Focus Australia – Serious climate issues down under

By Kate Goldstone

For generations, people from all over the world have made their way to Australia on holiday to enjoy its wonderful warm, sunny weather and extraordinary natural environments. Plenty of families moved there permanently, seduced by the climate. Now New South Wales, the country’s most heavily populated state, is officially experiencing total drought, and Australia’s legendary hot dry weather is fast becoming more or a problem than a pleasure (1).

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology defines drought as “rainfall over a three-month period being in the lowest decile of what has been recorded for that region in the past ” (2). The current very dry winter down under is intensifying the ‘worst drought in living memory’ in some areas of eastern Australia, with New South Wales, the provider of a quarter of the country’s agriculture, now 100% in drought. 23% of New South Wales is in a state of ‘intense drought’ and the rest is either in drought or drought-affected. And in the news’ grim wake there’s a growing litany of horror in the form of failing crops, dying livestock, and severe water shortages.

Some farmers are being forced to pay as much as a hundred dollars for a truck of hay to keep their beasts alive. Some are selling off their animals in despair. Others are digging in to wait for the rain… if it ever comes. In the Australian countryside farming suicide rates have always been higher than average. Now they’re around 40% higher than urban suicide rates, according to the national mental health charity Sane Australia (3).

The blame lies at the feet of climate change

Of course Australia’s weather is naturally varied year-on-year, and is affected by multiple complicated factors. Like much of the world’s weather it’s a chaotic system, and hard to predict. But all the same, a growing number of scientists are laying the blame at the feet of climate change. The Australian government itself admits the risk of severe drought could be more likely thanks to human-created global warming. As the Prime Minister PM Turnbull acknowledged, he doesn’t know many people in New South Wales who don’t think the climate is getting drier and rainfall becoming more volatile.

Government relief payments do nothing to fix the underlying issue

The Australian government is already paying out annual relief of as much as A$16,000 to affected farmers. The Prime Minister has just promised extra payments of up to A$12,000, in a move that has been criticised for being too little, too late. In a nation where drought isn’t a stranger at the best of times, it’s clear those in power are worried. But like most governments, they’re not doing anywhere near enough on the people’s behalf to mitigate climate change. Emergency relief doesn’t contribute to the fight against global warming, it merely papers over the cracks.

Australia is at more risk of runaway climate change than most

Worse still, The Guardian (4) reports that climate change could affect Australia more than any other continent. A science agency and Bureau of Meteorology report says they expect temperatures to rise as much as 5.1C in Australia by the year 2090. Scientists have long predicted that a 4C rise would be catastrophic, and that makes a hike of more than 5C downright terrifying. Unless action is taken to dramatically slash greenhouse gas emissions right now, officials say there’s a ‘very high confidence’ that temperatures will continue to rise steeply across Australia throughout the 21st century. Let things slide any further and the Australian government’s lack of real action could see the worst case 5C scenario become a reality.

How high temperatures affect humans

High temperatures affect more than agriculture, of course. If you’ve ever suffered through an exceptionally hot summer’s day you’ll know how nasty and uncomfortable it can be. The human body has an internal temperature of around 37C, and it dislikes being any hotter. Prolonged exposure to heat and humidity can easily kill you. If it doesn’t you’ll suffer muscle cramps because you’re dried out, short of vital electrolytes, and salt-deprived. If you’re not used to high temperatures you can suffer heat edema, where your hands and ankles swell up like balloons when your poor blood vessels dilate in an effort to radiate heat away. If you see little prickly red spots on your skin, it’s a heat rash caused by blocked sweat pores. If you stop sweating altogether, it’s time to worry – you’re on the road to potentially fatal heat stroke. When you heat up to more than 40C and lose consciousness, you’re in real trouble.

Extreme heat also results in dizziness, nausea, fainting, hallucinations, and something called heat syncope, where you get a temporary drop in the blood flow to your brain because you’ve lost so much fluid. Vomiting, diarrhoea and palpitations also reveal your body is not at all happy. No wonder, in summer 2003, an estimated 70,000 people died in the great European heatwave, which saw temperatures soaring to record levels for weeks on end.

All this happens to humans… and to our fellow creatures, who also suffer and die when temperatures exceed the usual maximum. Australia’s precious Great Barrier Reef, for example, is dying fast, being bleached to death thanks to rising sea temperatures. And once it goes, that’s that – it’s gone. Half a million years of growth, and we destroy it within a few decades. It’s shameful.

