Saturday, February 28, 2009

Different approaches to educational reform

Standards approach, Expert teacher approach and Fundamental restructure.

Standards approach. If we measure student output then government can demand that teachers improve those results. The thinking here is that by keeping teachers accountable then education will improve. It is hard for teachers to resist the seemingly very reasonable demand that they be accountable even if the way in which it is being measured is dubious. Standards tests measure who is good at standards tests. It is not clear beyond that what they do measure even although it is possible / probable that they do measure something else. It is this doubt and difficulty of refuting the claim that standards tests might measure something important that makes this approach appealing to those who want some "hard data" and clear benchmarks but who don't want to think too much about deeper educational issues.

Expert teacher approach. eg. John Hattie's analysis. An analysis of the education system reveals that teacher quality is the factor that is possible to change that would make the biggest difference. According to Hattie teacher quality accounts for 30% of learning improvement. This is not the biggest factor (what students bring to the table accounts for 50% of learning) but it is the biggest factor that is possible to change without major social upheaval. Teacher work can be analysed and the factors that distinguish expert teacher from experienced teacher can be identified and learnt. Wider questions to do with the nature of the system and the role of the individual are put to one side in the interests of getting on with the job of improving education.

Fundamental restructure. Periodically, great thinkers come forward with ideas about how to change education in more fundamental ways. For example, Jerome Bruner has written extensively about this and even introduced a radical curriculum reform called Man: A Course of Study in the USA in the 1970s. Several thinkers - for example Seymour Papert, Alan Kay and Andy diSessa (I'm currently reading his book, 'Changing Minds') - have put forward really interesting ideas about how to transform education using computers. Of course there are others and people argue about how significant they are. One important thing here is simply to identify that this group exists and cannot be ignored.

This is just a perspective or framing on different types of educational change, which could be rudely categorised as dumb reform, realistic reform and deep questioning. It's easy to lose sight of the big picture.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Commanding Heights

I've been watching Commanding Heights, a PBS historical account of Hayek's struggle to be heard (vis a vis Keynes) and his ultimate success in old age (suggested by mark miller). Part one covers a lot of history in broad and bold sweep. I like the historical approach.

My current hypothesis is that the human race doesn't understand economics. We understand what doesn't work, even though not even that is clear:
  • Capitalism without Unions (too hard on the workers, they revolt)
  • Soviet style command economy (too hard to adapt to real demand, leads to stagnation)
  • Regulated capitalism (same sort of problem as the Soviet style command economy)
  • De regulated capitalism (has led to the current mess)
But we don't understand what does work. The suggestion, from the video (part one), that Hayek, Thatcher and Reagan had all or most of the answers seems unlikely to me. It's more likely that they were or are the latest flavour of the month, year or decade. After a while we'll discover that Hayek doesn't work either.

It's fairly easy to see now that our leaders don't know what they are talking about. It also seems obvious that they never knew what they were talking about.

Dan Willingham debunks

Dan Willingham presents some good debunking of dubious educational theories, fads, pop neuroscience and the like:
  • That learning styles are very much over-rated and should not influence classroom practice. There is individual variation in modalities (visual, auditory, kinesthenic) but the important thing is meanings not modalities
  • Understanding the brain through neuroscience operates at a different level to understanding children in the classroom. The connections are hard to make and 95% of books and articles on neuroscience and learning ought not to be taken seriously.
  • Teaching of reading as a thing in itself should not be allowed to marginalise reading about general knowledge about the world. Once students have learnt how to decode then that general knowledge matters a lot to their comprehension. He quotes some stats showing how little science and social studies is typically taught in first and third grades
  • It might be important to draw a distinction between rote learning ( "memorizing form in the absence of meaning" ) and inflexible knowledge ("meaningful, but narrow; it’s narrow in that it is tied to the concept’s surface structure..."). Inflexible knowledge is how we initially learn something. Inflexible knowledge can turn into flexible mastery over time as more knowledge and expertise is acquired.
I wrote some summaries about Dan's work at learning evolves. Thanks to Graham Wegner for his post initially alerting me to this educator.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

