James Allen (Letters, January 14) attempts to explain the lack of detection of radio signals from other advanced civilisations in the galactic neighbourhood (the Fermi paradox) by suggesting that humanity's greed and self-interest may be a universal stage of a Darwinian evolutionary process that proves fatal when faced with some existential threat.
He goes on to equate this with climate change. But who says we are an advanced civilisation or that we fully understand climate?
Our history is one of self-delusion; that we are the pinnacle of creation, the centre of the universe; and within an ace of seeing into the mind of God.
Yet we have recurring apocalyptic nightmares and visions.
In my lifetime it has been nuclear winter, impact from space, an ice age and climate change.
We are fearful and irrational homo sapiens ignoramus suffering collective post-traumatic stress disorder.
Our greed and self-interest is driven by existential fear and the paradoxical loneliness of our teeming billions.
We lack a sense of connection with each other, the Earth, and a universe that appears hostile to life.
What advanced civilisation would attempt galactic communication with glacially slow radio signals? What advanced civilisation would lay claim to a crackpot cosmology that has us a mere impurity in a universe of unidentified dark matter and dark energy, waiting for final blackness?
If we are ever to become an advanced civilisation we must understand the origin of our post-traumatic stress disorder.
Begin by asking why first civilisations appeared globally "like a thunderclap" and built colossal monuments to warring "planetary gods".
Wal Thornhill, Chapman
Welfare of commuters
First it was the Linq apartments, then the Wayfarer, now it's the Cirrus and Republic developments.
For years on end, Belconnen commuters and businesses have had to put up with apartment developers taking over our street space.
Perhaps the Planning Minister could explain why these developers have been allowed to build so close to our major roads and why they have not been required to pay a congestion levy? In other words, why was the welfare of Belconnen commuters disregarded?
Glenys Byrne, Florey
In praise of trees
You can't cut down forests and then graze the exposed ground bare with introduced livestock without having soil erosion. Eroded soils must go somewhere.
They end up in rivers, lakes and estuaries which they foul with excessive nutrient, causing the algal blooms which kill fish. Forests have tremendous benefits. Their canopies shield soils from the three great natural forces of wind, sun and rain. They shade the ground. They also turn atmospheric carbon dioxide into carbon and oxygen.
The carbon is locked away, the oxygen vitalises our atmosphere. We owe our existence to trees.
The current devastating bushfires and horrific fish kills are being blamed on summer heat but that's only part of the story.
Loss of forests is a major factor. We must begin replacing them.
All that's needed is people power.
If everyone plants a few trees every year we can begin reversing climate change.
The best place to start is on gully floors where most erosion occurs, and along bare stream banks to shade and cool the water while preventing further erosion.
Heat resistant trees with extensive root systems which stabilise soils are obviously a good choice, especially if assisted by government nurseries supplying free seedlings.
Regular tree planting excursions by schools would help and be a wonderful real-life experience for children.
Experience by a few enlightened farmers has already shown that sensible tree planting has enormous long-term benefits for land values, rural production and society generally.
If we don't stop climate change then ever increasing temperatures will cause more bushfires and destroy more forest, leading to even higher temperatures in a vicious circle that may wipe us all out.
John Turnbull, Kaleen
The report "Fish deaths in lower Darling exposes huge data gaps in its ecosystem"' (January 17, pp4-5) states that Labor's Tony Burke, Professor Jamie Pittock of the ANU, and the Greens' Sarah Hanson-Young have strongly criticised the environmental monitoring, or lack thereof, of the Murray-Darling Basin (MDB).
Professor Pittock pointed out that after the MDB Plan was adopted in 2012, governments led by NSW withdrew funding for the Sustainable River Audit program. That left only the distribution of MDB water being monitored despite $13 billion being spent "to restore environmental health".
I'm sure that many concerned Australians, including myself, are inclined to at least partly agree with Senator Hanson-Young when she says that "cotton, corruption and climate change" are destroying the MDB Plan.
The cotton-growing industry does seem to have an inordinate amount of influence over the NSW government, in particular on its Regional Water Minister, Niall Blair.
