[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index][Subject Index][Author Index]

Re: The science of Col Barnett, or the Dinosaur Tracks at James Price Point, Western Australia

...And because it was such fun, a third time, this time in plain text only so everybody and the archives can see it:

Please forward the following=A0message to everyone on the planet:=0A=A0=0AT=
here=0Aare some unusual and very important dinosaur tracks at sites along t=
he western=0Acoast of the Dampier Peninsula, near Broome, in Western Austra=
lia, and I've=0Abeen pursuing research into them for more than 20 years.=A0=
=A0 One of those sites happens to be James Price=0APoint, which as you migh=
t=A0know, is a place that's been earmarked for=0Aindustrial development to =
exploit natural gas reserves of the offshore Browse=0ABasin.=A0=A0 The prop=
osed development is a pet=0Aproject of the WA premier, Col Barnett, and it'=
s being defiantly rejected by=0Athe traditional land-owners who want to kee=
p their country, and by conservationists=0Aintent on defending the integrit=
y of the Kimberley, one of the few great wilderness=0Aareas remaining on th=
e planet.=A0=A0 The=0Asituation is potentially explosive, with profound soc=
ial and economic=0Aconsequences, and it just so happens that some dinosaur =
tracks lie at the very=0Acentre of this whole sordid affair.=0A=A0=0AIn=0A2=
009 I started supplying information about the dinosaur tracks to both the=
=0AState and Federal governments, in the hope of securing some protection f=
or all those=0Atruly important but sometimes endangered sites along the Dam=
pier coast,=0Aincluding James Price Point.=A0=A0 As an=0Aindependent resear=
cher, without affiliation to (or support from) any of the=0Aconcerned parti=
es, I tried as far as possible to remain completely impartial.=A0 =A0In my=
=0Aestimation the track-sites are valuable scientific resources, and I feel=
 that=0Athey should be preserved intact.=A0=A0 Those=0Aviews happen to coin=
cide with those of the traditional land-owners and conservationists.=0AWe a=
re all heading in roughly the same direction - preservation and=0Aconservat=
ion - but I'm occupying a different seat on a different bus, and I'm defini=
tely=0Anot part of anyone else's campaign.=A0=A0 Moreover=0AI continue to i=
nsist that we could so easily have a win-win outcome, by=0Ashifting the pro=
posed industrial development elsewhere, to existing=0Afacilities.=A0 But he=
re I will leave aside=0Amy personal opinions and get back to the science of=
 dinosaur tracks.=0A=A0=0AThe=0Ainformation I supplied proved to be of assi=
stance to the Australian National=0AHeritage Council, and National Heritage=
 listing was approved in August 2010 for=0Adinosaur track-sites along the e=
ntire Dampier coast, including James Price=0APoint.=0A=A0=0AUnfortunately=
=0Aheritage listing doesn't prohibit industrial development:=A0 it requires=
 only that developers proceed with=0Aappropriate care (to "mitigate impact =
on the heritage values").=A0 So, I've also been supplying information=0Aabo=
ut the dinosaur tracks to the WA EPA (Environmental Protection Authority), =
which=0Ahas been charged with assessing (and approving, modifying or reject=
ing) the measures=0Athat have been proposed to ensure protection of the din=
osaur tracks and other=0Aheritage values.=A0=A0 =A0There's a lot of money a=
t stake -=A0 something like $30 billion - and advancement of=0Athe Premier'=
s pet project is being delayed by the need to protect a few old=0Adinosaur =
tracks.=A0=A0 You can imagine the=0Ascenario, which I described. in Nature =
News online in May last year, in response to a hopelessly inaccurate news r=
eport by J.M. Crow.=0A=A0=0AIn sifting through my=0Abacklog of information =
on dinosaur tracks - in order to provide information for=0Athe EPA - I disc=
