The Lessons in Water


Mob of kangaroos, Red Hill Reserve, Deakin, Canberra. Cazz’s Flickr photostream, June 2012. Used under Creative Commons License,

I think I’ve mentioned before I live in a small coastal town in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales where I have both town and tank water at my disposal. My garden is green and showers are not a luxury. Yet.

A recent trip to the bush for a family wedding on the Far South Coast of New South Wales brought vivid perspective to my family and me, of the drought crisis currently gripping Eastern Australia. The drive from the national capital, Canberra (home of unruly mobs and not always of the marsupial kind), to Merimbula, was heart-breaking for the excessive volume of native wild life dead on the side of the road.

Seeing comments like the following was not quite as shocking as being confronted by the ‘road kill’ beside the highway. Carcass after bloated carcass, sometimes within a few short metres of each other, on the verge.

“Winter is seasonally difficult for kangaroos as there is little feed, but this year (there has been) very dry conditions, coupled with some record cold nights.”

“Frosts dry grasses out,” he said, and this adds to the problem of roo food being scarce.

“Kangaroos are travelling further than usual for food and they are forced to consider ovals, front yards, laneways and roadsides to find some green grass. (ref.)

A fellow traveller counted 230 dead ‘roos and 35 dead wombats on the three hour drive, all victims of road traffic. Travelling at 100 klms an hour leaves a driver little chance to avoid the un-road-wise mobs of kangaroos that bound out before the traffic. In rural Australia it’s common to avoid driving at dusk and dawn because of wildlife, but we encountered mobs crossing in front of us in the middle of the day, so desperate they are for sparse green pickings by the road.

Further south, traversing the Southern Highlands, we were confronted by vast yellow paddocks seemingly covered in grass but which closer inspection revealed as grass tussocks – all that remained amongst the dirt. Many of these grasses, like the serrated tussock are invasive and unpalatable for stock, having little or no nutritional value.

We arrived at the small hamlet where we were to stay, dismayed by the ravages of the drought. My grandchildren learned first hand about water conservation and what a precious commodity water is.

I gazed with concern on my sister’s vegie garden where I had worked the previous season, now a wasteland because of lack of water to irrigate. Showers were timed and we had them only every second or third day. The run off was caught in a basin which the showerer stood in, then emptied onto the garden. Similarly, dish-washing water was reused on pot plants. Scarcity makes us resourceful.

Wedding guests spoke somberly of the impact on livestock and farmers; of having to sell dairy herds whose bloodlines generations of farmers had carefully developed over the years. Others talked about the fear of the fire season which was officially declared early,  in August (winter) this year. My sister told me what little stock feed is available will soon be too expensive to buy. She has some hard decisions to make about her own livestock.

I think my grandchildren learned lessons of real value during our trip. I know I did. They saw the consequences of drought and climate change, the personal cost which has been bequeathed to their generation. They lived the deprivations lack of water imposes and felt the heartbreak of seeing animals dying and people in stress.

Sometimes we need to actually experience something, live it and feel it viscerally, be indisposed by it, confronted and appalled, to understand the impact and importance it has on our future. It is too easy for town folk like me to turn off or forget what is reported in the news, or complain of ‘inconveniently’ rising produce costs. We need to exercise our creative muscles to find a solution and implement positive change.

Many creative people are finding that creativity doesn’t grow in abundance, it grows from scarcity – the more Lego bricks you have doesn’t mean you’re going to be more creative; you can be very creative with very few Lego bricks.

Jorgen Vig Knudstorp

47 responses to “The Lessons in Water

  1. It sounds terrible Robyn. We don’t tend to hear much about the drought in Australia, but I know from the Aussie bloggers I follow how hard it is in eastern Australia. And with the dryness and the summer heat it must be a huge worry. I hope your family stay safe.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Jude. Drought is a familiar spectre in Australia but becoming more frequent and severe. But I’ve been in awe of how resilient our farmers are and the growing movement by town people and farmers in other parts of the country to help out with feed donations money and support. This is not to dismiss those families who’ve walked off their properties and lost everything or had a family member commit suicide as a last resort. Very sad.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. people here in the UK have enjoyed a gloriously , for us , warm summer but it has come at the same cost – lack of water and the cost of produce is rising rapidly. Farmers haven’t been able to produce winter feed for their animals, so their will be shortages there too, The whole world is experiencing rapid change and yet there are still those in government who close their eyes and say its not happening, We all have responsibility to use our resources wisely. Your grandchildren have learned a very valuable lesson,

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Yes a great many of my farming neighbours, particularly those relying on bore hole water, have struggled this summer in Wales. We do so readily gobble up earth’s precious resources; taking it for granted they will always be there. Government are, to my mind, too caught up with “oil” , but unpicking the place we have got ourselves to globally is. I am afraid, beyond my comprehension!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. On our recent trip to South Australia via Broken Hill, we too were appalled by the number of dead animals on the roadside. Our local dam which supplies the town water is at 40% and there is talk of letting some of it out to supply other towns. We haven’t even reached the hot months yet! Even though we don’t have water restrictions-yet- we save our shower water to put on the garden.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s becoming a way of life Jane. I do recall many years of water restrictions in the past and having to save every precious drop. We have done it before and can do it again. You must be encouraged like I am by the big national drive to help the farmers who are struggling. I saw on the news last night hay coming across the Strait from Tasmania. Sometimes it takes adversity like this to pull us all together.


  5. Robyn, this reminds me of my post on hurricane Methuselah. We humans seem unable to see disaster coming until it’s (almost? See, there I go!) too late. Your post, so thoughtful, made the problem very human and relatable. There is so much we could do— and then we see people doing the opposite.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. ‘Liking’ this post didn’t feel quite the right response. You’re right that it’s easy not to really take to heart truths we haven’t experienced ourselves. Thank you for this close encounter with the realities of drought.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. The expression used concerning the lack on resources and creativity
    may help in the long run. Something has to.
    An excellent post Robyn that illustrates how human beings overrun areas once only inhabited by native (animal and plant) species.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. It defeats me. I cannot understand why we follow red herrings like separating our rubbish in different dustbins while the real issues remain unaddressed – are they too difficult? In the natural cycle we can expect large tracts of the Earth to become uninhabitable (its happened before) and heat is already starting to kill people as well as animals, yet we allow the population to grow exponentially, without any attempt at control. Hard choices have to be made, and the longer we delay the harder they become. My heart really goes out to these people, but what can I say – God send them rain?

    Liked by 2 people

    • I agree Frederick. However I think the small measures add up to bigger changes. A populace must be educated and brought on board. Often it’s the children in the family who learning about recycling at school then motivate the rest of the family My concern is we are running out of time. Thank you for taking time to share your thoughts.


  9. Robin, this is terrible. Your grandchildren have learned a valuable life lesson. In this country, our buffoon in chief seems not to care about his grandchildren and has an “Environment be damned”attitudehe loves to show off. I know there are creative people in the world who will somehow help to solve this problem, but with the leaders we are stuck with, this could take time.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Pingback: Where Waters Sing | Big Dreams for a Tiny Garden·

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