I love this image of our fair city, so I’m reprising it from last year.
Last year I said 2020 was dominated by the four “C’s” – Coronavirus, climate change, China, and corruption in politics.
This year was much the same, and again I found myself overwhelmed in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Luckily others were better organised, so a good time was had by all. Continue reading Seasons Greetings 2021→
Shamefully, Australia has one of the highest extinction rates in the world. And the number one threat to our species is invasive or “alien” plants and animals.
But invasive species don’t just cause extinctions and biodiversity loss – they also create a serious economic burden. Our research, published today, reveals invasive species have cost the Australian economy at least A$390 billion in the last 60 years alone.
Our paper – the most detailed assessment of its type ever published in this country – also reveals feral cats are the worst invasive species in terms of total costs, followed by rabbits and fire ants.
Here is how they stack up:
It depends where you are:
Red imported fire ants are the costliest species in Queensland, and ragwort is the economic bane of Tasmania.
The common heliotrope is the costliest species in both South Australia and Victoria, and annual ryegrass tops the list in WA.
In the Northern Territory, the dothideomycete fungus that causes banana freckle disease brings the greatest economic burden, whereas cats and foxes are the costliest species in the ACT and NSW.
2. Humans are the biggest pest
I remember on our trip down the Rhine in 2008 a tour guide explaining that in Europe ‘nature’ had been mostly pushed into the mountains. Last week Gigi Forster and Peter Martin in the ABC RN program The Economists talk about Valuing nature, which economists mostly don’t. They tell us that humans and their domestic animals make up 96% of mammals on earth, with natural mammals squeezing into just 4%. Apparently domestic fowls make up 70% of the bird population. In the program:
A landmark report has urged the world’s governments to come up with a better form of national accounting from GDP, to reflect the value and depletion of nature. Plus, an update on carbon markets and the emerging field of biodiversity offsets.
“What we found is that 41 per cent on average of all insect species that we know are declining,” said Dr Sanchez-Bayo.
“Among those, a third of all the species are going into extinction. They’re in danger right now. The rate of extinction in insects is about eight times higher than the rate of extinction of vertebrates.”
Most of the studies surveyed were form the US and Western Europe:
One study, in Germany, saw a 75 per cent decline in insect biomass over 27 years. Another study in Puerto Rico reported losses of between 78 and 98 per cent over 36 years.
The rates of decline are so dramatic — up to 2.5 per cent a year — that Dr Sanchez-Bayo claims that at current rates there may be no insects in those regions within 10 years.
4. There is another story beneath our feet
For a long time now farmers and landholders have been told that storing carbon in soil was not only a good thing to do, it was something they could make money from by selling carbon credits.
One teaspoon of healthy soil contains more bacteria, fungi and other microbes than there are humans on Earth. Those hungry organisms can make soil a difficult place to store carbon over long periods of time.
It’s a long article, but the short story is that the assumption that carbon molecules stored in soil cam remain there for long periods of time. What we know now is that no such molecules can be found. Everything can be munched, although some do stick around.
Climate modellers apparently ‘simplified’ the issue by leaving microbial activity out. Some scientists are :
pushing to replace the old dichotomy of stable and unstable carbon with a “soil continuum model” of carbon in progressive stages of decomposition. But this model and others like it are far from complete, and at this point, more conceptual than mathematically predictive.
Researchers agree that soil science is in the midst of a classic paradigm shift. What nobody knows is exactly where the field will land — what will be written in the next edition of the textbook.
In short, they are in a muddle.
5. Pests found inside a hill in Canberra
Here it is:
Every week Federal parliament is sitting Tony Burke, leader for the opposition in the house, sends around to party members on his mailing list some pithy comments. Last week he told of one of his constituents, a woman who is 102 and lives in:
Western Sydney, which is the epicentre of the current COVID outbreak. She’s been on the pension for 40 years – and yet the government sent her a letter saying she’d be cut off unless she left the house in the middle of the lockdown zone to present proof of age documents she doesn’t actually have.
Luckily Burke’s office was able to get the matter fixed by Stuart Robert’s office. However, it continues the narrative that there is no blunder beyond the capability of this government. Their fiercest critic however is possibly Dennis Atkins, now retired and liberated from writing for the Courier Mail. He is particularly eloquent about their leader:
Every-one not living under a rock knows that the Biloela community loves the Tamil family Nades and Priya Murugappan, and their daughters Kopika and Tharunicaa, who were taken from their homes in March 2018 in a dawn raid without warning the day their bridging visa expired, and have now been banged up in Christmas Island for several years.
Bernard Keane at Crikey says Morrison continues to see everything as a political problem to manage away. Keane was referring to his tearful mea culpa and apparent change of heart on the issue of women and the intemperate attack on Sky journalist Andrew Clennell, claiming that in Clennell’s own organisation there was an incident of harassment of a woman in a women’s toilet being pursued by their own HR department.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and PM Scott Morrison have been telling us that we need to contain debt, and that is why those on JobKeeper must return to poverty. Frydenberg in particular has been praising himself for his fiscal bravery, and the size of his COVID-19 rescue package.
Last year around mid-December the blog fell apart and did not re-appear until 2 January. Eventually I posted a Belated Season’s Greetings on 4 January which was based on a Christmas newsletter I had distributed with cards.
This year we were quite overwhelmed during December with one thing and another, so I did close to nothing about cards, newsletters etc. This newsletter is a belated offering. Continue reading Seasons greetings 2020→