“When you tell the truth you have to let go of the outcome.”
Wherever this finds you in the world, we hope you all got to enjoy quality-time over the festive season.
We begin on a sad note: Bandit, Kristina’s dog who has been my faithful offsider for some years now, reached the end of her life. We have shared it before, but here again a video-clip showing how effective she was in her work. We hardly see her as she gets the job done: From one paddock to the next - Control vs. Management
December-climate on Kachana was a pleasant experience with no wildfire and sufficient rain. On country that was rain-ready, soil-building continues. This season we observe responses to like never before! - Country where we were not in a position to offer the type of management that we feel that it takes, continues to export soil as is now so typical in inaccessible rugged landscapes where for about forty years we have been replacing herbivores with fire.
Each wet season news stories from northern Australia bring reports of flooding. What seldom gets a mention is how the dots connect, and the extent to which these newsworthy experiences are actually result of compounding localised (climate-)choices over the years.
Good climate-news is that for over two decades now, pastoral innovators around Australia have been field-testing ideas, that offer new and more desirable “climate choices”!
In the first instance, such ideas (and skill-sets that come with them) appear to be counter-intuitive within Australian contexts. That is, until we consider that (many thousands of years ago) when Australia’s biological wealth was being built, large herbivores (now extinct) played significant roles in maintaining the productivity of landscapes. Today, thanks to Australia’s new megafauna, modern communities have options to make climate choices, that only thirty years ago, we would not have dreamt of!
More good news: the science is fast catching up and messages relating to the challenges we collectively face in this region, as well as in other areas on the globe, are reaching international audiences. Increasingly it is becoming evident that neglecting root-causes in “man-enhanced flooding” leads to ever bigger repair bills. (At a ‘Fire-Forum’ in November 2022, we raised such points.)
Acting on new climate-choices, and providing according incentives to the only industry that is already positioned to act, would not only reduce the impact and frequency of pre-ordained disasters, but in addition offer the establishment of new meaningful jobs and enterprises in rural communities.
We predict that with each season the economic justification of improved climate-choices at community-levels will become easier to calculate. Beyond reasonable and unreasonable fear of climate-change, I therefore see exciting and meaningful “climate choices”!
It is our hope that people of all walks of life add new and better climate-choices to other new-year resolutions like life-style-choices. Both require action. Once being acted upon, both promise resilience and wellbeing!
Happy New Year and may 2023 be one of meaningful action!
Greetings from Kachana
Photos of the Month
News & Views
Privately, but also publicly I have quoted scientist Walter Jehne who reminds us that, as she has done before, Nature will again stabilise climate. Walter follows up his statement with a critical question: Will she do it now and with our help, or after and without us?
Today I ask myself: Has she perhaps already begun the process despite us?
It was about ten years ago, when I had the good fortune of meeting Walter for a tour in the Canberra botanical gardens. Some years later, Stephen Curtain produced a short professional video of a similar tour: Cool The Planet Film
On Kachana we began acting on climate-choices back in 1992. (The selection of photos for November 2022 shows a few examples of the impact that such choices can have.) However, it was Walter’s uncommon good-sense explanations of how a dry erosion-gully on a bare hillside was intentionally transformed into rainforest, that made me aware of the extent to which important potential climate-choices were being supressed by ignorance, apathy and wilful blindness, or were (as presumably in many instances) not even considered as options. It was as a result of this, that the wish for the Cockatoo Sponge Rebuild crystalised in more detail. (When we finally get to move forward on this one, we intend to mimic the Canberra model, but we will put to use biological [including human] energy instead of mechanical and electrical energy!) - In 2020 donkey politics in the Kimberley took us to a cross-roads and much of our environmental work on Kachana needed to be put on hold. - 2022 was going to be the year that Jacqueline was going to get a bedroom without a dirt-floor! That too has now had to wait.
In dollar-terms alone, the 2017 bureaucratic response to the managed wild donkeys on Kachana has since led to tax-payer expenses of well over $100,000.00. – One does not need to be business-minded to appreciate that market forces are not at play here.
At the core of the Kachana Donkey Discussion remains a repeatedly stated claim that back in 2002 began as a mere hypothesis: Replacing herbivores with fire in unmanaged and under managed high-rainfall areas is a bad idea. Even formerly feral herbivores, if appropriately managed, can play significant roles in halting and reversing declines in landscape function.
This seemingly contentious notion leads us to two broad options:
- The claim is untrue.
