About

If I am going to make suggestions as to how to collect and interpret data, identify optimal land usage, provide appropriate infrastructure and discuss the technical side of food production (to name just a few topics which may be touched on !), it is reasonable to demonstrate some experience in these fields. Here, therefore, is a short professional biography.

 1947-1952. Educated at the Royal Grammar School, Newcastle-on-Tyne, UK.

 1952-1956. Served articles with a civil engineering consultancy, studying externally for membership of the Institution of Civil Engineers and later, the Institution of Structural Engineers. Worked on drainage and sewage treatment works which were part of an initiative to clean up the heavily polluted River Tyne.

 1956-1958 National Service with the Royal Engineers in UK, Libya (in pre-Gaddafi days) and Cyprus. Participated in a project to re-erect part of an ancient Greek temple at the abandoned city of Cyrene (now referred to as Apollonia, I believe).

 1959-1963 Employed by the City of Nairobi, Kenya, designed and constructed drainage schemes, roadworks and buildings. Assigned to the City Structural Engineer’s Department to analyse and comment on building plans submitted for approval. The architectural standards at the time were very high and many novel ideas involving complex structural design were put forward.

 1963-1965 Employed by East African Railways and Harbours, was Assistant Resident Engineer for the construction of the Gulu/Pakwach railway in Uganda. Later posted as Assistant District Engineer to Mombasa, Kenya, in charge of port and housing maintenance, as well as a railway link between Kenya and Tanzania..

 1965-1971 Employed by a prestigious firm of consulting engineers, designed the drainage and wrote contract documents for the Koolyanobbing-Kalgoorlie section of the Standard Gauge Railway project in Western Australia. Designed buildings for West Australian Government Railways and various mine projects.

 1971-1979 Employed by an equally prestigious firm of town planners in Melbourne, Victoria, worked on the Underground Car Park at Melbourne University (now a Heritage structure ! ). Carried out design and supervision work for various structures associated with planning projects, such as roads, drainage, multi-storey car parks, cycle-paths, etc.. Also carried out land-use, transportation system and structural analyses using the (relatively) primitive microcomputers of the day.

 1979-2006 Independent contracting and consulting services in engineering and IT fields. Major activities included IS Manager for NFP aid organisation Plan International (1990-1993) and Administrator/Developer for the database servicing Telstra’s Conferlink teleconferencing services call centre (1995-2004). Other clients included Ogilvy & Mather (a prominent advertising consultancy in its day), a group of function caterers in WA, NSW and Victoria, a chemical engineering manufacturer, Imperial Chemical Industries (now called Orica), Primus Telecommunications and a number of smaller organisations.

 2006 Retired, but still providing occasional casual services to old clients.

A later note:

This blog, like many others, is intended to be a pragmatic one, discussing problems and hopefully, offering solutions. I also contribute commentary to other blogs which have similar intentions. Unfortunately, other commentators sometimes, rightly or wrongly, read particular social or political stances into the contributions. This can on occasion lead to a misdirection or a diffusion of the discussion and a consequent loss of interest in contributors.  In the interests of maintaining focus on this blog, I think it might be useful to state where I am coming from.

 Firstly, I have no particular view on the economic, social or political positions  that may be considered desirable to cope with possible climate change, food production and sustainable population problems. What I do believe is that positions in any of these areas should be supported by the necessary information and opportunities for research and development. Because food production is a central concern, I believe that most of the analytical and development work will be done on the ground (i.e. in the country) and that very good infrastructure (urban planning, power, communications, transport, etc) must be provided to support  an acceptable style of living outside our large cities. My work is intended to provide some practical suggestions as to how we may set about putting all of these facilities in place, if needed.  I have been influenced by reading a lot of books, of which I have found the following to be very instructive in their various fields: Bill McKibben (The End Of Nature, Eaarth (sic)), John Quiggin (Zombie Economics), Paul Gilding (The Great Disruption), Julian Cribb (The Coming Famine) and Dickson Despommier (The Vertical Farm). I recommend them all to anyone with interests in the topics covered by this blog.

If I do have a political position, then I would say I am a left-winger in the broadest sense, where the left wing imperative is to see what is wrong and assigns a priority to putting it right, while the conservative stance gives most weight to what is good and wants to preserve it. I think Karl Marx got his analysis of the 19th century capitalist system correct, but the solution arrived at by he and Engels was wrong.  I take the view that all organisations, be they governments or corporations are artefacts which can be created or removed, whereas human beings have no choice but to carry on living. This leads to the belief that there is an ethical imperative for all organisations (and the people engaged in them) to behave in a manner which does not erode the public good or distribute it inequitably (and don’t ask me what I think of certain financial organisations, the Australian Taxation  Office and some aspects of government! ).

I was a foundation member and senior official in the Australian Democrats for many years, but dropped out when its then leader descended to the usual inter-party political messing about which has corrupted the policy making of governments of all persuasions for a couple of generations. I vote for the Greens under protest and would be happy if a “None Of The Above” option was included on our ballot sheets.  I believe our political parties have become management organisations which pitch for the job of running the country for the next four years and if Australia ever becomes a republic, the President should have the status and powers of a Trustee, who has access to all the papers and can report quarterly to the shareholders (us) on how well the government is carrying out its remit.

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3 Responses to About

  1. Madeleine says:

    Hello, Jim –
    I enjoyed your post on the ABC’s ‘Future Tense’ program regarding not-too-big houses, so I’m following up on your suggestion that your fellow posters to visit your blog. Not much to say until I’ve scanned the other threads here.
    Cheers,
    Madeleine

  2. Stewart McConachy says:

    Jim,
    I got your note from Yammer on the iAwards site. Aglive is actually our company and we will be releasing a complete vision for Agriculture in Australia in the next 2 months. You can contact me directly on 0400 488 553
    Cheers
    Stewart R McConachy

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