Friday, October 5, 2012

MAMMOTH DISCOVERY







On 6th October 2012, ABC News reported the discovery of a carcass of a mammoth, the most complete carcass found for over 100 years; see:


An 11-year-old Russian boy has found what is claimed to be the most complete mammoth carcass discovered for more than 100 years.
Scientists say it is the second-best preserved mammoth ever found; the only better preserved discovery was made in 1901.
  
The discovery has caused excitement amongst scientists who hope to be able to clone the mammoth.

Joined by employees of the nearby Sopkarga polar station, the scientists spent five days digging out the monster.

This is indeed an exciting find but it has odd and worrying overtones. Global warming made this possible.

Global warming has thawed ground in northern Russia that is usually almost permanently frozen, leading to the discoveries of a number of mammoth remains.

Scientists are still arguing about climate change and what should be done; but they have exercised their skills in assessing the mammoth:

Mr Tikhonov said the mammoth had died aged 15 or 16 around 30,000 years ago, adding its tusk, skin, an eye and an ear were clearly visible.

"His one-metre-long penis is also intact so we can conclude that this was a male," Mr Tikhonov said.

Scienttits simply continue to astonish. Is this last statement a joke? Is science so stupidly mundane? Are scientists just all useless nerds? Little wonder that there is such confusion with climate change! What hope is there with minds that are so critically tuned to hyper-rationalism?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

WHY BOTHER WITH TOWN PLANS?


The question, 'Why bother with Town Plans?' must be asked after again reading this clipping from  Weekend Bulletin, September 10-11, 2005.

 The text reads:

Feng shui’s winning line
A controversial Runaway Bay development based on the oriental practice of feng shui, was approved by a whisker at the full council meeting yesterday. Councillors voted 8-7 in favour of Harmony, which will stretch up to eight stories.
The planning scheme for the area allows a maximum of two stories with a partial third. Harmony, 23 Bayview Street, will include 119 dwellings, although the planning scheme set down a maximum of 42.
Deputy Mayor David Power and planning boss Cr Ted Shepherd said that, while the planning scheme was a guide, its specifications could be overlooked if a development had ‘good planning merit’.

It is an old report from September 2005, but it is worth noting here in October 2012 because nothing seems to have changed. Unless Town Plans are written carefully and implemented with rigour, they are just a waste of time, leaving our towns and cities open to the whims of developers, and those of our Councillors.

Why should one bother? Well, just look at the shadows cast by the tall buildings and ponder the impacts on amenity in the area, if nothing else! The other point is that Councillors and developers come and go, but the outcomes of their decisions remain with us for many years after they have lost power, and establish precedents that stimulate further development and geater difference. Town Plans should offer a clearly defined vision and be strictly implemented so that futures can be properly controlled, feng shui or not.

SURELY NOT


Freezing … a reindeer makes its way across the snow in the Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic,
where the temperature drops to minus 20 degrees in the summer. Photo: AFP



The article in the  brisbanetimes.com.au  titled Oil giants eye Arctic prize despite dangers, tells how difficult and dangerous exploration in this part of the world really is; see:

The article notes that:
DRILLING for oil and gas has always been a risky business; overcoming technical, political and environmental challenges is part of the job.
But last week the chief executive of the French oil giant Total, Christophe de Margerie, declared that when it came to the Arctic Ocean, the risk of a spill was simply too high.
While many of his peers clearly disagree with his assessment that drilling for oil should not proceed, few would dispute the unique risks of the fragile region. For the environment and the companies involved, a spill in the Arctic could be catastrophic.
In the Alaskan Arctic, where Royal Dutch Shell began drilling offshore last month, temperatures drop to minus 20 degrees in summer. Gale force winds move giant ice floes - Shell's rig has already had to get out of the way of one block bigger than Manhattan. And in winter, when daylight lasts a few hours, sea ice forms, making the region inaccessible.

It seems that there is always someone or some company prepared take risks, no doubt spruiking the mantra about world’s best practice and the impossibility of any disaster. But we have heard and seen it all before. When will we ever learn? And what for? PROFIT.

Astonishingly the article points out:
The US Geological Survey estimates the Arctic may hold 90 billion barrels of oil - almost three times annual global consumption and some 13 per cent of the world's undiscovered reserves. There may also be 1669 trillion cubic feet of natural gas - 30 per cent of global undiscovered reserves.
Telegraph, London

Surely not? Am I reading this correctly? Companies are prepared to take major risks just to get enough fuel for three years and some natural gas that might be there?
What can one say?

''It needs a very high oil price to make it sustainable - at least $US90-$US100 a barrel,'' Dr McClelland says.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

FOR TOURISM ONLY


 Bilbao Guggenheim

Three items in the SUN Community Newspaper of Thursday, September 27, 2012, SOUTHERN, (Gold Coast, Australia), raise three different issues. While not seeking to respond to the separate issues here in any specific detail, it is interesting to note that each has a common theme - tourism. The items all argue for action to be taken to modify places, to, it seems, make them more attractive for tourists: to bring in more tourist dollars to stimulate commercial activity. The general concept is that these places lack something.

