Monday, February 16, 2009


It just so happens that as my hometown recently endured day after day of 40 degree temperatures, photographer Warren Field and I slunk down to the south coast of the Fleurieu Peninsula. The beaches and headlands were great, but the thing that I'll never forget is the afternoon arrival of the south-easterly ocean breeze. Some days it was a gentle but persistent waft of cool air weaving up the gullies. Other times it arrived with a big roll of moist cloud that unfurled through the scrub and snagged in the old ridgetop pine trees - much to the delight of the yellow-tailed black cockatoos. I doubt that the temperature ever got above the high 20's the whole week, and by nightfall, after the ocean had done its thing, I guess was maybe 17 or 18 degrees. Often we were out on a ridge when the southerly airs turned up and after a few days we started to look for the breezes riffling in across the surface of sea, and we waited as the coolness brushed over us, all salty and dank, and tinged with that hint of wet straw, and every time it felt like the best thing ever and for that moment there was nowhere else we'd rather be.

photo Warren Field

Sunday, February 15, 2009


Even though I profess no special acquaintence with the fiction of the recently late, and long-time great, American writer John Updike, I did enjoy his literary presence and his collections of reviews and essays like Hugging the Shore and Odd Jobs. I liked the idea of his durability as a writer and that famously precise prose style. Two essays - 'At War with My Skin' and 'Getting the Words Out' - from his memoirs Self-Consciousness are wonderful examples of his probing, confessional brilliance.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


You've got to wonder what kind of Kool-Aid they serve in the Marathon Resources lunch room. As if the cack-handed attempts to explore for uranium - and dump exploration waste - at Mt Gee were not bad enough, this mob are now trying to bumble their way back into Arkaroola on various pretexts, sending out assorted notices , press releases etc. The whole sorry saga is shaping as a text book case of how not to conduct yourself professionally with Governments, Ministers of the Crown, Government agencies, the mining industry, landholders, the media, conservation groups, shareholders and members of the public. For the full story visit Bill Doyle's extensive summary at UnknownSA or Mike Parnell's site.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

New Wings Over Waitpinga

Walking the Heysen Trail along the Waitpinga Cliffs -see new pic at top - a couple of weekends back, I was surprised to see a young sea eagle on the wing. (Unlike the adult bird shown above the fledgling is a mottled brown with white 'windows' on its wings) It turns out this fledgling is the first in six years to the only breeding pair of these endangered sea eagles on the mainland coast between Eyre Peninsula and Central Victoria. Hard to believe I spent so much of my youth wandering nearby - mostly about Kings Head and then rock climbing at Waitpinga - without having a clue what was really happening here. And there's a whole story about the efforts to protect this strip of coastal habitat and it's birdlife. For more info about the work to lend the eagles a hand you could send an email to

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Last week, in the midst of Adelaide's record heatwave, I spent a day with a south coast farmer whose family have worked their patch of country for three or four generations. Over the years they've seen pretty much everything - droughts, floods, fires, the works. But after the experience of the past 5 years they are having to radically rethink how they look after the farm and how they keep water up to their stock. They will need - at considerable cost - to install a whole new regime to secure their water supply and keep the farm going.
One of the key points about climate change is not just the computer predications about gradual global warming by a degree here or there, or sea level rises over decade or three. The other dimension to climate change is that our seasons will turn ever more unpredictable. So even when farmers get a year of 'average rainfall', the rains come in a brief flurry, followed by several dry months which means there's no decent growing season for crops or pastures.
At the same time, this more erratic climate hits us with more frequent and severe events like floods and storms and sudden bursts of wild weather - including extreme temperatures and winds, akin to those that drove the current fires in Victoria.
Everyone suddenly wants answers to questions about natural catastrophes. People want to know how we can learn from what has happened. All the usual responses are there - who to blame, what went wrong, why did this happen and so on.
No one can say for certain that the severity of the weather that fuelled what happened in Victoria was due to man-made climate change - although some commentators are ready to beat that drum. Given the huge grief process that's unfolding - with all the natural numbness, anger, despair etc - trying to fit in a public argument about the role of climate change does seem premature.
That said, you have to wonder, at least in private.