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St. Pius X High School

Principal's Blog

 

 
 
What Will the World Look Like 4 Degress Warmer?
 
Date: 30 July 2017
 
An interesting article on what the world may look like if climate change is not addressed.  Well worth a read.  Click on the link below.
 
 
 
 
LET TEACHERS TEACH - PLEASE
 
Date: 29 July 2016
 
Watch this brief Facebook video from the ABC's The Drum.  Well worth a watch.  Click on the link below.
 
 
 
 
Response In Relation To Media Coverage
 
Date: 29 July 2016
 
I am sure most of you will be aware by now of the recent media coverage mainly in the Newcastle Herald, about the release of a book titled ‘The Priests’ which focusses primarily on historical allegations of child sexual abuse within our Diocese.  You have probably also read in the newspapers that another ex-teacher of St Pius, who taught here from 1973 to 1983, has had child abuse charges brought against him.
 
We live at a time when it is a regular occurrence that new allegations of historical child abuse appear from institutions all over the country.  As a Catholic and as a Catholic school Principal, it is deeply saddening that children were subjected to the horrific abuse perpetrated in our Diocese.  No words can adequately capture the depths of the evil that was done to the victims of this abuse. 
 
St Pius is one of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle’s schools and operates under the Diocese’s comprehensive child protection protocols.  As standard practice at all of our schools, personnel have undergone child protection screening before employment, there is mandatory child protection training for staff and a comprehensive child protection reporting policy in effect.  Zimmerman Services, the Diocese’s specialist child protection service, works closely with the leadership of St Pius to promote the protection of children and fully investigate any allegations against employees, referring to relevant authorities including NSW Police as necessary.
 
If the Royal Commission’s inquiries raise any concerns for you, please review the Diocese’s child protection protocols on the Diocese’s website.  People who are affected by historic child sexual abuse can contact Zimmerman Services’ Healing and Support Team on (02) 4979 1390.
 
 
 
Get Rid of ATARs
 
Date: 13 April 2016
 
ATAR is a university marketing tool: 4 reasons to stop obsessing about it - click on the following link to read the article.  Well worth a read.
 
 
 
 
 
Let Them Stay
 
Date: 31 March 2016
 
Easter is a celebration of new life.  I suggest one productive thing we could all do this Easter is to keep refugees and asylum seekers around the world and especially those held in our own off-shore detention centres in our prayers.  Refugees and asylum seekers are people just like you and me, in search of somewhere safe to live.
 
The principles of Catholic social doctrine suggest that all Australians have a clear obligation to help and support these fellow human beings on our doorstep.  The principles of Catholic social doctrine can be found in Pope Leo XIII's encyclical Rerum Novarum (On Capital and Labor) with further explanation and development in many Church documents, notably Pope Pius XI’s Quadragesimo Anno (On Social Reconstruction), Pope John Paul II’s Centesimus Annus and Pope Benedict XVI's Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth).  Pope Francis reiterated these principles in his Easter message this year.  These principles suggest that a country's regulation of borders and control of immigration must be governed by concern for all people and by mercy and justice.
 
The 2015-16 Social Justice Statement by the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference entitled “For Those Who’ve Come Across The Seas” is an essential read:
 

Another excellent article entitled “Most of us are Boat People” written by our own Bishop Bill Wright is available at:
 
 
 
 
Wonderful News for Secondary Schools in the Diocese
 
Date: 16 July 2015
 
This week, Mr Ray Collins & Bishop Bill Wright announced the recommendations from the study into the provision of secondary education in our Diocese.
 
The recommendations are very positive and extremely exciting.  In the very near future there will be two new 7-12 schools and two existing 7-10 schools will become 7-12.  It is very pleasing to see a substantial movement back to 7 to 12 schools.  By 2020 there will be 13 secondary schools in our Diocese: 7 of those will be 7-12, 1 will be K-12, 3 will be 7-10 and 2 will be 11-12.
 
For the teaching staff here at St Pius it is disappointing that we will not be transitioning to 7-12 in the short term.  However, anyone familiar with change management will realise the importance of implementing change in a balanced way.  Hasten slowly and in priority order.  The Diocese can only sustain a certain amount of change all at once and I believe they have got the balance just right.  I have no doubt that in the future we will go 7-12.
 
Recommendation 7, requiring a strengthening of the relationship and collaboration between St Pius, San Clemente and SFX is good to see in the mix.  How this will occur will be decided by the executive teams of the three schools.  My hope is that we can develop substantial and practical ways of making a difference in the relationship and collaboration between junior & senior schools for the benefit of all students and staff.  We already have a good relationship.  This is about building on that in fruitful ways.
 
It is also very reassuring to read Recommendation 10, requiring a further review of secondary education in 2022-2023.  My hope is that as more students, parents and carers in our Diocese experience the huge benefits of 7-12 schools, this future review will recommend a movement back to a 7-12 structure in our last three remaining 7-10 schools.
 
As an aside: Why do I want to see Pius as 7-12?  I could write pages in response to this question.  In a nutshell, because I truly believe a 7-12 structure is best for students’ wellbeing, for their faith, physical & social development and for their learning.  I base this belief on my own experience of over 30 years as an educator.  I have taught in six different schools across three different systems.  I have experienced four significantly different structures in those schools: boys 7-12, co-ed 7-12, co-ed 11-12 and co-ed 7-10.  Everything I have experienced confirms for me that 7-12 is the best structure for students that I have come across.  My belief is also strongly supported by many different areas of educational research.
 
Sometimes parents have concerns around the capability of a 7-10 school to transition successfully to a 7-12 school.  To me such concerns are unfounded.  Any teacher worth their salt is capable of teaching 11-12.  That is what we are trained for: through teaching qualifications, degrees in academic disciplines and in many cases these days, Masters Degrees.
 
Any 7-10 schools chosen to go 7-12, will institute appropriate professional development for all staff to bring everyone up to speed on the latest Stage 6 requirements.  St Mary’s Gateshead & St Joseph’s Lochinvar for instance have 2.5 years to prepare for Year 11.  When they come online in 2018 they will be more than capable of delivering excellent Stage 6 education that is at least comparable to that currently existing in other schools around the Diocese.  The very successful transition of St Paul’s Booragul from 7-10 to 7-12 in the late ‘90s is proof of that. 
 
 
 
​Helping Kids Deal With "Test Stress"
 
Date: 28 April 2015
 
The article below from Generation Next is a good one on this topic.
 
See the article at the following link:
 
 
 
 
More Mathematical Physics & Chemistry Courses Please
 
Date: 18 April 2015
 
Let's hope that the update to the Stage 6 Physics & Chemistry Courses being done as part of the New Australian Curriculum sees a return to a much more mathematical approach to these two very important sciences.  The courses at present simply lack the mathematical rigour and depth to provide students with an accurate sense of what the disciplines are really about.  Hence students arrive at university inadequately prepared for first year courses in these disciplines.
 
See the article at the following link:
 
 
 
 
Winning with Class?
 
Date: 5 April 2015
 
The Australian cricket team may have won the World Cup but perhaps they need a lesson in how to play and win with class and humility?
 
