When science is ignored, devastation follows

Credit:Cathy Wilcox

David Lindenmayer’s bushfire alert (“We are fuelling state’s bushfire risk”, 16/7) warns that recent studies show logged forests burn much hotter than old-growth forests. In particular, so-called ″⁣salvage logging″⁣ – removal of damaged trees – adds significantly to fire intensity.
However, VicForests is ignoring the science. VicForests staff are conflicted: their jobs depend on continued destruction of forests. Similarly, Game Management Authority staff are conflicted: their jobs depend on continued destruction of wildlife. In both cases, inconvenient scientific truths are overlooked.
It seems the premier is either blind to these conflicts, or happy to appease loggers and shooters. Too bad about irreversible environmental losses, or even the views of his parliamentary team.
Joan Reilly, Surrey Hills

Please, state government, join the dots
Within the context of living in a climate change emergency, where all ecosystems appear to be haemorrhaging, David Lindenmayer’s timely opinion piece (16/7) and his peer-reviewed research into the connectivity of logging and increased bushfire risk should act as a clarion call for the Andrews government to join the dots between the destruction of natural ecosystems and the rise of human misery caused as a direct result of natural disasters.
At the very least it should force their logging agency VicForests to disclose what evidence-based science underpins its insatiable deforestation practices within our native forests and water catchments. The public and scientific community deserve no less.
If the state government is genuine in its pledge to cut emissions and protect biodiversity values (Climate Plan 2021), then it should consider the economic, environmental, cultural and psychological benefits in immediately ″⁣locking up″⁣ our native forests to act as carbon stores that future-proof our communities against the effects of climate change, and then compare these benefits against the short-sighted and self-serving pursuits of a Trojan-like, exploitative industry whose sole survival is dependent upon the millions of dollars given annually by the Victorian taxpayer.
Rod Falconer, Eildon

Putting local communities at risk
One of the world’s leading forest ecologists, Professor David Lindenmayer, writes that scientific research clearly shows that native forest logging, salvage or otherwise, does not reduce bushfire risk but actually increases it.
If the Andrews government was aware of these studies, which they certainly should have been, how was permission given to the government logging agency VicForests to conduct salvage logging in more than 170 timber coupes? As Professor Lindenmayer says, most of this timber is going to pulp, all from a forest deemed to worthy of national park status. As well as adversely impacting threatened species habitat, it would seem that the state government is prepared to put local communities at the risk of bushfires of increased severity, as the result of this salvage logging.
Trevor Speirs, Trentham

Where is the sense in losing habitat?
Michael Read (Letters, 14/7) urges the Greens to focus on biodiversity and habitat as well as climate change. In 2020 the Victorian Greens asked the Parliamentary Budget Office to calculate what it would cost to shut down the native-forest timber industry in Victoria right away, rather than in the current time frame of 2030. The findings were that it would be expected to improve the state budget position by $191.9 million by 2029-30.
Moreover, VicForests has been the defendant in the matter of illegal logging as charged by seven community conservation groups over the past two years. Government subsidies given each year to this ″⁣business″⁣ contribute to loss of habitat to threatened species, and give no benefit to the taxpayer. Where is the sense of that?
Elaine Hopper, Blackburn


More beds needed
The root cause of the current pandemic crisis is the scarcity of hospital beds. This will not be corrected by money being allocated to employing 400 medical staff. What good is having a designated triage specialist if he can’t find a bed for a patient? It won’t resolve the ramping issue for ambulances. A designated hospital to treat patients with COVID hasn’t happened. It could have been helpful to prevent cross infection. A think tank of people involved at the coalface of this crisis could be helpful in finding effective solutions to assist in turning the tide of this crisis.
Christine Baker, Rosanna

Be supportive
Here we go yet again. We are all trying to live with the new strain of COVID and both the federal and Victorian oppositions are trying to gain mileage by criticising whatever the respective governments are trying to do. Why can’t they, just for once, and maybe just for COVID, support the respective governments trying to manage the difficult task that confronts us. We are dealing with people’s lives and that’s precious. It’s not asking too much, or is it?
John Cummings, Anglesea

