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Willis's Walkabouts Newsletter 91, August 2017 — Killing the Country

"Killing the Country." If you read nothing else, read Burning Issues below. This ecological disaster is destroying northern Australia.

The Major Trip Update section contains information about two great overseas trips which we may or may not ever be able to offer again. Read on to find out why.

The next newsletter will have information about how the world as we know it could soon come to an end.

Restricted content. Articles marked * or ** are on restricted websites Click for more info.

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Major Trip Update

2017 Is Almost Over

Almost over — It's Only August! We can't, however, run our trips unless we have bookings well in advance. Only four 2017 trips have bookings.

There are five other Kakadu trips in the 2017 program. Every one of those which doesn't have bookings by the end of August will be cancelled.


Our advance bookings now go out as far as next May. The sooner you get in, the more likely it is that you'll get the trip you want.

Special Charters

Ask and you shall receive. We ran two special trips this year and changed the dates of a third to suit the first people who booked. If none of the available trips fits your dates or where you wish to go, please ask about our charters. We can go almost anywhere in the NT and Kimberley with almost any size group, provided you give us enough notice.

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Burning Issues

If something doesn't change, the north Australian woodlands could be gone in a generation.

When I began this section, I thought it would be relatively easy. Not so! The more I dig, the worse it gets.

Not a single blade of grass, not one live small shrub to be seen. This is what we saw in large areas of our recent trip to the Prince Regent area. When we were flying out at the beginning of July, we saw plumes of smoke from the still-burning fires that had been deliberately lit.

We saw it again in Kakadu. This is what's happening to large parts of the Kimberley. Land managers are so keen to burn the country that they will no longer allow people into several parks before 10 June. We can no longer offer some of the best trips we've ever done. Why are they so keen to burn? They get paid to do so.

Qantas Carbon Offsets Help Burn the Kimberley

Here's the Qantas claim. Reinvigorating indigenous traditions. "This project is managed by Indigenous land owners in the North Kimberley who are reducing emissions through traditional fire management techniques." Pardon me, that's bullshit. When I flew out from a Kimberley walk on 1 July, we could see dozens of fires, all man-made, burning huge areas.

Here are two quotes from a letter to Qantas from someone who's seen the disaster first hand.

I urge you to click here and read the full letter. Needless to say, the letter hasn't even been acknowledged.

Just how bad is it?

Have a look at the Kimberley Fire Scar Map published earlier this year. There was hardly anything that hadn't been burnt at least once in the last three years. Think about that. In an area larger than the state of Victoria, there is almost nothing that hasn't been burnt at least once in the last three years.

It's continuing. The North Australia and Rangelands Fire Information website has a map of 2017 fires. Click WA Kimberley on the left menu to get the map. Click NT North and you'll see that it's just as bad in the Top End. You can scroll in or out to get as much detail as you'd like.

It gets worse.

Your carbon offset dollars helped pay for the fires shown in the photo here. They increase Australia's CO2 emissions.

The photo here was taken on our Kimberley flight on 1 July. Woody shrubs and trees store more carbon than grass. Grass burns faster, hotter and kills more shrubs and trees when it burns than leaf litter does.* Qantas supported burning practices are replacing trees and shrubs with grass.

* If you are keen you can read the 14 page scientific paper that proved this here.

You Can Help

Go to the Qantas Facebook page and leave a comment saying that Qantas' funding of indigenous groups to drop fire bombs out of aircraft has nothing to do with "traditional fire management techniques" and increases Australia's overall CO2 emissions.

Any organisation that uses carbon offset dollars to increase carbon emissions and destroy the landscape needs to be called to account.

If you are willing to do more, have a look at John's letter to the EPA. It shows just how many laws are being ignored. Send the WA EPA and minister your own letter or email. If you live in WA, make sure you include your address. Better still, send the same message to your local member.

To make it a bit easier, here is a Word document with contact information and paragraphs you can cut and paste as desired.

If people don't start speaking up now, we won't have any decent places left for our walks. If you do contact the EPA or minister please let us know so we can have some idea as to how many people are speaking out. Thank you.

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Idiotic or Corrupt?

Your tax dollars at work, "backing a plan that will cannibalise existing Australian jobs, just to help a multinational squeeze a few years' more profit from its stranded assets looks either idiotic or corrupt."

The case for subsidising Adani is worse than weak explains how Australian taxpayer subsidies are threatening Australian jobs. Read the article and decide for yourself.

An Answer?

Making it harder to buy influence would go a long way to reforming the system. How to fix political donations in six easy-to-follow steps
Donations are the largest source of scandals across the democratic world. These six reforms would restore public confidence.

