Quote of the Moment:

“I've continued to recognize the power individuals have to change virtually anything and everything in their lives in an instant. I've learned that the resources we need to turn our dreams into reality are within us, merely waiting for the day when we decide to wake up and claim our birthright.”
A.R.

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GRASSROOTS INPUT TO ENVIRONMENTAL DEBATES

A JOB DESCRIPTION FOR FARMERS

Picture one:

This is the sort of swampy area that would have dotted the northern Kimberley countryside. These areas would have until recent times been “refuges” for various rainforest species. Tree stumps at the base of what was "Goanna Vlei" have been carbon dated and indicate that 2400 years ago this area was a forest. These areas have now all but disappeared. Each year, despite our efforts Kachana alone is still exporting over one million tons of this beautiful resource (peat and silt) out into the ocean. Other areas close by, where there is zero management, make our losses seem insignificant. Aboriginal management would have maintained a reasonable level of health and stability in these swampy type areas until recent times.

Picture two:

This is the same sort of area after the termination of aboriginal management and a few years after the introduction of unmanaged livestock and wildfire.

Picture three:

This is what our current human community is managing towards with our lack of action in an environment that has become dependant on humans. It is the next stage of deterioration after biomass has been lost. At the surface species diversity actually increases for a short time, but biodiversity continues to decline until we get further simplification of species composition. The ultimate result is what most people recognize to be a desert.

Picture four:

This is one of many options we as a society have to revitalise such an area while there is some biomass left. This picture is of the same area as picture two (only from a different angle seven years later). With strategic use of our "solar powered landscape revitalisation tool" (80 head of cattle) we can now obtain results like this within about four years.

It is important to bear in mind that whatever we see out there is a direct result of human management. Mismanagement or neglect of management, are in effect also a type of management. We as a species cannot escape the law of the harvest, or as an ancient Chinese saying goes: "If you keep on going down the road that you are on, you will end up where you're heading to." (Currently for vast areas of the central and Northern Kimberley that destination is depicted on photograph three. Little wonder the world’s deserts are said to be advancing at over 16’000 hectares a day.)

It is therefore vital for society as a whole to know what they expect of land managers. It is however as important that if land managers are to perform, that they are given real incentives.

I wonder if in this age of information and "busy-ness" we should not step back for a moment and reassess some of our values and priorities?

Herewith some food for thought:

A JOB DESCRIPTION FOR FARMERS?
“TO SUPPLY NUTRIENTS TO HUMAN COMMUNITIES”

It is interesting to observe the challenges of the land manager change over time…..

  1. Nomadic communities: From a range of environments, harvest enough to sustain one's "clan".
  2. Agriculture based communities: Manage the immediate environment to sustain human activity.
  3. As trade became more sophisticated: With "improving" technology manage the immediate environment and other environments to sustain human and animal communities that had begun to divorce themselves from natural biological and ecological processes and realities. They also had to extract a surplus to sustain their family.

  4. This invariably led to:

  5. Big city energy and nutrient sinks all over the planet at the expense of the wealth of the areas where extraction occurs. Only now, at ever increasing costs (biological, social & financial), there is ever more powerful technology available, more regulation, a self perpetuating pile of paperwork and the task of managing for environmental health while land managers are being told that they are the ones responsible for the destruction occurring around us.

Is it possible that throughout the ages, farmers as well as the community in general felt at ease with the above “job description”? Did most farmers find the life-style was good enough not to be too concerned about finance, economics or resistance to change?

Provided we are not in the wrong place to start off with, as humans (happily ignorant of ecological realities or at the other end of the spectrum: victims of fire, flood or famine), we only have three basic needs to maintain health: Appropriate nutrition, clean water and fresh air.

From reading, listening and watching and from what I learn at courses and seminars, it appears to me that the only reason that the “rural crisis” rates a mention is because at a political level a connection has been made between the financial viability of farms and the “health” of the nutrient production industries.

More recently I hear the odd remark alluding to a relationship between rural unemployment and the burden on “social security”. I have even heard a question asked of a public servant if anybody had ever studied the correlation between declining soil health on farms and escalating human healthcare costs. (The answer was negative.) The Australian LANDCARE Farm Journal (march2000) Supported by the Natural Heritage Trust does lend most issues a more holistic approach and there is an obvious trend to work towards collaboration and the education of all involved.

There is a refreshing trend dawning for farmers in some markets where premiums are paid for produce of high nutritional integrity. For the innovative and alert operators, who have financial flexibility the horizons are broadening of their own accord.

Incentives to fulfill the criteria of the above “job description” are looking good.

When however one gets to read things like: “The basis for future policy is the acknowledgment that responsibility for natural resource management rests primarily with landholders acting upon a duty of care and within the parameters of government legislation and regulation.” A question that springs to mind is: What is the natural resource that we are managing and how, when and against what does referencing take place? Who is judge, jury and jailer?

The next question could be: What does the community wish for on land that is managed by government bodies or designated for “traditional” management in areas where tradition has all but disappeared with most of the biodiversity that survived the “whatever-thousand” years of fire-climax management?

To get closer to the roots: What exactly is the job description for the land holder and how is the equation supposed to balance (ecologically, socially and financially)?