The following discussion provides research resources and a deeper perspective into the issues raised in LAST PARADISE.
Is your country on the right road? Who should we listen to?
In this age of marketing noise, media distortion and political self interest it is difficult to be sure on who to listen to for wisdom and guidance. The most perceptive people of our time are surely those who could peer into the atom and see what others can’t. One of the first to do this was an Australian physicist and politician, Sir Mark Oliphant who discovered not only the most sustainable high-energy source in the universe but who’s political life also offered valuable insight into the global issues of the future and how to solve them.
The film “Last Paradise” shows how Mark Oliphant worked as a pioneer with Ernest Rutherford to model the atom, discovering the nucleus and subsequently nuclear energy in the form of fission and fusion. Mark Oliphant was so concerned about the future security issues of nuclear fission and the environmental issues of fossil fuels, that he dedicated post-war years to developing a safe and peaceful form of nuclear energy in the form of hot fusion. He set up the Australian National University in Canberra and appointed a New Zealander, Bruce Liley to research how fusion energy might be harnessed. Liley designed a device to achieve this, called a Tokamak. The series of Liley Tokamaks in Canberra University (ACU) were dubbed LT1, LT2, LT3 etc. and formed the main study centre for plasma physics and fusion energy research in the Southern Hemisphere.
Mark Oliphant obviously had an outstanding grip on reality and combined with his political experience, was renowned visionary in world affairs. In Mark Oliphant’s 1962 Ross lecture in Perth (Click here for high resolution 29 MB pdf OR faster 4.0 MB lower resolution pdf), he describes the state of world affairs and what he considered would the main issues of the future with tremendous foresight, including population growth, environmental degradation and non-sustainable energy dependency. It is no coincidence that “Last Paradise” focuses on these issues. At 15 years old, the film director, Clive Neeson was so influenced by the issues in Oliphant’s Ross Lecture that he began filming wilderness adventure with these issues in mind and subsequently studied physics under Professor Bruce Liley to pursue fusion energy.
Mark Oliphant was an environmentalist, humanitarian and one of the world’s greatest minds. As with the atom, Oliphant came to understand “how Australia really ticks”. He had an insight to the value and uniqueness of Australia’s flora, fauna and cultural heritage. Those things which we discover in the film “Last Paradise” are our true wealth. But too often we trade our true wealth for money. In our personal life and as a nation. Can you see that happening in Australia today?
Even at the age of 95, this interview of Mark Oliphant is packed with wisdom and insight. But the interview is also an alarming indictment about where we are really going, with such remarks such as; “Most people don’t give much thought to Australia and its future… they just exist. People who do something are not that common.” Mark Oliphant points out that we need “an accurate point of view” and which Australians we should listen to for guidance and real solutions to future issues. Based on his interview, who would you listen to and why?
Between the lines of Mark Oliphant’s lectures and interviews is also a humble account of how Australia and New Zealand once led the world in science, innovation and conservation. Today we fuel our economy by pursuing an economic model which depends on endless growth often to the detriment of natural and cultural heritage. Directly or indirectly, all the amazing paradises we discovered in the film “Last Paradise” were destroyed by this.
- Can you describe how each of these paradises were lost and what “wealth” was lost?
- What is the difference between economic growth and an economy dependent on growth?
- Can we possibly have economic growth without physical growth?
- Can you envisage another healthy economic model which does not depend on endless consumerism and development? Give an example.
- Our current economic model has already led to pollution or eradication of most of the wild species habitat on earth to provide for human resources.
- Given that this is a finite planet and our population still rising, how much longer do you calculate this can continue?
- What are the possible things which will eventually stop it and what will bring them about?
Inaugural A.D. Ross Lecture entitled “Education and the age of science” by Sir Mark Oliphant. 1962. (J S Battye Library of West Australian History Ephemera – Collection Listing PR12401/18). (Click here to High resolution 29 Meg copy OR faster 4.0 Meg lower resolution copy),
The life and times of Sir Mark Oliphant. Cockburn, Stewart; David Ellyard (1981). Adelaide: Axiom Books.
Australia – the richer it grows the poorer it gets
Australia is a classic manifestation for those issues addressed in the film “Last Paradise”. Australia is the second richest country in the world per capita, virtually unaffected by the GFC. This is largely a result of rapid growth in Western Australia to fulfill the energy and mineral needs particularly of China. In return, Australia imports food and products from China which Australia once produced itself at high quality. All this, including the transport and marketing, we are told, helps turn the wheels of the economy.
