Wednesday, December 5, 2012

That "Parched" Stuff? It's Water

THAT Fairfax reporters are incompetent when not actively biased has been known and widely recognised for some time, especially by those who no longer buy or read the Silly and Phage. A young and naive lawyer shacks up with a crook, helps him via a concocted power attorney to conceal a significant property investment from his abandoned wife, and then gets fired when her malfeasance comes to light. To most, that would represent a prima facie case that the crook had been hanging his trousers on the bedpost of an arrogant and devious slut, but by the reckoning of Michelle, Lenore, Katharine, Phillip and all the other Fairfax girls it is glowing evidence of a strong, confident and admirably independent modern woman.

Perception is , of course, an entirely subjective thing, and sympathy must come easy to reporters who long ago sold their own honour for the privelege of parroting press releases and talking points from those whose approval and warm regards they value more highly than truth. So perhaps, on that score alone, the refusal by all but Mark Baker to take a closer look at the crook in The Lodge can by explained, if not endorsed.

But what about those moments when there is absolutely no room to grant the benefit of the doubt,  when those papers prove so blind to impartial reason that the visual evidence they provide directly contradicts the assertions of their own words? Here is a recent example (emphasis added at the Billabong):

WHEN is logging not logging? When it is ''ecological thinning'' in national parks, according to the governments of New South Wales and Victoria.

The two states are conducting trials in national parks on both sides of the Murray River. Under the project, trees will be cut down at 22 sites over about 400 hectares of the Barmah National Park in Victoria and the Murray Valley National Park in NSW. Most of the timber will be burnt as firewood.

The study will examine whether felling smaller trees gives more established trees a better chance of surviving in the parched environment.

Parched environment, eh? Here's the picture that appears just  a centimetre or so above that description.

It isn't just moral and political corruption that is laying Fairfax low. It's that the company has elevated blind stupidity to a prime virtue.

A NOTE: Anyone genuinely interested in the health of the Murray, particularly around Barmah (where the Professor once hooked a Murray Cod so large it could not have been landed without the assistance of a Land Rover's PTO winch), needs to read this. It will explain why those red gums need thinning, why the myth of their timeless presence is so oft and loudly repeated, and why Fairfax's green legion of environment writers should never, ever be believed, slack and lazy bastards that they are.)


  1. Wow, Professor. You're not holding back this morning! Love your blog

  2. Well, you can't pay attention to detail when there's a panic on. When just about every prediction on global warming is crumbling around your ears and people are starting to take notice of people talking more sense you've just got to go harder.

    1. A month ago a group of climate scientists were pleading with their colleagues to stop all the exaggeration and horror stories. It was counter-productive. Within weeks, out comes the claim of a six percent rise in temperature in the next 100 years. I thought four per cent was already scrapped as not credible. Oh well, if we get six, nothing matters much. We're all doomed. Let's not worry about the future of the Murray. In the future the earth will be swallowed up by the sun, anyway.

      Pedro of Adelaide

  3. Aye, give it to those slack Fairfax buggers - and to think Rodger the dodger wants Gina to sign some bullshit editorial rubbishy thing.
    My question is how could a once great newspaper be laid so low as to be spurned by every intelligent reader?
    I think this could be a great doctorate paper for someone to track and explain the demise of say The Age - my betting is the decline began when they took on the first leftie bludger as editor from the London Guardian.

    1. Nonny there are enough bludgers sucking on the public teet without giving some PhD aspirant a cheque to spend the next three years attempting to reveal what we all know. The wankers employed by the age are the reason for its ongoing reduction in quality. Do I get my PhD now? Didn't cost a cent. Of course we could get Professor Summers to be his/her supervisor and the result would be really hilarious.

  4. That article is far too logical for any of our mighty left or our tree huggers to accept.

    Those damn explorers were simply wrong I tell you. Wrong! After all actual scientific evidence that the planet hasn't warmed and that the Chinese have increased their emissions is not to be believed. So why should they believe some old timers visual acuity?

  5. Among the various indigenous groups, "fire-stick farming": burning the grass and then catching the wildlife that ran from the flames (or was cooked by them), was a common practice. What it meant was that, inland, pasture predominated over forests for the simple reason that any seeds that survived the fast-moving grass fires of one year, would likely not survive the next burn a couple of years later. Also, because the fires were fast-moving and not too intense, the grasses could rapidly regrow through the ashes.

