This is The ChangeUnderground for the 17th of October 2022.
I’m your host, Jon Moore
Decarbonise the Air, Recarbonise the Soil!
During the last fortnight we had two major rain events. The first one brought 83 mm and the second 189mm both over the weekends. There’s another one due next weekend. Life under La Nina can be very predictable, up to a point. We know more than the usual rainfall fall is to be expected, especially if you throw in the Indian Ocean dipole being positive, it’ll be wet.
These events are starting in the Indian Ocean, sweeping across the mainland and dumping rain into well sodden soils, in the main. We’ve missed much of this during the last two years and have been receiving below average rainfall for four years. During that time I’ve been working to enliven the soil after years of set stocking with a couple of steers. The pigs have been a revelation, no blackberry regrowth wherever they’ve been. The chooks have been slow acting, low impact harrows and the ducks, oh the ducks have been aerating and opening up bill sized little holes across the whole place. This has been useful, pasture regrowth has been surprisingly wonderful. Added to this has been the ability of the soil to absorb water. That first rain event was no challenge to the water absorbing ability of the soils. The second event though was a challenge. 80 odd mm in the first 24 hours soaked in ok, the next twenty four brought just over 100mm or four inches in the old money. Paddocks around our way were flooding and pooling and the rivers were turning silt brown. We had, say 5% of the pasture area with small pools of water on Sunday morning but by morning tea they’d soaked in. I have three minimum tillage areas for grains this summer and the soil with its mulch of lightly rotovated grasses and clovers didn’t lose any soil. I have grassed areas around them to catch any soil loss through water erosion and those borders were pristinely green.
It is quite gratifying to have reality back up the applied theory. We shall see what effect a third event has. There are limits to how much water a soil profile will hold but I am hopeful. The next four days are forecast to be dry, sunny and for this time of the year, mid-Spring, relatively warm.
The thing I’ve noticed with the weather patterns is a little concerning. The moisture causing flooding East of us and on the mainland is being pumped by a huge inverted U shaped trough on the mainland. With one end in southern Western Australia and the other in Victoria. Along this trough, low pressure systems become established. In the Southern Hemisphere these rotate clockwise. So they’re basically picking up and pouring moist tropical air into the South East of the continent. The last two events dipped down into Tasmania and we copped a cold change up from Antarctica to add to the fun. The thing that struck me was the inverted U shape. It’s the same pattern that had us copping heat waves from 2016 to the start of 2020. So when the moisture laden air of the Positive Indian Ocean Dipole and the La Nina event swap over to a Negative Indian Ocean Dipole and an El Nino, the whole is going to burn again. And this time there’ll be three years worth of wet seasons’ growth to fuel the whole thing.
This is a terrifying thought and still we have people arguing over whether to open new coal mines or if an electric ute is a good idea. For those listeners outside Australasia a ute is a utility vehicle. It was invented/developed in Australia in the 1930s when a farmer wanted a truck and his good lady wife wanted a sedan to go to church in. The local Ford dealer took a gas axe to both and welded the truck tray onto the front half of a sedan and the Utility or Ute was born. Known in the US as a pickup truck or just a truck, very few people outside Australia know its origin
Story but now you do.
Anyway, back to the climate. We aren’t the only part of the planet undergoing changes. About a third of Pakistan was underwater and large parts still are, storms hitting the Caribbean and the US, heat waves across Europe last northern Summer, the Horn of Africa drying out, Central and Southern America in drought, California and the entire south west of the US entering between the 10th and 20th years of drought, the Canadian Prairies in drought, a 70 day heat wave in China where temperatures hit 40 degrees C (104 degrees F) and above and I could go on. Things need to be faced.
That’s the now, added to this now are the continuing effects of the pandemic. The after effects of previous pandemics have been, pretty universally, socially chaotic. The Black Death
Left a world short of labour, a property price slump and inflation. Nothing to see here that’s relevant to our current situation… Some people did really well out of the aftermath of that pandemic, some people are doing really well out of this one. It’s a reasonable line of thinking to suggest that pandemic lead to not just social upheaval but religious changes in Europe and eventually the 30 Year’s War. It began small and spiralled out of control. There’s plenty of armed conflicts in the world right now, the Wikipedia page, “List of Ongoing Armed Conflicts” notes 44 from minor to major and a further 18 at the just skirmishes level. We are in a time of flux. Great changes are underway and much suffering will ensue. What are we to do? Not panic would be a good start. Think clearly and remain as level as possible which is probably the modern day equivalent of a labour of Hercules but it must be so. We cannot make rational responses without level headedness. We should also, I would suggest, ensure a few insurance policies. Thoughtful choices during elections, if you’re fortunate enough to live where these occur. Joining anything that helps reduce the levels of GHGs and working on earth repair where you are with what you have. Guerilla gardening, a wonderful pastime, is great for tree planting. If you can plant food trees even better. As I mentioned in the last episode, I’m looking to create, as near as possible, a year round bee food environment that will also feed us and the soil through mini, mid and maxi hedgerows. These may be destroyed by weather events but they can be replanted. Dynamic resilience is the aim. The way Nature reaches a series of equilibria over time as events lead to changes in systems and require a reset, so too must we aim for this sort of stability. Not always easy, not always achievable but always worth the effort. Go forth, gentle listener, go forth and restore this planet by starting where you are.
Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!
Thank you all for listening and I’ll be back next week.
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