My deep concern for Australia's environment and motivation to understand why Australia has a meek and socially ultraconservative population even amidst runaway, even catastrophic climate change has led me to realise that it is due to Australia having (almost) the lowest costs of living in the world.
My experience in environmental science suffices to show this quite untenable. Countries which are ecologically the cheapest to live in - the Netherlands and Scandinavia - actually have the highest costs of living.
Now that I understand the reasons for this unacceptable situation - land costs and mineral resources or lack thereof due to glaciation - I realise what is needed to change it. This is why I am drawn to the idea of paying farmers to move off the land.
It was a move suggested by Professor Cullen last year, but with rainfall lower than ever it is time (well it was time in the 1980s in southwestern Australia) to realise that Australia is in a terrible predicament. If we do nothing Australia's low land costs and flat terrain will encourage farming on land becoming more and more marginal. Most likely, it will lead to farming via by desalination or pipelines from the north as the winter rainfall zone disappears (which George Monbiot said would happen at 450ppmv carbon dioxide).
The solution, clearly, is more than merely paying farmers to move off the land. It is to abandon - at the very least - all farming of low value crops in Australia and to allow native vegetation designed for Australia's poor soils and vulnerable climate to re-establish. We should ideally see a complete end to agriculture in Australia - as Australia produce 4% of the world's food this is hardly a catastrophe for food security. Replacing it would be limited hunting (mainly of pests) and returning farmland to Aborigines who have shown themselves able to manage it much more sustainably.
I really would like to meets Peter Cullen - or at least set up communication with him by mail or e-mail about this issue - because I suspect he does not go far enough about the ecological and even social benefits that would be brought about from having native vegetation re-established on Australia's farmland.