This article is worth a read:
 
 
 
 
Can we party without getting Drunk in Australia?
 
Date: 5 April 2015
 
"I don’t want my kids to grow up to think drinking is wrong, but I sure as hell don’t want them to grow up thinking that getting drunk is expected of them."  (David Campbell)
 
This is certainly worth reading:
 
 
 
 
Morgan Freeman's Powerful Climate Change Short Film
 
Date: 5 February 2015
 
This is certainly worth watching:
 
 
 
 
Excellent Data Summary for Climate Change
 
Date: 2 February 2015
 
This link leads to an excellent summary of data showing the overwhelming evidence in support of climate change.
 
 
Also, if you are one of those people who seem to think there is still a debate going on over the validity of climate change data, I suggest you have a look at my blog below dated 9 July 2014 entitled "Climate Change with John Oliver".  This is the best demonstration I have seen that clearly shows there is no debate.  The scientific world, almost unanimously, agrees that the data is accurate, that the negative effects of climate change on the world are real and very serious and that human activity is the main cause of the problem.  Whether you personally believe in climate change or not is irrelevant.  The facts are the facts.
 
Let's all work on a solution.  Let's force our politicians to work on a world-wide solution.  The current government's record on this problem is atrocious, deplorable and very dangerous to say the least.
 
 
 
Assessment and Systemic Success
 
Date: 7 December 2014
 
Check out this video clip - Andreas Schleicher on Assessment & Systemic Success.  Andreas talks about how to make evaluation of students part of their learning process.  We need to talk about this here in Australia.  Currently, in NSW at least, we do innovative and productive things in education from K to 10.  Then we dump kids into Stage 6, the only purpose of which is to push them through the HSC, a ranking process demanded by the universities.  The HSC has little to do with continuing children's education.  So, why have it at all.  If educational research is telling us anything about how to help students learn, it is certainly telling us that the value of a single standardized test at the end of Stage 6 is pretty much zero!  If only we had gutsy government that was prepared to listen to educational experts and follow their guidance rather than playing politics, the only purpose of which is to win the next election.

Anyway, have a look:
 
 
 
 
 
US-China Climate Deal
 
Date: 13 November 2014
 
Read the article below from "The Conversation" on the US-China Climate Deal:
 
 
 
 
 
 
Renewable Energy Target Facts
 
Date: 14 September 2014
 
Read the article below from "The Climate Institute" on the effects of lowering our renewable energy targets:
 
 
 
 
 
 
How To Handle Bullies
 
Date: 30 August 2014
 
Read the article below from "The Conversation" on how to handle bullies:
 
 
 
 
 
Deliberate Misinformation: Enough is Enough
 
Date: 15 August 2014
 
Earlier today on morning radio, Tim Flannery challenged the PM's controversial top business advisor Maurice Newman to get his facts straight.  Yesterday Newman released a bizarre, inaccurate statement arguing the world is cooling.
 
We cannot tolerate deliberate misinformation from people in such influential positions. Today Tim Flannery called for Newman to meet with a group of Australia’s top climate scientists immediately.  Newman's position is untenable if he will not respect scientific expertise and facts.  The reality is that there is no debate on whether climate change is real or whether humans are helping to make it happen in a very big way.

It’s time to hold Maurice Newman to account.
 
Can you please support this important challenge by sending the email below calling for Newman to meet with the nation's top experts?
 
Here's a suggested email that you can add your name and comments to and forward on to Newman's Business Advisory Council:
 
Dear Mr Maurice Newman AC
 
Given your position of authority and influence you have a particular responsibility to respect expertise and educate yourself on the facts about climate change.
 
Your recent opinions published in the media are contrary to the findings of every major scientific and meteorological body on the planet, and ignore the reality that the Earth is getting hotter.
 
The Australian public simply cannot have confidence in your role if you display such little regard for scientific fact.
 
I urge you to accept Professor Tim Flannery's offer for the Business Advisory Council to be briefed by a group of our nation's top scientists on climate change and business risk.
 
Sincerely
 
 

Climate Change with John Oliver
 
Date: 9 July 2014
 
Have a look at John Oliver's great video on Climate Change.  It's very short, very funny and makes his point extremely well.  Click on the link below.  The video is just a little way down the page you go to.  It's called "Last Week Tonight With John Oliver: Climate Change Debate".  WARNING:  There are a couple of strong swear words in the video, so if you do not want to hear such words, do not watch the video.
 
 
 
 
School Funding
 
Date: 17 June 2014
 
I don't know about you but it really gets up my nose when people who don't know the facts start sprouting that it's unfair of governments to fund Catholic & Private schools. What absolute rubbish!
 
Instead of being a drain on taxpayers' funds, Catholic and private school parents pay taxes for a public school system they don't use plus school fees. The fact that 34.9 per cent of students around Australia are enrolled in Catholic and independent schools saves state, territory and Commonwealth governments billions of dollars every year.
 
The savings to the taxpayer represent the additional cost to government if the private school sector closed and students had to be enrolled in state schools.
 
As noted in the Productivity Commission's Report on Government Services 2014, while governments invest on average $15,768 per government school student in terms of recurrent costs, the figure for private school students is only $8546. The reality is that even though Catholic and independent schools enrol 34.9 per cent of state and territory students, such schools receive only 22.4 per cent of what state and Commonwealth governments spend on education in terms of recurrent costs.
 
Instead of private schools draining government schools of much needed public resources, the fact that such schools exist frees up funds that governments can then redirect to their own schools.
 
It should also be remembered that education is a public good and every child, regardless of the type of school attended, deserves government support.
 
 
 
Budget
 
Date: 13 May 2014
 
Budget 2014 - an absolute disgrace!
 
Check out what St Vincent de Paul Society Chief Executive, Dr John Falzon, has to say about it.
 
 
 
 
Hope
 
Date: 1 March 2014
 
Lent starts this Wednesday.  Lent is traditionally a time to reflect on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, to fast and to change one’s life direction as needed. It is also a time of prayer and of doing good works to bring healing and hope to our world.
 
This last aspect, I think, is very important.  Lent is a time to live and spread hope, especially in times of darkness and despair which many people are experiencing in our own community – serious physical and mental illness, job losses, relationship breakdowns, financial burdens, loss of loved ones and many other hardships.
 
How do we engender hope for people?  We must be people of faith ourselves; people who believe that the basis of hope is the great love God shows for all of us, especially through the life, suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus for our salvation.  People of faith know that the Gospel is not merely a communication of things that can be known - it is one that makes things happen and is life-changing.  When we live our lives according to the promptings of the Gospel, we become beacons of hope in our community.
 
We engender hope in our daily interactions with others: when we treat others with respect and honour the dignity to which every human person is entitled; when we act as a neighbour to each other and forgive even our enemy; when we reach out to those less fortunate than ourselves through social justice initiatives and make a positive difference in their lives; and when we stop and give time to people and show them that they are valuable for who they are not for what they have.
 
Teachers can bring hope to students in a very special way.  Learning brings hope.  It is a journey of endless possibilities, engaging our students to ask questions about contemporary life.  It engenders a hope that is based on the certainty of God’s promise of his love and care for us.
 
