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18 March 2020
How did it come to this?
Sir, – There is the need for a significant change of mindset among many today, if we are to begin to reverse the poor quality of our material environment in Australia.
The present drought is less, ‘An Act of God’, more the end result of human activities. It has not helped that the prevailing philosophy of our European forebears, was that here was ‘Terra Nulius’, the land unoccupied and there for the taking.
We rarely properly appreciate what we have not earned. Perhaps we should ask: Who owned the land a thousand years ago? Who will own it in a thousand years’ time?
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At best, we are but short-term custodians. It behoves us to be good stewards.
If Australia’s population of 25 million could be mustered onto the one spot and each individual allocated one square-metre in which to stand, then our collective footprint would be 25 square-kilometres, not much more than the footprint of a modern suburb or small country town. Our impact on this continent has been out of all proportion to our population.
In an attempt to survive and thrive economically, ever larger tracts of land have been cleared of its native vegetation. It is instructive to view images of the present drought-affected areas and note the almost complete loss of tree-and-shrub-cover, allowing the sun to blaze down and the wind to sough or bluster unimpeded across the land, sucking out any remnant surface moisture.
The deeper, stored moisture is not accessible to the shallow-rooted plants which have replaced the original, deep-rooted vegetation.
As explained in earlier correspondence, our eastern forests which would normally benefit from local showers from local moisture, have also been denied much needed rain and dried to a dangerous extent.
Is there any evidence that re-vegetation might actually work to restore the water cycle? At present the most tangible evidence is in south-west Victoria. From the 1990s, well over a thousand square-
kilometres of blue gums were planted there as plantation timber. No matter the most venal of reasons for their existence – greed and stupidity – the fact is that these maturing trees exist as a block.
No one there speaks of dry land salinity any more: the trees have simply pumped out the subsurface water and lowered the water table so that it no longer interferes with normal, present-day agriculture. As a seemingly important spin-off, the south-west is enjoying a good season, while the remainder of the eastern states writhe in heat and crushing dryness. Re-vegetation with native plants on a grand scale would seem to provide the answer to improving farm land, plus reducing the impacts of drought and of wild-fires.
The entire March 18, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!