Port Germein Gorge – Its blood flows again

I first posted this on August 31, 2014 when the Gorge Road reopened. Yesterday marked the start of devastating Bangor Fire back in 2014. Six years on and fire continues to ravage our beautiful country.

Bangor Fire

The Bangor fire, like other significant bushfires in South Australia including Wangary, Ash Wednesday and Kangaroo Island (those of 2007 and of 2019 and are ongoing), will become etched in people’s minds with stories shared about community spirit and the tireless efforts of CFS firefighters.

This from the CFS Website: What started as a small fire about 25 kilometres north-east of Port Pirie had the next morning expanded to what was described by firefighters as an area “the size of two football ovals” in an area of inaccessible and difficult terrain. Firefighters worked in shifts around the clock for 14 days before the Bangor fire was declared ‘Contained’ on 30 January and ‘Controlled’ on 6 February. Two days later with the onset of winds and hot temperatures the fire broke control lines in the south western corner and threatened the townships of Laura, Wirrabara and Stone Hut, and the small community of Beetaloo Valley.

31 days after it started, after burning more than 35,000 hectares, the Bangor fire was again declared as ‘Controlled’ on 14 February.  While 5 houses were destroyed, dozens were saved. A number of sheds were lost, with extensive damage sustained to fencing, and at least 700 sheep perished in the fire. 24 injuries were recorded but none serious, most involving smoke inhalation and heat exhaustion due to the extreme weather conditions that crews were working in.  Many CFS veterans are hard-pressed to recall a similar incident requiring such a sustained commitment of firefighting resources.

These are my words…..

Nature is a splendid thing. The regeneration and rejuvenation of the Port Germein Gorge and the Southern Flinders, following the devastating January fires, is remarkable.  

Just yesterday, as I drove north towards the Southern Flinders Ranges and as the Bluff came into view, the scars of the January fires were more apparent.  The starkness of the Range took on the appearance of leather in need of nourishment.  The type of leather of old boots, old boots which had walked too many miles and endured too much sun. 

With the final days of the winter sun high in the sky the scenery is distinguished.  I am confident the vista will respond to nourishment, by way of moisture and care, just as old boots would. The country needs rain. 

As I turned due east, off the Augusta highway and climbed the gentle rise of the foothills, I wasn’t quite prepared for the brightness of the sun as it shone through, not filtered by the leaves that prior to January were once on the majestic gums. 

As I meandered through the gorge I stopped along the way to capture images of the landscapes around each bend.  As I stepped out of the car and onto the newly paved road my shoes stuck to tar, not quite set.  The distinctive smell of bitumen and gravel filled my nostrils.  As I walked down an embankment the scent was soon overpowered with the perfume of damp earth, eucalyptus and Flinders Range wattle blossom on the ether. 

A pair of Galahs foraged in freshly spread straw and earth, a manmade mattress to support new growth and hold the topsoil in place. I listened to their chatter.  All at once a chorus of bird songs rang out like a symphony and a blue crane flapped its wings in time as it took off, startled by my presence.  

I am told that for those who entered the gorge and its environs only days after the fires that the silence was deafening.  No bird songs because there were no birds.  No mammals, lizards or other life to speak of.  However, if one looked in a discerning fashion, small buds and shoots were already appearing on scorched florae. Whilst the threat of Rachel Carson’s ‘Silent Spring’ threatens the world in general, here for the moment, nature was in fine song.  

Now a day before spring, the first anniversary of the devastating fires is nearer than the original event of January this year.  It wasn’t just the evidence of the destruction of the fires which was striking but the signs of erosion caused by the torrents of water which descended upon the parched and charcoaled landscape.   In a peculiar twist of fate it was the equally devastating rain which did eventually quell the immortal monster of a blaze, enabling control to be taken by mortal men and women.

Wild oats now grow high, sentries to resilience, dangerous fuel for a hungry fire yet to be born. The air is warm, too warm really.  Are we ready for the next fire danger season?  

For those of you living in our beautiful regions, have you prepared your property?  Do you have a plan in place? I know many who do.  For those who do not….three words should motivate you to be at the ready.  Prepare. Act. Survive.   

Blessings be bestowed upon those who have not stopped rebuilding nor grieving.

Never rest, never take for granted our beautiful surroundings or the unforgiving climate in which we live.

Footnote: Special mention to the contractors and volunteers who have all contributed to the rebuilding of this important artery in the Southern Flinders Ranges. 

Some incredible footage of the painstaking and environmentally-sensitive repairs can be found at this link:

http://dpti.sa.gov.au/newconnections/article?item=499

Down the road of food security – A wicked problem

Note:  This piece first published 1/4/13:  http://www.dianahmieglich.com.au/easyblog/entry/down-the-road-of-food-security-a-wicked-problem

In March 2018, South Australia saw a shift in the political landscape with a changing of the guard and the installation of a Marshall Liberal Government. Will we see a shift in the actual landscape? The heat really is on and each of us should be concerned about food security. 

