Greens NSW media worker Eleanor Gibbs writes: Re. “Independent news from the NSW Greens?” (19 January, item 12). Please correct [the story from] Friday’s edition of Crikey with the following information. The amounts referred to from St George Bank, by Mr Kerr, are interest payments on our bank balance. The Greens NSW do not take donations from banks or other corporations.

Moira Smith writes: Re. “That’s what the weather’s like in Australia” (19 January, item 8). Christian Kerr’s comments might make some sense if reports of unusual, record-breaking weather were not coming from all around the world.

Graeme Major writes: Christian Kerr doesn’t get it or pretends he doesn’t get it. It is about time he understood what is causing global warming – too much carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere. The concentration of those gases is increasing all the time and contributing to the higher frequency of extreme weather events. At the molecular level carbon dioxide and methane absorb far more heat than the oxygen and nitrogen which make up most of the atmospheric gas mixture. This fact has been a proven fact for decades. If anything, the flooding rains, big droughts and mega bushfires are examples of the effects predicted from global warming, not the converse as he implies. Perhaps Christian could kindly state precisely what more evidence he needs to be convinced global warming is real. Unless he is really dumb, I would be happy to present him with all the factual evidence he could possibly want. The device of choosing one, two or three apparently exceptional examples, ignoring the statistically huge standard error involved, and extrapolating them to debunk a general theory or principle is a standard trick of journalism.

Lois Achimovich writes: On what grounds does Christian Kerr get so much airplay on the environment? Like many of his expositions on the subject, he substitutes invective for fact. At first it was funny – he’s just being provocative, right? Now the situation is so serious that I believe this kind of rhetoric is irresponsible – certainly it’s poor journalism. We hear that the Australian climate is “just like that” – presumably rain and drought. Only it’s not “just like that” any more anywhere in the world. Maybe this makes the average joe or jane feel secure. This is false security. Other nations are taking this subject very seriously. Read what Stephen Hawking and Hansen are saying about the Doomsday clock. Journalists are influential. They should be able to back up their opinions. Kerr on the environment is a no-brainer and detracts from the generally high level of your reportage. Either send him to an environmental science course or let him comment on jazz, but leave the most serious issue the planet is facing to those who take it seriously. Not happy Christian.

Martyn Smith writes: I fully understand why Chris Hunter laughs at Christian Kerr’s offerings. The big “K” provides an interesting counterpoint to the knowledgeable, sensible comments of Crikey’s other writers, and he is good for a chuckle. However I am getting worried about poor old Chris. I think he should take his doctor’s advice and start taking his tablets – I’m referring to the ones which stop him having nightmares where he is being chased round his yard by ever larger Green Monsters. He is getting delusional and if he keeps this up, a van with big men in white coats will soon be calling for him. Trust me Chris, I’m a caring person. Take your pills, have a glass of water (wine if you like), have a brisk lie down and soon the nasty fantasies will go away and the white van won’t come and take you away. With luck you’ll still have your nice fantasies, you know, the ones where you wonder if Peter Costello and Julia Gillard have a thing going, because as you said, they often fly on the same aircraft to Canberra and are civil to each other. The latter are your metier and you should stick to them.

Tony Ryan writes: A thoughtful Peter McDonell (19 January, comments) asks why there is no comment about the impact of bushfires on greenhouse gases, a query I would urgently echo. Al Gore’s scientists speculated that bushfires, most of which are deliberately lit, contribute around 30% of greenhouse gases. Having actively researched this issue in the Top End from 1971 to 1996, my guess would be closer to 70% of southern hemispheric accumulations. This explains why approximately 95% of global industrial and MV emissions are sourced in the largely separate northern hemisphere, yet global levels are otherwise inexplicably the same in both. Two easily disproved myths are the reason why this phenomenon is not investigated. The first is the sacred cow belief that Aborigines engaged in broadacre burning, from Rhys Jones’s 1969 lyrical fantasy of Firestick Farming; this theory instantly implodes when we consider the many fire-sensitive species which would have been cremated to extinction 40,000 years ago, were this to be fact. The second cherished belief, embraced for us only last week by that consummate bushman, Christian Kerr (Friday, item 8), and obliquely, if not unwittingly alluded to in State of the Planet (item 13); is that many Australian plants have adapted to fire and, moreover, require fire for adequate seed germination. That this theory is disproved by the fate of the Melville Island Beech (Canarium Australianum), and Northern Cypress (Callitris Intratropica), both of which have been decimated by burn-off policies, says little for the integrity, cerebral capacity or professional competence of the relevant bioscientists. Unbeknownst to most Australians, the vast northern fires occur almost exclusively in the dry season, when there is no lightning, the only natural cause of fire in that region, and the only igniter prior to 40,000 years ago – an eye blink in plant evolutionary terms. So how could the occasional rare natural fire assume a symbiotic function not evident elsewhere in the world? But back to Peter McDonell’s concerns: with Australia, Indonesia, PNG and Brazil creating vast tracts of smoke around the globe, destroying for months, and eventually permanently, the carbon dioxide absorption capacity of woodlands and forests; when are journalists going to start asking questions? If one alert journo or, what the hell, any curious Crikey reader wants to know more, by all means contact [email protected] for a copy of the full paper about this complex issue.

Matt Marks, former Federal President of the Australian Young Liberal Movement, writes: Hillary Clinton did not announce her campaign on a television network, cable channel, on Oprah or to a magazine or newspaper. Hillary Clinton posted the video announcement on her website. Consider the significance of this and what it means for the growing power of new media in political campaigns. Hillary’s approach follows the innovative internet-driven campaign of failed Democratic Presidential aspirant Howard Dean in 2004. It also continues the trend from the most recent US Congressional and Senate elections which saw an increasing number of candidates employ multimedia functionality on their websites. Political parties in Australia are significantly behind their overseas counterparts in the effective use of new media in political campaigns. The fact that Hillary Clinton has chosen the internet to launch and commence her campaign should send a strong signal to the major parties about their need to adapt to a rapidly evolving media and electoral landscape. It may have been appropriate for John F Kennedy in his inauguration speech in 1961 to say to Americans “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country” but in 2007 that is not the best message. The message on which Australian politicians should focus in an era when the public is demanding more participative democracy is: “Ask the people what they think and ask them to help you transform their thinking into action.”

John Kotsopoulos writes: Re. Water tanks. Coralie Le Nevez and Michael Rook (19 January, comments), if I sound like a policy wonk it’s because I was in a previous life and I have researched this topic. Coralie, your $6,000 water tank is giving you $49 dollars worth of water each year and this is costing you $600 in depreciation alone. To that you can add the loss of interest on the money you have invested. My point is that the money wasted on tanks could be better spent to stop the billions of litres lost through leaky pipes etc. Would you rather spend money on thousands of stretcher bearers or an ambulance?

Peter Scruby writes: Re. “Letting the Saudis get away with it again” (19 January, item 11). Thank God someone else cares. Michael Pascoe articulated what I’ve been discussing with friends for the last month… how on earth can the Saudis and the British arms dealers be allowed to get away with such barefaced criminal behaviour. Blair’s credibility may just transcend the morals of the Saudi Royal family but I just wonder how his supposed devout catholicism creaks when he makes such disgracefully expedient and morally bankrupt decisions like this one.

Send your comments, corrections, clarifications and c*ck-ups to [email protected]. Preference will be given to comments that are short and succinct: maximum length is 200 words (we reserve the right to edit comments for length). Please include your full name – we won’t publish comments anonymously unless there is a very good reason.

Peter Fray

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