Monday, May 23, 2016

It's not all about trees

One of the real stumbling blocks to sound action on environmental planning( even in 2016 ) is the public's perception that the best kind of land system is a treed one .
The fact is that the coldest and driest landscapes ( more than1/2 earth) have soils and stable ecosystems where trees are not suited and therefore of  secondary importance and shorter life within the system  .Such trees rely on hard and large seed which can last for decades and between fires  Trees also are not suited to poorly drained soils  making them not the key objective in regeneration  .

In regeneration areas, the planting of isolated trees native to the area may not make any substantial ecological sense because those trees need  a forest  for company to thrive and survive , Typically , a wide range of  eucalyptus will have their leaves pruned off them very easily if planted in isolation.   

Even though in Victoria Australia southern areas get winter rain over for over 6 months it is dry for the other 6 . this can present a signicant problem for trees in shallow soils, Our climate zone is semiarid  and the major part of lowland areas are naturally grassland. Same with the rest of Australia.

Recently as part of the federal election campaign the major opposition party used the shallow preoccupation with trees to infer a problem with farmers ; clearing of  wattles and overmature dead trees was seen as a problem for many.  Even the ABC 's landline program failed to put the picture of rRangeland ecology in a way which would have supported the farmers case for clearing more objectively .
Here is my submission 
There is no need for more legislation to control clearing of forest to agriculture  Only a few acres of freehold forest is ever likely again to be converted to  agriculture in the future as the State legislation is tight . We know it appeals to the city at election time to spread more panic amongst the city. Fitzgibbon  could say “ We, unlike the Greens, happen to know that blokes featured on Landline mostly just want to clear wattles and overmature growth from their grazing properties . These trees are only temporary and only grow because their land is not overgrazed.”

“The farmers are looking after this grazing land ,and if they are not, their leases would be cancelled – been that way for decades .  We should be supporting this form of freehold and leasehold rangeland management, not poking our noses in with ignorance and fear like the Greens do.  These areas are natural rangeland ecosystems where grass is the dominant vegetation”. Why are the fearful trying to stop the farmers from doing what the fungi , fire and ants will do anyway .Why don’t you prosecute these animals and the elephants of Africa for sending the carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere?
if you in the party were serious about a CC policy that works,  you would have had a  tax on city tractors yesterday . No I said,  a decade ago !  It’s not about integrity , it’s about winning votes.

If Fitzgibbon and Butler had any integrity they would say to their party” we can’t do this.”  “This what the Greens do   -win arguments on appearances like the picture of dark steam coming out of cooling towers and this  jumping in and accusing others of some abuse without studying the ecosystems and management processes involved ; and  without mentioning city tractors in cc policy.
This is allocated managed rangeland and unless you want to buy the whole lot back you are saying they can’t control weeds and regenerate pasture like the aborigines did and do. “
If Fitzgibbon and Butler had any integrity they would say to their party,   we  don’t want any more of our agents killed on the farmers doorsteps trying  to tell the farmers  they are getting free lightbulbs but taking away their livelihood. We would be more honest to say the United Nations require us to buy back your farms and then do it – if we really believed it was such a necessary policy. “

If Fitzgibbon and Butler had any integrity they would say to their party” we can’t do this”. “We’d be no better than the Greens. The Greens would do anything to get into power –They don’t care about casting snide on a minority who appear to be doing the wrong thing but are not; It Is so easy to pick on one group and say they are ones to worry about .A CC policy that would work must involve all of us .
 If Fitzgibbon and Butler had any integrity they would say to their party” we can’t do this”   “If this is how we win elections I want no part of it.” .   
We hope the people of Australia will have some integrity in July and will say to the parties who live on snide and suspect criticism of others.
“If that is how they win elections, I want no part of it “ 

I write 5 weeks before the election . the recognition of this slight of hand takes some work es as CC ( climate change or supposed heating due to higher Co2 ) is the large elephant  or should I say sacred cow in the room .

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Sunday, April 10, 2016

Footprint, traction and getting bogged.

The modern vehicles we use to get around are designed to achieve a balance between pressure to gain resistance and low pressure to avoid compaction ( on soft surfaces )

Most of these machines are designed to be flexible in use .
Not sure you can say the same about all those people who buy 4WD's . They buy the thing  expecting it to work without thinking .
We  country folks have to wear the fears of those who know zilch about the environment . Many are plain lethal with their wide tyres even on a good road
 Paradoxically many have  a 4WD and  yet don't know how to avoid getting bogged.

Typically human beings who get bogged blame the technology  rather than their own ignorance . This error also leads to poor advice , fear and irrational comments.
-- You can avoid high compaction by lowering tyre pressures which on conventional tyres ( not so much  wide tyred bikes which have very low pressures ) rapidly  decrease ground pressure and the risk of sinking on the surface .
- you need to avoid breaking the surface of the soil by wheel spinning as the roots in the surface soil provide a reinforcing effect . ( many Australian soils have sodic subsoil horizons which have very little cohesion when wet ) They" turn to soup " as we say .
-- if you can't traverse the above soils in a 2WD it is sound advice to suggest you shouldn't even use a 4WD.