Then I am responsible for having wasted a significant amount of public time and funding as well as my own. And I deserve to be silenced…
- The claim is justified.
Then innovations on Kachana offer at least a ten-year edge on developing locally relevant methodologies to stabilise water catchments and to put in place action to mitigate, and over time, to prevent escalating costs. (Examples: $200,000,000.00 price-tag of rebuilding of Turkey Creek (Warmun), the rebuilding of bridges and highways after flood-events, the evacuation of flooded communities, etc.)
From a community perspective, compared to the millions of dollars already being spent each year in relation to “floods”, the price already paid for this home-team advantage in the Kimberley seems negligeable.
Both the fate of the Kachana donkeys and the choice at the cross-roads for Kachana Pastoral Company, hinge on the outcome of an ongoing State Administrative Tribunal (SAT) process.
We are not permitted to comment on details other than that we have a handful of good competent people in the wings who guide us in ‘a world that is alien to me’.
Nature bats last.
Reality is that which remains when we stop believing in something, it is also that which will not go away, even if we do not believe in it.
Whilst I hope for optimal resolutions during 2023, I am realistic enough to accept that I will be dead and my bones decomposed long before we have replaced all the herbivores taken out of our ‘at risk’ landscapes since the role out of BTEC. (The national brucellosis and tuberculosis eradication campaign ran for 27 years from 1970 to 1997 and has been followed by ongoing abattoir surveillance. Rapid progress towards eradication was made in southern Australia, but proved much more challenging in extensive pastoral areas of northern Australia.)
Hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake. It would be naïf to ignore the “hornets-nest”!
Broader implications of my claim (should it pass the test of time) are that, as with the original “Kimberley Donkey Program”, so too the BTEC may have “overachieved” in certain contexts and might have contributed to driving unforeseen trends in some broader landscape settings.
Hindsight is indeed a wonderful thing.
It is not for me to judge people, their decisionmaking or how funds were allocated.
In my travels as a stockman, I experienced how the pastoral industry in Northern Australia adapted and innovated to remain a world-leader in exporting high quality-beef.
As a land-manager, I became merely a witness of the unintended consequences of presumably well-intentioned decisions. Decisions that are made inside offices by people who have little first-hand understanding of how a single wet season plays out in abandoned watersheds of Northern Australia, let alone other influences on compounding trends to the backdrop of multi-seasonal variability. When even many farmers and pastoralists do not appreciate that rainfallmanagement means being part of living processes, why should we expect individuals in regulatory positions to know any better?
My impression is that most decisions are made in good faith and with the information at hand. The internet brought to the table a new globally accessible library and direct connectedness to researchers and other land-managers. This opened up new flows of information, but also an overload of opportunity. Not every person, and certainly not every bureaucracy was able to adjust in an optimal manner. People accept that. People respect that. However, there must be limits to disclaimers. Floods of new data and information do not relieve any of us from the responsibility for due diligence when lives and/or livelihoods are at stake.
It is not scientific to defend prevailing theories, when new evidence challenges orthodoxy.
Learning often includes the making of honest (and sometimes dishonest) mistakes: lessons are then integrated into the body of practical knowledge, allowing us to advance.
- We test proven methodologies for local relevance.
- We test the new hypothesis.
- We upgrade our theories in line with what works.
The scientific method reflects how evolution selects for viability.
We (and our regulators) need not be scared of the scientific method.
We are nature and we need to play along in the processes that select for optimal outcomes.
A failure to do so is a vote for extinction.
Life is far too exciting a miracle to choose the latter!
This brings us back to possibly mankind’s most pressing challenge: improved climate-choices
- How extensive did “salinity issues” need to become in Western Australia before we recognized that broadscale removal of vegetation may not have been such a good idea?
- How much further flood-damage is required before we recognize the other side of the same coin? (In seasonally dry landscapes, net reductions in herbivorous activity lead to flames clearing the land.)
At community levels, “climatebuilding” begins with a focus on “water security”.
Regenerative agriculture has already successfully field-tested many new climate-choices. Proven bottom-up approaches require community support and top-down endorsement from political and regulatory levels. – It is never too early to train, empower and let loose a new generation of Australian Land-Doctors!
Link of the Month
In a small village, Rajecka Lesna in Slovakia, it took woodcarver Jozef Pekara 15 years to create this original and unique Bethlehem. It is 8.5 meters wide, 2.5 meters deep, 3 meters high, and contains more than 300 figures, of which approximately 200 are moving.