10/7/02
Hi everyone,
There is a bit of news to give you on the Satellite TV idea
A conference call meeting on Sunday 30 th June, set things in motion for an incorporated association to be formed under Qld incorporation rules and the Australian securuties & investment commission. To summarise things, the name of the group will most likely be "BushVision" The people elected to postions were - president - Leon Ashby, vice president - Ruth Quigley, treasurer - Ian Mott, and we will have a secretariate arrangement (where various people can do aspects of the secretarial work)
The management committe has decided to appoint Ian Mott as secretary for any legal responsibilities however.

Several more people have contacted us about wanting to be involved with "BushVision"
so the team of supporters is steadily growing.

This edition features some interesting suggestions on funding "public good" Conservation and an editorial from Blues magazine
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(1) Property Rights / Public Good conservation issues heating up
(2) SA EPA RESTRUCTURING - more environmental Police
(3) Secret Qld plan to buy Cubbie Station revealed
(4) NSW Water reforms come at massive cost
(5) NSW
Government dismisses cost of water reform

(6) Walgett VEG Plan Rejected by landholders - Denise OBrien
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7) Viewpoint - Ian Mott
(8) IDEAS FOR PAYING FOR PUBLIC GOOD CONSERVATION
(9) Kangaroo Population Threatens Graziers

(10) Blowflies give mango growers a buzz
(11) Excerpts from Sarah Moles - ABC viewpoint -
(12) Greg Burrows - Laws & the environment
(13) Leon`s Reply
(14) Look at the historical cycle - Bill Soko
(15) Leon`s Reply
(16)US & Canadian GM victims visit Mt Gambier (SA)
(17) Blues magazine Editorial
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(1) Property Rights / Public Good conservation issues heating up

A quick rundown of what has been happening Australia wide

* In WA proposed legislation now in parliament will empower govt controls on land clearing with big fines of up to $1 million for companies and $500,000 for individuals, but no compensation / payment for public good conservation is in the legislation.

* In NSW water rights reductions are underway which also will not have any compensation attached despite the likelyhood of rural economic and social devastation.

* In Qld a leaked document reveals the idea of a tree clearing moratorium - without public good conservation payments.

* In SA, I received a whisper this week from a Bank manager in Mt Gambier that water holding licenses will soon be worthless, as one of his clients is having difficulties converting his "water holding" license into a "water taking" license. (when you have a water taking license, you can begin developement.)

(* In all the above situations, there has been no decision by voters on these issues - they are all plans made by beauracracy trying to force the decisions through. - Democracy was supposed to be a govt of the people, and for the people, but it is rarely that anymore.)

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(2) SA EPA RESTRUCTURING - more environmental Police - (Land & Water News)

The Environment Protection Authority in South Australia has been
restructured to include increase power to enforce tougher environmental
standards and penalties in the state.
The amendments to the Environment Protection Act 1993 will create a
separate authority which will include all employees with enforcement and
prosecution responsibilities who are currently part of the Department of
Water, Land and Biodiversity

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(3) Secret Qld plan to buy Cubbie Station revealed

The Federal Government has moved to kill-off a proposal to buy up one of Australia’s largest private irrigation farms and divert its water entitlement into the Murray Darling. The proposal comes in a leaked Government document, marked 'draft: not government policy'.
It suggests the buy-out of Cubbie Station at Dirranbandi, shutting down its cotton production, and pushing the water into the Narran Lakes. It also proposes a catchment-wide ban on tree clearing, without compensation.
Federal Agriculture Minister and Chair of the Murray Darling Ministerial Council, Warren Truss, says the request for the Commonwealth to fund 70 percent of the 160 million dollar Queensland plan is farcical.

