a change in time

musings on behavioural change – the small stuff and the big stuff.

The uncontrollable variables


Have you ever heard a combination of words, and thought, that would make a good name for a book, or a film, or maybe a band? Back in the eighties, this thought must have gone through the mind of Peter Webb, my late husband, as this is what he called our band.

The Uncontrollable Variables, from left to right: Peter Webb, Margot McCartney, Richard Holt, Ruth Williams and Gerard Rowan

At the time, and over the years, I have often secretly thought it was a rather unusual choice for a band name. Maybe it’s the reason why we didn’t become famous, or maybe that was because we were ahead of our time. (Allow me a bit of delusional thinking!)

In recent days, or years, I have rethought my response to the name. When I originally asked Peter what it meant, he would say, it’s an economic term. And I would nod, knowingly, not understanding at all. In case it’s new to you, here is the definition:

The variable in an experiment that has the potential to negatively impact the relationship between the independent and dependent variables. “The issue of uncontrolled variables often occurs in relation to problems with correlation and causation. This, therefore that, is not always true.

I’m not sure how Peter would feel about me transposing the name of his band over to the current discussion of climate change and what we oughta do. I hope he is smiling. The band name lives on!

I’m guessing it doesn’t take much thought to realise how I have linked climate change and ‘the uncontrollable variables’.

I’ve been thinking a great deal about what to write after my last blog, 7 months ago.

Since then, we have attended two of the marches organised by the School Strike for Climate group, in March and September. A lot has happened since the original strike in November last year. The numbers of people attending has grown exponentially.

Sitting on the verge in Treasury Gardens, on the 20th of September, amongst the tens of thousands of people who came together to show their support for the students, one can’t help but be moved.

Extinction Rebellion, which only formed at the end of October last year, has grown to be a worldwide movement in less than a year.

Greta Thunberg has become, even more so, the voice of a generation. (She now has 7.3 million followers on Instagram.)

And Ruth Williams? I have pulled back from social media, even though that is the stage on which we are encouraged to perform.

The photo of The Uncontrollable Variables taken at the Clifton Hill Organ Factory in the early eighties, is the only photo we have of the members of the band.

In recent times, I feel that my life is being stolen from me. I’m not sure if it’s big data or the seemingly constant expectation to share one’s life, or an existential fear of whether we can create a future that will rectify Greta’s assertion that:

The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say: we will never forgive you.

I was going to use one of the images of ‘angry Greta’ from her speech at the UN Climate Action however, this is the latest photo she has shared of herself so I have gone with this one.

I’m not ready to join Extinction Rebellion but I am ready to rebel.

My current gospel is ‘Climate: A New Story‘ by Charles Eisenstein. He says many things that are worthy of being included here but it’s probably better if you read the book yourself.

One of the things he says rang true with me even more so today than it had previously:

“If everyone focused their love, care, and commitment on protecting and regenerating their local places, while respecting the local places of others, then a side effect would be the resolution of the climate crisis. If we strove to heal and protect every estuary, every forest, every wetlands, every piece of damaged land, every coral reef, every lake and every mountain, not only would most drilling, fracking, and pipelining have to stop, but the biosphere would become far more resilient too.”

It really does serve as an empowering antidote!

Why today? I went further north, upstream, with Graeme Hamilton, from Darebin Creek Management Committee, as my guide. He showed me river red gums that are between four and eight hundred years old. We visited sections of Darebin Creek that are so unique and so much in need of our love, care and commitment.

My heart was broken and opened at the same time.

This river red gum lives in Parkhill Crescent Reserve, Millpark. It has been tested as being 800 years old. It is one of the lucky ones that has managed to survive the spread of the housing estates.

And being an Uncontrollable Variable seems to take on more urgency.

Dr Samuel Alexander in his paper, The Rebellion Hypothesis: Crisis, Inaction and the Question of Civil Disobedience’ states:

As the broad ecological crisis intensifies, and collapse situations become more common, challenging and disruptive, I have argued that more and more people will face psychological tipping points and become engaged in collective action. At some point, tolerance of ecocide will become intolerable.”

Some ecocide happening in our backyard. Artichoke thistle is spreading silently along and around the creek. A new housing estate will follow soon.

While Extinction Rebellion stage their events around attracting the attention of the media, you will find me down at the creek. There might not even be one photo taken.

Don’t get me wrong, I encourage their rebellion, and admire their willingness to be arrested and go to jail. Rebel for life! They, and we, are the uncontrollable variables.

Rebel for Life at Flinders Street Station. Courtesy of Extinction Rebellion.

Author: rhinophile

I’m interested in how we live and how we die. I like to try things on and see if they work for me. I find the human experience a fascinating one. No matter how much we hear about there being evil in the world, I also know there is goodness, and many people who are dedicated to caring for everyone and everything.

8 thoughts on “The uncontrollable variables

  1. This is truly one of the best written, realistic but hopeful, pieces I have read – and I read a lot. If I may, I would say the concept “uncontrollable variables”, in this context, must include discussion of the fact the Earth is not really a closed system. Fluctuations in solar activity and near misses by bodies with enough mass to exert gravitational influences in passing can and do affect out biosphere and our geosphere. But setting those aside – while keeping them in mind – we can follow the advice provided so well in this column.

    Thank you for writing this.

    • Hi Marco, what a lovely surprise to wake up this morning to find your kind words. I’m sure you know what it’s like when you send off your latest effort out into the world – will anyone read this, and if so, will it be well received? You also probably know that feeling of writing for yourself anyway, and then if no one reads it or responds, at least you know that it matters to you. And I know you’re not being ‘kind’ as such, just saying what is there to say for you. It is appreciated, whatever the motivation! ☺️ Thanks for adding the wider definition regarding how ‘uncontrollable variables’ relate to the discussion. It is a very good point.

  2. Thank you for sharing!!… I don’t believe I wish to have total “control”, would rather face those variables/challenges and use my resources, being led by my heart, to follow my dream, being me… more of an adventure that way!!.. I expect Peter totally approves of what you are doing!.. 🙂

    “Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” ( Maria Robinson )

    • I do like the idea of an adventure, lead by your heart. You seem to be doing very well on that particular road!

      • Don’t know how “well” I am doing but enjoying life living it my way… 🙂

        “The only thing that stands between you and your dream is the will to try and the belief that it is actually possible.” ― Joel Brown

  3. Thank you for responding, rhinophile. Indeed, I do fire my blog into the ionosphere in the knowledge it will float unheeded and eventually leave Earth orbit. I always wanted to travel among the stars.

  4. I have that book! I got sidetracked and didn’t read it all. Thanks for reminding me.

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