Forest fire management:

Philip Dalidakis, CEO, The Victorian Association of Forest Industries, writes: Re. “Forest fire management: objective analysis needed” (4 June, item 15). There is a reason why academics and forest groups have been so vocal on the issue of forest management. The Black Saturday fires were the tipping point for those who live and love amongst Victoria’s forests. It is clear after three “mega-fires” in the last six years — which burnt over three million hectares of forest — that current forest management regimes are no longer effective.

Yes, academics such as David Packham have been vocal since the February fires ripped through Gippsland, Kinglake and Marysville, but that is only out of sheer frustration at having countless warnings about the fuel load levels ignored: warnings that eerily predicted the very devastation we experienced in the February fires; the same warnings that remain for the future of far East Gippsland and the Otway Ranges. Similarly, we too have long voiced our concerns about forest management and the very real threat that mega-fires pose to our communities and water supply. Most recently, we published a report on this very issue in March 2008, but Lionel Elmore and the wider media community ignored it as ‘the industry’ released it.

The forest industry will continue to be vocal on the issue of forest management because it is the timber communities that bear the brunt of each successive fire. The best people to manage our forest are those that work amongst it on a daily basis. Ignorant arguments about our wanton destructions of forests, is just that. It is counter intuitive to destroy something that we rely on and have a symbiotic relationship with.

For the majority of Victorians, serious concern for bushfires occurs one day a year on its outbreak; forest managers work the other 364 days to avoid such an event. For Mr Elmore to suggest that there is a lot of money to be made from fire prevention and salvage harvesting is as ridiculous as it is offensive.

The cost of inaction is so high it cannot be measured in real terms. Salvage harvesting is not an exercise in profiteering; it is a means of recouping some of the $600 million worth of resource that was lost in the fires.

Salvage harvesting is also important in assisting forest contractors return to work given that the majority of them either volunteered their time and equipment or were contracted to fight the fires. Many of them for the entire duration of the fire.

More than any other industry, the forest industry stands to lose the most from bushfire events. Loss of lives, loss of businesses and, ultimately, through the destruction of more and more forest resource, the loss of a $6 billion industry.

Forgive our sector for being vocal about the way we manage for fire events but that may be because when the fire comes roaring up the hill it’s the timber workers volunteering in CFA uniforms that stand between the fire front and communities. It’s the industry’s bulldozers and equipment that were used to cut the emergency fire breaks that helped save Melbourne’s water catchments as the fire approached.

Put simply: our industry works in the forest, our industry protects the forest, our industry knows the forest.

Whilst protectionists purport to have the forest’s best interest at heart, bickering over the biodiversity value of pockets of roadside vegetation — whilst over three million hectares of forest goes up in smoke — is ludicrous.

To quote Mr Elmore, the forest industry does not support a “burn, burn, burn” approach to fire management; however, it does recognise prescribed burns as one effective tool amongst many others in successful bushfire mitigation.

Mr Elmore needs to understand that people will continue to be vocal and passionate about the issue of fire management because standing around and waiting for the next fire to come through is not an option.

There is just far too much at risk.


Marcus L’Estrange writes: Re. “Unemployment holds the line at 5.7%” (yesterday, item 1). “There are none so blind as those who will not see” so the saying goes and clearly Bernard Keane has been hauled in hook line and sinker by the ABS monthly “Labour Force” figure.

The “Labour Force” figure is a spin off from the annual ABS survey “Persons not in the labour Force” figure which shows that we have 2 million plus unemployed Australians. We also have 1.75 million Australians on one of the six dole payments. This latter figure automatically nullifies the “Labour Force” figure, which inexplicably Bernard Keane cannot see.

Bernard reminds me of the journalists who covered the Vietnam War but only from the safe confines of the Caravelle Bar in downtown Saigon and then given the mushroom treatment by the US Embassy.

Heavyweight rivalries:

Nick Place writes: Re. “Is Tracy Grimshaw the most powerful person on TV?” (Wednesday, item 4). Heavyweight rivalries of the century … Ali v Foreman. Evolution v Creationism. Bush v Obama. Sherbet v Skyhooks. Democracy v Fascism. AFL v NRL. Borg v McEnroe. Vegetarian v Carnivore. Grimshaw v Ramsay.

Swine Flu:

June Carter writes: Re. “Swine Flu: we’ve been asking the wrong questions” (yesterday, item 13). I own a business in Adelaide. Today, a school day, I have seen a lot of kids around so I asked a lady with two children if they had a “school free” day. “No” she said, “they have been to Melbourne to see the football and I have to keep them home for a week so they don’t infect other kids at school” Duh!!!!!!! Maybe she shouldn’t have had them in the shopping centre. The selfishness of people continues to astound me.

