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Business leaders discuss climate

Business leaders discuss climate

Scientists and leaders from business and government met in Canberra in May 2008 to discuss the need
for action over climate change. Tim Flannery explains the urgency and suggests a radical solution.
Tim Costello says climate change is causing poverty and undoing 50 years of development work in the
world's poorest countries. The group discussed the technologies available for saving energy, and
the options ahead for reducing carbon output through carbon trading. Alexandra de Blas reports from
the forum.


This transcript was typed from a recording of the program. The ABC cannot guarantee its complete
accuracy because of the possibility of mishearing and occasional difficulty in identifying

Alexandra de Blas: There was a positive and flowing atmosphere in the federal parliament's Great
Hall. But the urgency and seriousness of the task ahead escaped no-one. The need for collaboration
between scientists, business and government couldn't be clearer, and the looming threat of climate
change is bringing this triumvirate together in new ways.

Tim Flannery: Just imagine yourself in a world five years from now, when there is no more ice over
the Arctic, when we stand under threat of a rapidly warming Arctic Ocean, when we're starting to
see the first destabilisation of the Greenland ice cap, and all of those things happening because
we don't have a solution, because if things advance that rapidly we simply will not have a
solution, in terms of reducing emissions. Then you've got to start pulling in your last-ditch

Sometimes we actually cut off a leg to save the patient, and in this case, we may need to inject
sulphur into the stratosphere to cool our planet. It's going to change the colour of our sky, it's
going to change the amount of sunlight we get; but we may need to do it to buy ourselves a bit of
time. Unfortunately we have foot-dragged for so long that we are now in a position where those very
unpalatable remedies may have to be resorted to, even if they are dangerous.

Alexandra de Blas: But couldn't we bring on global catastrophe if that was to go wrong?

Tim Flannery: Absolutely you could bring on a global catastrophe.

Alexandra de Blas: Can we take that sort of risk?

Tim Flannery: Well, if you're facing a global catastrophe, stepping away from that place to
anywhere else is probably a good thing to do.

Alexandra de Blas: Professor Tim Flannery, from Macquarie University School of Earth and Life
Sciences with a radical solution to solving the climate crisis. Tim Costello, CEO of World Vision,
prefers the waterbed theory of climate change and poverty alleviation, where pressure applied on
one side of the bed directly impacts upon the other. Having recently returned from Burma and the
havoc wreaked by Cyclone Nargus, he sees our time now as the sweet spot in which to unite the
global village with a global ethic.

Tim Costello: It's in all of our self-interest. Once you would see morality about being generous
for the sake of being generous, and charities giving the poor a few dollars, and helping them up.
Now it's in our self-interest to help the poor because of global warming. It's in our self-interest
to actually say, 'We, too, must respond.'

Alexandra de Blas: The National Business Leaders' Forum began nine years ago and has introduced
Australian business to some of the world's key environmental thinkers. It began with Ray Anderson,
head of the global carpet company Interface. And Al Gore presented his famous PowerPoint
presentation for the first time in eight years at their Sydney meeting in 2003.

Well, after a period in the wilderness here in Australia, with little government leadership on
climate change, the direction of government has now dramatically shifted. But are we too late? Tim

Tim Flannery: Up to 2005 it looked as if there'd still be some sea ice by the end of this century
in the Arctic. But in 2005 the sea ice started to melt away at about four times the rate of
previous years, and that's now continued. And this year, the start of this summer has been just
terrifying. The sea ice is melting away at about 6,000 square kilometres greater rate per week than
last year. And if this summer follows the trajectory of the last few summers, we stand to lose
about half the remaining sea ice by the end of this northern summer. And that is putting us on a
trajectory to an ice-free Arctic within five years or so.

Alexandra de Blas: And what are the implications of that?

Tim Flannery: Well, the implications are profound because once the ice is gone the surface levels
of the Arctic Ocean will start warming quite rapidly, because it's a dark surface and it absorbs
light energy and turns it into heat energy. So the thermal balance of the area around Greenland
will change, we'll start getting warming, so we can expect an accelerated rate of melt in
Greenland. And that ice cap has enough water frozen in it, were it all to melt, to raise sea levels
by six or seven metres. So that's one thing.

The second thing is of course that the entire climatic zonation of the northern hemisphere is held
in place by the thermal gradient between the pole and the equator. That's why we have deserts where
we have them in the northern hemisphere, and we have forested areas where we have them and tundra
where we have them. And when I look at the melting tundra, the advance of the forest
northwards...Greece and its forest fires that look like that area's becoming hostile to the sort of
vegetation. I think we're seeing the early stages of a shift in that zonation. Once the ice melts
away entirely and we get a rapid warming of the Arctic Ocean, that's when you'll see those sorts of
changes potentially start shifting much more quickly.

Alexandra de Blas: If the sea ice is gone, say, within five years, how rapidly will we expect the
Greenland ice cap to start melting?

Tim Flannery: Again, it's just not possible to answer that question, principally because ice
doesn't just melt away as you might imagine an ice cube sitting on a bench would. It melts away, in
part at least, by large-scale collapse. So ice shelves tend to collapse into the ocean and then
fragment and then melt much more rapidly than they may otherwise do. And that sort of collapse is
just impossible to model. We've seen it occur in the Antarctic Peninsula with the Larsen B ice
shelf, but it is just impossible to model so we don't know. But people are now I think quite
realistically talking about sea level rise, if nothing's done, of several metres this century.

Alexandra de Blas: Which will be astounding.