All this to prop up the growing of a crop that is highly ill-suited to its environment and requires huge amounts of irrigation.
Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin
Graham Macafee's letter ("Winning at all costs", January 14) states that he is using water tanks to store rainwater from his roof.
He appears to believe that this is helping the environment; but unfortunately he is seriously misguided.
The water from his roof would otherwise have gone into the highly stressed Murray-Darling Basin; and there are costs to the environment from the use of energy and non-renewable resources in the manufacture and transport of the water tanks.
Max Brown, Mawson
What a cheek
Jenny Moxham's letter (Letters, January 9) regarding animals and humans as food reminded me of a visit I made in the mid-1980s to Samosir Island in Lake Toba, Sumatra.
It is the ancestral home of the Batak people.
During the visit we met an ancient villager who, through an interpreter, claimed to have participated in the last Batak cannibal feast that he said took place around 1905, probably towards the end of the Karo rebellion.
It appears a Dutch missionary, Fr Johannes, was on the menu.
The elderly villager said the village children were given some cheek seasoned with lime and pepper which he recalled as being very tasty.
Jim Graham, Carwoola, NSW
Abolish the land tax
I find it comical that our elected monopoly controller of land and housing can reduce the level of social housing to historic lows, then tax the hell out of privately owned rental housing, and then comment with any level of credibility that reduced supply and increased cost of ownership has nothing to do with Canberra's rental vacancy rates hovering just above 0per cent while Canberra's tenants are paying the highest rents in Australia.
Legislating a new system to further discourage private investment in rental housing, ("Tenancy law rejig won't raise rents', January16, p3) won't address lack of supply, it will just further constrict it.
A significant increase in rental housing requires removal of inefficient, poorly targeted taxes and charges. Nothing would kick this along more effectively than the abolition of land tax.
Land tax is nothing more than a tax on being a tenant.
Live-in owners don't pay it, tenants do.
Maybe those arguing the case for Canberra's renters should focus on the causation of Canberra's ongoing crisis in rental housing, not on further disincentives for new investors. We desperately need to provide this essential community service our elected representatives have waltzed away from.
David Shearer, Canberra
Labor has sold its soul
Recent reports on a monopoly of land by our supposedly Labor government should upset all ACT residents.
It bears out the contention that this is not a true Labor government but a quasi-Liberal government.
In 2001, only one person – a Labor member of the Legislative Assembly – voted against a motion to sell off public housing.
A front-page report on the government's determination to get rid of more public housing came out at a time when people could be relied on to be occupied elsewhere.
They were not new plans. They have been determined for at least six years.
When we gained self-government, the ACT was gifted some 13,000 public housing units. One of the stipulations on the gift was that before any of the public housing was sold replacement units had to be built. This has not happened. Atthe moment there are some 10,000 public housing units and in all probability about 3000 homeless people.
Any resemblance between the ACT Labor Party and a real Australian Labor Party that cares has been well and truly lost.
Our present government has sold its soul for an outdated light rail and a unworkable centralisation policy.
The prospect of another two years with this lot at the helm will fill many Canberrans with dismay.
If I thought the ACT Liberals were a better alternative, there might be some light at the end of the tunnel. But I find they are too quiet on homelessness and land prices for my mind.
Howard Carew, Isaacs
With due respect to the authors, Martyn Lloyd Jones and Professor Paul Komesaroff ("Evidence backs need for pill testing trials", January10, p19), Idisagree with the statement: "It has taken until now for pill-testing techniques to be developed to a level where they can identify the constituents in analysed samples with sufficient precision, reliability and speed."As long ago as October9, 2017, senior toxicologist Dr Andrew Leibie of Safework Laboratories told us that infra-red spectroscopy equipment will tell you nothing about the dose – a key consideration in determining toxicity and that with backyard/uncontrolled pill or tablet manufacture it is not at all uncommon to find more than 90per cent of the total drug in any given pill in less than half of the volume.
The only way to determine the exact contents of any pill to save young lives is to test its entire mass. This would mean crushing and grinding a pill to powder form in your instrument.