Because Lake Colac has dried out several times in the last decade and not had much water in it , the still unstable organic clays are a little more stable than they were in 2009 . They are still  like driving on jelly but the cohesion forces  while weak  are strong enough to prevent you drowning if you break through .the dried  crust on top . You can always, sit or lie down and wait for help .


Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Design slopes

No geomorphologist survives without looking at slopes and how they relate to each other in landscapes.    Save that for another time.

While I take NO  responsibility for the consequences of anyone adopting these figures,  these are my ROUGH estimates of what matters in slopes and design after a lifetime of working with soils and water .There is much more that could be added . Havva  go .Please advise .

Use at your own risk !
I would like to pay tribute to the Victorian taxpayer and the grand tradition of Public Service in that State . I would like to thank my forebears for  their generous support of free education , the proper planning creation of the most livable places, the testing of scientific principles , the taking of risks and the process of double checking your facts before YOU make the mistake.     To support that complex and more response able process again, you can bookmark

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Brain dead approaches to risk management

Brain eating diseases . Waterborne diseases are real,  but don't panic . ( the list in my old animal health books  is huge ) Several children have died because of protozoa infections in one area of QLD  featured on ABC this week  .

As the excellent review on Aust Story suggests - people in that area should have known.    There is something wrong with the way we do things in health care .
Engineers and contract managers would be surprised to learn that it was often  them and their non ecological non diverse approach to problem solving.

One of the costs of widespread panic about big risks ion our community has been a loss of awareness that most risk is highly localized,  and we used to deal with it that way-- that's why there used to more of us out there looking after your water . Thinking global , not local is distracting  but its the heresy and fanaticism of our age .
The agency that took over my job of identifying high risk areas has a one size fits all approach  ( they try to deny this of course ) which means certified concrete tanks and filters  beds and chlorination  will fix the problem ( they engineer around the issue approach - reactive overengineered and hardly ecological ; not as preventative big picture focused )

As any fool knows there are more ways to skin a cat than that,.--- efficient money saving ways
After all  chlorination may only half kill protozoa and the dying  debris may be worse for you to eat than the living (  the etiology of what killed the children is well known,  but it  is complex with filtering desirable as well ) .
For us to deal with the resulting acidity from chlorination means  the agency pours heaps of slimy calcium and other  salts into your water just so you are safe to drink a mere drop in a million that pour through your house in a day.
Site Specific methods would help both prevent and treat the risks  but no .....we have to have the over engineered one size fits all approach . There is comfort in cost , but it can be false comfort and high cost -- its certainly is in our microbe rich environment so its not really not what makes ecological  - let alone total risk and economic sense :  the agency gets complacent ; we get complacent .

Its true ,,,protozoa are in the water and we mostly live with them by being exposed to them in right context .
Chlorination doesn't solve all problems . If you don't want to oxidize your oats and your throats in the morning,   drink out of a bottle or a jug ( not straight from the pipe ) - residual chlorine  is a sterile  and isolationist way to live your life. You are after an animal that's supposed to living flora in your gut .  

Remember you heard it first at Emperors Academy 

Get onto your polys and stop them trying to be so efficient they leave the efficient place driven consensus ( horses for courses)  of ecosystems out of the equation.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Sinkholes - and how to avoid them

Circular failure is a predictable risk with fringing reefsDon't believe everything the media tell you . Years and centuries after we tell them something   ( sometimes islands subside rather than seas rise) , they like to have their own theories to support their own prejudices . Several years ago I posted fellow geologist Charles Darwin's comments about tropical reef edges when the world was panicking quite wrongly about evidence of sea level rise in the Pacific islands.Darwin who studied subjects well  would not have supported "sea level rise"in their examples because he saw directly with extensive soundings why there was subsidence after properly researching ocean depths and structure .( something the noisemakers haven't mentioned to date )
Now we have the embarrassing ducking and weaving over the normal risk of subsidence . These self built ramparts can eventually break off as they form in shallow sea water with a fresh water component and tidal action . If only the present commentators /wannabes got in a boat like Darwin did when he commented on this over one hundred years ago they would see what we remote sensors can see from the air - without going there . Deep blue water is a clue , the circular edge demonstrates a low factor of safety in slope instability so the structural failure with these ledges is no mystery - a clearly predictable risk and reality.Carbonate chemistry isn't rocket science but clearly our media , after years of denial, can't see that they have dug their own hole to slink into . 

Look up the experts if you dare !
 Kurabati . Ignore the quick fixers and the worry warriors if you want to back conservation and risk management that works.

The slow and often dumb response to the sinkhole on the edge of Fraser Island ( the news this week) highlights  a serious problem with the education of  a whole range of people about basic earth processes .

The questions  were fair enough ( "how does it happen";" can we predict where ") but the answers and the ongoing worry train effect is totally unjustified .Circular shape and dark blue tells us all we need to know .