Tim Flannery: That will mean probably hundreds of millions of people displaced, a lot of the
world's best agricultural land lost, some of the world's great cities threatened or under water,
places like Shanghai and Amsterdam and London and so forth. Amsterdam's about two-and-a-half metres
under water as it is, just held up by the dykes. And Singapore and so forth. So the changes, if you
want to sum them up, that's the end of our global civilisation. The stresses that would be placed
upon the global political system and economic system would be such that it simply couldn't endure

Alexandra de Blas: Tim Costello, of World Vision, believes climate change is now undoing 50 years
of development work in the world's poorest countries, and global warming is morphing into global

Tim Costello: Well, they are now two sides of the one coin. The truth is that global warming and
post-2012 targets for the developing world look insane just to them, just as they're lifting their
own poor out of poverty, about to have their own industrial opportunity and revolution, yes, with
all the attending costs of pumping carbon into the atmosphere, and we're saying no, sorry, it's
going to affect the next generation and the planet, you can't do it.

So to them it's a development issue, a justice issue rather than simply a global warming issue. So
a global ethic actually has to avoid siloed thinking. We know that the global village is a
waterbed; if you press down in one place it comes up in another. So when we press down and say,
great, agricultural land for biofuels, we'll fuel our planes, great for global warming; that has
produced a world food crisis. A shortage of rice and grains so that we can no longer feed the
world's poor. We have to think with a global perspective rather than a siloed perspective which
morphs global warming...poverty.

Alexandra de Blas: So you've just come back from Myanmar, from the incredible damage from the
cyclone. How did that bring this to the fore for you?

Tim Costello: Well, the Burmese have never seen a cyclone like this. They didn't think it could
happen. For them it's a little bit like what happened in Brazil. Brazilians are the best informed
on global warming, because they all knew...cyclones don't hit Brazil; never have, never would.
Until the cyclone hit. Suddenly they said global warming. That's a little bit of the thinking of
the Burmese. They're going...where did this come from, a cyclone?

Alexandra de Blas: There are some interesting new technologies and you talk about one that's been
operating, a fuel stove in Darfur. Tell me how that works, and how you see that fitting in to a
whole carbon trading system.

Tim Costello: Yes, it was driven not by global warming but by the fact that women in the camps
going out to collect wood would be raped and mutilated, and the University of California said, why?
Because they need all this wood to burn. Let's come up with a stove that stops them having to go
out and collect wood. And it's a stove that still burns wood but 70% more energy efficient. They
have to go out 70% fewer times and don't get raped.

The great thing about the stove is that it massively reduces respiratory diseases. One-and-a-half
million people each year die from respiratory diseases from these wood-burning stoves, and that's
4,000 a day. So there are a whole set of ripple effects from doing something around energy
efficiency that produces safety and produces health.

Alexandra de Blas: The Climate Group works with big business, CEOs, presidents, prime ministers and
governors, to advance the climate action cause. It assists people like Rupert Murdoch, Richard
Branson, and California's Arnold Schwarzenegger to promote change and to demonstrate leadership.
One of the biggest obstacles to unified global action is the lack of agreement between developing
and developed nations. The Climate Group is working with former British prime minister Tony Blair
and economist Nicholas Stern to progress this agenda. Rupert Posner is the group's Australian

Rupert Posner: We know that we need an international agreement that includes all of the world, not
just the developing countries. We know that we need targets, we know that we need significant cuts
in emissions. But what we're really trying to get our head around is what sort of global agreement
is necessary to get those sorts of cuts to happen. We don't have the answer yet. We've got a paper
that's going to be coming out in a couple of months that starts that discussion. But hopefully
we'll work out some sort of solution on how we go forward.

Alexandra de Blas: Now, there used to be a relative agreement that we needed a 60% cut in
greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. What's the thinking now?

Rupert Posner: That is an absolute minimum, but I think the science tends to indicate that we're
going to need bigger cuts in emissions. I think we're going to be needing to head towards an
economy that has next to no emissions by the middle, towards the end of this century. And so that's
the sort of path that we're going to need to do.

Alexandra de Blas: So if you're thinking a 90%, 100% cut in greenhouse gas emissions on our 1990
levels, how do-able is that? Have we got a chance of being able to achieve something like that?

Rupert Posner: Well, we have to. It's not a matter of can we, it's that we have to do it. But the
thing is, we don't have to do that all at once. What we've got to make sure that we do is we start
now on a trajectory towards that. News Limited here in Australia went through all of its facilities
and found a minimum of 25% cut in emissions that could be made straight away. They even found in
one of their facilities where they'd already made an almost 60% cut in emissions a little while ago
and could make another 20% cut in emissions. So there's lots of things that can be done right away,
and if they can do it in their business, there's no reason why every other business can't do that
as well.

Alexandra de Blas: We're now in the process of designing an emissions trading system here in
Australia. How effective do you think a trading system can be in terms of cutting our emissions?

Rupert Posner: Well a trading scheme is a really important element in reducing emissions. It's not
the only thing. The critical part of an emissions trading scheme is the cap. It's not so much the
trading; the fact that it actually sends a limit on the amount of carbon that can go into the
atmosphere. It's really good for those technologies that are available right now, and there are
loads of them available that we can take up. But other sorts of programs are going to be necessary
to invest in the new technology that's not commercial yet; technologies that can transform the

Alexandra de Blas: So are you looking at putting incentives in place to help get these new
technologies over the line?

Rupert Posner: Yes absolutely. For example, solar photovoltaic panels that you can put on your
roof. If we could get the cost of solar panels down to a competitive rate, perhaps by, say, about
2020, then you could get to the situation where you mandated for every house in Australia and then
that can make a significant difference. So we need to look at policies that won't put, say 10,000
roofs with solar panels on there, but how do we actually transform the market so that the costs
come down, that we can then put it on every single house and make a really substantial difference.

