Saturday, February 7, 2009

Gardening at the coalface of climate disruption

The temperatures have been soaring over the last two weeks, lingering around the 38 to 40 degrees Celsius mark in our area, and going even higher in some other parts of the country. The heat wave in South-Eastern Australia has not speared my garden, either - and it is disheartening to see the damage a number of days of intense heat can do. The potato plants are pretty much gone. I have harvested a few kilos of potatoes, but I suspect the total harvest will hardly justify the cost of putting the tubers in and looking after them for months. I have strung shade-cloth over my two main vegetable beds - which is sort of keeping plants alive, but only just. The zucchini stay small and shrivel up, the tomatoes almost seem to get boiled on the plant, as do the cucumbers. The corn is turning brown and the cobs remain only partially developed. My passion fruit vine which I had planted on the Northern (sunny) side of the house to protect it from frost literally looks boiled - I don't think it made it through. (This is kind of ironic, given that its predecessor died in minus 8 degrees Celsius last winter).

Even the trees are struggling, losing leaves and being weakened in the heat and thus more vulnerable to insect attack. All my vegetables need twice daily watering just to stay alive. A challenge in times of water scarcity and water restrictions! Luckily we had some decent rains before Christmas so there is still a good amount of water left in my water tanks, making me less dependent on public water supplies and giving me the ability to water when the plants need it rather than only on even-numbered days. But the intense heat is sucking all moisture out of the ground, despite the application of thick mulch.

Of course, those who have lost lives or property in the terrifying bushfires currently raging across Victoria are so much worse off than me with my wilting corn and drooping silverbeet that I feel I should not complain. I still have a roof over my head and my family is safe, even if I will have to buy some of my food instead of eating my own produce. And hopefully we will soon have a change of weather and at least some of my plants will survive long enough to start producing again.

But it does beg the question - how will we manage if widespread climate disruption and heat waves such as the current one become more prevalent? Climate experts predict we may get these kind of heat waves every couple of years in the future, rather than once every few decades. And the current heat wave is breaking all past records, too.

Even if we turned around our economies immediately, stopped emitting CO2 emissions altogether and went totally green, we would not be able to avoid some level of climate change. We are already too far gone to stop it completely. Unfortunately, it does not look like we are going anywhere near fast enough in the right direction. Add to that a looming oil crisis, water shortages and the destruction of our soils through industrial agriculture, and we will be in for a very rough time indeed.

I worry that in all the angst surrounding the credit crunch, we may not pay enough attention to the real crunch that is coming our way - the real prospect of a global food crunch which will make the credit crunch look like a walk in the park.

1 comment:

  1. Very sad for you Chervil, after all that effort. But you know Australia has always been like this, a very harsh country in so many ways. The bushfires were a constant even when I was a child and the droughts recur again and again.

    This current one must bring so much despair for the farmers. So very sad.