Killing Water In the Driest Continent
Where Your Water’s Going
The rainforest recovers well, here. In ten thousand years it may be as great and diverse as it was a hundred years ago.
A few kilometres upstream there’s a grassy moonscape, a great gap visible from space that separates those of us regenerating the land, and the steep, deep, untrammeled seed and water source at the head of the gorge country that’s now a protected nature reserve.
The great gap is a vast, treeless rolling hillscape, stripped bare by two typical Australian ‘beef farmers’ who breed the horned beasts that other primates slaughter and eat. One cow to each hectare - more than five thousand species of plants and animals once lived on each hectare here.
The Sun dries out the pristine water flowing from the rainforest and the bubbling stream retreats beneath the hot, exposed rocks, hiding from the castrated steers that strip and compact the land, collapsing the river banks and eating and trampling each seedling tree as it erupts from the earth. Standard hydrology holds that 45% of water losses from streams is due to evaporation – sunlight and wind striking hard after the felling of the protective strip of trees which lines (or lined) all healthy watercourses.
Newer settlers can’t understand how the pioneering forefathers of these ranchers were able to ‘clear’ such huge swathes of land with handsaws and bullock teams while raising families and surviving out of touch with civilization, as their grandchildren claim. Another story is told by the local Aboriginal tribes, whose grandparents were kept as slave labour by the first British settlers. They were allowed to stay in bark huts on what had been their own land and they were often paid - in tea in sugar – to destroy the trees of their millennial ancestors with axe and fire. Or they could face the gun. In other places they used convicts.
It’s been illegal since the 1840s to cut a tree or shrub within a chain’s length (22 yards, 66 feet) of the upper bank of any creek, permanent or temporary, on this colonised continent. Many other nations have equally enlightened laws. A swift glance almost anywhere will show you the result of the greedy breaking of these laws, as the pioneers and their descendants have scrabbled for every bit of grass at the expense of everything else. Deep navigable rivers have become shallow streams full of silt and rocks fallen from the banks and denuded hillsides, driving the living water underground.
It’s obvious what’s happening. A glance around the Earth’s vanished civilizations shows that most of them made the same mistakes we really could be learning from.
Today the official ‘filter strip’ on private lands is 20 metres; usually wider on public land. Yet still most farmers and agribusinesses destroy the heritage of all, our own lifeblood – or, if you prefer, natural capital as the soil and water disappears.
While handfuls of dedicated souls slowly replant these tiny verges of riverside land, venal money-grubbers destroy hundreds of thousands of hectares of trees each year in this land, expecting it to grow back even though the soil is being washed out to sea, leaving the dried clay and salt pans of a dead future. Any regrowth on these soil-stripped lands will be weaker, smaller and less resilient in the climate catastrophes of the coming decades. As we replant, a hundred saplings do not really replace a single forest giant in biomass or water and oxygen production – yet. Regrowth sucks water from the ground – old growth forests not only store it, but actually produce more water for the biosphere – from the atmosphere and from deeper water reservoirs. It was only this year that scientific verification arrived that confirmed the obvious – that trees make rain.
As global temperatures rise, much of the planet teeters on the brink of becoming a chaotic desert of rock, clay and sand.
And still we optimists spend much of our time planting rare and wondrous forests, trees whose life spans are measured in millennia. Start planting your future now, wherever you are. And have a good look at your water catchment using Google Earth! – http://earth.google.com/
- by R. Ayana
Turn On, Tune In, Opt Out
PS – this time of year eye share my house with pythons, marsupial rats, possums, mice, frogs, insect-eating bats, lizards, ants and a host of other living beings. It’s a very friendly menagerie, balancing itself in a little ecosystem that we share…
Dare to share today!
For more by R. Ayana see http://nexusilluminati.blogspot.com/search/label/r.%20ayana
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