Alexandra de Blas: When a new government comes into power, you've got about six to twelve months,
they say, to get your voice heard. Well a team of Australia's leading environmental scientists have
seized upon this opportunity by publishing a book which highlights the top ten things that need to
be done in each key environmental area. The book is called Ten Commitments: Reshaping the Lucky
Country's Environment, and Professor David Lindenmayer is one of the project's coordinators.

David Lindenmayer: Oh, there's quite a lot of new stuff that came out that was really very
surprising. For example, in the chapter on mining written by Gavin Mudd from Monash University, he
indicated that the change in the concentration of ore bodies that are being mined in Australia has
meant that we're producing an enormous amount of additional waste rock every year. In fact it's
about a billion tonnes of waste rock that comes from the mining industry annually now, and
certainly most environmental scientists would have very little idea that such an enormous emerging
problem is occurring.

Alexandra de Blas: What about carbon accounting for our native forests, how can that change the way
we manage our biodiversity?

David Lindenmayer: This has come from some of our own work at the Fenner School, where we've looked
at what amount of carbon is actually tied up in native forests, including forests that have had
very little human disturbance, either Aboriginal disturbance or white disturbance. And the
extraordinary thing that's coming out is that some of those native forests, the wet forests of
Victoria, for example, have over 2,000 tonnes of carbon per hectare in the above-ground biomass.

Now, these are astronomical numbers that are far larger than, for example, the IPCC was using as
its default value of 90 tonnes. These are far larger than we ever thought was likely to occur in
these kinds of forests. So it means that in a carbon economy those forests have massive values in
terms of their carbon storage, and so we really need to rethink how we treat those forests. And it
may well be that those forests have a very, very important carbon offset role in a country like
Australia, which is one of the biggest coal exporters, one of the biggest iron ore exporters
anywhere on the planet.

Alexandra de Blas: Some of the forests, like that in Tasmania, will be feeding a new pulp mill.

David Lindenmayer: That's right, and that's why we need to rethink those kinds of proposals very
quickly, because the carbon value of those forests may well far exceed the value that we're going
to get from something like a pulp mill.

Alexandra de Blas: Can you put some dollar values on it?

David Lindenmayer: Well, just a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation comes from where Westpac
Bank and AGL talked about a carbon trade of about $19 a tonne for carbon. So it's sitting down and
thinking about what $19 times 2,100 tonnes of biomass per hectare in a wet forest in Victoria by
200,000 hectares of that wet ash forest in Victoria, gives you a number pretty close to $80
billion. It's a big number. The royalties to the Victorian government from those wet forests in the
Central Highlands of Victoria are approximately half a billion dollars per year.

Alexandra de Blas: So 80 billion versus half a billion. What else did the scientists recommend when
it came to climate change and creating social and ecological resilience?

David Lindenmayer: That's one of the key issues that we don't have answers to at the moment. What
makes an environment resilient, what makes a human society resilient, what makes institutions
resilient in rapidly-changing climates? What we do know is that in the past there are some human
cultures which have collapsed. We know that there are others that have survived and persisted.

One of the most tragic examples comes from interior British Columbia. There, the mid-boreal
forests, which are massive expanses of native forest, are basically being killed by the mountain
pine beetle. Now that beetle is surviving over winter because there hasn't been deep, cold winters
for many years now. And in Alberta over 11 million hectares of lodge-pole pine forest alone have
been killed by this beetle, and there are now massive salvage logging operations to remove that
dead timber.

So within a span of seven to ten years, those boreal forests are being converted from forest
through to almost cleared land, and will become grazing country in some places. So this has had
massive implications for the timber industry, massive social dislocation, massive losses of
biodiversity, and massive emissions of carbon. So there's a system that really is buckling under
the changes in climate in a very short period of time. And remember that this is at 385 parts per
million CO2, relative to what some people are starting to forecast, that we might end up at 700 or
750 parts per million. So these are pretty scary thoughts.

Alexandra de Blas: Professor David Lindenmayer, from the Australian National University. And the
Ten Commitments will be available through CSIRO Publishing.

The top call to action in the Climate Change chapter is to 'mitigate, mitigate, mitigate' our
carbon emissions. And Professor Ian Lowe in the Energy section asks us to accept a 40% cut in our
emissions by 2020. And then scale that up to a staggering 95% by 2050. Achieving targets like these
seems almost impossible, particularly when you consider the short, five to ten year time-frame Tim
Flannery was talking about. But the work of the Natural Edge project makes me feel optimistic. This
team of four young engineers with an extraordinary set of global networks has produced a three-part
bible on how to reduce your emissions. It's enormous, but don't be put off by the size. It's
designed so that you only need to read the chapters that relate to your business. Michael Smith is
one of the Natural Edge team.

Michael Smith: Most businesses are still yet to really get going in terms of reducing their
greenhouse emissions. Price Waterhouse Coopers did a survey of 300 CEOs in Australia of
medium-to-large businesses, and of those over 80% had not done very much at all. And they said that
part of the reason for that is that they genuinely didn't know where to start. They didn't know
where they could either make the biggest greenhouse emissions or where the emissions could be most
cost-effectively reduced.

Alexandra de Blas: There are three different modules. Give me an overview of how it actually works.