(*The basis of the no compensation policy is on the grounds of tree clearing causes salinity and that salinity is a "duty of care" issue.- It would be a very interesting court case if the science behind tree clearing / salinity ended up in the courts. )
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(4) NSW Water reforms come at massive cost (ABC radio)

The water reforms being driven through by the Carr Government will have a devestating impact on the farming communities of NSW. New research underscores the claim, being made by a coalition of irrigators. The reforms will cut 750,000 megalitres of water out of the irrigation equation. In turn, those cuts will reduce agricultural production by $348 million dollars, ultimately sucking $1.7 billion dollars out of regional econonmies. The industries worst hit by the changes are those most reliant on irrigation, cotton and rice. The figures have been produced by the coalition of irrigators and say they have done the sums because the State Government hasn't, overlooking the tremendous burden being borne by farming communities.

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(5) NSW
Government dismisses cost of water reform (ABC radio)


Mr Aquilina says there should be "no surprise" about the reforms and their possible impact, saying they'll be introduced over a ten year period, not overnight. He maintians alot of misinformation is being bandied about the countryside, saying the figures are exxagerated, extrapolated from the worst hit valley, the Namoi. Mr Aquilina defended the Government for not doing the studies (compliant with the Act) saying he wanted to avoid being accused of bias, rather preferring to leave that to the local communities. The Minister would not commit to considering this latest information tabled by the coalition of irrigators yesterday, saying that they lacked academic substance.


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(6) Walgett VEG Plan Rejected by landholders - Denise Obrien (NSW)

Hi Leon & Jane,

The Draft Native Vegetation Plan for the Walgett Shire was released a week ago, we have until 2 August to respond. You may recall the landholder representatives resigned from the Committee out of frustration. Attended a meeting yesterday afternoon to debate the Plan, chaired by some of the ex Committee members who were unanimously concerned at the regulations which the Plan if accepted would impose on landholders resulting in a loss of property rights. A motion was passed to reject the Plan on the basis of the Government's flawed handling of natural resource management in NSW.

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(7) Viewpoint - Ian Mott (ABC radio)

Imagine if the government went over the top protecting children from paedophilia and prohibited any physical contact between an adult male and a minor. So next time your little girl needed a hug, you must first apply for a permit, and pay the fee for your proposed, quote "exempt paedophilia" unquote.

This sounds a bit far fetched but your governments have already done the same to "protect" our native forests. When governments introduced clearing controls they defined clearing as, quote, the cutting, lopping or destroying of any tree, unquote. So the cutting of a single tree became "development" that must have consent.

The residents of Glebe may well regard the removal of one of their trees as a matter of substantial consequence and may be excused for assuming that the cutting of any tree is bad.

But they put that assumption in legislation that aims to, "encourage the proper management of native vegetation for social, economic and ecological purposes, to improve its condition and to encourage revegetation". But ironically to do this you often have to cut trees down.

You see, when nature and I get together over our unfinished business clearing my gully full of Lantana weed, we wont muck about with half measures. It will coincide with the maximum seed rain from the surrounding trees and we'll produce fifty thousand saplings per hectare.

That many trees will begin to compete with each other before they are two metres tall. So our next job will be to cut down forty nine thousand of them so the remaining thousand can continue to grow. Every ten years we'll take out half the trees so the other half can thrive until we have the one hundred mature trees that will fit on a hectare.

We start with a gully full of weeds, and in the process we will cut down forty nine thousand nine hundred trees, but end up with a high conservation value old growth forest in a less time of than nature working alone.

So we can say with certainty that, quote, the cutting of any tree, unquote, will not only produce zero adverse impact but will be unambiguously beneficial to the retained trees.

If clearing is, the cutting of trees to produce an adverse material change in the extent or composition of native forest, then your lone tree cutter in Glebe and your defacto clearer will still be caught but me and nature can get back to work.

Ian Mott

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(8) IDEAS FOR PAYING FOR PUBLIC GOOD CONSERVATION
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(A) GST increase to cover tree clearing (abc radio)


The Queensland Dairyfarmers Organisation is pushing for a 2-and-a-half percent increase in the GST to compensate farmers who are disadvantaged under the new Vegetation Management Act. QDO Darling Downs Chairman, Lindsay Volz says if farmers loose their ability to farm their land, due to conservation measures taken for the public good, then the public should pay. And Mr Volz says the focus must be put on making vegetation management laws fair for those affected and that's why the QDO has adopted the resolution from Darling Downs dairy farmers.


