Saturday, September 11, 2010

Bigger than Spain

You don’t need me to tell you there’s been a drought in Southern Australia for the last 10 years. It’s devastated many rural communities and destroyed many livelihoods, but over the past few weeks the drought has broken. You’d think this news would be welcome and we’d all be celebrating the sound of the steady, soaking rain.

But no, much of this rain hasn’t brought respite or restoration, it’s a deluge. Rivers are flooding, levee banks are straining, sandbags are in short supply and people all over the state have been evacuated and inundated. This week, a woman who lives in a town which was in the centre of one of the most fire-ravaged areas on Black Saturday in 2009 said the floodwaters at the back of her property looked like a sea.

We live in a land of extremes. After the fires came the floods and now, as the floodwaters are receding, it’s pestilence. The Australian Plague Locust Commission …yes, it’s a real organisation…reports that locust egg beds up to 20 kilometres long have been exposed by heavy rains removing top soil and these eggs are expected to begin hatching as the weather warms up. Locust swarms are incredibly destructive and they have a particular penchant for green, lush growth. Read crops and gardens.  Experts are speculating that this could be one of the worst plagues in 75 years and that the area of farmland under threat is bigger than Spain! The Victorian Government alone has announced a $43.5 million package (291,842,000 SEK) to support farmers and regional communities to prepare and respond to the locust threat.

So against a backdrop like that, who’s game to sign up for the next season of “The Farmer Wants a Wife”?! For those of you who don’t know, this is an Australian reality TV show where farmers from remote areas get to meet and woo a bunch of city-girls looking for love and a change of scenery. It’s a romantic notion, but I think the producers should be doing some pretty rigorous psychological testing on these starry-eyed hopefuls because it’s tough out there. Really tough. As a city-slicker, I’ll be “hit” by price increases in the fruit and vegie section of the supermarket. Better that than a wall of flame, a wall of water or a suffocating cloud of voracious locusts I say.