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18/01/2005

My previous post makes reference to a poem by Mauricio Redolés. It is difficult to explain the beauty of some of Mauricio’s writings, seek particularly when you hear him singing (it’s crap). It is hard to find his poems in the web, hemorrhoids so here there is one — I know, in Spanish, although I have tried to include as many links as possible in English — that I find particularly interesting. This is a transcription from a reading, so most probably the verses are a bit off.

Bello barrio (Mauricio Redolés 1987)

Descubrí un bello barrio en Santiago de Chile
Es un bello barrio en que los camaradas no han desaparecido aún y los bares son color anilina que puede leerse al revés igual.

Descubrí un bello barrio de luces antiguas y gente amable
Las mujeres son bellas ánimas aún más que una madre, atraviesan las calles en aeroplano.

Y hay avisos, y hay avisos, y hay avisos, y hay avisos antiguos envueltos en gasa y paños sencillos

Y el blues vive en la sangre y aún no ha llegado la hora de los asesinatos
Es más aún, la banda de asesinos todavía es tramitada en las fronteras del Polo Sur.

Descubrí un bello frágil barrio al suroeste de Santiago de Chile
Su belleza es tal que aún mi hermano tiene el rostro recompuesto antes de la fiebre verde y los fierrazos.

Es bello, porque parece ser Londres 1956 por Bethnal Green
O Buenos Aires 1950, con equipos de fútbol y barras de emigrantes
y Gato Barbieri es chico, con olor a chocolate y naranjas

Hay arreglos de guitarra imaginativos y tengo amores con una muchacha que es casi de este barrio.

Hay la alegría de esa utopía que nos negó este siglo

Ven a vivir esta fragilidad peligrosa de corromperse

Aquí nadie discrimina a los negros porque todos somos negros
Aquí nadie discrimina a los obreros porque todos somos obreros
Aquí nadie discrimina a las mujeres porque todos somos mujeres
Aquí nadie discrimina a los chicanos porque todos somos chicanos
Aquí nadie discrimina a los comunistas porque todos somos comunistas
Aquí nadie discrimina a los chilenos porque todos somos chilenos
Aquí nadie discrimina a los cabros chicos porque todos somos cabros chicos
Aquí nadie discrimina a los rockeros porque todos somos rockeros
Aquí nadie discrimina a los punkies porque todos somos punkies
Aquí nadie discrimina a los mapuches porque todos somos mapuches
Aquí nadie discrimina a los hindúes porque todos somos hindúes

Ven a vivir esta fragilidad peligrosa de corromperse

Bello barrio, bello barrio, bello barrio, bello barrio bello

En que los cines dan las películas del Guatón Ruiz
Y la música de Los Jaivas no ha sido destruida a hachazos

Bello barrio con b larga y a corta, en que el proyecto cultural no ha sido culeado,
ni tampoco nos borraron los murales
que anuncian la venida del afamado grupo chicano de rock Los Lobos
y la emigración de viejos chipriotas y hermanas negras traen la comida y la música que nadie les pisoteará
Porque acá nadie discrimina a los chipriotas porque todos somos chipriotas
Y en donde tú vas con tu sueño y la ternura viva en los labios
Porque acá nadie discrimina a los que van con su sueño y la ternura viva en los labios.

Bello barrio en que los dinamitados aún tienen los dedos pegados a las manos y el páncreas dentro de su cuerpo y van por ahí tranquilos
Más tranquilos que son esos

Barrio donde existen horas que después no fuerán necesarias
Barrio de lluvia y gotas como estufa y hay una sinceridad de panadería que me pone nostálgico y sureño
Y la guerra no está ni en las historietas del kiosco
Porque en esas historietas vienen sólo colores y gritos de gozo

Iba un hombre mitad pez y mitad hombre y todos lo quieren y le preguntan:
¿Cuál es tu nombre amigo?
Y él ríe con sus ojos anaranjados de pez

Barrio donde ese loco de Miraflores y Merced salió hace cincuenta siglos, la mañana en que el tiempo ajeno fue el tiempo

Ven a vivir esta fragilidad peligrosa de corromperse

Barrio con cuadernos de hojas verdes y gruesas
donde el lápiz conversa con el cuaderno al escribir y son amigos

Barrio donde Soledad Fariña pinta su primer libro
Barrio donde Téllez organiza un primer tucaneo

Descubrí un bello barrio en que el oxigeno es bello y puedo llorar cuando escribo

Descubrí un bello barrio donde nadie discrimina a los allanados porque todos nos hemos hallado

Ven a vivir esta fragilidad peligrosa de corromperse

Barrio donde los misterios son misterios bellos y entretenidos
Barrio donde las chimeneas echan oxígeno y la gente puede perder un paraguas, pero nadie le devuelve una metralleta, conchetumadre

Barrio en que en la tele aún sale el Perro Olivares y Cortázar y Arlen Siu y Víctor Jara y Roque Dalton y John Lennon. Están posibles con la posibilidad que vivieron