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(* (B) Many people have also suggested a 1% levy similar to the medicare levy)
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(C) 1% capital gains tax on private homes - Ian Mott

Hello again Leon & Jane

Have just uncovered some interesting information about the communities capacity to pay for public good conservation measures.

Over the past 12 months the price of Australian houses has gone up by about 20% across the board. This comes to about $350 Billion in capital gain of which $300 billion is for owner occupied dwellings which are, of course, tax free.

The median house price in Sydney is now $450,000 after recent average price rises of $75,000. The 4,500,000 residents of New-Syd-Gong live in 1.73 million houses that have increased in value by $130 billion.

The median house price in Bris-Gold Coast is now $225,000 after recent price rises of $38,000.
The 2,000,000 residents of SEQ live in 0.77 million houses that have increased in value by $30 Billion.

Ditto, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide, Canberra and, to a lesser extent, Hobart. These capital gains are all taking place where the environment is already stuffed. The gains are also the result of an artificial scarcity of development land caused by vegetation clearing restrictions. Brisbane City, for example, is 50% vegetated and has effectively run out of cleared land for further housing subdivision. Hence the predictions that Brisbane prices will go up another 20% in the next few years.

My understanding of current tax rules is that farmers only have their homestead and a nominal house block exempt from capital gains tax, the rest is fully taxed when the property is sold.

So even if the recent gains were spread over the past five years, and adjusted for inflation, there would still be a net $150 Billion that could be taxed. Any suggestion that the community does not have the capacity to pay for public good measures is nonsense.

Even a 1% tax on household capital gains would yield $1.5 Billion over 5 years. It would set the average Sydneysider back only $375 each time he traded up.

In contrast, at a price of $250/hectare, some 6 million hectares could be purchased to achieve a vegetation retention target of 10% over 60 million hectares of farmland. If the policy opted to rent reserved land instead of outright purchase, a $300 million annual tax revenue at 5% annual rental, would provide a continuous rental stream over 24 million hectares of reserved land.

Obviously, prices in higher rainfall areas would reduce this figure. At a price of $3000/ha a continuous rental stream could be provided to 2 million hectares.

And all this on a 1% capital gains tax on domestic dwellings.

We need to emphasise this link. It's the community`s problem and the community`s capacity to pay. A slogan?

$300 billion in untaxed household capital gains,
>and you want my farm for free?

Ian Mott

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(9) Kangaroo Population Threatens Graziers



A Cunnamulla grazier says the kangaroo population is out-of-control right across Australia's pastoral zone. On Marcus Arthur's property, "Yankayilla", 128 kilometres south-east of Cunnamulla, an explosion in roo numbers is creating havoc for his pastures. Mr Arthur says the increasing roo pressure is the worst problem facing graziers. He said that the roos are thick all over a wide area, and on his property he's actually carrying three to five times more roos than sheep.

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(10) Blowflies give mango growers a buzz (abc radio)


For most people blowflies are a pest of the lowest order. But for Northern Territory mango growers at flowering time the insect is worth its weight in maggots. Orchardists have discovered the common blowfly is ideal for pollinating and with the flowering season in full swing across the Top End many Territory growers are out trying to encourage the insects to breed under their trees. Dr Sam Blaikie, from CSIRO's Mango Flowering Project in Darwin, says the main advantage of blowflies over bees is that they're not adverse to a bit of hard work in the morning when the mango flowers are most receptive. Dr Blaikie says there's no limit to growers' ingenuity when it comes to making blowflies feel at home. "I've seen road kill, I've seen Barramundi offal, I've seen a wild pig used, I've seen dog meat. The more blowies the better. If you've got a heap of flowers on your trees and your orchard's silent, you need to be worried. Get some insects in there. Blowflies are a good insect to have."