Hope is not some dream based upon wishful thinking.  It arises from the certainty of God’s promise, of his love and care for us.
 
During this Lent, let us open our minds and hearts to the transforming power of God’s presence and grace.  Let us try to empty ourselves of our self-righteousness and pride and see how we can respond to God’s call in new ways by placing ourselves in God’s hands.  Through God’s transforming power we will bring deep hope into our own lives and the lives of many others in our world.
 
 
 
Why Aren't More Girls Attracted To Physics?
 
Date: 21 February 2014
 
Girls are more likely to take high school physics if they see women in their communities working in science, technology, engineering and math, a new study finds.  I invite you to have a read of the article below:
 
 
 
 
 
What Is The Media Thinking?
 
Date: 10 February 2014
 
I wonder when people will vote with their feet & ignore media people, TV & radio stations, newspapers & magazines who provide us with absolute garbage. Schapelle Corby is a convicted drug smuggler. Why should she receive "movie star" status from our media people? She is not new news. Her claim to fame is that she broke the law trying to import drugs that kill young people, she got caught, fell apart and spent 9 years in gaol. That's it! That's all there is. It's not special. It's not glamorous. It's very, very sad. We should give her the amount of recognition & kudos she deserves - none at all. Wake up media people. Stop shoving down our throats, what you think we want to see & hear. Go find some good news stories. There's plenty out there. Be useful for a change.
 
 
 
Gonski Gone - What next?
 
Date: 30 November 2013
 
Click on the link below:
 
 
 
 
Australia needs fundamental research to build a great country
 
Date: 17 November 2013
 
Please read the article located at the following link:
 
 
 
 
IPCC Report - Climate Change 2013 - The Physical Science Basis
 
Date: 3 October 2013
 
As you may be aware, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently released its Fifth Report which provides a clear view of the current state of scientific knowledge relevant to climate change.  The report itself is over 2000 pages long but the Climate Council of Australia has produced a very easy to read infographic which highlights the essential findings of the report.  This infographic is available at the following link:
 
 
There is also a link at the bottom of the infographic to the Climate Council's summary of the IPCC Report.  The summary is well worth a read in full.  At the time of writing this blog the link to the summary is not working.  So, I have provided it here:
 
 
For those who would like to access the full IPCC Report or the official summary from the IPCC, the following link takes you to a page from which you can access both documents:
 
 
I encourage all people to take an active interest in this report.  Whatever our own personal view of climate change might be, it makes good sense for us all to be well informed about the latest information.
 
Other useful links on Climate Change can be found on the Climate Change page of my Physics website:
 
 
 
 
Climate Council Rises from the Ashes
 
Date: 1 October 2013
 
One of the first actions of the new Australian Government was to close down the Climate Commission, the government funded body responsible for providing Australians with an independent and reliable source of information about the science of climate change.  In a wonderful show of support over the last week or so, many Australians have got behind a new "Climate Council" made up of all the original Climate Commission Councillors.  Over 30,000 Australians have joined the Council as members and have raised $969,000 so far.  That is half the annual funding that used to be provided by the government.
 
The new Climate Council is a non-profit independent organisation which aims to provide clear, independent advice to the Australian community.  They are completely independent and apolitical. 
 
Already this year has been one of the earliest starts to the Australian bushfire season. Last summer was the hottest on record, breaking over 120 extreme weather records. This is the critical decade for tackling climate change and reducing our emissions.  But we can’t tackle climate change without a well-informed public – and that’s where the Climate Council comes in.  Their expert reports will help journalists and the public, with timely, expert, and independent information about climate change and its effects on our economy, environment, security, and health.
 
I encourage all people to get behind the Climate Council.  Why not become a member.  It does not cost anything but shows support for the Council.  You can also donate at their website.  Please take time to have a look:
 
 
Whatever our own personal view of climate change might be, it makes good sense for us all to be well informed about the latest information.
 
 
 
What Teachers want Parents to Know
 
Date: 24 June 2013
 
I recently came across an interesting article on the CNN website.  It is an article entitled: "What Teachers Really Want to Tell Parents", written by Ron Clark, an award-winning teacher in the United States.  It is basically an impassioned plea on behalf of teachers for parents to work in partnership with them in the eduaction of their children.
 
I have provided the link below.  It is worth a read and some reflection.  I need to make the following couple of points, however, before you click on the link.  Remember that it is an American article, so some of the educational practices are a little different to here.  Also, the article is not intended to be disparaging towards parents.  It is simply food for thought.  Most teachers are parents too.
 
Note that there are some links included in the article as you read down the page.  My suggestion is to ignore these and just read the article itself.  If you wish you can then go back and check out the links later.
 
 
 
 
Is There an Engineer in the House?
 
Date: 11 June 2013
 
The amazing variety of technology and labour-saving devices that we take for granted as essential in our modern world owes its existence to the ingenuity, patience and skill of scientists and engineers.  Wherever we look in our world, from television sets to computers, from simple electric motors to advanced medical imaging technologies, our world is filled with the practical applications of science and mathematics.
 
At Newcastle University researchers are about to perfect the printing of water-based solar paint that will revolutionise the application of solar energy.  A team of engineers at the Georgia Institute of Technology in the US has fabricated flexible, skin-like arrays of nanowire transistors as sensitive as a human fingertip that convert mechanical motion into electronic signals.  This technology could improve the functional capability of human prosthetics.  Again in the US, scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have used non-contact atomic force microscopy to produce images of the arrangements of atoms and molecules before and after certain synthetic organic chemical reactions.  The images confirm the mechanisms that underlie these reactions and reinforce the promise of this powerful new method for building advanced nanoscale electronic devices from the bottom up.
 
It sounds as though it would be exciting and fulfilling to be a scientist or an engineer.  Speak to some and they will tell you that it is.  Sadly though, our country and several others world-wide, have a real problem.  We actually have a severe shortage of scientists and engineers.  There are lots of reasons for this.  Some of the main ones are that we have a static rate of graduates and high dropout rates at university and lower and lower numbers of secondary students interested in completing the required maths and science courses to enable them to do these courses or engineering courses at university.  The proportion of women engineers in Australia is appallingly low at less than 10 per cent.
 
Teachers, parents and carers need to encourage our students, sons and daughters who show a real aptitude for science and mathematics to seriously consider careers in these fields and in engineering especially.  Students these days often shy away from these courses because they are perceived as harder than other courses or because they naively believe that a business or accounting degree will make them rich.
 
Governments also need to offer incentives to encourage those students who are very good at mathematics and science to continue with these subjects or engineering at university.  Huge discounts in HECS fees would be a very simple way to do this and in the end would pay for itself with increased numbers of high quality professionals and increased productivity.  We need all governments and political parties to provide leadership, in the community interest, and drive new and sustained investment in a top class science and engineering workforce.
 
