The thinning road

With my former PhD supervisor, Ray Ison, having begun his homeward journey to Australia this week, the news that Australia’s Prime Minister said his nation needs to pray for rain caught my attention. “For mile after mile, farmland is turning to dust”, says a BBC reporter flying over the south-east’s Murray-Darling Basin. Rain needs to come in the next few weeks, otherwise the government will cut off irrigation to almost half the country’s farms. The news doesn’t come as much of a surprise. The country is going through its sixth year of drought, hitting farmers the hardest; back in October 2006, the BBC reported that an Australian farmer commits suicide every four days. All this and their prime minister, John Howard, continues to maintain his global-warming stance of denial.

Picture courtesy of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust

This is one of many pieces of news I’ve encountered about worldwide food supplies that stimulate the flow of adrenalin. Two others were the disappearance of Lake Chad and its fishing industry, and the mysterious phenomenon of vanishing bees possibly caused by mobile phones and wireless technologies. Bees are such vital friends for the human species that Einstein suggested their disappearance would herald a final countdown. Talk about haunting prescience. Fingers crossed.

I wonder whether people in most economies are waiting for an overwhelming, and overwhelmingly negative signal before the requisite social and economic transformation occurs. As such, I suspect the ongoing creep of ecological disintegration will take those of us like this by surprise. Or I wonder whether most people accept there’s a problem but are not yet persuaded of its significance (or are confused how) to take personal action. If so, then they forget the old adage that the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. According to the author of the book, Deep Economy, this first step is basically a combination of cognitive reframing and behavioural adjustment. We will need both to steer away from trends of hyper-individualism and to localise our purchasing footprints. Thanks for the book recommendation to Chris Seeley, who teaches MSc students at the University of Bath’s Centre for Action Research in Professional Practice.

Update 20.7.07

It seems the idea that bees’ colony collapse disorder could be caused by mobile phones is an urban myth, and there could be reasonable explanations after all (via Picture Post).

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