overed something truly surprising.=A0=A0 The bits and pieces of information=
 I'd=0Agathered over the past 20 years suddenly clicked into place and rele=
ased a=0Apattern that had been scratching at the back of my mind for some t=
ime.=A0=A0 The pattern was startling and=0Aunprecedented.=A0 So far as I'm =
aware, no=0Aone had ever seen anything like it.=A0 My=0Afindings have now b=
een published in the open-access online journal PLoS ONE =A0-=A0 =A0doi:=A0=
 10.1371/journal.pone.0036208=0A=A0=0APLoS is open-access, which means that=
 any interested=0Amember of the public can see it online for themselves, fr=
ee of charge.=A0 That seemed very appropriate, as =A0I'd=0Adiscovered somet=
hing that might affect a decision of national importance and to=0Ame it see=
med only fair that everyone should have the opportunity to see the=0Aeviden=
ce for themselves.=A0 PLoS also=0Aoffered the opportunity to use lots of co=
lour images.=0A=A0=0ASo=0Atake a look.=A0 The whole rocky foreshore at=0AJa=
mes Price Point is an ancient Cretaceous landscape, about 130 million years=
=0Aold, which has been preserved more or less intact, much as the dinosaurs=
 would=0Ahave seen it in their life-time.=A0 In=0Aplaces (though not precis=
ely at the point itself) there are even ancient soils,=0Awith stumps and ro=
ots of plants still in place, undisturbed for 130 million=0Ayears.=A0=A0 (T=
he details have been destroyed=0Aby erosion, of course, but the overall pic=
ture is still there - for those with=0Aeyes to see it.)=A0=A0 But, most imp=
ortant,=0Athe whole landscape has been remodelled by dinosaurs:=A0 it is ma=
rked with enormous troughs and basins=0Awhere the ground collapsed and buck=
led beneath the incessant heavyweight traffic=0Aof sauropod dinosaurs ('bro=
ntosaurs').=A0 It=0Ais literally unprecedented.=A0 I can't find=0Aanything =
like it elsewhere in the world, and since it is unprecedented, no=0Aother s=
cientists noticed it - until I pointed it out to them.=A0=A0 This informati=
on went to the EPA when they=0Awere preparing their report and recommendati=
on, as did constant updates and,=0Aeventually, the published paper. =0A=A0=
=0AI=0Ahad my fingers crossed.=A0=A0 If the rocky=0Ashore at James Price Po=
int is all one big coherent site, the developers can't=0Areally start drill=
ing, blasting and dredging for a deepwater port facility...=0Acan they?=A0 =
=A0The EPA said thanks for the report.=A0 =A0Oh,=0Aand by the way, they pla=
nned to import two dinosaur track specialists from the=0AUSA, just for a fe=
w days, to give them an independent assessment of the James=0APrice Point s=
ite.=A0 Yes, of course, I=0Asaid.=A0 No worries.=A0 I even helped with some=
 advice about the persons=0Abest-qualified to do the job for them. =0A=A0=
=0AThe=0AEPA Report came out on Monday, 16th July.=A0 It's about 1,650 page=
s long, of arguable legality=0A(as explained in the news media), and there =
are 14 days allowed for appeal (if=0Ayou're sufficiently adept at speed-rea=
ding). =A0Here's what it says about my paper in PLoS=0AONE:=0A=A0=0ASection=
=0A3.7 Heritage. =A0Description (p. 129)...=A0=A0 "A recent publication ill=
ustrates the=0Aimpact of dinosaurs on the form of present day rock surfaces=
 in the area=0A(Thulborn, 2012)."=A0 =0A=A0=0AThat's=0Ait.=A0 In total.=A0 =
It's not exactly what I would call a graphic=0Adescription.=A0 The EPA repo=
rt goes on to=0Amaintain that the dinosaur tracks are few, poor, patchy in =
distribution and cites=0A(with approval) a few papers to that effect - pape=
rs which I had previously shown=0Athem to be incorrect, and even one which =
transpired to be a "desk-top=0Astudy" (i.e. nobody actually visited the sit=
e).=0A=A0=0AThere=0Awas an even greater surprise:=A0 the two specialists=0A=
who were going to provide an independent assessment for the EPA had suddenl=