the Great Repression

One thing we have in this economic crisis is the internet. Hence, we can search for an economist who knows what they are talking about far more efficiently than in the past. My current search has led to niall ferguson who is entertaining and imaginative as well as knowledgeable
... There is something desperate about the way people on both sides of the Atlantic are clinging to their dog-eared copies of John Maynard Keynes’s General Theory. Uneasily aware that their discipline almost entirely failed to anticipate the current crisis, economists seemed to be regressing to macroeconomic childhood, clutching the multiplier like an old teddy bear.

The harsh reality that is being repressed is this: the Western world is suffering a crisis of excessive indebtedness. Many governments are too highly leveraged, as are many corporations. More importantly, households are groaning under unprecedented debt burdens. Average household sector debt has reached 141 per cent of disposable income in the United States and 177 per cent in the United Kingdom. Worst of all are the banks. Some of the best-known names in American and European finance have balance sheets forty, sixty or even a hundred times the size of their capital. Average U.S. investment bank leverage was above 25 to 1 at the end of 2008. Eurozone bank leverage was more than 30 to 1. British bank balance sheets are equal to a staggering 440 per cent of gross domestic product

The delusion that a crisis of excess debt can be solved by creating more debt is at the heart of the Great Repression. Yet that is precisely what most governments currently propose to do.
Beyond the Age of Leverage: Alternative Cures for the Global Financial Crisis
His solution is to nationalise the banks and to convert American mortgages to lower-interest rates and longer maturities

Another speculative piece by niall ferguson is entertaining with a perhaps unlikely happy american ending:
That was the true significance of the Great Repression which began in August 2007 and reached its nadir in 2009. It was clearly not a Great Depression on the scale of the 1930s, when output in the US declined by as much as a third and unemployment reached 25 per cent. Nor was it merely a Big Recession. As output in the developed world continued to decline throughout 2009 – despite the best efforts of central banks and finance ministries – the tag “Great Repression” seemed more and more apt: although this was the worst economic crisis in 70 years, many people remained in deep denial about it...

If proof were needed that the US constitution still worked, here it was. If proof were needed that America had expunged its original sin of racial discrimination, here it was. And if proof were needed that Americans were pragmatists, not ideologues, here it was. It was not that Obama’s New New Deal – announced after the Labor Day purge of the Clintonites – produced an economic miracle. Nobody had expected it to do so. It was more that the federal takeover of the big banks and the conversion of all private mortgage debt into new 50-year Obamabonds signalled an impressive boldness on the part of the new president...

The “unipolar moment” was over, no question. But power is a relative concept, as the president pointed out in his last press conference of the year: “They warned us that America was doomed to decline. And we certainly all got poorer this year. But they forgot that if everyone else declined even further, then America would still be out in front. After all, in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.”

And, with a wink, President Barack Obama wished the world a happy new year.
An imaginary retrospective of 2009

our maths decline

A disturbing set of numbers

Nalini Joshi, President of the Australian Mathematics Society:
The international table of mathematics skills, the four-yearly Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, shows that our achievement scores in Year 8 mathematics have steadily declined since 1995. In the latest results in 2007, Britain and even the US, countries we used to beat, significantly outperformed Australian Year 8 students in mathematics. Unless we can stop the decline of well-trained mathematics teachers in our schools, this will continue.

The deepening tragedy of our education system is that this vicious cycle propagates itself. For years the numbers taking advanced or intermediate courses in Year 12 mathematics in Australian schools have steadily dwindled, and the students completing a major in mathematics at university has declined. As a proportion of total graduates, our universities now produce fewer than half as many graduates with qualifications in mathematics or statistics as other developed nations. The result is a decline in qualified maths teachers...