Michael Smith: We've tried to make this as simple and easy to use for everyone in business. So the
first module gives the business case for action and helps business to get started. It gives them
access to free, online resources to help them do basic energy audits of their business. Then the
rest of the first module has step-by-step solutions to help reduce emissions in their buildings but
also, if they're in industry, has different information to help them reduce energy use in different

The second module has been designed to help a busy CEO or a busy person in business just find what
they need for their sector, specifically. So if you work in the mining sector, if you work in
tourism or fast foods or if you work in food processing, there is a resource for you that has
literally A-Z steps of the best, most cost effective ways to reduce your emissions.

Alexandra de Blas: Why did you make it free and open-source?

Michael Smith: Very simply we don't have time to muck around. The latest science from James Hanson
published three months ago in the top scientific journals argues that we barely have ten years to
avoid the dangerous tipping points on climate change. There is a need, we believe, for every
country in the world to create resources like this so that not just Australia, but China, all parts
of the world, can rapidly skill up their workforce so that they're ready to seize the
cost-effective energy opportunities as fast as possible. This is terribly important, because the
faster we can seize and implement energy efficiency opportunities, the more rapidly we can stop
needing to build new coal-fired power stations around the world. This is absolutely critical, not
just in Australia but particularly in China and India, where they're building new power stations,
we're told, every week.

Alexandra de Blas: You've focused on energy efficiency first, and then you go into offsets and that
sort of thing. Why have you done it in this order?

Michael Smith: Energy efficiency saves business money. Energy efficiency improves their bottom
line. There are some companies around the world where their energy efficiency savings are in the
order of $1 to $2 billion per annum after ten years of work on energy efficiency. We're talking
about the larger companies here. But even for small companies, the sorts of money they can save
through energy efficiency can be roughly the same as their profit margins.

Robyn Williams: So it's well worthwhile. Michael Smith from the Natural Edge. And Alexandra de
Blas's report from the National Business Leaders' Forum ends with these thoughts from the Prime
Minister, Kevin Rudd.

Alexandra de Blas: The first action the Rudd government took when it came in to parliament was to
ratify the Kyoto protocol. But it's now copping some flak over its decision to means test the
photovoltaic rebate. Despite this, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd hopes to use government leadership to
reduce greenhouse gas emissions on a number of fronts.

Kevin Rudd: The government accepts its own responsibility to provide practical leadership in our
response to climate change, with practical measures to reduce our own environmental footprint, and
measures to harness savings from more efficient use of energy and water.

In March this year I established an internal government task force to examine a range of options to
improve the sustainability of the government's own operations; reducing energy and water use and
increasing the recycling of waste. I've received a draft report from the task force in recent days.
It shows that government agencies have a long, long way to go in implementing sustainability
practices, and a long way after that. The report notes the National Audit Office data stating that
only 21% of government offices had energy-efficient lighting installed. Something we need to change
very soon.

The Audit Office has also estimated that government could save $10 million annually if agencies
simply were more proactive in energy and water efficiency measures. We need to look at new and
innovative ways of financing sustainable practices and ensuring the right incentives are in place
to reduce our environmental footprint across government.

This practical action on our own sustainability challenges complements the government's broader
long-term strategy for tackling climate change across the nation and globally. The time to act on
climate change has come. Let us act on climate change together.

Robyn Williams: That report from Alexandra de Blas at Parliament House in Canberra.

Ford's Model T - 100 years old

Ford's Model T - 100 years old

The first Model T went on sale in September 1908. Fifteen million cars were made over a period of
twenty years. It was the first production line for cars. John Duncan describes the design, the
materials used and the production methods employed in producing the car. He also talks about the
personality of Henry Ford and how it contributed to the car's success. Peter Hodgson compares the
approach one hundred years ago to today's car manufacture, and the new materials being developed
for cars.


This transcript was typed from a recording of the program. The ABC cannot guarantee its complete
accuracy because of the possibility of mishearing and occasional difficulty in identifying

Robyn Williams: Henry Ford and the Model T, a car that transformed how we live and work. It'll be
100 in September. But let's jump the gun. Professor John Duncan, from the University of Auckland,
has written a new book called Any Colour So Long As It's Black: Designing the Model T Ford. He
spends time every year at Deakin University in Geelong, Victoria, where Professor Peter Hodgson is
a federation fellow, which is where I met them both.

John Duncan: In September 1908 the first Model Ts came out for sale. Altogether they made 15
million over the 20 years, and that's an enormous number.

Robyn Williams: Were they all black?

Peter Hodgson: They started off a different colour, but as the production rose then the real
problem was drying the paint. That was a difficulty in those days, and black paint would dry more
quickly in the ovens. So Henry Ford said, well right, they'll all be black.

Robyn Williams: Before Henry Ford revolutionised everything, how did they make cars?

John Duncan: Well, Model T when it came out in 1908 was manufactured in conventional ways. The
difference was he employed very high strength steels and he employed a really different
revolutionary design. And it was only a few years after that, when people realised that it was a
wonderful car in terms of performance, that the demand was so great that the moving assembly line
and mass production really got going.

Robyn Williams: Where did he get the design from? Was he a genius?

John Duncan: Well he'd had experience over a number of years in making cars. His first one was
1896. He also got involved with racing cars and that was a breeding ground for good ideas. But when
he was asked at one point where his ideas came from, he said, 'Well, I snatch them out of the air.'
And that's probably as good an answer as any.

Robyn Williams: The whole point about Model T is that it's seen to be a process that came off. He
must have been very, very clever at what he was doing.

John Duncan: He was very clever indeed, but he was also very single minded. He made up his own mind
as to what the car would be. He really formed some very good relationships with some very clever
people; Edison, Harvey Firestone the tyre man. These were all brilliant people and he got on well
with them. But he did his own thing, very much.