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(11) Excerpts from ABC viewpoint - Sarah Moles (former Qld Greens senate candidate)

Feral plants and animals cost landholders big money - in control measures and in lost production.take Lippia as an example.

Lippia is a serious weed along creeks and floodplains in much of the Murray Darling Basin. Most landholders do something about it - but the law prevents them from controlling it along watercourses and other state lands. The problem is that these areas are huge seed banks and the source of new infestations.

Don't you think the government should accept some responsibility and meet some of the costs? After all it was during the early years of irrigation development that government departments actually promoted lippia - to stabilise earthworks and prevent erosion. We now know that lippia actually causes erosion, especially along creeks - the banks slump and collapse, adding tonnes of sediment to the water. It also suppresses other plants and smothers the grasses that support both livestock and native wildlife.

Most landholders affected by lippia are prepared to do the hard yards in controlling it - and many are willing to do what's needed on state lands too, if they were allowed. What they need is financial support for expensive chemicals and fencing to control grazing pressure while pastures are re-established.

It may not be our fault that we have these problems, but we are part of the solution. We all have to pay our share.

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(12) Greg Burrows (WA) - Laws & the environment

(* Greg is replying to the last edition, where I commented on a tree management / property rights debate on SBS)

Just a couple of comments on no. 4 Re Bob Brown, I just want to say there is also legislation against theft & murder, who hasnt got a grip?
The other comment about farmers being paid for public good is fine but when 10 to 30 % of cleared land is lost to salinity, whose problem is that? or is it one way traffic.

Cheers
Greg
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(12) Leon`s Reply

G`day Greg,
On the salinity / whose problem? issue, most landholders would take the view that society as a whole has to share the responsibility for land management problems. In a lot of cases, to blame a landholder for land degradation is completely unfair. If fire ants turn up on someones property, it may not be due to anything the landholder has done.
If birds drop parthenium seed on someone`s farm, so an infestation begins, is it the landholders fault?
If someone follows todays best practice, but still causes some environmental damage, how can they be blamed?
These are the sorts of questions that have to be grappled with, because environmental management is not a black & white issue when very different results can occur from the same management.
Despite the simplistic rhetoric about salinity`s causes, the issue is far from straightforward when you talk to the farmers affected in different states.

In regards to laws, sure laws against theft, murder, dangerous driving, tax avoidance etc do not prevent every crime from being committed, but what is the answer?- more laws?, more police? or should we do away with laws altogether?

By forcing farmers to abide by hundreds of laws is stupidity to me, especially when flexibility and timing are essential to good management.

In my view, we have to look at other things like understanding people`s motivation, if we want better outcomes in society.

In regards to Bob Brown`s comments that Qld`s highly regulated vegetation laws will assist species to become extinct I make these points.

ALL known endangered ecosystems, endangered species habitats, in Qld cannot legally be cleared.
Landholders do not want to cause extinctions anyway, so therefore how will regulated land clearing (which means only those ecosystems with total areas greater than 10,000 ha can be developed ), cause extinctions? Are landholders going to clear endangered ecosystems illegally?

One of the least understood principles is that most extinctions are due to
the competative exclusion principle (Environmental Science, Botkin & Keller) which means two species that share the exact same ecological niche cannot coexist - one will survive and one will not. E.g. rabbits & bilbys.

But back to motivation.

Why do the Israelis & the Palestinians keep fighting? Why do children rebel against parents? Why do some people smoke when they know it will be harmful?

Whatever the issue, I cannot see how some issues can be better dealt with unless each person`s motivation behind their action is addressed.

Over the years Jane & I have had many "Juvenile Offenders", and rebellious teenagers stay with us, and without exception, once their anger, frustration etc was identified and begun to be addressed, their actions started to change.

So what do you think Greg? - is motivation an issue? or do you have a better solution?
Cheers
Leon
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(13) Look at the historical cycle - Bill Soko (Daintree Rainforest Foundation)

Leon,

To get the whole land use into some sort of perspective -- we really need to know where we are in the historical cycle, if you like. This starting point is essential for the debate. Is the ship steaming ahead full steam, all systems go, is it slightly impaired, or is it like the Titanic, creased by a tear running along 5 water tight compartments which means it will surely sink in a few hours, days or decades?