Students also face rising inequity in the current system. There are almost certainly differences in the public and private education systems. There has been a dramatic expansion in private mathematics coaching in Australia in recent years. Businesses offering tutoring or software for school students have proliferated across shopping centres over the past decade as parents have moved to supplement school education increasingly with private tuition in mathematics. The looming economic downturn means that a much smaller proportion of families will be able to afford this.

As a mathematician and a parent, I do not understand why Australians must tolerate an education system that is inferior to that in America or Britain. Nor do I understand why we should accept a growing disparity in access to mathematics education across our school system. All Australian children deserve qualified mathematics teachers. Yet in Australia, policy-makers have either ignored the problems or taken only fragmented steps and half-measures to address them.

Read the whole article for some half hearted measures that have been taken to improve maths education a little, eg. halving of HECS fees for University students enrolled in science and mathematics courses

Some thoughts:
At the beginning the author says:
Yet Australian school children are coming out of schools not knowing that doing a calculation with pencil and paper is the way to learn mathematics. While the federal Government is ploughing money into infrastructure, we are staring at the vista of shiny new classrooms and rows of laptops with no mathematics teachers.
I agree that maths education is declining in Australia to an alarming and depressing extent but don't agree that there is only one way to fix it. The Australian will always advocate for a back to basics or traditional "pencil and paper" approach. Maths education could also be improved with innovative and creative approaches using laptops. However, improvement in either way does require teachers who understand maths and we are failing many students in that regard.

I am also wondering if it suits our ruling class to keep most of the population both mathematical ignorant and mathophobic. We currently seem to have a swathe of policies to do with economics and the environment that if exposed to a mathematically literate population would possibly be the subject of mass derision.
"He who refuses to do arithmetic is doomed to talk nonsense"
- John McCarthy: Progress and its Sustainability

Monday, February 23, 2009

economic downturn comparisons

Shows where we are at compared with the Great Depression

Click on image for larger view
Source: Graph of historic financial collapses

Galarrwuy Yunupingu

Tradition, Truth and Tomorrow
Today, nearly all my people live in shambling, broken-down places with poor houses, poor roads, bad schools, little or no health care, with whitefellas in a welfare industry who service us when they can, if they want. We are captives of welfare, which means we are wards of the state relying on handouts from public servants to get by, and therefore our lives are controlled by governments and public servants who can do what they want, when they feel like it. And people suffer from their neglect - just look at our communities and the lives too many of our people are forced to endure. Although the wealth of the Australian nation has been taken from our soil, our communities and homelands bear no resemblance to the great towns and metropolises of the modern Australian nation. The intervention and what it promises is important. I do not set it aside completely. But I tell my family now: no government, no politician, no journalist or TV man, no priest, no greenie, no well-meaning dreamer from the city is going to put your life right for you. I have committed my clan to the future and my family supports me, even as it struggles with everyday life. And I will continue this commitment.
Read the whole essay

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Scratch challenges update

The way I have introduced scratch this year to students (years 10 and 11 in my case, but it might work with younger students as well) has been to:
  • first ask them to complete the scratch cards provided at the Scratch MIT site
  • then to complete the following challenges

1) Make 2 different balls move around on the stage
a) the first ball moves in straight lines but bounces randomly whenever it hits the edge
b) the second moves randomly, changing direction all the time

2a) One sprite chases another sprite around the stage. The first sprite moves in straight line but bounces off the edge randomly. The chasing sprite chases the first sprite but is moving slower.
b) Extension – if the chasing sprite catches the other sprite then it says something sensible and makes a suitable sound

3) Use the Letter shapes to write your first name on the page. Then introduce some special effects such as making the letters wobble and change their appearance.

4) Point, click and move
Make an object both point and glide towards the mouse position when you click on the stage
Hint: Motion > point towards
Hint: Sensing > mouse down?

