Tags: water yields

1 Feb 2007, Comments Off on A million monkeys banging on a million typewriters for a million years

A million monkeys banging on a million typewriters for a million years

Author: Helen


I was happy to see this article about logging in the Thompson Dam catchment area on the front page of the AGE a couple of weeks ago. Well, when I say happy, I mean in a gloomy Eeyore-like, “thank f*cking Christ someone’s taking some notice of this”, kind of way. But after reading the article, I was gloomier than ever. Just because it’s a terrible and urgent problem doesn’t mean the Bracks government is going to do anything about it.

Against all reason and logic, the Victorian government continues to allow clearfelling of temperate rainforest in catchment areas such as the Central Highlands (Melbourne) and the Otways (Warrnambool). Once logged, these areas suck up exponentially more water in order to regrow the vastly inferior and drier regrowth– it ain’t rocket science. And if science is what you want, the point has been demonstrated by hydrologists here and in the US in numerous studies from the 1950s onwards.

But the Victorian government wants another study:

Despite the existence of studies dating to the 1950s, in 2004 the Bracks Government decided to conduct more research into the reduced water yields caused by logging. It is scheduled to be completed in May 2008.

…All the scientists spoken to by The Sunday Age questioned the need for further studies, saying the numerous existing reports, many of which were commissioned by the Kennett and Bracks governments and on which this article is based, were sufficient.
A Department of Sustainability and Environment spokesman said the Government’s new study would use an updated model for determining water yields, examine timber substitution and look at economic, social and environment issues involved in logging in the Thomson. “Using the latest modelling for hydrological studies (the Macaque model) will produce more accurate and far more useful results, as previous models had wide margins of error,” the spokesman said.

However, Dr Watson, who developed the Macaque model, said when he applied it to the Thomson it didn’t produce fundamentally different results from the previous “Kuczera curve” model.

“Macaque model” – now that’s a name to conjure with. Macaques are monkeys, of course, so it suggests a roomful of monkeys employed by the Bracks government to bang out hydrology studies in the expectation that one day, one of the monkeys will come up with a result which supports clearfelling in catchment areas.

Cheap jokes aside, however, this means that even the scientist responsible for the Macaque model has said that his model isn’t going to give Thwaites what he wants. But it seems the Victorian government is just going to commission study after study until they finally get the answer they want, and probably until all the rest of the old growth is gone. After all, their cosy relationship with the forestry union and the woodchipping companies has to be more important than just… water.