Robyn Williams: He has the reputation of being something of a fascist. Is that fair?

John Duncan: I wouldn't say that. I think these days you'd probably say maybe he had Asperger's
syndrome or something like that. But the fact is that had he not been like that, there wouldn't
have been a Model T, because it's just an idiosyncratic sort of product, as simple as that. He
thought about what car was needed, not what people wanted but what they needed, and he thought
about how he would design it to fit that need.

Robyn Williams: The reason I was being a bit harsh about his character is a friend of mine called
Robert Lacey actually wrote a biography of him and went to Detroit and lived there for well over a
year. And he was fairly terse about some of the aspects. But one of the things he said was that
they managed not just in an engineering way to revolutionise the system, but also he was insightful
enough to realise that he had to pay his workers enough so that they, themselves, could buy the
cars, and therefore he could have a turnover.

John Duncan: Yes, that's certainly true. Lacey's book is an excellent account of Ford's life. As
far as the $5 a day wage that you refer to, this was a genuine attempt by Henry Ford to pay his
workers as much as he possibly could and still make a reasonable amount of money. And the story is
(whether it's true) but he got a few people together in a room with a blackboard and he sat down
with them for the whole day until they figured out just how much they could pay. And they came out
with the five dollars. It was partly the idea that they should be able to buy his car, but it was
more the idea, well, here's an industry and everyone should share in it.

Robyn Williams: Professor John Duncan. But make no mistake, Henry Ford was strange. Robert Lacey on
the secret of his success.

Robert Lacey: If you'd asked him, he would have told you it was reincarnation. He's a weird spirit,
Henry Ford I. His explanation of his genius is the sort of explanation that gets advanced to
explain someone like Mozart, and why he was playing the piano at five. He said he learned it all in
previous lives.

One of the reasons why he espoused the theory of reincarnation was that in fact he learned a great
deal from his father, with whom he did not get on, and he somehow wished to erase that. In fact his
father, William Ford, who came across from Ireland in the 1840s was a mechanic, a carpenter. He was
the man you went to in Dearborn if a machine went wrong. He was the man who had the latest tools
and he was the man who went to the great exhibitions from the community, to Philadelphia and so on,
the Great Exhibition of 1876, and saw all the new inventions and brought the news back to the
village. Henry Ford came from a technologically minded sort of family.

Robyn Williams: Robert Lacey. Back to John Duncan. What about the assembly line, the process made
famous by Charlie Chaplin? That was linked to Modern Life, you know, where the poor man is being
eaten up by the assembly process himself. How much was that part of the process of Model T?

John Duncan: Well, it came later. Henry Ford designed the car so that it fitted beautifully the
idea of a moving assembly line and different units coming together. People will say that there were
assembly lines other than Henry Ford, before he started there, but the thing to focus on is that he
came up with a unique and a brilliant design, and the performance of the car was very good, and so
people wanted it and the demand became high, and in order to satisfy that demand they just had to
have the new techniques of assembly and manufacture.

Robyn Williams: How did it revolutionise affairs in the United States, what difference did it make?

John Duncan: Well, he did create these vast factories. And the point is that the design started in
1908 and that went for 20 years and then at the end of that time the rest of the car manufacturing
industry in the United States had caught up with Ford, and that was when the car was superseded.
But I think he just led the way and everyone else followed.

Robyn Williams: Peter Hodgson, you're at Deakin University, what's your role in this plot?

Peter Hodgson: Well, the research group here is heavily involved in the future car industry, and in
particular how do we get lightweight materials into modern cars, and the interesting parallel
between the two is that the Model T was the first to use high strength steels. So it was a
lightweight car. And I think that what we're trying to do here is actually revolutionise the car.
As we go through this crisis with fuel and the environment, et cetera, we really are starting to
see for the first time consumers really saying they want to see environmentally friendly cars.

Robyn Williams: So you have lightweight materials, you have different ways of propelling them, I
suppose. Do you anything directly to do with some of the fuels at all?

Peter Hodgson: No, our research here is purely on the body structure, so the materials that go into
the body, high strength steels, lightweight alloys like aluminium and magnesium, and the composite
technologies as well.

Robyn Williams: And how is that going? Is it being applied to any of the cars that are coming off
the assembly line at the moment?

Peter Hodgson: Around the world we are seeing it. I think Australia tends to be a little bit of a
slow follower. But the new models from both Holden and Ford will have high strength steels in them.
But we work also with Volvo, and Volvo probably have led the way in terms of getting high strength
steels into modern cars.

Robyn Williams: And where are they made? I suppose the designs are being done here in the
laboratory, but how are they taken up?

Peter Hodgson: The unique partnership here is that we actually work very closely with the Ford
stamping plant and assembly line, so the research we do here is actually being trialled in the
plant at the same time. And I think that we can do it technically. The issue always gets down to
economics. Can we put these materials into cars in a way which doesn't make the cars too expensive?
This industry is a funny industry. It's massive. There's a lot of capital and a lot of technology
involved, but the margins a car maker makes are very, very small, as we've seen globally, and so
it's almost getting down to does this bit of steel cost five cents more than that bit of steel,

Robyn Williams: And I suppose the sheer scale is against you, and this is what Henry Ford is guilty
of to some extent. You don't just make one or two custom-built cars, you've got to make tens of
thousands of them. And if you make a mistake, going for the wrong line, and in composites you've
got vast numbers of different materials you could use; if you punt the wrong one, you could be in

Peter Hodgson: That is a dilemma. In fact John and I often talk about it at lunch times and at
morning tea, you know, are we caught in a mindset which says you have to make a car this way. Do
you have to use these big stamping presses and assembly lines? And in fact in the 100th anniversary
of the Model T there is actually a design competition which six universities around the world,
including Deakin, are part of. And in fact I think part of that is actually challenging, should we
actually think about the car as it is now. Can we make it in a different way, which again goes back
to the Model could be assembled anywhere in the world, maybe manufactured in different parts
of the world and brought together.

