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tigtog now posts at the new and improved Hoyden About Town. She also blogs at Larvatus Prodeo and Finally A Feminism 101 Blog. If the new Hoydenspace is down you should find updates below.

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Grass Tree Update: Cholorophyll Nil

I got a call back from the DEC (Dept of Environment and Conservation) regarding the guy selling protected grass trees off the back of a truck. (2 posts down) Much to my surprise the guy is a legitimate licensed dealer, with trees licensed by the Queensland government as salvage (i.e. from land where their habitat is about to be destroyed by alternative development). So he can't be fined or imprisoned, although I still want to feed him to the trees for his lack of care: most of those salvage-tag trees will die within a few months because those root-balls simply aren't large enough and most people won't transplant them into sandy enough soil, so the roots will just wither as they fail to penetrate loam and clay. Still, he's operating within the law.

This led me to some Googling on QLD's grass-tree licensing system. Apparently QLD has a different harvest policy regarding grass trees than NSW does: QLD has decided that rigorously monitored sustainable harvesting of indigenous plants doesn't prevent enough illegal harvesting, and no longer grants license tags to landowners with grass-tree habitat to take a small number of grass-trees annually.

Salvaging plants from lands subject to clearing and logging operations is recognised as a source of plants to reduce demand for plants taken from undisturbed land and therefore the potential for plants to be taken illegally. Conservation and Management of Protected Plants in Queensland 2001.

So QLD will grant license tags to landowners to salvage grass-trees if their habitat is going to be destroyed. QLD has gone from granting 6,000 sustainable harvest tags on continuing habitat to granting 60,000 salvage tags for grass-trees on destroyed habitat. But at least the trees aren't being harvested illegally.

So: farmer (or indigenous titleholders) with five back paddocks of grass-tree habitat (i.e. poor sandy soil which will not support pasturage or any other crop) can no longer get a license to harvest 50 grass-trees a year and make $5000 per annum in perpetuity for landowner and heirs, in return for doing bugger-all. Grass-trees resent fertilizer and unnecessary watering. They just sit there, slowly growing, and providing a backbone for a habitat of other native plants and small animals, a small oasis of biodiversity that can be enhanced and with the rise of eco-tourism even perhaps generate some added income for the farmer from surrounding holiday cabins etc.

But: if landowner tells the government he wants to upgrade that poor sandy land into pasturage (even though it won't work), the farmer can get a license to salvage 1000 grass-trees and get a one-time profit of $100,000 and a dustbowl that will never grow any useful crop at all. The viability of the proposed development is scarcely examined as long as bulldozers have been hired.

Salvage harvesting of grass-trees tends to be a lot less careful than sustainable harvesting, thus the inadequate root-balls I mentioned above. Salvagers crop the tops for transport to minimize transplant shock. When planted out, the plants will respond with a flush of new green crown growth, very gratifying to the new purchaser, but unless the root ball is large enough and surrounded by just the right medium, die-back begins within a few months and most trees last less than a year. So salvage tags encourage a landscaper replacement strategy which encourages even more reckless digging up of centuries-old plants on land conveniently designated as undergoing "development".

Grasstrees are only one of the indigenous plant species affected by QLD's protected plants policy. Don't overlook the fact that this salvage-only policy favours developers and loggers out for a short-term profit over sustainable resource management by multi-generational landowners, either.

It seems a very strange way to go about conserving habitat to me.


Chlorophyll 1: Eco-rapists 0 (I hope)

I just dobbed this guy in to the police:

Those are grass trees, a threatened species. They have an extremely limited range and the trunks only grow 1 cm per year. Some of the biggest trees on that truck must be a century old - so at least 3000 years of growth on there, and the root balls look so small that these trees probably won't survive when transplanted. I want to tie him down and let the roots feed on his slowly putrefying corpse.

Only licensed harvesters are permitted to take them from the bush under a strict quota: there's no way some guy selling them off a truck has licensed trees. If the police do their job, he's up for big bikkies:

Prosecution penalties: If a person is convicted of a threatened species offence under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 Part 8A they face criminal penalties of up to $220,000 and or two years in prison. In addition, if the case involves harming or picking threatened species, endangered populations or endangered ecological communities additional penalties of up to $11000 apply to each whole plant that was harmed or picked.

Let's hope the greedy bastard is bankrupted.

