Friday, August 21, 2009

Onya Carmel!

Sorry I haven't posted in a while, moving house, work etc has all gotten in the way but just watching ABC's Stateline it seems the Shooting Party's bill has been quashed by State Labor with a fair bit of input from Deputy Premier (& Environment Minister) Carmel Tebbut, of course it's all politics but if it quashes bad legislation then it's all good.

More later.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Media Release from the Invasive Animals CRC

New law creates springboard for feral animal problems
The new NSW Game and Feral Animal Control Amendment Bill 2009 runs the risk of increasing Australia’s feral animal populations.

The Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre (IA CRC) is concerned with the new provision for game reserves to be established in NSW, where invasive game animals — many of which have been assessed by the national Vertebrate Pests Committee as ‘extreme’ risks — can be ‘housed’ and birds can be ‘released’ for private hunting.

"Game reserves could act as a potential springboard for invasive species. Some of the animals listed in the Bill are not established in Australia and are even listed as ‘high risk species’ in other jurisdictions. The biosecurity chain is only as strong as its weakest link and game reserves are set to be NSW’s weakest biosecurity link," said Professor Tony Peacock, Chief Executive Officer of the IA CRC.

The Bobwhite quail, for example, is prohibited in Western Australia. It is well suited to mixed habitats and known to compete with species of native quail, yet it is included in the proposed list.
"I’m somewhat flummoxed that we’re still having this debate 150 years after the ‘innocent’ proposal to bring rabbits to Australia. The rabbit has now become one of the most destructive invasive pests in Australia. The English gentleman responsible actually said at the time: ‘The introduction of a few rabbits could do little harm and might provide a touch of home, in addition to a spot of hunting’," said Professor Peacock.

The Bill also appears to conflict with the NSW Invasive Species Plan, the first goal of which is to prevent the establishment of new invasive species. The plan states: ‘The most effective way to minimise the impacts of invasive species is to prevent their initial incursion’.

Other species, such as feral spotted turtle doves, are already found in NSW and illustrate the risk of numbers of feral animals exploding. They first became established in Alice Springs in the early 1990s when just 10 birds were liberated from a backyard aviary. Since then, the population has steadily grown and today numbers are thought to exceed 8000 birds.

"Expanding the list could open a floodgate for possible establishment of problem animals. The biosecurity of the environment is a concern not only for the sake of Australia’s environmental assets, but also because of the scope for wild animals and plants to act as a reservoir for pests and diseases that have broader effects," said Professor Peacock.

"There’s a pretty basic cause and effect scenario that’s likely to result. By including these animals in the Act, there is an incentive to introduce populations that will create a new springboard for invasive animal problems," he said.

If you want to read the proposed legislation it is here

More on the Game and Feral Animal Control bill

Tony Peacock, CEO of the Invasive Animals CRC weighs into it over at Feral Thoughts

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

NSW Shooters Party: What a pack of dickheads.

Hot on the heels of their fucking over of farming communities in Gloucester and the Liverpool Plains the Shooters Party are at it again. Their latest act of bastardry is introducing a bill called the "Game and Feral Animal Control Amendment Bill 2009", now the aim of this bill is:

Overview of Bill
The object of this Bill is to amend the Game and Feral Animal Control Act 2002
(the Act) as follows:
(a) to enable the Minister responsible for national park estate land to make that land available for the hunting of game animals by licensed game hunters,
(b) to expand the list of game animals that may be hunted in accordance with the Act and, in the case of any native game animals that are listed, to impose special requirements in relation to the hunting of those animals by licensed game hunters,
(c) to provide for the operation of private game reserves under the authority of a licence granted by the Game Council,
(d) to make it an offence to approach persons who are lawfully hunting on declared public hunting land or to interfere with persons lawfully hunting game animals,
(e) to make a number of other amendments of an administrative, minor or consequential nature.

Basically they want to open up National Parks for "recreational hunting" (on top of the 2 million hectares of public land they already have available) and want to establish private game reserves where feral animals can be released for the purpose of hunting (and they'd never get out would they?). The Shooters Party and the Game Council like to claim that the hunting is good for controlling feral animals (and at the same time maintain that it helps keep a healthy population of native "game species" - how does that work?) the Invasive Species Council has examined their claims:

Feral animals killed 2007-08 2006-07 Total (average/year)
Deer 410 291 701 (350)
Foxes 724 519 1243 (622)
Goats 1037 1039 2076 (1038)
Pigs 1081 983 2064 (1032)
Cats 136 143 279 (139)
Dogs 55 51 106 (53)
Rabbits 4076 2078 6154 (3077)
Hares 242 244 486 (243)
Total 7761 5348 13,109 (6554)

Given the funding given to the Game Council this equates to $323/feral animal killed in State Forests, obviously a very effective excercise.

So lets look at a few more things in the proposed bill:

Offence of failing to contain game animals in game reserve
(1) The holder of a private game reserve licence must not cause or allow a game animal (other than a bird) to escape from the private game reserve to which the licence relates.
Maximum penalty: 100 penalty units in the case of a corporation or 50 penalty units in the case of an individual.
(2) It is a defence to prosecution for an offence under subsection (1) if it is demonstrated that the defendant took all reasonable steps to prevent the escape of the game animal and, after the escape, took all reasonable steps to capture or kill the game animal.

So it's fine for feral birds to escape from a private game park and a maximum penalty of 100 penalty units should your stock of feral animals escape, a penalty unit is (from memory) $110 dollars so for a corporation the most it will cost you is $11000 or an individual $5500.

"But we went an hunted them after they escaped but they got away" which is where part 2 comes in, great excuse, fuck all responsibility. Lovely.