Danby to Dowding:

Alan Kennedy writes: Re. “Danby to Dowding: Gillard has never been duped into anything” (yesterday, item 16). Michael Danby uses the predictable smear tactic in his attack on Peter Dowding. He plays the man and deliberately obscures the point people are trying to make about this trip.

It is that the deputy PM of Australia should not be embarking on a junket paid for by a private Israeli organisation. Dowding’s point, and it is a valid one, is that the US is attempting a seismic shift in relations with Israel and trying to move to a two-state solution, an end to settlements (and hopefully the demolition of current ones) and a pull back to 1967 borders.

Obviously Australia will have to formulate a view on this policy and hopefully would fully support the Obama moves. This is not the time for junketeering by someone as high up as Gillard in the Australian government. It could lead to Australia giving out mixed signals during sensitive negotiations. Mr Danby represents the Israeli point of view in the Australian parliament and of course is free to go junketing to Israel with Andrew Bolt and Greg Sheridan.

But the lofty office of the deputy PM should not be used to give this trip a status it does not deserve.

Climate change cage match (now with its own blog):

Adam Rope writes: Ahhh, it seems that Tamas Calderwood (Wednesday, comments) has found some more recycled arguments with which to test our patience. Tamas, poster “kdkd” has already provided many answers to your questions — in comments 129 & 131, on page three of the Cage Match — from the comprehensive “Ill Considered” section of Science Blog. I simply ask why you cannot be bothered to read them — do you not wish to expand your horizons, and maybe even learn something?

“Not a word about the latest temperature data from UAH showing Earth was just 0.04C above the 30 year mean in May.” This is simply yet another variation (are they your own calculations again Tamas?) on the “Global warming stopped in 1998” line of argument, already rebuffed many, many times.

“No explanation on why Mars, Jupiter and Pluto are also experiencing global warming.” As “kdkd” has already said, this is simply another version of the already answered sunspot argument below, and New Scientist and the UK Meteorological Office further answer this one quite succinctly.

“No reference to the historical correlation between sunspot activity and climate.” Please see what New Scientist had to say several years ago, with many other links within, as well as the UK Hadley Centre. Plus there’s this recent article, linked to via Barry Brooks’ Brave New Climate.

“No answers on what caused past climate change.” Err, Tamas, that is largely irrelevant, since us humans really haven’t been around that long, geologically speaking — Mark Twain’s take on it was “If the Eiffel tower were now representing the world’s age, the skin of paint on the pinnacle-knob at its summit would represent man’s share of that age.” Anyway, the IPCC did investigate the palaeoclimate, in Chapter 6, and found the argument wanting — see FAQ on Page 465 (sorry for the 7.70 MB file size people!). This EPA site, as well as this Wikipedia article do have some further answers for you.

“No argument on why plate tectonics, volcanic activity, ocean currents, orbital wobbles, etc, etc have no role the 0.7C of warming in the past 100 years.” Now you’re getting a bit silly Tamas. Plate tectonics, please give me a break, you really are grasping at straws with that one. The volcanoes argument has been repeatedly answered before. To quote “kdkd” from the Cage Match “Ocean currents aren’t an independent variable in this system” please try to understand. “Orbital wobbles” I’ll leave to someone else as after two hours of research and writing I’m tired of this.

Crikey just asserts that we’re ‘beyond debating the science’. What a joke. You have never even attempted to.” Err, no Tamas, there has been a debate, of sorts, in that many have already tried to point you towards websites that do debate, and do debunk, your recycled points. If you chose not to read them, and gain some answers to your naive questions, then it is you that is not debating — because you have not tried to learn or understand.

Graeme Major writes: Stuart Moore (yesterday, comments), By suggesting the simple demonstration, as I did in Crikey two days ago, when challenged to do so by John Watt, I was pointing out how easy it was to show that global warming was enhanced by CO2. It seems you prefer to remain convinced it is all too hard and complicated.

You are labouring under two misapprehensions. First, despite your assertion, the earth’s atmosphere is essentially constrained, and the “loss” of the extra heat and CO2 generated by human activity is not as fast as it is being produced. And second, the test demonstration included both a CO2-enriched tube of air and a control tube of ambient air. The whole point of the exercise was to demonstrate the relative difference in rate of temperature change between them when put in, and then out of, the sun.

Apart from refinement of the global warm predictions, which will be on-going, the basic science is settled. The challenge now is to move to a carbon-neutral economy in time to avoid catastrophic climate change.

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