Diary Entry. May 9 2031.
Here I go again. Another long trip to the Grampians. Hard to think of how many times I have done this trip since 2008 when we started work here. A life time ago, and how much things have changed. I will never get used to sitting in a car with no steering wheel being guided by a computer. My students call me old school on a good day, an old fart on a bad day.
Today may well be the worst day of my career. The media circus is converging on the Grampians for two major announcements. Today the Grampians National Park is formally going to be renamed the Great Grampians Desert National Park. Some bureaucrat in Melbourne thought adding Great to the name would soften the blow and of course the politicians agreed. Idiots! Looking for the easy and popular answer was what got us into this position in the first place.
The other announcement today, the one that makes my heart bleed, is that we will be declaring Antechinus agilis extinct in the Grampians. This comes on top of the previous extinctions of southern brown bandicoot, long nosed potoroo, swamp rat, smoky mouse, heath mouse and dusky antechinus. I can’t believe that we have lost one of the most common small mammals that existed in this landscape!
It really didn’t take much for the end of the Grampians. The annual rainfall declined to 339mm with the odd ‘better’ year. The really low years were always followed up by a landscape scale wildfire which consumed vast areas of the park. Ultimately the system could not cope with the lack of water, and the repeated wildfires. This unfortunately, is exactly what the scientists predicted would happen to our climate very early this century.
I would never have imagined that the ecosystem collapse associated with human induced climate change would have been so rapid and so complete. Of course I am not allowed to say “human induced climate change” publically, as such references were outlawed by the Federal government. Public debate about the climate, and our role in it, was totally quashed. Schools and universities we given new curricula by the government, and those that disagreed and spoke out were sentenced to life on the Manus Island Detention Centre (Funnily enough Manus Island is somewhat smaller now than it was then, but we are not allowed to discuss sea level rises either). It really didn’t take long for the public to ‘get the message’. Once a few environmentalists (Bob Brown and Tim Flannery being the most obvious) were ‘re-deployed’ to Manus for the term of their natural lives, people stopped talking about climate change.
How did we get to this point where the last of the small mammals has gone from the Grampians? Surely we had chances to do something to avoid the collapse of ecosystems we have seen around the World? Of course we did! We chose not to! Politicians told us the changes were not real, or at best natural swings which would correct themselves. They told us it was too expensive to do anything about it, and it would cripple our economy (Now we hardly have an economy, so I guess they got that wrong). The worst thing about this, those politicians that denied the science and ridiculed scientists so effectively in the public’s eye are all retired and further crippling the economy on their enormous superannuation packages that they locked in to law prior to the collapse of the economy.
One day, maybe when it is too late, science will once again have a positive role in informing change and moulding better futures. Maybe one day political classes will see the benefit of discussing the science and broadening the knowledge of the public. Maybe one day………………………