Where are we in the human activity cycle in Australia?

Discovery > pioneering > development - expansion > equilibrium > overdevelopment > depletion > contraction > exhaustion > rest and regeneration

As a whole the rural areas of southern Australia from the Tropic of Capricorn down certainty appear to be in contraction. Availability of easy accessible base natural resources has been in contraction for 30 yrs as has the population which relays on them for sustenance. More and more inputs have to added to the land and communities to keep them in place. But that has not been enough to stem the steady attrition. Calls have been made to "save" or reserve base resources like water, timber, soils and genetic diversity. Are we so far gone that we can only watch? Lets hope not.

My feeling is that each individual that has command of remaining resources must act in their own capacity to use them as wisely as possible. Just hold on and hope help will arrive. Don't shoot the prophets -- watch for the signs and make amendments.

Bill Soko
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(14) Leon`s Reply

I agree with trying to know where we are Bill, but different parts of Australia (and indeed different parts of a paddock) can be at different "places" in the so called cycle.

Without video it is difficult to communicate the breakthough achievements by people such as Allan Savory, which turn everything around from the way our society (and especially beauracracy) approaches land management.

I notice you assume landmanagers have to increase inputs to get increased productivity outputs and that is not necessarily so.

Savory and others have demonstrated that monitoring, timing, and flexibility inside a "whole evaluation" or "holistic decision making" process are v ital tools to assist building up the health of ecosystems.

In short it is about building up micro organism mass, improving plant growth and increasing grazing animal mass in a relationship of species continually consuming each other. In other words the carbon cycle becomes greater, the water cycle more efficient, more grass is produced, and more animals produced, which produces more dung for the microrganisms and so on.

The difficulty with explaining Savory`s work is, it is not a simple "follow the rules approach". It requires a lot of trial & error.
The way we teach people to fly planes, shear sheep & use computers is with lots of practice. and yet land management is more difficult than those three activities.

As good as "head knowledge" information is, it is successful practical experience that counts with non-direct cause & effect situations like land management

I find it interesting that when Australia wants a good cricket team, they get the coach with the best coaching record rather than a professor of cricket. When footy clubs want a good footy player, they look at everyones past footy performances, rather than those with a degree in Football, but when it comes to wanting the best land performance, Australia should be listening to the people with the best land management experience, but the community is instead listening to lobbyists with a successful land management experience of zero.

I would be interested to hear your comments on Allan Savory`s books Bill?
cheers
Leon
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(15)GM victims visit Mt Gambier

Tom & Gail Wiley (USA) & Percy Schmeiser (Canada) spoke at a forum in Mt Gambier this week saying the GM industry is desroying their livelihoods.

Percy showed photos of Canola super weeds which could not be easily controlled
Percy had GM canola come into his property via natural means and because Monanto owned the rights to the GM canola, he was sued by Monsanto for breaching it`s patent.
Percy says your choices are gone, your rights are gone & your freedoms are gone

Tom & Gail had GM soya bean contamination come onto their property and they lost a major export contract
They believe Honey Bees spead the GM contamination.
All Three believe Australia should reject GM crops

(* This is the first time I have heard about actual GM super weeds)

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(16) Blues magazine Editorial - Thanks to Andrew Stewart