One letter seeks to have local amenities improved with an odd argument that appears to ask for matching facilities, (toilets, picnic places, parking areas), on each side of the road at Springbrook. It is as if the road was a major motorway, when it is really little more than a sealed bush track. Another article calls for a large hotel/motel complex and a Questacon - like that in Canberra - as a project to be located at Mudgeeraba, as if Mudgeeraba was the national capital of the Gold Coast, or wants to become this. It is in fact a small country village that has sprawled to become a hinterland town passed by a highway. Then there is, yet again in another letter, the echo from the past - the call for a cable car to Springbrook. It is yet another attempt to replicate the cable car to Kuranda that has, we are continually told, won awards. There are two premises here: that Springbrook is like Kuranda: (no, it is not); and that awards given by tourist bodies mean something useful and meaningful for a place. One could highlight the self-interest and uselessness in this latter circumstance by likening such awards to those that might be given by a thief for the best bank robbery of the year, if one is willing to take this analogy for what it intends to explain, rather than extrapolate any insults from it. The cable car proposal has been rejected before. Is it seeking a ‘third time lucky’ strategy in spite of all previous rational arguments that show why it should never happen - never?

Each item/letter/article wants something extra, different, additional, that folk seem to think or hope will attract tourists, like moths to lights and bees to honey pots – added qualities that will make a place irresistible. Not one position of the three published takes into account or argues for the natural circumstance of a place that might be so interesting, or could be made or become this way, as to become a desirable destination without any special additives, distortions or quirks. It seems that Springbrook, like Mudgeeraba, has nothing natively useful or of interest to tourists. More facilities, a cable car and a hotel/science centre are apparently needed to change this situation. It is argued that businesses need this extra, well, business: but do these places need this?

While Mudgeeraba has only pieces of its history as a bush village that could intrigue, Springbrook has the international recognition of its biodiversity in its World Heritage listing. Why does it need more? Perhaps the blog, WHO OR WHAT IS A TOURIST - see http://springbrooklocale.blogspot.com.au/2012/06/who-or-what-is-tourist.html - tells us why. Tourists seek entertainments and distractions. Any potential serious appreciation of World Heritage criteria and place is apparently of no use to tourists, and has no role in attracting greater numbers of big spenders: just b-o-o-o-o-ring. So? Entertainments and distractions are proposed, along with an increase in facilities to cater for the hoped-for increase in numbers. A cable car; a science centre with hotel and more toilets, picnic areas, parking spaces are the answer - or so it seems.

The odd thing here is that new facilities are thought to attract tourists! This is perhaps why we are getting hotels of different shapes and sizes and toilet blocks that are getting more quirky. The facilities themselves become the attraction, creating a twin advantage: the twisted hotel; the hotel over the gorge; the ‘green’ toilet block etc. as well as the cable car and the Questacon. WOW!! Do folk really travel the world to experience toilet blocks, hotels - and cable cars and Questacons? Do hotels really get chosen because of their silliness? Perhaps yes. “I stayed at . . . !” - “I peed at . . . !” “I rode the . . . !” “I saw the …!” It appears that strange circumstances create talking points, with each tourist seeking to outdo those experiences of all others. “Gosh!” “Golly!” “Did you re-e-e-e-e-aly?” “WOW!”

The idea that links these three published items can be responded to with one proposition: that adding things to attract tourists will do nothing for the integrity of a place other than blandly append oddities that might attract curious tourists. This effort will, in turn, place pressure on all others in the region to match the hype of performance; such is the nature of competition. The reality of a place - its integral wonder - will not improve just because of any tourist attraction. The region merely assumes the qualities of the thing that attracts. Bilbao unfortunately has become the model for everywhere. Every place wants its ‘Guggenheim’ peculiarity - here a cable car, a Questacon and matching facilities extending to extravagance and unbelievable indulgence.


Bilbao was once a dirty little place, nowhere in particular, until it got Foster’s underground transport system, Calatrava’s bridge and Gehry’s Guggenheim. The Guggenheim is the obvious landmark called ‘icon’ that is seen to attract tourists who have changed perceptions that have turned Bilbao into a desirable destination. Only purists stand to admire the very beautiful bridge and enjoy the subterranean spaces of the new transport system. People travel to see the oddities, not what Bilbao is or was. It is all somewhat like a freak show. Indeed, Bilbao has become the idiosyncrasy because of the strange exuberance of a gleaming building/sculpture based on crumpled paper and a quick scribble that has, in spite of the absurd impossibility of it all, been constructed. It seems that even glittering titanium can still attract gold. We have computers to thank for this! There is an interesting statistic here: the top one third of the Bilbao Guggenheim indulgence could be removed without having any impact on the size of the exhibition spaces. Here, ‘form follows fantasy and fun’ rather than ‘function.’


This ‘success’ has become every place’s dream. Mudgeeraba wants its G building - its G spot - just as Springbrook must have something extra as a stimulating spotlight too, if it is to thrive; even, some say more dramatically, to survive. The proposition is supported with the dollar vision of what Bilbao has become. The developments reportedly paid for themselves very quickly - WOW! Tourists do bring change, both as difference in time and character, and as cash in dollars; but this is really trite when viewed in the context of the ordinary everyday. Local life is transformed into a service industry acting to entertain and distract visitors who, with this constant search for indulgence, seek the heights of comfort amongst everything else. More and more different facilities are demanded; and more and more different ‘red carpets,’ leaving locals trying to cater for every expectation that tourists bring - for ME: done that; what else is there? We want more hype! - a call that generates only a demand for a growth in excitement! There is a blindness here to things sensitive and meaningful,

And what does all of this do to places? They all become ‘Bilbaos’ - sites that allow tourists to congregate. The logical sense in any pressure for change lies in the enrichment of a place so as to enhance its natural presence of being - to be what it wants to be - in a way that will improve everything for the place itself, its sense and sensibility; and for its locals, first and foremost, not for strangers. Then tourists might be interested in coming to share this unique experience that will be real, with real depth, not falsely manufactured curiosities created for diversions and dollars. Dollars will come with true engagement, without false fabrications. Visitors will come to share this meaningful experience that will only strengthen and further enrich itself with such international interest in quality. It is truly a ‘win-win’ situation for all, rather than just a ‘me -win-me: on to the next one’ syndrome.

