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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Monday, August 04, 2014

Bridging the gap

Nature is structured to use BOTH the seperated and the cooperated; the distinctive and the diverse . To restrict Nature in some way to the entirely determinative (as many now do) is to limit life to one or a few of its components - you may only  JUST see only a few componenets and miss the possibility of a Creator and the opportunity to be like Him/Her. Amazing thought , I know ( because lots of life just seems to happen ) but worth a moment to think about . The joy of living in the world is that Nature itself is NOT determinative but the BASIS for creativity. If fitness is everything why did we deserve to have such opportunity for creativity ? To return to any form of nature "worship " is to limit our childrens ability to be openly and  enthusiastically seeking after the truth ;through science but still , might I suggest , beyond what WE will ever know of the processes that drive it. Isn't that's big picture thinking based on the patterning we currently know about? .

Is the West losing its jest for a full and free creativity - and why?  

On reason is surely the untilitarian driver for most supported science reserach these days  . We are not encouraged to waste our time in the search for truth - that would be to risk losing paid employ as a scientist .
Our science advocates are swamped by the lie that productivity in science comes from predictable areas of research - at least in my area ;  how about yours !

If I am right the future is at risk not because of what we don't know as much as it is from not exploring fully in areas we think we already know soemthing about
Thankfully there is more interest in Design with nature than there was in the heady days when nature worshipers got to push their "no touch policies" .Becuase they are seen to be inert , rocks get a guernsey i know,  but so should the nursery , the garden,( weeding )  the funeral parlour and the regeneration practices we have used  .

I once designed concrete for a National Park  crossing on the coast using the local stone.The native stone wasn't as strong as normal gravel used in the concrete but it looked so much better for being part of the picture .
Isn't it appealing to mould seperate and different "strength "items into a NEW whole?

The hard work of planning shaping and cutting the stone is OURs and our childrens COST for the final great pleasure of being creative . 

You heard it first via Emperors Academy

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Friday, October 25, 2013

What sweet relief this week

Hooray - Former Labor Advisor Marcus Priest calls the bureaucrats and wannabes to account over their non reporting of the real bush fire risk issues and the ongoing propaganda train on everything we are supposed to worry about .

I too finally pulled the flow limiter out of my new free shower.  At $50 a pop  that could be 100 million dollars wasted . The dummies and nanny state merchants think flow rate is everything.  I have a  good hot shower in 1/10 the time most people  do.

As an expert in the ways of water , I don't need this crap and neither do the people of Australia .
Cold showers and baths for nothing ! Panic about water and now  Panic about fire 
The myopic ,totally out of touch , conservation dogooders in advisory roles need to be shunted off and told to study something properly.
Design with nature  is complex and subtle and doesn't suit those with a quickfix or fast "industry will fix it" frame. If you come from concrete steel mere bookeeping territory be careful how you tread !!!
After all-- if you had to wait for your bath with their brilliance... the water would be cold .
I say ... Cold showers for those who think they know..... but don't. Humility and  respect ( for complexity and proper study ) is needed by every conservationist .

The growth of fear parallels the growth of ignorant arrogance in these matters .

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Monday, May 20, 2013

Overlays are a mistake

You don't have to study nature long to realise that everything is interrelated .Geology, Chemistry of soils and water , predictable behavior  of inorganic systems,  anti 3rd nature of living systems, the unpredictability and high level of cooperation in living systems , the resilience of living systems , the flexible behavior boundaries of living organ components ( live die move over, get eaten  ) , the growth phases of individuals , mates and mature communities . The possibility of real degradation and the wider reality of resilience .
Its not madness to try and map these things on the ground,  but its madness to limit the boundaries to maps in time and place and use that as a statement of risk of degradation ( nature is too well built to be vulnerable to all our fears)
Once we thought that atoms were the limit,  but now we know there are quarks and black holes . We don't know what keeps protons in such a lovely mood when they repel each other - such a tight configuration.

 We know there are 3 fundamental forces but we have absolutely no idea how they work . I could go on

You don't have to study nature long to realise that everything is interrelated and that we don't really know much :
That statement is of course is easy to say but how then do we build a world class approach to environmental management .We don't know much about pushing pulling, cooperation and  resilience on the boundaries.

What we Do know is that we should keep studying it ; we do know that precaution is Ok by the student and our communities can rule on the possibility that humans can carelessly ignore its sensitive mechanisms and communities. We must focus on real degradation pressures NOT imagined or carelessly motivated ones ( eg by Nimbys or Wwwfys) Remember that communities of resilience can  healthily trancend death of the mature individual,  degradation , decomposition  and pressure of many kinds. It's those sorts of boundaries ( process ones that we need to study more)

Some suggestions:

  1. We build on the past and we didn't carelessly treat the frame we built on .Melbourne is one of the most livable citiesin the world because it did planning in a certain way ( a simple way ) 
  2. We make each other accountable personally. 
  3. We make people in Authority even more accountable personally ( or they lose their title /place )  . There was a time when in planning when  a majority thought it might be controversial ./ potential harm to the order of fun and work community  to ask people to ask for permission.
    We wrote a one pager to the Shire telling them what we we were going to do , We paid nothing for the privilege but the privileged were obliged to respond in one month or be drawn before the court  Simple but but clear answers - Yes, No and under what condition ) . Sure we sometimes had to tell them more about what we we were  doing and there was time for that .Nothing , but nothing threatened the responsibility of those in power to give us a straight answer - not a crooked one ( like one where we had to find the answer oursleves or go hunting in the bush or the city streets of mere consultants . We knew then that consultants , even though useful , were expensive and not always reliable) . we relied on people in Council who knew what they were doing orif they didn't know , they would find out .
  4. We don't let political parties play football with the profession as they have been 
  5. We make sure agencies representing professionals get public support for the training and development of our young people 
  6. We make sure people and political and professional groups  respect the territory of others ( by holding court occasionally) 
  7. Give cadetships to rural young people so they can cut their teeth with real land managers.  and those who plan to work with nature each day of their lives ( You heard it first from Emperors Academy ) 

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