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Saturday / April 13.
HomemitwocentsDorothea Nailed It

Dorothea Nailed It

As social commentator and optometrist Geoff Lawson sees it, the contention around climate change can be summed up in a rather poetic fashion…

The theory of climate change on our planet receives considerable debate. The expertise of experts is doubted and sceptics are viewed with scepticism. Of course, they are all correct. Aren’t they?

The climate of the earth has changed constantly for billions of years. That is not hyperbole or speculation; that is a fact. Recently, that is, in the past 50,000 years or so, there has been much change.

Ice Age Cycles…

Ice ages, I’m told, are relatively new phenomenon in the grander scheme. The ice age cycle theory, in a nutshell, is that when North America joined South America via the Panama isthmus, the ocean currents were blocked and northern oceans cooled considerably. The earth then underwent a cycle of cooling events that we now call ice ages.

The often touted ‘national water grid’ would even out so many inconsistencies, but successive governments simply don’t want to embark on a project that would take longer than the Snowy Mountains Scheme…

One current theory suggests that if the Gulf stream running north up past the west of Britain is diverted due to warming trends, then the next global blizzard is coming much sooner than later. The geological roster suggests that we are due for another one “soonish”…perhaps in a few hundred thousand years.

… Vs Global Warming

Global warming theorists say otherwise. They predict an increase in average temperatures, causing ice caps to melt and sea levels to rise. According to this viewpoint, humans are responsible. Carbon dioxide emissions have increased because we are burning all the carbon based resources that were laid down in the soil millions of years go. Given what I can see coming out of motor vehicles, factories and air conditioners, the argument is difficult to counter.

What I Do Know

Whatever the long-term impact of ice age cycles, or global warming, the short-term reality for the occupants of Terra Australis is that now, because of the La Niña effect, we have floods; widespread, shocking, damaging floods.

Australia’s wonderful advantage over the rest of the globe is that there are so few of us spread out over vast distances. Our loss of life, while indescribably tragic, is fortunately only in double figures rather than tens of thousands. The loss of lives, property and livelihoods, so devastating for not only those immediately affected but all of us indirectly, is a little more restricted when compared with the Brazilian floods in January this year or, indeed, the Pakistan floods last year.

The amount of water invading this wide brown land has been extraordinary.

The farmers of Australia have endured a decade of drought with virtually no water, now they have way too much.

I was recently in the southern Riverina not far from my home town, talking to the local farmers. Their town of 3,000, which is 30km from the nearest river, was flooded in October with much damage to buildings. To look around the neat town it was near impossible to imagine where the water came from or where it went to.

In late January, the locals in that area were busy reaping a delayed harvest, all the while trying to unbog machinery on summer time paddocks – paddocks that until recently had been dust and stubble. In true Aussie fashion, they could see the upside of moisture in the soil. Sure, a little less would have been nice, but it was a damn sight better than none at all!

The farmers conceded that the rains were later and stronger than they had been for years. As we talked, the southern NSW floods of 1974 were recalled and I clearly remembered the levy banks at Wagga Wagga straining under that burden. They held then, as now, but there was a hell of a lot of water wasting its way to the Murray mouth 1,500km away. Basically, every 10 or 11 years, the pattern repeats. Drought is followed by better-than-usual rains.

The often touted ‘national water grid’ would even out so many inconsistencies, but successive governments simply don’t want to embark on a project that would take longer than the Snowy Mountains Scheme and perhaps not reflect in the ballot box during incumbent terms.

My Country

Australia. A sunburnt country; there’s no doubt. Droughts and flooding rains; yes, indeed. It seems Dorothea Mackellar wasn’t just a wonderful Australian poet, she was a climate expert before her time.

I love a sunburnt country,

A land of sweeping plains,

Of ragged mountain ranges,

Of droughts and flooding rains.

I love her far horizons,

I love her jewel-sea,

Her beauty and her terror –

The wide brown land for me!