Ralph?s led a natural life
By EMMA CORNFORD
BRUSHGROVE resident Ralph Berman sits in an armchair, relating stories of victorious environmental campaigns and his lifetime of passionate work.
But he is no armchair conservationist and when the 88year-old nimbly leaps over fences, keen to show off his 4000-plus tree plantation, it becomes obvious he never will be.
Mr Berman has been a self-confessed 'wildlife fan' since he was 10 years old.
At the tender age of 11, he was the founding member of the first Junior Farmers Club of NSW at Glen Innes.
Now, 77 years later, he is still a conservation campaigner and was recently runner-up in the prestigious Wildlife Preservation Society of Australia's 2005 Serventy Conservation Award.
Mr Berman may have been surprised when he received the award, but with years of zealous campaigning for the environment up his sleeve, it was only a matter of time before his dedication was recognised.
By the age of 11, Mr Berman could recognise the calls of every bird he came across while bushwalking with his class.
"When the teacher, Fred Herin, took us all bushwalking at the weekends I could identify all the bird calls and and I remember him always saying 'how do you know so much about birds?' because he was interested in insects.
"The other students thought it was great, though."
That year he was also selected to go to a junior farmer's camp at the Brisbane Show where he won two bird books ?- which he still owns.
Mr Berman was also a research scientist with the conversation department specialising in soil conservation, was president of the Mount Arthur Reservation Trust for many years and has been a member of the Clarence Valley Conservation Coalition for around 15 years.
Before he came to the Clarence he founded the Wellington Field Naturalists Society ?- which is still going strong and is one of his proudest achievements.
So what is the biggest envi- ronmental problem facing the Clarence Valley today?
"Degradation of the environment is a potential issue we must face and if we don't face it we are going to be in trouble," he said.
"Mankind is faced with the prospects of damage to plants and the environment that he's initiated ... and unfortunately we're saddled with a very short term view of consequences. We haven't reached the peak yet but we've got to circumvent the damage."