By the way, it made a big difference to the response I got from the desk-plod that I was able to give her the full name of the legislation empowering police to act on threatened species violations and giving details of penalties. Wherever you are in the world, your state/local government probably has a website for environmental protection matters, detailing the relevant legislation. Have it to hand when you report environmental violations to the police, otherwise they might not want to bother, thinking it's outside their jurisdiction.

UPDATE 20 Sept: unfortunately it appears that despite the enthusiasm of the desk-plod that Hurstville Police had a busy day and insufficient resources to send a car along to check this eco-rapist out. So, I'm now informing governmental environment protection officers at the local and state level, and any green activists/lobbyists I can find as well. Hope to get him yet.


Obligatory Satire Roundup

Statutory Satire Disclaimer: if you are easily offended, satire probably just isn't your thing. Don't bother. Have some fluffy kittens instead.

The image at the right is from Jon Stewart's Daily Show, which I never see (being in Oz). However, thanks to the Interweb thingy I got to see this bit anyway. I think my favourite yet to occur disaster is "unicyclists, nuclear".

I cropped it from an image on Magic:The Gathering/Katrina Edition which has surely earned its authors a place in hell, which they will shortly thereafter rule.

I only wish this was satire: the Australian government has deported an American anti-corporate activist who advocates peaceful civil disobedience as a threat to national security. Apparently demonstrating outside the Sydney offices of Halliburton is a terrorist attack on the Free World.


Nice Guys aren't called Roota

Sometimes I look back on a youthful memory and suddenly realise "now I understand what was going on then." And although it was long ago, far away (were things so much better than they are today?) I have a belated thank you to make to some genuinely nice guys. I think that what they did has probably been done by others elsewhere, and those guys deserve thanks too. But let me set the scene.

In early 1980, when I was beginning my last 2 years of high school, my dad got a transfer and we moved away from a large coastal city to a small town in the Riverina district of NSW. I was 16, and not especially thrilled. I missed my friends I'd known for years, I missed the beach and I missed the school where I'd just been voted a prefect and was heavily involved in extracurricular groups.

This is not to say my new town was an awful place. On the contrary, it was perfectly pleasant as country towns go, and they go very well as long as the crops cash in. The people were friendly enough, particularly amongst my age group. The divide between born-and-bred and blow-in was a bit more difficult to cross for my parents, but there were enough blow-ins in the banks and public service to band together, and only the squattocracy held utterly aloof.

There was nearly always a party on the weekend: even if it was just a bunch of cars on the riverbank with the lights on, the tape-deck blaring and a whole lot of booze. There was no problem for a girl (harder for the boys) getting into one of the 20 pubs, despite the age restrictions for under 18s. Particularly if you had an older boy buying you drinks.

Perhaps not entirely coincidentally to the above, all the senior high school girls dated boys three or four years older, who not only could buy drinks but had cars (every single one a lovingly polished V8). These older guys were the mates of elder brothers and cousins, guys they'd known for years. Blow-ins like me got to meet these older boys by being invited by the couples as extras.

This left a real gap for the 16 year old guys. All the flirty girls in town were snapped up by the older guys - that left the girls whose character or looks discouraged flirtation, or the really young girls - and that wasn't on. Because it was a given that the couples going steady longer than a month were having it off (although there were actually exceptions), thus no pool of candidate girls under 16, the age of consent. So the 16 year old boys played a lot - a real lot - of sport, and sometimes came along to the pubs and the parties, and looked on.

So I felt a bit bad for the guys in my class when I realised. No girlfriends (at least until they got a car). I didn't feel so bad I dated any of them of course, as by this time I had my lovely boyfriend (hereafter LB) - all of 20, whom I eventually treated badly. But I knew exactly how to relate to the nice guys that nobody dates - every school has them. They're not unattractive, they're considerate and reliable, and every girl would "hate to lose a friend" by dating them (I'm amazed the bloody rampages happen so seldom, honestly). Essentially they become honorary brothers, which I bet really sucks. But they often, thankfully, take that very seriously.

By the end of '81 I felt I knew the town fairly well, although one can never fully know a place where one hasn't absorbed the history through childhood. But amongst my peers I'd watched in two short years several engagements, a marriage, and two enormous funerals attended by what seemed like the whole town: a death by drink-driving car crash (my dad had to write the road authority's fatal accident report) and a death by shooting accident (his girlfriend was in my year).