An often ignored aspect of the whole issue is that we also need intelligent, young people with a real passion for and skill in mathematics and science to gain Science & Mathematics degrees and then go teaching.  There is a huge shortage of science and maths teachers at present.  Again, teachers, parents, carers and governments need to encourage very good students and provide incentives for them to go into these important fields.  Nothing stimulates the desire within a person to become exceptional in a given field like the nurturing influence of a competent, exciting and passionate teacher.
 
As a country we cannot afford to underestimate the importance of this issue.  Advances such as those mentioned at the start of this editorial can only continue if we have excellent scientists and engineers to make them.  The technology and infrastructure of our modern society, from roads to skyscrapers, from telecommunications networks to electricity and water supply, can only be maintained and improved if we have top class engineers to do the planning and direct the work.
 
We do need to talk about it.  We need to talk about it in our families and as part of the wider community; we need to put pressure on local members on both sides of politics to encourage them to take the issue seriously and to do something positive about it.  Otherwise, in years to come, we will not have sufficient high quality scientists and engineers to maintain our high standard of living.
 
 
A Great Work Ethic is a Powerful Thing
 
Date: 7 June 2013
 
Edmond Halley, Astronomer Royal, mathematician and philosopher, once wrote of Sir Isaac Newton: “No closer to the gods can any mortal rise.”  Halley paid this high tribute to Newton in reference to Newton’s monumental work of genius entitled “Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica” or “Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy”.  In this work, Newton created a conceptual framework that underlay the practice of science until the twentieth century.
 
I mention Newton and his work of genius here because I think we can learn some vital lessons from them.  Yes, Newton was a genius but his intelligence level is probably not the main reason for his great success.  Newton had a thirst and a passion for learning and he was prepared to work tirelessly to improve his knowledge and understanding.  Newton did not shy away from hard work.  He spent roughly two years working at a frantic pace to create the first edition of his work.  It was published in 1687.  Newton spent the next forty years, the rest of his life, experimenting, re-working and improving the Principia, as well as involving himself in many other works.  Genius – an advantage.  Great work ethic – essential!
 
The fact is that being bright or brilliant or even a genius is not an end in itself.  It is a gift that we are meant to use to the full.  Being academically talented is a gift that is a great shame to waste.  At St Pius, we have many academically talented and capable students.  We have an obligation to challenge and nurture our academically capable students to work tirelessly to improve their knowledge, skills and understanding.  We must gently but firmly push them to strive for excellence.
 
We must also fight against the growing trend developing in our society to overprotect our children from the risks, difficulties, pressures and pain of life.  There is research that shows that some children are becoming too afraid of academic risk to even try.  They fear the pain or inconvenience of the hard work involved in study and they fear that all that hard work may end in failure.
 
As parents, carers and teachers we must teach our children and students to be resilient.  We must encourage and assist all students to apply full commitment to their academic development.  There is no easy way to achieving your best.  Consistent application to class work, homework, assessment tasks and study is essential.  Every student owes it to himself or herself to strive to do this to the degree to which he or she is able.  We live in a wonderful country where young people have marvellous opportunities open to them that are just not available to young people in many parts of the world.  Let us encourage our students, sons and daughters to work hard in order to take advantage of the opportunities that are before them.
 
 
 
Out With Plastic Water Bottles
 
Date: 12 May 2013
 
It is a fact that each year world-wide:
• 50 million barrels of oil are used to make and transport plastic bottles.
• Most of those bottles will end up in landfill or floating in the ocean.
• They take over 1,000 years to bio-degrade.
• If incinerated, they produce toxic fumes.
• Over 80% of all single-use water bottles become "litter."
• $100 Billion dollars is spent on bottled water and just 1/6 of that could reduce by half the number of people without access to clean water in developing nations
• 3 litres of water are actually used to package 1 litre of bottled water
 
To quote Ian Kiernan, the chairman of Clean Up Australia, bottled water is “one of the greatest cons ever pulled. It's just lunacy…" (The Age 19/08/07)
 
The Catholic social justice principle of the common good states that water should not be treated as just another commodity - Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church 2004 n. 164.  The Sisters of Mercy have banned the use of bottled water at all their gatherings.  In NSW, the town of Bundanoon voted to be free of bottled-water. In our local area, the City of Lake Macquarie has installed refill stations in Toronto’s Foreshore Park.
 
For more information, watch this 8 minute video clip: http://thewaterproject.org/bottled_water.asp
Acknowledgement: ‘Free From The Tap’, Janet Grevillea, The Aurora.
 
Here at St Pius, a decision was made some time ago, for reasons of social justice and environmental sustainability that the School Canteen would phase out the sale of plastic water bottles as soon as possible.  It has taken some time to provide the necessary infrastructure to allow this to happen but now everything is in place.  We have installed many new, hygienic, filtered water stations in Levels 3 and 5.  The Canteen will no longer sell water in plastic bottles.
 
Students can now bring or buy a reusable bottle and easily refill it for free from one of the many water stations.  The Canteen has 1000 stainless steel bottles for sale at the extremely low cost price of $4 each. This is well below RRP of $15.
 
I encourage all parents and students to support this initiative. 
 
 
 
Arctic Ice Minimum video
 
Date: 27 September 2012
 
Check out this interesting video on climate change.
 
 
 
 
Response to SMH Article
 
Date: 3 September 2012
 
I read with great sadness on Sunday 2 September the SMH article by David Knox titled "Hidden Horrors in Halls of Learning".  My sadness is for two reasons.  I am truly sad that the environment and events described in that article ever occurred.  Our whole school community prays for the people who were brutalised physically and psychologically by those events.
 
I am also sad that journalists and newspapers find it necessary to use photos of our school today as part of their story.  The events described in the story happened nearly 40 years ago.  Our school today is a wonderful place.  Our students love coming here.  They love being part of the St Pius X school community.  They feel safe and very well cared for while they are here.
 
St Pius X High School is a very successful Years 7-10 co-educational High School with just over 1000 students. The school is based upon an open, positive and supportive climate and culture. The school’s Care Groups and House System ensure that students experience high quality pastoral care and that parents are genuine partners in their children’s education.  The school offers a variety of quality experiences designed to nurture spiritual awareness and faith development.  Teachers strive to deliver contemporary quality teaching to create the best possible academic, cultural and sporting opportunities for all students.  Many avenues exist for the development of positive social skills.  The students are challenged to use their abilities, gifts and talents to the full.  They are encouraged and nurtured to develop a positive self-concept, an active sense of service of others, an acceptance of the diversity of people and cultures, a steadfast self-discipline and a strong work ethic.
 
St Pius X is overseen by the Catholic Schools Office (CSO) of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.  The Diocese has established a powerful culture of child protection based in ethical responsibility, ongoing training and systemic accountability.  The CSO ensures that all employees of all schools undergo pre-employment screening (Working with children Checks or Volunteer Declarations).  As part of their employment with the CSO, all personnel undertake mandatory child protection training and sign codes of conduct that detail both their legal obligations and diocesan requirements to report any allegations of child abuse to Police or Community Services.  Zimmerman Services is a specialist child protection unit, established by Bishop Michael Malone, which investigates any allegations of abuse against CSO personnel and reports to the NSW Ombudsman.  Zimmerman Services also provides ongoing child protection training and conducts child protection audits of schools as part of an internal accreditation process.
 
