Saturday, December 22, 2012

Music from Queensland's far north

The CAM TV is an internet TV show showcasing Cairns Area Musicians. Cairns is a city in Tropical North Queensland, Australia and is a hot-bed of talented musicians. This show aims to showcase these musicians to the world and also publicise the Cairns area as a place to come to see great live music.
So-Called Skeptics Clinging To Slippery Strands Of Climate Science Denial (via Desmogblog)

This a guest post by Professor Stephan Lewandowsky, of the University of Western Australia. THE guy next to you in the pub turns around and says, “Popcorn doesn’t exist”... and he adds, “but it grows naturally on trees! And it’s good for you!” Popcorn doesn’t exist but grows naturally…

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Federal Govt gives massive subdivision at Ella Bay the green light

An idea of what will be developed with the blessing of state and federal government.......

 Meet the locals whose habitat could be now endangered....

The threat already imposed on the local wildlife without the pressure of extra traffic, people, dogs, cats etc.

WIN local news item
Satori Resorts Stage 1 plans

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Vale Ken McKay

The Far North lost one of its finest singer-songwriters earlier this week with the sad passing of Ken McKay.

This is Ken's song, 'Christmas Time Up North'

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Crocodile culls won't solve crocodile attacks

Another article reposted from The Conversation that is pertinent to our part of the world also. The local media and politicians on several occasions have  tried to gee up public reaction over 'rogue' crocodiles around Cairns.

Crocodile culls won't solve crocodile attacks

By Grahame Webb, Charles Darwin University
There have been two fatal saltwater crocodile attacks on people in the Northern Territory (NT) in the last four weeks. Calls to “cull” the wild population of crocodiles have inevitably surfaced. More school children in the NT will be assigned projects aimed at assessing the arguments for and against culling. More tourists will learn about the NT through the media, and in a macabre twist, there will be an increase in tourist bookings.
There is no way of avoiding nor sugarcoating the predatory nature of saltwater crocodiles. If you dive off the Adelaide River bridge, 60 km east of Darwin’s city centre, and start swimming, there is 100% chance of being taken by a saltwater crocodile. It is not the same as swimming with sharks.
The central problem is that there are now a lot of crocodiles in the NT, and for many people the solution to the problem of crocodile attacks lies in reducing the number of crocodiles by culling. But it is not so simple.
For over four decades the crocodile population in the NT has been increasing, crocodile attacks have been occurring, and calls for culling have been raised. But politicians in the NT, where most crocodiles in northern Australia live, have not authorised a widespread cull.
Residents in the NT generally support that decision – although sometimes begrudgingly. Their decision has little to do with ecology, biology, Archesorial ancestry or the intrinsic value of crocodiles, which people such as myself hold dearly. It is because the public and politicians accept that the benefits of abundant saltwater crocodiles ultimately outweigh the costs.
Conserving wildlife that prey on people is one of the world’s great challenges. Most predators were historically eradicated as pests; if they had a valuable skin, well all the more reason to rid the world of them.

A valuable skin was a historically powerful incentive to eradicate crocodiles. In the NT it’s now an incentive to conserve. Grahame Webb

It was only as biological extinction loomed – the risk of losing the last one – that the net values changed. Positive values were attributed to avoiding extinction, and because attacks were rare or non-existent due to population depletion, the negative values had essentially disappeared.
But where predator conservation action is successful, the threat of extinction dissipates (along with the positive values attributed to overcoming it), and the negative values escalate as more and more attacks occur. Calls for action (culling) escalate and a political problem emerges. People have always seen themselves as having rights to be protected from marauding wild animals.
In the NT, depleted saltwater crocodile populations were protected in 1971. Since then the wild population has expanded some 20 times in abundance and 100 times in biomass. The role of competing “values” in paving the way for that recovery was recognised in the early 1980s and remains central to their management today.
Commercial use based on both ranching (collecting and selling wild eggs), and limited direct wild harvesting, is clearly biologically sustainable and allows landowners to benefit financially from the increasing number of crocodiles on their lands.
Crocodile farming, based largely on ranching (collecting and selling wild eggs), generates some $25 million per year in skin sales for the international high fashion industry and has extensive commercial flow-on effects in the community. Tourism, based on wild and captive crocodiles, is the mainstay of the “Top End” tourist industry.
Tourism is everyone’s business in the NT. It is the second largest industry and biggest employer of people. National and international documentaries and media attention on the NT’s successful crocodile management program is arguably the primary vehicle through which Top End tourism is promoted against competing destinations.
Against these positive values, associated with having abundant crocodiles, a refined public education program ensures residents and visitors are well-informed about “crocodile safety”. An active problem crocodile program is dedicated to trying to keep crocodiles extinct in Darwin Harbour, where most people live, and to removing individual crocodiles that cause problems in remote communities – thereby reducing negative values.
So there are areas in the NT where abundant crocodiles are favoured and appreciated, and areas where they are not. It is not a perfect system, but it has worked remarkably well. Widespread culling, with the general goal of reducing the total population in all areas, has not been implemented because it would come at a cost to those benefiting from having abundant crocodiles in most areas.

