BUSHFIRES: by Patrick J. ByrneNews Weekly
Greens adopt tobacco lobby tactics
, March 21, 2009
The green lobby's tactics to virtually halt fuel-reduction measures in Australian forests, around homes and along roadways, are eerily similar to tactics employed by the powerful tobacco lobby. Patrick J. Byrne reports.
|This photo, taken of the hills to the west of the |
Myrtleford-Beechworth Road, north-eastern Victoria,
shows the value of fuel reduction. The hills to
the right (going north) had controlled burns last
winter, but the left-hand side of the hill (going
south) did not. When the February 7-8 fire came
from the west, it went around the area that had
been fuel-reduced, but heavily burned through the
area that had not been fuel-reduced last year.
For decades, the tobacco lobby demanded proof that linked smoking with lung cancer. In a similar way, the Greens Party and the eco-lobby demand such rigorous scientific evidence for controlled fuel-reduction burns in eucalypt forests - the most flammable and dangerous forests on earth - that virtually nothing gets done. They would rather protect trees than people.
Victorian Greens Party spokesman Jim Reiher said on February 16, "The Greens do NOT oppose controlled back-burning." (His emphasis).
However, his party's submission to the 2003 Victorian bushfire inquiry says: "An effective strategic fuel-reduction burning strategy is required on scientific fire ecology behaviour information. It is critical that any revised approach to fuel-reduction burning is scientifically based, drawing on the expertise and further research
of fire ecologists and fire behaviour scientists." (My emphasis).Further research?
How much "further research" is needed? Descendants of the first white settlers have had over two centuries of experience with bush fires. For much of that period the majority of Australians lived in the bush.
Meanwhile, Australia's indigenous people have 60,000 years experience of using fire for reducing fuel loads in forests. Captain Cook, as he sailed up the east coast of the continent in 1770, documented the mosaic burning patterns of the original Australians.
But the Greens will support fuel-reduction only after "further" critical research.
In reality, no amount of science will see them support major fuel-reduction burning. They would rather bamboozle with endless scientific studies the policy advisors, the tame eco-supporting Department of Sustainability and Environment bureaucracy, local councils and federal and state politicians.
They insist on more and more studies, on inquiry after inquiry, on committee review after review, and prefer to cite studies that are ambiguous in their findings or that show animals might die in controlled burns; and they go on doing this repeatedly to ensure that science does not lead to action but to inaction.
Doesn't this stalling strategy sound familiar?
Wasn't this strategy used for decades by the tobacco companies to stop anti-smoking campaigns by governments? Didn't the tobacco lobby keep questioning the medical science that showed tobacco caused cancer, emphysema and blocked arteries, and led to premature death?
Didn't they argue that more and more studies were needed before there was enough evidence to warrant action to protect the health of the population from the yet-to-be-proved harmful effects of tobacco smoking?
The green lobby says that it wants to protect forests, particularly old-growth forests and native species. The irony is that old-growth forests are dying forests, and the failure to use controlled burns for fuel reduction in the colder months - which allows animals to escape and minimises the killing of trees - leads to raging infernos in high summer that kill large numbers of trees, animals and people. Many more animals in burrows end up dying because the intense flames suck the oxygen out of cracks and holes, asphyxiating them.
Ask the police and emergency services workers who went into Victoria's incinerated towns about the destruction. They were shocked by the eerie silence. Everything was dead.
The green lobby argues that the extreme fires on Black Saturday were the result of heightened risks to the Australian bush caused by global warming, as they had predicted.
In that case, shouldn't they have been leading the charge for more slow fuel burning in the cooler months of the year? Doesn't their stalling strategy make them all the more culpable for the massive environmental destruction, and human and animal misery?
No wonder that bushfire expert David Packham has labelled the green lobby as "eco-terrorists waging a jihad", accusing them of being "directly responsible for the severity of these fires through their opposition to prescribed burning" (The Australian
, February 12).
Of course, it's not just the green lobby that's at fault. As Melbourne Herald Sun
columnist Andrew Bolt has pointed out, bushfire inquiries since the 1930s have called for fuel-reduction burns, and governments have failed time and again to heed the recommendations of repeated inquiries. (Herald Sun
, February 13).
Consequently, even Germaine Greer argues that "it's useless running around looking for arsonists. The arsonists are ... our governments and administrators". (AAP
, February 13).
Greer is right; and perhaps the disaster of Black Saturday will force governments to now act.
However, one thing is certain - there will be no action by governments if the green lobby is allowed to get away with the same highly successful stalling tactics pioneered by the tobacco lobby.- Patrick J. Byrne is vice-president of the National Civic Council.