My words from 2014  – A blog is always in transition. The information I publish today might not be valid or accurate in the future.  Content, sources, information and links may change over time. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer.

Fact or fiction?  The distinction is yours to draw…

On Friday March 28 Julian Cribb, author and science communicator, delivered a keynote address at the Yorke & Mid North Regional Sustainability Forum in Port Pirie. He opened his address by declaring to those assembled that meeting the 21st Century food challenge is a ‘wicked problem’.  “Be in no doubt” said Mr Cribb, “we are facing the greatest challenge in human history. ”

That challenge you ask?  Put simply, it is how to feed ten billion people through the peak in human population, without famine or disaster.

I believe it is time for a new ‘crop’ of politicians to consider a view far beyond the next political cycle and make decisions, many of which will be hugely unpopular and immensely difficult, in order to deliver food security for our state, our nation and our planet.

Sadly, I also believe that this issue will be far more difficult to even start to overcome, as I am yet to discover a Government or a world leader who has the answers and the political will to shift the course on which we are headed.

To meet the growing world demand to feed our rapidly expanding population we need to think differently about food; how we produce it and how we consume it.

Regrettably we missed an opportunity in September 2013 Federally, as it would appear that the current Federal Government has not demonstrated any traits of forward-thinking in terms of food security.

Locally, South Australia has recently seen the Weatherill Labor Government returned to office, with the backing of regional Independent MP Geoff Brock, to form a minority government. Perhaps we can influence policy and effect change, in terms of climate change and food security, now that the regions are back in the limelight. The greater challenge will be how to make this important issue of food security popular.

Food security has become a significant geopolitical issue in recent years.

I have made reference to this in earlier blogs and again I will quote from an article written by student Alyce Johnston for the South Australian Globalist Magazine in 2012.

“According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, food security occurs when people have both physical and economic access to safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences.

“This definition is more relevant to people in the developed world, as opposed to those living in developing nations who are more concerned with survival, rather than nutrients or dietary preferences.”

Research shows, when people in developing countries are lifted out of poverty, their diets change. In China, meat consumption has tripled in the past 15 years, meaning more grain is needed in order to feed their livestock.

With increased production comes an increased cost of that production, including the cost of oil. When oil prices increase, the demand for biofuel grows and food prices also go up. According to the World Bank, five million hectares of cropland were used for biofuels rather than food production between 2005 and 2008.

Pressures on water resources and agricultural land have contributed to food security worries and high food prices. Climate change will continue to exacerbate this issue globally. Nations such as China and Saudi Arabia (who is particularly vulnerable in terms of food security) have found a way to secure their future food supplies through the use of foreign land.

Oxfam predicts as much as 227 million hectares of land in developing nations has already been sold or leased to foreign investors since 2001, with half of this land being in Africa. To put that figure into perspective 227 million hectares is about 90% of Western Australia.

We know that foreign agricultural purchases have occurred in Australia, but the exact details of these foreign land deals are widely unknown and that troubles me.

There is evidence of corruption by governments of developing nations. In 2008 the Cambodian Government leased rice fields to Kuwait and Qatar in return for $600 million dollars in loans, while the United Nations World Food Program delivered $35 million dollars’ worth of food aid to the impoverished Cambodian people.

Food security, or rather ‘insecurity’ is real.

Land acquisition in foreign nations, commonly referred to as ‘land grabbing’ has become a way for developed nations to secure their food supply.  It is not unreasonable nor scaremongering to suggest that future conflicts will not be fought over the fossil fuel we need to run our economies but rather food ‘fuel’ we need to nourish our very being.

Mr Cribb said: “While food demand will double by 2060, scarcities are emerging of almost all resources to satisfy it.  This challenges us to rethink food itself and how we produce it, and to create diets and foods for the future which are safe, healthy, and nutritious and tread less heavily on the planet.”

I cannot agree more.  So how and where do we begin?  Really, we should have begun many years ago but we have not taken past warnings seriously.

A case in point is the 1992 World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity. Read more here: http://www.ucsusa.org/about/1992-world-scientists.html

For the record this significant warning hardly rated a mention in the mainstream media at the time and now 22 years on not much has changed.

What can you do you ask?  If you weren’t able to make it to Mr Cribb’s Keynote address on Friday you can read his presentation here: http://www.yorkeandmidnorth.com.au/resources/publications/.

Along with this there is much other reading to do.  If you do make time to read and reflect and you come away with a sense of urgency and you want to act, then do take action.

Act with conviction and in good faith.  Act with passion and a desire to leave this planet in a better state that it is now. Start a conversation with your neighbour, your work colleague, your local MP.

A wise man once told me to stay on my soapbox!  I can guarantee that I will.