    Eucalypts in general are, however, a "fire-climax" species. They actually NEED fire to prosper. The passing grass fire helps crack the bullet-proof seed pods and in addition, burns off any grass and shrubbery that might compete.

    The regular, low-level burning of huge swathes of Australia meant that there was a LOT of grass dotted with patches of trees when the European explorers first saw the place. See Mitchell's notes for one example.

    Once this cyclic burning ceased, the vegetation regime started to change rapidly. The settlers chopped, pulled and ring-barked as fast as they could, but the scrubby stuff came back inexorably and in places, the eucalypts took hold.

    Does anyone have any record of the burning history along the Murray?

    This rise of the eucalypts has also been at the cost of the greenies beloved "rain-forests"; not that Australia has much in the way of REAL rainforst - it's more "wet sclerophyll" in most places.

    When the eucalypts abut a "rain forest, guess what happens when the gum trees burn? The destruction spreads into the edges of the "rain forest". Guess what sort of vegetation quickly dominates this cleared space? It is not the cuddly "rainforest" species.

    If, on top of this, you expend a lot of money and effort preventing and fighting all fires in the woods, guess what also happens. The "fuel load" increases rapidly and dramatically in good seasons. WHEN, not if, it goes up, the heat from the fire-storm utterly destroys everything above and BELOW ground. The destruction by heat of ALL seeds and most importantly. the micro-organisms in the soil, means that only the hardiest plant species will recolonize the area; weeds, then acacias, then eucalypts. That bit of "rainforest" is gone forever.

    1. Not specifically along the Murray that I am aware of although Sturt did record passing through a wooded area near Barmah that had recently been burnt. Trees felled by the fire were still smouldering and those still standing "were scathed to their very summits." Edward Curr, the squatter, understood and discussed "firestick farming" and recorded in his book "Recollections of Squatting in Victoria" that the reed beds near Barmah had been burned in a mosaic pattern.
      Although not specifically related to the Murray there is a very detailed study of aboriginal burning in Bill Gammage's "The Biggest Estate on Earth" which, taken in conjunction with Curr, Sturt and others, puts more of the jigsaw puzzle in place.
      Vic Jurskis, a NSW forest scientist, has published a couple of papers which confirm that the red gum forests only began to spread when aboriginal burning ceased.

    2. David, what a pleasure to see you commenting here. Your Quadrant article was a revelation and should be read by all. Also worth reading is Howitt's "The Eucalypts of Gippsland", which made the point as long ago as the 1890's that the cessation of Indigenous burning had prompted radical changes in the area's ecology, most particularly plagues of caterpillars that were eating the red gums to death.

      My prediction for Barmah now that the cattle have gone and the greenies are in charge: It will become overgrown, will burn and be irrevocably changed. The greenies will say this is "natural" and argue for more grants to stop the damage they are causing.

      Everyone should read Gammage's book, which solves a riddle:

      Q: How did Hume and Hovel bring drays from up north through hundreds of miles of thick, "natural" bush as we see it today.

      A: They didn't. In those days Indigenous burning kept the country open and park-like.

    3. Thanks for the kind words, professor.
      The pleasure at finding someone interested enough to host a discussion on a subject close to my heart is all mine.
      I fear your prognosis for the future of the forest is right on the money.
      I'm told that most of the timber from the thinning "experiments" is actually destined to lie on the ground to become every firefighters' worst nightmare -- something called "habitat".
      This is due to the work of (with great respect) a professor from one of the great learning establishments who reckons that, because he could only trap a certain small critter in close proximity to big piles of rotting wood, they must need it for their livelihood.
      They don't need it, but they find it convenient (just as hungry humans find fish 'n chips shops convenient) because rotting wood attracts all manner of other critters to which said beastie is addicted.
      I wonder how they fared before white settlers rearranged the ecology.
      Bill Gammage's book is pure gold.

  6. What shocks me is that we have so quickly forgotten that the Murray was a seasonal river, like the Darling and all of our myriad creeks that only flow when it rains.
    That's why there were locks built all along the river - to maintain a constant supply of water for the paddle steamers. That's why the Snowy Mountains Scheme was built - to increase and maintain river flows at economically useful levels.
    But now if the river starts looking even a little bit parched it's considered 'unnatural'. Good heavens.

