This is a most important and timely story. I’m one of …

Comment on Extreme variability: local climate change right now by Alex Nelson.

This is a most important and timely story.
I’m one of those very few non-indigenous individuals who has lived here all my life. I was born in 1963 in the middle of one of the worst droughts on record. Since that time nearly every weather record in Central Australia has been broken, many of them more than once. Ironically, one record still standing since before my arrival is the hottest maximum temperature in the NT, set at Finke a couple of years earlier, but we’ve gotten close on occasion and it’s only a matter of time before that one falls.
One of the major impacts of the 1960s drought that reverberates to this day is the rise to dominance of buffel grass in Central Australia. The drought was a major impetus into extensive research to mitigate the enormous dust storms that frequently smothered Alice Springs, and buffel grass proved to be the ideal panacaea.
When I worked for the Rangeland Management Section at AZRI over a quarter century ago, one of the management problems for pastoral properties was how to deal with the problem of increasing “woody weeds”, especially mulga, witchetty bush and ironwood trees, which suppressed natural pastures and were largely resistant to control by fire, the only economically viable control method.
The increasing dominance of buffel grass across the region has, in my opinion, tipped the balance in favour of a major wildfire risk which, combined with the increasing severity of weather events, now poses an extreme hazard for us all in Central Australia. There have already been several serious wildfires in the vicinity of Alice Springs following above-average rainfall periods since the turn of the century, which I think are indicative of much worse to come.

Alex Nelson Also Commented

Extreme variability: local climate change right now
Well done, Evelynne Roullet (Posted March 1, 2017 at 11:59 am) for a most informative comment; and in the chronology you provided I was most taken by the entry for 1938 about British engineer Guy Callendar who showed from data obtained from numerous weather stations around the world that temperatures had increased compared to the previous century, a finding widely dismissed by meteorologists.
I compare this to the treatment meted out to German meteorologist Alfred Wegener who early last century compiled observations on geological and palaeontological evidence indicating the continents were once linked together. This information was well known but scientists generally accepted the explanation that there had been land-bridges between continents that had subsequently sunk below the oceans. In 1915 Wegener published a book proposing instead that the continents had once been all joined together and subsequently drifted apart.
This theory prompted huge controversy from scientists (especially in Britain, perhaps unsurprisingly) and basically the concept of continental drift was rejected on the basis of insufficient evidence and no explanation of any known force sufficient to move continents. Wegener was regarded as a crackpot, notwithstanding his reputation for research into polar climatalogy; and he perished for his work in Greenland in 1930.
It wasn’t until the mid 1960s when global mapping of the Earth’s ocean floors commenced that evidence came to light supporting the theory of continental drift. Mid-ocean ridges and alternate magnetic banding of seabed rock strata began the revelation of abundant evidence that the world’s land masses are indeed drifting on tectonic plates (incidentally, Australia is the fastest-moving continent on Earth). Today continental drift is completely accepted as a verified fact.
Wegener’s sad experience ought to be a salutory lesson to us all; and for myself it provides an extremely valuable analogy to the populist debate that swirls around the validity of evidence for climate change.
We discount or reject that evidence at our absolute peril.


Recent Comments by Alex Nelson

CLP propaganda courtesy of a Senate office?
Lobbying for sealing the south Stuart Highway began in 1953 when the Alice’s first tourism association was formed.
Bob Rumball raised the subject and former Brigadier, Noel “Tommy” Loutit, made the first representation to the Federal Government about it.
The south Stuart Highway was finally sealed in 1987, so it took 34 years to achieve.
To my knowledge, the first call for upgrading and sealing the Plenty Highway and Tanami Road was made by the newly elected Member for Stuart, Tony Greatorex, in July 1966.
In the following month a similar call was made for the Petermann Road (now in part the Lasseter Highway) by a touring party from WA.
So that was 52 years ago – over half a century – and still counting.
The current “Outback Way” effort was preceded by the “Reef to Rock” campaign that began in 1984 and carried on into the 1990s, especially under former Mayor, Andy McNeill.
The Member for the Northern Territory was granted full voting rights in Federal Parliament in 1968 (that was Sam Calder in his first term) and we got two senators in 1975.
Seems to me a case can be made that getting this increased Federal representation has not resulted in any significant advantages for Central Australia over this time.


‘Anzac Oval not for sale’: govt under pressure on gallery plans
I will simply point out to everyone concerned that the old school complex at the north end of Anzac Oval has by far the greatest heritage value of any school campus in the Northern Territory – repeat, the Northern Territory.
I have come to this conclusion after months of gathering information, commencing well before the end of last year.
It would be unconscionable for the NT Government to proceed with any development on this site without first undertaking a properly independent and professional assessment of the history and heritage values of this location, including genuine public consultation.
This has not happened.
If this Government decides to proceed with this developnment in disregard of the heritage values of the old school site, it will lose all credibility that it may currently have and demonstrate it cannot be regarded as any better than its predecessors in office.


Youth crisis: broken window of tolerance
This is a brilliant article, Rainer, a valuable contribution to public discourse that will stand the test of time.
Much of what you have written has been observed before, and much of what you describe is instantly recognisable from the time of my own childhood here in Alice Springs.
However, when I was young there was a sense of the corner having been turned when the NT achieved Self-government and there was great hope for the future. Things were about to change for the better for everyone.
I feel a sense of deep disappointment combined with great anger that nothing has improved for so many people in the Territory, and generation after generation of young people born here find themselves “coping” in life conditions no better – and, in many cases, far worse – than the supposedly “bad old days” of Commonwealth control.
It’s equally profoundly disappointing that the energy and intellect of young people such as yourself, Rainer, are left to pick up the pieces of a failed legacy of earlier generations.
But it’s wonderful that you are doing so, and that’s why hope survives.


Alice may follow Wadeye’s lead on street kids
This seems to me to be precisely the concept that Maya suggested and I supported for the old high school at Anzac Oval.
Today comes the news of increased GST cutbacks to the Northern Territory but the NT Government seems hell-bent on spending taxpayers’ dollars it’s not going to have on capital works projects both here and in Darwin that are not supported by the majority of people (VOTERS).
In the NT election campaign of 1977, virtually a referendum on impending Self-Government, Labor’s slogan was “First things first – statehood comes later.”
In this year of the 40th anniversary of Self-Government, I say “First things first – focus on the kids.” Forget about underground carparks for public servants, four-lane boulevards cutting through public parks, a new museum to compete against MAGNT, or a national indigenous art gallery on the wrong site.
We all need to get our priorities straight, not least the NT Government.


Art gallery: Door slammed on Desert Park
There are two old river red gums at the corner of the Melanka site near the intersection of Stuart Terrace and Todd Street. These trees are very old and probably predate European settlement.
The remainder, by contrast, are much younger.
They were most likely planted in the early or mid 1970s, after the construction of the Melanka hostel.
They are not local native species. Several are in poor health or have died, their decline due to their abandonment since the demolition of Melanka.


Be Sociable, Share!