And one of the ammendments of a minor nature is:

[8] Section 8 Membership and procedure of Game Council
Omit “New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council” from section 8 (2) (e). Insert instead “Minister administering the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983”.

Sounds like a great bit of legislation. I'll have a bit more of a read of it and throw up some links later (and tidy up the post) but if you feel like writing to someone, here's a start:

The Hon. Ian Macdonald, MLCMinister for Primary Industries Email:
Street Address: Governor Macquarie Tower, Level 33, 1 Farrer Place, SYDNEY NSW 2000

The Hon. Carmel Tebbutt, MP Minister for Climate Change & the Environment
Email: Address: Governor Macquarie Tower, Level 30, 1 Farrer Place, SYDNEY NSW 2000

Thursday, June 4, 2009

And more bad news....

The drilling continues....

AGL drilling to go on in Hunter
5/06/2009 5:36:00 AM

BOB KENNEDY'S five-bedroom house dropped 1.8 metres over six days when mining company Xstrata Coal moved into a seam under his 40-hectare vineyard near Broke in the Hunter Valley, but he is more worried about whether the nearby brook will keep bubbling.

He and fellow producers are concerned that the gas company AGL Energy's drilling will interfere with the purity and flow of subterranean aquifers which feed the area's agricultural lifeblood, the Wollombi Brook.

The people of the Broke Fordwich Winegrowers Association area have asked AGL to excise the 26 square kilometres that is home to 25 wine labels from the company's large exploration area.

"We market this part of the world as the tranquil side of the Hunter, because it really is unspoilt. Sydney Gas said there could be over 300 wells in our valley. We are concerned about the ambience and turning it into an industrial-type site," said Mr Kennedy, from the 400-member Hunter Valley Protection Alliance.

However, AGL, which recently paid $171 million to buy out its partner in Hunter exploration, Sydney Gas, intends to keep drilling, according to its group general manager of upstream gas, Michael Moraza.

(given that the asset - the gas - is estimated to be worth $10 billion at todays prices that's not a bad deal - SQ)

"Our intention is not to excise this area and we are not prepared to give any such undertaking to the community," he said.

Mr Kennedy says this makes the coal company and the laws which govern it look comparatively good.

AGL, armed with its exploration permits, Mr Kennedy says, has produced mainly "spin" in dealing with locals concerned about exploration drill holes disturbing coal bed methane gas close to Broke Public School, the effect on the water table and the prospect of a future gas plant.

Gloucester Council and its Hunter neighbours successfully put a motion to the Shires Association of NSW conference in Sydney this week calling on the Rees Government to forbid mining or exploration within scenic protection and urban and rural residential zones.

The motion said there should be special protection for agriculture and water, and environmental impact should be counted above economic benefit to the state when considering gas and coal extraction.

(any bets on their chance of succeeding? - SQ)

Any environmental impact of gas drilling around Broke would be minimal and transitory, Mr Moraza said. AGL has hired an independent consultant and project manager to deal with community concerns.

Fred Nile & Shooters Party love miners, hate farmers.

West of the range they're not happy, not surprising really, they have some of the best agricultural land in the country with the misfortune in having a shitload of coal underneath it. These lands are the kind of areas we will be relying more and more to feed us in the centuries to come, unfortunatelly the state government, Shooters Party and Fred Nile see it differently.

Govt, Nile, Shooters unite against Greens bill protecting prime farming land from mining

Thursday 04 June 2009

Government MPs, the Shooters Party and Rev Fred Nile today indicated they will vote against a Greens bill in the NSW Upper House designed to protect prime agricultural land from mining. Greens MP Lee Rhiannon said farming communities from the Gloucester and Liverpool Plains regions would be understandably disappointed at the outcome.

"This vote will not kill off the campaign to protect our best food-producing land. Local farming communities and the Greens will now redouble our efforts to protect these rich, productive soils from mining," Ms Rhiannon said.

The Safeguarding Agricultural Land and Water from Mining Bill aims to protect prime agricultural land, and the rivers and aquifers that feed that land, from mining.

"Amid fiery debate between MPs, around thirty farmers walked out of the public gallery, shouting 'Shame! Shame!' while Reverend Nile was speaking. They were responding to claims by Rev Nile that farmers have been duped by the Greens.

"The government today missed the opportunity to recognise that the best food-producing land in NSW is a public asset that should be preserved for the future by law.

"Protecting prime farming land is critical because the world is facing the prospect of increasing food insecurity and decreasing harvests as a result of climate change.

"The road block to quarantining valuable agriculture land from mining is the NSW government which has been captured by the mining industry.

"The government pocketed $99 million from BHP Billiton and $300 million from China Shenhua to explore the Liverpool Plains areas.

"Windfalls from mining have blinded the government to the big picture issues of food security and climate change.

"The NSW Shooters Party also deserted farmers today to support the government in opposing this bill. Only yesterday the government allowed the Shooters to introduce their private members bill to expand hunting in NSW.

"Was this a deal? We will never know," Ms Rhiannon said.

Update from "The Land": Battle lost to miners but farmers dig in on land use war

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Normal service will resume......

Sorry I haven't posted recently, been housemoving to my own little shack in the country (does a half acre block count as "acreage"?), once I've finished unpacking and getting myself organised I'll get posting again. In the meantime feel free to say hello (especially if you're good looking and female).

Friday, April 24, 2009

Carbon Capture and Sequestration Bwahahahaha!

I'm sure I've posted somewhere before on my thoughts on CCS, for those who don't know CCS is where Carbon Dioxide is captured at power plants, compressed into a liquid form and pumped underground. Now there's a huge number of reasons I think this is a bad idea, the energy used to do it, the volume needed to store enough to make a difference and the potential for some very serious shit to happen should it leak (Lake Nios anyone?) and certainly the technology isn't available and unlikely to be ready anytime soon (even if it could work).