The latter occurred the same weekend my grandfather died. I remember clearly trying to suppress my sobs that Monday in the senior girls' bathroom. My classmate had suffered a devastatingly unexpected loss: at least my grandfather had eighty years to his credit.

There were hostile whispers: "Why's she so upset? What's she got to cry about? Was she up to something with him?" Finally, unable to bear the suspicion, I apologetically confessed to my own less shocking bereavement, we fell on each other's necks, and it was OK. Suspicion about the guys rooting around was as much part of the town fabric as the booze, and blaming the girl was the standard response.

However the point of this story, despite my dilatory digressions, is those Nice Guys in my high school year, and how they chose to interact with part of the town's recent history. Painting the picture of the town - boozy, tight-knit, and matey - is essential to understanding both what they did and why I never realized the power of it until recently.

Town History: EveryoneKnew that certain girls had DoneTheDirty while drunk. There were whispers of a gangbang involving a girl from my class from a few years before I blew into town. In retrospect I find it interesting that no names of the guys concerned were bandied about.

Maybe if I hadn't been going with LB I'd have heard more about who to watch out for. But having a LB was protection from other guys when you got drunk, even if your LB had gone down to Melbourne for the footy: you were out of bounds. Even for Roota: a pseudonym, but his real nickname was equivalent. Australians are notorious for bestowing ironic nicknames, but Roota's was considered well-earned, yet he rarely actually had a girl by his side.

We guessed that he just couldn't keep a girl interested after he'd charmed her into bed, although bed is here a misnomer. He was well-known for giving paralytic young girls a lift home, and was considered a gent for doing so. Many of those girls ended up having sex with Roota in his car, although hardly any chose to date him afterwards. There was occasional ribaldry about how he must be a dud roota, ha-ha.

Roota certainly wasn't the only guy to engage in the one-night stand. Both guys and girls in that town had drunken fumbles they later regretted, but only Roota had only one night stands. Constantly. After a while, he was looked on a little askance - why couldn't he get a steady girl? It started to be put down to his reputation. No-one wanted to be Roota's latest notch on his gear-stick.

Now here's where I treated my LB badly. I dropped him to concentrate on studies, not wanting to party every weekend, and feeling that it wouldn't be fair to LB to have a girlfriend that didn't want to go out. Not that I discussed it with him, I just informed him he'd be better off without me while I hit the books. He was hurt, particularly when I later went out on occasional dates with other guys. I was wrong then, to judge that his affection for me couldn't withstand my decision to go out less often.

It was also a wrong decision in that I was now fair game for Roota. This was when I started to notice the Nice Guy Patrol (NGP). Those sporty guys in my class with no girlfriends seemed to be always around in the background. They now had cars, a few of them attracted girlfriends after all, but generally the NGP hung around with us and made sure that if we started chatting with Roota or any of his lesser imitators they casually joined in the chat. Being tee-total, they were always the chauffeur of choice at the end of the night. They were brotherly safe.

I especially remember our Year 12 farewell party. Well, vaguely actually. I was so drunk that at one stage I fell asleep on the toilet and someone had to climb over the stall to unlock the door. I then went outside for some fresh air. Who materialised? Roota, exuding bonhomie and a solid shoulder to lean on, and he started walking me toward the car park. Halfway there, a few of the NGP arrived and cheerfully offered to help Roota help me walk it off. I spent about half an hour alone in the front seat of one of their cars sleeping it off (there was another girl sleeping alone in the back), and then I went back in to dance some more.

Why did they look after us like this? I think they had figured out what Roota was really doing, and wanted to stop him. I now believe that Roota was a predatory serial sexual assaulter, calculatedly targeting drunken young girls. This is, however, speculation in that I never heard anyone say that Roota raped them: that is why I'm not specifying the town or using his actual nickname. Nicknames hang on for generations sometimes in country towns.

Nonetheless, this is what I believe was going on, and it is for these actions I wish to thank the NGP. Without them, I am convinced that I would have been the latest in a long line of girls to come to and realize that Roota had stolen a fuck. And like a lot of the other girls who never dated Roota after he fucked them, I would have been devastated and blamed myself.

I wouldn't have blamed Roota: after all, I must have encouraged him somehow when I was drunk, right? Why else would he do that? But I wouldn't have wanted a guy who could "take advantage" like that as a boyfriend. Who would? So, another standard weekend for Roota, dateless but not fuckless, and a young woman who stopped going out for a while. But it was always the girl who got blamed for "not looking after herself"; nobody blamed Roota for having it off with a girl in that condition.

