Editorial October 2018

Change moves at a slow speed particularly when change is of a significant, perhaps paradigmatic, size. In such cases the rate of change is microscopic until the concept behind the change becomes universally accepted. No doubt the flat earth believers ruled supreme for some years before the weight of logic behind the global shape of the planet took hold. A parallel to this can be seen in the climate change debate.

Many are holding onto the past hoping like hell that that is the way it will be, and yet others are listening to those who know more than most on this issue – the scientists – and are accepting of the fact that the future will not be a mirror image of the past. What this means is that what was a common feature of the hydrocarbon period cannot continue when that source of energy is polluting the atmosphere and causing a rise in land and sea temperatures. There is a saying that one cannot ‘have the cake and eat it too’ although this is exactly what many of the pro-coal people are wanting. If the two analogies used so far in this paragraph are too clichéd then here is another of more recent relevance. Quoted in the SMG this week (Monday 22, p27) was Chief Executive of energy company Jemena who said: “we should stop beating ourselves up as the industry is going through a Kodak moment and needs to focus instead on delivering change.”

Agriculture is in a handy position to take the initiative on carbon management and yet the government is lagging in creating policies to make this happen. One such policy that has considerable merit is made in this edition by Oberon Ecologist and AIEA Board member Dr Johannes Bauer who suggests that the Federal government should create a farm planning network to guide the farming community in reducing carbon emissions and in sequestering carbon in the soil. Such a suggestion would create a national approach to carbon management that would not only help the Australian farming community but would also enable Australia to demonstrate its willingness to reduce carbon emissions significantly as required by the Paris agreement on carbon emission reduction. The planning function could also perform a purpose in relation to drought management strategies on a national level.

This edition also carries a story about Bhutan and how that country of 800000 people has a set of 9 values which is central to all decision making in Bhutan. If a project does not comply with the set of values it doesn’t get the green light of approval. One value of relevance in this discussion concerns ecological diversity and resilience. By this value the Bhutan people are saying that critical to them is the planet’s ecosystem and that any attempt to diminish its resilience should be resisted. If the Australian governments both federal and state adopted this value it would, for example, have a significant impact on the clearing of land (not to mention climate change!).

Also of interest in this edition is a story about the relationship between plants and soil microorganisms. It seems that the two entities have discovered each other and forged a co-dependency relationship where both benefit. The question left hanging with this story is what happens when farm inputs such as fertilisers and pesticides are added to the soil?

Editor: Kerry Cochrane

Comments 2

  1. I don’t disagree with Charlie that the heart should be engaged but as UK Prof Stamp Dawkins says about animal welfare, it’s not a winning strategy to focus on the ethical obligations. The winning strategy is to focus on the profits; and didn’t Amory Lovens and co show us 25 or more years ago that investments in ‘natural capital’ were just as rewarding as traditional capital investments? Wang and Hacker (1997) did some great research showing that regenerating arid rangelands near CARNARVON was not commercially attractive in the absence of an economic discount rate approaching zero. Maybe carbon farming will provide a surrogate but maybe we also need to work harder at finding financial instruments that overcome or compensate for the past the time value of money, the slow rate of regenerating landscapes and the slow rate of rebuilding soil carbon?
    Greg Brennan

  2. Community and shared cups of tea hold the key. But the religious right are gaining traction and only need gods blessing. Not soil biota. Let the battle begin.

    White with no sugar.

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