Belief versus science

Michael King (Adv., Oct 19) should refrain from using the word “belief” when discussing the science of evolution.
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Ever since Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection in 1859, all the observations made by science about the natural world have supported evolution as being the best explanation for life as we know it.

The word “belief” should only be used to support religious explanations for the natural world as they ignore facts and rely on blind faith and dogma .

However, Mr King is right in realising that we humans are part of the natural world and as such everything we do is indeed “natural”. As a species we are at a crossroads.

We either continue to breed like rabbits and dramatically alter the ecosystems of the world, a course of action science deems unsustainable, or we curb our population, conserve ecosystems and pass on a more pleasing planet to future generations.

ANDREW NICHOLS

Sisters Creek

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Bulga welcomes Riverina fire crews

IT is good to know when the call goes out for extra volunteers to help out with our fire fighting efforts the request is immediately answered and crews arrive ready and willing to take up the challenge.
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On Friday last week a strike crew arrived at Hunter Valley Rural Fire Service (RFS) headquarters at Bulga made up of eight members from the Riverina zone along with two of their fire vehicles.

And the one thing the team members noticed was how intensely dry it was here compared to a relatively green south of the state.

“From the moment we left home and headed north it got drier and drier and its very dry here near Singleton,” farmer and Riverina Zone RFS group captain Andrew Hawthorne said.

The members of the strike team come from Riverina brigades Lake, Albert, Forest Hill, Big Springs, Euberta and Glenfield.

They were able to assist their Hunter Valley comrades due to the better season they are now enjoying.

Mr Hawthorne joked about getting away from the farm for a break as he said he should really be back on the farm harvesting a canola crop.

“But I guess that can wait for a week while we do a bit of work in the Hunter – in this organisation we are always ready to help out other areas when they are in strife,” he said.

The group will be accommodated on the Singleton Army Base during their stay which is expected to last for a week.

HELPING HAND: Riverina based Rural Fire Service (RFS) volunteers Craig Wyatt, Jason Bortolazzo, Peter Bye and Andrew Hawthorne at Hunter Valley RFS headquarters at Bulga with one of their fire trucks ready to help our local brigades.

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North Western NSW Drought: Too Little, Too Late?

As fires rage in the east, a different kind of natural disaster is taking place in the west of the state, it’s slow and destructive, and it’s taken 18 months to get the state government’s attention.
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North-western NSW’s drought-stricken farmers were relieved to find the Regional Assistance Advisory Committee (RAAC) finally stepping on their cracked, dry soil last week as representatives came out to see the conditions in Coonamble, Walgett, Lightning Ridge, Weilmoringle and Bourke.

But the question on many lips was is it too little, too late?

NSW Farmers’ Association (NSWFA) president Fiona Simson believes the state government has to act, now.

“Our members are running out of feed, running out of water and they have loan commitments,” she said.

“Meanwhile the minister seems unwilling to even say the word drought.”

Some locals are pleased there is finally acknowledgment but they are worried the government is thinking long-term, whereas they need urgent assistance.

“At the RAAC meeting they acknowledged they need to move early,” Brewarrina producer Ed Fessey said.

“(But) we need interim measures like freight subsidies, freight stock subsidies backdated until July. We need previous extraordinary circumstances subsidies, only methods that worked, they left NSW in relatively good measure after the last drought.”

Early last month Mr Fessey wrote to his local member Kevin Humphries, State Minister for Mental Health, outlining the region’s hardships.

“They have neglected areas out here, some of the local members don’t even want to know about it. I wrote to Kevin Humphries in early September and it was swept under the rug,” he said.

Mr Humphries acknowledged the ‘dry spell’ in the north-west early last week.

RAAC executive officer John Newcombe can’t say exactly what the next move is but he is keen to get the information back to the Minister for Primary Industries Katrina Hodgkinson.

“It went well, we got a lot of feedback, a lot of information, what support is needed, what the conditions are like and the impact of floods, then drought. We’re going to take this information back to the minister, there is an interest from the minister to do something,” he said.

Ms Simson isn’t convinced the RAAC meetings are going to be enough.