Had a run-in with recently Fred Hilmer, father of competition policy.
Basically, Fred didn’t like a certain amount of miniscule competition.
And this just highlights the growing gulf between the Big End of town and the rest of Australia.
The further you get from the gleaming towers and multi-million dollar residences of central Sydney and Melbourne, the more the hypocrisy of the Big End stands out like a 50 storey glass tower on the dusty western Mitchell Grass plains.
There are three Australians:
The Big End using Other People’s Money to pocket their largesse and their devoted legion of lackeys licking up the loot from their percentage of the billion dollar deals and the rip-off monopolistic charges from arrogant poor service.
The politico-bureaucratic Square Mile in each capital generating more time wasting, energy sapping legislation, nitpicking forms and innovative fee generation while engaging in breathtaking buckpassing on the truly important issues
The rest of us who support the above overly paid and outstandingly ostentatious commercial and politico-bureaucratic leadership through payments, fees and charges that rise only as fast as their real service delivery to the customer declines.
From 20 storeys up, the man in the street looks like an ant.
And that’s how the Big End and the Square Mile are treating us.
What’s it matter if a few ants get squashed as they trample across our jobs, our livelihoods and our businesses as they do another slash and burn to cut more jobs and branches, downgrade the services while jacking up the fees, transfer the paper warfare of the tax system from their desks to every business owner.
Recently a senior bank manager told me that the bank bashing as a disgrace because the banks were only making an 18 percent return on capital.
I almost died of asphyxiation so much of my breath was taken away by the outrageousness of the comment.
The average farm makes less than 3 percent return on capital - less than one-sixth of the bank’s return.
Are you enjoying an air-conditioned lifestyle on the 20th floor far from dust and sweat?
Do you have a multi-million dollar payout coming if you stuff up in your work and lose millions or billions of Other People’s Money?
Are you so far from your community you could close down half the town by withdrawing services and jobs and not have even a twinge of regret in your conscience?
Could you raise your prices by 2,3or 4 times inflation and have most of the loot rush down to your bottom line because you have a cosy duopoly and be treated a hero in the capital city press - and get a big bonus payout?
Could you lose a few billion in government revenue and get a few hundred thousand in bonuses for doing ‘excellent service’ for the federal Treasury?
It’s fair to say the tens of thousands of Blues readers could answer in the negative to all the above.
And that’s what’s not fair.
It’s interesting to watch people read the latest economic data headlines screaming how Australia’s economy if growing so fast it could be dangerous.
We’re reminded of those famous Paul Keating words about the economy being so effervescent that the champagne was spilling from the glass - just before the disastrous 1990/1 recession hit.
It’s fine if you’re comfortably ensconced in the Big End or Square Mile.
But for all the talk from politicians that they are concerned about what’s happening out in real Australia, and how they need some more travel concessions to get out into their electorate more, are we noticing any difference.
We’re getting some weasel words - from the Big End and the Square Miles - about how concerned they are.
So concerned they’ll stop screwing the ants?
Not likely.
A friend doing some work for a Big End company got told that his payment would be cut from $1400 to $1000 because they had calculated his overheads should be lower.
Given he works from a dunger hut in the middle of a yard in a country town with not one itsy-bitsy Personal Assistant dolly birding around, not one Human Resources manager, not one Office Gymnasium, not one square millimetre of carpet, not one let alone a bevy of $800 an hour consultants or lawyers - and his view is hardly a million dollar one of the railway yard and grain terminals, we’re not quite sure where the overheads are to cut.
He did suggest to the Big End manager that perhaps he could send out a search party to find the overheads and waste that’s justify a 29 percent cut in his price.
He noted at the same time the Big End company had just put its prices up by more than double the rate of inflation - and they had just moved into new offices in Melbourne with carpet pile so thick you’d lose a mob of sheep.
When you look at that 4 percent annual, world beating growth rate for the economy, you’ve got to remember the Big End and Square Mile are getting well above the average, which leaves the rest of us scrabbling to have anything left at all.
It’s because the Big End and Square Mile don’t care about the ants - and don’t care about any ant revolt because they feel they’ve got the power elites all tied up - that they feel so smug.
They feel they can dictate the sort of competition policy which wrecks lives and businesses across Australia - but leaves them protected in their duopolies from which they can divide and rule the ants.
What’s most disturbing is that so any people have lost their fight.
They are giving up.
They feel depressed and that they’ll never have any power in their lives.
Don’t give up diggers.
Just hang in their while we think of some solutions.