How Bad Is It?

When they are talking about it in other countries, you know it's bad. Australian Politics Is Open to Foreign Cash, and China Has Much to Gain *
"A recent report raised questions about Chinese interference in Australia's political system, where foreign campaign donations are legal and difficult to track."
"At the federal level, it takes seven to 19 months for the public to learn how much parties have raised and from whom, and donors are identified only if they have contributed more than 13,500 Australian dollars, or about $10,000. As a result, individuals, and corporations, can anonymously make multiple donations below that threshold. At the same time, Australian politicians are not required to explain what they do with the money."

Scandal Follows Scandal

Australia is 'one big scandal away' from a federal ICAC
"'One more big scandal" is all it takes before the major political parties are dragged kicking and screaming to create a federal ICAC, an anti-corruption conference has heard."
The article refers to "the arrogance of politicians still resistant to effective accountability through 'their creed of noli me tangere — touch me not'."
It contains a long list of recent scandals. Things will get worse unless the public demands big changes sooner rather than later.

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Click Agree to accept our Terms and Conditions

When you click a link like that, you may be doing yourself a great disservice.

There is often far too much fine print to read it all. As an example, Amazon's Kindle Voyage e-reader, said it had a minimum of eight documents that needed to be read and agreed to when buying the device, as well as documents to be read to use any subscription service. The total word count is more than 73,000, which Choice said would take about nine hours to read.

How not to agree to clean public toilets when you accept any online terms and conditions explains how more than 20,000 people in the UK accepted the terms and conditions for free Wi-Fi that included a commitment to clean public toilets, hug stray dogs, and paint snails' shells to brighten up their existence." The full article is well worth a read as it explains some of the many problems that may arise from clicking yes.

The Choice article, link above, raises a lot of issues. In their last submission on reform of the Australian Consumer Law (ACL), they argued that lengthy and overly complex contracts should be considered unfair. They are campaigning to demand stronger consumer protection under the ACL and protection against unfair user agreements. Get involved.

Protect yourself. If you want a shortcut to understanding a user licence agreement, Choice suggests that you might want to try EULAlyzer. It's a free program you install on your computer that will analyse the agreement and flag anything in the text that looks problematic, such as when the agreement can change without notice to you, if third-party software is included with the download and if your user data such as web searches are captured.

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Willis's Walkabouts — Where To?


Every year, we seem to face more and more restrictions as to where we can go and when. One example was the locking up of most of the Kimberley in the early dry season mentioned in Burning Issues above.

Easy Trips

While we have an incredibly good rate of return business, many of our clients are getting older and don't want to carry big packs for long distances any more. We've tried to offer trips to suit, but haven't had a lot of success. Here are the easy trips we offered this year.

Only the Green Centre got the bookings to run it and that happened only because I ran it at a price that didn't pay a guide's wage. Is it worth persisting or should we give up and cancel the lot? If we should keep trying, how can we get the message out to those who might want to book?

We need your help.

We have prepared a short questionnaire to gauge interest in the easier trips like the ones above. There is no point in continuing to offer them if there is no interest.
Please click here to go to the questionnaire.
Many thanks for your help.

Overseas Trips

Beginning in 1990, we have run trips to many different places: southern Africa, Madagascar, Chile, Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, Scandinavia, the North American Arctic, Vanuatu. We've offered them to other places but never got the bookings we needed to run them. New Caledonia and Antarctica come to mind. While other guides have done some of them, I've led a bit over half. It's time to consider both what's practical and what new trips I'd particularly like to do myself — while I'm still capable of doing them. There are three possibilities I find particularly interesting.

If any of the above might interest you, please email us with any comments you may have.

Website Upgrade

It won't happen overnight but we are working on a major upgrade to the website. When it's done, it should be mobile friendly and things should be easier to find. You can help. When we have a draft version ready, we'll ask for some advice. If you can help enough, we'll even pay you for it.

While I don't have it mobile friendly yet, I have begun with some draft updates of particular pages. If you'd like to see what they are like, click the links below. You can compare them with the originals.

If you have any comments about the changes or what you'd like to see in the new website, click here and send us an email.

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Our Former Guides — Where Are They Now

I've saved the most important for last. Without Marj King's help both as a guide and in the office, WW might not have survived or might look very different than it does today. Even retired, she remains a wonderful source of information for new guides.

Marj writes, "It was late one evening in May 1990 I had a call from Russell, never spoken to him but knew who he was, and was asked if I could lead a walk. First question "where?" but before saying yes I had to juggle my two part-time jobs.