Mudgerraba will need to work at this, but Springbrook already has its presence that can attract: World Heritage biodiversity. Adding toys and games to this substance will only dilute and distract. Springbrook will improve once a real and lasting commitment is made to enhancing its World Heritage prestige, with World Heritage characteristics and qualities becoming the gauge for every decision that is made on this plateau. Then visitors will pour in, not as tourists, but as persons who are genuinely interested in their world and the understanding of it. We really do not want tourists. Anything less than this will merely turn Springbrook, and likewise, Mudgeeraba, into Bilbaos - places where quantities of dollars change hands as oddities are gawked at and played with before folk get bored and whiz off to get the next big bang.

P.S.
World Heritage - what does it mean? Do we care? We lost the Bamiyan buddhas (see WORLD HERITAGE AT RISK? - http://springbrooklocale.blogspot.com.au/2012/08/world-heritage-at-risk.html ); and just today, (1st October 2012), the news tells of the loss of the medieval souk at Aleppo, burnt out after bombing (see Herald Sun: UNESCO DEPLORES ALEPPO DESTRUCTION  http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/breaking-news/unesco-deplores-aleppo-destruction/story-e6frf7k6-1226485701126). It is a very, very sad day indeed. We must be careful not to lose Springbrook - very careful. Like most valuable things, it is very fragile - always at threat from the philistines. World Heritage needs commitment, not tourism. Politicians must come to sense this rather than bounce about with the greatest flux of self-interest while saying, “Yes, I agree” to everyone and every idea.

NOTES:
It is interesting that The Australian newspaper is now running a competition promoting travel. It is called ‘ESCAPE.’ One wonders just what folk might want to escape from - or to escape to - to become a tourist?

Countdown, the British Letters and Numbers television game show, (both were copied from the original French concept), explained how the word ‘travel’ is related to ‘travail.’ When the word began to be used, travel was indeed a travail. Little seems to have changed.
Origin:
1325–75; Middle English  (north and Scots), orig. the same word as travail (by shift “to toil, labor” > “to make a laborious journey”)
Dictionary.com

Monday, September 3, 2012

MORE CONDITIONS SOLVE PROBLEMS?


The Australian, Tuesday, September 4, 2012, in The Nation, on page 3, reported on how the 'Super-trawler takes different tack to avoid protests.' The headline referred to the world's biggest super-trawler that has moved into Australian waters to work for a Tasmanian company. It is reported that Environment Minister, Tony Burke, in response to a fierce campaign against the super-trawler by environmental groups, 'has proposed immediate conditions that will operate for two weeks to give the trawler operators a chance to repsond before they become permanent.'
'The new rules force the trawler operators, Seafish Tasmania, to take all reasonable steps to ensure that threatened species, cetaceans and listed marine species are unharmed.'
'The Abel Tasman is twice the size of of any vessel ever to fish in Australian waters and will target more than 18,000 tonnes of small pelagic fish.'
Minister Burke said, "I want to ensure the environmental impact is no more than if the same quota were being fished by a smaller vessell."
'Seafish Tasmania director Gerry Green said an AFMA by-catch mitigation expert and a European net and excluder design expert would be onboard for the first trip.'

So, everything will be fine? Well, with the words and language anyhow, after all, isn't this all that condiitons are meant to manage?
See ON CONDITIONS,http://springbrooklocale.blogspot.com.au/2012/08/on-conditions.html

The interesting words here are: 'a chance to respond' - these conditions are not formalised as permanent controls yet; and 'take all reasonable steps' - just what is reasonable and what is not?

And what will happen if  threatened species, cetaceans and listed marine species are harmed? Is this defined? No, it appears not. This, after all, is the essence of conditions - to overcome objections and to bury or postpone real issues: to get rid of the nuisances.

The 'Eurpoean net and excluder design' reference appeals to our cringe mentlaity - it must be good, like their cars; and the presence of the expert? What is this person going to do? Look? Connt? One is just puzzled by the words that all sound good, but seem to avoid any definitive, manageable, even measurable, outcome. Well, after all, they are talking about 'conditions.'

See also, KILLING FOR LOVE OF PROFIT  http://springbrooklocale.blogspot.com.au/2012/07/killing-for-love-of-profit.html

Sunday, August 26, 2012

FUTURE VISION FOR SPRINGBROOK?



 The question was asked: ‘What is your vision for Springbrook?’ This was raised after a discussion on various matters that one had concerns about on the plateau. There was a pause. This question presented a difficulty. What words should one use? It seemed a reasonable question, so why was there a pause? Why was there any difficulty in responding, especially after having worked for so long to ensure Springbrook’s future?

While for many years there has been a committed struggle to keep undesirable developments at bay at Springbrook, the question that sought some clarification on how precisely, concisely, one saw Springbrook’s future - in a few words, what should this be? - had never been asked. Indeed, now it seemed that the question had never been contemplated in such black and white terms. Where were the words? What should they be? The problem with the ‘ummm’ and the ‘ahhh’ stumbling response was that it gave the impression of being shifty, and this was commented upon. Why the pause? Surely one so engrossed in Springbrook’s issues should be able to spruik with some commanding, convincing confidence? The point made in summary later in the discussion was that one was perceived as not telling the truth. This was a concern. So just what was the problem? Did any vision exist?

