Saturday, 25 February 2012


by Linda from The Witches Kitchen

It's raining. Again. Second La Nina year in a row.  It's cooler and wetter than usual, but this is the hottest La Nina year on record, with warming seas amplifying the normal La Nina effect.I live high on a hill, well out of flood range, but my garden is too soggy to work in and I'm a bit worried about the causeway flooding again and preventing me getting to work on Monday.

It's times like this that I am very glad that I live in a functional community. We have been flooded in several times over the last few months. The flooding before last washed away a ford over a creek leading into our valley. As a temporary fix, a mob of us spent a couple of hours chucking rocks, by hand, to create a temporary ford. Much too hard a work to do by hand on your own, but with enough people it was not just an effective short term solution, but quite a fun way to spend a morning.

It washed away again in floods this week. When you are isolated, it's nice to be isolated with people you enjoy inviting for dinner, people who you can borrow a cup of sugar from, people who check whether you want anything in town if they can get through, people with the skills to get a pump going or do first aid if needed.

It's times like this though that also show up the challenges of living in a community. We are planning how to go about building a concrete, more permanent ford in the dry season. The decision needs to weigh up a whole batch of factors of varying priority - cost and workload, sharing the cost and workload, enabling fish to move up the creek, keeping petrochemicals out of the creek, a design that will not be washed away in floods, vehicle wear and tear, timing, risk and experiment.

Reaching agreement between a few dozen people on something complex like this takes real skills - framing ideas, listening, admitting uncertainty, juggling not just your own set of factors into consideration but adding more.

I overheard a conversation about climate change in the street yesterday. Actually, it wasn't so much a conversation as a tirade... global conspiracy by scientists to hoodwink the public...all about money.... biggest mob of people know the weather just goes through cycles, always ages...

I thought of all the counter arguments - the implausibility of a global conspiracy of scientists, the independently measured data, the scientific understanding of weather cycles over millenia taken into account, basic physics, exponential mathematics, precautionary principle and the fact that we have only one painfully beautiful planet to run the experiment on.

But all that is beside the point. Listening to the discussion, it suddenly occurred to me: I'm glad I don't have to work with this bloke on designing a ford across the creek.

Independence and self-sufficiency are all very well when everything is going smoothly, but in floods and bushfires, food shortages and fuel shortages, community counts for a lot, and the skills to create it are good skills to have.