I just learned two shocking things

First, one of my favorite tunes, “Waltzing Matilda,” has nothing to do with dancing.

Second, somebody out there thinks Congress might actually put a climate bill on Obama’s desk this year.

First things first. So I’m singing to my daughter, reworking the lyrics to the “the unofficial national anthem of Australia,” to distract her from her quest to watch videos on my PC, and she cleverly asks to see a “Waltzing Matilda video.” And this is what I find on YouTube:

Turns out the song is about an Australian hobo, who gives the name Matilda to his swag, his “bed roll that bundled his belongings.” Turns out “waltzing Matilda” is slang for traveling with all one’s belongings on one’s back.

Given where Austalia is headed — “Australia faces collapse as climate change kicks in” — and for how long (if we don’t act soon and strongly to stop it) — Climate change “largely irreversible for 1000 years,” with permanent Dust Bowls around the globe — I’m now thinking that Waltzing Matilda will eventually be the official national anthem of Australia. But I digress.

So who is this mystery person who thinks we are on the fast track for climate action?

None other than my friend Jeremy Symons, who called to dispute this post: “Sen. Boxer makes clear U.S. won’t pass a climate bill this year.”

Jeremy is Senior Vice President, Conservation and Education at the National Wildlife Federation. Interestingly, until I was researching this post, I thought Jeremy was still Executive Director of NWF’s Global Warming Program. So congratulations for the well-deserved promotion.

[Note to NWF: You should try to make it easier — or even possible — to find staff bios.]

Jeremy is so confident that there will be a big cap-and-trade bill signed by Obama this year, he bet me dinner anywhere in Washington, DC on it — and even agreed to let me blog about it.

Now he is very experienced in the ways of Washington — see a bio here — and wise, too, as evidence by the fact that NWF did not join NRDC and EDF in endorsing the weak, coal-friendly, rip-offset-heavy USCAP climate plan.

But I’m afraid this bet is more of a lock than my “90% ice free Arctic” by 2020 bet (see here), though not quite as good as my “hydrogen fuel cell vehicles won’t hit 1% of new car and light truck sales by 2015” bet (see here).

I guess I have a gambling problem: People keep wanting to make 50-50 wagers with me that are probably more like 90-10 bets. At the risk of feeding my addiction, are there any other takers out there for this climate-bill-in-2009 bet?

20 Responses to I just learned two shocking things

  1. John McCormick says:

    Joe, I wont place a bet with you but can you post Jeremy’s phone number? I’m partial to seafood.

    John McCormick

  2. Alex says:


    Not only is Waltzing Matilda not about waltzing, it’s about class warfare and control of the commons: the swagman – probably a German, which, at the time, almost automatically made him a lower class in Australia – is on private land and poaches a sheep (jambuck). Up comes the “squatter” – which is the opposite of what we call a squatter in the U.S.; in Australia, it refers to a landlord – and his troopers. Then the swagman, rather than being caught, jumps into the lake and drowns.

  3. Publius says:

    Mr. McCormick, (and Mr. Romm),

    Partial to seafood? You realize that we’ll never cut emissions without the VAST majority of Americans cutting meat out of our diet, right? It’s so sad that people like you who (I assume) claim to be “with it” are part of the problem. It’s symbolic that you just don’t get it — and politics is all about symbolism — and climate change is a political problem. How sad. How very very sad. If you’re not vegan (or at least vegetarian), then you do not live what you preach and what you say is empty. It seriously hurts the movement for sustainability. Your message for reducing our impact has no credibility b/c you fail to make a simple change, yet most profound change in lifestyle Partial to seafood? Outrageous.

  4. John McCormick says:

    OK Publius, you got me. I’ll switch to carrots. Problem solved.

    John McCormick

  5. Joe, as an Australian I am impressed that you even know of Watzing Matilda let alone it being one of your favourite tunes. Knowing the words automatically qualifies you for citizenship and we have lower crime rates and better beaches than the US if you ever want to emigrate.