Why could one not make a crisp and clear remark? Years had been spent articulating responses on many subjects to do with Springbrook. Years had been spent trying to prevent inappropriate outcomes. It was made clear that others had responded to this question vociferously, in brief and without hesitation: unequivocally. Why was it so hard now to describe one’s expectations for Springbrook off the cuff, as it were? It seemed as though it should be second nature. Surely one must have some ambition for the place? Ummm! Ahhh!


 On reflection the problem was that descriptions establish limits. They define outcomes - create limits, borders, begging the next question: what is one to do when these have been reached, achieved? If only! Experience has shown how new and different challenges just keep on arising with time. How unexpected issues, different matters, new aspects of the same concerns, all transform the context and require new approaches; new energies; new thoughts. Defining a vision for Springbrook would only describe a particular position that can then become something for others to manipulate when greater flexibility was required. The problematical legal complication strides into the picture: but you said . . but! Words determine ends.

The essential issue is that Springbrook is a World Heritage area. It is a significant part of an area that has been so declared because of its unique and rich biodiversity. This is the core matter, not any particular or personal vision, ambition, fancy, whim or dream. These all hold the same set of limitations as those of developers. They have a conclusion that is sought, an outcome that is desired and fought for. They establish a ‘dead end’ future.

Springbrook needs the space to be what it needs to be. It does and should not have futures defined by personalities, individuals or zealots. One needs the flexibility to manage the outcomes as they arise, to allow World Heritage values to blossom. Anything else creates a problem. Trying to anticipate just what this value management might be today for tomorrow, is merely placing today's possibilities on the future, limiting them rather than leaving issues open to be more appropriately addressed in their time, not ours, as needs be.

This is why it was a problem to clearly respond to the initial question. This is why there was pause when asked to respond to the request to specifically declare one’s vision for Springbrook. The vision is simple. It is the maintenance and enhancement of World Heritage values: that is all, even if these words fail to be considered useful. This has to be the singular and primary aim for the region, not any range of specific varieties of other outcomes that can form a list to be adapted or adopted at another’s whim or convenience. Springbrook’s future is not a popularity contest; and it should never be political.
 One might say that what has been given international recognition with a World Heritage listing declaring its significance, will look after itself. Well, no. One only has to look at how world wonders have been treated over time to see the problem. How many are no longer there? The Buddhas at Bamiyan in Afghanistan of the sixth to early seventh century, is the latest World Heritage wonder to be destroyed - by the Taliban - in spite of a world outcry: perhaps because of it. Indeed, it was destruction carried out for the sheer spite of it. (see http://springbrooklocale.blogspot.com.au/2012/08/world-heritage-at-risk.html
World Heritage needs careful protection and supervision. Our new Neuman government has shown every indication of acting spitefully too. Is this the politics of revenge? Wild and pristine river regions are being opened for mining; literature awards are being cancelled; jobs are being thrown away, as if to prove the point of wasteful spending - to drive the political point home through personal hardship, as if this were a price being paid. All this when words have said otherwise: words, those things that one stumbled on when asked to spell out a vision. Politicians use words for their advantage. They spin words. It may be considered a skill, but this is not wise. It shows a carelessness and a disregard for qualities that are rich and subtle, just as their actions do.
Springbrook is a rich and subtle region. Instead of defining a list that might satisfy as an explanation of one’s activities, one has to stay vigilant. Such an approach is indeed critical in order to maintain and enhance World Heritage values. What is incidental is one's particular description of just what this might mean as a set of outcomes. It might be interesting and become a basis for endless debate and assessment, but such will always be less. It will always require constant updating to remain effective and useful beyond the linguistic dramas. Springbrook needs its own space to be and to remain what is so special.
Questions about ‘what is . . . ’ are pointless. They do not give anything but an immediate blurb about one's own limitations, preferences and prejudices. They also allow an analysis of both quantitative and qualitative judgments, where hesitation can be used to cast one as shifty, a liar - not at all honest - all when things are really otherwise. We do not need arbitrary limits when dealing with such important matters as these World Heritage concerns. We do not need parameters drawn up by Tom, Dick or Harry to suit one’s immediate preferences. It is only with the vision that is structured broadly without specific limitations and defined outcomes, that these values can be given the care and attention they require - to let Springbrook be what it wants too be; what it has been listed for: a place with a unique and rich biodiversity. Anything less is only less, even if the descriptive words might reassure or seem more efficiently expressive of intent. Subtle feeling and care are involved here, not personal stamina, preference or prestige.


One needs to be cautiously watchful. To maintain everything in accordance with preferred lists lessens opportunities and possibilities. It closes doors, instead of allowing the best options and opportunities to be.

Desired or structured, articulate visions create limits, as noted in the adage: ‘If you find the Buddha on the way, kill him.’ Seeking outcomes ignores the ever-present reality of being, of being aware that one has to be forever vigilant about the present. Specific outcomes can be achieved, opening up the next puzzle - what now? - or demanding effort to ensure outcomes are maintained, in spite of . .  Aiming for futures and claiming them remains the vision of the extremists, of fundamentalists. Springbrook needs to kept free from these dangers.

This is why the question, ‘What is your vision for Springbrook?’ is not a useful question, even if it can assist in averaging attitudes as if in a poll, to allow for a comfortable political existence. World Heritage has its own demands and needs to be the gauge against which all activity is assessed and all decisions are made.