Now personally I'd be much happier living a couple of kilometres above nuclear waste than I would over highly compressed CO2.

The Sydney Morning Herald has a good story today:

Mining stalwart sees no future in carbon plan

Paddy Manning, Sustainable InvestingApril 25, 2009

Kevin Rudd should meet Graham Brown before he decides to spend billions of dollars on carbon capture and storage. A coalminer for more than 20 years, Brown retired in 2007 and is happy to call a spade a bloody shovel.

Brown, 57, has his own theory on why good money is being wasted on a technology very few have faith in.

Brown, from the Hunter Valley, originally worked in the construction industry, in open-cut and underground coalmines, including for Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton.

He is a staunch unionist but does not toe the corporate line on CCS parroted by officials from the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union.

Brown's main motivation is to see his former colleagues retrained to be able to exit a fading coal industry. He joined the NSW Greens after meeting state MP Lee Rhiannon, who said the party's policy was to make the transition to a clean energy economy with no job losses.
Brown is not a politician and does not want to be one. But he is active locally and takes any opportunity to speak on the transition away from coal.

Last year he took part in a Greenpeace blockade of the Eraring power station, and attracted media attention as one of a handful of miners sympathetic to the action.

"I'm not the only one in the mining industry," Brown says. "There's quite a few and they're coming on board all the time. The blokes in the industry, they're fully aware that there's a problem with burning the coal. They're interested in where they fit into the situation."

Brown is not funded by anyone. He gets a kick out of putting some of the retirement savings he earned from mining back into the cause.

I saw Brown speak at a climate change rally in Sydney in November and was struck by his denunciation of CCS. He says most people working at the coalface know CCS is "just not do-able".

"In the beginning there wasn't a lot of view either way on it but now, because it's been going so long, a lot of the blokes are up to speed on it and they are fully aware that it's nonsense. It's never going to get off the ground. The technology's so expensive that it's not going to be economical."

The main problem is the sheer volume of carbon dioxide that needs to be captured and stored. It is hard to visualise. Brown explains it this way: for every tonne of coal burnt there is 2.5 to 2.7 tonnes of CO2 to store. How big is a tonne of CO2? About 500 cubic metres, as a gas at sea level at room temperature.

Now say coal-fired power stations in Australia emit 100 million tonnes of CO2 each year. The Government hopes CCS will trap 20 per cent of those emissions. If the gas is compressed 500 times, that is about 20 million tonnes a year.

Transporting 20 million tonnes of highly compressed gas is no mean feat. "Look at the infrastructure that needs to be in place to get 80 million tonnes of coal to port," says Brown. "Moving gas is a different kettle of fish to moving coal, I can tell you, because it's got to be stored in an intrinsically safe way - either pipe or trucks or trains".

Where to put it all? Brown says there is really only one place where significant volumes of CO2 can be stored - the Cooper Basin in South Australia, where Santos recently shelved a $700 million CCS project. If that project were revived, Brown says it has been calculated that we would need a B-double lorry carrying six tonnes of CO2 leaving NSW for the Cooper Basin every 20 seconds to store 20 per cent of emissions from the state's power industry.

Then there is the problem of getting the stored CO2 into the ground or, even harder, beneath the sea floor. "You really need a mining industry to get it into the ground," says Brown. "And that's going to create more CO2."

There is also the risk of leakage, made worse by the increase in underground temperatures. "You're talking about a lot of pressure, and there's heaps of cracks. It's only got to come out through a slow leak and it's all for nothing.

"The second you put it into the ground, the more it will expand. If you're going to put it a kilometre underground where the temperature might be 65 degrees Centigrade, it's going to expand a monstrous amount. And that in itself will be the big mechanism where the rocks will crack.

"They can put it in there but whether it will stay there is another thing. I've pointed that out - others have too - and it's not long before people start nodding their head and laughing because they understand that it's not possible."

Brown says CCS is a no-brainer. "It just doesn't cut the ice any more. Most people know that it's a furphy." Brown says the coal companies know it too and until late last year, put little of their money into CCS. "They're not wasting money on it. They're just taking what they can from the Federal Government, and saying 'thank you very much'."

Their main interest is in ramping up extraction of coal-seam gas, Brown says. "Any kind of drilling technology that will be used to try and get this gas down, is also going to be reversed, to be able to be used to mine the carbon qualities of the coal in situ.

"They're having the taxpayer supply a lot of money for that research. They should be doing it themselves. They're going to piggyback on all this carbon capture and storage stuff and they will use that technology for their own benefit.

"It's not a matter of being solely for that but the coal companies already know that research needs to be done to get the gas out, and they will certainly use it if it's available. They might be greedy and they might have deep pockets, but they're not stupid."

For Brown, it means more job losses down the track. "If they can get the methane out of the coal seams, or convert the gas to hydrogen, without having to mine the coal, they'll use that gas and will hardly have to employ anyone."

What really annoys Brown is the attitude of officials at the CFMEU, in particular general president of the mining and energy division, Tony Maher.

He has lined up with coal companies and is backing CCS rather than focusing on retraining workers to get jobs in the green-collar economy.

"Tony Maher made some statements in Newcastle two years ago. I've got them on tape. In a submission to Newcastle council, he called the transition away from the coal industry to anything else the 'geriatric solution'. He made a statement we are by and large too old, and our skill base from the start is too low, to be trained in anything else, insinuating that we should stay in the coal industry because that's all we're good for.

