A bright future is there if we want it

A bright future is there if we want it

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 Wheat farmers Anthony and Christie Kingston, Goomalling, at harvest last year.

Wheat farmers Anthony and Christie Kingston, Goomalling, at harvest last year.


The Wheatbelt's crops and pastures are rainfed - if it doesn't rain, it doesn't grow.


I WAS a bit younger than my daughter is now - she is 12 - the night the Ash Wednesday fires burned near our home.

The window glass felt shockingly hot on my hand as I looked out into our dark and smoky backyard.

Mum, pregnant with my sister, was alone with me and my two brothers.

We stayed safe, but I remember the burns on my teacher Mr McGrath's head, that he got while fighting the fires as a volunteer.

Little did I know at the time, this would mark the beginning of my experience with Australia's extreme weather.

The months leading up to the fires are forever imprinted in my memory.

It was so dry that a massive dust storm carrying topsoil from the drought-stricken Mallee and Wimmera areas choked Melbourne, Victoria.

The television showed images of devastated farmers burying dead sheep in big holes across dusty paddocks.

I never imagined I'd end up marrying a farmer myself, on the other side of Australia.

My husband and I farm on 1500 hectares in a fairly reliable rainfall area in Western Australia's central Wheatbelt.

The Wheatbelt's crops and pastures are rainfed - if it doesn't rain, it doesn't grow.

But autumn and winter rainfall has gradually declined by about 20 per cent.

Rainfall zones have moved westward by up to 100 kilometres in some areas of South West WA.

Frost risk has increased.

Hot spells have increased in intensity, duration and frequency.

Fire risk has worsened and there are no paid firefighters out here - just wonderful volunteers, landholders and community members.

These changes in climate have been going on for decades as a result of global average temperatures increasing by about one degree, with WA's South West warming slightly more than that.

Farmers have adapted admirably, but our yields would be higher if these changes hadn't happened.

The Climate Council's report Compound Costs: How Climate Change is Damaging Australia's Economy mentions that previous severe droughts have reduced Australia's Gross Domestic Product by about one per cent.

Estimates suggest that increasing drought frequency and impacts in the future may reduce GDP by 1pc every year.

Climate change is expensive.

But the solutions are cheaper than inaction.

We have to reduce emissions of heat-trapping gases and draw carbon down from the atmosphere - and land-based solutions could really benefit rural communities.

Farmers don't just farm.

Landcare efforts take time, money and expertise.

We've planted more than 100,000 trees on our farm, which may sound like a lot, but it's not anywhere near enough.

Some people think we can earn money from planting trees.

Alas, the cost and complexity of participating in carbon markets currently exclude farmers like us.

But it doesn't have to be this way.

Australia needs a grand design for how landholders can help solve the climate crisis and the biodiversity crisis, while helping feed the world and increasing the wellbeing of rural communities.

We need bi-partisan inspiration, not partisan fear mongering.

A few political leaders still seem to think these problems don't exist.

Others say that fixing these problems are too hard and expensive.

I'd love them to face facts, get ambitious, get creative and govern for the future.

I suggest they write down how old their loved ones will be in the years 2030, 2050, 2075, 2100 and then compare the climate projections for those years and consider what the scientific evidence says they will be facing.

Let's encourage our leaders, both in industry and politics, to act now to give their loved ones and ours the gift of the healthiest future possible.

When the fire risk is high, it's too dangerous to take vehicles into dry paddocks.

Our volunteer firefighters sometimes go to other fires across WA and of course, they should.

But I admit I feel a bit vulnerable the days we have no volunteers around at home.

In 2050, my daughter will be about the age I am now.

I worry about what kind of world she will live in.

If she continues to farm our land, what will it look like?

Maybe we will continue down our current path and conditions will be too bleak to imagine.

Or maybe, we can turn the tide.

- Christie Kingston is a wheat farmer from Goomalling.


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