For details on Springbrook see www.springbrookrescue.org.au

 P.S.
16th October 2012
How things change so very quickly for the worst! On re-reading this piece, I was surprised by the words: 'The Buddhas at Bamiyan in Afghanistan of the sixth to early seventh century, is the latest World Heritage wonder to be destroyed.' Events have already made this statement incorrect. The medieval souk at Aleppo has since been destroyed by the fighting in Syria - see
http://springbrooklocale.blogspot.com.au/2012/10/for-tourism-only.html  It is a very sad event for the world and its heritage, let alone for the people of Aleppo.

Recent news reports have also told of how half of the coral of Australia's World Heritage Great Barrier Reef has died, noting that if nothing is done to stop this process, then another half of the remaining coral can be expected to disappear in the next ten years. The Crown of Thorns starfish is being blamed. Its young apparently thrives on fertilizer runoff.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

WORLD HERITAGE AT RISK?

then                          now

Places in the world that have been listed as being of World Heritage importance have an iconic presence in our experience and become anchors for quality, ideals and significance that seem so elusive today whem minds are turned to making profits and reputations. This international status confers an importance that is recognised by many as being necessary for the maintenance of the character and relevance for which these listings have been made. Such categorisation of places not only identifies their meaning, but also adds some protection to them by way of international supervision. After all, these listings are made for the world, not for any local tourist trade, even though this may benefit. So surely it appears silly to express some alarm at the possibility that a World Heritage area might be at risk?

Other countries manage their World Heritage places with much pride and care, but Australia seems unconcerned about the rigour and commitment that is necessary to maintain such places, as it delights in their tourist potential. Has this carelessness something to do with the 'she'll be right mate' attitude that is promoted as being 'Aussie' with the same brash and pushy ceretainty that the cry 'un-Australian ' is made when things appear unfair or oddly different?

The following article in The Courier Mail makes one very worried about things World Heritage as well as all of those other special areas that have been put aside as our National Parks, as places of national importance:

Newman Government Minister Steve Dickson claims previous government should go to jail for state of Qld's finances

A NEWMAN Government minister has declared the previous government should go to jail for the mess it made of Queensland's finances.
National Parks, Sport and Racing Minister Steve Dickson said he was looking for as many savings as he could make ahead of next month's Budget, and seeking submissions from private enterprise to run commercial activities in parkland.
"I come from private enterprise, and if I did in private enterprise what the last government did, I'd be in jail,'' Mr Dickson said.
"That's the truth. You can't do what they've done to the business of Queensland and think it's all going to be okay.''
He said part of his vision for national parks was developing an income stream from private enterprise.
"We're open to all ideas and suggestions be they crazy to some people,'' Mr Dickson said.
"We won't accept them all but out of 100 ideas we might get 20 or 30 that might work extremely well and I'm yet to see them all.
"We're not environmental destroyers, we've got to do what the community will accept.''
Of the 12.5 million hectares of land managed by his department, Mr Dickson said just 17 per cent was covered by management plans.
"Eighty-three per cent of that land, they have no idea what they're doing with.  It could be utilised for grazing, some will be utilised for logging, some of it's going to be utilised for many, many different purposes,'' he said.
The parameters for development in National Parks would be decided firstly by local councils, and then ultimately by the State Government.
"I don't know whether or not we want to be building chairlifts at Mount Coolum but we have Skywalk up in Cairns that goes through national park,'' said Mr Dickson.
"There are some really really good ideas, but it is a matter of delivering a good idea that is financially viable.''
The Minister was visiting the National Parks and Wildlife stand at the Ekka and talking to rangers who present the "creature features'' show.

our World Heritage - biodiversity, not the picturesque

The alarming thing is that the only guage for outcomes that this Minister seems to think is revelvant is commercial profit. Why should a National Park or a World Heritage-listed place have such guidelines to measure any effectiveness of outcome? The real worry is that there appears to be a complete lack of underdstanding of what these places are, and why they have been indentified as being unique. So should one be worried about Springbrook in particular? Surely it is well protected being both National Park and part of a World Heritage-listed region - a double significance that must make its special attributes obvious to even a fool? Why worry?

There is a history to the desecration of important places in our world. Wars take no speciual action to protect significant places. These may get some relief when individuals sensitive to these qualities are in control, through their personal concerns, but generally other ambitions take over with a blind arrogance and determintion. The most recent desecration of a World Heritage site is the blasting of the Bamiyan buddhas by the Taliban. These ancient wodners were fired at for days until they remained merely voids in the rock face. It was a sad time, a loss that even the begging cry of the world could not stop. There was a detemrination to spitefully show the world what the Taliban could do. The actions seemed to want to highlight the determination of these people; the superiority of their beliefs. The Buddhas that stood for centuries have now gone.

There are paralells here with the Neuman government that seems determined to show how it is right and will right matters that its' visions claim to be wrong. In spite of the cry of many, the actions continue, almost spitefully, as if to prove a point beyond the obvious - to rub others' faces in the mess that this government believes has been made. Will it leave merely a void in the substance of our importance, our significance?

This is the concern with World Heritage. It has been and can be again anhilated by those who have other beliefs and undertsandings, as if only these are right. The problem of right being arrogantly right remains the threat. An undertsanding of the subtleties of substance needs a responsive, questioning mind that thinks, questions and cares. All we are seeing from the Neuman government is the demand of 'me and my might,' and the claim that all others who think differently are wrong.: 'don't you worry about that!' The threat to our World Heritage is real. Remember the Buddhas.