"I played that tape to some of the blokes at work and I can tell you they weren't real happy with Tony, basically calling them untrainable boneheads.

"They didn't like it at all .. We can be trained in anything. Who do you think maintains the equipment in the mining industry? Doesn't he know that a lot of the truck drivers and plant operators are actually some sort of a tradesman? We definitely have the skills base.

"And who does he think is going to do the work in the renewable energy industry, and other industries as well, because statistics in Europe - and a study by Greenpeace on the Central Coast of NSW - show that there's six times more jobs in the transition away from coal than there is in it.

"I think we should be gunning for it. We definitely have the skills and he didn't do a very good service to his members. I don't see why miners should be thrown on the scrap heap by a bloody coal company. There should be a mechanism to let them flow on to other jobs."

So why do we keep throwing good money after bad? When are our planetary dynamic duo Wong & Garrett going to actually do something? Well anything really?

I'm back!

Sorry I've been far too quiet of late but there's been far too much buying houses, riding motorcycles, drinking beer and watching medieval battle going on but normal service will resume....... well sometime.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

"...the truth? WE CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH!"

Didn't know whether to shake my head or laugh when I read this over at abc news, seems someone should tell Joe Tripodi that coal IS a non renewable resource and digging it out of the ground tends to more or less fuck up the area:

Anger at Rudd's adviser over coal comments

The New South Wales Government has questioned the impartiality of a top-level Commonwealth adviser after he raised concerns about a planned expansion of Newcastle's coal facilities.

Infrastructure Australia Advisory Board member Professor Peter Newman says the damage caused by coal will increase dramatically if Newcastle's port facilities are doubled.

Professor Newman has also questioned the credentials of "clean coal" technology.
"Coal is not a renewable resource, it's the major source of climate change emissions," he said. "A long-term future around increases in coal would be a mistake."

NSW Ports Minister Joe Tripodi says he now has serious reservations about Professor Newman's ability to be impartial.

"Mr Newman needs to decide whether he can comfortably meet his obligations," he said. "We need to remind him to not allow his personal views to affect his obligations."

The NSW Minerals Council is also concerned but NSW Greens MP Lee Rhiannon has welcomed the comments, saying they could mark a turning point in the way governments treat the coal industry.

"They now have the experts giving them clear advice," she said. "They need to come forward with a planned transition program, particularly for areas like the Hunter with a long reliance on the coal industry. The writing is on the wall. It is going to change."

Professor Newman has refused to say if he would consider stepping down from the Infrastructure Australia board.

More than $1 billion is being spent expanding Newcastle's Coal loading facilities.

Monday, March 30, 2009

More commentary on the Victorian Bushfires

Andrew Campbell, former Executive Director of Land and Water Australia has written about the Victorian Bushfires and pretty much makes the same points (although more eloquently) as I previously have. Glad to know I'm not alone.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Pee on a Tree Day update.

In response to much (well one) questioning, those who are a little embarassed about going out in the open and peeing on a tree go and find yourself a composting toilet or long drop. There problem solved now get back out there and tell people.

Place your bets...

I had to laugh when I read this headline:

Garrett opposed to Kimberley gas plant: Oils drummer

In the article former bandmate Rob Hirst claims Peter Garrett won't allow the contentious Kimberly gas plant to go ahead, yeah right! In his time as Environment Minister Garrett has approved Gunns paper mill in Tasmania, a huge water desalination plant in Victoria, the McArthur River mine extension and of course he's done bugger all for the whales and that's just for starters.

So who's prepared to put money on him stopping the Kimberley gas plant?

June 25th International Pee on a Tree Day!

I've just declared it, see my rantings about Earth Hour below.

Earth Hour! What a load of crap!

Hi all, sorry it's been so long since I've posted but I'm back and I'm fiesty so here goes.

So did anyone turn their lights off for "Earth Hour" last night? Turn your lights off for an hour and save the planet? What a load of shit, 20 years of "awareness rasing" and this is the best we can come up with a counterproductive feelgood excercise.

Lets face it do you really think those coal powered turbines were shut down for an hour while you lit up your house with (most likely non renewable parafin wax) candles? Honestly the whole thing does a whole three parts of fuck all to reduce the problem and and will do very little to achieve Kevin Rudd's piss poor five percent reduction.

No doubt people will say I'm being too cynical and it's all about "awareness raising", this has been going on for the past twenty years and the best we can come up with is to turn the lights off and hide in the dark? (which somehow seems quite appropriate)

Wanna help the planet? Pee on a tree. Seriously, you'd save around five to ten litres of water a flush (well ok I should check that one), you'd save the energy used in collecting, treating, transporting and treating again. So if we can get a million peeple (spelling intended) to pee on a tree rather then flush it down the drain we'll save 5-10 million litres of water and the attendant energy use.

Y'know what? That's not such a silly idea, why not a national, no sorry International Pee on a Tree Day? If we make it June 25th that gives us two months, right, who's in? I know there's people who read this blog, surely one or two of you think this is a good idea and have some sort of creative ability? This could get really big and it'd really piss off those Earth Hourers (sorry just had to do that). We need logo's slogans, stickers, publicity.... Today the lemon tree, tomorrow the world!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Last comment on the Victorian Fires (for now anyway)

As I mentioned the recent Victorian bushfires took place under some fairly extreme conditions, the Bureau of Meteorology put out a statement on the prevailing conditions on the 12th of February which makes for some very worrying reading: read it here

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Trouble with Humans.