 
 
Action Over Threat of Massive Solar Storms
 
Date: 5 August 2012
 
I have read over the last year or two and followed with considerable interest the concern in professional scientific circles over the state of readiness of our planet to avoid the possible consequences of massive solar storms that will affect Earth at some stage in the future. I wonder if there is anything being thought about or done at government level to plan strategies to deal with this eventuality.

Scientists are extremely confident that massive solar storms capable of taking out all electrical transformers & infrastructure will occur sooner or later. They occur on average about once every 100 to 150 years. The last storm of this sort of size occurred in 1921. The biggest one known about happened in 1859. If such a storm occurred today in our electronic & digital world the consequences would be disastrous. We simply don't have hundreds of power transformers sitting in storage facilities as spares nor the infrastructure to install them quickly. Millions of people could be without power for months or years.

Scientists do have suggested strategies. Governments could engage appropriate scientific & engineering expertise now rather than leave it until such an event takes place. Some other countries have taken or are taking steps to plan for such events. Pressure should also be put on governments to do something. They could even put pressure on countries capable of building & launching satellites to perhaps combine funds to build satellites that could be placed at the L1 Lagrange point (where the gravity of the Sun is balanced by the gravity of the Earth) to act as early warning devices. If we got warning early of an impending massive storm on the way we could theoretically take all power systems (or most of them) offline before the storm hits.

I have written to both NSW & the Federal Government asking what if anything is being done to prepare for this event. They will probably think me a mad Physicist - but then that's probably an accurate statement.

I encourage any other person who feels strongly about being prepared for what really is an impending event to write to the appropriate Government Ministers. We can all be called mad together.
 
 
 
NAPLAN Fuss
 
Date: 13 May 2012
 
Well it’s on again.  The NAPLAN tests are being held this week and as happens every year at this time debate rages in the media as to the worth of these tests.  Do they benefit students?  Are they educationally valuable or do they stifle creativity and “produce a generation of automaton children” as was claimed last week by one group of anti-NAPLAN teachers, academics and educational consultants.
 
A 2010 survey of principals found that two-thirds of secondary schools spent more time practising for literacy and numeracy tests since NAPLAN results were published on the My School website – drawing criticism the tests are distorting the way schools operate.  A third of principals in the Australian Secondary Principals Association survey said that the breadth of the curriculum and enrolment had been negatively affected.
 
The idea behind NAPLAN – which stands for National Assessment Plan, Literacy and Numeracy – was simple: provide a national snapshot of how students are faring. The idea was that schools and students would take the tests in their stride and get on with business as usual. The unfortunate sequel to the decision to run NAPLAN was the decision to advertise the results of every school nation-wide and compare the “success” of similar schools.  It is this fact that has caused many schools to take the tests so seriously because they believe their reputations and indeed their very existence are on the line.  These schools devote weeks to preparing for the tests.
 
To me there is no educational value in disrupting the school curriculum to practise for NAPLAN.  At St Pius we do some preparation, so that students know what to expect.  What will the tests look like?  What sorts of questions will you be asked?  How should you approach the tests?
 
If the school’s curriculum is being taught well and students are learning what they are being taught, then the NAPLAN results should look after themselves.  Literacy and numeracy skills are already part of every course we teach.
 
Our philosophy at St Pius is that by looking at the NAPLAN data that comes back to us we can decide how well our teaching and learning are going.  We can identify the needs of individual students and assist them in appropriate ways.  Clearly, practising for weeks for these tests simply erodes any educational value that the tests have.  We need an accurate snapshot of student performance in literacy and numeracy in order to plan appropriately for improvement.
 
At St Pius, our NAPLAN results have always been very good.  I wish all our Year 7 & 9 students the best for this year's tests.
 
 
 
Generation Next
 
Date: 6 April 2012

Generation next is an exciting new initiative featuring a national seminar series and supporting resources aimed at protecting and enhancing the wellbeing of our children and teenagers. Dr Ramesh Manocha has developed Generation Next in close consultation with leading experts to help address the rising tide of mental, social and emotional challenges affecting young people in our increasingly complex world. Generation Next provides parents, carers, teachers and anyone who cares about the future of Australia’s young people with accurate information and reliable advice on how to deal with these unprecedented challenges. Issues such as drugs, alcohol, sex, cybersafety, bullying, mental health and many more are dealt with.
 
Have a look at the Generation Next website:
 
 
Watch the 6 minute introductory video on the Overview page. Well worth a look.
 
 
 
Weird World
 
Date: 2 April 2012
 
If a group of scientists working on the production of a new wonder drug for cancer announces that it has reached the stage of human trials for the drug, there is much rejoicing in the media and in the public arena in general.  News reporters present excited stories on news and current affairs programs.  Likewise, if a group of scientists working at the Large Hadron Collider announces amazing results of some new particle it has discovered, again there is extreme reverence from the media and public.  The power of science!  Wow!  People all over the world rejoice in the wonders of science.

I find it amazing, then, that when a group of scientists announces, based on 30 years of peer reviewed research, that human beings are having an effect on our climate and suggests that we need to take steps immediately to decrease the amount of carbon dioxide we are emitting, lots of people suddenly don’t believe these scientists.  I wonder why?  Could it be that this sort of news is just too inconvenient for some?  This news implies the need for changes to industry, mining, business and perhaps even lifestyle.  This news demands decreased use of fossil fuels and therefore a decrease of profits from coal, and so on.  Is this news just unacceptable to some because it will affect their hip pocket?  That is it, isn’t it?

Why are scientists believed when there are no economic consequences to their research but immediately disbelieved and shouted down the instant their research suggests we may have to make some changes to the way we live and do business?  There are some very rich, self-interest business organisations in various locations around the world that are deliberately confusing the “Climate Change” issue by paying scientists, many not even working in the climate field, to make nonsense statements about climate change that purport to refute the evidence.  These claims are never backed up by volumes of peer reviewed evidence.  The organisations that sponsor these claims represent a tiny proportion of world business interests and yet cause a large amount of confusion in the minds of the public.
 
Schools need to give students the right information on Climate Change and the ability to identify and debate the misinformation that is out there. The evidence that climate change is real, is driven by human causes and needs to be stopped before it results in disastrous consequences, is plentiful and irrefutable.
 
It is encouraging to see that many large and influential businesses are supporting efforts to address climate change.  The Business Environment Leadership Council which includes over 40 mainly Fortune 500 companies acknowledges that “we accept the view of most scientists that enough is known about the science and environmental aspects of climate change for us to take actions to address its consequences”.  The Business Council of Australia believes that “it is important that Australia plays its part in a worldwide effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions”.
 
Australia has a higher rate of greenhouse gas emissions per capita than any other industrialised country, with a current level of about 20 tonnes of carbon dioxide per head per year.  The argument touted by certain people that we should wait until other countries do something about greenhouse gas levels before we start down that path is based on a fallacy.  While the developed world reduced its carbon dioxide emissions per unit of economic output by about 25% between 1970 and 2000, Australia’s performance only improved by about 4%.  “The National Framework for Energy Efficiency”, released by the Howard Government in 2003, found that we could reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 30% using measures that repay their cost within four years.  It is a public disgrace that neither the Howard Government nor its successors have implemented these reforms, which would be good for the economy as well as the atmosphere.

