“It has come to my notice, through a regular contributor to this blog (Rog), that Professor Smith, of Cambridge University, has submitted a systematic review of parachute use to prevent death and major trauma related to gravitational challenge. He found that there was no experimental, evidence based support for their use (Smith & Pell, British Medical Journal 2003;327:1459-1461).
A letter by Professor Brendan Mackey of ANU (23 Dec 2006) to the Canberra Times, suggested that there is no experimental, evidence based support for the use of widespread prescribed burning to prevent large, dangerous bushfires. A similar opposition to widespread prescribed burning, citing support from ‘most authorities’, has been expressed by Professor Rob Whelan, of Woollongong University, in a letter to a well known journal (Nature416, 15: 2002). Both these letters were, of course, before the recent, and ongoing bushfires in south-eastern Australia.
Professor Smith, the author of the parachute review, proposed that those who demand rigorous evidence from randomised, controlled parachute experiments should themselves volunteer as a control group, without parachute treatment.
May I suggest that Professors Mackey and Whelan, and other academics opposed to widespread prescribed burning, should volunteer, as a control group, to sit in long unburnt bush, on a hot day, as a fire approaches. They should publish their observations (posthumously) in a refereed journal.
I, and others with real bushfire experience, will volunteer to sit in an adjacent large patch of bush recently treated by prescribed burning. I guarantee we will see more native plants and animals, both before and after the fire, than the professorial control group, and, unlike them, will be available for further experiments.
aka Davey Gam Esq
Previous posts by Davey include:
Fire, Folly and Dead Canaries, 20th June 2005
Species Vulnerable to Extinction, 12th March 2006
Noogars Knew Best, 17th June 2005