A couple of things about you humans is that you love simple one size fits all answers and when things go wrong you want to find a scapegoat to blame (see my previous posting "The Blame Game"). In the wake of the Victorian bushfires there have been the inevitable calls for more hazard reduction burning, wide firebreaks around towns and settlements (hence negating the reason many people moved there in the first place but I'm digressing) as the one size fits all panacea. Unfortunately unless you blacken every hectare, every year you will still have fires and more than likely loss of life and property.

I went through Victoria last weekend and while I did avoid my usual route which would have taken me right through the middle of the burnt zone I did go through some burnt area along the Hume Highway to the North of Melbourne. I didn't take any photos of the burnt area (just didn't feel right) but took some up the road and the following I think are pretty instructive:

The above images are fairly typical of what the ground around the Broadford area would have been like prior to the fires, what the photos show are the relatively low amount of fuel available to burn and the very dry conditions prevailing at the time. Under normal circumstances a fire in this fuel load is fairly easy to suppress, reading the burnt out area showed the conditions were far from normal. The low level of ash in some areas indicated the grass had been eaten to ground level but still burnt out, many of the trees and shrubs along the freeway show scorch to only around 30-50 cm and the tops of many low shrubs (1-2m) didn't burn indicating a very fast moving fire running along the ground for most part pushed along by high winds. Firebreaks (such as the highway) were ineffective, fuel level was already quite low and it would have been absolutely horrendous to be there trying to control it.
When we hear calls for more fuel reduction in this case certainly we need to ask just how much more could it possibly be reduced? There is a role for hazard reduction (and ecological) burns and under normal circumstances they are quite effective (and as someone who has had around 20 years of bushfirefighting experience I do know a little about it) but under extreme circumstances they're often little but a momentary lull.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Blame Game.

It was inevitable the blame game would start quickly and it was also inevitable that it would be "the greenies" who would be blamed for the tragic bushfires in Victoria, it was also inevitable that the armchair experts wouldn't identify which particular "greenies" they were nor would proof be offered as to what it was "the greenies" did. But all that doesn't matter but finding someone to blame and pointing the finger is all that really matters here, there's no point whatsoever letting the facts get in the way of rabble rousing.

I just posted the following on a forum I frequent and to save retyping I've shamelessly copied and pasted my own work, it will probably give you a better insight into things than perusing the daily fishwrappers:

Had a quick skim of this report: ... report.pdf, one of the things which caught my eye is that a fire intensity of greater than 3500W/m2 is regarded as uncontrollable. A fuel load of roughly 500g/m2 under a Forest Fire Danger Index (FFDI) of 100 put out this sort of energy. That's a very low fuel load conditions last weekend in Victoria led to a FFDI of 300, which is fairly unheard of (at least not in those areas anyway), under those conditions fire on a dry lawn is pretty well uncontrollable (and I have seen conditions like that). Unless you've got a completely scorched earth under those conditions any fire will be difficult, if not impossible to control.

Another factor is that many areas where the fires have burnt are dominated by Wet Schlerophyll Forest, what this means is that there's a Eucalypt overstory but the under and mid story are dominated by rainforest plants and while there is a lot of growth and vegetation in there it is generally too moist to burn in anything other than small patches. The only way to get it to burn is for it to dry out, on the rare occassions it does dry out the fuel load is very high which means that there will be a high intensity fire.

Hazard reduction is useful, however it only a reduction of the hazard and not an elimination of it, it's quite possible for an area to have a hazard reduction burn in winter or spring and still carry an intense fire later in the summer. This was the case of the January 1994 fires in Port Stephens, a fire started on the side of the road (probably from some idiot tossing out a ciggie butt) where the Water Board had carried out a hazard reduction the previous winter, the first tanker was there only minutes after it started, it was very low humidity, high winds and temperature in the high 30's. I was on the first truck there, under normal circumstances with the short time taken to get there and the low fuel load we'd have gotten in out in a few minutes.

Under the conditions of the time it quickly jumped the road into tall heath and it was off. A few days later when we thought we had the fire just about locked away we got our morning weather report predicting temperatures in the low-mid 40's, high westerly winds and humidity of 8% (I found out later humidity had gotten to zero), just after lunch it went off. Areas we thought we'd secured a couple of days beforehand (backburning, full mop ups) had the fire go through again, we heard the fire, we saw the fire, got choked by the smoke and the front had passed us, a very terrifying 30 seconds or so.

I would imagine there'd be worse stories to tell from the Victorian fires, if you want somewhere to be fully fireproof that's easy, concrete everything within a 2 kilometre radius and have no plants whatsoever in your garden, if you want to live in areas surrounded by bush then you have to accept that there is a good chance there will be fires and manage and plan accordingly. With the whole "tree change" thing there are many people moving into these areas with no experience of fires, no knowledge of the precautions needed. But unfortunatelly under extreme conditions, extreme things happen and sometimes no matter how well you prepare it may not be enough.

Friday, February 13, 2009

A response to "Catch the Fire Ministries" excreble media release.

A friend of mine tried to post a response to Danny Nalliah's media release blaming Victoria's abortion laws for being the cause of the bushfires. Unsurprisingly it wasn't published, so with his permission I'll post it here (Thanks Col.).

Indeed it is wise of God to allow the death of children to show indignation at the death of children. Then again there is a bit of history in this type of thinking:


Hosea 9:11-16 Hosea prays for God’s intervention. “Ephraim shall bring forth his children to the murderer. Give them, 0 Lord: what wilt thou give? Give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts. . .Ephraim is smitten, their root is dried up, they shall bear no fruit: yea though they bring forth, yet will I slay even the beloved fruit of their womb.” Clearly Hosea desires that the people of Ephraim can no longer have children. God of course obeys by making all their unborn children miscarry. Is not terminating a pregnancy unnaturally “abortion”?