The  void that once held the Buddha

Will the Neuman government be the Taliban of Queensland? Maybe the gathering of National Parks into the same ministry as Sports and Racing shows the governmet's undertsanding of the issues. Or does this show the Government's contempt for them? Is it gambling with our heritage in front of those who care, like a spiteful bully in a playground breaking the thing most loved by the weeping onlooker. Who should be jailed?

Springbrook weeping?

It is not just one Minister who is exhibiting this blind arrogance. In formal correpsondence from the Minister for Science, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts, (does this scheduling say somethnig about art?), Ros Bates, State member for Mudgeeraba notes awkwardly:
'Being that this year we have seen a change in representation at both State government level for Queensland and at a local council level for Springbrook, we have an opportunity to develop a plan for the area without the constraints that have previously held us back.'

This communication was forwarded to a select group of people - the 'us' that seems to have a certain agenda - inviting them to attend a meeting to discuss Springbrook's future:
'I am looking forward to working with you on the day and into the future in the best interests of Springbrook.' - to implement the agenda that has been kept a secret until now?

This communication seems to illustrate the conceited spite that this government is declaring so blatantly, first by noting that it now holds power to do whatever it might want to do; and secondly by choosing to ignore those who have worked, and still work, so hard for Springbrook's future as a place of World Heritage importance, with a continuing World Heritage significance for other generations to come. If one did care for the future of this World Heritage area, then the whole community should become engaged in this enterprise, not just the selected few who might be favoured by the local member and are preapred to help her achieve her personal ambitions that seem to seek revenge rather than any real regional improvement. This strategy of aligning the support of the chosen few to co-operate with an elected member's scheming has been tried before. It does nothing useful for any future. it merely creates problems, enhances differences and generates strife.

Poor Springbrook. Is this World Heritage at threat? Will we be left only with a void to let  the future know what once was?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

ON CONDITIONS



Recent media reports indicate that the proposed pulp mill in Tasmania may not go ahead – August 2012. This piece was written when media reports were more positive, and talked about a possible Ministerial approval with ‘strict conditions.’ The piece is still relevant, as the conditional approval remains a strategy promoted by Federal, State and Local Governments to achieve their ambitions irrespective of the failings and inherent problems in the proposals being approved. The Association’s experience shows this to be far for reassuring in spite of the gloss  governments place on these outcomes – see also  http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2012/08/town-planning-concerns.html


Our Association has had over thirty years of experience with local authorities approving developments of all shapes and sizes in spite of the number and rigour of objections, by using conditions to overcome contentious issues and obvious problems.

This process allows these bodies to argue that all matters have been addressed and to give assurances to all and sundry that every action has been and will be taken to ensure that not one of the predicted problems (whatever these might be) will or can arise – that all concerns can be calmed.

This process includes strategies where appointed experts are given the role to supervise processes and approve subsequent matters in more detail as these developments progress after they have been approved. The pattern is now very familiar to us and continues in spite of our explicit complaints about this tactic that clouds concerns and smothers objections.

Our experience has shown just how easy it is with the passage of time for conditions to fade away, be ignored or simply to be forgotten. Even worse than this neglect, we have seen how easy it is for conditions to be renegotiated once any failure with compliance has been exposed. This alarming and apparently legal process is able to take place in private discussions, between the approving body and the developers, completely away from the public scrutiny that the original development application had to be subjected to. It is a serious and concerning loophole.

Given this repeated experience, one can only be alarmed and worried with such a major development as the proposed pulp mill in Tasmania obtaining approval ‘with conditions’ – no matter how many there might be. Indeed, it seems that more conditions only create the possibility of more loopholes. If this mill does get built and problems arise with achieving ‘world class’ or ‘world first’ outcomes now apparently defined in approval conditions determined by ‘science,’ it will be very easy to have ‘new science’ define ‘new’ outcomes by proving, perhaps, that some conditions are ‘scientifically’ impossible or undesirable, or that the ‘old science’ was wrong. ‘Science’ is merely a word that can promote both the good and the bad, and ensures very little. It is not infallible or fixed in time. Indeed, it prizes itself on constantly reviewing and testing its hypotheses, with failure being seen to be more significant than any confirmation.

Then there is the ‘real’ world. Our experience has shown just how reluctant approving bodies are to enforce promised, predetermined outcomes. The cry is that a court may not see it in the same way, so discussions begin. Just try imaging how any government could close down a multi-billion dollar development once it starts pouring out its substances of any qualities or in any quantities. We can be told anything now just to get the mill up and running, but will those who have approved it still be there to ensure that all of the conditions will be met – ‘unconditionally,’ in full accord with all of the ‘conditions’?

We have seen that ‘conditions,’ like ‘science,’ are relative, and can be used to play a confusing role where their own inherent ambivalence and uncertainty can be ‘spun’ to suit ambitions in a phoney ‘win-win’ outcome. It all becomes more than bewildering when the two, with all of their vagaries, come together as ‘scientific conditions’ that aim to place a veil of certainty and predictability over what we have repeatedly seen to be something that is fully flexible and negotiable, capable of achieving any possibility with complete indifference to the implied rigour and commitment.

It is interesting to hear Gunn’s spokesperson speak about ‘trying to’ achieve a mill that can meet all conditions. The real challenge is to understand what any failure to achieve this might mean, especially with billions at stake. ‘Conditional, scientific’ approvals are not what they appear to be. Our Association has seen how they can so easily be manipulated to shut people up and out.




Tuesday, July 17, 2012

WIRELESS?

