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The Forum > Article Comments > Limited by nature > Comments

Limited by nature : Comments

By Aila Keto, published 22/6/2006

Can we sustain reasonable quality in our lives with less land, less water, less waste and fewer new resources?

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Where to start. The Professor calls for the use of a new aid which like new electricity meters showing how much various activities in the house are costing is designed to trigger rational action on the part of the operator. In the light of parameters relating to the health of the system. (capable of perversion but what is new?) In one case love of land and in the other love of being not too hot and being able to breath.
Maybe a gadget with a display of data will trigger better or less self destructive behaviour but good farmers who cared for their land, and there are some left after the advent of profit as motive those on better country in which the drive for profit can be sustained longer, (Darling Downs?), noted the state of their soil, water movement, foliage symptoms and of course yield. For the latter an out of the box fix, Nitrogen since it is the most commonly limiting mineral, but others as well applied, with at least business principles in mind, that is it profitable in the short term. Being profitable may not, does not equate with good farming. Will a wireless sensor network in some way order what is done?
Malthus, Vogt, Club of Rome, Earlich and now Jared Diamond in “Collapse” and so many more for so long have warned man of his danger. So far it has not happened. God has intervened, creating through man new gimmicks to stave of the inevitable. We have treasurers, shades of Nazi Germany, Kinder, and the competition of prostitution suggesting Mum’s have one for the nation with of course some government funding.
If people in your position did not warn, did not devise palliative tools society would castigate you as the Climatologists have been derided for supposedly securing their jobs and seeking glory. But because you warn do not expect to be other than shot as an unwanted messenger.

Is the story of the frog in the heating water just a story exemplifying population tipping point?
Posted by untutored mind, Thursday, 22 June 2006 11:14:21 AM
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What a pathetic load of breathtakingly ignorant cobblers, Aila. Your quote;

"To restore even 1 per cent of habitat needed for viability and ongoing evolution of Queensland’s unique flora and fauna would cost between $25 and $100 billion by traditional means." Indicates that you have only a rudimentary understanding of ecological processes, especially here in Queensland.

Have you never heard of "native regrowth"? The 2001 SLATS report reveals 26.2% of all clearing was on land not mapped as woody vegetation in 1991. That Table 6 has been left out of the 2004 report so the proportion must be even higher. Bare paddocks all over Queensland have returned to remnant status within 10 to 15 years. And there is no evidence that any forest dependent wildlife refuse to repopulate 20 year old eucalypt, brigalow or mulga regrowth.

In fact there is a preference on the part of most leaf, sap and bud based food chains, for the improved food volume and nutrient value found in regrowth forest. And it needed only the goodwill of the landowners and strategic assistance to achieve this unambiguous RESTORATION at minimal cost.

Reasonable men and women in possession of the facts, and unencumbered by ideology, would be gobsmacked when you say;

"The hundreds of millions already spent, if on wrong species mixes, may impede long-term recovery."

For wasn't it your own vacuous whimsy, incorporated into the SEQ Regional Forestry Agreement that has wasted millions planting thousands of hectares of plantation monoculture which has minimal biodiversity value and carries a very serious risk of being wiped out by rampant introduced pathogens? And for what? To turn existing regrowth in State Forests into fire traps of ever diminishing biodiversity value.

And you have the gall to state;

"If one thinks in ecological timeframes, WSN could help us learn from and assist nature to recover, affordably, on a scale that matters."

Please! [Deleted for flaming.]
Posted by Perseus, Thursday, 22 June 2006 12:26:53 PM
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I feel sure the professor is aware of the rapidity of regrowth and has figures for the probable time taken to reach climax vegetation, which maybe now less productive and resilient than the original, and even has figures on the amount of C stored (sequester, to use the positive warm glow of language as stand in for action) as a measure of organic matter.
The question. Is the observed as resilient and productive? The prairie of N America has been sod busted and in some places restoration has been tried but the level reached as measured by productivity and resilience is lower. I know of no data showing these parameters for the efforts at restoration, much praised, in S E China. I suspect that in the time frame limited by the needs of a swelling population the level is lower and the system vulnerable to any chance mismanagement such as might be needed to achieve previous levels of profit for any period.
Here sensors showing undesirable changes (presumed undesirable?) might help but would not spatial variation mean guesses rather than hard predictive data as seems to be suggested? Again would not human desire (need?) for profit and power lead to perversion?
Possibly research might be more productively directed at finding the gene mix, itself presumably a consequence of long selection, that allows man to live denying long term consequences, seeking immediate gratification. Warrior macho as in Iraq or a benevolent god being apparently surrogate for fear of any consequence.
Indeed Reg Morrison in Plague Species raises just such a question.
Easily slated as negative in approach, it and the article, are however better than anger, a self serving belief or derision.
Posted by untutored mind, Thursday, 22 June 2006 2:06:32 PM
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I have absolutely no background in forestation, biodiversity, agronomy, horticulture and the rest, but I do know a little about technology.

And in that capacity I should solemnly warn the author of this article that if she believes that WSN is going to help her with her problem, she is destined to be bitterly disappointed with the results, and will have spent a great deal of OPM in the process.

Let's say we put some sensors in a river to measure turbidity and salinity. Presumably the only advantage the readings would give us is time - i.e. instead of testing the water with a test tube every four weeks, or whatever, you could get a thousand readings every second. What would you do differently with this information? How would you react to abnormalities caused by weather? How would you check for false positives, if these were to occur as the result of a system malfunction?

Rest assured, the same will apply to all those farmers on whom it is intended to foist these little chips. Data is easy, technology will collect that for you by the truckload. Information (processed data) upon which to base decisions is a lot tougher to come by, quite often because the sheer volume of information available prevents you from seeing the wood for the trees (sorry!).

Also, when telling the technology what to look for, you are already putting limits on what it can find for you - i.e. you are programming the problem definition with a preconception of what the solution might be.

Data is easy. Information is tougher. Wisdom is an entirely different ballgame.
Posted by Pericles, Thursday, 22 June 2006 4:55:11 PM
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Well, I am pleased to see Aila write about human population pressure in blunt terms. Of course everyone who cares about environment and sustainability should be willing to do the same, but such expression is rare amongst environmentalists.

But then she loses it completely. WSN is well and good, but it is just another tool to measure the obvious damage exerted by human numbers and practices, both of which we all know need to be very solidly dealt with, head-on.

She writes; “Assuming we get our population policy right can we harness smart technologies now to spare and heal the land?”

Oh dear. There is absolutely no hint of us getting our population policy anywhere near right, neither in Australia not globally. SURELY this should be Aila’s number one concern and number one campaign, starting with the most vehement condemnation of Howard’s policy of very high immigration and Costello’s baby bonus and call for us to have more kids.

A really good place to start with this stuff is Sustainable Population Australia (

Any environmentalist that doesn’t put at least 50% of their effort into this aspect on environmentalism is really only a pseudo-environmentalist at best.
Posted by Ludwig, Sunday, 25 June 2006 7:44:41 AM
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Ludwig, pray tell, how does an expanding population in Brisvegas have a major impact on the maintenance of biodiversity in grassland ecosystems in the desert uplands?

Apart from supplying an ever more gullible electoral majority to deliver fraudulent mandates to enable Keto's sleazy mates to implement gonzo science, there is no link at all. Separate the political constituencies and the bush would have no problems with restoration of ecological values.

For a start there would be none of Keto's moronic tree fetish that seeks to preserve recent tree encroachment at all costs in what were originally grassland ecosystems.
Posted by Perseus, Sunday, 25 June 2006 9:58:39 AM
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