    We’re still on a bad trajectory in climate change policies though, including the cap-and-trade system that is currently proposed by our federal government:

  6. Sorghum Crow says:

    My eyes have been opened. Thanks for the video explaining Waltzing Matilda.

    The Pogues do an awesome version that focuses on the Aussies at Gallipoli in Turkey during WW I and their return home. Now I know what the lyrics “And I waltzed my Matilda all over”

    Here’s the vid link

  7. Joe says:

    I realize in reading Wikipedia that the first place I’d heard the song must have been the movie “On the Beach”:

    “The score of the 1959 film On the Beach, written by Ernest Gold, is based heavily on motifs from “Waltzing Matilda”. The film, about the end of the world via a nuclear holocaust, is set in Australia, and director Stanley Kramer was insistent on the “Waltzing Matilda” motif. The song itself is heard in the last minutes of the movie.”

    The film was before my time but my Dad loved movies. Perhaps that’s where I first gained my fondness for dystopias.

    By the way, what is it with Australians and post-apocalyptic dystopias? You folks gave us the Mad Max movies!

  8. LOL… We recently had a Waltzing Matilda contest in our home — singing along with Burl Ives…

    We’d sing a verse, see if we understood the lyrics… and move on to the next one. It was a favorite song in my grade five class.

  9. Sorghum Crow says:

    The actual name of the Pogues’ song is “And the band played ‘Waltzing Matilda'”.

  10. Have he seafood lovers seen this:

    I’m surprised at how little coverage the Monaco Declaration has received. I live in Lunenburg — a UNESCO World Heritage Site for the preservation of its circa-1800 fishing town — but the sad truth here is that we’ve already destroyed our fishing industry.

  11. Dave Romm says:

    Joe, you probably don’t remember a record — a 45 — I had growing up: Mr. Green Jeans explaining the lyrics of Waltzing Matilda to Captain Kangaroo.

    The Captain was pretty green.

  12. “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda” is a fantastic song, and the Pogues do a great version. But they didn’t write it. It was written by Eric Bogle.

  13. Dan G. says:

    Richard Levangie is right. Fishing in the sea for food will be a historical note. For those who wish to continue the long held practice of eating animal protein, we should focus on poultry, small mammals, and pen raised fish. Beef is out due to carbon footprint. For dinner in DC, I would still take fresh seafood over any of those. yum yum. Enjoy your dinner Joe.

  14. paulm says:

    Hope you arnt buying Brazilian beef….
    what is the recommended portion of beef if one whats to be sustainable?

    Brazilian beef destroying the Amazon – Greenpeace

    News | 4 February, 2009

    BRAZILIAN ambitions to double their share of the global beef market will destroy the Amazon rainforest, environmental campaigners have warned.

  15. paulm says:

    Climate change, should we be concerned?
    Dr Andrew Haggart,

    Since global CO2 levels have not, during the last 5 million years risen above 300 ppm, but are now at 385 ppm, we do not quite know what is going to happen,

    Haggart’s advice to engineers was that they should, “Look to the most recent data and think outside the box, IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] data tends to be conservative.

    [paulm:becoming more and more understatments I think!]

  16. Mark says:

    Dave Romm,

    When I read Joe’s post, I was wondering where I first heard that song. You just reminded me. I had that same record. You brought back some long lost memories. I still don’t think Mr. Green Jeans explained the song very well.

  17. The fish stocks problem is a double edged sword for me. I spent some time in the early eighties working on fishing boats, mostly in California and Alaska, and a little out of Marathon FLA in the early 70s. Along with the loss of seafood, that I also have a soft spot for, and my concern for the environment, I also am sad to see the life of fishermen become a thing of the past. It can be a great lifestyle if it suits your temperment and you enjoy being at sea.

    No I didn’t fish in the Bearing Sea for King Crab. Those guys are nuts. Fishing is dangerous enough without taking those kinds of risks.