It is becoming alarming just how our language is misrepresenting actual reality. The computer was promoted as the tool that would allow offices to be paperless. Now we have 'wireless technology.' Just as the amount of paper used has grown exponentially, so too has the increase in the number of cables needed to keep the wireless gadgets charged. There is some chat about trying to get some standardisation in this equipment, but like those dreams of compatibility across all platforms, this seems to be a hopeful dream that will never become fact. The real worry is that if we continue to allow our language to perpetuate such hoaxes as this, what future is there for anything sensible to occur? Even the old 'wireless' didn't have the complication of cables that we see today!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

WEIGHTY MATTERS?



The following report in The Australian, July 13, 2012, by Aviation writer Steve Creedy, is interesting not only because of the subject of the piece, but also because of its language and logic. The implication is that the introduction of tablet technology into the cockpit will make an environmental difference to the operation. The new technology - cunningly promoted by brand of tablet twice in two sentences, complete with detailed specifications but no price - will apparently reduce the quantity of paper used and the weight carried on each flight. Wow!

Qantas pilots turn to iPads in a move designed to improve communication

QANTAS will deploy 2200 iPads to its pilots in a move designed to improve communication and data access while cutting down on cockpit paper.
The 64Gb iPads with 3G connectivity are also expected to provide about $1.5 million in annual savings through a combination of reduced printing and distribution costs as well as weight saving of about 20kg per aircraft.
http://m.theaustralian.com.au/business/aviation/qantas-pilots-turn-to-ipads-in-a-move-designed-to-improve-communication/story-e6frg95x-1226424815246

The message seeks to give the classic ‘good news’ message of a ‘win-win’ situation: improved efficiency with money saved, with less paper used and less fuel wasted. It also clearly promotes one brand of tablet. It is the sort of language frequently used for positive ‘environmental’ promotional and sales messages.

The concern is that like most environmental and sales messages, this looks like a cynical public relations exercise in a ‘feel-good’ advertorial story rather than reporting on genuine concerns with real outcomes.

While the matter of latent tablet sales advertising is a concern, one has to ask: is weight on flights so critically managed that the effort to save 20kg on each flight is required – even considered? Forgetting about that person who always seems to be able to get the enormous bag on board as hand luggage that never fits, when you have struggled so hard to keep yours to size and weight, one only has to think about the other concern of personal size - that extra-large individual who nearly always has been given the seat next to you. Both these situations go unmanaged, randomly adding who knows how many ‘kg’s to the flight, all while we are asked to believe that Qantas is working so hard to be totally responsible in reducing its weight by 20kg. No, surely not. Is the main aim tablet sales? Has a deal been done here? Gosh, the decorative paint on an aeroplane weighs hundreds of kilograms.

Environmental matters are a weighty issue, but this media release seems to be a flippant game in manipulation of opinion on brands rather than a serious response to a real issue. Environmental matters only become degraded by such approaches. They become jokey when they are really much more serious, allowing others to treat these matters with a sceptical disdain - and why not?


 We need to manage these issues with much more rigour and responsibility if we expect others to respond accordingly, and act appropriately. Linking sales promotions to environmental concerns is a dangerous business that degrades both sides of the campaign. Has anyone asked about the embodied energy used in the manufacturing and distribution of the technology quoted? Has anyone asked about the batteries that these tablets use? What happens to the tonnes of batteries used every day? In Australia, with any luck, they find their way directly into landfill with other general waste. Who cares? The smart technology and stories like this only serve to distract us from such serious issues that need attention. The whiz and bang of wonder games and feel-good yarns keep us content with our entertainments, until a newer model arrives with better stories and faster outcomes. Who cares about anything else? We should.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

STREET CHARACTER


 Further to the A ROAD IS NOT A ROAD article- see http://springbrooklocale.blogspot.com.au/2012/05/road-is-not-road.html - the street images above and below are published here to illustrate the point made about roads and character. More simply: not all roads have the same character; nor should they be alike. Those that have a unique charm, scale and/or context need to be managed differently to other thoroughfares, in the same way as a private lane has no requirement to become a super highway.

The first image, (above), is also published here for the historical record. This quaint 'ROAD NARROWS - 25KPH - ROAD CLOSED TO THRU TRAFFIC' sign has now been removed. It is likely that it, and signs like it, will never be seen again. Did it go to the heritage section for future display? Is there a heritage section in the Council?

The images published here have been taken from Google Street View that still displays the sign in its' location. Even though the sign has gone, the road has not changed. It is still a narrow, twisting and steep track, open on one side to the bushland reserve. The sign was taken away after Council was asked to enforce its' messages. Instead of showing any sensitivity to place and purpose, Council appears to have opted to get rid of the controls that were thought necessary when the road was constructed. Council's only interest seems to be in avoiiding any effort that might be needed to keep the street safe and its' character in place. The simple proposition appears to be: Who cares? Certainly not the Gold Coast City Council or the local Councillor. The response is that this is a public road just like every other one the coast: if only!. Even the suggestion of some simple controls on traffic flows along this hill track have been rejected - mocked.

This is Wairoo Street in Division 12. Alas, one can only expect more of the same neglect and disregard for any road at Springbrook, Division 9 - World Heritage of not: road kill or not.

One must ponder the legal implications of Council's removal of this sign should there be any accident that might have been avoided if the information and controls had been left in place and enforced. Council's responsibility for native flora and fauna needs to be considered as well. While the images of quaint tracks, rainforest and bushland, and birds, koalas and lizards all appear in their beauty and colour on the promotional tourist brochures, they are not given much care or attention beyond this hype.
Going up. . . .
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Vista from hill over Burleigh Heads developments - typical of the Gold Coast character

Coming back down . . .
 