Robyn Williams: So which are the other universities involved?

Peter Hodgson: The universities are Aachen University in Germany, the Arts Centre College of Design
at Pasadena, Deakin, the Lawrence Technology University in Southfield Michigan, and the University
of Michigan in Dearborn, Michigan.

John Duncan: Dearborn, of course, was the home of the Ford museum and Greenfield village. The home
of Henry Ford, too, in his later days.

Robyn Williams: Are there any Model Ts left in Australia?

John Duncan: Well there's 20,000 Model Ts worldwide. And there's going to be a big rally to
celebrate the centenary in Echuca at the end of September this year. And my car is number 262 in
the rally, so it says there's more than that. So there'll be a good number of Model Ts there.

Robyn Williams: What's it like to drive?

John Duncan: Well, it's a little bit different from a modern car. The biggest thing you have to get
used to is it only has two speeds, a low gear and a high gear. And in low gear, you sort of go
along about nine kilometres or 14 kilometres per hour. You take your foot off the pedal and it
jumps into high gear at about 30 kilometres per hour.

Robyn Williams: Speeding along!

John Duncan: Yes. That's a very good example of the way Henry Ford designed a car that would work,
that novice drivers, and so many of them were, couldn't damage the gears or anything else. And he
designed a car that had two speeds, and people said, well, we would like more, but he said, no, two
is what you need.

Robyn Williams: Is yours black?

John Duncan: No, because it was a special deluxe body built by my grandfather. And they used to
paint them in fancy colours. So it's bright yellow. Lovely colour.

Robyn Williams: Fuel-efficient?

John Duncan: Well, no. Those engines are very low compression and not very fuel-efficient, but the
Model T was as good as any other car at that time. But bear in mind, it's a 20 horse power engine
in a car under 600 kilograms. So that's a pretty decent performer.

Robyn Williams: And towards the end of his life, Ford, crusty old fellow...what did you think of
him as he aged and developed his strange habits?

John Duncan: You have to give him credit that when he finally was forced into stopping the Model T
in 1927, then he came out with a Model A which was a successful one, and then in the early 30s the
V8, and that was the first low, reasonable cost V8 engine. And then during the war he had a hand in
building the Willow Run plant that made big bombers as though they were motorcars coming off an
assembly line. A lot of that was done by his son and his colleagues, but you have to give him
credit, he kept in there over a long period of time.

Robyn Williams: Peter, are you going to take part in this celebration?

Peter Hodgson: No. I'm not actually a car enthusiast, I have to admit. I'm probably more a metals
person than an actual car person. This design competition which we're part of, as I said, it's
really about getting the young engineers here thinking outside the box. Can we make a lightweight,
safe, low-cost, pull apart, put back together again type of vehicle? And we've had some
brainstorming sessions here and it's been fantastic to see their ideas. There really have been some
really great ideas by these 18 to 25-year-olds, saying, well, what would I like to do in a car?
Forget about how they're made now. And I think that's where I guess I see my role, as actually
being with them, coaching them and sharing in their pleasure.

Robyn Williams: Professor Peter Hodgson, Deakin University's man of steel, with John Duncan, whose
book Any Colour So Long As It's Black is published here by Exile. More Ford in September.

Saving the Western Swamp Tortoise

Saving the Western Swamp Tortoise

Western Swamp Tortoise

View the image gallery

It has changed little in 20 million years. But now, due to urban expansion, the Western Swamp
Tortoise in under threat. Lynne Malcolm reports from Perth where the Perth Zoo and the Department
of Environment and Planning are collaborating in a breeding and monitoring program.


This transcript was typed from a recording of the program. The ABC cannot guarantee its complete
accuracy because of the possibility of mishearing and occasional difficulty in identifying

Gerald Kuchling: It's the smallest freshwater turtle or tortoise in Australia. They grow only up to
15-centimetre shell lengths and about 500 grams if they're really heavy. This one is still a
juvenile. What you can see is they tuck the head sideways under the shell and the colouration
differs. This one is brown. The colouration changes according to the habitat.

Lynne Malcolm: So when you turn this one over, it's beautiful on the bottom. It has a yellow shell
with dark, almost like a stain-glass window look.

Gerald Kuchling: Yes, they can be very pretty, the colouration of the underside. It's also quite

Lynne Malcolm: Dr Gerald Kuchling from the Western Australian Department of Environment and
Conservation showing me the rare and precious Western Swamp Tortoise. The mind-boggling thing about
this creature is how ancient it is. The only fossils of the Western Swamp Tortoise were found in
the early Miocene Riversley deposits in northern Queensland. And the bones from this modern
tortoise Gerald Kuchling is showing me can't be distinguished from those fossils. So this tortoise
has changed very little over a period of 20 million years. But it's on the brink of extinction.

It was first discovered in 1839 and was never very abundant. In fact it was thought to be extinct
until a schoolboy rediscovered it in 1953. By this time the species was restricted to a very narrow
region of the Swan coastal plain near Perth in WA. It's in serious trouble because its preferred
habitat, shallow seasonal swamps over clay and sandy soils around Perth, are disappearing as a
result of urban development. Perth Zoo and the scientists from the Department of Environment and
Conservation are combining forces to try and save what's become a signature species for this
ancient Western Australian land. Dr Helen Robertson from Perth Zoo is taking me into the Western
Swamp Tortoise captive breeding program enclosure.