Barrio en donde los accidentes son accidentales

Acá el presente no ha acontecido, es más aún, las balas que desgarrarán los tiernos pezones de los desaparecidos aún son plomo en lejanas minas de un continente aún no descubierto

Ven a vivir esta fragilidad peligrosa de corromperse

En donde las librerías de viejos están llenas de obras que luego la memoria tendrá que someter a la fantasía
Barrio en donde los poetas aún dialogan con la muerte, de madrugada, bebiendo pisco y no se han enemistado con ella

Acá el futuro se vive en su pasado, noticias vulgares en radios vulgares

Ven a vivir esta fragilidad peligrosa de corromperse

Se llega por recorridos de micros inexistentes
Se llega por calles subterráneas
Ven a esta bella barriada a encender el ultimo fuego
amor

Bello Barrio certainly reminds me of Barrio Bellavista, where I used to live with my parents in Dardignac Street.

It seems that during summer time not much is happening on environmental issues in Tasmania. Plenty of people are on holidays and the news cover mostly regrettable natural disasters around the planet. Anyway, click
just a few things that will be—or are likely to be—happening in Tasmania during 2005:

  • 1080 will stop being used in State Forests in December 2005. Therefore, Forestry Tasmania will stop its use, in the same way it stopped using Atrazine in 1997.
  • Parliament will continue the discussion about repealing section 32A (112 KB, PDF file) of the Freedom of Information Act. Although Forestry Tasmania is subject to Freedom of Information law, it may request exemption under specific circumstances. FoI law still protects information considered ‘commercial in confidence’, including pricing.
  • The government should make available the results of public consultation on the projected pulp mill in Northern Tasmania.
  • Forestry Tasmania should make public the updated version of Alternatives to Clearfell Silviculture. They were supposed to be released around the time of the past Federal Elections. On hindsight it was good that the results were not released on time. The issue will still be political, but not more than necessary.

I doubt that there will be any real news before March.

PS. 2005-05-16. Additional reservation and other changes were announced in May.

Filed in environment, forestry, politics, tasmania No Comments

Additional land not reserved yet

29/12/2004

In an unsurprising appearance in the news a few days ago, doctor Senator Bob Brown said that nothing is going to happen with the re-elected government’s promise on Tasmanian forests, weight loss so he will not hold his breath about their conservation.

But what would happen if parts of the Tarkine were to be reserved? What would be the impact on Tasmania’s environmental debate if part of the Styx Valley became protected? I think that is highly unlikely that the whole areas — which go way above the 170,000 ha promised by the government — will be reserved. For once, it would probably break the RFA (Regional Forestry Agreement). On another front, it would be seen as too much a concession to the Greens.

However, if the heart of the Tarkine or the section of the Styx Valley that contains the tall trees (yes, a good part of the valley does not contain giant/tall trees) what would be the reaction of environmentalist organisations? They would probably claim that ‘the end is near’ and that ‘it is not enough’, despite of extending partial reservation to two icons of the Tasmanian environmental debate.

I may be wrong — and Bob Brown in the right path — and nothing will happen with this electoral promise. In fact, I normally do not trust politicians; however, in this case I think that the ‘John W. Howard’ reserve (mock name, of course) will be a reality pretty soon indeed.

PS. 2005-05-16. Additional reservation and other changes were announced in May. Bob was wrong.

Filed in environment, forestry, politics, tasmania 1 Comment

Freedom and legal action

20/12/2004

I received comments about this site from an old university friend who works in Latin America for a major environmentalist organisation. He had some compliments and many criticisms, food the latter including that ‘there is only a superficial varnish of conservation biology and you don’t touch political issues like overconsumption and rural poverty’. He is somewhat right, cystitis because — mostly due to lack of time — I have not treated with detail all those issues. I will start with poverty.

It is possible to claim that poverty is closely linked to many environmental problems. If one lives in poverty environmental problems tend not to be at the top in one’s list of worries. This probably is because this would imply long term planning, and one is in survival mode. A typical example of poverty and its interaction with the environment is that large part of natural forests deforestation — particularly in the Third World — it is due to harvesting for firewood by poor people. Another one is that reproduction rate (and therefore larger populations that exert more pressure on the environment) is higher in poorer societies.

Richer societies tend to develop a preoccupation for the natural environment — and can dedicate resources to improve it. An increase of living standards is often accompanied by a reduction of birth rate. Graphical representation between income and a series of ‘quality of life’ indicators can be found at Gapminder’s site. Environmental conditions and quality of life tend to improve when societies become richer. Then the questions are Why are some countries poor? and How do we get people out of poverty?

In The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else (you can read the introduction here), Hernando de Soto argues that developing countries have failed because most people have dead capital.

Even the poorest people save… but they hold these resources in defective forms: houses built on land whose ownership rights are not adequately recorded, unincorporated businesses with undefined liability, industries located where financiers and investors cannot see them. Because the rights to these possessions are not adequately documented, these assets cannot readily be turned into capital, cannot be traded outside of narrow local circles where people know and trust each other, cannot be used as collateral for a loan, and cannot be used as a share against an investment.