Instead of using the opportunity to educate the public about real risks , most "expert" commentators in geotech used the opportunity to spruke confused subscience about "monitoring and measuring" .   They are saying "I don't know" without saying so . .
The fact that few people realised this reactive process to problem solving was not good , highlights how deep the disease is in public discourse - explains why its not just red tape but long winded risk questions with few answers that stop development and prevent resolution in government process.
It explains why we end up with piles of reports on all sorts of subjects ( engineering and remote sensing , geochemistry, bioprocess  and groundwater chemistry) but no decisions ,

It was not always so and should not still be so .

The dissolution and restoration  of carbonate salts is no news to chemists even if the 3D on site and with time takes time and landscape process expertise .What happened is an evident and understandable risk --this monitoring talk is just the all too typical  distraction and excuse  . Circular and dark blue tells us all we need to know .

While this duck shoving is not new and the"monitoring and measuring"ok in some areas  the excuse is no longer recognised as such  , The public ownership of environmental issues means we get  politically correct filters applied to news.   Subsidence  has not been an acceptable word to use when sea levels are supposed to be rising.

My biggest  problem with all the talk is not the subject . I guess,  like groundwater and gold we can't see whats down there , so we feel vulnerable .  

My concern , despite this,  is the waste of time ; Why ,when there are real big risks ( soil erosion , water and ground water pollution) and they are not well addressed,  do people talk so long about  on such a low risk event -- likelihood and location of real risk can be relatively easily described and prescribed ( limestone , stream edges, unconsolidated materials , flood times  and construction sites )

The reality too is that by taking an industry focus, we adopt the reactionary growth model that is never satisfied . We grow a  maladaptive disaster growth industry  missing the opportunity to have a more efficient preventative focus;something  that has made our culture so competitive and efficient.

I feel honored that I am not the first scientist to be ignored when it matters .That it should be someone as thorough  as Charles Darwin in his first monograph is especially so .

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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Glass is Half full - if you displace hot air and fear

Young People in Australia have a choice. Either they follow the views of the Yvonne Walter’s and the Lisa Neville’s of this world ( Victorian Greenlabor)  and try to preserve the dying in museums ,or they can study and support full cycle ecology on the land.  They can follow the blinkered picture or the full picture.  They can keep trees standing up till they fall on someone, or they can study the ecosystem fully so we give the older things  a decent burial and keep the baby with the bathwater ; still have everything from seed to old age, young phases fully integrated with the old. 
Our young people have the choice of letting the ants, termites and fungi eat their way through our great opportunity to sequester the carbon and improve our water quality or, they can sit on their hands in fear- locking the gate.   
Readers in Corangamite area can visit their water supply reservoir wall at Forrest and study the health of three generations of timber harvested forest in its catchment.  Those closer to Warrnambool can wonder at how, with a tiny bit of recycling of iodine, molybdenum and copper, soil nutrients and calcium lost by tree based acidification of water and soils in the Heytesbury can now support higher functioning soils and exports of the best cream products to the world.  It’s more than just taking a glass half full view of the world. It’s moving on from ignorance and fear ; to the sound long term territory of really understanding and caring for all the components of the eco family. 

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Saturday, July 18, 2015

Its snowing - that beautiful blanket cover

  The snow may not be normal for Queensland at the moment,  but its breakfast lunch and dinner for some edgey polys and wannabes who think the obvious is everything.  Its akin to the stupidity of thinking the people know what they are doing and are not like sheep .    

 The inside story on those who wear white is that they can have something to cover up .

Most journos know this but forget this when the brightness shineth forth in rays so reasonable .With snowing its not what you say , but what you don't say that matters . You have to know things better than most .

The Watermark Mine  in NSW  is meant to be a big deal according to all the noise . I tried to get a few   few geological cross sections  so I could  can interpret  the overburden and groundwater risks for myself .  I have also done staging/ reviewed others plans  in  a range of mine plans in SW Victoria. Staging is necessary to make sure overburden is moved efficiently and slope stability maintained through the life of mine . I am not sure yet whether there is a dark side to the mine but I am familiar with the high risk of snowing and why governments of all kinds are prone to it .   I still haven't got a few diagrams I asked for .  
 Doesn't surprise me that "somethings missing " as coordinating risk discussions is not for the uninformed or the consultancy blinkered.   Best to leave the dark side off the agenda  if you want it to go through the hoops of planning  . Bit a luck and the panel will be overwhelmed by the stuff you provide . Even if they saw some hard stuff,  they wouldn't often know what to do with it .  Environmental risk assessment is  a strange beast requiring specially gifted coordinators ( everyone loves to try to do it and that's half the problem : many facilitators and CEOs in semi govt  never get beyond  the facile ) .

I have seen the obfuscation that results from poor briefing ( far too common  now) , the maximizing of consultant work and the minimizing of big picture planning beforehand  - on many sites ( not just mining ) . The point is as with Thredbo ( proper context soil and water and engineering planning not just site ) or many bush fire deaths (fear of cutting trees down  - NVR is still a messy planning process that must be modified   )  its the undiscussed  issue  that dangerous ( I have listed them briefly in brackets and italics )   The dark side Politically correct but not politically direct as our culture once encouraged .

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