It’s a weird world indeed where people choose to ignore scientifically ascertained facts, stick their heads in the sand and happily assume everything will be OK.
 
 
 
The Population Growth Debate
 
Date: 27 March 2012
 
Population growth is one of Australia's hot political issues.  There seems to be a very biased view of this issue presented in the media.  This view says that to have continued prosperity in Australia, we need economic growth and therefore we need population growth.  No-one ever seems to ask the question, in the media at least, is infinite population growth actually sustainable?
 
In his new book, “Bigger or Better? Australia’s population debate”, Professor Ian Lowe — author, well-respected Physicist and President of the Australian Conservation Foundation — answers the questions at the root of the debate, and provides a comprehensive analysis of the issue.
 
Bigger or Better? sets the record straight.  In a clear manner, Lowe lays out the facts about recent population increase in Australia and considers the impacts of that growth and the implications of different future patterns on that growth.
 
• What is the link between population and economic growth?
• What are the environmental impacts of population growth?
• Are we an ageing society and if so, is that a matter for concern?
• Are ‘boat people’ and refugees a significant component of our migrant intake?
• What capacity do we have to influence Australia’s future population?
 
Lowe unravels the misconceptions and urban myths about the controversial debate and the choices we are making about Australia’s future population.
 
When Kevin Rudd responded to a government forecast that the Australian population could reach 36 million by 2040 by saying he believed in ‘a big Australia’, there was a strong public reaction.  One insider said ‘the focus groups went ballistic’.  Julia Gillard renamed the relevant minister’s portfolio ‘sustainable population’, implicitly criticising pro-growth policies of previous governments.
 
Tony Abbott vowed to ‘stop the boats’ if elected (thus limiting immigration), despite generally supporting a population growth agenda and clearly having no way of stopping the boats.
 
Much of the press attacked both major parties, accusing them of pandering to base prejudice by discussing the social impacts of immigration or suggesting that population growth had negative environmental impacts and urged politicians to champion what it claimed were the self-evident economic benefits of rapid population growth.
 
In this timely book, Lowe calls for all Australians to realise the future is not somewhere we are going but rather a place we create by our own actions — or inactions — now.  In Bigger or Better? Lowe categorises the various contributors to the debate, those voices urging further growth and those wishing to see growth slowed or the population stabilised.
As he states, ‘there are humanitarians on both sides of the debate, there are racists on both sides of the debate, there are totally misinformed people on both sides of the debate and there are well-informed professionals on both sides of the debate.’
He looks at how population growth is affecting the environment of our major cities, the Murray-Darling Basin and South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula, and raises the prospect of ‘Noosangatta’ in south-east Queensland — one continuous urban sprawl from Noosa, through Brisbane to Coolangatta and the NSW border.
 
Lowe makes the complex and controversial issues around population accessible to general readers.  This issue is one that every Australian has a moral obligation to consider and to express an informed opinion on.  What kind of an Australia do we want to create for ourselves and for future generations?  Ian Lowe’s new book is an excellent place to start to get your head around the facts on population growth in Australia.
 
 
 
 
How is it all going?
 
Date: 21 March 2012
 
At the beginning of the year students were challenged to ask the question: What is it that I want to achieve this year?  The end of the Term is rapidly approaching.  It is therefore time to ask the question: How is it all going?  Are you on track to achieve the goal or goals you set yourself at the start of the year.  Parents, the best way to ensure that your child reflects upon this question, is for you to engage your child in a discussion of this question.  Almost all young students need to be prompted and motivated by an older mentor before they will consider such a question.  The benefits of this process are manifold.
 
In some cases hard decisions need to be made about changes to routines and attitudes.  Wayne Bennett, one of the greatest coaches in any sport that this country has ever produced, puts it this way:
 
“If you do what you have always done,
You’ll get what you have always got.”
 
Students, having decided what you want to achieve you need to commit yourself to making the necessary changes and working to achieve your goals.  Your desire to achieve is the key to motivation, but it is your determination and your commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal – a commitment to excellence – that will enable you to attain the success you seek.
 
Parents, you need to show an active interest in what your child is doing and achieving day to day at school in order to provide the support essential for implementing any changes your child needs to make and to sustain their commitment to excellence.
 
 
 
 
Alarmist Clock Still Ringing 
 
Date: 25 September 2011
 
I was interested to read an article in the Sunday Telegraph on 18 September entitled “Alarmist Clock Still Ringing” by Miranda Devine.  The article began with a rant about Al Gore’s recent “24 Hours of Reality” global presentation.  Fair enough, he can be very over the top.  The article, however, is fundamentally an attack on climate change science itself and the imposition of a carbon tax in Australia.  Although a well-written article, the evidence used to justify the writer’s views on climate science is flawed.
 
The article quotes three “experts” to provide scientific credence.  The first is Dr Ivar Giaevar, Nobel Prize-winning physicist.  Sounds impressive, doesn’t it?  Dr Giaever won his Nobel Prize for electron tunnelling in semiconductors.  He is not now, nor has he ever been a climatologist or any sort of expert in climate change science.  His personal views therefore do not represent an authoritative argument against the conclusions of current mainstream climate change science.
 
Second, we have Dr Richard Lindzen, eminent MIT atmospheric physicist and an IPCC lead author who has accused Al Gore of being alarmist.  Dr Lindzen has published work since 2002 claiming that “we should have already seen much more warming than we have seen thus far”.  Lindzen’s work has been shown to be in error by several scientists – Beck (2006), Rahmstorf (2008), Schwartz et al (2010) among others.  Lindzen conveniently did not include a couple of very important aspects in his calculations.  (See http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2011/02/23/207560/the-sensitivity-of-richard-lindzen/)
 
The third expert is “hurricane forecaster” Emeritus Professor of atmospheric science Dr William Gray, who has also labelled Gore as “a gross alarmist” and who strongly argues that any rise in global temperature is entirely natural and normal.  Dr Gray is extremely expert in predicting hurricanes.  This has been his life’s work and he is world-renown for this work.  On the causes of climate change however, Dr Gray has no published original research of any significance.  His views on the subject are just that – views.  He has no evidence for his claim that rising global temperature is a natural phenomenon and has nothing to do with human activity.  He just believes it to be so, based on his interpretation of other people’s research.  Some scientists argue that he has lost favour with the scientific community not because of his science, but because he is making strong statements about climate change without backing them up with evidence.  (See http://blog.chron.com/sciguy/2006/08/bill-gray-the-climate-change-skeptic-revisited/ or http://www.logicalscience.com/skeptics/Gray.html)
 
It is also very interesting to note that both Dr Lindzen & Dr Gray have been associated with the Tech Central Station think tank on Climate Change sponsored by ExxonMobil (the world's largest publicly traded international oil and gas company).
 