5) Make two animals have a forwards and backwards conversation
Hint: Use broadcast

6a) Play all the different drum sounds automatically
Hint: create a variable for the drum number
b) Extension – keep recycling through all the drum sounds automatically

7) Make Dan or Anjuli or Cassy dance to a beat, using all of their dance shapes

8) Make a sprite gradually grow in size and then shrink
Hint: make a size variable

9) Count down on a timer. A rocket takes off when you reach zero
Hint: Use the number icons in the letters folder

10) Add, multiply or subtract two variable numbers
Hint: Just to do addition only you will need 4 variables: firstNum, secondNum, answer (computer calculated) and myAnswer (human calculated)

In thinking about how to optimise, improve and extend this whole process I re-read some of my earlier posts about Scratch. This one is important in thinking about what the teacher ought to be doing beyond building skills:

playing with the kindergarten metaphor
imagine -> create -> play -> share -> reflect and then iterate again ...

Learning to share is harder than learning to ride a bicycle or write a computer program - but more important ...

Minsky quote: Logo has a great grammar but not much literature

It's important to explicitly promote reflection

I also expect that I will be using the excellent project ideas developed by a Mr. Michaud at Nebo Elementary School as a next step in a progression.

Friday, February 20, 2009

video: capitalism hits the fan

I’m posting this as a discussion piece about the current economic crisis. It probably has both factual and analytical errors as well as correct points. It is a good piece for thinking and discussion for someone like me who is not very strong on economic theory but sees the need to improve this given the current crisis.

Capitalism Hits the Fan, Video by Richard Wolff

His purpose is to explain the origins of the current economic crisis and to encourage people to take matters into their own hands, since those in charge don’t know what they are doing

What the crisis is not:
  • It is not a financial crisis in the sense that it arises from the whole economic system
  • It is not temporary, fleeting or short
In the Great Depression (1929-39), Presidents Hoover and Roosevelt introduced monetary and fiscal policies but they didn’t get us out of the Depression; World War 2 is what got us out

These long lasting economic crises are not just events that only happened long ago. In 1989, Japan’s economy encountered a severe downturn and has still not recovered, 18 years later. Japan is the second most important industrial country in the world.

The policies of Paulson (Treasury Secretary) and Bernanke (Federal Reserve Chairman) have been to stimulate the economy, to make money easier to obtain through lower interest rates, tax rebates and other measures

These policies were tried and failed in Japan and they will fail in the USA now. Already many stimulus policies have been tried and failed, only to be followed by a “bigger and better” stimulus policy.

Historical Framework of the Crisis, 1820-1970

Astonishing fact: In every decade of this 150 year period (1820-1970) the workers in the USA had a rising level of real wages. Even in the Great Depression decade (1930s) wages went down but prices went down even more. It is probably the only country in the world which can say that.

USA is a rich country, good quality land, supports productivity through immigration, improved technology and training etc. Workers were very productive and were rewarded with a rising standard of living.

Americans have internalized the experience of 150 years of expanding prosperity. This is sometimes called “American exceptionalism”, that there is something unique about America. The expectation is that “My children will live better than I do”. Americans have internalized the notion that they are copious consumers of goods. America invented advertising and became a society of consumption.

The Trauma of Flat Wages: 1970s – now

Starting in the 1970s, real wages stopped rising in the USA and have never resumed since. This is a fundamental change but the American people have not come to terms with it.

Why did real wages stop rising? (4 reasons):
  1. Technology – the efficient and versatile computer has replaced existing work
  2. Other industrialized countries (Japan, Europe) had comprehensively recovered from WW2 by 1970 and became efficient competitors to American capitalism. We no longer produce many televisions or automobiles in the USA. This led to a massive export of jobs.
  3. Women went to work in much greater numbers, part time and full time jobs
  4. Massive wave of Immigration, especially from Central and Latin America
So the new situation is more people looking for jobs (women, immigrants) but less jobs available (computer technology, export of jobs to abroad). This chronic unemployment is a recipe for real wages that don’t go up anymore.