My old friend’s comments and the previous quote reminded me of some lectures on ‘rural development’ at university, where with another friend we questioned the approach proposed by the lecturer. ‘Weren’t we just perpetuating a subsistence level but not increasing living standards?’ ‘Wasn’t the lack of clear property rights (going back to old Spanish institutions like mayorazgo) one of the main causes of environmental degradation in Chile’s IV region?’

Rather than continuous handouts, poor countries need help on implementing reforms that transform all the wealth in their informal economies into capital. Doing this will certainly contribute to improve environmental conditions in the Third World. Going back to my university days: developing a drought-tolerant tree species for firewood is a nice thing to do, but will do very little on improving living standards in a permanent way, because it doesn’t tackle the roots of the problem.

Gunns has started legal action against twenty environmentalist individuals and groups, nurse
including Bob Brown, Peg Putt, the Wilderness Society and Doctors for Forests. The company is trying to recover around AU$6.36 million that claims to have lost due to:

  • Logging operations disruption campaigns and actions at Lucaston, Hampshire, Triabunna and the Styx;
  • Corporate vilification campaigns relating to the Burnie Woodchip site and the Banksia Awards;
  • Campaigns against overseas customers of the First Plaintiff (Gunns) including customers in Japan and Belgium;
  • Corporate campaigns targeting shareholders, investors and Banks.

The writ claims that the environmentalists’ campaign is a conspiracy to injure Gunns and to interfere with Gunns trade and business by unlawful means. The writ is quite large, and you can obtain a copy from Bob Brown’s website (PDF 5.4MB).

Environmentalist organisations and forest companies have used before legal action, called to Royal Commissions, lodged formal complaints, etc. Thus, there is nothing new in the ‘legal approach’ to environmental ‘debate’. However, this time Gunns is certainly aiming high in a very risky bet.

Is legal action threatening freedom of speech? I think it is hard to be conclusive about it. On one side, it may deter people voicing their opinions and genuine concerns, which would be a major drawback. On the other, there would be pressure to be more responsible when expressing dissent, particularly pushing people to ‘check facts’ and to avoid bogus claims to disqualify their opponents, which would be a major plus. I would certainly prefer a parallel universe where people would speak their minds openly always telling the truth. However, I live in this universe where legal action may be the lesser evil.

Will Gunns be able to prove the accusations presented in the writ? I find it hard to believe, particularly when (i) trying to connect cause (environmentalists actions) with effects (loss of income) and (ii) valuing the size of the effect of the campaign. It may be that Gunns is trying to establish a ‘fear factor’ (that I do not think will be achieved) or that John Gay really believes the contents of the writ and is trying to recoup some of the money. Anyway, there are interesting days ahead of us.

In a not so unrelated note, the Independent Complaints Review Panel of the ABC, found that the ‘Lords of the Forests Programs’ (aired on 16 February 2004) showed some innacuracies, unsourced visions and emotive language, which affected its balance and fairness.

Filed in environment, forestry, politics, tasmania No Comments

Environmental degradation and poverty

13/12/2004

I received comments about this site from an old university friend who works in Latin America for a major environmentalist organisation. He had some compliments and many criticisms, food the latter including that ‘there is only a superficial varnish of conservation biology and you don’t touch political issues like overconsumption and rural poverty’. He is somewhat right, cystitis because — mostly due to lack of time — I have not treated with detail all those issues. I will start with poverty.

It is possible to claim that poverty is closely linked to many environmental problems. If one lives in poverty environmental problems tend not to be at the top in one’s list of worries. This probably is because this would imply long term planning, and one is in survival mode. A typical example of poverty and its interaction with the environment is that large part of natural forests deforestation — particularly in the Third World — it is due to harvesting for firewood by poor people. Another one is that reproduction rate (and therefore larger populations that exert more pressure on the environment) is higher in poorer societies.

Richer societies tend to develop a preoccupation for the natural environment — and can dedicate resources to improve it. An increase of living standards is often accompanied by a reduction of birth rate. Graphical representation between income and a series of ‘quality of life’ indicators can be found at Gapminder’s site. Environmental conditions and quality of life tend to improve when societies become richer. Then the questions are Why are some countries poor? and How do we get people out of poverty?

In The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else (you can read the introduction here), Hernando de Soto argues that developing countries have failed because most people have dead capital.

Even the poorest people save… but they hold these resources in defective forms: houses built on land whose ownership rights are not adequately recorded, unincorporated businesses with undefined liability, industries located where financiers and investors cannot see them. Because the rights to these possessions are not adequately documented, these assets cannot readily be turned into capital, cannot be traded outside of narrow local circles where people know and trust each other, cannot be used as collateral for a loan, and cannot be used as a share against an investment.

My old friend’s comments and the previous quote reminded me of some lectures on ‘rural development’ at university, where with another friend we questioned the approach proposed by the lecturer. ‘Weren’t we just perpetuating a subsistence level but not increasing living standards?’ ‘Wasn’t the lack of clear property rights (going back to old Spanish institutions like mayorazgo) one of the main causes of environmental degradation in Chile’s IV region?’

