UPDATE from Victoria

We will be posting letters to government ministers, officials and bureaucrats so that those of you who are interested in seeing NSF taken seriously by those in command of our country's future, can see our efforts in that pursuit.
We will also post any replies or reactions we get.

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UPDATE from Victoria

Postby duane » Tue Feb 17, 2009 4:02 pm

This is a copy of a letter sent today to John Brumby.

Premier John Brumby Special Message 17 February 2009


The present circumstances around the country pose a huge headache for Governments with devastating fires in Victoria and floods in Queensland.

Once this Australian landscape ran itself.

The fire cycle, prior Aboriginals, was once in every 300 years. Today, it is once in every 2-3 years (regardless of the cause).

Inground water and a dense cover of fire retardant, biodiverse plants once cooled the Australian landscape.

Today, our landscape is drained, dried, desiccated, barren of plant cover except for incendiaries of Eucalyptus trees waiting to vaporise like petrol tankers.

The answers to the problems we are witnessing are there for all to see...they are simple solutions. Solutions given to us by Nature and available for all to see.*

The floodwaters and fire regimes could be far better managed if only authorities understood these simple landscape processes.

The national landscape catastrophes currently facing our country need to be addressed at the highest levels including the Premier's proposed Royal Commission.

Premier, you will be inundated with experts and eyewitnesses on the ground saying this solution and that solution will be the best.


The Key is WATER!!

This is the only ingredient that saved lives and houses in the terrible recent events across Victoria.

We need to rehydrate the Victorian landscape like it was once.

This simple proof can be dramatically illustrated by doing a simple test.

If you purchase two copies of The Age this Saturday, soak one in the bath overnight and read the other.

Think of the copy coming out of the bath, as the landscape prior and the dry paper, as the landscape is today.

Next day, put both copies out in the Sun for a few hours. Then take a match and see which paper catches fire.

It’s as simple as that.

There are models available where this information can be dramatically demonstrated as to how our landscape once functioned under a wet reydrated paradigm.

We would encourage you to see it for yourself.

Duane Norris

* Peter Andrews’s books ‘Back from the Brink’ and ‘Beyond the Brink’ say it all.

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Request permission to republish

Postby sheilan » Sat Feb 28, 2009 11:30 am


This is exactly what I think.
So good to read.
Could I republish it at http://candobetter.org under "Victorian fires" section?
Let me know what signature and any other details you would like posted with it, if you agree to republish.

Sheila Newman
Ed and Population and Environment Sociologist

This is what I wrote here: http://candobetter.org/node/1062

How logging causes forest fires & how we can save our climate and forests

* View
* Edit
* Outline
* Track

Posted February 12th, 2009 by Sheila Newman

* Amazon
* Australia
* burning-off
* climate change
* democracy
* ecology
* forests
* logging
* water

To burn-off or not to burn-off?

There's a pot-stirring poll in today's Australian - Is conservation policy to blame for the fires?
The truth is that logging is responsible for the fires. Logging or 'forestry management' historically, and probably actually, underpins the philosophy of the Department of Sustainability Victoria's approach to forests and is almost certainly responsible for increasing fire-risk in our forests and Victoria's climate change.

New cut at brown mountain lets in light, starts drying
Here is what logging does to forests:

Source: Woods Hole Research Centre, "Fire and Savannization"

Every year, accidental understory fires damage a large percentage of Amazon forest. This is the phenomenon we have called 'cryptic deforestation' (Nepstad 1999). These escaped fires travel slowly (10-20 meters an hour) and only reach a few inches in height, but they can be quite destructive to understory vegetation and kill many larger trees. Once a forest has burned, increased leaf shedding, an abundance of branches and other coarse fuel enhance its fuel load, and an open canopy ensures the fuel will be dry enough to burn. Since settlement is typically a one-way process, the ignition source - humans - is there to stay, and successive burns tend to be more intense and destructive.

Cryptic deforestation due to forest fires and logging may affect as much forest area as deforestation in most years — and even more during periods of prolonged drought. For instance, during El Niño years, up to 25,000 km2 of Brazilian forests may be affected by fire."

We can change local climate by changing forests.

Think of how much cooler it is in a thick forest on a hot day, if that forest is dark and well watered.
A healthy forest is a microclimate that recycles its own water and creates rain.
The forests that burned were not healthy forests. They have been thinned for centuries by logging. Prior to that, the dry forests were largely created through aboriginal fire-stick farming.
We have been brainwashed by the logging industry to believe this is normal.

