People, Fire, Forest and Water in South-Western Australia: Rich Text Model for Resolving a Public Dispute

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In the dry eucalypt forests and woodlands of south-western Australia, professional foresters and environmentalists have, for decades, been in dispute over forest logging and burning. With recent drought, the dispute now includes the potential effects of logging and burning, in forested catchments, on water quantity and quality. Each group has its set of beliefs, which may be true or untrue; scientific or emotional; rational or irrational. Each set of beliefs forms a doctrine, on which public policy may be based, according to public and political support. Such support can be both fickle and ephemeral. Changes in policy may not always benefit the public. This paper suggests a steady approach to the truth, by working, in a rational way, through the differing doctrines of the two groups. It may discover some common ground. This approach to the matter through fundamental beliefs owes much to Immanuel Kant's concept of noumena (the realities) and phenomena (the perceptions). It also relates to Plato's cave metaphor, where people see only shadows of reality. It also builds on Professor Peter Checkland's 'rich picture' concept, from his Soft Systems Methodology (2000) This paper demonstrates a practical method for converting 'rich pictures' of the two doctrines into 'rich texts', which yield numerical scores of benefits and penalties in the categories of Environment, Culture, Economics and Society. These scores may help with decision making.


Keywords: People, Fire, Forests, Water, Rich, Picture, Text.
Stream: Environmental Sustainability
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Mr David Ward

PhD student, Geography Department
Faculty of Humanities, Curtin University of Technology

Perth, Western Australia, Australia

I have a Bachelor's degree in biology and mathematics, and a Master's degree in Human Ecology (Brussels). I have worked for forty years in the forests of south-western Australia, including much work on bushfire. A few years ago I retired, and am now a PhD student under Professor Roy Jones, at Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia. I am very interested in the traditional use of fire by Aboriginal people, and the way in which their fires must, in highly flammable vegetation, have formed a stable mosaic, so preventing large, uncontrollable fires. Currently, in Australia, we are seeing very large, uncontrollable bushfires, as a result of loss of mosaic stability. Traditional Aboriginal understanding of fire is largely ignored, and the emphasis is on attempted suppression, rather than prevention. The issue is, of course, politically sensitive.

Ref: S08P0068