Trees Make Rain

Soil and Forest, not dams!

Water is the most important part of the country. Where there is water, the land is alive, and people can live on it. Water is truly life. Water is the measure by which we determine our value. Faced with crippling drought, we must act now to increase the total amount of fresh water on land. How do we do this? By increasing soil fertility and vegetation cover. Remember, Soil and Forests, not dams!

I have been gobsmacked recently in light of yet another “worst drought in living memory” how seemingly intelligent people are convinced that building more dams will improve water security. The opposite is the case. Building dams only makes it simpler for irrigators to pump the river dry. Don’t you remember the Four Corners episode? The young fellow, my age or even younger, was boasting on his Instagram about (illegally?) pumping hundreds of megalitres into his family’s private reservoir. A comment from his friend: “Fuck the frogs!”

When you hear irrigators opining histrionically about water buybacks “killing our community”, just remember how they behave in private among themselves. They are killing their own communities, killing their own soil, killing the vegetation on their own land, and keep whining away for more and more subsidy from the hardworking people who actually pay tax. When the Government pays for three-quarters of a new irrigation dam, that’s a massive subsidy to benefit a small group of people. It’s bad for the environment, the economy and the national interest.

Why is the National Party holding private meetings with these people? Why are they gradually selling off Australian territory to international equity companies? Why are they determined to annihilate all life in the Australian inland? These people have a psychotic illness – they are trying to commit suicide and take the whole country with them. This is literally a life or death situation. We are obliged to restrain them.

The proper response to declining rainfall is to protect and enhance soil fertility and vegetation cover, which increases water storage and rainfall over land. Lamentably, current trends are the opposite. For our survival, it is necessary to change. It’s hard to overstate this point. Our country does not have a long term future in polluting mining or destructive agriculture, because the returns shrink over time. We must act now to enhance the fertility of our landscape, however we can.

We must do whatever necessary to increase the amount of fresh water in the landscape. Soil fertility and vegetation cover are the simplest and most powerful way to do this. We can think of these as “climate protection forests“. While there is still more research to do to verify the best technique (see this Nature article outlining uncertainties), forests and vegetation overall seem to counteract global warming and cool the climate. Especially light-colored vegetation. But whatever the greenhouse gas effect, also important is vegetation’s ability to restore water and fertilise the environment. On top of this, healthy forests and soils provide food and shelter to humans and animals, besides their intrinsic biodiversity value.

Australia needs a genuinely sustainable (long term) way to generate livelihood from the land. Agroecology, natural farming, and landscape restoration will surely bring the best benefit to our nation in the long term. Family homesteads, 1 ha allotments to volunteer settlers, are a practical way to encourage broad scale afforestation with little cost to government. Over time, increased soil carbon and thickening of the vegetation layer increases rainfall over land, effectively “pumping” water out of the oceans, desalinating it, and dropping it over our parched country as fresh water rain. This has been called the “biotic pump”.

Please, people, reflect on this and try to understand it. The drought is a horrific thing. There is death and destruction all around. While you shelter inside, your air-conditioning pumps even more hot air out into the atmosphere. Over their life cycle, air-conditioners release the most dangerous greenhouse gases even produced by humans, posing perhaps the biggest single source of even further global warming. This is not the path to the future.

More important than permaculture techniques or scientific theories is an evolution in consciousness. People, we have to think more carefully about this! Where is our country going? What will it look like in the future? These are active decisions that we have to make every day. Our actions today shape the world of the future. Every action begins with a thought. Let’s think…. how can we really increase the rainfall? How can we restore fertility to the land? There are already examples where people have done this successfully…. We can do this in Australia as well.

For now, just remember, remember…. Soil and Forests, not dams! We can increase the water on land, but we must stop destroying the life of our plants and soils. A living natural environment stores water and encourages rain clouds to blow towards it. We can reverse this trend and we will. Think, people!

Soil and Forests, not dams!

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