Monday, 2 March 2009

A pity I could take no picture!

Today, I spent most of the day travelling around on buses in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, mainly looking for secondhand bookshops. I did not find anything I had not known of before, but I unfortunately was accosting more people than I ever had done before owing to my feelings about the ongoing global warming disaster affecting Victoria. Many of the people actually liked me and quite a number enjoyed talking to me – often I took great pains to ask people I was accosting whether or not I was actually offending or hurting them. The subject of all accostings was the same: petrol prices. Given that most of the people were from ultra-car-dependent outer suburbs, it was not surprising that they disagreed that petrol was too cheap.

However, they were generally very willing to listen to my point that the fifty or more percent loss of rainfall in thirteen short years was a good point in favour of radically higher petrol prices.

One exception occurred at Ringwood Station where a man angrily said that if my argument for $50-per-litre petrol was acceptable said that I should imagine $50 daily public transport fares. He then told me to watch The Great Global Warming Swindle. I decided not to rebut his argument as I felt I might be hurt or would lose in an aggressive debate. Another person at Ringwood East station got very upset when I pointed out how we would have twice the rainfall we have now if every single cent spent on CityLink had been devoted to railways or road demolition. On this occasion, though I apologised extremely willingly and the man accepted.

Still, when I finally came home my mother was upset to be told I had accosted people about petrol prices. She also said that people in the outer suburbs were likely to be kind and hide the fact that they did not like me accosting them – something I am willing to accept with few if any grudges.

A more interesting highlight of my visit was looking at the doomed forests of the Dandenong Ranges on my trip to Belgrave. Every moment I was moving between Upper Ferntree Gully and Belgrave I just knew it would be my last chance to photo these wonderful forests, which still looked pretty good although doomed.

Every time I heard the radio today there was news of catastrophic fire danger and 40˚C temperatures. All that was unaccompanied by needed calls to fight for a rigid zero emissions target (that Australia should have reached before now without the slightest overseas emissions reduction) or even pointing out in the most sensible manner that the coal and car industries have caused these dangerous bushfire scenarios and should pay for them.

What we will sadly see tomorrow is more than just bushfires. It is the destruction and extinction of an entire ecosystem. Evidence from international climate models clearly shows that southeastern Australia is likely to experience far larger declines in rainfall that the 40 percent decline observed since 1997 (see here). With declines in rainfall of over 80 percent, there would be nowhere for the mountain ash forests to go and even the drier forests would not survive. Instead, what we will see is a barren sandy desert that is already creeping up on Melbourne’s suburbs as it is. They way I imagine it, even on the exceedingly rare occasions it does rain significantly (say, over 10 millimetres once every decade) there is not likely to be much vegetation growth, especially if annual seedlings are burnt out be the very high temperatures likely to be experienced every summer from now on.

The real pity that I regret is that I could not be the last one to take a picture of the mountain ash forest before the fire burns it to the ground to be replaced by a desert as dry as the Sahara. In an age where rain in Melbourne is as rare as a unicorn, a souvenir of how southern Victoria looked before Robin Underwood, Jeff Kennett and the coal and electricity companies turned it into desert would no doubt be a valuable rarity that I sadly will never have the luxury of possessing.

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