  18. David B. Benson says:

    “Waltzing Matilda” fans might wish to learn why it is “Matilda”.

    Hint: one of the British WWII tank types was named a “Matilda”.

  19. Greg Robie says:

    The need for a comprehensive climate bill to be on the President’s desk yesterday, withstanding, what Boxer is saying points to two likely scenarios. One is that this session of Congress will adjourn without a bill. This will be due to differences in the House and Senate version that will not be resolved in a timely manner–for whatever the cause/reason. The second one is that a mathematically and scientifically meaningless cap and trade bill will squeak through in late 2010 just before the mid-term election. The bottom line is that an integrated economic and climate policy will ellude this administration. Like the above discussion concerning bets and jokes about seafood dinners, and like the litter left by the Left on the Mall after the inaugration, these demonstrate just how stuck in our motivated reasoning and the paradigm that both created global warming and is being accessed to think about mitigating the impacts of our lifestyles.

    Systemically, a climate bill is not the most effective place to initiate a solution of the scale that is required. Prohibition does not work. We have to change our living before our leaders can lead in a new direction. We are the people we have been waiting for (NOT). We have met the enemy and he is us.

    That aside, only a redressing of the abandonment of the power given Congress in Article 1. Section 8, and them doing so such that the Federal Reserve and all that is based on it is determined to be what it is–bankrupt–and the government is reconstituted via a constitutional currency coined in carbon credits, the value of which is held in trust for the individual by the government, can offer a prayer of a hope that the hell and high water of klimakatastrophe can yet be avoided. Anything less is a joke–and a very bad one. (

    In another thread here I followed the link to the Brookings Instution’s getting of climate change religion. The problem with that religion is that it is based on climate models that have been already proven wrong due to current observations of climate change. Last summer, 7 years would likely be a conclusion based on a belated consideration of James Hansen paper about omitted positive feedback dynamics and the, now dated, IPCC report that paper referenced. Last summer, Mark Serreze of NSIDC was, like your bet on 90% and 2020 concerning an ice free Arctic, a prisoner of a trust in climate science and models that were being proven to be untrustworthy.

    Models that are being adjusted to factor in observed changes in the Arctic ice extent have come up with 2012 for an ice free Arctic. Given the microwave data on the ice pack this winter, your 90% bet will likely be lost in 2010. This is 10 years ahead of what you could imagine with what you knew; what you trusted. Three years ago, James was talking a 10 year window left for radical change, now he is down to four; the IPCC is, I think, now talking two years. Such trends in teh unfolding science and math, in the face of the thawing methane hydrates on land and under the sea in the Arctic, and the distribution of global atmospheric methane being concentrated in the northern latitudes, say that the lack of a radically meaningful climate bill yesterday, transforms the concept of ”progress“ as this culture is thinking and feeling about it, and climate change into an oxymoron. The reality our living–including betting and joking and blogging and commenting–has effected says that now the concept of ”progress“ relates to what it means to live and die non-violently in hell, high water, and social and economic chaos (and this is not to discount all the efforts to yet save the day that are being pursued–this to is an important part of the systemic dynamics).

    As the third world elders observed at the Earth Summit in 1992, the first wold needs a religious revival. Such is no longer needed for the purpose of avoiding klimakatastrophe, but for our not being complete jackasses as it unfolds. We need to ”religiously’ pursue justice, starting with grappling with the fact that we do not know jack when it comes to what justice is. With the death of our current religion, global capitalism based on fiat currencies, in turn, base on debt, maybe we will reluctantly come to see the truth of this 17 year old insight from Rio.

  20. Tim says:

    @ Dave Benson.

    Banjo Patterson wrote WM in 1895. Probably well before the advent of British tanks.

    PS, I’d rather WM as our national anthem over AAF any day. It brings tears to the eye, as does the Boxing Kangaroo.