“The easiest and best idea would be to reinstate the measures from before such as subsidies on feed and transport and low interest rates,” she said.

“The committee has no power at all. It’s going to be more of the same.”

Ms Simson said this natural disaster should be given the same attention as fire and flood.

“Drought is a natural disaster like fire and flood, but you can’t insure against it,” she said.

“Preparedness is good, but we’re past that now, we need policies on taxation, depreciation and bigger fodder storages, these are not there.”

Mr Fessey believes while it is a natural disaster the government is not going to admit that.

“How do you get them to declare a disaster area when you can’t even get them to say drought,” he said.

Mr Fessey would like to see a pliable policy that can be adapted to all types of situations.

“There needs to be an interim process. We need a robust drought policy for the near future,” he said.

“And I’d just like to see the minister on the ground.”

Ms Simson agrees.”From what I’ve heard most people would like the government to recognise they’re in drought,” she said. “Both the state and federal governments need to support this like they do so many other industries.”

The RAAC visited the North Western region to see how serious conditions were Photo: GRACE RYAN

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Landcare Column: Controlling Erosion Focus of Workshops

Erosion control workshops will be held at various locations in the western catchment to help land managers minimise and control the effects of soil erosion.
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Western Catchment Management Authority (CMA) Rangelands Rehabilitation Officer Paul Theakston said the workshops would include demonstrations using machinery in the paddock.

“Erosion along tracks and fence lines results in significant damage to infrastructure,” Mr Theakston said.

“Washed out tracks increase travel time and can cause damage to vehicles as well as reducing the effectiveness of fences and allowing animals into areas they would normally be kept out of.

“Erosion also disrupts natural run-off and reduces groundcover, so it is important that we find ways to build and maintain access tracks, firebreaks and fence lines and find ways to treat washouts and eroded fence lines.

“Effective techniques can save people up to 50 per cent of the cost and time it now takes them to maintain access tracks. Given the scale of western catchment properties, that can add up to a lot of time and money saved.”

Landholders must attend one of these workshops to be eligible to apply to the Western CMA for funding to undertake erosion control works.

The small group workshops will provide hands-on and practical demonstrations from facilitator, Darryl Hill. Mr Hill has more than 40 years of experience in land management and is well-known throughout Australia for his practical knowledge and experience using all types of earthmoving machinery.

Workshops include lunch and start at 9am at:

Cobar: ‘Bulgoo’ Wednesday, October 30

Bourke: ‘Ballycastle’ Friday, November 1

Ivanhoe: ‘Bushley’ Monday, November 4

Walgett: ‘Boorooma’ Thursday, November 7, start time 10amTo register to attend, landholders should contact their local Western CMA office or phone 1800 032 11 by October 21.

A grader operator repairing track erosion Photo: SUPPLIED

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From the Saint

The firies are thanking US!
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WHILE we should be on our knees thanking the firefighting volunteers for again coming to our aid, not just the local brigades but from all over, there was this delightful little note in our inbox yesterday actually thanking us.

Maryanne Murdoch wrote from south of the border: ‘Hi, l’m a volunteer with the Campbells Creek Fire Brigade with the CFA (Country Fire Authority) in Victoria. I was at Lithgow from 21st till 25th October. I would sincerely like to thank your community for their fantastic hospitality towards us firefighters, especially the Brethren at the showground for all their hard work in keeping us fed making up our beds even washing the windscreens on our vehicles. They all should be given a medal. The ladies that served up the food were excellent. It made our job much easier knowing that we could rest easy when we returned from our 12 hour shift. I hope we made a difference to your community while we were there. We were working on asset protection at Mt Wilson, Hartley Vale and Bells Line of Road.’

Thanks Maryanne; you make us feel humble.

Summing it up

THERE is no doubt that communities across our region owe an unpayable debt of appreciation to the volunteers and professionals both on the firefront and in support roles who worked miracles during the bushfire crisis.

The Sydney Morning Herald summed up the situation perfectly with a front page headline quote at the weekend — ‘These are ordinary people doing extraordinary things’. Truer words have never been spoken.

From the Saint

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