West Australia has long been regarded as the “Last Paradise” with diverse natural heritage, low stress, crime, or road rage, high food security…”. Yet for those that live there admit this is rapidly changing under the new growth strategy.
In the West Australian Christmas Commentary this year it was declared that Australians are becoming less happy as the economy gets richer. On the same day the Future Planning Strategy revealed that the population is expected to treble by 2045 as a result of continued rapid growth. Accordingly, planners are now designing a new West Australia with the accepted admission that it will create large sustainability problems and compromised living conditions. Yet this is THE PLAN.
It is interesting to note in this strategic plan that that whilst West Australia currently derives most of its energy and desalinated water supply from fossil fuels, even with a three-fold increase in demand, the planning document offests this drawback in assuming that fossil fuels and coal will “diminish in significance” due to a “boost in renewables from climate change”. The common assumption here is that market forces and public pressure will make this change. Fossil fuel issues are serious enough now to force a change, yet at the same time we have seen a steady increase in use of fossil fuels. The limiting factors of course relate to the laws of physics which are unlikely to change . It is interesting to consider how this assumption might be different if planners were required to study physics.
We can evaluate this with our own calculations and knowledge of the design and capacity of these systems;
How many continuous gigawatts of power will be required to provide three times the current power used by West Australia? Which currently known renewable energy generating devices can achieve this cost effectively? Using a quantitative approach (not qualitative) how many units and scale of renewable energy generating devices will be required to provide for this? When were these technologies first invented? What has been the rate of efficiency improvement since then and now? What is the expected improvement in cost and efficiency of these sources in the next 40 years? What future breakthroughs in technology (science and physics) will be required to make each of these renewable sources viable? What and who will this depend upon?
Besides the issues of energy, food/water security and environment, nations aim to improve the general wealth of their citizens. The characters in “Last Paradise” were challenged by Dora to explore the world during the 1970’s to find the true meaning of wealth. From each country in turn they learned that real wealth was found in contentment, happiness, cultural heritage, sense of community and the ability to appreciate natural world with a sense of wonder – even the life of a desert outback.
- Which of these components of wealth has evidently been lost from the declarations in the two “state of the nation” newspaper publications above?
- What strategy would ensure that rapidly developing nations like Australia will not follow the fate of the other lost paradises in the film?
The price of a species
When we began filming Last Paradise 50 years ago, the animal kingdom ruled the planet from the wilderness of Africa to the ocean rock pools and rivers. Those that played there as kids will recall what we can see in the film. Today there is barely an ecosystem on the planet which remains naturally intact. It seems our economic planning has assumed that this state of affairs will continue. This reality is daily evident in our media, though it raises little alarm.
In article of 28th January 2012 in The Australian entitled “Squandering the benefits of the resources boom” , the government is accused of squandering the huge returns of the Australian economic boom rather than investing in infrastructure. There is no mention at all of the indigenous heritage, flora and fauna as potential investment. Do you think we should consider our investment in these things in boom times?
In the very same newspaper the article entitled “Conservation must be ranked by dollar” implies we have to compromise on saving our natural heritage. It advocates the introduction of a system devised by New Zealand whereby we shall decide which indigenous species are worth saving and which shall be driven into extinction according to calculation of their tourism revenue to the economy. In todays economic model, this move is hailed as “progress”.
According to our evolutionary theory, it takes millions of years for a species to evolve. According to the holy books, each species fashioned by the hand of God. So either way, they are very precious.
- Do you think it is right for us to use a financial model to determine which species should continue to exist or not?
- What value would you put on a species and why?
- Do you think this system should be introduced in economic boom times? In economic recession times?
- Given that the cause of these species extinction is human introduced predators or distroyed habitat, can you conceive of a better solution?
- How would you as government introduce this measure? What do expect to be your opposition?
What is success?
Some nations hold up “successful” individuals as those who work to become richer and richer…then die. As our icons are, so will our nation be. In “Last Paradise” we discover that the short cut to success is contentment – through our aspirations and ability to appreciate the value of what we have. Like the characters in the film, the ultimate life is creating your own “childhood dream” and making it come true. Truly successful people are those who achieve their dream yet have designed into their life the spare time and energy to give back or nurture the good things they found in the world.