It’s not just about you
Wearing masks on public transport is not just about protecting yourself. It assists lowering the rate of transmission of COVID that you may or may not know you are carrying. It also shows respect for the public health system and its exhausted workers.
Pia Brous, Prahran

A decision to rue
Qantas should put a duck on its tail instead of a kangaroo. My son and grandson arrived in Melbourne two weeks ago from Louisiana without their bags. It took five days to get them. They have just arrived back in Dallas and their bags are in Melbourne.
Georgina Simmons, Mornington

The real meaning
For readers of the article “Pandemic game changer” (17/7) who were puzzled by the statement “for the first time political science prevails over medical science” I offer the following simple translation.
Medical science = advice on controlling diseases.
Political science = advice on winning elections.
Prevails over = trumps.
For the first time = yet again.
Mike Sanderson, Drouin

Destructive forces
Nicholas Reece (Comment, 16/7) foresees the development of the west and inner north of Melbourne into inner city suburbs like Carlton and North Melbourne. While Reece refers to ″⁣tackling high rates of loneliness and isolation″⁣, he does not expand on destructive impacts of developers on inner city communities.
For example, in some inner city areas, fine old properties are being replaced by ugly apartment blocks where residents are isolated and surrounded by concrete and on-street parking rather than gardens, then as an after-thought, trees are planted in footpaths, causing root damage, restricting the flow of pedestrian traffic and increasing the likelihood of children and old people tripping and also creating hazards for prams and wheelchairs, thus reducing the capacity for social interaction and support. A primary focus on creation of inclusive neighbourhoods for all residents would have health and mental health benefits as well.
Robert Semmens, East Brunswick

Playing the percentages
A union official with long experience in hard-nosed enterprise bargaining in the car manufacturing sector put it this way: ″⁣A successful negotiation is where each side leaves the table having gained about 80 per cent of its intended position.″⁣ Something the new parliament in Canberra, and its media posse, should bear in mind.
Jim Spithill, Ashburton

The backflip twist
Howard Tankey (Letters, 18/7) states that the work backflip should only be used in certain circumstances. I would also remind him and those who use it frequently that after doing a backflip you are still facing the same way – unless of course it is a backflip with twist.
Alan Inchley, Frankston

Line up timeframes
A significant risk that is within the control of the state government relates to its insistence that the transition from coal-fired generation base load to renewable energy targets of 40 per cent by 2025 and 50 per cent by 2030 can be achieved without help from either coal and gas power stations to secure reliable supply.
Renewables by their nature need to be backed up by firm energy sources such as pumped hydro and battery storage. If the timeframes for implementing adequate capacity from backup sources are not in alignment with the timeline for the non-availability and decommissioning of the coal-fired stations, the lights will simply go out with huge economic impacts for the Victorian community.
Tony Beach, Williamstown

Australia can lead
The UN’s Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction, published in May and largely ignored, warned for the first time that without radical change we are on a course towards “global societal collapse”. The evidence is everywhere: fires, floods and droughts of a scale and frequency never before seen in the 10,000 years during which cities and agricultural societies have existed.
This is an existential crisis for every person on the planet – even more so for those who will inherit the mess. Yet there is pointless quibbling about Labor’s manifestly inadequate 43 per cent. No 2030 or 2050 target and no set of responses will be adequate. But we must try, and try in a way that dwarfs the responses to any previous crises human beings have faced.
As a wealthy, educated middle power, Australia can take the lead. Work with all countries, but particularly China and the US, to push for stronger international climate action. Immediately deal fossil fuel interests out of any involvement in planning our responses. Target support for renewable projects and drive a massive (job-creating) rollout of renewable energy infrastructure.
And to cover the costs? Start by cancelling the subs and un-legislating the stage three tax cuts for the wealthy.
Richard Barnes, Canterbury