Numbers 5:11-21 The description of a bizarre, brutal and abusive ritual to be performed on a wife SUSPECTED of adultery. This is considered to be an induced abortion to rid a woman of another man’s child.

Numbers 31:17 (Moses) “Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every women that hath known man by lying with him.” In other words: women that might be pregnant, which clearly is abortion for the fetus.

Hosea 13:16 God promises to dash to pieces the infants of Samaria and the “their women with child shall be ripped up”. Once again this god kills the unborn, including their pregnant mothers.

2 Kings 15:16 God allows the pregnant women of Tappuah (aka Tiphsah) to be “ripped open”. And the Christians have the audacity to say god is pro-life. How and the hell is it that Christians can read passages where God allows pregnant women to be murdered, yet still claim abortion is wrong?


1 Samuel 15:3 God commands the death of helpless "suckling" infants. This literally means that the children god killed were still nursing.

Psalms 135:8 & 136:10 Here god is praised for slaughtering little babies.

Psalms 137:9 Here god commands that infants should be “dashed upon the rocks”.

The murdering of children:

Leviticus 20:9 “For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death: he hath cursed his father or his mother; his blood shall be upon him.”

Judges 11:30-40 Jephthah killed his young daughter (his only child) by burning her alive as a burnt sacrifice to the lord for he commanded it.

Psalms 137:8-9 Prayer/song of vengeance “0 daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed; happy shall he be that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us. Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.”

2 Kings 6:28-29 “And the king said unto her, What aileth thee? And she answered, This woman said unto me, Give thy son, that we may eat him today, and we will eat my son tomorrow. So we boiled my son, and did eat him: and I said unto her on the next day, Give thy son, that we may eat him: and she hath hid her son.”

Deuteronomy 21:18-21 “If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.”

Judges 19:24-29 “Behold, here is my daughter a maiden, and his concubine; them I will bring out now, and humble ye them, and do with them what seemeth good unto you: but unto this man do not so vile a thing. But the men would not hearken to him: so the man took his concubine, and brought her forth unto them; and they knew her, and abused her all the night until the morning: and when the day began to spring, they let her go. Then came the woman in the dawning of the day, and fell down at the door of the man’s house where her lord was, till it was light. And her lord rose up in the morning, and opened the doors of the house, and went out to go his way: and behold, the woman his concubine was fallen down at the door of the house, and her hands were upon the threshold. And he said unto her, Up, and let us be going. But none answered. Then the man took her up upon an ass, and the man rose up, and gat him unto his place. And when he was come into his house, he took a knife, and laid hold on his concubine, and divided her, together with her bones, into twelve pieces, and sent her into all the coasts of Israel.” To put it very bluntly this poor, young lady was murdered by her mate for being raped.

Exodus 12:29 God killed, intentionally, every first-born child of every family in Egypt, simply because he was upset at the Pharaoh. And god caused the Pharaoh’s actions in the first place. Since when is it appropriate to murder children for their ruler’s forced action?

Exodus 20:9-10 God commands death for cursing out ones parents Joshua 8 God commanded the deaths of 12,000 men, women, and children of Ai. They were all slain in the ambush that was planned by god.

2 Kings 2:23-24 The prophet Elisha, was being picked on by some young boys from the city because of his bald head. The prophet turned around and cursed them in the Lords name. Then, two female bears came out of the woods and killed forty-two of them. You would think that God could understand that sometimes the youthful make childish jokes. Calling someone “bald head” is far from being worthy of death.

Leviticus 26:30 “And ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall ye eat.”

1 Samuel 15:11-18 God repents of having made Saul king since Saul refused to carry out God’s commandments (i.e., Saul refused to murder all the innocent women and children.) At least god realizes what an immoral, murderous pig he is on this one.

I Kings 16:34 Laying the foundation for a city using your firstborn child and using your youngest son to set up the gates.

Isaiah 13:15-18 If God can find you, he will “thrust you through,” smash your children “to pieces” before your eyes, and rape your wife.

Jeremiah 11:22-23 God will kill the young men in war and starve their children to death.

Jeremiah 19:7-9 God will make parents eat their own children, and friends eat each other.

Lamentations 2:20-22 God gets angry and mercilessly torments and kills everyone, young and old. He even causes women to eat their children.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Utterly Contemptible

Words cannot describe the contempt in which I hold this idiot. What's even worse is the support his followers are giving him. SMH story here.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Smithsonian's Avian Forensics Lab.

The New York Times has a very interesting article (to me at least) on the Smithsonian Institute's Feather Identification Lab, their main work is in identifying what species of bird managed to get sucked into an aeroplane engine. As you can imagine they wouldn't have much to work with so it gets down to feathers, DNA and bird guts. Once they've identified the bird they can then make management recommendations for the airport to avoid similar impacts.

(oh and for one of those names suiting the occupation things, one of the scientists working there is a Dr Dove)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Maggie Thatcher: Environmental Hero. Yes "that" one and yes I am serious.

Ok I admit it, I usually lean to the left on most political issues and tend to regard the right of politics with slightly more distrust than what is laughingly referred to as the "left" (personally I'm of the opinion that the last proper socialist Prime Minister we had in this country was Malcolm Fraser - and I know a few thinking lefties that agree with me). But having said that I do have a policy of giving credit where credit is due and despite having some major difference with her economic and social policies I do have to admit that following her conversion former British Pime Minister Maggie Thatcher was a very good environmental advocate. In fact if you really want to upset a climate skeptic, tell them it was Maggie and not Al Gore who was pushing all this.

Margaret Thatcher was probably one of the first prominant politicians in recent times to start talking about environmental issues. Despite being slow to initially come around to seeing the problems of chlorflourocarbons on the ozone layer....

