CONGRATULATIONS to the Canberra Times for its section on firefighting and firefighters (Sunday Canberra Times, October 27).
It is a fact of life that with fires predicted to be more prevalent, we should be thinking not only how to improve the climate, which is a long-term project, but also how to reduce risk in areas where people can be in danger and ensure housing is more fire resistant.
Pueblo-style houses are, to my mind, the answer.
In places such as Acoma in the United States, pueblo-style housing has existed for 2000 years in an area that is extremely hot. Yet it has no history of fire devastation.
These houses have walls up to 300 millimetres thick and are made of a combination of straw and clay. The walls are slow to heat up during the day but when warm, they hold their heat through the night. With the addition of a large cellar, these houses would be a secure refuge as well as an attractive home.
Any added construction cost would be offset by lower insurance rates.
Howard Carew, Isaacs
Marriage and the state
BIANCA HALL (''Marriage laws ignore real life'', October 27, p18) and other proponents of same-sex marriage have lost sight of the reason for the state's involvement in marriage.
Marriage has only one purpose in the eyes of the state. It is the preferred basis for formalising the responsibility that the natural parents have for their children. Thus it is restricted to a man and a woman. Religions embellish marriage but this is of no interest to the state.
The state is well aware of the stolen generations, but human failings have forced the state to act in other ways (one-parent custody, adoption) for the wellbeing of children. All of these arrangements are far less desirable alternatives to the parental responsibility founded in marriage for both the child and the state.
Many people are involved in these arrangements and that some happen to have same-sex attraction might or might not be relevant.
The relationship between two consenting adults who, ipso facto, do not have the potential to procreate is of no interest to the state as far as marriage is concerned, or else it would be rightly judged a nanny state.
Les Broderick, Farrer
Let the buyer beware
I WAS obviously not clear enough in my letter of October 20 about the values expressed in some Christian schools (response by Greg Jackson, October 27). I was responding to reports that allegedly same sex-attracted students at one private Christian school had been ''counselled'' with a view to having them reconsider their sexuality.
It simply amazes me that parents might not realise that some Christian schools might have a negative attitude to homosexuality. I was foolish enough to believe school attitudes might have changed since I went to school more than 40 years ago. Let the buyer beware, as one never knows which children might be gay.
Look at the big picture
JUMP off your high horse, Jack Waterford. While reading your piece titled ''Panic well served by Gypsy myths'' (Sunday Canberra Times, October 27, p19), I couldn't help but think I was reading the words of a ''newly enlightened'' first-year university undergrad.
I say this because your view was naught more than the small-picture view of a much larger issue. Nothing was added by staking the obvious high ground of anti-discrimination/finger-pointing. The big picture is far more complicated and I'll not attempt to address that here, but I do take issue with your harassment of authorities and/or politicians over this.
To think only slightly deeper, Jack, is it not obvious they are damned if they do or don't? What outcry would/will you post against the authorities/politicians for incompetence if a trade in stolen children is revealed? How often do we hear cries from all corners when something has only been half done, or indeed over done?
Will you be atop your horse again next week?
Here's a suggestion: You began looking into a local matter, that of the Winchester/Eastman case some time ago - why not get back on to it and see it through to the end? I, for one, want to know if there is a cover-up.
John Kelleher, Red Hill
MANY would have read the full-page piece titled ''Japan's radiation woes run deep'' (Sunday Canberra Times, October 27, p17). The SCT reproduced a New York Times article that, in my view, was scaremongering and a poor attempt to portray to a layperson the scientific facts on potential radiation hazards.
The half-page picture shows a Geiger counter waved closely over fish in a Japanese market. There was no comment on the scale value, about 0.5 microsieverts/hour - essentially zero radioactivity.
There was concern about water tainted by caesium-137 (and possibly by strontium-90) leaking into the ocean - 30 billion becquerels a year. This reads as if it is a huge amount of radioactivity, but it's not - about 0.0009 millicuries/h) - and this is just an emitted radiation value, not simply related to potential health damage to humans. I think these so-called ''new'' radiation leaks at Fukushima were there all along. We were simply not informed.
More serious, however, is the uptake of solubilised Sr-90 and I-131 by marine organisms that can cause damage before complete radioactive decay occurs.
Greg Jackson, Kambah
The real Guantanamo
I OFTEN despair over society's view of life. In his/her letter of November 2, Ross Kelly suggests the method of shipping live animals overseas is similar to ''floating Guantanamos''. Perhaps this is an apt description, but in the real Guantanamo we incarcerate men. We do not know what to do with these people, so they face life imprisonment and little protest is offered by society. But do the same thing to animals and most of us are up in arms. Should we not show the same concern for our fellow man - other than just using them as examples of cruelty?
C.J. Johnston, Duffy
WHAT an informative article by Professor Craig Simmons, assuring us that water scarcity need not be a concern were we to undertake a sensible management of the huge reserve of our groundwater (''Precious commodity: a future grounded in water'', Comment, November 1, p5).
And what an ideal time to consider such a project, when the economy of the country is so healthy.
Sadly, such a long-term undertaking is anathema to the government, which neither chooses to look beyond the next election nor reacts to anticipated events until the damage is done.
Sam Nona, Burradoo, NSW
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