- Do you have your own life’s dream? (If not, it starts with just enthusiasm and imagination).
- Can you imaging how you could design a truly “successful” life of your own based around your own dream, talents and passions?
- From the films story, what skills can you see will be most in demand in the future?
- What subject would you study to guarantee the best opportunities in the future to make your dream happen and why? (don’t forget the law of supply and demand).
- How can you do this in keeping with your own dream?
How come we can’t see the change – the “shifting baseline”
“We all see the world we are born into as the norm. And so with each generation we have gradually lost sight of the how the world once was, or is meant to be”. These are some of the concluding words of the film “Last Paradise”. How “Last Paradise” reveals this phenomenon of “shifting baselines” or “creeping norm” is described by Professor Adam Green (USA) in this interview.
The reasons why we are not all extremely alarmed what is happening to our rivers, ocean, flora, fauna and culture is because;
- Most people now live and play in cites so they simply don’t see it daily.
- Few people can recall just how it used to be 45 years ago or were even there.
The filming of “Last Paradise” began 45 years ago with this in mind so it provides an opportunity for everyone to experience how it was then and the real change over this time. Compared to today, what changes does the film reveal in the film about;
- Where and how kids played.
- The length of glaciers, clarity of ocean and rivers, density and freedom of wild animals, intensity of farming.
- Why was each of the paradises lost” How could this have been avoided?
- When was the first oil crisis? What was the consequence? Was it solved satisfactorily?
- What is the ultimate driver of change for each of us today?
Fusion energy is the unlimited, safe, sustainable source which promises to replace fossil fuels for continuous large scale power generation. As opposed to nuclear fission which uses uranium as fuel, the fuel of fusion is totally safe and unlimited in supply. (deuterium, an isotope of hydrogen) easily extracted from seawater. Nevertheless the road to fusion energy generation requires further research involving high level of mathematics, physics, chemistry and electronic engineering. As seen in “Last Paradise” this specifically requires;
- young scholars in these subjects (currently this is decreasing, not increasing!!)
- the political will and commitment by our governments to the global program of physics and fusion research.
Here is a basic explanation of fusion energy on ABC radio
See other links at end of this page on fusion energy research.
Dr. Barry Green
Fusion energy is explained in the film “Last Paradise” by Dr. Barry Green who was chief physicist of the JET Tokamak in UK as well as being a competitive Australian ocean swimmer. Barry’s world record for the longest fusion burn to date (40 seconds) made world news. Barry is now a senior designer for the next generation “ITER” Tokamac in Cadarache, France which will eventually be followed by creation of the first fusion reactor “DEMO”. In the episode of the TV science program “CATALYST” Dr. Barry Green explains the future of fusion with the leaders of Australian atomic and fusion research. Barry currently promotes the development through University lectures and public speaking. This public lecture by Barry is a great summary of fusion energy, ITER and its significant to Australia and the world. Towards the end of the article is also a professional bio of Dr. Barry Green.
Professor Bruce Liley
New Zealander Bruce Liley was one of the pioneering atomic physicists. He was appointed by Ernest Rutherfor’ds colleague Mark Oliphant, to pioneer fusion energy and built the first Takamac in the western world. He also made a great stand for righteousness in science and politics. For info on Bruce Liley, read the article: “Fusion physicist was a maverick” in the Australian National University publication. Bruce Liley personified that maverick innovative spirit of “can do” which inevitably would unite the main characters in “Last Paradise”. After creating the Tokamac, Bruce Liley returned to New Zealand in the late 1960’s to set up what soon became a well acclaimed faculty of physics at the University of Waikato, Hamilton. Bruce took his vacations at the then little known recluse of Whale Bay, Raglan. It was there he met teenager Clive Neeson (director of “Last Paradise”), whilst surfing with his brother, John. Excited by Bruce’s work in electronics and alternative energy, Clive gave away medical school to study physics under Professor Bruce Liley for the following six years.
Links on fusion energy:
ITER, the worlds biggest scientific project – New Yorker
Joint European Tokamac (JET) in UK:
ITER research Tokamak in Cadarache, France is the world’s largest project, comparable to the scale of the international space station:
Fusion Energy Educational web Site (Aust National University):
The Princeton Plasma Physics lab site which is US-centric but also has a global tinge:
What is Iter?
How will Iter be built?