The same thing is now happening to the Amazon.
Fires will cost more if we don't spend money on forest-rehab now

Think of all the money and water that the fires have so-far cost us.
That could have gone to hydrating them, nursing them back in to health.
We could recycle water through forests, plant in-between the trees - providing viable understory and denser trees.

Clean Ocean Foundation has been campaigning for just such a use for 'waste-water' for years.

It could pay off in terms of increased rainfall and pleasant climate nearby, quite quickly. As we rehabilitate and increase our forests, around sustainably built, fire-proof towns, climate has a chance of improving, Victoria-wide. We really don't have any other options.

God, we just throw money away on everything else and in Victoria we do send an enormous amount of water which would once have percolated slowly through the land, mostly through forests, out into the sea. Gunnamatta outfall, for instance, where 150 gigalitres of polluted water runs into the sea every year.
Loggers have normalised drying, dying forests to our cost

Note that this may seem more of a problem than it is because the forests have been managed by people who have normalised the idea of constantly thinning forests so that the public no longer question the idea that they catch fire more and more frequently.
Logging costs Victoria more than money; we can employ loggers to rehabilitate the forests and our climate

Yet there are loggers who know and love the forests, but have no other way of making a living. Let's provide jobs for the community rehabilitating the forests and our climate. It would be so much more interesting and positive than logging - which probably costs Victoria more money than it makes.

A healthy forest lets in little light (pic by Sheila Newman)

The key to potentiating a wetter forest must be
(a) in redensifying it; adding trees so that there is less light and less drying
(b) in the opposite order, growing a wet understory, and several layers of such
(c) reducing light and increasing moisture by increasing canopy, density and tree size, height and age

Ideas for transforming dry forests into wet forests in Oz, esp. Victoria.

Dry forests will use up water only as long as it takes to get them on their feet; then they will conserve their own water and positively affect rainfall.

Gunnamatta Outfall - 150 GL a year.
- Wet the dry 'fuel' and use it as mulch.
- Maybe use chemical agents which retain moisture initially among the mulch (such as are sold for people who don't wish often to water their plants.
- Use wetting agents
- Close down some of the new intensive irrigation farms, such as feedlots and divert the water back to a good cause
- Use water from desal plants - if we must have them; let us use their water well instead of on new developments.

-Tax water speculators (buyers and sellers) an amount per dollar for forest rehab.
- Get volunteers to contribute money from their taxes to buy water for forest moistening.
Once you had established some wet understory, it wouldn't take too long for a lot of the evaporation to stop.

- Fast-growing wet-forest trees which could be helped along.
- Use a variety of techniques to intensify the humidity of the forest climate; maybe possible to artificially increase the canopy for a while, for instance, to retard evaporation.
- You could start planting a section at a time.
- It might be an idea to replant for wet forest (irrigated) on the edges of the forests next to towns (obviously you would then have to plant a buffer-zone to diminish evaporation. However you need a large, consolidated area to enhance the forest micro-climate

- Build up the earth around the forests, using bulldozers, to create giant swales feeding into the forests, stopping run-off and allowing percolation.
- Prolong the swales (Peter Andrews style) back as far as you can in the catchment area.
- Un-dam, undivert rivers and creeks which once fed the forests.

- Stop growing the population of water consumers and take some back from dumb industries like paper (short fibres) recycling. Most industrial recycling is a waste of energy. The most useful recycling you can do is of organic waste in your garden. (Yes, a garden is a very good thing for the environment.)

Those are just some ideas.
Keep on doing the same thing and you will get the same results - lots of bushfires

The Murrindindi fire blasted over the Black Range and some of the most "managed" forest in Victoria on it's way to the Acheron Valley and Marysville. Logging regeneration and pine plantations mostly. Then it slowed down once it hit the O'Shannesy/Armstrong catchment. Unfortunately looks like some old growth remnants from 1939 may have gone in the Deep Creek area.

The logging industry and their political mouthpieces don't care about the truth or facts, they are only concerned with establishing their self interest position in the public mind, off the back of tragedy, and of course blaming "greenies" and "conservation" as the villains.

It is a replay of what they did after the 1993 bushfires, and they kept it up for over 6 months.

Hopefully the Royal Commission will sort out the propaganda and lies from the truth, but no doubt the loggers will provide a barrage of submissions and run a PR campaign in their favour too.
The irresponsible and inflammatory attitude of the mainstream media

Miranda Divine has already jumped on the forest-bashing bandwagon, but has she even looked deeply into the matter?
Wilson Tuckey sounds like a wise old parent, doesn't he, giving us all the bad news about growing up. But are we such children as to believe him?

Twice today on Radio National the opportunists were at it - first Phil Cheney in the morning and on The World Today, the ABC Radio National gave David Packham oxygen.

