knows, they even could be right, but then again maybe not.

One candidate could be Associate Professor Darryl Jones, Director of the Centre for Innovative Conservation Strategies at Griffith University, Brisbane, who would have to explain why thousands of people should be subject to considerable inconvenience to say the least. See on another post what the problem is about. Imagine...

Professor Jones, why aren't we allowed to do something about the crows, do you know how noisy they are? - They are just being noisy teenagers.

Their decibel levels are higher than lawn mowers, and there are council laws limiting their use. - Crows are an indigenous species, they need to be protected.

Because they are indigenous? 80 decibels and higher makes for serious sleep deprivation, which has been recognised by the WHO as a form of torture. - There may be some older people in nursing homes who are affected, so? Anyway, they clean the place of rubbish.

Leave our garbage disposal in the hands of crows? Do you know how cities look like if not councils but animals deal with the rubbish? - Crows are a precious resource, they need protection.

In urban centres? Brisbane has well over 300,000 of them, and the city is for people, not birds. - And so on...

Add a representative from the UN, the city council, the sanitation department and I think we'd have an interesting debate.

Make it an hour-long grilling. If their arguments stand up, so much the better.

And if they don't - that makes for good ratings too!

PS: To be precise, the first statement by Professor Jones comes from an interview he gave for the Courier Mail. Statement #2 has been taken from a letter to me written by the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service who in turn sourced the information from the people at Griffith University. The third comes from a pamphlet by the same organisation. The last comes again from the professor directly.

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