Thursday, September 26, 2013

Limiting yourself---The place for Professors

I may have been to University twice,,  but I am still a country hick and proud of it.  We know things even if we can't always convince you we are quite smart as far as real ecosystem management and understanding goes .Our kids have 20years head start on your when it comes to a real education in the environment .
We can, for example , tell when the wannabes are desperate ; when their gurus have to have "Emeritus and Professor " in front of them.The left might hate deferring to "the USA"  but when they want to "outside experts " are better than any we have .Our intellectuals are limiting themselves .

ABC were again at this week with Guru Suzuki supporting Guru Flannery . While Suzuki spoke as though he was thinking outside the square ,there was little evidence in his answers and his careless support of all Flannery's careless unrecanted outbursts. Suzuki even dared to give Flannerys fear about water to be "given time to prove " even though Flannery and ABC has never given Carbon producers time to prove .
It seemed to me they were both going to the same church and could not therefore disagree on some key points of  doctrine ; siully simple doctrines like "that we are running out of everything , population control is obligatory " fear is the best medicine and facts can't be waited for " ( except when they are your own facts)  No one has gooten beyond  Ronald Conway to his summary of the dangers of such stuporific stuff in an Australain Context. Even Charles Birch  would see this and speak to it .


Anyway back the story.
I used to be in awe of a few professors ; usually because they were passionate and clearly could talk outside the square . One of Australia's best academics was clearly the Prof of Botany at Melbourne University. Prof David .  Rang him up several times at work over trying to understand how much tree cover was likely to have been around on the old western plains presettlement and pre aboriginal occupation .
He was  as usual clear and confined ( cf Flannery) in his comments . He helped me refine my understanding of how soils influenced tree and grassland cover on a range of sites and soils.   I could never have developed a good understanding of establishment factors  without his comments and broad understanding of what was growing where.
In my last stint at University  I had read as much as I could (as well as digging holes) in the best sources ( Royal Society Proceedings) .
Those old blokes and dames did research well and I do wonder whether we can compete ( As JR Saul has pointed out --specialization will be the death of science if we are not careful-- i think of all the variety of experts atop Mt Gellibrand over 100 years ago and the ground they covered in their research )
Even today , the evidence is out there speaking against a poorer balance than ever over " what grew where' --most of the grant moneys from the Commonwealth in recent decades and millions have gone into trees when the land is natural grassland - misdirected worship of trees .

When I first left Uni I used to ring up Profs a bit ( one should never stop seeking others advice ) but I realized they could um and RR; learning was a two way street and we should both be on it , but not always heading in the same direction .  I had to make decisions about land use every week - they didn't and i was the better for it when having to guess and then test whether my decisions on real life risk scenarios stood up -- they did but who else is still doing it ?
Never was this more obvious than when attending a high level meeting on water research under the new Commonwealths CRC program, The profs present ( all very capable in their own fields ) were clearly going to tie up research in two areas for 10 yrs that I integrated daily - creating empires where never the twain (surface and subsurface) shall meet . No wonder there was nobody to tell John Brumby his desalination plant would be a disaster . There was noone on decision making watch ( I tried to warn them  but they were on professor and panic watch - as usual ) there still isn't even though paradoxically they have created departments for it ( reminds me of SirHumphrys best method of losing something -- Filing it )
My friends on the land have a sense that they are not well served by the worship of prof s and academia in general ( and they NOT) . We can't afford to make mistakes with the environment but they can - big time . Like too many closeted in comfort zone, the great intellectual stupor stops many of those who would speak for the knowledgable ones ,from  trimming the wool over their eyes .