Helen Robertson: As you can see we've got the enclosures locked up. We've also got a security
system in here. Swamp tortoises are extremely rare, they're critically endangered and there is a
real threat that certain people might wish to steal them, so we've got them well and truly secure
from not only invasive pest species but the human species as well. We're about conserving these
little guys, so we've been working with these guys for over 12 years now. When the program started,
working with Gerald Kuchling and the folks at the Department of Environment and Conservation, there
were somewhere between 20 and 30 tortoises only left in the wild and so it was pretty dire straits
for them.

So what we do here...we've got over 200 tortoises here, and every year we breed between 30 and 40
little tortoises and every year we release about that many into the wild. Come and have a look and
I'll introduce you. So these are the rearing ponds for the baby tortoises, so when they hatch out
from the incubator they go into these ponds. These little guys get weighed and measured on a weekly
basis to make sure they're growing well. I'll just see if I can grab one for you. So here's a
little guy. You could probably fit about six of him on my hand, so he's quite small. They're about
the size of a 20 cent piece when they first hatch out. Their common name is short-necked tortoise,
and you can see there he's got his neck fully extended and it really only comes out about a
centimetre and a half, whereas...

Lynne Malcolm: Yes, and his little legs are going there.

Helen Robertson: His little legs are going like mad because he doesn't really want to be out in the
air talking to you guys. We know what number this tortoise is, we know who he is, and we can
monitor how fast it's growing, how healthy it is and just really keep an eye on their health all
the way through their growth and development until they're ready to go out.

These enclosures here that are small and quite shallow, they're for the new hatchlings. The
enclosures we've got here in front of us are much larger. They're about the size of six bathtubs
all joined together. They are quite shallow still. The really interesting thing about this
tortoise, it's an aquatic tortoise, it spends most of its life in the water, the half of the year
that it's awake, but the most prevalent cause of death for the Western Swamp Tortoise is drowning.

Lynne Malcolm: How strange!

Helen Robertson: I know, I found that quite fascinating, that drowning was a problem for these
guys, but when the water gets cold, if the water is too deep and they jump in at the deep end they
can sink to the bottom and get a shock. What a tortoise does when it gets that shocked feeling is
sink to the bottom of the water and stay there for an hour or two, which they can do, and then the
tortoise brain says 'time to wake up now, need air' and the body goes 'no, too cold to move
anymore' and they can actually die, just lying on the bottom of the pond. So we have water at a
particular height and the water goes through to maintain the right temperature for the tortoises in
the water. In the wild the water bodies are much bigger so they maintain their temperature more

Habitat destruction is a huge threat to these tortoises. They actually come from the Swan coastal
plain and, as you might know, most of the Swan coastal plain is now taken up by Perth city. So
these little guys live in ephemeral swamps. They're really unusual for a tortoise or a reptile all
round because they're active in the winter and the summertime is their sleep time, so they
aestivate or sleep in the summer. So they live in these ephemeral swamps that fill in the winter
and then dry out in the summer, so the drying out, the lowering of the water level in the swamps in
the wild is the cue that tells them 'time to go sleep now' and they dig a burrow under the ground
and go to sleep for the summer.

So most of those swamps were filled up and made into rubbish dumps and Perth developed over the
last couple of hundred years, filled and then covered and then suburbs built on the top. So there
are very few places now that these little tortoises can go and live. The other thing about them is
trying to assist them with their recovery...they're not a very fecund species. The females, on
average, have about two eggs a year. So even if you get the breeding successful you get two eggs
from each female every year, so that's quite difficult.

Lynne Malcolm: So that's partly the reason why it's difficult to keep them going.

Helen Robertson: They're a slow breeder, they're quite an old breeder. We've got some tortoises
here that we estimate to be about 80 years old.

Lynne Malcolm: You mentioned that you breed about 40 tortoises here in the zoo and you manage to
release about 40 as well each year. How successful is that release into the wild?

Helen Robertson: You can't just breed animals in captivity and then release them into the wild and
hope for the best. There's a full monitoring program which is run through the Department of
Environment and Conservation or DEC, and Gerald Kuchling is one of the main people that does that,
and he's been working on these tortoises for years now, right from the very beginning. So each of
the tortoises...when we have a new release site, the tortoises have radio tracking devices glued to
the backs of their shells, which doesn't impede them or harm them in any way, but it allows Gerald
and whoever is working with him to track them down using the radio tracking device. We can check
how their weight is going, how many are surviving, and what that has shown us is that we do have

But with this species being so long-lived and such a slow breeder...the way IUCN looks at success
is the number of adult breeding animals you have. So even though we've been doing this for over 12
years, we're only just now starting to get some of the tortoises we released way back when becoming
adults. So as far as IUCN and the Red List is concerned there's still a critically endangered
species because there's been no statistical improvement in the number of adults in the wild since
we started, it's not on the books yet. We've got an awful lot coming through, so we've released
about 400 into three different areas and we've got 200 here and we've got the ones that we know
about in the wild.

They're very difficult to find in the wild because once you don't have the radio tracking device on
them anymore you have to rely on seeing them or wading through...I think Gerald wades through and
he can feel them on his feet as they're sitting on the bottom, hiding. So it just depends on who he
manages to pick up and find. So you'll have at any one time a certain number known to be alive, but
often it's different from the number that you had last year. So we know there's quite a few of them
surviving, so we know so far things are going really well with this program.