".........when British scientists were able in 1988 to bring the ozone issue personally before Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who had an academic degree in chemistry, the U.K. position changed almost overnight and the British thereafter became a leading proponent of phaseout for all ozone-depleting substances."

The change was so rapid that in a September 1988 speech to the Royal Society she was warning of the dangers of global warming, ozone depletion and acid deposition, the latter two are no longer contentious. Thatcher studied chemistry at Oxford University which gave her the knowledge to analyse the information put to her and realise the issues were real and helped her understand the real issues. Even now that influence continues in the British Conservative Party with the Tories quite rightly pressing the Labor Party for not doing enough, totally the opposite situation to here in Australia.

It is a sad fact of life that scientists are rarely drawn to go into politics with parliament tending to being filled with lawyers, accountants, bankers and union officials (on both sides of the house).

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Indonesia, I take it back.

Well it did sound too good to be true. I wonder if this year the Japanese will prove definitively that firing an explosive harpoon into the head of a whale really does lead to it's death. It's the only possible research they could be doing.

From the ABC

Whaling ship repaired, will resume hunt: Japan
By north Asia correspondent Mark Willacy
Posted Tue Jan 20, 2009 7:26am AEDT Updated Tue Jan 20, 2009 7:25am AEDT
Japan says one of its whaling ships is heading back to Antarctic waters after having repairs done in Indonesia.
Greenpeace had earlier said the ship was returning to Japan.
The Yushin Maru II had made a port call in Indonesia to repair a broken propeller, and despite reports that the whaling ship was refused permission to dock Japan's fisheries agency says the ship has been fixed and is now heading back to Antarctic waters.
Greenpeace said last week that the ship had abandoned the hunt. Activists from the Sea Shepherd conservation group had confronted the Yushin Maru II on open seas, bombarding the whaling ship with tubs of rancid butter.
Japan has accused the group of eco terrorism.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

So it's not just me? Well that's a relief!

You may have noticed over there -----> that I've put a counter up for the purposes of seeing if I'm just talking to myself or not. And it appears I'm not, so that's one less reason to doubt my sanity (there's still a great long list though).

Oh and feel free to say "hello" if any of this is at all interesting.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Good onya Indonesia!

Now Indonesia cops a bit of criticism for all sorts of things but in the spirit of giving credit where it is due (I might even do a friendly posting on Maggie Thatcher sometime) I must congratulate them on their decision not to allow a Japanese "scientific" whaling ship to dock for repairs. Lets just hope they don't give in to the inevitable political pressure the Japanese government is likely to apply.

From the ABC.

Indonesia refuse repairs for Japanese whaling ship
By Indonesia correspondent
Geoff Thompson
Posted Fri Jan 16, 2009 7:38pm AEDT Updated Fri Jan 16, 2009 7:37pm AEDT

Authorities in Indonesia have complied with requests from Australian conservation groups to stop a Japanese whaling ship from being repaired in a Surabaya port.
The damaged Japanese whaling ship the Yushin Maru 2 has avoided attempting to dock in Australian ports because its crew fears prosecution under an Australian Federal Court order, says the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
The Yushin Maru 2 has been seeking to be repaired in East Java at Surabaya's state-owned shipyard.
But following requests from anti-whaling organisations in Australia, port authorities in Surabaya have refused to allow the Yushin Maru 2 to be repaired there.
Indonesia's foreign affairs spokesman Teuku Faizasyah says the Australian Government made no formal request to deny port access to the Japanese whaling ship.

Another Damn Act of Political Bastardry

Using the principle of there being no point in having power unless you abuse it this week the New South Wales state government declared (it starts at page 131, interesting the Huntlee development at Cessnock has been declared as well, so why do we have local government if the state does all the approvals?) the Tillegra Dam to be "Critical Infrastructure" under Part 3a of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act. This means that public input into the process is limited and there's no right of appeal, it also means approval is in the hands of the Minister for Planning.

Now as we've seen State Government aren't putting any money into it, the Central Coast (for whom the announcement was originally directed) isn't putting any money into it and neither are developers so it's all going to fall back onto ratepayers in the lower Hunter to finance the $400 million or so project. As well as this it means Dungog Council is going to lose rates revenue meaning they'll be even harder pressed to provide services for ratepayers (and those of us who pass through every now and then), like, umm, better roads, they're already in a shocking condition in many spots and are bound to get worse (another earlier post here).

Now while doing a little background googling for this post I found an interesting page for the modelling of how the whole thing would look, which despite my thoughts on the matter looked pretty cool and then I read down and found this:

"When Hunter Water Australia and the NSW premier's department approached Arterra, the company was given only three days to produce visualizations. The problem was how to create quality visualizations within such a tight timeframe................
...............The end products were provided to the media (television and press) at the announcement of Tillegra dam funding."

Indicating pretty much what we already knew that it was a rush job designed to shore up votes in the last state election.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Journalistic Claptrap!

Over at the Dilly Telegraph (sorry Daily Telegraph) we're seeing a great example of piss poor journalism, it starts off like this:

NASA tells Barack Obama Australia is destroying earth with coal emissions

Now NASA never said anything of the sort, go a little further into the article you'll see:

AUSTRALIA'S use of coal and carbon emissions policies are guaranteeing the "destruction of much of the life on the planet", a leading NASA scientist has written in a letter to Barack Obama.

The head of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Professor James Hansen, has written an open letter to Barack Obama calling for a moratorium on coal-fired power stations and the use of next-generation nuclear power.

In the letter he says: "Australia exports coal and sets atmospheric carbon dioxide goals so large as to guarantee destruction of much of the life on the planet."

