Not too far to the North-East lies the Mt. Baw Baw plateau, in winter South Gippsland’s closest snowfield, and in summer a good spot for hiking.
It is one of the wettest places in Victoria with an average rainfall of more than 1.8 metres. Only a couple of weeks ago – in that cold spell – it snowed. Fire has not touched since 1939. There is always water in the tiny streams and pools that lie amongst the snow gums.
But last week the streamlets, where we were assured we could fill our water bottles, were barely flowing; so shallow we had to scoop out a hollow in the bottom before we could fill an enamel mug.
This made me think, what if this wasn’t just a dry time in the drought/ flood cycle, but an indication of a steadily drying climate?
What if over the next 10, 20, 50 years the surface water disappeared altogether? What would happen to the plant communities, would bushfire at last become endemic?
Would my children, if it was safe to walk there, still find examples of ferns and the deciduous myrtle beech among the mountain ash? Or would dry forests typical of lesser mountains have replaced them?
All landscapes change over time, but the broad rhythms of our climate have been steady enough over the last 12,000 years or so to build our civilisations. Up ‘til now.
If, by our immediate concerted effort to reduce greenhouse emissions, we can contain the rise of global temperatures and thus keep a world that is habitable, joyous and life-giving, why would we not spend every ounce of will and effort to do so?
Richard Kentwell, South Dudley.