With heatwaves like this, what sort of future do we have in store?

10 01 2019 | 13:42

I don’t really want to spoil your New Year with this article, but the changing of the year is a time to reflect on the past and to make plans for the year to come. So what are your plans for our future? What action will you take?

Christmas Day in my part of the world - near Gundagai - was hot. It was the start of an intense heatwave where every day for 12 days in a row was 35 degrees or more. And our nights have been in the mid 20s making sleep fitful and uneasy.

It's this kind of weather that also makes farming very difficult. After this kind of solar radiation onslaught, we won’t have any pasture left, we won’t be able to feed our sheep. Careful management with grazing rotations, maintenance of native grass pastures and planning to hold water in the landscape can only do so much. Our dams are nearly dry.

Now we spend much of the day keeping our pasture roaming hens cool (that is, preventing their death by overheating). There are frozen bricks in their water, we make ice pecking treats for them and hose down their pen. Your pasture-raised eggs will be hard to find this summer, and more expensive too.

Before you kindly offer bales of hay and make suggestions for sprinkling systems, before you placate me by saying how much we value our farmers and their work, how lovely our pictures on Instagram are, before you metaphorically pat me on the shoulder and say, "the rain will come, don’t worry", I want you to know I don’t want bales or advice, or praise or cheering up.

When we have fewer eggs and no lamb, I want you to get angry. I want you to be angry with me at the lack of action on global warming.

I’m angry because being anything other than angry feels like being complicit. I want us all to be so noisy and so outraged that we get heard. I want our governments to take real action on climate change.

I’m not religious but I am deeply interested in symbols and in the underlying meaning of the stories we tell ourselves. Ultimately, Christmas is a story of hope – innocent hope that comes with the birth of a new baby; the hope that the baby will have a fruitful, happy life.

But what kind of life will a baby born today have? One without the Great Barrier Reef, magnificent forests, without koalas or polar bears? A future where bird diversity means sparrows, pigeons and starlings. A future of water scarcity, longer, hotter heatwaves and firestorms.

Our children, with their global friends are marching. But Prime Minister Scott Morrison told them to go back to school – that they needed "more learning in schools and less activism". Well, soon they’ll be voting.

We are doing all the hard work: we’re reducing, reusing, recycling, renewing, repurposing, installing solar, minimising water use, changing farming practices, eliminating plastics, thinking about food miles, buying from ethical sources. We’re riding bikes, walking, taking public transport, eating locally, composting, sewing, fixing. Meanwhile, our politicians are obfuscating.

In 2019 we will have an election. It will be our opportunity to interrogate our politicians about action on climate change. To my despair it feels none of the available parties have policies strong enough for effective action. But let’s push them. What meaningful action will they take?

Make sure they know you are angry and that you will change your vote depending on that issue. Don’t let them distract you with fears about free-trade or immigration or terrorism – there is nothing more terrifying than an increasingly hostile climate.

So as we start the new year, hold your children tight and vote with their future in mind. Be an accountable adult.

In the meantime, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going out to put more ice bricks in the chickens’ water tank.

Louise Freckelton is a grazier at Highfield Farm and Woodland, Adelong NSW, and a member of Farmers for Climate Action.


4 January 2019

Louise Freckelton

Image removed.