How have American workers coped or adapted to the decline in real wages? ( 2 responses)

The first response is that the American working people did more work, put in more hours. The average hour worked by an American since 1970 has increased by 20%. By comparison the average hours worked in France, Germany and Italy have dropped by 20%

However, more work, more hours, for more people in each house (men and women) creates more costs as well as more dollars

The second response was that American working people went on the biggest borrowing binge ever in the history of the human race. At first they borrowed against the house (collateral - assets pledged by a borrower to secure a loan or other credit, and subject to seizure in the event of default). But the American people didn’t have enough collateral to borrow enough to keep their standard of living rising. Something else had to be invented to allow borrowing with no collateral at all.

So the credit card was created to allow banks to lend to the working people with no collateral at all. In economic terms this is called unsecured debt.

But no lender will lend to you without collateral unless there is something in it for them. The answer is the rate of interest. The average rate of Interest on a credit card today is 18% per year.

This borrowing solved a deep problem which arose from the history– how to maintain the impetus of the 150 years (up until 1970) now that real wages had stopped rising.

What has all of this led to:
  • a working class which is exhausted by the amount of work it does
  • a collapsing personal life created by too much work
  • anxiety due to average level of debt exceeding average income
Our society has reached the limit. We cannot carry more debt and we cannot do more work. This is not a temporary problem. We have reached the limits of the kind of capitalism this society has become.

How did Business deal with the end of rising real wages?

The last 30 years have been SPECTACULAR for business, a period of rising labour productivity due to the introduction of computer technology. Workers were paid the same and yet they produced are more. So there were more profits arising from flat wages and rising productivity. This led to the greatest profit boom in the history of American capitalism.

This was an employers fantasy come true. I pay my workers the same and they work more and more for me. Wild euphoria. Unbelievable profits:
  • Increased levels wages and bonuses for business, tens and hundreds of millions of dollars in annual salaries.
  • They bought out competitors, they had the money to do this – mergers and acquisitions
  • Business banked their money so that Banks became more powerful, had more money
  • Then they lent these profits to their employees – the profits that the flat wages of the workers had made possible were then lent to the employees who produced that profit
The working class were desperate to borrow

One example was General Motors who setup a bank named GMAC (General Motors Acceptance Corporation). They lent money to workers to buy cars. This led to them making more money from the interest on their loans than selling cars. About ten years ago they became a general lender and went into the mortage business.

It is so profitable to push debt onto the American people that everybody does it.

Booms and Busts

They ended up lending to people who couldn’t pay it back. Boom and bust is built into this system. The only difference now is that it comes at the end of this long historical period where it has reached its outer limits.

This is now admitted by Greenspan to be “irrational exuberance”


Dot com internet bubble in the late 1990s-2000, then crash

The government was fearful and reacted by lowering interest rates. This led to more borrowing and the housing bubble, then another collapse

There is nothing left to bubble

Business now suffers from the anxiety and exhaustion (for different reasons) that was previously visited onto the working class. The economic landscape is littered with corpses.

Regulation won’t work

We won’t solve our problems with the monetary and fiscal policy that is currently being implemented.

What might be done instead of attempts to stimulate, attempts to bail out, government buying shares in the banks etc.?

Given the historical context these small halting steps do not add up to a solution. Some in Washington don’t think it will work either and so now some are suggesting regulation. But that won’t work either.

In the first 30 years after WW2 we lived in a regulated economy. Regulations cover what Banks are allowed to do, what Boards of Directors of Corporations are allowed to do, new institutions such as social security. These regulations arose from the desperation of the Great Depression. These regulations were in place from the 1930s to the mid 1970s.

Beginning with Reagan and continuing with Bush senior, Clinton and GW Bush we had an era of deregulation.

Some argue that if we reintroduce regulation now then that will fix our problems. Part of this is understandable, we did regulate our way out of the Great Depression. But another part of it is blind.

