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.