As we crest over the worst of winter and start looking forward to spring and warmer weather, a tricky question sits waiting on the horizon.
How do you solve a problem like shark attacks? Or, more to the point, is there one? There are more of us in the water than ever before. Are there more of them? And is that why WA has suffered through an horrific 10 months, with five fatal attacks?
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Each of us has childhood memories of exploring and enjoying the unique Australian environment. From the beach to the backyard, surely it is the great outdoors that unites us all.
It may have been beach fishing on a windswept, majestic Moreton Island as a teen, as I experienced, or something as simple as family time spent in the backyard of the ramshackle beach house that so many of us seemed to have. Either way, all Australians have an abiding love of these special youthful memories of the natural world. We must fight to preserve these experiences. Not so much for ourselves, but for the youngest among us and those yet to be born, who are still to have their special moments outdoors in Australia.
As the threat of climate change grows greater and more imminent, we need to remember what it is we are acting to protect for future generations.
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I once tried to explain cricket to a Spaniard. After half an hour of Pictionary-grade diagrams, an English-Spanish dictionary and rubbing my groin with a Granny Smith, all that Fernando had grasped with any certainty was that he didn’t wish to eat the apple.
I have lived in some peculiar places and enjoyed some peculiar conversations, but I had to venture to Cairns to have a discussion with a woman about how best to post an ant through the mail. And not any type of ant but an Electric ant, or a suspected Electric ant, hence the conversation.
I grew up on Sydney’s forested North Shore, so I’m accustomed to creepy crawlies in the house and have liberated many a spider in the brave space between a cup and a postcard. Postcards were invented for such endeavours. Now that people have stopped sending them, my house resembles the set of Arachnophobia.
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As human lives and communities are destroyed by floods in Australia, and we recall the devastation of the Haiti quake one year on, it’s appropriate to reflect on the continuing challenge humanity faces to work out how best to master nature.
As much as we can be in awe of the beauty of nature, we should resist the naive nature worship that ignores just how arbitrary and destructive it can be.
While we are in fact part of nature, we are that part of nature that is aware of itself. We are able to imagine and construct ways of shaping and managing nature to neutralise its (and our) dark side.
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It’s long been accepted wisdom that many people get their political views from their parents and their peers.
In my unscientific experience (conducting more vox pops than I care to remember) young voters who admitted to me they planned to vote Liberal in an election very often gave the justification “because that’s what my mum and dad are doing.” First time voters with a strong Greens or Labor bent were more likely to offer up their friends or the media they consumed as influencing their views.
But a British study out today suggests political views might be more nature over nurture.
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For a bloke who has a grizzly story too, I’m paying close attention to the case in which two Australians, Andrew Brodie and Owen Hereford, are suing the Canadian Government for $75,000 each over a 1995 grizzly attack.
They were camping at Lake Louise when they were attacked in their tent by a bear. The basis of their lawsuit, currently before the courts and expected to last three weeks, is that authorities were negligent in ensuring the safety of campers.
There is no question that Brodie, now 36, and Hereford, 37, would have had no chance to defend themselves, given that the incident took place at about 3.30 in the morning. If they were asleep, the grizzly attack would have given them no time to grab a can of bear spray, a capsicum-based aerosol spray that is part and parcel of venturing into much of Canada.
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Years ago, hosting an American, I was confronted with a challenge.
George Washington is clearly the great unifying figure of American history. So who is Australia’s equivalent? Wrestling with this idea overnight, the next morning I had the answer.
“Our great unifying person of history,” I declared, “turns out to be a horse – Phar Lap – and you people killed him.”
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When nature decides to ruin an entire continent’s day it’s a great reminder of how far technology has come in recent decades. The last time this Icelandic volcano let rip like this there weren’t jets noodling around the skies over Europe.
Associated Press has provided a handy syllable-by-syllable guide to pronouncing the name of the volcano responsible. Eyjafjallajokull: ay-yah-FYAH’-plah-yer-kuh-duhl. A doddle. Probably worth tuning into the 6pm TV news to see how it goes.
European airports have had to shut down as aircraft could literally fall out of the sky because of the ash plume spreading over the continent. More than half a million travellers are affected and some estimates put the economic cost at around half a billion Australian dollars. You may mention climate change in the comments.
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A group of 36 Canberrans from all walks of life met last weekend with what many would consider a bizarre objective.
Grandmothers, tax office workers, lawyers, teachers, small business people and farmers gathered at a scenic rural location just outside the nation’s capital to learn to catch and release some of the world’s deadliest snakes.
None of us enrolled in the Wildcare snake handling course had any experience with the reptiles, save for the occasional sighting, which in my case, usually involved the blood draining from my face and sending my heart into high-octane overload.
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Well it’s the silly season and sharks are in the news again, big time.
This summer in central Queensland, they are competing with box jellyfish and irukandji for the mantle of scariest critters in the sea, while on land, tourists at Seventeen Seventy have been attacked by a crazed kamikaze flying fox.
That small tourism hot spot marks the place where Captain James Cook put ashore to take on fresh water, but this week three tourists were bitten by a bat later found to have been infected by the potentially deadly lyssavirus.
Inside Parliament House the year is punctuated by the progress of the seasons. With 17 courtyards throughout the building, nature is expertly managed to remind us what month it is and the uncompromising procession of life’s cycle.
As the year gets underway we arrive for the autumn session at the beginning of February. The roses at Parliament House are in the busy process of producing bursts of colour.
Each flower is subjected to the searing trials of the sun testing its form and structure. Only the most robust survive a week, none survive a fortnight.
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