These days, a man having sex with a girl in a non-consenting alcoholic stupor is readily characterised as committing sexual assault. But back then nobody saw it that way and certainly didn't talk about it that way. The only sort of sexual assault was rape, and rape was force: overpowering a woman, not just getting a girl so drunk that overpowering was unnecessary. Rape was only committed by strangers (the well-known statistic today that 3/4 of rapists are known by the victim was unknown to us and would have been considered incredible).

If someone you knew had sex with you without using force, even if you didn't actually consent because of alcoholic incapacity, then nobody you knew would consider that rape. No bruises, no rape. Nobody in town called Roota a rapist, and I bet that he didn't then, nor does he now, consider any of those stolen fucks as rape.

But stealing fucks is rape. It was the same as the sleazebags today who slip Rohypnol into girls' drinks then walk them off, wait for them to pass out and rape their insensible bodies. Every girl before and since the days of Roofies who woke up to the sinking realisation that they'd been fucked by someone they trusted not to is right to consider themselves as having been raped.

Fuckthieves are rapists. And no, it wasn't your fault to trust a guy that you knew (that's what nice girls are supposed to do, isn't it? Otherwise you're a bitch). It's the fuckthief's fault for deciding that stealing sex from you because you passed out was an OK thing to do.

There was a code of silence in that town about what Roota was doing. People didn't want to think about his pattern of "taking advantage" because Roota was a nice guy that they'd grown up with. There were no overt warnings to any of us girls about Roota, although in some folk-unconscious way perhaps the choice of nickname was at least an oblique warning. The NGP took it a step further, ensuring that while they were around Roota was never left alone with a girl whose decision-making was clearly impaired.

This is one of the ways that men can take charge in preventing rape. Let other men know it is unacceptable. Don't stand by if a male companion targets a girl incapable of informed consent. Don't think it's not rape if it's not forced. Booze is no excuse. Report him if he brags about stealing a fuck later. This was harder then than it is now, when sexual assault legislation is clearer about what constitutes rape outside the scope of overpowering force.

The NGP used a grassroots masked shame/shunning technique because they lacked the nuts and bolts of how to openly combat Roota's sexual predation. After all, back then no prosecutor would take Roota to court. But today maybe they would (and how having to insert that maybe outrages me).

Now, some men might be asking: what's in it for us? Sure, altruism is right, I'd certainly want other guys to watch out for fuckthieves around my loved ones, and that's all very warm and fuzzy. But how can I convince other guys to stop fuckthieves without an obvious benefit?

Simple. Every time a fuckthief assaults a woman, that woman won't trust other men to be decent, safe guys, even though most of you are. Back then each girl kept her shame and betrayal to herself, but today we know better and warn our friends about creeps like that. And the creep's mates too. A dozen or more of that woman's friends will also have lessened trust that the guys they know are decent and safe.

Fuckthieves tend to be serial assaulters, so a single fuckthief can easily generate a hundred or more mistrustful women through word of mouth. So, if only one man in a 100 thinks it's OK to steal sex, he's screwing it up over and over again for the rest of you.

You want to have fun with vibrant, sexually confident and open women with no awkward trust issues? Stop the rapists, all rapists including fuckthieves. Don't keep quiet about it if you know a fuckthief. Blame the bloke, not the booze. Don't go vigilante and bash them, they'll just get sneakier. Report them for sexual assault, then stand up and tell the truth about them in court.

I'm not sure what has happened to any of the NGP now. I left town to go to uni, my dad was transferred again, and I haven't been back for over 20 years. I have no doubt that the erstwhile dateless NGP are now partnered, parenting and uncle-ing and being the best possible male role models a child could have.

I don't even remember the names of all of them, but I do know the heads of the NGP were Bryan, Nick and Chris. I never thanked them then, mostly because what they did for us was clandestine. A few of us joked about them protecting us from doing stuff we'd later regret, but Roota wasn't mentioned. It wasn't better then than it is today: we can be open now about sexual assault and how men can and do prevent it.

So, belatedly, thanks. Thank you, Bryan. Thank you, Nick. Thank you, Chris. Thank you, other members of the effort to monitor and contain Roota. To all the other men out there who've been parts of a NGP somewhere, thank you too. Thanks too to the bloggers and commenters at Pandagon and I Blame the Patriarchy, for inspiring me to write about fuckthieves and how to stop them.

