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Australian Environmental Issues

Blue-tongue
A true-blue battler

Box jellyfish
How to avoid the stings and what to do if stung

Crocodile
So you wrestle crocs...

Dingo
Unfairly judged in killing off the thylacine?

Echidna
The wise little gnomes of Australia

Emu
Victors of the great Emu war

Flies
Shaping everything from how Australians speak to how they salute

Funnel Web spider
Yyou'll never leave your ugg boots outside

Kangaroo
Most herbivores don't grow a spine until they are the size of an elephant. Not so the roo.

Snakes
Kill less people than cows

Shark attack Australia
How to ensure you don't go by the name of Bob

Tasmanian Devil
The solution to mainland extinctions?

Tasmanian Tiger
A sad tale

Wombat
Keg of muscle

Quoll
The mainland's largest marsupial carnevore

Mythical creatures
Yowies and dropbears; some say they are myths but those who are not afraid to talk have shared their stories

 

 

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Kangaroo and baby

Australia's Stockholm Syndrome with eucalypt trees.

Australians seem to have a bit of Stockholm syndrome when it comes to the eucalypt tree. After humans arrived in Australia around 50,000 years ago, they started using fire in hunting, which greatly helped the eucalypt gain ascendancy because of its ability to recover quicker from bushfires than its competitors. By 25,000 BC, eucalypts had become the dominant plant species in Australian forests. From a perspective of biodiversity, the ascendency of the eucalypt was a disaster. The eucalypt’s anti-bacterial oil rich leaves couldn't be stomached by many animals or even insects. This in turn resulted in relative monocultural ecosystems. As well as promoting monocultures, the eucalypt's propensity for fire saw Australia become the most bush fire prone continent on earth.

Given the threat that it poses to life, livestock, biodiversity and houses, it is actually somewhat illogical to see such affection for the plant to the point that personal safety is at risk. As Joan Webster, author of Essential Bushfire Safety Tips, asked:

"Tigers are native to India. Do Indians keep tigers in their gardens? Or allow them to roam their streets? No. They could kill someone. So why do we Australians feel a compulsion to surround our houses with native plants; grow them in suburban streets? They can kill people… With the fashion for indigenous trees in our gardens, we in effect stack kindling around our houses. Build them within a pyre. Ready for a sacrificial burn."(1)

Not only do many Australians insist on surrounding their own homes with the eucalypts, they also insist other Australians do the same. In the words of former ACT chief minister Jon Stanhope:

"There's a strong ideological debate to be had about this. I was always, whenever I raised these questions in government … [asking] why can't we have some more exotics, but of course it was always as though I was suggesting something completely outrageous."(2)

Best plants to have around your house in a bushfire

atemisia
Hebe
hydrangea
Artemisia
Common names: wormwood, angel hair,
Origins: Asia

Hebe speciosa
Common name: veronica
Origins: New Zealand

Hydrangea macrophyll
Origins: Japan
Camellia
Spider Flower
Frangipani

Camellia
Origins: South east Asia

Hymenocallis littoralis
Spider flower
Origins: South America

Hymenosporum flavum
Frangipani
Origins: North Australia

Lavender
Diplarrena moraea
(White Iris)
Origins: Australia
Lavendula angustifolia
English Lavender
Origins: Mediterranean 
Pomaderris apetala
New Zealand Hazel / dogwood
Origins: Southern Australia / New Zealand
Fruits
fruits plums, cherries, peaches,
 nectarines, apricots, and almonds.

Origins: Eurasia
Acacia caerulescens (low flammability. Dead material should be removed. Will burn when dry)
Limstone blue wattle
Origins: Southern Australia
Salix babylonica
Weeping Willow
Origins: China
     

Fire Safe in Califonia

Fire resistant plants - from Tasmanian Bushfire service
Fire resistant and fire retardant plants - from Australian plant society

The affection to a plant that poses a very real risk to life every summer can be attributed to a number of possibilities. The first is appreciation for its amazing resilience that sees it able to survive the infernos of a bushfire and/or such climatic conditions where other plants just die. That success as a species just cultivates respect. This is not just in case, but around the world. For example, Eastern Island was stripped of its trees in centuries past. Eucalypts were planted in the 1970s and thrived where other trees just died. Easter Islanders love the fact the Eucalypts provide a chance to see a forest. Likewise, Ethiopians have successfully used eucalypts to re-forest decimated regions. Not only are they very water hardy, but they provide fuel for fires and don't need to be protected from hungry elephants.

The eucalypt has an amazing ability to recover from bushfire. It is hard not to admire its resilience.

A second reason might the eucalypt's totemic status across Australia as a result of dominanting the continent in a way that no other tree variety has on any other continent on Earth. In north America, there is great diversity with redwood, to pine and to oak etc dominating in different regions. Likewise in Asia, there is cypresses to birches and to magnolias etc. In Australia, there is basically just eucalypts that dominant in the snowy highlands to the arid centre. In this way, the tree has a very special affinity with all Australians no matter where they live. In fact, it could perhaps be argued there is even more affection for gum trees than other emblems like kangaroos.

A third reason might be a perverse light in fire and the sense of community that comes in lighting them. Specifically, burning gum leaves smell very nice as do their charred remains.  Furthermore, in the fuel reduction burns that are completed in the name of bushfire prevention, it can be somewhat hypnotic to see the flames crawl along the ground and lick at the tree trunks. For a number of decades, the Victorian town of Marysville seemed a fan of such fires as the community started controlled burns to reduce fuel loads in in 1981, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1999, 2004, 2005 and 2008. Despite being very diligent in their burns, the inevitable happened. Irrespective of whether a barrel of oil is 100% full or 20 % full, it is still a fire hazard and a eucalypt forest is no different. In 2009, Marysville was hit by a firestorm and 100 people died. Truly, it was a classic case of Stockholm Syndrome as the community felt psychological alliance to what would ultimately destroy them.

Bushfire

1)The burning issue: native gardens a killer on our doorstep Date: January 19 2013 Canberra Times

2)A Majestic Folly Soars  http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/a-majestic-folly-soars-20130125-2dcn8.html#ixzz2JJjvxNpA

Invasive ferals

Carp

Carp and Trout
A tale of two ferals

New hope for Cane Toads
The many unknown predators of the toad

Rabbits
A fence almost 2,000 km long to keep rabbits out of WA? Sounds like a great idea! If it doesn't work, we'll build another one!

The Willow
How a change in its status from asset to weed led to fish kills with blackwater and blue-green algae outbreaks

To bait dingos?
Should the health of the ecosystem be considered or just the kennel club registration?

Koala control
What to do about the "koala plague" on Kangaroo Island

Cat
Apex predator in Australia. Confined to urban areas in America.

Environmental values

Environmental problems
How money and ideology shapes environmental "science."

Bushfire
Australia's Stockholm Syndrome with gum trees.

The Kangaroo industry
Should we eat skippy?

Climate change in Australia
Australia was once covered in rainforest. Could it be again?

Sustainability
The dark side of sustainable environmental policies

Native pets
Why no pet wombats?

 

 

       

Australian environmental science is defined by an ideology that is not unlike a prison warden. There, the scientists are not seeing themselves as part of the ecosystem, but as masters over it; protecting the rights of the species that they say have rights and killing those that they say do not…but inevitably killing both.

"It was always seen as desirable to remove or cull the introduced species. We also need to ask whether it was possible to do so, how it should be done, whether it could have unintended consequences and what it would cost? I don't think anyone really asked those questions." Physicist John Reid - 2012