No continent is an island

The thing is, no continent is an island. Climate change is global. No one country is protected from it, no one country can make it go away. If Australia doesn’t act fast enough on climate change, the USA will ultimately suffer. If the USA doesn’t act fast enough Europe will suffer. If the EU doesn’t act now, China will suffer. And so on. We’re all interconnected, as are our economies. When one part of a global economy nosedives, so does the rest.

Australia might just be facing a perfect storm. When you blend dire predictions with government inaction and a climate that might already be changing off the scale, the future doesn’t look rosy.

It’s time to force the world’s governments to act on our behalves, to try to secure a decent future for our children. Will you go to jail for the cause, the greatest challenge mankind has had to face since we made our way out of Africa? Can you support the cause in any other way? If so, we’d love to hear from you.

Together we can make great things happen.

 

Sources:

(1) https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-australia-45107504

(2) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drought_in_Australia

(3) https://www.sane.org/

(4) https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jan/26/climate-change-will-hit-australia-harder-than-rest-of-world-study-shows

(5) https://www.theweathernetwork.com/news/articles/five-awful-ways-extreme-heat-affects-the-human-body/51464

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Call to Action For Honouring What Dies

By April Griefsong
Today (Saturday) has been all about water.  I have spent time walking the earth between camp and car, to prepare for some students visiting from the local University.  The sun was shining when they left home, so they were sadly unprepared for the crazy weather that caught them between the dogs trust car park and camp.  Unfortunately, it was so wet we couldn’t even keep the fire lit – the Gods were throwing buckets out the sky.  With typical forethought, Sarah had filled flasks before the downpour, so we could at least warm them with a hot cuppa.  Susanna, Omar and Zac were really insightful and quick to pick up on Sarah’s fascinating depth of knowledge of how HS2 are repeatedly ignoring directives and breaking EU law in their destruction of ecosystems.

I got a chance to introduce them to Extinction Rebellion and we are all keen for them to begin filming soon – conversations between me, Sarah and Niki, as well as any visitors who may join us.

An hour later, still water logged, we were joined by Nick’s wildlife walkers, who instead took shelter with us, and I used all my valley-aquired fire wisdom to court a warming blaze.  It became a village building day and fed the inspiration for this action I am calling to.

The security rushed to the fence with cameras – watching us watching them – while a kestrel watched us all from above…….

 A Plea to all you folks – wise , old, young and bold

You are needed.  The tree people need you.  After a day of human-centred road tethering – bring your hearts and bodies to the waters and life sustaining London.  Bear witness to yourself and each other – to your NEEDEDNESS of one another.

 

SUNDAY 18TH NOV 10am

at COLNE VALLEY WILDLIFE PROTECTION CAMP  UB9 6JW

 

My dear friends,  sisters,  brothers,  mycelium roots of my hearts

As the head hearts of these Lands

Court the media minded moguls

In a language they may recognize,

I call those of us

Who have studied with the crystal core heart

In song, dance and worship –

Walkers; healers; singers; deep feelers;

Story tellers; sweatlodgers; shape changers, all.

 

And….a prostrate plea to those distant in place

Connected in ancestry, aching in consequences

Grief talkers; nonviolence walkers; spell breakers; system thinking shakers

Already deep down and in –

Elder us into village.

 

Rock, stone, feather and bone

Hear me call

Let’s bring us home.

 

All of us who have woven ourselves

Into the myth of these Lands

All Characters in Search of A Better Catastrophe

 

Join me in a day of Beauty Making

With great care and respect

Honouring and giving gratitude

For the wetlands on the veldt

The wastelands between bright London lights

And someplace wilder

The shadowlands;  out of sight.

A place on the edge of extinction.

 

Bring tools and voices for collaborating with trees.

Vegan food to feast together.

Bring your neurodiverse gifts and griefs

To unite hearts and inspire courage.

Bring water from where you lay.

Build an altar to Lords and Ladies of Decay.

 

Rock, stone, feather and bone

Hear me call

Let’s bring us home.

 

Sunday 18th November from 10am till we need to depart

Colne Valley Wildlife Protection Camp, Harvil Road, Uxbridge UB9 6JW             

Prepare for the waters to bless us back.  (Wellies and waterproofs.)