Not making it any more


Don’t know if you saw the recent tv program on the geological history of Australia. Some early stuff I didn’t know. For example that enormous mass of iron ore in WA was deposited when the first primitive organisms that could generate oxygen began doing so and all the iron in the seas rusted. The iron and other ores around Broken Hill generated in the deep seas which then ran through this part of the continent. Coal and gas of course laid down when the then lush tropical vegetation died and rotted and was buried far underground by sediments. All flukes really, that the deposits occur in Australia, and flukes dependent on conditions that can never be repeated from millions, even billions, of years ago. No more of that stuff being made on this planet.

On top of the land surface Australia had a rich biodiversity of abundant plant and animal life, also the result of millions of years of evolution and ecosystem development. This biodiversity sustained Aboriginal people in considerable comfort for around 50,000 years, and then provided the basis for English colonists to fell timber, graze sheep and cattle on the extensive grasslands, and grow crops where the soils were deep and organically rich. Not building diversity and rich soils any more.

There’s an old, sorta joke, which says “Want to invest in a sure thing? Buy land, they’re not making it any more”. It’s a message that should have been given to every citizen of Australia to use as a reminder that resources are limited. Instead we have behaved for two and a quarter centuries as Australia Unlimited. Big country, plenty of soil, plenty of trees, plenty of mineral resources. Now the crunch is coming, and there are a couple of urgent responses we need to make. We need to ensure that a good proportion of the staggeringly huge profits being made from digging up those made-once-only mineral resources come back to benefit the 21,999,997 of us who are not mining billionaires. That they are used to create a stronger better Australia as a solid home for us when resources start to dwindle or the demand for them disappears. One of the things we could do with it is sort out infrastructure needs as the climate changes – infrastructure like efficient irrigation, like decent efficient transport, like support for large scale renewable energy projects. And support for individuals in education, health, aged care and so on. The recent budget, trying to balance all those needs, pulling up the blanket to cover the head only to expose the toes, is a classic example of failure to use the mining resources wisely.

And the other response is to stop destroying remaining forests and to start restoring soils to good health. Not least because we need the environment as healthy as it can be to meet the changing climate.

What’s that other saying? Oh yes,”A stitch in time saves nine. Time we started urgent stitching.

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6 comments on “Not making it any more

  1. Rob Coughlan says:

    I couldn’t agree more David.


  2. Eric Snyder says:

    I am in complete agreement with your thoughts on conservation David. I turn of the lights when I leave the room and I don’t run water any longer than I need it. Consequently, my utility bills are considerably lower than my neighbors. But, after reading Hawking’s “Grand Design”, I wonder if the planet doesn’t have enough resources to keep us in air conditioning during times of warming and heating oil during times of encroaching ice ages until we can develop efficient alternate sources (if they’re needed at all)? Maybe Tesla was right and abiotic oil from methane is actually creeping into the reservoirs.

    In the US, the “staggeringly high profits” of the oil companies, mining companies, and lumber companies do help provide education, employment, soil & water remediation, health care and welfare to those of us who aren’t billionaires. But, there is that nagging issue of human greed and avarice that seems to favor the strong, the rich and the influential.


  3. Trev says:

    “Poor fellow my country” indeed! Well put David.


  4. An excellent summation of precisely where tunnel vision has got us to so far. Which is approximately nowhere.

    To correct this imbalance, Australians must get used to the fact that all resources are limited – even those that are renewable – and agree that government should cease the tax/handout practice that has turned virtually everyone (except your three mining magnates, Watermelonman!) into recipients of state welfare. That saps energy and creates a mendicant mentality. We should look after those who genuinely cannot look after themselves, and do so generously. This would be much easier to do if we all ceased expecting the government to do things for us that we should want to do for ourselves. The government doesn’t pay us welfare – it’s our money they’re giving us.

    So some real tax reform, instead of just tinkering. Overwhelmingly weighted on consumption and not on income (however sourced). This would require the politics of envy and entitlement to be abolished. That would be a great reform.

    Then let’s put some real money into effective research, development and implementation of renewable energy and bio-friendly technology; for example bio-resins. This is the real challenge for everyone, and it is entirely separate from issues of where one might stand on other matters of politics.

    The Vision Thing. We all sing about. It’s time to actually do it.


  5. Team Oyeniyi says:

    Great article, David. Global warming or not, the planet is a finite resource. Look at the massive salinity problems we have in certain areas because of the mad clearing of the lasn by early arrivals. It isn’t just the resources, but also the ecology we stuff up (I’d have used the other word, but this is your page :D)

    We CONSUME with abandon, never thinking of the future. We destroy forests and displace people for electricity generation.

    I am glad I wasn’t born a few generations later!


  6. Colin Samundsett says:

    “No more of that stuff being made on this planet.” Not so, David. The process continues – though the massiveconcentration of iron deposits across the globe due to oxygenation of the atmosphere will not be repeated. Otherwise, the same forces are at work, with variations along the way with time: Homo promethius’ arrival on the scene – first with his/her fire-stick, then with carbon-burning powerhouses and infernal-combustion machines, has initiated a new geological era dubbed the Anthropocene.
    Apart from Iron Ore, stuff continues to be made – in sub-oceanic volcanic vents for most minerals; and in swamps (where they are undisturbed) for coal etc (but on far lesser scale than the steamy environments in particular lands during the Carboniferous, Jurassic, Triassic, Cretaceous eras) .
    It is just that Homo (did someone day “sapiens”???!!) are too impatient to match their rate of exploitation with the rate of replenishment, and the rate of natural garbage-disposal for our waste (dumped in atmosphere, oceans, you name it). Destruction of species, reducing the great diversity of the biology within which we are embedded and are compatible and upon which we have dependence, is a product of this impatience.
    Gaia might have tolerated half a billion people misbehaving, but there is no way she will permit a 7 billion, and rising, population to continue impacting their ecological niche without fierce reprisal. Australia is especially vulnerable. Growth for growth’s sake was never good, and now it is more-so. Blinkered politicians are galloping society to perdition; and self-seeking industries have them by the nose.


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