Regulation is meant to control capitalists, Boards of Directors. But what happens is that the Boards of Directors are highly motivated to work against and to weaken and destroy regulations. Capitalists are the enemy of regulation and work continually to undermine them. It is bizarre policy to introduce regulation whilst leaving in place Boards of Directors of big corporations who you know will work hard to undermine them. Not only do they have the incentives to undo regulations but they also have the resources since they are the people who receive the profits.

The American working class supported Roosevelt’s regulation but they won’t do that again. If we leave the structure of enterprise unchanged then we won’t be addressing the real issue: the conflict between those who own and run enterprises and those who work in them.


Regulation could work if the workers owned the business.

We need to extend democracy to the economic sphere, as well as the political sphere.

Many American workers have already implemented a form of this. Some Silicon Valley workers quit their jobs and work out of garages in a communal manner. In one way of thinking this could be called Marx’s idea of a communist enterprise.

In another way of speaking we could describe it as a "remarkably successful entrepreneurial initiative". People describing it this way are Republicans, who have never read Marx. Republicans in in Bermuda shorts in California are behaving like a communist enterprise

If we don’t take basic steps of this kind to deal with the crisis of capitalism then we will all be very sorry.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

energy release calculation for the Victorian bushfires

David Packham estimated that the energy released in the recent Victorian bushfires was equivalent to 660 Hiroshima bombs. This surprised me and the figure also supports the argument for the need for fuel reduction.

I did my own calculations based on the Victorian fires and found that Packham seems to be roughly correct. I obtained the figure of 1290 Hiroshima bomb equivalents compared to Packham’s estimate of 660. I'm not saying that my figures are more accurate, there is some guess work involved, but my figure is in the same ballpark as that estimated by David Packham

Here are my calculations.

David Packham:
More than 330,000 hectares were destroyed in Victoria’s “hell on earth” bushfires and according to Mr Packham each hectare contained 30 tons of bushfire fuel — adding up to 9.9m tons. ”That equates to the energy release of 660 Hiroshima bombs” ...
- Victoria's bushfires compared to Hiroshima
Yield of Hiroshima Bomb: 1 Hiroshima Bomb is roughly 20 Kilotons TNT Equivalents of 1 Kiloton of TNT: 1 Kiloton TNT equals 1.15 x 10^6 Kilowatt-hours. KT means Kiloton.
- The fission product equivalent between nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons
The amount of energy in wood is a tricky one to calculate accurately. It can vary between fresh wood which has only 2000 Btu/pound of energy and the "high heat value" of 8660 Btu/lb, which is obtained only with perfectly dry wood (0% moisture content) and only in an atmosphere of pure oxygen. Given that the Victorian fires were fuelled mainly by partially or largely dried out dead fuel then it is fair to take an intermediate figure, let us say 5000 Btu/pound
- The Amount of Energy in Wood Fuel

1 Btu (thermochemical) = 0.00029287508333 kilowatt-hours

1 pound = 0.00045359237 ton (metric)

By our estimate, wood burns to create 5000 Btu/pound. To convert to Kilowatt-hours / ton then multiply by 0.00029287508333 and divide by 0.00045359237

Hence wood burns to create roughly 3300 kilowatt-hours / ton (rounded). For 9 million tons burnt –> 9 * 10^6 * 3300 kilowatt-hours energy = VB (victorian bushfires)

1 Hiroshima bomb = 20 * 1.15 x 10^6 Kilowatt-hours = HB (Hiroshima bomb)

To calculate Hiroshima bomb equivalents divide VB by HB = 1290 Hiroshima bomb equivalents

David Packham's qualifications:
OAM, MAppSci, worked for 40 years in bushfire research with CSIRO, Monash University and the Australian Emergency Management Institute. He was responsible for fire weather services in the Bureau of Meteorology. His extensive research concentrated on the physics of bushfires, and he applied this research to practical issues including the development of aerial prescribed burning, non-evacuation of properties, modelling of fire behaviour, and forensics

