I feel so sorry for the dire situation many farmers are in because of the drought.
I wish it were not so, but when I look back, it has been all so predictable.
When I saw a map on TV news showing the drought area covering a huge proportion of south-east Australia, I was struck by the similarity to a map I was shown 26 years ago when I visited CSIRO’s Atmospheric Research Division.
The 1992 map showed modelling of changing rainfall pattern over a 30-year cycle.
I was shocked at the time, but even more so when I was told that the modelling included a delay factor – an increase in carbon dioxide takes 20 years or so to show an effect on climate patterns.
The implication is that the current drought may be the worst ever, but we can expect it to become the norm.
Then I find myself reflecting on the distractions that prevented action.
The denial, the arguments about cost, clinging to the old ways; the political failure to act, trashing the carbon tax to satisfy one man’s ambitions.
The National Party, supported by many farmers, fought valiantly against conservationist policies.
We were told climate action in Australia could wait.
How much longer will it be before we say, “Enough” – stop fooling with Adani and get on with de-carboning our energy industries and our transport systems?
David Lamb, Kew East
We’ll just use the desal plants … oh right
So there’s another predictable dreadful Australian drought?
Just wait a moment and all those coastal desalination plants, built by the federal government, will be turned on and all the drought areas will be irrigated.
That’s what intelligent government is all about.
It’s called planning.
Paul Drakeford, Kew
You can’t grow crops in cement
Understandably we are all concerned about the plight of farmers who are suffering in the drought-ravaged country as a consequence of the real effects of climate change.
However, successive governments of all persuasions are allowing developers to buy up vast tracks of arable land upon which to build houses.
Surely there are better solutions to solving housing shortages than plonking these buildings on land that could be used to grow food.
After all it is very hard to prepare an evening meal using bricks and mortar.
Ian Gray, Benalla
George Goyder, come back
In 1865, George Goyder, the assistant surveyor-general of South Australia, drew a line across the state north of Adelaide that became known as the Goyder Line.
After extensive surveys, Goyder claimed that because of consistent patterns of low rainfall farming would not be viable above the line.
However, over the next few years there was a higher than usual rainfall across South Australia.
Ignoring Goyder’s warning settlement grew and farms were established north of the line.
The problem was that after several years the rainfall returned to its past figures of little more than four inches a year.
Farmers went bankrupt and whole towns were deserted as anyone who has visited the Flinders Rangers can attest.
I wonder what would have happened if Goyder were the surveyor-general for the commonwealth?
Perhaps large tracts of the country would have been set aside for other purposes than agriculture.
By all means we must assist the drought-affected farmers, but with the effects of climate change already biting perhaps we need another Goyder Line.
Lance Sterling, Burwood
Salvation is in the pipeline
Instead of tax cuts, the government should start drought proofing Australia by installing a network of pipelines from desalination plants. Farming is essential to the economy and the drought is driving people off farms.
Zona Severn, Mount Martha
Little soil renewal
Suggestions that the drought in NSW may mean that the viability of agriculture is being affected by climate change are nothing new.
However, seldom said is the fact that agriculture in Australia is fundamentally unsustainable regardless of technological improvement.
Australian soils have experienced negligible renewal for 300 million years, whereas most soils in Europe, East Asia and the Americas are constantly renewed by the weathering of rising mountains and their glaciers.
Australian soils are thus a non-renewable resource, and thus agriculture in Australia should be treated like fossil fuels – something whose phase-out is a requisite for sustainability.
Although many Australian farmers would suffer from mass revegetation, many more in Eurasia and the Americas would gain opportunities for a new potentially sustainable livelihood that is now uneconomic, and many ancient Australian species threatened by land clearing and climate change would recover.
Julien Benney, Carlton
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