Rather than continuous handouts, poor countries need help on implementing reforms that transform all the wealth in their informal economies into capital. Doing this will certainly contribute to improve environmental conditions in the Third World. Going back to my university days: developing a drought-tolerant tree species for firewood is a nice thing to do, but will do very little on improving living standards in a permanent way, because it doesn’t tackle the roots of the problem.

Filed in economics, environment No Comments

Clean, green and sustainable

7/12/2004

I always find surprising the clean and green motto used by New Zealand, health particularly the green part. Driving with Marcela and Orlando from Christchurch to Wakefield (following the Kaikoura, this site Blenheim, Nelson route) the whole landscape has been transformed. There were only rare examples of the original native vegetation, but there were plenty of farms and wineries (with very nice white wines, by the way).

Orlando copilot, pit stop in Blenheim

Yes, the place tends to be very clean and there is a surprisingly large number of public toilets (most of them quite clean). However, from an environmental point of view, New Zealand has been modified and transformed into a large farm. In fact, Tasmania is much ‘greener’ and with a larger forested proportion. It just happens to be drier and, therefore, the vegetation looks less green.

In summary, the motto seems to be clever marketing but quite far from reality. This takes me to another word used all the time with the motto: sustainability and the almost religious meaning of the word.

A few weeks ago I was asked in Tasmanian Times if plantation forestry was sustainable, mostly from a soil fertility viewpoint. Of course my answer was ‘it depends on site and silvicultural practices’. However, every time I answer this type of questions I have a feeling of uneasyness, because people seem to think that the idea is to repeat ‘exactly the same practices’ ad infinitum. That is, they assume a static world, where there is no technological change and no learning. For example, applying current techniques we would probably be able to keep growing plantations one after the other in the same site, while maintaining site productivity. However, most likely we will not use the same techniques and we will want to actually increase productivity while reducing the amount of land dedicated to production.

Filed in environment, new zealand, orlando, travel No Comments

More false dilemmas

16/11/2004

Environmental discussion in Tasmania is plagued with false dilemmas. As I described before in Conservation or production: a false dilemma, prescription the reduction of environmental issues to ‘two unpleasant mutually exclusive propositions’ shows either dishonesty or lack of imagination (maybe both). In that case, I pointed out that the false dilemma was being presented by environmentalists.

This time around the false dilemma comes from the pro-forestry camp. It is now phrased as ‘pulp mill or woodchips’. Considering the diversity of forests and of their management in Tasmania (species, ages, silviculture, etc), it is conceivable to feed a range of industrial processes (e.g., pulp mills, sawmills, veneer mills, energy production, etc) to obtain, again, a range of products. However, the discussion is presented as we either build a large pulp mill or keep transforming part of the forests into woodchips. Either you support a pulp mill or you support woodchipping; bollocks!

There are, of course, many possible alternative scenarios: large pulp mill, no pulp mill, small pulp mill and other mills, etc. When searching for optimal solutions for Tasmania there is no point on discarding options a priori just because they do not boil down to a simple message or slogan.

I know. I may expect too much from politicians…

Filed in environment, forestry, politics, tasmania 1 Comment

Boring election and loonies

6/11/2004

Watching the coverage of the USA’s presidential election reminded me of García Márquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold (Crónica de una muerte anunciada). The end of the story was known from the first pages — well, symptoms unless you were a die hard Democrat, but the flavour was in the details. Is the world any better because George Bush won? Probably not, but Kerry winning would not have made much of a difference. As The Economist put it, the choice was between the incompetent and the incoherent.

Given that the election was not that interesting, and that I was confined home with a cold, I decided to do something ‘useful’. I went through some old fan and hate mail for this blog and my Forestry in Tasmania site in an attempt to select the ‘all time classic’. The winner was the chap from the United Kingdom, claiming that there was a conspiracy to hide the environmental problems in the Stix Valley. He would look for it in Google and could not find any references to the problem. Surely the forest industry was exercising undue pressure on Google to hide the truth. Hint: look for Styx Valley, with y, and get over 6,000 hits. What can one say about that? Illiterate comes to mind. He added ‘what can we do about this? Maybe we should boycott Circus Oz, which is financed by Forestry Tasmania’. Of course Circus Oz has no relationship with the forest company, except for participating in 2001 in the Ten days on the island festival, which at the time was sponsored by Forestry Tasmania. The festival had dozens of artists participating, and none of them would claim that they were financed by a forest company. Loonie.

Continuing with loonies, I just read a letter written by a Rambo wannabe representing Doctors for Forests, explaining that the ‘civil war to defend Tasmanian forests’ must continue. I hope he uses a different definition. Should we now start shooting each other over some trees?

Filed in environment, forestry, politics, tasmania No Comments

Federal election: another triumph for the market

12/10/2004

Last Saturday the coalition Liberal/National Party easily won the election, approved despite polls predicting a very close result. However, phimosis the market (i.e., capsule betting odds) was giving a probability of 0.6 for a Liberal victory.