y evolved into=0Afour (with support from a fifth, incorporated locally).=A0=
 The "few days" of study had expanded=0Ainto a few weeks.=A0=A0 And instead=
 of examining=0AJames Price Point, this research team was actually gatherin=
g data from dinosaur=0Atrack-sites as far as 80 km (50 miles away)... and P=
UBLISHING their studies of=0Athe dinosaur tracks in the EPA Report, with th=
e generous assistance and support=0Aof the WA Government.=A0 In short, mass=
es=0Aof my research data (hundreds of slides and photos, aerial photos, cha=
rts and=0Amaps, lots of measurements, casts and replicas, even a complete m=
anuscript=0Awhich had been reviewed and accepted... but which I'd withdrawn=
 temporarily to=0Afree up some more time), all accumulated over the past 20=
 years, had now been=0Apre-empted and rendered next to worthless.=A0 I aske=
d the EPA what the [bleep]=0Awas going on here, but I haven't yet received =
a reply.=0A=A0=0ABut=0AI think you can see for yourself what's happened.=A0=
 The WA premier insisted repeatedly that any decisions=0Aabout his pet proj=
ect at James Price Point would be based on science, nothing=0Abut science.=
=A0 [As I write this, the Australian Prime=0AMinister, Ms Gillard, is chant=
ing the very same mantra for the benefit of the=0Anews media, just to reass=
ure the public.=A0 But the federal decision-making process has yet come.]=
=A0=A0 And, being sufficiently gullible to believe that=0Aa decision would =
be based on science, and only science, I spent an awful lot of=0Atime and e=
ffort feeding the best available information to the WA State=0AGovernment, =
even at cost to my own research.=A0 Alas, it wasn't the right science.=A0 I=
t didn't fit with the premier's pet=0Aproject.=A0=A0 So it was put aside, a=
nd the=0AWA Government imported some more compliant retailers of science, g=
ave them all=0Athe facilities they required to produce the desired results.=
.. and there we=0Ago.=A0 =A0And, of course, I have no legal redress.=A0 The=
 gurgling noise you hear in the background=0Ais 20-odd years of my research=
 dribbling down the plug-hole.=A0 No matter, we must take these things=0Aph=
ilosophically.=A0 =0A=A0=0AI'm not into conspiracy theory, but I can't help=
 wondering.=A0 It wasn't=A0NECESSARY for the imported team to actually PUBL=
ISH their findings in the EPA report.=A0=A0 All they had to do was confirm =
or deny what I'd already told the EPA.=A0 In rushing ahead to publish their=
 own study, they achieved nothing extra... beyond gaining=A0a bit of credit=
 for themselves (and incidentally pre-empting and destroying my work - just=
 collateral damage).=A0=A0 But, you know, there are some longstanding rumou=
rs about the premier of WA exacting retribution on those who obstructed his=
 plans in the past...=A0=A0 No.=A0=A0 I can't be so uncharitable as to susp=
ect...=A0=A0 Couldn't be payback for daring to obstruct his pet project?=A0=
=A0 No, surely not.=A0=A0Anyway,=A0none of my colleagues would ever agree t=
o participate in such an evil and=A0dastardly plot.=0A=A0 =0A=A0=0AOf=0Acou=
rse, that's not quite the end.=A0=A0 One perplexing=0Afact had been troubli=
ng me ever since May 25th, when my article=0Aappeared in PLoS ONE, but the =
answer arrived on Monday in the form of that EPA=0Areport.=A0 It suddenly b=
ecame clear that my=0Arevelations in PLoS ONE were potentially dangerous to=
 the WA Government: if my=0Afindings leaked out, God forbid, and the public=
 got hold of that news... people=0Amight start wondering if there really IS=
 no reason to worry about the=0Adestruction of James Price Point.=A0=A0 But=
 if=0Ayou have determined politicians, lots of money and a bunch of heavywe=
ight=0Acorporations (Woodside, Chevron, Shell, BP, Mitsubishi... it's a lon=
g list) all itching to get at all those lovely mineral resources, you can=