  7. All good and well but I write in defence of Fairfax journos at the Australian Financial Review who, under Michael Stutchbury's fine editorial leadership, write so well that they have increased the AFR's circulation. The SMH and Pravda-on-the-Yarra continue to alienate their readership with environmental clap-trap, carbon hyperbole, sinophobic propaganda and paens to the pathetic Cabinet members in a disgraceful, inept and corrupt Federal government

    1. I'd take another look at those AFR circulation numbers, if I were you. Like Coles, they are down, down, and then down some more.


    3. Hmmm....Circulation figures for the March quarter show that the weekday edition of the AFR dropped 3% while the Saturday edition plummeted an impressive 11.8%. Still compared to the SMH and the Age,with drops of 13.6% and 13.5% respectively, I suppose those numbers could be construed as some sort of " relative increase", particularly if Coorey happened to be reporting on the matter.

  8. As a person that was involved with the NSW Red Gum Sawmill industry back in the 1980's I know that Red Gum is a weed.

    David Joss is a good man and has many stories to tell.

  9. The Old and Unimproved DaveDecember 5, 2012 at 2:38 PM

    Professor, the Silly and the Age may be collectively referred to as the 'Silage'.

    While confusion with that weird fermented hay stuff is possible, the quality of these broadsheets can only be improved by their negotiating their way through a cow's digestive system.

    1. Or if one had Kiwi intonations it would be "Sullage" which would be most appropriate. Kol Tuv

  10. Professor, the solution to your quandry about the lawyer is provided on this very page by Evan Sayet.

  11. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.December 5, 2012 at 8:00 PM

    'those whose approval and warm regards they value more highly than truth.'

    Herein lies the problem, Prof. They would need to find a new batch of friends, and this requires a whole new approach to life. Things that were no-go would have to become acceptable (e.g. reading the Oz in public, agreeing at times with members of the Liberal Party on social occasions, driving a big SUV, living in a McMansion or knowing people who did, sending your kids to private school without apologising). Much simpler to keep thumping the leftie tub.

  12. "Perception is , of course, an entirely subjective thing, and sympathy must come easy to reporters who long ago sold their own honour for the privelege of parroting press releases and talking points from those whose approval and warm regards they value more highly than truth. So perhaps, on that score alone, the refusal by all but Mark Baker to take a closer look at the crook in The Lodge can by explained, if not endorsed."

    Nicely put, Professor. I'm not sympathetic, I'm angry that the truth is not held out for the people to make up their own minds fairly. They are fed a diet of propaganda and pap which they swallow whole - and it's the gullibility of those who only believe what they're fed that makes it all work so well for the stenographers.

  13. "The Professor once hooked a Murray Cod so large it could not have been landed without the assistance of a Land Rover's PTO winch"

    Sorry Prof but being a keen angler I find that statement a touch incredible. A rod allows a line to hold and retrieve a fish greater than the lines breaking strain. Did you attach the line directly to the winch cable? If so how was this done? If not when and how was the winch used in the landing of this fish? How much did said cod weigh? I do appreciate that you are a keen angler however your story is (to me) a little far fetched.

    1. SFW: A small stretching of the truth may have figured in that claim. As a fellow angler you will understand we are allowed such indulgences; indeed, they are expected.

  14. But wait, there's more! (As they say in the classics)

    Eucalypts change their environment to their advantage: ask the Vietnamese who are having "issues" in some areas with those nice Australian trees. What is priceless is that the Eucalypts in northern Viet Nam were grown from seed brought from China. The Chinese trees had in turn been seeded from Italy in the early 20th Century. The Italian trees were imported from Australia back in the early 19th Century and were widely promoted to dry out swamps to reduce malaria. "Expat" eucalypts can also be found widely across Africa, South America, and famously, California.

    Eucalypts drop a lot of leaves and bark in their lifetime. This litter breaks down and the various products enter the soil. Because of the chemicals in the leaves and bark, the soil undergoes something called "podzolisation" in which it becomes acidic, loses friability and surface nutrients are leached out or destroyed by these acid by-products from the litter.

    Podzols are also common under connifer forests. They are poor cropping soils and are better suited to supporting grasslands for grazing, which is precisely what Australia had lots of after millenia of burn-offs.