This reflects an interesting phenomenon: one should trust more where people put their money than what they say will do. I call this the ‘footy tipping effect’, where most fans will bet against their team if that means they can win the tipping competition. Thus, one can extract more reliable information from tipping than when there is nothing to loose (like in an opinion poll).

Coming back to election policies, Labor was unable to sell its forest policy in Tasmania and did not get anything in exchange in mainland. Labor lost two seats — Bass and Braddon — in Tassie (at least in part because of that policy) and failed to gain the marginal seats in urban mainland that were the reason of being for that policy.

I expect that now that the election is over, political pressure on the forest industry will reduce a bit. Despite of this, I think it is a good idea for industry to use this post election time for making changes that enhance community support in urban areas. This would reduce the ability of its adversaries to put again forestry in the spotlight at federal level. Finally, it is clear from the election results that rural areas are certainly behind industry, as it has been suspected for a long time.

Filed in economics, environment, politics No Comments

The last pending forest policy

8/10/2004

This was the question I asked — tongue in cheek, herbal almost a year ago — in The Agora. How come that I bought a bottle of ‘organic water’ in this web +tasmania&ie=UTF8&z=12&iwloc=addr&om=1″>Scamander (north-eastern Tasmania), doctor or the high prices for crappy ‘organic tomatoes’ (small, full of blemishes and tasting no different from a normal one), or the resistance against GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) in many parts of the world?

I have participated in a few discussions about GMO and some people have a visceral reaction against them, because they are unnatural. Well, plastics, planes, cars, computers are unnatural and we happily interact with them in a day to day basis. People eat varieties of crops and fruits that are the result of mutations induced through radiation exposure, but they will complain against GMO plants. People complain against cloning, but they will buy apple or rose varieties that are, in fact, a clone. What does make a chimera, clone or GMO so different from a ‘natural’ organism?

Similar issues arise with the distinction between native and exotic animals, for example. Of course exotic animals must be native to somewhere in the planet. A related distinction is often made between ‘cute and furry’ and ugly animals. Thusly, people complain about poisoning a possum, but will happily eat a beef steak or a chicken burger, poison a spider (normally native) or squash an insect (probably native too).

I have no answer for this situation, but my sense of curiosity makes me wonder about the differential treatment given to living organisms based mostly on cultural codes.

In June I made some comments on how chemists (pharmacies) were stifling competition. That was a comment solely based on my experience dealing with them. Ten days ago Choice Magazine, ed
owned by the Australian Consumers’ Association, angina
published a report on the quality of advice and pricing provided by pharmacies.

Access to the report requires paid subscription (which I have), click
but the main findings were made public. The study included 87 seven pharmacies in Sydney, the Wollongong area and Adelaide, and found that:

  • Advice given in 58 out of the 87 pharmacies we visited was rated ‘poor’ by our experts. The pharmacy profession needs to improve the quality of advice being given to consumers.
  • Speaking to a pharmacist rather than a pharmacy assistant didn’t guarantee good advice.
  • In a price spot-check of two of the products our researchers bought, the most expensive of each product in a supermarket was still cheaper than the cheapest pharmacy price for the same item.

The report also claimed that:

…there’s some evidence that restricting pharmacy ownership may be limiting competition and make prices for some medicines higher than they would otherwise be, and the results of our spot-check seem to support this.

Sadly, it seems that my experience with pharmacies was not an exception at all.

One of the good things of having a job is receiving an income that I can spend as I prefer. One of my monthly expenses is supporting charities. I like the feeling of contributing to something useful—and it is tax deductible. There are many good causes, Sildenafil
and I tend to support organisations that work improving people’s lives, website
like Amnesty International or World Vision.

Today I friend brought to my attention the Sponsor a Giant campaign to save the Styx Valley. This is organised by the Wilderness Society to provide the Society ‘with both lobbying power and the financial support needed to protect ancient trees’. Contributors pledge A$50/month and get:

  • Latest Edition of Wilderness News
  • Styx information pack
  • Double sided El Grande image
  • Journey into the Old Growth CD Rom
  • Styx sticker
  • Special welcome letter with El Grande press release on the back
  • Sponsor a Giant certificate

I couldn’t stop comparing with World Vision’s Sponsor a Child campaign, where for A$39/month the child’s community receives help ‘for vital development work such as providing clean water, immunisation and healthcare and training in improved farming methods’, and the sponsor receives:

  • A picture folder with photo and details of your sponsored child, and information about his/her country
  • A yearly report on your sponsored child’s progress plus a new photo
  • Your choice of a regular online newsletter or printed magazine updating you on World Vision’s work around the world.

After thinking for two milliseconds, I chose a child.

Yesterday I changed from an old, Hemorrhoids
clunky Dell laptop to a plain, decease business-like Acer TravelMate 290. I received the computer with a barebones installation: Windows 2000, Office 97, Groupwise and Java Virtual Machine. This is equivalent to getting a new car with only a chassis and engine, and puts on me the burden of installing a large number of programs and trying to get the machine to my standards. Incidentally, the computer comes with old Microsoft software because IT services at work can’t see the advantage of switching to XP and spending a couple of millions in the process. I tend to agree, although I wouldn’t mind ditching Groupwise for MS Outlook.