 
 

Springbrook can be seen in the distance through the wires.

This street offers one of the few vistas of the Hinterland regions from the coast but Council refused to listen to or act on the suggestion that available land here should become open parkland that could connect green areas in the district and offer this mountain prospect for visitors to enjoy. Such is life on the Gold Coast. One gets the feeling that there is some regret that the coast has any bushland reserves at all when the only driving force seems to be growth - growth in both population and numbers of tourists, never the trees.



The great worry for Springbrook is that it will be consiered only as a location that has to have its' roads 'improved' rather than as a UNESCO World Heritage location, and all that this means fof the management of this region.

For more on tourism and the environment see KILLING FOR LOVE OF PROFIT and WHO OR WHAT IS A TOURIST?:
http://springbrooklocale.blogspot.com.au/2012/07/killing-for-love-of-profit.html 
http://springbrooklocale.blogspot.com.au/2012/06/who-or-what-is-tourist.html
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KILLING FOR LOVE OF PROFIT


There are four articles in Google News today, Thursday, 12th July 2012, that spell out very clearly the terrible present state of things environmental. These reports have come together only because of the daily news cycle. They highlight the raw and careless cynicism in our world that seeks only profit, and is prepared to ignore all necessary responsibility for outcomes, while seeking to gain from the promotion of the ideals of sustainability, and the care and concern for our world’s future.


One has to do with the false advertising of a duck producer:
CONSUMER authorities are suing Australia's largest duck producer after activists filmed its ''open range'' ducks crowded into dirty pens, some of them covered in faeces with their wing-stubs caught in metal grates.


One has to do with the fate of a baby panda in Tokyo:zoo:
The death of a baby panda in Japan stopped regular television programming and brought a Tokyo zoo director to tears yesterday, a week after its birth sent ripples of excitement across the nation.
Newscasts had dedicated a nightly segment to the male cub's daily activities since his birth on July 5, with retailers unveiling a host of panda-themed products in celebration.


 The next has to do with the super trawler seeking registration in Australia to allow it to fish in our territory:
It will be flagged to Australia to be eligible to fish for a quota of about 18,000 tonnes of mackerel and redbait, to be block frozen whole on board and exported, Parlevliet's joint venture partner Seafish Tasmania said.
The 142-metre trawling giant has a 200-metre long net with an opening measuring 75 by 35 metres. It has a freezing capacity of 200 tonnes a day.
Australian fishers have long sought to exploit the country's so-called "small pelagics", which are prey for bigger fish such as tuna and marlin.


 The last article seems to sum it up. It has to do with the bulldozing of thousands of rare turtle eggs:
KINGSTON: Thousands of leatherback turtle eggs and hatchlings have been crushed by heavy machinery on a beach in Trinidad.
Conservationists said the beach was widely regarded as the world's most dense nesting area for the biggest species of living sea turtles, which is endangered.
Government work crews with bulldozers were redirecting the Grand Riviere, a shifting river that was threatening a hotel.
The hotel was full of tourists who had come to Trinidad to see the tiny leatherback hatchlings head for the surf. Instead, they saw injured hatchlings dying.

The duck producer seemed happy to promote his barn-raised ducks as:
duck meat as ''Grown Nature's Way'' and indicating that their ducks ''were allowed to spend at least a substantial amount of their time with access to an outdoor body of water … foraging for food outdoors'', and were of better quality than barn-raised ducks when ''that was not the case''.

While talking about the excitement and news interest in the first baby panda to be conceived naturally, the text continues on breathlessly to report on the ‘panda-themed products’ that were on sale as part of the celebration. The panda had immediately become a marketable item. The text suggests that there is some sadness at the loss of this market opportunity, leaving one with mixed messages on the meaning of the birth for the world.

The super trawler leaves one gob smacked at the statistics. Why would anyone believe that the extraction of such quantities of fish could ever be sustainable? Why would a country allow such a devastation of its fisheries? Our prime minister has already leapt into the fray:
The venture has been backed by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, who said the Australian Fisheries Management Authority would decide on a permit based on the sustainability of the catch.
The real worry is that lists and boxes are just too easily crossed off and ticked when words can be used as shields to justify anything. One should recall that this is the same prime minister, a trained lawyer, who declared Julian Assange guilty even though he had broken no Australian law.

The fate of the turtles seems to say it all. The bulldozers were redirecting a river that was threatening the hotel that was erected for the tourists to come to see this rare and endangered species hatch. The most important matter was the hotel and the tourists, not the turtles, endangered and rare or not. As Oscar Wilde pointed out: ‘all men kill the thing they love.’ But does this have to be done so blatantly by blind greed and rapacious thoughtlessness?

The message is clear: we will end up with nothing but the ruins of hotels and bands of tourists wandering around looking for the next ‘fix’ if we do not act now to ensure a coherence and integrity in our attitude to this world and the other lives that share it with us.

Responding thoughtlessly to the declarations of sergeant-major-like screams, and the pomp of the little man, does not give good outcomes, no matter how the actor might pretend to believe in the gravity of the pronouncements. Queensland needs to be vigilant. Springbrook is too special to be allowed to be managed carelessly, just as the sergeant-majors are:

Sergeant-major

The articles can be read in full at:


see also WHO OR WHAT IS A TOURIST? - http://springbrooklocale.blogspot.com.au/2012/06/who-or-what-is-tourist.html