The unreliability of pill testing equipment is further underlined in the Canberra Times letter "Deadly concept" of January8, 2019, where pill-testing advocate Gino Vumbaca of Pill Testing Australia was reported inter alia as saying: "The testing capabilities are so limited that revellers would be required to sign a death waiver, which includes a warning that tests cannot accurately determine drug purity levels or give any indication of safety."
Governments must not approve any more youth festivals until promoters sign a legally binding document accepting duty-of-care responsibilities and we have gold-standard testing equipment.
Colliss Parrett, Drug Watch International, Barton
Former MLA Bill Stefaniak, (Letters, December27) correctly points out his service as an MLA did not entitle him to a superannuation pension.
But in prosecuting his case, he then makes an extraordinary claim that his MLA superannuation entitlements amount to a "fairly basic lump sum". This is more deserving of correction than the issue that prompted his own letter.
Mr Stefaniak was one of the original 17 MLAs elected in 1989 who passed legislation that bestowed lump-sum benefits on MLAs that could not be described as "fairly basic". "Fairly generous" would be a better description.
In return for MLAs paying a 5per cent contribution of their salary during their period in office, they get a lump-sum benefit equivalent to 29per cent pa of their final salary for each year of service.
So not only is the 29per cent pa an extremely generous figure on its own, it is applied solely to their salary prevailing at the end of their term and not the salary they made relevant contributions on during each year in office.
While employer superannuation rates for most workers today is around 9.5per cent, it is important to remember that, in the early days of Mr Stefaniak's time as an MLA, employer superannuation contributions were only just being introduced, at a rate of around 3per cent — in stark contrast to the 29per cent MLA rate.
It should be noted that just before Mr Stefaniak left the assembly in 2008, a less-generous choice of funds scheme was introduced for MLAs elected post-2008, meaning that very few current MLAs would remain in the original scheme.
Rick O'Brien, Weston
TO THE POINT
BACK RIGHT HORSES
What a great idea from Maria Greene (Letters, December 14) for horse-drawn trams.
It would be a marvellous public attraction, especially if the animals could be trained to deliver horse-laughs as they pass the Assembly building.
There's one environmental down-side though to this extension of our already outdated light rail.
Oh, I forgot the ameliorating (back)side. Think of the employment opportunities for an army of pooper-scoopers.
Eric Hunter, Cook
AS GOOD AS IT GETS
Bernard Tomic refuses to play Davis Cup for Australia while Lleyton Hewitt remains captain. It just doesn't get any better than that.
Mark Sproat, Lyons
A ONE-TERM WONDER
My prediction for 2019 is that Dr Kerryn Phelps will be ousted from Wentworth at the election . She will be join another "one-term wonder", Maxine McHugh, who once deposed the sitting PM, John Howard, from Bennelong. Once gone she will soon be forgotten, just like Maxine was.
Mario Stivala, Spence
FIX ALGAL OUTBREAKS
I would like to know when high numbers of "red alerts" and blue-green algal outbreaks were decided to be "normal" events in any river. Politicians fix it please. Before it's too late.
P. Schoots, Gordon
QUESTION OF PRINCIPLE
Nicholas Stuart (Comment, January 16, p18) suggests that if university vice-chancellors were given the choice between principles and a bucket of money, he would get knocked over in their rush for the loot. He has managed to somehow forget the ANU decision to reject the lucrative Ramsay Centre proposal on grounds of principle.
David Roth, Kambah
MAY DOING HER BEST
The British parliamentary Conservative Party should admit its leader has been true to her pre-referendum stance and has done and is doing everything she can to slow the Brexit process.
G. Wilson, Macgregor
TAKE ACTION ON ASSANGE
It's time the Australian government did something about Julian Assange. He's been punished enough, and others are going to think twice before dumping classified information.
Rod Matthews, Melbourne, Vic
FAILED LIBERAL PRESIDENT
The flattering portrait of Peta Credlin ("How Peta Credlin has become the Liberal Party's 'great right hope"', canberratimes.com.au, January 12) painted last week by John Ruddick failed to mention he is both a member of the NSW Liberal Party and a failed candidate for president of that same party.
E. R. Moffat, Weston
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