Integrity role needed
The Grattan Institute recommends a new public appointments commission to combat political appointments to public positions (18/7). A Commonwealth Public Service Board existed from 1923 to combat such political appointments to ensure the integrity of appointments on merit and a public service providing frank and fearless advice to government. This has deteriorated as has the reputation of public service since the abolition of the board more than 30 years ago.
We are back to pre-1923 levels of blatant politicisation of appointment processes. There is a dire need for a PSB role to protect the integrity of public appointments.
Jackie Fristacky, North Carlton

Double standards
You can notate yourself as ″⁣father″⁣ without recriminations but, call yourself a ″⁣mother″⁣ and you bring down the wrath of the minority that insists you must be known as a ″⁣birthing person″⁣. Until the term ″⁣inseminating person″⁣ becomes de rigueur, there would seem to be another example of sex-based double standards.
Josephine Bant, Collingwood

Go figure green
The supermarket chains have worked hard getting rid of single-use plastics. They work hard to project their green credentials. Then a few times a year, promotions are rolled out filled with useless, collected single-use figurines. Miniature box of washing powder anyone? I know that the figurines can be returned for recycling and I’d love to know the percentage of promotional materials returned. Why fill the world with unwanted plastics? Who’s asking for these promotions?
Sarah White, Dandenong

Wrong priorities
The PM and Treasurer used the excuse of the budget deficit to try to avoid COVID payments. They should use it to stop the tax reductions, remove negative gearing on housing and stop tax imputations. This will improve the budget bottom line no end.
David Robertson, Wheatsheaf

Sri Lanka aid
The editorial (18/7) acknowledges the corruption, pain and challenges that face Sri Lankans. While the nation owes large amounts of money to China and India and is not likely to be excused, the debt owed to international agencies such as the World Bank or the IMF should be wiped. Usually money lent by these agencies comes with austerity measures, which only adds to the burden for the population. As the editorial says, Australia can help with diplomacy and aid.
We have hastily offered a haven (if only temporarily) for Ukrainians fleeing the war there, surely we can be more generous with Sri Lankans especially given many are already part of our community; we could offer family reunions, since we return boats with refugees also seeking a haven.
Judith Morrison, Nunawading

Selfishness is rife
People who worry that others are not wearing masks care about others, not just themselves. Non-mask wearers are driving up hospital numbers. People need to think about the pressures on doctors and nurses and those who can’t get elective surgery. Selfish individualism is rife.
Susan Simpson, Surrey Hills

Evolution’s downside
Albert Einstein said the most amazing consequence of the laws of nature was that they allowed the evolution of humans to contemplate them. But other consequences of evolution are far less attractive; namely, arrogance and entitlement that outweigh reason.
Henry Herzog, St Kilda East


Wearing a mask protects you to a degree, but others without masks coughing or sneezing can spread viruses onto objects that you then touch. So do we have to wear gloves and protective clothing so that other people can protect their freedom to pollute us?
Doris LeRoy, Altona

If all infected people wore masks, there would be no transmission. That is why others get worried.
Russell Brims, Bentleigh East

Whenever I do a backflip I land facing the same way.
Bill King, Camberwell

Surely the COVID payment should only be made to those who are fully vaccinated.
Dick Noble, Lucknow

Masks are mandatory but that rule is often flouted. Why not use PSOs to enforce compliance?
John Brodie, Alphington

Your correspondent (Letters, 16/7) is concerned that masks impede communication. Dead people don’t speak.
James McDougall, Fitzroy North

Can I have a key board job too? I’m not a political ally, but I can play the piano.
Kevan Porter, Alphington

Like Ash Barty, Australia has another unpretentious champion to celebrate in golfer Cameron Smith.
Peter Morris, Connewarre

Like the London Underground, the Suburban Rail Loop will take years to build and cost billions of dollars. But as the proverb says, a society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they shall never sit.
Paul Custance, Highett

Vladimir Putin has gone far enough. What is the purpose of NATO?
Barry Revill, Moorabbin

A wonderful way to support a friend who has cancer is to donate blood and wear a N95 or P2 mask whenever inside a public building.
Juliet Allen, Fitzroy

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