This will involve immediately installing:

This will be followed by a plethora of other programs. In addition, programs with the symbol require some sort of product activation, which I always find a hassle. Thus, a few projects will be delayed, including updating a couple of web sites.

This weekend I was working in my latest project — codename breedOmatic — writing a Python script to process the information obtained through a web form. I started working directly in the “production machine”; however, malady
with a lousy internet connection the development and testing process was really slow.

I decided to use IIS (Internet Information Services) in my laptop — I am running windows 2000, but I discovered that it was not available. As an aside, at work machines are always setup in a very limited, barebones, way. Then, I needed to download a very small server (so I had some hope with my connection). Here comes TinyWeb, a wonderfully small (53KB) free web server by Ritlabs. I also installed TinyBox, a free controler for TinyWeb. The couple of programs work very well.

In a previous post I mentioned that I would give a try to JEdit, a java based text editor. Well, I installed it and I have had a great experience using it; and I am writing this post with it. Tip: if you are going to be using HTML or XHTML some very useful plugins for this editor is the XML plugin. There are some dependencies though, so you also need to have two other small plugins: Sidekick and ErrorLine.

P.S. 2004-09-28
1. I found a bug in JEdit, printing to networked printers under Windows 2000.
2. Note to self: the first line of a Python script needs to contain #!c:\python23\python.exe to be ran in a windows server.

Sometime ago I wrote about water pollution issues, website
extending the comments in this other post. Last Sunday, prosthetic
the Sunday program presented a feature piece on the problem, sale
this time tackling the effects of pesticides and herbicides on human health (read a transcript).

The Sunday program was basically a rehash of the arguments conducted for months in various web sites, including the Tasmanian Times, and did not provide any new evidence. As such, it was just another example of TV following the blogosphere—while reaching more people. As a biometrician, I expected the reporter to ask questions like ‘Is the prevalence of strange diseases in St Helen any different from the rest of Tasmania?’ before jumping into easy conclusions. The data for answering that question should be available from the Tasmanian Department of Health and Human Services.

Despite of this, the issue highlights the poor communication of the forest industry with the community, as well as plenty of room to improve the transparency of the system regulating the application of chemicals in the State. There are some basic conditions that should be met by all users of herbicides and pesticides in the state (including forestry and agriculture):

  • People have the right to know what is being sprayed in the state, so they can make decisions accordingly. There should be a registry open to the public with products, doses, locations and dates of application.
  • There must be a clear demarcation and proper buffers for areas subject to chemical spraying.
  • Selection of chemicals and their doses have to be carefully established.
  • If there are more environmentally friendly products they should be preferred over more toxic ones.

As an example of the last point, Forestry Tasmania (the manager of State Forests) stopped using atrazine and simazine in 1997, while Gunns and other private companies still keep using them, despite the existence of more benign chemicals.

In addition, Gunns’s and the State Premier’s attempt to stop—through legal manouvers—the TV station broadcast was, put politely, unintelligent. Firstly, the chances of stopping a TV station are very slim; secondly, it creates a very poor impression of ‘we have something to hide’; and, finally, it does not help the forest industry’s cause.

Having a healthy, profitable industry requires constant improvement of forest practices and a broad support from the community. Opportunities for closer scrutiny and external validation should be welcomed.

We are getting closer to federal election day in Australia and we keep getting new promises and plans for Tasmanian Forests. The Australian Greens are playing the ‘we may hold the balance of power’ card and plan to sell their preferences1 to the highest bidder. The Tasmanian Greens recently released their Forest Transition Strategy to Protect Forests and Create Sustainable Jobs. It is an interesting document, medstore
although with much more emphasis on protecting the forests than on creating jobs. I do not know where they did get the overestimated plantation productivity figures, prostate while underestimating the value of native forest.

Meanwhile, web
Australian Labor—the main opposition party—released Labor’s Plan to Save Tasmania’s High Conservation Value Forests. The plan is aimed to attract Green preferences in urban seats, although it has managed to annoy the forest industry and the rural electorate dependent on forestry activity.

We are still waiting to hear from John Howard (Liberal Party) and see if he puts forward a plan for Tasmania’s Forests. My feeling is that he may be astute enough to avoid controversy—there is no much to win for the liberals in this front—and will not release any forest policy, cashing on angry rural Labor votes.

This will be an interesting week heading towards election day: Saturday 9th of October.

1 The Australian Federal Parliament has two levels: the House of Representatives and the Senate. Members of these levels are elected using a preferencial voting system—called proportional representation—which is slightly different for the Representatives and the Senate.

P.S. 2004-10-07. The Liberals’ policy is discussed on a later post.

Finally yesterday the Liberals anounced in Launceston their policy for Tasmanian Forests. No big surprises, erectile
no big policy. On one side, see
it is not very different from Labor’s policy, Oncology
adding 170,000 ha to conservation areas. However, it promises much less money and—here is the big difference—to support the Tasmanian Regional Forest Agreement (RFA).

