Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Old Fart's Recollection Of What Rain Was Like

Odderer and odderer.  It's one way of describing our weather here in the antipodes.  It's been brought into shapr focus with the Black Saturday bushfires which destroyed much forest, a lot of buildings, killed a terrifying number of people, and either killed or destroyed the habitats of uncountable and uncounted numbers of bush animals.  Black Saturday has now been laid firmly at the feet of global warming, being due to drier seasons, hotter seasons, each year a little drier and hotter than the last.

But it's only the tip of an iceberg.  (Which is probably rapidly melting...)  Australia has been in a steadily worsening drought for decades.  My family arrived in Australia in the mid 60's.  We spent time in the south west wheat belt, and I was around 8 years old at the time.  I remember (after coming from a place like Arabia it was especially noteworthy) that there was such a lot of rain, and so much that stayed green. Without irrigation...  It was a miracle indeed, to me.

We then moved northwards, to the cyclone-prone regions, and I remember years where the differences in the two extremes surprised and awed me.  SOOOOO much rain in the wet season, so dry and dusty in the dry!

Then I moved around a fair bit for a few years, certainly long enough to be able to see huge differences in weather patterns when I eventually moved back to those initial areas.  Things were drier, warmer.  In the wheatbelt, the zones of green had shrunk, perceptibly and inexorably.  I learned then that Australia was in the grip of a drought.  I saw it in the farmers who sold farms because yields couldn't be sustained, because their livelihoods were drying up.

In the late 80's I moved to the capital, a bit further south still.  I was impressed with how a few degrees of latitude could make so much difference to the greenness of the vegetation, the lush growths seemed amazing to me.  And gradually, over these next 20 years, I watched that verdant green also brown, the rainfalls become shorter and less in number.  Now, the green lushness is hundreds of kilometers south of here.

In a way, I guess that if Australia's weather had been studied, global warming would have been detected and predicted decades earlier.  If people had been able to foresee Black Saturday, perhaps some of the steps that are only just being belatedly taken now, would have been taken twenty years ago...

More importantly, if people would only look at the future now through the lens of knowledge we've built up, then it would already be a criminal offense to operate coal or other fossil-fuelled power stations or vehicles, there'd be severe punishments for polluting or wasting water, and the world economy would have been replaced entirely by some form of green points.

As it is, we are already too late with what we've so grandiosely planned, but are still not doing.  No matter what we now do, our children look to be due for a period of blissful agrarian living, if indeed they survive.  So long and thanks for all the fish, hey?

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