To all the Rootas out there: more and more of your mates are realising you are a raping shit, blaming the victim doesn't work so well these days, and you won't get away with it forever. Stop it, now, or enjoy 15-20 years inside.


Stephen Fry is blogging!

On huffpo : The Great Stink of 2005.
'We will never alter this one ineluctable fact about ourselves however. We stink. My god how we hate to be reminded of it and my god how much that reluctance to face it should tell us about its centrality to our existence. We shower, we smear and spray ourselves with product, we defecate into artfully designed porcelain which takes away the ordure invisibly and more or less odourlessly. When we die we are embalmed, burned or interred before we have time to pong. Take away the sewage systems, take away the running water, take away the morticians and within days our stink is beyond that which can be endured. Every cell of our body is composed of stuff so malodorous than one whiff of it will empty stomachs at fifty paces. It doesn't matter whether we are white, black, rich, poor, virtuous, vicious, healthy or addled. We all stink. "My offence is rank, it smells to heaven" as Claudius said for us all. It is our true original sin, the primal shame that haunts us.'
Man I love the way he marshalls those words.


A rising tide lifts all boats...

so say the neocon economic rationalists.

The Katrina-sized elephant in the room they never look at, never mention is: how can I catch the tide if I don't have a boat? Especially if I was never even taught to swim?

Why are those people staying in that toxic soup?

Some poor folks still hanging on in NOLA are telling rescuers they can't get on the helicopter because they can't afford a rescue ticket. (2nd item down)

These people just don't expect something for nothing - and they've got nothing.

Words fail.

More on serruria

The Botanical Society of South Africa has an Outing Report on a trip some of their members took to see Blushing Brides in the wild of the Franschhoek mountains. (scroll down approx halfway on that page)

They make some very interesting points about wilderness sustainability, past conservation mistakes and evolving botanical understanding of local ecologies.
.....very humbling to think that out of the whole world, the species is only found naturally in a few colonies spread out over a couple of kilometres.

Viv - I misspelt Franschhoek before, too.


favourite plants

So far, my favourite plant acquisition this year is Serruria florida (Blushing Bride).
It's a member of the proteacae and thrives in poor, dry soil: I have it in a pot with an Australian Native potting mix and I water it sparingly.

It is not only an attractive plant, but also has a great story behind it. Earlier this century, the plant was considered extinct in the wild, mostly due to overpicking by humans: the delicate, papery, pink-white flower was prized in Victorian era bridal bouquets. And then there was a bushfire in the Franshoek mountains, and seeds that had been lying there for decades were germinated. Now the plant grows in the wild again.

My second favourite acquisition is Loropetalum chinense var rubrum[updated link]. It's just gorgeous.



Hurricane Katrina et al

My mate Phil has a long but excellent post on questions raised by Katrina.

My thoughts in no especially coherent order:

Much as I loathe and despise my current government, I do believe that any disaster that news crews can get to will have govt-coordinated relief choppers close behind, particularly any long-predicted disaster scenario which they've had nearly a week's warning about.

My city's evacuation plan will not be just bussing the poor to an understocked and understaffed emergency shelter still inside the danger zone.

If not getting food and water to those trapped by the flood was incompetence (the city had enough in the Superdome for 36 hours, should they really have expected they'd be waiting any longer?) , then not accepting aid from foreign disaster relief experts was insanity, and having navy pilots chastised for rescuing people and armed police turning people back from the obvious pedestrian escape route was indefensible inhumanity.

Yes, this disaster was unprecedented for the USA in terms of the size of the damage zone and the particular logistical horrors presented by the flooding of New Orleans. No wonder the administration at all levels were overwhelmed. But that's what international relief missions are all about: helping overwhelmed local resources cope with situations beyond their capacity.

There was no need for the US to go it alone on the relief effort: the Asian tsunami showed that the world working under UN coordination could do wonders. Was the Bush administration just too attached to control to swallow their pride and let the willing, ready and able world step up to the plate in Louisiana?

If that was why, thousands of people died for their pride.


So why blog now?

I know, I started muttering about blogging about two years ago now. And it just never happened.

But I watch some of my mates blogging about stuff that matters and stuff that entertains, and it seems worthwhile. So I'm giving it a go.

I'm sure it will take me some time to get used to the interface, so bear with me.