Let the mainstream media know that their coverage of this rubbish is in bad taste and shows shocking ignorance of the issue. We must not allowing different environment sectors to be used as a political tools by the mainstream media, which, going by its interests in property development, population growth, housing and big-business, would rather get rid of the forests and the native wildlife and just have wall to wall houses and crops - and the hell with our climate.

Now go and answer that poll in the Australian.

See also: "Greens, logging, forest fires and malaria" of 11 Feb 09 and "Brown Mountain Rape" of 26 Jan 09

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Postby duane » Tue Mar 03, 2009 9:38 pm


You have my permission.

Duane Norris
Hardys Bay.

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Postby bradcapo2 » Tue Aug 04, 2009 11:17 am

Thanks for sharing this useful information. It's great.

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Re: UPDATE from Victoria

Postby ghosta » Tue Nov 16, 2010 3:11 pm

Ive only recently read Peters book and it attracted me to this website.

Im sure Duane means well by his/her post but I believe it is a great shame the post has remained here unchallenged for such a long time.
The suggestion that fires can be eliminated by a "simple" process of rehydrating the environment is amazing. How would this be done so simply? It took millions of years of evolution in the absence of mankind to transform Australia into a more hydrated state, but the minute aboriginal man stepped foot on the land the process began to reverse. The aboriginals had no trouble setting this "hydrated " vegetation on fire .....and there were only a few of them. Not only is the idea impossible, but it wont work.

I believe you do Peter a great diservice by mentioning his name and book in your letter; his work has nothing at all to do with what you suggest. Peter is struggling to get his ideas accepted and it doesnt help to have his name inadvertently associated with ideas that will be seen by some as "crackpot".

Those thinking along Duanes line of thought should reread Peters book and see what it actully says.

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Re: UPDATE from Victoria

Postby duane » Wed Nov 17, 2010 9:49 am

Here's a simple challenge to anyone to try.

On saturday buy TWO copies of the SMH newspaper.

Read one and soak the other in the bathtub overnight.

Next day, if it is fine and hot, take both the dry,read copy and the wet ,soaked copy outside and put them both in the sun.

Now take a match, strike it and set it onto both.

Let me know which one burns.

Simple illustration. The wet copy mimics the "hydrated landscape' whilst the dry copy indicates our current 'dry, unhydrated landscape'.

Aboriginals had 40-50,000 years of firestick policy. Rainforest will burn from the outside in. Its a long slow process but they managed it eg 15,000 years ago Lake Eyre was a forested wetland.

In the last 220 we have further encouraged this drying/burning policy. 99.75% of rainforest on the east coast that ran from Melbourne to Cape York has been destroyed. 94% of wetlands have been removed. 95% of the original vegetation has neen destroyed.

The land has been drained, dried and dessicated even further in the last 220 years and at a faster rate than than the previous 40-50K years.

Peter was present when this simple concept was delivered to the 100 year planning group, of the ACT government, planning fire prevention strategy for the territory.

Fire only makes the landscape more prone to fire.....whereas, a forested,hydrated landscape is wetter, cooler and gentler....as It helps to control/modify both rainfall and climate.

If we continue to burn we can guarantee that in time the whole continent could become a desert.

Duane Norris(male). PA to Peter ANDREWS

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Re: UPDATE from Victoria

Postby sceptic » Wed Nov 17, 2010 10:46 am

Aboriginals had 40-50,000 years of firestick policy. Rainforest will burn from the outside in. Its a long slow process but they managed it eg 15,000 years ago Lake Eyre was a forested wetland.


You need to also factor in long term climate change into this, over the past 100 000 years there's been warm periods and dry periods and these have been associated with changes to vegetation, cooler periods (e.g around 20 000 years ago) were associated with lower rainfall, lower ocean levels and more Chenopod species (saltbushes) being found in areas which are now coastal. In the late 90's Peter Shimeld did pollen analysis work in Moffats Swamp in Port Stephens reconstructing the vegetation community changes over the past 120 000 years, there have been times of more rainforest vegetation, there have been times of more arid vegetation and these tended to coincide with the prevailing climate at the time. Yes Aboriginal people did change the environment (as all organisms do) however the prevailing climate has a huge influence as well.

And as far as fires I've fought fires in swamps, I've dropped into water up to my chest with a knapsack on trying to put out spotfires in reed swamps, I've stood in awe as giant papaerbarks have caught alight belching out thick black smoke, the light from the flames reflecting off the water in which they stood. You can't get much more hydrated than that and still they burn.
The truth is out there.