A quick glance to the major parties’ forest policies:

Item Labor Party Liberal Party
Area reserved (ha) 240,000 170,000
Type of forest reserved Sizeable proportion of production forests Mostly not planned for logging
When After enquiry, September 2005 Immediate
Maintains RFA Unknown Suppossedly
Budget (million$) 800 50
Supported by Greens Forest Industry

I still have not decided which policy is best for Tasmanians. I would love to see a policy that, on one side answers the environmental concerns of the bulk of the community and, on the other, sets clear guidelines for a modern industry, providing appropriate ‘carrots’ for guiding change.

A completely different issue is that I still find strange to have a special ‘Tasmanian Forests Policy’, where it would make much sense the existence of an environmental policy, covering all ecosystems in the country based on biological importance rather than on beauty alone (although I leave room for cultural values here). Particular policies are like having a specially high taxation policy for sexy underwear in King Cross, Sydney. It may be relevant to attract conservative votes somewhere else in the country, but it would certainly not be of national interest (and not necessarily in the best interest of King Cross’s residents).

This post expand on my previous post on Labor’s and Greens’ Tasmanian Forests policies.

Filed in environment, forestry, politics, tasmania 2 Comments

Electoral promises and plans for the forests

6/10/2004

This was the question I asked — tongue in cheek, herbal almost a year ago — in The Agora. How come that I bought a bottle of ‘organic water’ in this web +tasmania&ie=UTF8&z=12&iwloc=addr&om=1″>Scamander (north-eastern Tasmania), doctor or the high prices for crappy ‘organic tomatoes’ (small, full of blemishes and tasting no different from a normal one), or the resistance against GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) in many parts of the world?

I have participated in a few discussions about GMO and some people have a visceral reaction against them, because they are unnatural. Well, plastics, planes, cars, computers are unnatural and we happily interact with them in a day to day basis. People eat varieties of crops and fruits that are the result of mutations induced through radiation exposure, but they will complain against GMO plants. People complain against cloning, but they will buy apple or rose varieties that are, in fact, a clone. What does make a chimera, clone or GMO so different from a ‘natural’ organism?

Similar issues arise with the distinction between native and exotic animals, for example. Of course exotic animals must be native to somewhere in the planet. A related distinction is often made between ‘cute and furry’ and ugly animals. Thusly, people complain about poisoning a possum, but will happily eat a beef steak or a chicken burger, poison a spider (normally native) or squash an insect (probably native too).

I have no answer for this situation, but my sense of curiosity makes me wonder about the differential treatment given to living organisms based mostly on cultural codes.

In June I made some comments on how chemists (pharmacies) were stifling competition. That was a comment solely based on my experience dealing with them. Ten days ago Choice Magazine, ed
owned by the Australian Consumers’ Association, angina
published a report on the quality of advice and pricing provided by pharmacies.

Access to the report requires paid subscription (which I have), click
but the main findings were made public. The study included 87 seven pharmacies in Sydney, the Wollongong area and Adelaide, and found that:

  • Advice given in 58 out of the 87 pharmacies we visited was rated ‘poor’ by our experts. The pharmacy profession needs to improve the quality of advice being given to consumers.
  • Speaking to a pharmacist rather than a pharmacy assistant didn’t guarantee good advice.
  • In a price spot-check of two of the products our researchers bought, the most expensive of each product in a supermarket was still cheaper than the cheapest pharmacy price for the same item.

The report also claimed that:

…there’s some evidence that restricting pharmacy ownership may be limiting competition and make prices for some medicines higher than they would otherwise be, and the results of our spot-check seem to support this.

Sadly, it seems that my experience with pharmacies was not an exception at all.

One of the good things of having a job is receiving an income that I can spend as I prefer. One of my monthly expenses is supporting charities. I like the feeling of contributing to something useful—and it is tax deductible. There are many good causes, Sildenafil
and I tend to support organisations that work improving people’s lives, website
like Amnesty International or World Vision.

Today I friend brought to my attention the Sponsor a Giant campaign to save the Styx Valley. This is organised by the Wilderness Society to provide the Society ‘with both lobbying power and the financial support needed to protect ancient trees’. Contributors pledge A$50/month and get:

  • Latest Edition of Wilderness News
  • Styx information pack
  • Double sided El Grande image
  • Journey into the Old Growth CD Rom
  • Styx sticker
  • Special welcome letter with El Grande press release on the back
  • Sponsor a Giant certificate

I couldn’t stop comparing with World Vision’s Sponsor a Child campaign, where for A$39/month the child’s community receives help ‘for vital development work such as providing clean water, immunisation and healthcare and training in improved farming methods’, and the sponsor receives:

  • A picture folder with photo and details of your sponsored child, and information about his/her country
  • A yearly report on your sponsored child’s progress plus a new photo
  • Your choice of a regular online newsletter or printed magazine updating you on World Vision’s work around the world.

After thinking for two milliseconds, I chose a child.