=0Astifle any undesirable information and keep it out of the media.=A0 So m=
y unprecedented discovery of enormous=0Adinosaurian trace fossils at a site=
 of national economic importance got a=0Amention on local radio, then promp=
tly died.=A0 No national broadcaster will touch it.=A0 One optimistic journ=
alist interviewed me and wrote it up, only to see=0Ahis story spiked by the=
 editor of a national daily.=A0 It "didn't get a run".=0A=A0=0ASo=0Anobody =
knows.=A0 The public is reputed to=0Ahave an insatiable appetite for all th=
ings dinosaurian, but they are being kept=0Ain the dark about this story.=
=A0 I=0Adiscovered the biggest dinosaurian trace fossils on Earth, and nobo=
dy wants to=0Aknow about it.=0A=A0=0ALet=0Ame make it clear that I am NOT g=
rumbling and crying about some nasty people who=0Amade off with "my" resear=
ch area, or about the less-than-forthright=0Aresponses from the WA governme=
nt.=A0=A0 Nobody=0A"owns" any areas or fields of science.=A0 There's a vast=
 amount of research material=0Aout there along the Dampier coast, and I'm h=
appy to work co-operatively with=0Aanyone, providing that they are competen=
t and honest).=A0 I happen to work slowly and carefully, in the=0Abelief th=
at one good trustworthy scientific paper is worth 20 quick-fire=0Asuperfici=
al ones strewn with error.=A0 Others may disagree.=A0 There is no=0Asuch th=
ing as "too slow" or "too fast" in research: all=0Athat matters is the resu=
lt, however long it takes.=0A=A0=0ANo,=0Amy point is this:=A0 I have just w=
itnessed=0A(and described for you) the manufacture of science.=A0=A0 And th=
at is bad news for everyone on this=0Aplanet.=A0 Instead of moulding the de=
cision=0Aabout James Price Point=A0 to fit the=0Ascientific evidence (as pr=
omised in public), the State Government of Western=0AAustralia has manipula=
ted the science to fit a decision that was already=0Asettled.=A0=A0 They st=
ifled the science they=0Adidn't like (mine, in PLoS ONE), and spent a lot o=
f money to obtain, and=0Apublish for themselves, the science they wanted.=
=A0=A0 In other words, the decisions are made=0Abeforehand, and the science=
 is manufactured to fit (and apparently "justify")=0Athe decisions.=A0=A0 =
=0A=A0=0ABoth=0Alots of science are presented to the public in the EPA repo=
rt, so everyone can=0Asee for themselves that the WA Government is being op=
en, honest, impartial and=0Aeven-handed.=A0 My interpretation of James=0APr=
ice Point (PLoS ONE) is presented in less than 20 words about 'rock surface=
s'.=A0=A0 Their own (hastily purchased) version of the=0Ascience is more th=
an 120 pages long, in glorious technicolour.=A0 That presentation is, perha=
ps, a wee bit=0Alop-sided.=A0 So let me redress the=0Aimbalance a little an=
d amplify that remark about 'rock surfaces':=A0 my paper in PLoS ONE says =
=A0"James Price Point may be the only site on=0AEarth where one may gaze ou=
t over an Early Cretaceous landscape that has been=0Aextensively reshaped b=
y the everyday comings and goings of sauropod=0Adinosaurs."=0A=A0=0AI'm=0An=
ot questioning the validity, veracity or quality of the science.=A0 And I h=
ave no doubts about the integrity of=0Athose who produced it.=A0=A0 My conc=
ern is=0Athat the science has been manipulated and moulded to fit certain p=
olitical requirements.=0A=A0=0AAnd=0Athat means we are getting into trouble=
.=A0 Because once powerful political and business leaders begin to manipula=
te=0Athe science to fit their requirements,=A0there are no limits.=0AWe=0Ae=
nd up with Lysenko, or Auschwitz, or ... who knows?=0A=A0=0ABack to the swa=
mp [or is it a gulag?]=0ATony Thulborn=0A=A0=0AThulborn T (2012) Impact of =
Sauropod Dinosaurs=0Aon Lagoonal Substrates in the Broome Sandstone (Lower =
Cretaceous), Western=0AAustralia. PLoS ONE 7(5): e36208. =0Adoi:=A0 10.1371=