Our plan’s not working.
Unless we learn from our mistakes we’ll only keep repeating them. It took me way too long to understand this, but I think it’s finally sunken in. Not so, however, for the government of Australia, which has suddenly flipped from denying that climate change exists to declaring that now we’re in the middle of it we need to mitigate its effects by clearing more land and building more dams.
I’m sorry. WHAT?!?
Land-clearing and large scale diversion of waterways are exactly the kind of arrogant, irresponsible attempts to dominate nature that have led us directly into the drought and bushfire crisis happening around us right now.
Science is very clear that ‘thinned out’ or logged forests are drier and prone to more fires of higher intensity than those that are untouched. As we learn in school, transpiration through trees is a vital part of the water cycle which creates rain. After over 18 million hectares have been razed by fire in this country, why would we want to destroy any of what is left? How could our wildlife have any chance at recovering their decimated populations if we remove even more of their habitats?
As for constructing dams, anyone who would trust the current government to manage our precious water resources after it has devastated the essential Murray-Darling river system, has clearly not been paying attention.
The Australia Institute found that between 20 and 30 new private dams have been recently built in the Murray-Darling basin using the federal government’s $4 billion ‘water efficiency’ program. Far from helping drought-stricken communities, these tax-payer funded dams were used exclusively by corporate agri-businesses and actually increased water evaporation.
What about large-scale dams for public use? In 2000, the World Commission on Dams reported that between 40 and 80 million people had been displaced and had their livelihoods severely impacted by 45,000 large dams around the world. Most of these people were Indigenous or in ethnic minorities.
Here’s an idea: instead of repeating the same atrocities again and yet again until our country becomes a lifeless dustbowl, how about we try something different? Why don’t we try actually listening to the people who have lived here in one continuous civilisation for 120,000 years without fucking it up? I reckon they probably picked up a few tips about how this place works in that time.
If he hadn’t died from a broken heart, we could have asked Yinpirra what he thought about dams. On the other hand, perhaps it was fortunate he didn’t live to see the Ngurin River drying up and the life disappearing from his land after several sacred sites were flooded by the construction of the Harding Dam which he fought so hard to stop.
Fire-stick farming is not the same as land-clearing. Logging ancient trees and leaving behind highly flammable debris, does not equal land management. Australia is not Europe. There is a reason attempting to grow monoculture crops over vast swathes of the outback has never been viable without massive government subsidies. This is not custodianship.
We need to work together with our land and water in a reciprocal arrangement, receiving their gifts and caring for them with love, just as Indigenous Australians have been doing for all these millennia.
This is our only home and we need to honour it with respect. Over billions of years, our mother Earth has perfected a system to maintain life for millions of species. Every time humans think we know better and try to override this system it backfires on us. Currently, there are around 200 species going extinct every single day. If we don’t stop this downward spiral we could be one of them.
Do not listen to corporations driven by an impossible dream of infinite growth. Do not listen to politicians seduced and corrupted by this dream. Do not listen to Rupert Murdoch. I cannot even imagine what that man’s motivation might be. Even his son doesn’t understand.
Listen to those who have always lived here. Listen to scientists. Listen to the screams of burning animals. Listen to the firestorms, flood waters and cyclonic winds. They are all telling us to leave the fossil fuels in the ground. They’re telling us to love our mother.