So we've already seen a bullshit headline designed to stir up the masses and sell newspapers and now it looks like Hansen is using the letter to attack Australia (well if that doesn't stir people into a patriotic frenzy - and sell more fishwrappers - nothing will). But what did Hansen really say? Well with about 30 seconds on "the google" we can find Hansens letter. You'll need to scroll down a bit as there's various notes and other bits of correspondence there but when you do you'll eventually find:

The physics of the matter, together with empirical data, also define the need for a carbon tax. Alternatives such as emission reduction targets, cap and trade, cap and dividend, do not work, as proven by honest efforts of the ‘greenest’ countries to comply with the Kyoto Protocol:

(1) Japan: accepted the strongest emission reduction targets, appropriately prides itself on having the most energy-efficient industry, and yet its use of coal has sharply increased, as have its total CO2 emissions. Japan offset its increases with purchases of credits through the clean development mechanism in China, intended to reduce emissions there, but Chinese emissions increased rapidly.

(2) Germany: subsidizes renewable energies heavily and accepts strong emission reduction targets, yet plans to build a large number of coal-fired power plants. They assert that they will have cap-and-trade, with a cap that reduces emissions by whatever amount is needed. But the physics tells us that if they continue to burn coal, no cap can solve the problem, because of the long carbon dioxide lifetime.

(3) Other cases are described on my Columbia University web site, e.g., Switzerland finances construction of coal plants, Sweden builds them, and Australia exports coal and sets atmospheric carbon dioxide goals so large as to guarantee destruction of much of the life on the planet.

Indeed, ‘goals’ and ‘caps’ on carbon emissions are practically worthless, if coal emissions continue, because of the exceedingly long lifetime of carbon dioxide in the air. Nobody realistically expects that the large readily available pools of oil and gas will be left in the ground. Caps will not cause that to happen – caps only slow the rate at which the oil and gas are used. The only solution is to cut off the coal source (and unconventional fossil fuels).

So did you see it? (You should've I put it in bold for you) One line, hardly a letter bagging just Australia, it sticks the boot into many other countries. And as for our carbon dioxide goals well Kevin 05 has figured a 5% cut is good enough which will do nothing to reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere so technically the statement is right.

And the letter is signed:

James and Anniek Hansen
United States of America

He and his (I'm presuming, I couldn't be bothered searching) wife have signed it as private citizens, not as the head of NASA's Goddard Institue nor as a Professor from Columbia University, so NASA hasn't told Barack that Australia is destroying the earth. More hard hitting factual journalism brought to you by the Dilly Telegraph.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

From the front.

I've previously mentioned the actions by the locals opposed to coal mining on the Liverpool Plains. I was out that way last week and took a couple of pics. Their website here, good luck guys.

Friday, January 2, 2009

An Open Letter to Fred Nile.

New South Wales politician Fred Nile has been feeling a little neglected of late so has decided to stir things up by calling for a ban on topless bathing (supposedly for the sake of Muslims and Asians that want to go to the beach, which is a little hypocritical considering some of his statements about Mulims in the past), I wish I could claim credit for the following letter but credit where credit is due my old mate Drunkwombat is responsible for the following (reprinted with permission - Thanks DW):

A letter to Reverend Fred Nile MLC

G’day Fred, me ol’ China!

Haven’t heard from you for ages! I thought you’d dropped off the perch when you were trying to get the Dykes on Bikes off the road because they were a traffic hazard! Times flies when you’re having fun eh?

So it was of great surprise to hear you trying to protect the muslims and the asians from the sheer terror of women topless sunbathing at Bondi Beach. I know it must be hard for them to deal with all that ‘uncovered meat’ as they so eloquently put it. I mean, how does a man have the will and fortitude to walk past a half naked woman on a beach and NOT rape her? The male adult population of this fine land seem to be able to saunter by without barely a glance (well, maybe just a little one!) with no problems at all, but ever considerate busybodies like yourself insist on knowing whats good for the rest of us.

The women folk who choose to sunbathe topless are obviously comfortable with the situation, other wise they wouldn’t do it. Right? Tan lines are far worse, obviously, than being perved on.

So, Freddy, what’s bothering you? Really? Get right down to it.I know; you were walking around Kirribilli House and found John Howard’s old DOG WHISTLE, didn’t you? After giving it a few little peeps, you thought you’d try and stick it to all those liberal minded, free thinking left wing pinkos. I can imagine your little internal dialogue now “Oh yes, when the perverts say they don’t want topless sunbathing banned I’ll cunningly reply that you are a bunch of Cronulla type beach racists and then they’ll be stuffed! Hooray for me !!!”

Sorry Fred, me old mate. A decade of Howardism has left us with finely tuned ears for this kind of wedge politics. At least ol Johnny could get away with it on occasion. You, you old git, can’t It must be hard these days, being a man of the cloth. Hard to get a crowd of paying punters for your Sunday morning magic show and sing along. But when people evolve and develop the ability to think for themselves and not feel guilty about everyday activities, getting up early on a Sunday for a dose of scaremongering just didn’t cut it anymore. Especially when you’re coming down of a gut full of rum and disco biscuits.

So Fred, chill the fuck out okay! Get them Christians that are your supporters and go do something genuinely good, like help poor and sick people (which, if you read the fine print is ‘company policy’ for you God botherer types) If Allah don’t surf, that’s his problem. I wouldn’t go to Riyadh and demand I can run around with no pants, because I would respect the local customs (and they’d probably shoot me). C’mon Fred, put your feet up. CHILLAX MAN!

Yours SincerelyTim (aka Drunkwombat)Dungog

PS-If I’ve offended you, do the Christian thing: Forgive me.