Lynne Malcolm: Helen Robertson at Perth Zoo. One of the last self-sustaining populations of Western
Swamp Tortoise is at Ellen Brook Nature Reserve in an outer suburb of Perth where biologist Dr
Gerald Kuchling does his field work and where some of the animals from Perth Zoo's captive breeding
program are released. The 45-hectare reserve is a rare habitat now. Once a fertile source of clay
for the brick and tile industry, this ephemeral swamp provides the conditions in which the Western
Swamp Tortoise can thrive. It's fenced off to keep foxes, dogs and cats out and is home to 65 to 70
grown tortoises.

I've joined Gerald Kuchling in the reserve. Using a radio tracking device he's trying to locate a
particular tortoise from the breeding program. She's fitted with a radio transmitter, and the last
time he saw her she was very stressed by being fenced in.

Gerald Kuchling: Yes, this is an old female, number 4, she was an adult female in 1962. She is
still breeding, she still laid eggs last year, so they have a very long breeding span. This female
had spent 15 years until 2006 at Perth Zoo because she could not handle the new fence. She
basically walked along the fence, got stressed, didn't lay eggs anymore and in order not to lose
her we kept her at the zoo. Last year I released her back into the reserve, but just three weeks
ago I found her again walking along the western fence here. So now she has a radio transmitter so I
can monitor what she is doing, and this is what we will do now.

Lynne Malcolm: So it's like a big television aerial that you're holding here, there's a background
white noise, but you're hearing a signal as well?

Gerald Kuchling: Yes, the antenna is a directional antenna. When the signal is loudest it's the
direction the animal will be, so this way we can try to find the animal.

Lynne Malcolm: That's quite strong there, so we can head in that direction.

Gerald Kuchling: Yes. We now have to walk through into the swamp. Unfortunately the female number 4
chooses one of the deepest areas in the swamp as her hideout, so you will need your waders. Pull
them up and follow me.

Lynne Malcolm: We've got water up to our thighs and there's weed all across the top of the water.
I'm not sure what's underneath the water but I hope I'm not treading on a Western Swamp Tortoise.
So we've got a signal again and we're just heading in that direction.

Gerald Kuchling: Obviously we're relatively close now, she's in this bush. So I may try and change
over from the directional antenna to a stick antenna so we can pinpoint more accurately where she
is sitting because you cannot see much here. So I will try my luck.

Lynne Malcolm: she seems to be so deep in that scrub and she seems to be swimming around so
much...are we going to find her?

Gerald Kuchling: Well, it would be a major effort to actually search for her now, so I prefer to
leave her alone. And because she moved away from us, obviously she is okay and her radio
transmitter is okay, and she's not at the fence. This is basically the main information I wanted to
get. So it's unfortunate for you that you cannot see her, but it's not a problem for the program
because we know she is healthy and swimming around. So I am quite happy.

Lynne Malcolm: Okay, we'll leave it, I think. So Gerald, you've spent many years of your life
working on the Western Swamp Tortoise here. It looks a little bit like we might not be able to save
this tortoise. Do you agree?

Gerald Kuchling: I don't agree. I think the Australian public is very interested in this species
and quite amazed about this. There is quite a strong support in the community, and a lot of
research and conservation action was supported by public donations, also from the WWF Australia. So
I think the community support is strong enough that the species has a chance to get ahead. The
other thing is that this species really is a flagship species for a whole ecological community
which is threatened here. In this small nature reserve here at Ellen Brook there are actually two
different threatened ecological communities represented, mainly because of rare plant species.
There are not many seasonal swamps of this type left, so by conserving the Western Swamp Tortoise
there is actually quite a few rare plant species and probably invertebrates. It's some of the more
invertebrate species-rich swamps in the whole Swan coastal plain where the Western Swamp Tortoise
is also found, so it's a very interesting habitat, and from a biodiversity point of view it's
certainly worth preserving it, even without the Swamp Tortoise, but the Swamp Tortoise is obviously
the flagship which allows us to do this conservation work.

Lynne Malcolm: Dr Gerald Kuchling has been working to protect the Western Swamp Tortoise for more
than 20 years. So how did an Austrian scientist come to dedicate his life to this small and ancient
Western Australian species?

Gerald Kuchling: I've had a passion for turtles and tortoises since I was a small kid, and for the
Western Swamp Tortoise in particular, the type specimen of this species is in the museum of natural
history in Vienna where I originate from. I was employed in the museum for three years when I was a
student and worked in the herpetological collection and saw the type specimens and got interested
in the whole story. So it's a very long-stemming interest of mine to see the species but also other
species of turtles and tortoises remain on our Earth.

Lynne Malcolm: And just more generally, in terms of the work that's going on around the world to
preserve biodiversity, there's always the question there, 'What does it really matter?' Does it
really matter that we save these tiny little species in all these different corners of the world?

Gerald Kuchling: I think it's the right thing to do. I think it's wrong not to care about species
and biodiversity, like here, this particular swamp habitat, then I think it's wrong not to do it,
and to simply say we do not care and we destroy everything. And as we've seen, most of the habitat
has already been lost, and in particular the Western Australian society at present with the
resource boom is rich enough to be able to afford to set aside a few hundred hectares for species
and biodiversity and ecological communities like this. I'm confident that in the foreseeable future
we as a society will care about species and biodiversity.

Robyn Williams: Dr Gerald Kuchling from the West Australia Department of Environment and
Conservation. He was with Lynne Malcolm.