'We aren't the cause or the cure of climate change'

'We aren't the cause or cure of climate change'

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In this week's The Gauge, South Australian beef producer Gillian Fennell says Australia needs a whole of society approach to climate change.

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Gillian Fennell with her daughter Eleanor. Photo Credit: Avalind Photography.

Gillian Fennell with her daughter Eleanor. Photo Credit: Avalind Photography.

Opinion | The Gauge 

Let's be clear - I'm not here to debate the science, the how's and the whys. I want to talk about the fact that regardless of what side of the political fence you sit on, there has been very little meaningful policy direction from anyone - anywhere.

Once upon a time, we accepted that the climate changed. From ice age to current age, there have been variations in the climate around the world that have had varying degrees of impact on the environment. But now it seems that the very word 'climate' has become a stick with which to beat our opponents with. It's cool to do this, to demand that everyone accept their point of view and if not - well that's an open invitation to bully, deride and insult.

But what about the people who really don't care about the political point scoring and are doing their best to stay in business throughout one of the most widespread droughts in Australia's history? Intangible targets and lofty goals from organisations like the UN mean nothing to those of us on the ground. Especially when partnered with suggestions that the best way to address climate change is to adopt a largely plant based diet, which is not only nutritionally irresponsible but also demonstrates a large amount of ignorance about the value of grazing animals in landscape management and the sheer scale of productive grasslands in the world that are manifestly unsuitable to produce any other type of food except animal protein.

There have been many suggestions from our urban counterparts about the best way to tackle climate change. Many of these involve agriculture bearing the burden for the rest of society - both here and overseas. Planting more trees, building more renewable energy projects, switching to electric vehicles, using less water, changing our crops or livestock. All of which can be useful tools in the ongoing challenge in increasing productivity and profitability in the agricultural sector but will do very little in combatting global climate variability.

The problem is we're trying to address the climate issue in isolation, when it requires a whole of landscape approach - a whole of society approach. As any decent farmer can tell you, if you only focus on one detail, the whole show usually turns bad pretty quick. There is no 'quick fix' for our climate, it's the ongoing management of all aspects of our environment and and our lives. It's how we design our houses and cities, it's the value we place on things - on the food we eat, the water we use, the seas and rivers we swim in and the value we place on those who are managing over 48 per cent of our nation.

Is it fair and reasonable to place the burden of climate change mitigation squarely on the shoulders of our agricultural industry? An industry already punching well above its weight in global trade, but which receives less than 0.1 per cent of our GDP in support, a figure which has been steadily declining since the 80's. Is it fair and reasonable that those in urban areas feel as though they have the right to dictate to us how we do business? We're more than a political football or scapegoat to be trotted out to support or decry the lack of meaningful policy and decisions from our political leaders. We are innovative, resilient and excellent land managers. We are families, communities and world class producers of food and fibre. We are part of the solution, but we are not the cause or the cure of climate change.

- Gillian Fennell lives with her family on a remote beef property in outback South Australia and is board member of the Cattle Council of Australia. You can follow Gillian on Twitter @stationmum101

The story 'We aren't the cause or the cure of climate change' first appeared on Farm Online.

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