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Re: UPDATE from Victoria

Postby duane » Wed Nov 17, 2010 2:09 pm

Even when the wet edge of the water soaked paper dries out, it will catch and burn the edge.

Dry paperbacks packed with VOC will burn like the edge of the paper, as too will dried out reeds when their season is finished, as too will the wet newspaper once it dries out.

Take a look at the fire retardant plants that survived Ash Saturday...the fires went over them and burnt some of the dry edges only.

Take the newspaper test and post your results here.

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Re: UPDATE from Victoria

Postby ghosta » Wed Nov 17, 2010 7:18 pm

Take the newspaper test and post your results here.[/quote]

Would you mind explaining what the newspaper test has to do with bushfires? We know saturated newspaper wont burn. The bushfire auhorities have tried saturating the bush using helicopters and aeroplanes dropping water, and that didnt work; what more can they do?

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Re: UPDATE from Victoria

Postby duane » Wed Nov 17, 2010 9:03 pm

The bushfire auhorities have tried saturating the bush using helicopters and aeroplanes dropping water, and that didnt work; what more can they do?

Many things including:
1. the Royal Commission recommendations said after the Ash Wednesday to plant fire breaks of fire retardant plants. Not one was planted. Instead Eucalypts were planted ensuring Victoria would burn again.
2. reconnect waterways to their floodplains to rehyrate the landscape
3. replant with native and exotic fire retardant forests
4. dont encourage the planting of any gum trees
5. restore wetlands systems
6. encourage soil moisture retention
7. stop burning

All of the above will moderate climate and thereby reducing the potential for fire.

That's just for a start.

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Re: UPDATE from Victoria

Postby ghosta » Thu Nov 18, 2010 7:55 am

Thanks for your reply.

I think bushfire and government authorities are looking for practical and achievable things that could be done.

Although I am Tasmanian, I travel throughout Victoria regularly each year. Ive not seen any firebreaks that have been constructed there were eucalypts were planted along them as you suggest. Can you tell me where this has happened?

Also you suggest stop burning as an option. Authorities attemt to stop burning by declaring days of total fire ban yet fires still occur. Have you thought what happens to the Australian bush when you stop burning? The leaf litter will build up to a maximum where depoition of material and decomposition are in balance. That means an enormous fuel load for fires being present. If you were to re read Peters book he explains in simple terms why this happens. Given many generations of fire exclusion we would expect the vegetation to gradually change to a more fire reardent type. This approach has been tried by our national park authorities but it has failed dismally. Fire cannot be exclude despite the best wishes and intent of everyone. And fires in these locked up National Parks are often uncontrollable due to the heavy buildup of fuel. Fires under adverse weather conditions will spot over firebreaks and restart where conditions are suitable.

Well intentioned ideas like you suggests, if they were at all possible, may help control fires under mild conditions, and localised efforts may save individual properties. But none of them will change the overall Australian landscape where devestating fires will still happen. Like it or not nature has adapted to circumstances through evolution and this powerful force is not going to be reversed with simplictic "easy" answers.

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Re: UPDATE from Victoria

Postby duane » Thu Nov 18, 2010 8:36 am

We can continue to burn until we turn the whole place into a desert....many may be happy when that happens.....because we will then be free of the ravages of bushfire .

Humans have a good track record of doing just that.

However, Nature is very forgiving, if we cam learn to work with her.

BTW.....I would like to know of any example of where fire has aggraded a landscape system.

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Re: UPDATE from Victoria

Postby ghosta » Thu Nov 18, 2010 10:09 am

duane wrote:
BTW.....I would like to know of any example of where fire has aggraded a landscape system.

There are examples wherever you look. Fire, particularly frequent fire, can result in soil instability on high ground. Some of the soil washes down after heavy rain aggrading the plains below. This IS pretty baic stuff in understanding the Australian landscape.

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Re: UPDATE from Victoria

Postby duane » Thu Nov 18, 2010 10:17 am

So we degrade one to aggrade another. They cancel each other out....all systems need to aggrade together to allow the system to build...better find another example as this example fails to pass go.

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Re: UPDATE from Victoria

Postby Julian » Thu Nov 18, 2010 11:09 am

Covered in rainforest and ferns 300 million years ago, Gondwana included South America, Africa, India and Antarctica. Most of Australia’s flora and fauna have their origins in Gondwana, which broke up about 140 million years ago.

Australia separated from Antarctica 50 million years ago. As it drifted away from the southern polar region, its climate became warmer and drier and new species of plants and animals evolved and came to dominate the landscape.

Maybe it is more than the Aborigines burning that has changed this landscape?
Luckily we are still moving North so eventually it will be wet again.

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