The walk from Twin Falls across to the top of Rainforest Gorge is navigationally one of the most challenging, but I said yes and that was the beginning of a life style that suited me. I really felt I had the best job in the world being out bush with some of you. When you spend two or more weeks out bush with people you really get to know then and consequently I have made some wonderful friends. It didn't take long for me to get the food down pat — two key things keep the weight down and make the cooking process easy, and as an ex-PE teacher crowd control was easy. I was fortunate to have groups who became regulars and over the past couple of years had reunions with friends from Melbourne and Canberra.

For a while I worked part-time in the office but this wasn't for me. I preferred the longer trips, and even after 5 weeks out I could quite easily stay out there if I had food.

In 1999 I purchased a business that sold native seed to mining companies but it wan't until sometime in the mid 2000's I finally handed back my first aid kit. I still really enjoy walking but the new light weight gear means no more 19/20kg packs!

What next? Marj is shortly heading off to paddle a bit of the Salmon River in the Yukon. Reminds me of my own paddle down the Yukon many years ago.

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Here are a few articles I found particularly interesting.


Weather and climate are not the same thing. If you are planning to travel, one of the best sites for weather around the world is Ventusky. Put in a location and have a play.

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Aboriginal Australia

Buried tools and pigments tell a new history of humans in Australia for 65,000 years
The excavation was near Jabiru in Kakadu. "Until now we knew very little about the technology and lifestyles of the first Aboriginal people. The oldest artefacts from Madjedbebe help to tell this story. They indicate that the earliest Aboriginal inhabitants of Australia were innovative people who — like humans everywhere on earth — developed solutions to new problems and engaged in symbolic and artistic expression."

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Going, Going, Gone


Farewell John Clarke: in an absurd world, we have never needed you more
"John Clarke gave voice to a brilliant antipodean acerbity that has always seemed a little old-fashioned in its moral and tonal dignity. His was a magnificent achievement of focused, pitch-perfect satire."

Remembering the World's Oldest Person, in the Objects She Left Behind *
Emma Morano was the last person known to have been born in 1800s.

That got me thinking. In my own family, I knew someone who knew someone who was born in the 1700s. I'm only two steps removed from the 1700s. Looking at it that way, it doesn't seem all that long ago.

The Circus

A circus came to Darwin some weeks ago. I wonder how long they can last. The longest running circus in America is dead. How long before that happens here? The two stories below brought back memories of my own childhood in America.

Letting Go

This simple trick will help you become a tidier person
"If you find yourself clinging to old objects because they possess sentimental value, there's an easy way to let them go.

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Bushwalking Info

In no particular order, here are a few articles I found interesting.

No Escape

The photo here was taken at Doughboy Beach on Stewart Island, the southernmost point you can walk to on a maintained trail in NZ. One of our regular clients, Christian Wesely, sent it in last December along with the following.

"In parts it was very colourful, very sad, to see the gulls and oystercatchers sieving through hundreds of blue plastic ribbons; Mason Bay affected as well of course, but it is so huge that it concentrates in patches."

"Often the excuse is that the rubbish comes from South America; but as we collected it a full day at Doughboy we didn't encounter anything 'Spanish'. The DOC (Dept. of Conservation) used to collect it once or twice a year with choppers, but nowadays no money for it they say."

"The same applies to rat-control. The island is swamped by rats like the Top End by toads; even in the deposit-room at the hotel, dead vermin on the trail, mostly heads bitten off; birdlife is very diminished — except on Ulva Island where they exterminated rats and the birdlife is really uncomparable to the main island; though I managed to spot 10 kiwis on my stay now. They are obviously doing well, less endangered by rats."

"NZ is cutting expenses with environment, it has a PM now who is confident that tomorrows technology will solve all problems."

It's certainly not just New Zealand cutting expenses. Lack of funding leads to some terrible results here in Australia. It's reached the point where I sometimes wonder if we might be better off giving our national parks to private organisations like Bush Heritage or the Australian Wildlife Conservancy which might manage to look after them properly.

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Thoughts On Our Society

Fake News & More

Women and Society — One More Step

For Army Infantry's 1st Women, Heavy Packs and the Weight of History *
The Army has sought to play down the significance of the mixed-gender milestone. But female grunts see it as monumental and revolutionary.

The Next Generation

To Raise Better Kids, Say No *
"Despite the temptation for parents to say yes to their children's wishes, research shows there's an insidious side to chasing after the newest thing others have. It fosters a sense of deficiency that can never be fully satisfied."
The article goes on to discuss a lot of things I've mentioned in previous newsletters.

What's the right education? Far too many who go to uni find it leads them no where. We're not training people to do the kind of jobs that no machine can ever replace?