Yesterday I changed from an old, Hemorrhoids
clunky Dell laptop to a plain, decease business-like Acer TravelMate 290. I received the computer with a barebones installation: Windows 2000, Office 97, Groupwise and Java Virtual Machine. This is equivalent to getting a new car with only a chassis and engine, and puts on me the burden of installing a large number of programs and trying to get the machine to my standards. Incidentally, the computer comes with old Microsoft software because IT services at work can’t see the advantage of switching to XP and spending a couple of millions in the process. I tend to agree, although I wouldn’t mind ditching Groupwise for MS Outlook.

This will involve immediately installing:

This will be followed by a plethora of other programs. In addition, programs with the symbol require some sort of product activation, which I always find a hassle. Thus, a few projects will be delayed, including updating a couple of web sites.

This weekend I was working in my latest project — codename breedOmatic — writing a Python script to process the information obtained through a web form. I started working directly in the “production machine”; however, malady
with a lousy internet connection the development and testing process was really slow.

I decided to use IIS (Internet Information Services) in my laptop — I am running windows 2000, but I discovered that it was not available. As an aside, at work machines are always setup in a very limited, barebones, way. Then, I needed to download a very small server (so I had some hope with my connection). Here comes TinyWeb, a wonderfully small (53KB) free web server by Ritlabs. I also installed TinyBox, a free controler for TinyWeb. The couple of programs work very well.

In a previous post I mentioned that I would give a try to JEdit, a java based text editor. Well, I installed it and I have had a great experience using it; and I am writing this post with it. Tip: if you are going to be using HTML or XHTML some very useful plugins for this editor is the XML plugin. There are some dependencies though, so you also need to have two other small plugins: Sidekick and ErrorLine.

P.S. 2004-09-28
1. I found a bug in JEdit, printing to networked printers under Windows 2000.
2. Note to self: the first line of a Python script needs to contain #!c:\python23\python.exe to be ran in a windows server.

Sometime ago I wrote about water pollution issues, website
extending the comments in this other post. Last Sunday, prosthetic
the Sunday program presented a feature piece on the problem, sale
this time tackling the effects of pesticides and herbicides on human health (read a transcript).

The Sunday program was basically a rehash of the arguments conducted for months in various web sites, including the Tasmanian Times, and did not provide any new evidence. As such, it was just another example of TV following the blogosphere—while reaching more people. As a biometrician, I expected the reporter to ask questions like ‘Is the prevalence of strange diseases in St Helen any different from the rest of Tasmania?’ before jumping into easy conclusions. The data for answering that question should be available from the Tasmanian Department of Health and Human Services.

Despite of this, the issue highlights the poor communication of the forest industry with the community, as well as plenty of room to improve the transparency of the system regulating the application of chemicals in the State. There are some basic conditions that should be met by all users of herbicides and pesticides in the state (including forestry and agriculture):

  • People have the right to know what is being sprayed in the state, so they can make decisions accordingly. There should be a registry open to the public with products, doses, locations and dates of application.
  • There must be a clear demarcation and proper buffers for areas subject to chemical spraying.
  • Selection of chemicals and their doses have to be carefully established.
  • If there are more environmentally friendly products they should be preferred over more toxic ones.

As an example of the last point, Forestry Tasmania (the manager of State Forests) stopped using atrazine and simazine in 1997, while Gunns and other private companies still keep using them, despite the existence of more benign chemicals.

In addition, Gunns’s and the State Premier’s attempt to stop—through legal manouvers—the TV station broadcast was, put politely, unintelligent. Firstly, the chances of stopping a TV station are very slim; secondly, it creates a very poor impression of ‘we have something to hide’; and, finally, it does not help the forest industry’s cause.

Having a healthy, profitable industry requires constant improvement of forest practices and a broad support from the community. Opportunities for closer scrutiny and external validation should be welcomed.

We are getting closer to federal election day in Australia and we keep getting new promises and plans for Tasmanian Forests. The Australian Greens are playing the ‘we may hold the balance of power’ card and plan to sell their preferences1 to the highest bidder. The Tasmanian Greens recently released their Forest Transition Strategy to Protect Forests and Create Sustainable Jobs. It is an interesting document, medstore
although with much more emphasis on protecting the forests than on creating jobs. I do not know where they did get the overestimated plantation productivity figures, prostate while underestimating the value of native forest.

Meanwhile, web
Australian Labor—the main opposition party—released Labor’s Plan to Save Tasmania’s High Conservation Value Forests. The plan is aimed to attract Green preferences in urban seats, although it has managed to annoy the forest industry and the rural electorate dependent on forestry activity.

We are still waiting to hear from John Howard (Liberal Party) and see if he puts forward a plan for Tasmania’s Forests. My feeling is that he may be astute enough to avoid controversy—there is no much to win for the liberals in this front—and will not release any forest policy, cashing on angry rural Labor votes.

This will be an interesting week heading towards election day: Saturday 9th of October.

1 The Australian Federal Parliament has two levels: the House of Representatives and the Senate. Members of these levels are elected using a preferencial voting system—called proportional representation—which is slightly different for the Representatives and the Senate.

P.S. 2004-10-07. The Liberals’ policy is discussed on a later post.

Filed in environment, forestry, politics, tasmania 1 Comment