NT tourism in the ‘Top End’ would be nowhere without the croc. May Martin

Issues like “trophy hunting” are not about improving public safety, but rather about finding more ways in which landowners can gain more commercial returns from killing the same crocodile than they can do now to sell its skin.
Steadily improving the problem crocodile program, especially in Darwin Harbour, involves strategic culling at a level that does improve public safety – taking out every crocodile possible. A strong case may be made for eradicating saltwater crocodiles that move well-upstream, out of core areas, and become established in new areas from which they have not been known historically – an increasing risk to people.
Such management decisions, in the case of the NT, need to be made in the context of risk assessment within the NT. Pragmatism with crocodile management is a critical ingredient.
The idea that culling the wild population as a whole would help public safety may be true if the cull was very severe, and aimed at bringing the population back to the pre-protection levels. However, if the population was reduced by say one half: “which politician would say it is now safe to go back into the water?”.
It clearly would not be safe. Is it safer to see abundant crocodiles in a wetland, where swimming would not even be considered, or be lulled into a false sense of security by having a lesser number of more wary crocodiles?
Then there is the response to culling. It could stimulate an increase in the wild population, as occurred with caimans in Venezuela. It is crocodiles that are controlling the size of the wild crocodile population, and if the larger ones are selectively removed, the population could be expected to expand.
In any overview, selective culling has a role to play in the overall management of crocodiles, but is not the public safety panacea that it may superficially appear to be.
Grahame Webb has been funded by grants from ARC, RIRDC and others for crocodile research in wild and captive situations.
The Conversation
This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Landfill Harmonic - instruments from recycled materials

Short from a soon to be released film "Landfill Harmonic." The film introduces the town of Cateura, a slum in Paraguay built atop a landfill where residents have created music from the trash heaped upon them. Scouring the rubbish, the determined music-lovers have built violins, cellos, and other classical instruments, resulting in the "Recycled Orchestra."

Friday, December 7, 2012

Queensland shrugs off a clean energy future

An interesting insight into clean energy in Queensland, in particular, Far North Queensland.

Queensland presently has the lowest share of renewables in the National Electricity Market in terms of wind farms with just the 12 MW Windy Hill wind farm near Ravenshoe, compared to more than 1,200 MW of registered wind capacity in South Australia. The number of new wind projects proposed is minimal and some are faced with political resistance from locals such as the Mt Emerald proposal near  Walkamin on the Atherton Tablelands.
Queensland shrugs off a clean energy future

Monday, December 3, 2012

Australia risks repeating US mistakes on teacher bonus pay

An interesting article from The Conversation reprinted here:

By Sunanda Creagh, The Conversation

Bonus payments for teachers based partly on student results put Australia at risk of following the US in encouraging educators to “game the system”, a US education expert has said.

The Australian government has introduced a new teacher assessment model under which teachers undergo annual performance reviews. Those who do well can apply for certification as a Highly Accomplished or Lead Teacher. If they achieve certification, they will be eligible for a reward payment of $7500 or $10,000, a spokeswoman for the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations said.

Teacher performance will be based on lesson observations, student results, parental feedback, and contribution to the school community, a departmental fact sheet said.

The government said the system is designed to reward good teachers but unions and some educators have decried it as unfair to include test results as a measure of teacher performance.

In his keynote address at the 2012 joint International Conference of the Australian Association for Research in Education and the Asia Pacific Educational Research Association, Professor David C. Berliner, Regents’ Professor of Education Emeritus at Arizona State University, warned against using student test scores to measure good teaching.

“Your Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, is on board with other GERM (global education reform movement) advocates in wanting achievement test scores to be a part of teacher evaluations. And as I understand it, she will use those scores to provide bonuses to ‘high performers’ beginning in 2014,” he said.

“While the weight given to the test scores in the evaluations is presently low, I predict that the importance of the test scores in determining a ‘high performer’ will go up in the next few years, crowding out the other ways she hopes to measure effectiveness. I also predict that there will be increased gaming of the evaluation system by teachers and administrators, as now occurs in the USA.”

Professor Berliner gave the example of a study of Houston teachers that showed how teachers quickly learned to seek mid-level students or well-behaved middle class low achieving children, “because they are the ‘money kids’.”

“They are the ones that are likely to gain the most and get you a bonus. To be avoided like the plague, say these teachers, are English language learners and gifted students because they don’t show growth on the tests, and thus you could get fired or receive no bonus if you teach those kinds of students.”

The system also allowed principals to punish disliked teachers by ensuring that they get the students expected to show the least growth on test scores.

Professor Berliner decried what he described as “misplaced worship of numbers as seen in the Western countries that try to quantify teacher effects on students.”

Because test results can be influenced by so many factors, some teachers occasionally have a ‘bad year’ of results followed by a ‘good year’, even when their teaching methods or work ethic has not changed.

“The implications of these results for Gillard’s scheme are clear. The likelihood of a high performer really being one a year later is not as sure a bet as she thinks,” said Professor Berliner.

David Zyngier, senior lecturer in the Faculty of Education at Monash University, echoed Professor Berliner’s sentiments.

“There is no robust evidence anywhere in the world that suggests that performance pay has increased teacher performance or enhanced student achievement. It only serves to act as a divisive instrument, a very blunt instrument in the staff room,” he said.

“It’s a way of shifting the blame downwards. Instead of resourcing our schools properly and equitably, let’s blame those people – teachers – who can least impact on disadvantage themselves.”

Underperfoming teachers should be treated the same way as an underperforming worker in any profession, by “giving them the tools to improve their work over a designated period of time” with consequences for those who fail to improve, he said.

“The whole notion of performance pay is part of this neo-liberal package, to try and control what our teachers are doing based on the assumption we cannot trust them to be left alone to do what they are well educated to do.”

Professor Barry McGaw, Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow, Melbourne Graduate School of Education at the University of Melbourne said nationwide tests such as the NAPLAN were useful but not as a method of assessing teacher performance.

“It makes sense for schools but not for individual teachers,” he said.

The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.