Clearly, although all three of the above are eminent scientists in their own right, none of them is particularly credible in asserting that climate change is nothing to worry about.  I find it insulting when newspaper writers whip out a few choice names in support of their arguments knowing full well that most of the general public will not even know who they are let alone that they are not even credible authorities.  That is either bad journalism or deliberate deception, neither of which shows much respect to the reader.
 
Big companies who stand to lose lots of money if fossil fuel use decreases markedly do spend lots of money employing eminent scientists to cast doubt on climate science.  It happens!  Writers of articles on climate science would do well to read “Merchants of Doubt” by historians Naomi Oreskes & Erik M Conway before putting pen to paper.  This book explains how a loose-knit group of high-level scientists, with extensive political connections, ran effective campaigns to mislead the public in the USA and deny well-established scientific knowledge over four decades.
 
On the carbon tax, the article claims that the tax is undemocratic, a predictable claim considering the paper for which the article was written.  Like it or not the carbon tax or something similar is the only way to begin to entice the big carbon polluters to reduce their use of fossil fuels and invest more of their money in renewable energy alternatives.  The world must make this transition.  If “Little Australia” as Miranda Devine calls us is taking the lead in doing so – well done!  Someone needed to do it.
 
 
 
 
The Cost of Education
 
Date: 14 June 2011
 
A recent article in The Sunday Telegraph was entitled: “$500,000 per child” (29/5/11, by Laura Speranza).   The article claimed that the cost of educating a baby born this year from kindergarten to Year 12 would be $76,435 in the public system, $226,087 at Catholic Schools and $491,570 at Private Schools.
 
The article used figures published by the Australian Scholarships Group (ASG) which took into account tuition fees, textbooks, uniforms, excursions and other unstipulated expenses.  I did a quick calculation of what it has cost my family to put my son through Catholic education in this Diocese.  He is now in Year 12.  Taking into account the same items as considered by ASG and including all school fees not just tuition fees, it works out to about $22,000 total or roughly $1,700 per year averaged over all 13 years of Catholic education.
 
My point is that the article has grossly over-estimated the cost of education, even considering the fact that it claims that the cost of education will rise by double the inflation rate for the next 20 years.  If you do the maths, assuming a 6% per annum average inflation rate over the next 20 years (Ref 1) and therefore an annual rise in the cost of education of 12% you get some interesting results.  By the time a baby born this year starts school, that average annual cost of education will have risen from $1,700 to $2,675.  To get the child through 13 years of Catholic schooling will cost around $75,000.  Although still a lot of money, this is a long way short of the $226,087 estimated by ASG.
 
I question the purpose of such newspaper articles.  What are the motives of the newspaper editors or owners who print such stories?  Even though ASG is a not-for-profit organization, it is in their best business interests to inflate the estimates of the cost of education.  It would probably entice more people to invest with them.  Articles such as this are of questionable value.  They serve merely to scare parents and carers.  Such articles should emphasize that the figures they quote are guesses and are absolute worst case scenarios in any case.
 
Bibliography:
1. Website http://www.tradingeconomics.com/australia/inflation-cpi - average inflation rate in Australia 1937 to 2010 was 6.02%.
 
 
 
 
Pentecost
 

Date: 14 June 2011


Last Sunday we celebrated Pentecost, often referred to as the Birthday of the Church.  It is called that because Pentecost is when the apostles went out among the people and began spreading Jesus' message, thus establishing the beginning of the Church.
 
Pentecost (Greek for "50th day") is celebrated by Christians 50 days after Easter, and marks the day that the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles while they were cowering and hiding behind locked doors following Jesus' resurrection.  After receiving the power and gifts of the Holy Spirit, the apostles immediately went out and preached Jesus' message to everyone – even those who spoke other languages.
 
Pentecost reminds Christians of our responsibility to proclaim the good news of Jesus in our world today.  We are not asked to stand on a soap box and proclaim the good news from every street corner.  We are asked to take every opportunity to show by our words and actions the love that Jesus has for everyone.  We are asked to be brave when people ask us questions about our faith and to answer them honestly.  This is not easy.  In fact it is completely counter-cultural in a secular world that is all about money, self and power.
 
Are we brave enough?  Probably not on our own but then that is the power of Pentecost.  We are not on our own.  Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to be with each of us always and everywhere.  If we open ourselves to the power of the Holy Spirit, we can achieve anything we put our minds to.
 
 
 
The Price of Pollution
 
Date: 1 June 2011
 
               Cartoon.jpg
                                   Copyright 2009, Joel Pett.  All rights reserved, reprinted with permission.
 
What a brilliant cartoon!
 
One of the big questions on the path to a sustainable world is what to do about greenhouse gas emission.  Regardless of which side of politics we support, it should be obvious that we must do something and we must do it now.  To stick our collective heads in the sand and do nothing is neither a moral nor a sensible option.  To do so is to doom future generations to much more severe and painful ramifications than current generations will need to endure.  To do so will effectively doom some future generation to a complete breakdown of society and much worse.
 
People shrug off the problem and assume that someone else will solve it.  When crises like bush fires, floods or storms reap havoc, Australians are quick to get in and lend a hand.  When World Wars reared their ugly heads in the 20th Century, people around the nation rallied to do their bit, whatever that was, in defence of the nation and the world.  Although the war against pollution, global warming and rampant human wastefulness of resources may not appear to need our immediate response, Australians must rally now to avoid consequences far more devastating than natural disasters or even World Wars.
 
As Australians, we need to make our voices heard.  We need to put aside politically motivated views.  We need to work together.
Big Business and Industry are not going to invest in the use of clean energy alternatives unless they are forced to do so.  They are in business to make money.  We must make clean energy cheaper.
 
“Governments, economists and business leaders around the globe agree that levelling the economic playing field by placing a price tag on pollution is one of the best ways to reduce pollution, and, as a bonus, it will create thousands of jobs within new industries” ……….. “Whether it’s a carbon tax, an ETS or CPRS, the aim is the same – make clean energy cheaper by putting a price tag on pollution” (Ref. 1).
 
Regardless of the politics, the Federal Government is showing leadership in attempting to place a price on carbon.  They could have chosen several other ways to make clean energy cheaper.  A carbon tax is their choice.  The Opposition is opposing a carbon tax on purely political grounds.  They have offered nothing of substance as an alternative.  We cannot debate for ever.  We cannot vacillate for the next three or four terms of Government while we try to find a painless way to reduce our carbon pollution.  Such a thing does not exist.
 
This is a time of crisis.  Australians need to act.  As we always do in times of national crisis, let’s get behind the Government, regardless of our own political views and start saving our planet.  Let us also make it blatantly clear to the Government by writing to our local members that we expect them to set a price on pollution that will actually make a difference rather than being a mere token gesture.
 
Bibliography:
1. “What Does A Price on Pollution Mean” – Australian Conservation Foundation – http://www.acfonline.org.au/articles/news.asp?news_id=3169
 
 
 
The Importance of Sustainability 
 
One of the goals in our Strategic Plan 2011-2013 is to work towards environmental and ecological sustainability here at St Pius.  The importance of this goal cannot be emphasized enough.  It goes way beyond doing a couple of simple things like keeping the school clean or having a paper recycling scheme.
 