I know parents who look at their children's strengths and weaknesses and actively discourage them from uni. Instead, they encourage them to look at TAFE and work experience in jobs where they can excel. I suspect that when a lot of white collar jobs get automated, the better paying jobs are going to be in trades what will be far more difficult to automate.

Why Are So Many Young Voters Falling for Old Socialists? *
"People like Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders have carried the leftist torch in a long-distance relay. Now they're handing it to the millennials."

Maybe it should happen more here

Leaks: A Uniquely American Way of Annoying the Authorities *
"Is there something particularly American about leaking? Some national allergy to protecting government secrets? Yes, in fact, there is."

Personally, when I look at some of the things governments do, I think there should be more of it.

Bureaucracy Gone Mad

Yellow-Light Crusader Fined for Doing Math Without a License *
"An Oregon man who questioned the timing of a traffic light is fined $500 for engaging in the 'practice of engineering' without a state-issued license."
There must be similar examples here in Australia. Can anyone give me one?

Money — The Mind Boggles

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The World Happiness Report

The Best Country in the World

The Best Country in the World? *
Click the link and don't stop with the headline. The article talks about which countries are best for what. New Zealand and Australia ranked 1 & 2 on one measure. Can you guess what?

Reading that article, I found a link to the ultimate fringe benefit, Swedish Town Considers It *
If you can guess what it is before you click the link, you are better than I am.

Want To Be Happier?

9 Traps You Fall Into That Limit Your Happiness gives you a few suggestions.

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The Last Taboo — Follow Up

I finished this section in my last newsletter with the story of a Canberra friend who was dying of cancer. Back in March, he still managed to have a decent quality of life. That life has now ended. The drugs he was given didn't prolong his life very much, but they did improve the quality of what remained.

I'll finish with the last bit from that section of the last newsletter. "When you know you are dying you do focus on what is important, and let bullshit things go." It's hard, but the world would be a far better place if we all devoted our lives to the things that are truly important.

If you'd like to delve deeper into the subject, you might want to read Atul Gwande's Being Mortal — What Really Matters in the End, *
"a personal meditation on how we can better live with age-related frailty, serious illness and approaching death."

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Photos, Videos & Just for Fun


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News About This Newsletter

Restricted websites. The NY Times allows non-subscribers to look at ten free articles each month. I've got more links than that in this newsletter so I've marked them with a red asterisk (*) so that you can choose which are of most interest to you. The Washington Post also has a limit but I'm not sure what the current limit is so I've marked Washington Post articles with a double red asterisk (**).

Next Newsletter — September? If I can't get it out by then, it may have to wait until November or December.

Assuming the world as we know it hasn't come to an end before then, I'll show how North Korea may already have the power to take America down. They'd pay a huge price, but if they don't already have the technology they need, they are close to getting it.

As always, I've already got a few things ready. Hopefully, I can get a bit of feedback about some of the things in this newsletter to include in the next one. As I've often said, Suggestions welcome.

Sending the newsletter

While I now send most of the newsletters using MailChimp, I still send about 200 newsletters using a program which is hosted on the same server that hosts our website. (MailChimp Free only allows 2000. The commercial version costs too much for an extra 200 people.) In both cases, the newsletters are sent from walkabout@bushwalkingholidays.com.au. This is the contact address on our website. If you would like to continue to receive these newsletters, please include this address in your "friends list" so that it isn't blocked.

For some reason, some servers block the newsletters no matter what you try and do. I send these in small groups from my normal email. It's not a simple problem. If anyone thinks they might have an idea how to overcome the problem, I'd love to hear from you.

Emails sent to walkabout@bushwalkingholidays.com.au are currently automatically forwarded to rrwillis at internode.on.net. If you want to send an email to that address, replace the word "at" with the symbol @. I am trying not to put that address any place where it can be harvested by spam bots.

We don't want to add to the mass of email spam. If you don't want our newsletter, please send us an email and let us know. We'll then delete your name from our newsletter list.

Our email address is walkabout@bushwalkingholidays.com.au.

Note. Both MailChimp and the other program we use to send some of these newsletters have an automatic delete at the bottom. Clicking that link will delete you from the mailing list on the server but it will not delete you from our main database. One of the programs will not allow the auto delete to send me an email notifying me that a deletion has been made. If you want to be sure that you are removed from all further mailings, please send an email to walkabout@bushwalkingholidays.com.au

If you know someone you think would enjoy this newsletter, please forward it to them. The more people who get it, the more likely it is that I'll be able to run the trips which might interest you.

Best wishes to all.
I hope you enjoy reading the newsletter as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Russell Willis

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