Editorial February 2019

“Our civilization is being sacrificed for the opportunity of a very small number of people to
continue making enormous sums of money.”

So said Greta Thunberg the young Swedish school girl who sat outside the Swedish Parliament
for weeks on end in protest at the lack of action on climate change. If you haven’t met Greta,
here is your opportunity. I n this interview you will find a thoughtful young Swedish girl who
has insights and courage well beyond her years.

Greta ignited a feeling amongst the world’s youth that has been ricocheting throughout the
western world. The message in the video is clear – action is needed not tomorrow, or the next
day, or the next year, but now, and needs to be expressed by every individual. The urgency of
the situation is best explained by Professor Will Steffen who gave a presentation at the
negative emission conference held at ANU last October. Professor Steffen is Emeritus
Professor at ANU and Senior Fellow at the Stockholm Resilience Centre. In this presentation,
which is 30 minutes long, Professor Steffen explains the trend line we are on and the dangers
we face should average temperatures increase by greater than 1.5 degree centigrade. This is a
video you need to watch with your grandchildren in your mind’s eye:

Can the same sentiment as expressed by Greta be superimposed on the Menindee Lakes
issue? According to the state government, the cause of the problem is the drought and the
existing hot conditions. No doubt this has exacerbated the conditions but any analysis of the
problem would reveal excessive amounts of water being extracted for agricultural purposes
and often in quantities in excess of what was allowable. Perhaps it is time to look again at
Cubby Station and the amount of water taken out of the system by its presence.

Many words have been written about this in the press but perhaps the most succinct comes
from Elizabeth Farrelly writing in the Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday 26th January 2019. She stated:

“The fish deaths, and our apparent determination to bring the mighty Darling to its
knees, are not an isolated instance of greed, corruption or incompetence. It’s not one rotten
apple. It is an entire attitudinal orchard – systemic, cultural, enduring. Designed to enrich the
few by impoverishing the many and enrich the present by impoverishing the future, it’s a
system that is arrogant, selfish and childish. In a word, it’s theft. It’s the same attitude that
made farmer Ian Turnbull shoot compliance officer Glen Turner dead for attempting to
enforce a tree-clearing ban. It’s what enabled Tony Abbott to deploy God’s injunction to
“subdue the earth and god’s creatures” to justify ongoing use of coal-powered steel and

The Murray Darling Basin and the continuing controversy reflects the continuing tension
between anthropocentrism and the needs of the environment. Anthropocentrism is such a
force in the world today that the next scientific epoch will be called that. In other words,
humans are such a force in the world today that they are changing the planet and changing it
in ways that are not beneficial to the future of the earth’s community.
If you would like more detail on the Anthropocene go to

This tension between the needs of nature and the needs of humans needs to be resolved and it can’t be resolved unless humans are prepared to be more giving, more generous, by
recognising that non-human life have intrinsic rights that need to be recognised. The position
of the AIEA in this is simple: We believe that ecology comes first, second, and third, in
decision-making and that sound management should demonstrate that. It is for that reason
that we strongly support Regenerative Agriculture. The Murray Darling basis needs to be
regenerated with new ideas about who can take water from the system, and when, and what
priority non-human life has in the allocation of water.

A final word on this from Greta. She believes the world cannot continue as it did in the past.
Her statement is conveyed in the following video:
and in it she states that we continue to live as we have always lived with little change in behaviour to match the needs of the world environment.

The AIEA would welcome your views on this conundrum of what to do about the Murray
Darling Basin or indeed what to do about Climate change!


Kerry Cochrane

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