Becoming a sustainable school is a moral obligation and involves a change in culture across all facets of school life.  As educators, especially in a Catholic School, we have a moral obligation to teach students by word and action the theological and logical reasons as to why sustainability is essential.
 
A quick brainstorm of major issues directly affecting our own Australian way of life includes the following:
s        Water - We need to get smarter about how we manage water — that means everything from replacing our ageing infrastructure to ensuring we capture rain water when it does fall.
s        Climate Change – We must address climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  Professor Will Steffen, executive director of ANU's Climate Change Institute has said that: "Of all the wealthy countries, we're probably the most vulnerable.  What we do between now and 2050 is crucial for the magnitude and rate of climate change later this century and beyond.”
s        Energy – Australia has the capacity to be world leaders in solar, wind, marine and geothermal energies.  People need to actively encourage politicians to make it so.
s        Overpopulation – Most Economists seem to believe that to increase wealth we must continually increase the population.  They seem oblivious to the obvious limitations that natural resources place on any population.  With Australia's population projected to reach 35 million by 2049, we need to determine what our carrying capacity is and how can we achieve a sustainable population.
s        Sustainable Cities – Our water & energy use per person is higher than that of most other developed countries in the world.  We need to rethink how we live in and develop cities.
s        Mining of non-renewable resources – Non-renewable resources will eventually run out.  A New Scientist article entitled “Earth Audit” in 2007 pulled together research from many different sources to paint an alarming picture of how soon some of our “essential” metals will run out.  Platinum, used in catalytic converters in cars and in many other important applications could be mined out within 15 years.  Indium, a vital component in iPads, mobile phones and LCD screens could be all gone by 2020.  We need to minimise waste, find substitutes where possible and recycle all metals, especially those used in electronic equipment.
 
Our use of coal & export of it, overuse of cars, overfishing of our oceans, fertilizer & chemical damage to the Great Barrier Reef, downward pressure towards extinction on the numbers of many species of plants & animals and people’s apathy and general lack of understanding are also serious problems facing our Australian community.
 
Schools are in a fantastic position to lead by example.  We can teach students the importance of sustainability and demonstrate by many examples within the school just how sustainability can be achieved.  We can teach students to be proactive and confident in contacting members of parliament and leaders of commerce and industry to express their concerns and to put forward their suggestions.  Parents and families can be involved by supporting the school in this educative process and by making their homes sustainable as well.
 
Stay tuned!  Much will be happening at St Pius in this vital area over coming months and years.
 
 

 

 

Some Easter Thoughts
Easter.  What does it really mean for us?  I think with the pace and complexity of life today many people find themselves experiencing Easter as spectators.  They come to Easter Thursday and Good Friday.  They listen to the story and think to themselves, wasn’t it sad what they did to Jesus?  They come to Easter Sunday.  Again they listen to the story and this time they think, isn’t it great that God raised Jesus from the dead.  Then they get on with the rest of the year.  What difference has Easter really made?
 
If we listen to the Gospel story as mere spectators, we miss the point.  We are meant to be part of the Easter story.  We are meant to reflect upon how our lives are different because of Easter.
 
What does the death of Jesus on the cross mean for me as a person?  At the Last Supper, Jesus gathered his friends around him as a family and shared food and wine with them.  He shared it with them freely, foreshadowing his profound act of sharing that would take place the next day.  After the meal, Jesus washed the feet of his friends in an act of humble service that clearly signalled to all present that things were to be different from now on.  No-one was any better or more important than anyone else.  All members of the community were to serve one another.
 
I guess for me, the most challenging realization about Jesus’ death is that Jesus’ life was not taken from him; it was given freely for his friends.  He freely chose to lay down his life for his friends.  He shared his life with others in the ultimate sense.  The implication for us, his followers, is that we should do the same.  For some, that will mean making the ultimate sacrifice.  For most, it will mean sharing our lives a little bit at a time, dying many little deaths for others in servanthood, going out of our way to help others, even when we least feel like it, all the time trying to live out Jesus’ commandment to “love one another, just as I have loved you”.
 
For me then, it is not just that “Jesus died to free us from sin.”, which he certainly did.  Jesus’ death was not an unfortunate incident or the unforeseen consequence of his bold public ministry.  It was, on the contrary, a way in which he brings us all into the fellowship of acceptance, friendship and love that characterizes the family of his disciples.  It reminds us that as Jesus shared himself ultimately – shared his flesh and blood – with us, we are called to share ourselves with one another.
 
And what of the resurrection?  To me, Jesus’ resurrection ultimately assures us that all that Jesus promised will be fulfilled.  It allows us to live lives filled with hope.  At the same time, it challenges us to create communities built on friendship, acceptance and love.  It challenges us to live in accordance with Jesus’ teachings and to be the face of Jesus to all people we meet.  It challenges us by word and deed to spread the good news that Jesus who was dead, lives again!
 
 

 

What is essential is invisible to the eye

I was told this cute little story a few years ago. It happened in a Catholic Primary School. A little girl, recently arrived in Australia from a refugee camp in Africa, was listening to a talk given by a visitor to her school. The talk was on conditions in the Solomon Islands and what was being done to help the people there. One slide that was shown was of a pathetic little tin shed that served as the community school. It was of course shown to highlight the terrible plight of the people. On seeing the shed however, the little girl was heard to say “O isn’t that lovely.” And she meant it!

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” Antoine de Saint-Exupery in Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince)

The profound truth expressed so succinctly above is one that is often forgotten in our modern, frantic, materialistic society. Thanks to self-interested big business and the often morally challenged media, people have been spun a wonderful myth. Happiness is out there! All we have to do is find it. How do we find it? Well, if we spend enough money on ourselves we are sure to find it. We can even make the people we love happy by buying things for them. There are clothes and jewellery, IPads and IPhones, TV’s and DVD’s, computers and coffee machines – the list is endless! There are even people who risk unnecessary major cosmetic surgery in the pursuit of happiness – breast enlargements, face lifts and liposuction and people even go overseas to get them cheap!

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that there is anything inherently wrong in buying any of these things. The danger is that people, especially young people, can be brainwashed into believing that they need these things to be happy. Worse, they can become depressed or angry that others have more or better things than they do.

The Christian belief is that happiness comes from knowing God and ourselves as well as we possibly can and in serving others first rather than in serving ourselves. In getting to know God, we enter into and strengthen a relationship with our creator, a relationship that can nurture and sustain us through good times and bad. By getting to know ourselves well, we come to know our gifts, abilities and talents as well as our weaknesses, which in turn allows us to decide a meaningful direction in life. In serving others first we actively share the love of God wherever we are in the world. Happiness is an internal sense of self worth and of connectedness with our loving creator and with our fellow human beings. What is essential is invisible to the eye.

Catholic schools in Australia make a real difference to the lives of thousands of young people every day. We are fortunate to live in a country that allows freedom of Religious expression. Our Catholic schools work in partnership with parents, parish and the wider community to provide our young people with the time, teaching and example necessary to get to know themselves and to get to know God. In this way our young men and women come to know that it is only with the heart that one can see rightly.