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

australian bushfires analysis

When I dug into this issue the main thing that shocked me was that a group of people in Australia (the Stretton group, formed in 2003) has been actively warning and lobbying about this threat for years. More importantly, they have also presented strategies about how to prevent such destructive fires. This group has had some success in implementing their policies in Western Australia but have been largely ignored in Victoria, which is the worst bushfire region in the world.
Fuels build up year after year at an approximate rate of one tonne a hectare a year, up to a maximum of about 30 tonnes a hectare. If the fuels exceed about eight tonnes a hectare, disastrous fires can and will occur. Every objective analysis of the dynamics of fuel and fire concludes that unless the fuels are maintained at near the levels that our indigenous stewards of the land achieved, then we will have unhealthy and unsafe forests that from time to time will generate disasters such as the one that erupted on saturday.
- David Packham, Victoria bushfires stoked by green vote
After studying some of these documents I see it this way:
  • we can’t control the weather - there will be very hot days, droughts etc., sooner or later
  • we can’t stop fire from starting - lightning strikes, arsonists, faulty electrical equipment etc.
  • we can’t or won’t stop people from living in the bush, it’s a free country.
All of the above is true and independent of the truth or falsehood of the global warming hypothesis.

The one big thing we can realistically control is fuel supply, by controlled burning in the non fire season. This won’t stop bushfires but will make them less intense and dangerous when they do occur. The Stretton group and some others, such as Phil Cheney and Roger Underwood have been arguing this for some years now.

Victoria has the worst climate and vegetation in the world for bushfires. Bushfires in Victoria are inevitable but by reducing fuel supply their devastation can be dramatically reduced.

Some of the relevant data from David Packham, in a 2002 (sic) submission is:
  • the fire exclusion policy has resulted in the highest and most dangerous fuel loads for 47,000 years
  • a running disaster fire intensity exceeds the maximum capability for fire fighting by between 4 and 80 times
  • reducing the fuels to one-quarter will reduce the areas burnt to between one quarter and one sixteenth
  • it will take 2 decades of effort to achieve healthy fuel levels ... There is however no alternative except major fire disasters at the rate of one or two per hundred years
  • the lessons of 1926, 1939, 1944, 1965 and 2003 do not appear to have been learnt. Policies or comments that oppose this help to perpetuate a situation that leads to massive destruction of life, property and the environment
Many of our politicians and a section of the media (although not The Australian) present these disasters as unavoidable and focus mainly on the recounting of the tragedy. The Stretton group has convinced me that they are largely avoidable and the fault has been a real lack of political leadership.

Victoria bushfires stoked by green vote by David Packham

Bush Fire Front by Roger Underwood, David Packham and Phil Cheney
Two myths have emerged about climate change and bushfire management and are beginning to circulate in the media and to be adopted as fact by some scientists:

1. Because of global warming, Australia will be increasingly subject to uncontrollable holocaust-like “megafires”.

2. Fuel reduction by prescribed burning must cease because it releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, thus exacerbating global warming and the occurrence of megafires.

Both statements are incorrect.
Inquiry on Bushfire Mitigation and Management - 2002 submission by David Packham OAM

Lessons not yet learned by Max Rheese
Max Rheese, Executive Director of the Australian Environment Foundation --> preventative burning is the best solution

Submission to Victorian Bushfire Inquiry by Norman Endacott
fuel reduction burning - advantages listed

The Green Inferno by Phil Cheney
do we really want to minimise disaster fires?

Manage Bush Better so Climate Change won't Matter by Roger Underwood
refutes Wilderness Society bushfire strategy

Examples of the Value of Prescribed Burning
- cites an example from West Australia where many prescribed burns got out of control owing to a cyclone moving faster than expected. It was far easier to contain these out of control fires once the fire ran into areas burnt under prescribed mild conditions in previous years

This burning issue of life and death by Miranda Devine
lists many green organisations that are opposed in practice to prescribed burning, while sometimes paying lip service to it