An extract from Beyond the Brink

If you have any questions about the new 'Beyond the Brink' book or it's contents, please make them here so others can respond or take part in any debate.

Moderator: webmaster

Post Reply
Posts: 1161
Joined: Fri Apr 20, 2007 1:44 pm
Location: Central Coast, NSW

An extract from Beyond the Brink

Post by duane » Mon Nov 03, 2008 12:46 pm

Here is a link to an extract from Peter's new book ... 324109.pdf

Posts: 24
Joined: Thu Feb 26, 2009 10:30 am
Location: Frankston, Victoria

Firestick farming and Back from the Brink

Post by sheilan » Wed May 06, 2009 10:37 pm

I just read the extract posted on Allens books on line from Peter Andrew's second book. I have not read the second book - I am having trouble finding a copy. However I am responding to P. Andrew's comments about the flack he got about his interpretation of the role of aboriginal firestick farming.

I personally found that he dealt with the matter very well. However, a little while later, after the fires here, I started questioning the rate of firestick farming and someone sent me this article by Andrew Cambell: ... hfires.pdf

Frankly I found his qualified comments about the rate and extent of firestick farming made a lot of sense. That doesn't mean that I have made up my mind. I would be interested to hear other NSF peoples' responses to the article.

By the way I am in the middle of writing a book myself and this is what I found myself writing about deforestation, fire, climate and population growth, because I suddenly realised that humans, once able to use fire, would have overused it immediately:

Climate, vegetation and human population cycles

It is likely that recent ice-ages were associated with an earth covered by vast forests. With the discovery of fire, humans removed enormous stretches of forest in their hunting, driving species to extinction and temporarily supporting larger human populations. The use of fire must have created holocausts for animals and vegetation in many places.

Recent theory supports the observations of historians that forestation is vital for rainfall away from coasts. Other studies show that forest fires produce enormous amounts of carbon gases.

It should therefore not surprise that the razing of forests at earlier times probably changed the earth’s climate to a hotter drier one, coinciding with rising sea-levels as ice melted.

In these situations many human populations would have crashed, as their food-sources crashed and insects switched to human hosts as their preferred animal hosts died off, causing malaria and other important diseases.

With every human population crash, however, the forests would have grown back again, and with them the snow and ice would have returned to the colder latitudes. At some stage humans began to buffer their survival through the use of agriculture, and this became a very important new cause of forest depletion and biodiversity attrition.

There is evidence that deforestation-reforestation climate change cycles, with accompanying crashes of population, occurred during the classical eras and the middle ages, as well as the many signs that this cycle is reoccurring in the 21st century.
Sheila N

Angela Helleren
Posts: 96
Joined: Sat May 19, 2007 6:45 am
Location: Victoria

Post by Angela Helleren » Thu May 07, 2009 9:33 am

Thanks for the link Sheilan...makes a lot of sense.

Though I couldn't help think at the time of the fires...perhaps if all the water needed to put out the fires had been used to hydrate the land/growth before, we may have escaped much of the damage and loss of life. The heat on that day alone (not in the fire zone) was enough to remove all moisture from the leaves on some of my plants but they hadn't had a drink in weeks...due to water restrictions and my forgetfulness. My vegies survived due to a few ice blocks . :wink: They went very limp but their leaves didn't brown off like the other plants.
Maybe what we really need are more DSE staff to regularly slash the under growth, mulching the forest floor.
Many hands make light work.
Unfortunately, too many hands stirring anti clockwise, has spoiled mother natures recipe.
Back to basics.

Posts: 1161
Joined: Fri Apr 20, 2007 1:44 pm
Location: Central Coast, NSW

Post by duane » Thu May 07, 2009 1:57 pm


Thanks for the link to Andrew Campbells comments.

In his observations he is very careful not to qualify burning as the best option for clearly it isn't the best option for the environment.

40,000 years of uncontrolled burning cannot in anyone's language be a good thing.

My own readings of the early NSW explorers told of bushfires everywhere. In fact Sturt said "they seem to have no pattern and are burning over vast areas". I would guess that 'Controlled burning' was not a necessary a planned strategy all those aeons ago.

Still, wet mosaics of forests once existed all over the continent (see Mary White's work). Rainforests both temperate, sub-temperate, sub tropical and tropical both the wet forests of Victoria did provide protection from fires.

We cannot say with absolute certainty that the whole of country was never torched.
CSIRO records from the GBReef show ash deposits increased in the coral beds with the arrival of humans.

What is an unassailable fact is that our failure to recognise the patterns and processes in this unique Australian environment has seen our country race to a situation where fires have all the ready made ingredients to create devastation.

We have removed the very things that used to provide us with protective barriers. We have removed:
1. 94% of our wetland systems by draining them without any real concern to their function. (AG DEHWA website)
2. We have incised most of our rivers, streams, creeks and gullies.....which once housed wet floodplains and riparian zones that acted as a dampener to the movement and spread of fires.
3. We have removed 95% of the original plant biodiversity that was here on settlement much of which contained many fire retardant species. (AG DEHWA website)

All of this has effected our climate and our rainfall.

Our landscape today is as dry as saturdays 'The Age' newspaper.
Put it out in the sun for a day.
It will burn, if lit, no matter what the conditions are. Only moisture, water or rain will prevent that from happening

Post Reply